AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. — Washington cattle ranchers are looking into forming a coalition to help them deal with wolves.
Steve McLaughlin, who ran as the Republican candidate for commissioner of public lands in 2016, told the Cattle Producers of Washington during their annual meeting Oct. 28 that the coalition must include ranchers, county Farm Bureaus and cattle organizations.
“We’re working to build this coalition where we all have a common interest,” he said.
The wolf population in Washington increases 30 percent each year, McLaughlin said. During the meeting he asked ranchers who have had livestock attacked to raise their hands. About a third did.
“Next year, it is my bet that another 10 or 15 percent of you raise your hands,” McLaughlin said. “If you haven’t been affected by this issue yet, you will be. It’s going to happen.”
McLaughlin is drafting four bills for the state Senate and House, with plans to introduce them during the legislative session which begins in January. The bills call for:
• Removing wolves from the state endangered species list.
• Authorizing counties to pass wolf control ordinances in the interest of public safety.
“If a dog attacks your livestock, you can shoot it,” McLaughlin said. “There are more laws that allow you to take out dogs — peoples’ pets — and more ability for you to control dogs than there is (for) wolves.”
• Access to the state’s wolf location data.
“We want to know where the wolves are right now, so if something happens or they start to cluster around where we’re grazing our cattle, we can get people up there and maybe harass them away, if possible,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin originally envisioned the bill granting the same access to all state residents, but said he is concerned about people potentially trespassing on property or going to a rancher’s grazing allotment in hopes of seeing a wolf.
“We’re figuring out ways to adjust that so that the people that need to see it, the true stakeholders, which is you in this room, get the data without condition,” McLaughlin said.
• Giving ranchers more power to deal with depredation and take measures to protect their livestock and property.
“We’re hoping, if nothing else, to get the conversation going,” McLaughlin said. “But I think there is the potential to have at least some of it pass. And if not all of them pass, we’ll keep trying.”
McLaughlin met with Washington ranchers Len McIrvin and David Dashiell about their experiences dealing with wolves, and toured Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota to learn more about the wolf programs in those states. He is also working with several county Farm Bureaus within the state on the bills.
“It’s not a question of managing wolves,” McLaughlin said. “We have to manage to a degree, but we have to control wolves. I think it’s time we start taking those measures to control our wolf population in this state.”