Washington’s wolf population has dropped to 122 after a pack of four were killed by state hunters on August 16 near a ranch in rural Ferry County. The incident has environmentalists up in arms as they believe the deaths of these wolves benefit this particular ranch.

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Sam Montgomery, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, said that the hunters were inside a helicopter when they shot and killed the wolf pack.

Related: Trump administration wants to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list

“It’s unbelievably tragic that this wolf family has already been annihilated by the state,” Sophia Ressler of the Center for Biological Diversity, which tried to stop the incident, told the AP. “It seems like Washington’s wildlife agency is bent on wiping out the state’s wolves.”

The ranch where the wolves were recently killed is no stranger to this particular pack of wolves — originally a group of 7 — as its livestock have been attacked, killed and hurt at least 29 times since 2018 as well as another nine times in the past four weeks, the state agency reported.

Before the wolves were killed on Friday, the owner of the ranch tried using horse riders to scare the wolves before the choice was made to shoot them, the agency said.

Wolves in Washington nearly disappeared entirely in the 1930s, primarily because of the growing cattle industry. They began returning about 15 years ago. Many of the gray wolves today are said to live in rural and mountainous regions of northeastern Washington. They have also been seen roaming the Cascade Range.

In the past, Washington has approved the killing of wolf packs if they have attacked cattle, but activists believe annihilating the animals won’t protect livestock. In the end, conservationists suggest other control methods, such as better management systems, to deter the wolves from preying on cattle.

Via The Guardian and Associated Press

Image via Krystal Hamlin