A Twisp man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to kill a protected wolf and send its pelt to a friend in Canada in return for the friend’s help in illegally killing a moose.
Wearing a leather vest and cowboy hat, William D. White, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court to the charges of conspiracy to take an endangered species, conspiracy to transport endangered species and unlawful importation of wildlife. The importation charge stemmed from the moose, which White brought back to the Methow Valley from Canada along with a whitetail deer.
As part of the federal plea, White also agreed to plead guilty to two state charges, including hunting bears with a dog.
White declined comment after the plea before U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen, but White’s attorney, Bevan Maxey, said his client was simply trying to protect his livestock when he conspired with his son, Tom D. White, to kill two wolves from Washington’s first documented wolf pack.
“I think the issues point out the inherent difficulties livestock owners are presented with relating to wolves,” Maxey said. “It’s clear the interest of government … differs depending on where you live.”
He was alluding to the fact that neighboring Idaho allows wolf hunting, in which 376 wolves have been killed through hunting or trapping as part of the most recent season.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Ohms said the investigation showed that White, and his family, engaged in a pattern of illegal game hunting.
According to the court files, the case began in December 2008 when a FedEx worker reported to Omak police a package that was seeping blood. The investigation revealed that it was a wolf pelt being sent to a man in Alberta, Canada.
The investigation revealed that Tom White had killed the wolf and his wife had shipped the package, Ohms said. Charges against Tom White and his wife are pending.
A search warrant found emails talking about the eradication of wolves using traps and poison. Also found were photographs that showed an image on Dec. 13, 2008, with a different wolf that Tom White had killed.
Previous to the wolf kills, William White had traveled to hunt in Alberta, where he hunted illegally on a local man’s tag. White said he wasn’t sure if he killed the moose in question, but told Judge Nielsen that he shot at the moose and intended to kill it. He then returned back to Twisp with the moose and a whitetail deer.
Ohms said Erin White was sending the wolf pelt back to the hunting buddy in Canada who had helped William White get the moose.
In addition to state and federal charges, William White also pleaded guilty to two hunting violations in Canada. As part of the overall agreement, White will be fined $38,500 and lose possession of a trap, two guns and any remaining wolf parts in his possession. Although he faced as many as three years in prison, the plea agreement calls for a sentence of three years supervised release.
Nielsen scheduled White’s sentencing for July 11. But that may not be the end. Ohms said prosecutors are reserving the right to file additional charges, because Ohms said the search warrant also found evidence of eagle parts in White’s possession.