ENDANGERED SPECIES -- A detailed report on the killing of a collared gray wolf on Eckler Mountain, a Washington portion of the Blue Mountains on Oct. 11 indicates the 9-year-old male in poor condition was approaching a cabin when the owner shot 10 rounds with a .22 cal. rifle to defend his dogs.
The wolf, known as OR14, weighed 90 pounds when it had been caught and fixed with a GPS collar in Oregon in 2012 after being suspected of attacking sheep.
Its carcass weighed 76 pounds when examined by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers who said the wolf's teeth were worn and broken, it had an infected gash on its back and was infested with mites. The wolf also had healed-over wounds from previously being peppered with bird shot.
OR14 had been documented feeding on deer that had been dying from the region's bluetongue outbreak.
The man who shot OR14 reported the incident immediately. WDFW police officers responded immediately and found the wolf dead 43 yards from the cabin porch. Sgt. Paul Mosman filed the detailed narrative report (posted below) with the Columbia County prosecutor's office, where the decision will be made on whether to file charges involved with the killing of a state-listed endangered species.
In the eastern third of the state where wolves have been removed from federal endangered species protections, residents have the right under still-standing state endangered species rules to to defend their livestock and pets against an attacking wolf.
In a Whitman County case, a farmer who used a vehicle to chase down and shoot a wolf that posed no immediate threat to humans or property was fined $100 in September by the county prosecutor.
Following is the full report on the Eckler Mountain case involving OR14 filed by officer Mosman (RP refers to "reporting party," CS refers to the agency's wildlife "Conflict Specialist"):
On 10/11/2015, at approximately 1945 hours, I contacted Officer McQuary after I received a call from WSP Dispatch to call him. Officer McQuary told me that he had been contacted by an acquaintance that owned a cabin on Eckler Mountain Road in Columbia County. Officer McQuary said a reporting party (RP) had shot and killed a collared wolf outside his cabin after it had approached his dogs.
I attempted to call Conflict Specialists Scott Rasley or Jeff Wade, but was unable to reach them. I called Wildlife Biologist Paul Wik and he checked collar data and confirmed OR-14, an older, solitary gray wolf, had been close to that location for several days.
I called RP and told him who I was. RP was obviously agitated as he described the wolf appearing a short distance away while his wife and him were trying to call their two dogs, a Boxer and the other a blind Blue Heeler, back into the cabin after they had let them out to go the bathroom. RP said his wife shouted "wolf" and he looked up and there was a large wolf looking right at him and it seemed to be coming his way. RP was carrying a .22 rifle and proceeded to shoot at the wolf until the magazine was empty. He confirmed the wolf was dead, wearing a collar, and was primarily gray in color. I told him I would be en route to his location and acquired better directions to find the rural cabin.
At approximately 2150 hours, I arrived at the cabin located on Eckler Mountain Road in Columbia County. I was greeted by RP, his wife, and his father. We walked up to the cabin and RP showed me where he had been standing on the porch when he had shot at the wolf, pointing to a stump/root wad across the parking lot that illuminated with my flashlight. He had been approximately 15 feet away from the cabin's front door. RP said his blind Blue Heeler had been starting to walk across the small footbridge from the parking area to the cabin's front door, when RP’s wife exclaimed "wolf" and pointed across the parking area to the nearby tree line. RP, who was carrying a .22 rifle at the time, turned and looked out and saw the wolf. He said "it looked right at me" and then "started to come towards me." He said he just raised the rifle and shot until the rifle was empty (10 rounds). He said the wolf yelped once and then retreated back into the trees. RP was visibly upset as he was relaying this story to me and said "the last thing I wanted was to see these here." It became apparent through talking to them that the entire family’s sense of security at their cabin had been shattered by the appearance of a wolf on their property.
I asked why he had the .22 rifle in hand when he went out with the dogs, and RP said he always carries a firearm when he is outside the cabin due to other predators they have seen over the years, to include bears, cougars, and coyotes.
RP’s wife said she had been calling and patting her leg at the front door of the cabin in order to guide the blind dog back to the house when the wolf appeared.
RP said he called his father to advise him of what had happened. RP then drove his pickup towards the site where the lights could shine on the spot where he had last seen the wolf. At that point he confirmed that the wolf was lying in the tree line dead.
At 1937 hours, RP called Officer McQuary.
I did a cursory examination of the two dogs and did not see any visible injuries.
I looked over the front edge of the porch and located multiple .22 cases, along with several other cases for other calibers. The cases varied in appearance from looking freshly fired to very old. RP and his father explained that the family often target practiced off the deck with different guns.
