Colville man shoots wolf to escape encounter

RaeLynn Ricarte

A Colville man who found himself surrounded by wolves on Oct. 7 in the forest near Rocky Creek Road, just east of town, shot and killed a young male in the pack to escape.

“The man called us as soon as he managed to get back to a place where he had cell service, and the incident was investigated by the county's wildlife conflict specialist, Jeff Flood, and the state Department of Fish and Game,” said Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke. “Investigators went to the scene and found the dead wolf. From the evidence, they confirmed the man's story and determined that he acted completely within the law because he was threatened.”

Manke said the identity of the man is being kept confidential to avoid making him a potential target for retaliation from wolf advocates. The incident occurred about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, he said. According to Manke, the man had gone into the woods to check on his trail cameras. After walking through tall grass, he encountered multiple wolves in front of him. Manke said the man then began to slowly retreat, but looked behind to find other wolves flanking him.

“He was essentially surrounded,” said Manke. “When he yelled at them, one or more of the wolves bared their teeth and they did not move.”

He said the man had a firearm with him and fatally shot one of the more menacing wolves to get out of the life-threatening situation. The other animals retreated enough for him to get out of that location. Because he had no cell service, the man had to walk back toward his vehicle to report the incident.

“He called the sheriff's office as soon as he could and we immediately notified Jeff Flood and WDFW,” said Manke.

The gray wolf is listed as an endangered species and hunting of the apex predator is illegal. However, Manke said an emergency rule allows a person to kill a wolf to prevent an imminent attack to himself, his family or domestic animals.

“We believe that no crime was committed in this case whatsoever,” he said.

Staci Lehman, public information officer for WDFW, said the man was well within his rights to defend himself when surrounded by wolves.

“He didn't do anything wrong,” she said. “He did everything by the book, including immediately notifying us as soon as he could.”

She said the wolf that was killed is believed to be from the Smackout Pack, which maintains its territory in that area. Manke said, with wolves, cougars and bears living in the woods of Northeastern Washington, it is advisable for people to carry a gun for safety when they enter the forest.

“We don't have many of these kinds of encounters but they do happen,” he said. “If a person is comfortable and competent with a firearm, I would absolutely encourage them to carry one when they go into the woods.”

While wolf populations are by expected by state officials to stagnate in Northeastern Washington in the coming years, their population size in the area has reached the threshold to be relisted as an endangered species. The Colville Confederated Tribes have removed the endangered classification for wolves on their lands, but for that to happen across Washington, wolf populations must rise in the Central and Western sections of the state.

The 2019 wolf report compiled by Fish and Wildlife counted 108 wolves in 21 packs with an additional 37 wolves in five packs on tribal land within Washington.