It was nearly 2 p.m. when Andrew Norby came upon a legal buck.
The Eastern Washington University student was hunting with his wife near Jump Off Joe Lake on Oct. 20. They’d spent the morning out together, but hadn’t seen any legal deer.
Norby, 21, shot the buck. His wife continued to hunt while he cleaned the animal and drove his truck closer to the carcass.
Several hours later and nearly done cleaning the animal, the light was fading. That’s when Norby felt as if he were being watched.
“I looked up and about 20 to 25 yards to my left, there was what I assumed was a wolf,” he said. “He just kind of snuck up on me while I was working with all the meat.”
Norby had taken “all but the little tiny scraps off the carcass” from his deer. But the animal was hungry and aggressive. Norby grabbed his gun.
“He lunged at me once or twice, and I raised my gun each time,” Norby said. “For me, it kind of set a pattern. He’s aggressive, I’m aggressive. He’s not, I’m not.”
The outdoor recreation major grabbed the meat and started to back off.
“He kind of ran me off a little bit,” he said.
The animal moved in as Norby moved out.
“I mean, it was cool after the fact,” he said. “Really, I was just more worried about the aggression itself.”
Norby said he didn’t fire a warning shot, or shoot at the animal, because it would have been “a mess to try and explain to someone why I shot a wolf. I had no wish to be mauled or anything, but also no wish to go through that process.”
Members of two wolf advocacy groups contacted the Spokesman-Review Sunday to argue that the animal Norby encountered – and which he photographed – was likely not a wolf, but either a Husky or some other mixed northern breed. They pointed to the animal’s coloration, build and facial characteristics as evidence.
“This is certainly a beautiful wolf-like canid, which could easily be mistaken as a wild grey wolf,” said Paul Paquet a American and Canadian biologist who has worked with wolves for 40 years. “From the image, however, I think she is likely a husky mix (malamute, Siberian?) and possible hybrid (wolf X dog). Her body confirmation, the shape and size of her ears, and coat all suggest dog of some type, rather than wolf. She also looks like she might have worn a harness at some recent time. Note the apparent disjunction in fur along her shoulders and back, which I don’t think is an artifact of the image or a natural cape of fur.”
He added in the email, “In any case, given the circumstances, I would likely have thought this was a wolf.”
In a followup email, Norby said that he judged the animal by its behavior, and “Not being an expert on wolf identification I should think it is indeed possible I did not encounter a wolf.”
At the time, however, he was operating under the premise that the animal he was faced with was, in fact, a full wolf. In Eastern Washington, wolves are protected by state endangered species laws, but are not on the federal endangered species list. The penalty for killing a wolf can be as much as $5,000 and/or a year in jail. In late August, a rancher shot a wolf, claiming self-defense.
A minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs was reported by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in March. As of 2015, Idaho had roughly 790 wolves in 108 packs.
“Honestly, doing the right thing, regardless of how I feel, is more important,” Norby said of his decision.
“We have rules and regulations for a reason, so you have to follow them.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sunday, Nov. 25 and again on Monday Nov. 26 to reflect that, while Andrew Norby initially thought and acted under the impression that the animal he encountered was a wolf, experts believe based on the photo that it is not.
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