Washington Fish & Wildlife votes to accept wolf management plan

Dec 5, 2011

Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a management plan for what one member called the most controversial and complex issue the Commission has ever dealt with: wolf management.

The number and distribution of breeding pairs in Washington's growing wolf population is key. The amended plan calls for four breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, four each in the North and South Cascades, and 3 more pairs anywhere in the state. If more are found, the plan calls for stepping up management actions, like moving wolves around or shooting animals who prey on cattle.

Commissioner Gary Douvia emphasized the entire plan hangs on accurate wolf counts.

"It appears that our professional wolf trappers, designated specialists are the key people to make those confirmations. We only have one of those at the moment. We definitely need to consider how fast we can get two more."

At the same time, state funding is so tight, ranchers are deeply skeptical the state will even have money to fully compensate them for livestock killed by wolves – to say nothing of hiring more wolf specialists.

The plan would be subject to change as wolves continue to fan out across the state. One of the first opportunities to do that would be when the federal government revisits gray wolves' protected status next February.

For the Northwest News Network,I'm April Baer reporting.