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WA: Report details Washington rancher’s wolf encounter

Capital Press

A Washington rancher who wounded a Togo pack wolf last summer told investigators the growling male was charging downhill toward him when he fired, according to Fish and Wildlife reports released Jan. 4.

The cattleman, whose name was withheld in the reports, acted in self-defense and was cleared of illegally taking a state endangered species, according to the department.

“The wolf was coming in close proximity, and he was concerned about his personal safety and shot the wolf,” Fish and Wildlife wolf policy coordinator Donny Martorello said.

Fish and Wildlife had previously reported the Aug. 23 shooting. The investigative reports, released in response to a public records request by the Capital Press, provides more details about the incident.

The wolf was wounded three days after environmental groups obtained a court order blocking Fish and Wildlife from shooting it to curb attacks on the rancher’s livestock. A Thurston County judge lifted the restraining order at the end of August, and a WDFW marksman in a helicopter killed the injured animal Sept. 2.

Earlier in the year, Fish and Wildlife had captured the wolf and put on a radio collar. The collar allowed Fish and Wildlife and ranchers to keep tabs on the wolf, its mate and their pups.

The rancher told WDFW investigators that the collar showed the wolf was near his cattle so he went to check the area that evening. He said he saw his cows walking down a road at a faster than normal pace.

In an area that burned in 2015 and has little cover, the rancher walked to where the cattle were coming from, the cattleman reported.

The rancher saw pups and heard barking and saw the large and collared wolf coming toward him. “The producer said the wolf was bearing down on him and growing and bearing its teeth,” a Fish and Wildlife report states.

The rancher estimated the wolf was about 70 yards away when he shot. The cattleman said he believed he had hit the animal because its hind legs dropped. He said he left immediately, but turned back and saw the wolf heading away from him.

A Ferry County sheriff’s deputy and Fish and Wildlife biologist saw the wolf four days later and confirmed a rear leg had been wounded, but that the animal was running on three legs.

State law allows producers to shoot wolves caught in the act of attacking livestock. That law didn’t apply in this case, Martorello said. It was a matter of self-defense, he said.

“The issue is not that he is a producer and that he had access to collar data. The main issue is he was someone who felt threatened for his personal safety, and was within his rights to protect himself,” Martorello said.