UPDATED 1 p.m. with quotes from WDFW enforcement chief.
A hunter who took a shot at a gray wolf after being virtually surrounded by a pack in northeastern Washington on Oct. 30 has been cleared of any wrongdoing by Washington Fish and Wildlife police who investigated the incident.
Wolves are protected under state endangered species rules, but exceptions are allowed for force when people or domestic animals are directly threatened.
The incident took place in the territory of the Smackout Pack in Stevens County northeast of Colville off the Aladdin Road, department officials say.
The hunter called officers and reported his chilling story, which is summarized in the agency's Dangerous Wildlife Incident Reports. The story was confirmed by Steve Crown, department enforcement chief. The name of the hunter is being withheld, he said.
The man was hunting with several people when he saw a wolf skirting along the brush headed in the same direction he was going.
According to the police report, he yelled and shot into the air and the wolf left.
The hunter said he saw three additional wolves about 25 yards ahead of him, and they ran in the same direction as the first wolf.
The man then heard a noise in the brush, yelled to see if it was his hunting partner and got no response. A black wolf appeared within 15-20 yards of and approached him. The man shot at the wolf. He told officers he believed he hit it, but the wolf ran off.
Investigating officers said they found hair held by a small patch of hide indicating a flesh would likely be more educational than lethal to the wolf.
Updates on other wolf incidents:
The Teanaway Pack collared female wolf that was found dead last month is under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since the wolf was from the western portion of Washington where gray wolves are still protected under federal endangered species rules. KING 5 TV reported Wednesday from unconfirmed sources that the Teanaway wolf was shot.
The case of the wolf shot by a farmer in Whitman County last month is still pending as Washington wildlife officials wait for DNA results to make sure the wolf is not a hybrid before making a decision on whether to turn the case over to the county prosecutor.
Crown acknowledged that as wolves repopulate their former territory people who venture into the northeastern Washington woods have to be more prepared for wildlife encounters than in the past.
But Crown said he’s cautious of promoting hysteria, pointing out that wolfs are naturally inquisitive.
“I think there’s probably more likelihood of being injured by a moose than a pack of wolves,” he said.
However, being armed with bear spray may be a wise precaution when being out in the woods where bears, cougars, wolves and coyotes roam, he said.
“Carrying bear spray is a good precaution,” he said. “If you’re just out checking fences, you can jump back into your pickup if something threatening occurs. But when your venturing out to more remote areas, your options are limited. You have to be able to take care of yourself.”
- A more detailed report has been filed by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.