By MATTHEW WEAVER
A plan by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian to have a wolf hunt on their northeast Washington reservation is allowed under federal law, a state wildlife manager says.
Donny Martorello, manager of the carnivore section of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the tribes told the state about the hunting plan for their 1.4-million-acre reservation.
Martorello said the department recognizes the tribe's sovereignty and authority to conduct a hunt.
"They have the management rights for their resident wildlife population on reservation lands," he said.
The tribe can proceed as long as management actions don't conflict with the federal Endangered Species Act, Martorello said. The gray wolf is not protected under the federal law in that part of the state.
There are eight packs confirmed in the state, two on the reservation, Martorello said.
The state is collaborating with the tribe, conducting aerial surveys of the wolf packs to estimate the size, track pup survival and find successful breeding pairs.
"We're experiencing pretty rapid population growth and expansion," he said, noting the number of packs rose from five last winter to eight confirmed and four suspected this year.
"Wolves are here in Washington to stay, and they're increasing rapidly," he said.
Martorello doesn't expect the removal of nine wolves to impact the state's wolf recovery plan.
Martorello estimated the tribes' hunt would last through February 2013.
Jon Sirois, chairman of the Colville Business Council for the tribe, told The AP the tribe authorized the limited hunt to find a balance between wolf populations and deer and elk that tribal members hunt for food. Wolves have reduced the number of deer and elk, Sirois told the AP.
The tribe is allowing three wolves to be killed in each of three regions in the southern half of the reservation, up to a total of nine.