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Wolves

FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a gray wolf.  (AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, File)

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) | State wildlife officials are investigating a farmer in connection with the shooting of an endangered gray wolf in Whitman County.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers received tips that a wolf had been shot southwest of Pullman and responded Sunday.

Wildlife officers determined that the wolf had been shot by a farmer who pursued the animal for several miles in his vehicle after seeing it near his farm, the Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday. The incident occurred west of U.S. Highway 195 on the opening weekend of the state's general deer-hunting season.

Wolves are protected by state endangered species regulations, Fish and Wildlife's Nate Pamplin said. "The shooting does not appear to have been associated with a defense-of-life action," Pamplin said.

It also did not appear "to take place under the statutory authority to shoot and kill a wolf that is caught in the act of attacking livestock in the Eastern Washington recovery zone," he added.

The farmer's name has not been released.

"No citations have been issued as this is an active investigation," said Steve Crown, state Fish and Wildlife police chief in Olympia.

Scattered wolf sightings have been reported in Whitman County for years. Washington has 14 confirmed wolf packs, none of which is in Whitman County.

"Once the investigation is complete, the case will be sent to the Whitman County prosecutor's office for a charging decision," Pamplin said.

Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s. But the animals have been moving back into the state from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia for more than a decade. That is causing conflict between wolves and farmers, because the animals sometimes prey on livestock.

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