Senate wants new wolf management approach

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A gray wolf in trees

The state would overhaul its wolf-management measures and goals under a bill that the Washington Senate passed 39-9 Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, would order the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to change its 2011 wolf management plan to base full recovery on packs instead of breeding pairs; to examine wolves killing livestock and wildlife, such as deer and elk; and to nail down when a wolf can be legally killed.

The department would also have to determine when ranchers and farmers can be compensated or the loss of livestock to wolves. The deadline to overhaul the wolf management plan is June 30, 2017.

Wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. Wolves in Eastern Washington lost their federal protection in 2011, but not their state protection. A state report for 2013 estimated that Washington had 52 wolves in 13 packs with five successful breeding pairs. Ten packs are in the northeast corner of Washington, which also had three of the state's five breeding pairs in 2013. However, Reuters recently reported that Washington is down to two breeding pairs. A breeding pair is a female and male with at least two pups.

Right now, one of Washington's criteria for a successful wolf recovery is 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years with four breeding pairs on each of three recovery areas. The 2013 state report found no more than two breeding pairs in any recovery area.

On Tuesday, the Western Law Environmental Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service from killing wolves, Reuters also reported. Last year, the Wildlife Service shot a female wolf in a breeding pair -- dropping the number of three to two -- by mistake, thinking it was another wolf that had attacked livestock.

Wednesday, Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, noted that during a Senate committee hearing, one rancher testified that wolves killed 300 of his animals. He said, "This is a serious issue."


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at and on Twitter at @johnstang_8