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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Two wolves killed in Stevens County over Memorial Day weekend

This March 13, 2014 photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a female wolf from the Minam pack outside La Grande, Ore., after it was fitted with a tracking collar. (Uncredited / AP)

Two wolves were killed in Stevens County over the Memorial Day weekend.

On Sunday, a man shot and killed a wolf near Mingo Mountain in Stevens County. The man and his daughter, whose name and ages have not been released, were hiking along a trail when they saw a wolf about 30 yards away. The wolf started to approach the duo, said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf specialist Ben Maletzke.

At about 25 yards, the man shot and killed the wolf with a shotgun he was carrying with him.

“The gentleman felt threatened,” Maletzke said.

The man returned to his home and called WDFW police, who arrived on scene about 20 minutes after the wolf was killed. WDFW police ruled the killing justified self defense and have closed the investigation.

The wolf was not collared. It was likely a member of the Stranger Pack, although it could have been a member of the Huckleberry Pack, Maletzke said.

“I don’t think he really stopped to take time,” Maletzke said. “He didn’t shout or anything, he just shot. He felt threatened, and he was lawful to do what he did.”

Then on Monday, WDFW biologists noticed that the radio collar of a female wolf was transmitting a mortality signal. A biologist investigated and found a dead wolf on Highway 20 in the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge, also in Stevens County.

Officials are still investigating and have not released many details, said Staci Lehman, a spokesperson for WDFW.

While WDFW has ruled the first killing justified, Maletzke said it’s important to know the basics of wolf behavior, and to not overreact if one is encountered. In the case of the Mingo Mountain shooting, Maletzke said it’s more than likely that the wolf would have run off if the two people had yelled at it.

“It could have ended differently,” he said.

Many rural residents of northeast Washington are concerned that wolves and cougars pose a threat to human safety. Maletzke pointed out that cougar attacks are exceedingly rare, and wolf attacks are even rarer.

“I’ve spent the better part of 20 years working around wolves and cougar,” he said. “These animals are pretty darn timid unless they are in the trap or they are cornered. If you leave them a way out, they are going to use it.”

Conservation Northwest is offering a $7,500 reward for information leading to a conviction.

A minimum of 126 wolves, 27 packs and 15 breeding pairs were counted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife during their annual winter survey. Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules in the eastern third of the state, while they remain federally protected in the western two-thirds of the state.