Conservation groups are offering a hefty reward for information leading to the poachers who killed two protected wolves in northeastern Washington state.
The group Conservation Northwest offered up a $10,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction. Then, two other wildlife groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands, doubled that to $20,000.
Wildlife Enforcement Captain Dan Rahn with the Washington Department of Fish and Widlife said convictions in cases like this rarely happen.
“You don’t see a reward that big very often either, so hopefully that will encourage folks that may have some information that are reluctant to come forward, maybe that will provide enough incentive for them to do the right thing,” he said.
The first poached wolf was found dead by hunters November 12 near Colville in Stevens County, Washington. The second was found after the signal from her radio-collar stopped working. Biologists found her dead in Ferry County, south of Republic December 5.
The state is not releasing details on the cause of death in either case, because of an ongoing investigation.
Rahn said he doesn’t know how often wolf poaching takes place in Washington, but it does happen.
“We’ve had wolves that have been unlawfully killed,” he said. “We’ve had wolves that have been trapped, shot over the years, so these certainly aren’t the first two.”
Wolves in Eastern Washington—east of Highway 97—are considered endangered only by the state. So, a crime like this would not be a federal offense. Wolves in central and western Washington are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Rahn said any information about the poaching provided to state officials is confidential and will not be shared publicly.
In the last two years, conflict between gray wolves and livestock has increased, as has conflict between livestock producers and environmental groups. Two summers ago, the Profanity Peak wolf pack was blamed for killing sheep and cattle. So WDFW Director Jim Unsworth approved a plan to shoot the entire Profanity Peak wolf pack. Wildlife officials shot seven members of the eleven wolves in the pack before the effort ended in fall of 2016.
This summer, Unsworth approved lethal action against the Smackout pack after at least three calves were killed and one injured in two months. The state also pursued lethal action against the Sherman pack this summer.
According to the state’s protocol, lethal action against a wolf pack can be approved after predation is documented three times in 30 days or four times in a 10-month period.
Wolves started returning to Washington state naturally in the 1990s. Today there are at least 115 gray wolves in Washington. According to the state, the population is increasing at 30 percent per year. The vast majority roam in the northeast corner of the state.