SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A wolf has been killed by a hunter hired by Washington, a state where the animals have been regaining a foothold in recent years after being hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said hunters were back out Monday and three more wolves in the Huckleberry Pack could be killed to protect sheep in rural southern Stevens County. The agency says wolves from the Huckleberry Pack this month have killed 22 sheep and injured three more, despite preventive measures.

Environmental groups oppose the hunt. Wolves began moving back into the state in the early 2000s from Idaho and Canada, and are protected under state and federal law. The state exterminated an entire pack of wolves to protect a herd of cattle in 2012.