State and federal wildlife agents are investigating an apparent poaching of a protected wolf in north central Washington, according to a state search warrant.

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State and federal wildlife agents are investigating an apparent poaching of a protected wolf in north-central Washington, according to a state search warrant.

The poaching would be the first known locally since a wolf pack was first confirmed in central Washington last year, marking the return of wolves to the state after more than 70 years absence.

Wolves in the Northwest are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act, and are also protected under state law. No arrests have been made in the case, which remains under investigation, said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of law enforcement for the state Fish and Wildlife Department.

The investigation was triggered when a shipping company in Omak called police, reporting that a package dropped off with them appeared to be dripping blood. When opened, it contained what wildlife agents later confirmed to be a fresh wolf pelt. Genetic testing showed it probably came from the wolf pack that recently arrived in Washington.

Killing a protected wolf is punishable by up to a year in federal prison.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official declined to comment on the case, except to say the federal search warrant was sealed, and that the investigation was continuing.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or wcornwall@seattletimes.com