Endangered gray wolves fatally poisoned in Washington state: Officials

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Multiple gray wolves in the northeast corner of Washington state have died after being fatally poisoned, wildlife officials said Monday.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating the deaths of six gray wolves within the Wedge pack territory in Stevens County. Four of the animals were initially found dead in late February, with two additional mortalities confirmed in following searches of the area.

“Toxicology results revealed all six wolves died from ingesting poison,” the WDFW said in a Monday alert.

Several conservation and wildlife organizations are offering rewards – which total $51,400 so far – for information that would lead to the conviction of those responsible for the fatal poisonings.

“This is a tragic, unnecessary loss to our state’s endangered wolf population,” Zoe Hanley, a wolf biologist with Defenders of Wildlife, said in a Monday statement. “This cowardly act flies in the face of committed efforts from biologists, policymakers and ranchers working to recover and coexist with wolves in Washington.”

Defenders of Wildlife contributed a $2,500 reward for information.

February 2022:Protections for gray wolves restored across much of US  

Gray wolves have been listed as endangered throughout Washington since 1980, with state law protecting the animals from hunting, malicious harassment, possession and killing. In the western two-thirds of the state, gray wolves are also federally endangered.

Killing a wolf or another endangered species is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law, the WDFW notes, “punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.”

As of the end of 2021, there were at least 206 known wolves in 33 known packs throughout Washington state, the WDFW said.

On a national level, as of a February court order, gray wolves in the continuous 48 states and Mexico (excluding the Northern Rocky Mountain population) are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More:Wolves have walked with us for centuries. States are weakening their protections. 

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Also on Monday, the WDFW confirmed a lethal removal of one wolf in Stevens County, but from the Leadpoint pack territory. WDFW director Kelly Susewind authorized the removal on Sunday, in response to attacks on cattle in private grazing lands.

State wildlife officials have been authorized to kill a small number of gray wolves in recent years due to similar threats on nearby livestock, which the WDFW says is consistent with state guidance – including the lethal removals of one to two wolves from the Wedge pack in August 2020.

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