Washington wolf killer pleads guilty, wife admits role in scheme

Washington wolf killer pleads guilty, wife admits role in scheme

Credit: WDF&W

Suspect Tom D. White

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 18 at 4:59 PM

It started when workers at a private shipping company in Omak discovered a box bound for Canada was bleeding. It ended Wednesday when Twisp rancher Tom White and his wife pleaded guilty to federal felony charges of killing and conspiring to export the pelt of a protected species.

White's father William had already pleaded guilty to charges involving the killing of at least two members of the first known wolf pack in Washington State in 70 years.

Tom and his wife Erin agreed to pay $35,000 in fines and both face up to a year in prison when sentenced in July.

Sources say the pair is more likely to face three years of probation. The three still face State charges in connection with the killings that biologists say set back the Lookout Mountain Pack that was discovered in the Okanogan Valley in 2008.

KING 5 has obtained exclusive photos state Fish and Wildlife officers say they recovered from the White's computer and were used as evidence in the federal case. The photos clearly show Tom White posing with a dead wolf and the pelt that was discovered by the shipping workers.

Some fellow ranchers in the region have defended the Whites' right to protect the herd. Prosecutors said the Whites never demonstrated  any threat to their livestock.

Biologists say the Lookout Mountain pack was thought to have disbanded but appears to be reforming. They also said another nine packs are believed to either exist or are developing in the state.

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