Senators urge emergency protections for wolves in US West

FILE - This July 16, 2004, file photo shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. The Biden administration said Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, that federal protections may need to be restored for gray wolves in the western U.S. after Republican-backed state laws made it much easier to kill the predators. (AP Photo/Dawn Villella, File)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday that it killed one adult male wolf in Columbia County last week following several attacks on livestock.

The agency authorized the removal of as many as two wolves from what it believes to be a newly established pack that roams between territories established by the Touchet and Tucannon packs.

Wolves in eastern Washington are not federally protected, but they are listed under the Washington State Endangered Species Act. Hunting is not allowed, and lethal removals are only rarely approved by the department. The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan allows removal when wolves repeatedly prey on livestock and non lethal deterrent methods prove unsuccessful.

The new pack was documented to have attacked livestock on private land on five separate occasions dating back to last summer.

Jay Holzmiller, a rancher, logger and former Fish and Wildlife Commission member from Anatone who now sits on the Washington Cattlemen’s Association Board of Directors, said he is happy the agency followed its protocol and removed the wolf and added that multiple non lethal tactics had been tried.

Holzmiller said elk numbers in southeastern Washington are 40 percent below management objectives set by the department and that wolves may be increasing pressure on livestock because of low numbers of their natural prey.

“When our big game herds get depleted it’s just going to put more pressure on domestic livestock,” he said. “When it comes to elk, it isn’t strictly just wolves. It’s all predators. But if we are going to save our big game herds we have to manage some predators.”

Some conservation groups see it differently and urged the agency to rely on non lethal deterrents.

“We are saddened the state resorted to killing one of these newly discovered wolves,” said Zoë Hanley, northwest representative of Defenders of Wildlife. “What’s especially crushing is that this tragedy could have been prevented if adequate range riding had been in place. It is not necessary to kill wolves to stop depredations.”

Livestock owners who have suffered recent losses have permits allowing them to collectively remove one additional wolf.

Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.

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