There were two trucks parked in front of the cabin and RP said neither of them had been there when he had shot the wolf. He had drove his truck over to use the headlights to illuminate OR-14 and the second truck was RP’s father’s, which he had parked there after getting the call from RP.
At this time we walked across the parking area to the stump/root wad and I found a large gray, collared wolf lying approximately three yards past the stump. There was a fresh pool of blood around its mouth and nose. RP said he shot at the wolf at the front edge of the stump (closer to the cabin) and that it had turned and went back into the trees.
I asked RP and RP’s wife if they would fill out a written statement and they agreed to do so.
I examined the wolf and found a large gash across its back that was festering and had a foul odor to it. It appeared to be an injury that occurred at least a week or two prior to death.
I paced off the spot from where RP said the wolf was standing to where he shot from and found it was approximately 40 yards.
There was fresh domestic dog feces in the grassy area approximately 10-15 yards in front of the stump towards the cabin.
I recovered the wolf and placed it in the back of my patrol truck. I told RP that I would like to come back to the site in the morning to see it during daylight hours. He said that they would not be there, but I was welcome to walk around the property.
I cleared the cabin at 2309 hours.
On 10/12/15, at approximately 0915 hours, I met Wildlife Biologist Paul Wik at the WDFW Clarkston Office for the purpose of conducting a necropsy on the wolf. An overall assessment showed that it was in poor condition. Its teeth were very worn and all four canines had been broken at some point and then worn down. Most of the teeth appeared to have cavities. It weighed approximately 76 pounds. The large 6" gash on its back had started to heal, but still showed signs of infection with pus around the edges and a foul odor. The coat was infested with small insects (possibly mange mites).
There was a blue, plastic tag in its ear, #2026, and it was wearing an ODFW GPS Satellite collar.
We took several photos of the animal before any necropsy was done.
While removing the collar, we located one small bullet hole that passed through the collar and a subsequent wound in the neck under the collar with fresh blood matted in the hair.
We did not find any other visible wounds at this time.
We then skinned the wolf carcass. We found two additional small caliber bullet holes during this process. One was an entry wound under the left eye and the other was an entry wound to the top right side of the head.
In addition, we found that the skin around the gash on the wolf's back had started to heal with thick scar tissue forming, however there was a pus pocket that extended down into the right shoulder between the skin and muscle. We found a small brown leaf stuck in the pus at the bottom of this pocket.
We also found what appeared to be several birdshot pellets on the right side of the wolf's head. The pellets appeared to be an older wound as they were completely grown over by tissue and there were no corresponding holes in the hide or tissue trauma that would be associated with a recent incident.
There was significant hemorrhaging and tissue damage around the bullet entry point under the eye, and we found copper and lead fragments around the entry point.
There was not much damage visible in the shot to the top of the head. I examined this area and found some bloodshot along the path of the bullet.
I cut open the wound channel along the neck and found severe tissue damage and hemorrhaging along the bullet path. The round had hit the spine and disintegrated. We found copper and lead fragments next to the bone but minimal damage to the bone itself.
I inserted metal rods into the bullet wounds in the skull as a visual aid, and found the bullet path of the shot under the left eye had angled down into the top of the mouth and throat area. The path of the shot to the top of the head angled straight down through the cranium and most likely caused an instant fatality.
The head and pelt were retained and entered in the WDFW evidence system. The rest of the carcass was disposed of in the Clarkston DOT pit.
On 10/12/15, at approximately 1445 hours, I met WDFW Conflict Specialists Scott Rasley and Jason Earl at the cabin on Eckler Mountain Road. The RP were not present so we parked at the gate and walked in.
I showed them the scene and took pictures of the cabin and surrounding area. A detailed search of the kill site showed no indication that the wolf had moved after being shot. There was no blood trail or signs of a bullet hit (cut hair, blood, tracks, etc.) where RP had indicated that wolf had been standing when he started to shoot. The spot where I had found the carcass was also entirely visible from the porch (this was
not as clear when viewed in the dark the night before). CS Rasley searched all around the kill site with his metal detector and did not find any cartridge cases that would have indicated a closer shot.
The wolf had died approximately 43 yards away from the porch to the cabin.
In conclusion, the investigation shows that wolf OR-14 was shot and killed 43 yards away from the cabin by three bullet wounds from a .22 rifle. The shot through the top of the skull was most likely instantly fatal and dropped the animal in its tracks. There was fresh sign and feces that the RP’s two dogs had been within 10-15 yards of the wolf immediately before it had appeared. RP said he felt his dogs and his family were in danger and that is why he shot at the wolf.