HOWL Colorado

Wolf poaching charges still pending, but suspects face other wildlife charges

[large thumbnail url=”wolf-poaching-charges-still-pending-but-suspects-face-other-wildlife-charges” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”04″ day=”12″] [thumbnail icon url=”wolf-poaching-charges-still-pending-but-suspects-face-other-wildlife-charges” filename=”news” year=”2010″ month=”04″ day=”12″] Outspoken anti-wolf ranchers continue to face investigation, but no charges, after admitting to killing at least one wolf from Washington’s only pack, the Lookout Pack. However, other wildlife charges have been filed.

Tom White, his wife Erin, and his father Bill White are under serious scrutiny after allegedly killing and trying to ship the pelt to Canada last March. However the investigation has led to state charges of various big game violations, which were filed on March 12, 2010.

The current citations, according to the Methow Valley News website, include unlawful hunting out of season and use of dogs to hunt black bear. Bill White also faces a count of hunting without a bear tag or license.

Read the original Methow Valley story: Wolf pelt investigation yields other wildlife charges for two Twisp men

The bleeding box and wolf poaching case

According to a search warrant affidavit filed on March 13, 2009, A woman (currently believed to be Erin White) dropped off a package bound for Canada which she claimed was a rug. A FedEx agent refused to take the package after seeing what they thought was blood leaking from the box.

The shipping store owner called the police, and when they opened the box, they discovered what appeared to be a wolf pelt inside. This was confirmed later by genetic testing and also tied the pelt to the solo Washington State wolf pack.

Investigators used security cameras to identify the woman and trace the car.

An initial search warrant was executed of the two White homes by state and federal agents on February 9.

Bill White denied any knowledge of what happened, according to the Affidavit. He claimed the investigation was motivated by the fact that he denied the forest server access to his property to search for wolves.

Tom White, the son of Bill White, told agents that he found a wolf caught in a wire fence and killed it out of necessity. He said he gave the pelt to his wife to ship out of the country. The police confronted Bill White with this new information. Bill White admitted to knowing of the wolf, and also revealed that he provided the Canadian address.

A forensic investigation of Bill White’s computer found two photos showing a large wolf being carried by Tom White. The photo showed what investigators believe was clear evidence of a leg trap having been used on the wolf.

Sgt. Brown in the affidavit stated that both photos were “showing a left front paw severely injured in a way consistent with a trap injury.” And that the background of the photos showed “the ground is heavily torn up with my experience of a trapped animal trying to get free.”

Body-gripping traps are illegal to use in Washington state.  

Wolves in Washington state are federally and state protected. The penalty for a federal conviction would be up to $100,000 and a year in jail. The state penalty also carries up to a year in jail. While no charges have been filed, there could be many.

Attempting to ship the pelt could lead to smuggling charges, which would carry very heavy penalties including as many as 10 years in prison.

The search warrants revealed emails which could tie the White’s to more crimes against wildlife including illegal pursuit hunting of bobcats and cougars using dogs.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is staying quiet about the ongoing wolf poaching investigation, which is typical. However should a grand jury decide that the evidence is compelling enough to issue an indictment, charges would be filed in court and the suspects would be arrested and arraigned and face a jury trial.

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