Wednesday, April 18, 2012

WA couple plead guilty in wolf killing case

Updated 09:18 p.m., Tuesday, April 17, 2012
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Twisp, Wash., couple have pleaded guilty to federal charges in the killing of a protected gray wolf and an attempt to ship its bloody pelt to Canada.
Tom White, 37, pleaded guilty to killing two endangered gray wolves, in May and December 2008. His wife, Erin White, also 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to export an endangered species, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors are expected to recommend that the couple be sentenced July 11 to three years' probation. Tom White agreed to pay fines and restitution of $30,000, with his wife paying $5,000.

The case stemmed from a 2008 report of a bloody package that had been left with a private shipping company in Omak. A suspicious employee called police, and an officer opened the package and discovered a fresh wolf hide.

Prosecutors said Tom White admitted killing that wolf and another. His wife admitted trying to ship the pelt.

Earlier this month, Tom White's father, Twisp rancher William D. White, 62, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of conspiracy to take an endangered species, conspiracy to transport endangered species and unlawful importation of wildlife.

The latter charge stemmed from a moose William White brought back to the Methow Valley from Alberta, Canada, where he hunted illegally on a local man's tag.

As part of the federal plea, William White also agreed to plead guilty to two state charges, including hunting bears with a dog.

Prosecutors say Erin White was sending the wolf pelt back to the hunting buddy in Canada who had helped William White get the moose.

The wolves were from the Methow Valley's Lookout Pack, the first documented wolf pack in Washington in several decades.

Wolves were removed from the Endangered Species list in the eastern one-third of Washington state last year, but they remain a federally protected species in the rest of the state.

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