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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is working this weekend to find and kill wolves that have been killing sheep in Stevens County.

WDFW said Saturday that as of Friday, they had confirmed that 17 sheep owned by a rancher had been killed by wolves in five separate incidents.

On Saturday, crews found five dead and three injured sheep that were attacked Friday night. Investigators confirmed that wolves were responsible for all of the latest attacks.

Related: On patrol to save sheep and wolves

WDFW Director Phil Anderson authorized the removal of up to four members of the pack, which is estimated to have up to 12 members.

A helicopter flew over the area early Saturday, and the crew spotted one wolf in forested terrain within the grazing area, but no wolves had been killed as of 4 p.m. Saturday.

Fish and Wildife officials say the situation clearly meets the conditions for lethal removal established in the department's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and related procedures.

Conservation groups are opposed to the killing, saying it is not an effective way to protect livestock.

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