SEATTLE--- Conservation groups are offering up to a $15,000 reward for information leading to conviction of those responsible for the illegal killing of the breeding female wolf of the Teanaway pack in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The killing is one of several in the past year jeopardizing the recovery of Washington’s gray wolves, which are fully protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington and throughout the state under state endangered species law.
State and federal officials recovered the dead Teanaway pack breeding female on Oct. 28 near the Salmon la Sac area north of Cle Elum. Based on GPS collar data, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents believe the animal was killed around Oct. 17.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has requested that anyone with information about the killing of this wolf, or who might have noticed suspicious behavior in the Teanaway area, to contact federal law enforcement agents at (206) 512-9329 or (509) 727-8358. State law enforcement may be contacted at the 1-877-933-9847 hotline for reporting poaching activity in Washington. Reports to this hotline may be made anonymously.
“We know that it’s very likely that someone has important information about this abhorrent killing that will be useful to law enforcement,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is contributing to the reward. “Statewide surveys indicate three out of every four Washington residents support restoring wolves here, and now we need some of those concerned citizens to step up and help us prevent further setbacks for recovery by helping us find and convict the person responsible for the brutal death of this animal.”
“Whether one supports or opposes wolf recovery in the Northwest, poaching like this is an unacceptable abuse of our shared natural heritage,” said Jasmine Minbashian, communications director for Conservation Northwest.
“Every wolf counts in Washington’s ongoing and fragile wolf recovery,” said Shawn Cantrell, director of Defenders of Wildlife Northwest field office. “It is our hope that this reward will help law enforcement bring the person responsible for the killing of this wolf to justice and deter future tragic killings.”
“This tragic, illegal killing of yet another alpha female clearly demonstrates why all of our state’s gray wolves need protection. They are an endangered species and still have a long road to a full recovery in Washington,” said Dan Paul, Washington state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We thank the US Fish and Wildlife Service for their commitment to investigate this heinous act.”
The groups coordinating the reward for information leading to a conviction in this case include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, and Woodland Park Zoo.
There were only 52 confirmed wolves in Washington at the end of 2013, with five of Washington’s packs statewide having confirmed breeding pairs - two in the North Cascades and three in Northeast Washington. This killing is the second breeding pack female lost in Washington in 2014, and has left the North Cascades Recovery Region with the potential for only one successful breeding pair, a decline back to the 2008 breeding level. The other known loss in 2014 was the Huckleberry pack breeding female in northeastern Washington in August. The state wolf conservation goal is a minimum of 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years in three recovery regions across the state from eastern Washington to the Olympic Peninsula. To date, numbers of successful breeding packs in the state have been stagnant at five since 2012.
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a slow comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia.
Human-caused mortality has been a major cause of losses for Washington’s wolves since wolves began recolonizing the state in 2007, including wolves in at least six of the state’s known packs (Lookout, Ruby, Wedge, Huckleberry, Teanaway and Diamond packs). The killings have included the breeding females in four of the state’s productive packs (Lookout, Wedge, Huckleberry, Teanaway).
Because the Teanaway pack represents the southern edge of confirmed wolf recovery in Washington’s Cascades, the pack’s continued survival is critically important to meet the state’s recovery goals. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife, local ranchers and conservation organizations have invested extensive time and resources to prevent conflict between this wolf pack and livestock, including co-sponsoring range riders to supervise sheep and cattle herds. These efforts have been successful, with no reported conflicts within the territory of the Teanaway pack in recent years. State wildlife officials recently described the Teanaway wolves as a model pack. With the loss of its breeding female, the pack’s future success is now in jeopardy.
Groups sponsoring the reward are working together to advance wolf recovery in Washington through the state’s 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.