NEAR COLVILLE, Wash. -- Two weeks after the state announced the destruction of its newest pack of wolves, there are many who believe wolves are still roaming the rugged terrain in the Colville National Forest.
Ray Omit chuckled while sighting in his hunting rifle when I asked him how he felt about the state killing all eight members of the Wedge pack.
"They're still out there," he said, laughing. "Kill one alpha male and another one takes over."
Omit and others believe the state shot and killed eight wolves and think that was the right thing to do, but many believe there were upwards of a dozen wolves preying on cattle that grazed on land in the national forest. State Fish & Wildlife managers confirm they are still monitoring the area with motion detection cameras, but they told KING 5 they have no reason to believe there are any members of the pack left alive.
The State Wildlife Veterinarian released the results of necropsies conducted on the eight dead wolves (see document below). The report shows seven were shot to death, and one, a pup, was found dead and too decomposed to examine. Experts say it's common for pups to die of natural causes in the wild. The rest of the wolves were adults or at least yearlings.
The exams also showed most members of the pack were in "good" or "thin but good" condition at the time of their deaths. The state says one female was shot by sharpshooters on the ground, while the six others were shot from the air by marksmen in a helicopter.
Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson called the decision to wipe out the pack the hardest he's had to make. He said he also believes it will begin a process of cooperation that will lead to the successful recovery of other packs in the state.
The issue is now steeped in controversy. Ranchers say they are paying the financial and emotional price for wolf recovery in the state. Wildlife and animal groups accuse the state of bowing to the demands of the ranchers at the cost of an endangered wolf.
Observers from wolf states like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming say, "Welcome to the club." This is how the still-young process of wolf recovery is playing out.