A Palouse farmer who chased down and killed a wolf in a crop field on Oct. 12, 2014, has been given what wolf advocates are calling a sweet deal by Whitman County prosecutor Denis Tracy.
According to the Capital Press, Jonathan Rasmussen, 38, has been charged with killing a state endangered species, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The farmer won’t face criminal prosecution for shooting a gray wolf if he pays $100 and commits no further game violations for the next six months, Tracy announced Monday.
The rifle used to kill the wolf — a Remington Model 700 in .300 Weatherby equipped with a Leupold scope — was seized by Washington Fish and Wildlife officers at the time of the incident. It’s not clear whether the property will be returned to Rasmussen.
“I recognize that the shooting of a wolf generates strong emotions in some people, and depending on the person, those emotions run either in support of such an act or opposed to such an act,” Tracy said in a written statement.
State Fish and Wildlife police turned the evidence in the case over to the county prosecutor on Nov. 19. The original WDFW report said the man, with his wife in the vehicle, chased the wolf in a vehicle and shot it in a farm field about 15 miles southwest of Pullman. Rasmussen called 911 to relay a report to wildlife officials that he had killed a wolf.
Tracy said he’s heard from wolf advocates urging stiff prosecution while others in the public backed Rasmussen for protecting public safety as well as his animals.
However, Fish and Wildlife police said the wolf had not been reported as threatening people, pets or livestock. The case report released to reporters said: “He at no point indicated that he thought he or his family was in imminent danger or that the animals at the horse barn were in immediate danger of being attacked. (He) stated that he thought if the wolf was allowed to live it would kill animals in the future.”
In an interview with the Capital Press, Tracy said the public interest and public passion in the case didn’t influence his decision, but it was one reason the case took 11 months to resolve.
“Their impact was to cause me to be very careful,” he told the reporter. “I thought about this case and how to resolve it for quite sometime.”
Tracy said he concluded that giving Rasmussen the option of paying what Tracy estimated were the administrative costs for handing the case was justified for several reasons, but that it was not a case of yielding to local sentiment.
Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest said the case proves that gray wolf recovery in Washington is not ready to be put in the hands of local governments.
“The prosecutor seemed to base his decision on a perception that the defense could argue that this wolf, the first seen in Whitman County in almost a century, was a public danger solely on the basis of it having existed,” Friedman told Northwest Sportsman. “Mr. Tracy therefore is now the poster child for the case for retaining federal listing. ”
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