SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A poaching investigation has been launched after two Stevens County deputies stumbled upon four dead wolves in northeast Washington while on snowmobile patrol near the Canadian border on Feb. 8, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
Some environmental groups contend the animals were poisoned, although they haven’t offered any evidence to support that allegation.
The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday the wolves were in the territory of the Wedge Pack.
"The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is aware of and actively investigating dead wolves found in Stevens County,” said agency wolf coordinator Julia Smith in a statement. “Because this incident is under active investigation by law enforcement, no further information is being provided at this time.”
Rumors of the deaths have been swirling in eastern Washington for months. On Wednesday, the Kettle Range Conservation Group issued a statement claiming the wolves were poisoned.
The Wedge Pack has been exterminated twice for preying on cattle, but new packs keep forming in the remote area. In 2012, WDFW killed all members of the pack following repeated attacks on livestock from the Diamond M Ranch. Wolves repopulated the area in subsequent years. In 2020, WDFW again killed all members of the pack following livestock attacks. As of last December, WDFW estimated there were 9 wolves in the pack.
Wolves were exterminated in Washington early in the last century. Since wolves naturally returned to the state in 2008, there have been numerous conflicts with ranchers.
There were a minimum of 206 wolves and 33 packs in Washington state in 2021, according to an annual survey conducted by state and tribal biologists.