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Washington State News

Washington Wildlife Managers Advocate for Increased Wolf Protection Measures

(The Center Square) – When ranchers lose a calf or two to wolves, they are out a couple of thousand dollars, but the state spends up to $20,000 to lethally remove depredating wolves, says one wildlife manager.

“From a financial perspective alone, that to me has never made much sense,” said Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Lorna Smith of Jefferson County at a recent public meeting.

After hearing Smith’s remarks, Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Scott Nielsen, who is also a board member of Washington Cattle Producers, questioned her rationale. He said ranchers not only provide the nation’s food, but they represent private industry, which pays the bills of government.

Unlike government, he said private producers operate within a set budget, so every loss or injury of livestock carries a financial risk.

“We have even offered to do the hunts for the state so, in reality, it would cost them nothing,” said Nielsen. “The bottom line is that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has an obligation to fulfill the provisions in the wolf management plan that everyone sat at the table and decided upon; if they don’t do that, this whole thing falls apart.”

WDFW’s lethal removal policy allows killing wolves if they have injured or killed livestock three times within the last 30 days or four times within 10 months. The rancher must show that non-lethal measures did not work before a wolf can be euthanized.

Smith advocated at last week’s commission meeting in Olympia for greater wolf protection measures because of their endangered status at the state and federal levels.

The commission is considering new rules in keeping with Gov. Jay Inslee’s directive in 2019 that WDFW kill fewer wolves.

The rule requires greater accounting by ranchers that they have taken every available step to ward off wolf attacks before the state will authorize lethal removal. The proposal would also create Chronic Conflict Zones within the state that would require more detailed conflict management plans.

The commissioners are expected to vote on the rule at a special meeting on July 8.   

Commissioners Molly Linville and Kim Thorburn don’t believe there is a need for more regulations.

Linville, who resides in Douglas County, said wolf pack numbers are climbing in the state so the management plan as written is working. She credited the hard work of the Wolf Advisory group, which included professional mediation between ranchers, environmentalists and other groups, for developing a plan that sought to protect both livestock and wolves.