Endangered Gray Wolves Die After Being Poisoned in Washington

by Lauren Boisvert
(Image Credit: Heidi Larsen/Getty Images)

Washington officials reported Monday, Oct. 10, that multiple gray wolves died after ingesting poison in the northwest corner of the state. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is in the process of investigating the deaths of six gray wolves in the area. The wolves were from the Wedge Pack located in Stevens County.

Four deaths occurred in late February, according to a report from USA Today. Fish and Wildlife found the other two recently after extensive searches.

“Toxicology results revealed all six wolves died from ingesting poison,” Fish and Wildlife said Monday in a statement. Additionally, Zoe Hanley, a wolf biologist with the organization Defenders of Wildlife, made a statement as well.

“This is a tragic, unnecessary loss to our state’s endangered wolf population,” said Hanley. “This cowardly act flies in the face of committed efforts from biologists, policymakers and ranchers working to recover and coexist with wolves in Washington.”

Wildlife organizations across the state are contributing to a reward fund for any information about the poisoning that would lead to a conviction. Currently, the reward sits at $51,400 with $2,500 donated by Defenders of Wildlife.

Six Endangered Gray Wolves Die From Poisoning in Washington

Since 1980, gray wolves have been endangered in Washington. It is a native species of Washington and extensive hunting nearly wiped it out in the early 1900s. The interesting thing about gray wolves in Washington is that they came back to the state on their own. They were never formally reintroduced but split off from packs in other states and repopulated Washington by themselves.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with a citizen-made plan, is carefully monitoring the fragile population. The plan is in place to deal with livestock-wolf conflicts and to address any other impacts the wolves may have on fellow native species.

Every year, Fish and Wildlife gathers a minimum count of wolves in the state. It also puts together an update on population, status, distribution, and management of the wolves. In 2021, Fish and Wildlife and Native Tribes of Washington counted 206 individual wolves in 33 packs. The numbers are up since 2020, when there were only 178 in 29 packs.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Re-Evaluating Efforts to Protect Livestock After Shooting Wrong Wolf

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife botched an attempt to cull the Smackout wolf pack last month after members of the pack attacked and killed livestock on private land in Stevens County. Biologists accidentally shot the wrong wolf, and now officials are reporting more cattle deaths. There was an attack on Oct. 3, plus another back on Sept. 26. The pack has killed at least 11 head of cattle beginning on August 17.

Now, Fish and Wildlife is considering “lethal disposal” again. Two wolves from the Leadpoint pack were also killed in an attempt to protect the livestock. The orders for a pack culling expired after the two wolves were killed, but the new attacks are prompting new orders.