OYMPIA — Permission to kill a wolf attacking livestock, granted under an emergency state rule last spring, could soon become state law.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission was to consider amending state wildlife interaction rules during a public meeting Oct. 4 in Olympia. The amendments are based on testimony before the Legislature, requests by legislators and a series of public meetings.
The authority to kill a wolf “caught in the act” — defined as actual or imminent animal-to-human or animal-to-animal physical contact — is limited to areas where the gray wolf is not listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Presently that is the part of the state east of highways 97, 17 and 395.
Other amendments apply to the entire state:
• Livestock includes not just cattle, sheep and horses, but also goats, swine, donkeys, mules, llamas and alpacas.
• State compensation for losses is permitted regardless of whether the animals were raised for commercial purposes. Loss of guard dogs would also be compensated.
• Livestock owners would be compensated for their losses at the livestock’s market value.
Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, said market-based compensation would be like a “depredation coupon,” which would be redeemed at the price that similar animals bring when they are sold. The state should be prepared to accommodate those claims, he said.
“The department has done a good job in capturing livestock industry concerns. It provides tools for folks on the ground,” he said. “There’s beginning to be a much stronger understanding from all sides on wolf management and recovery. We saw that in the Legislature this year. There was a bipartisan effort to bring that forward, as well as a funding package.”
When the Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted the emergency rule, Rep. David Taylor, a rancher from Moxee, said, “It’s taken a lot of input from legislators, county officials, ranchers, farmers and concerned citizens, but in the end, the department had no other choice but to recognize the obvious need for folks to be able to protect their families and their livelihoods. While this certainly isn’t the end of the ‘wolf issue’ for Washington, it is a good start for those of us who have to live with wolves.”
The state’s Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plans covers wolves while they are a state listed species. A new management plan will be developed after the species is taken off the list.