By MATTHEW WEAVER
Two Native American tribes in eastern Washington are moving ahead with plans to manage wolves on their reservations.
The Spokane Tribe of Indians is proceeding with an internal review of a proposed wolf management plan, said B.J. Kieffer, director of natural resources for the tribe in Wellpinit, Wash. The plan will be submitted to the tribal business council.
He declined to discuss the plan while it is under review.
A member of the tribe "incidentally" killed an 87-pound male gray wolf on Dec. 10, he said.
Kieffer said he is not sure how the wolf was killed.
"The individual was actually targeting other predators," he said. "The method of targeting, I'm not sure. At this point it would just be speculation and rumor."
The tribe has had unconfirmed wolf reports for the last six or seven years, but confirmed their presence using DNA samples last March.
"For those running livestock, it's a concern, and for everybody that has pets," Kieffer said, noting no depredations have been reported.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation has a wolf hunt under way through Feb. 28. The target is to kill nine wolves. Two of the state's eight wolf packs are on or near the reservation.
John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Business Council, the governing body of the reservation, said no wolves have yet been killed.
Sirois said some tribal members have reported seeing wolves while hunting, but they didn't want to kill one. Tribal members are asked to bring in wolf hair samples to check the DNA and monitor pack movement.
The hunt is in response to the tribe's fish and wildlife officers reporting an increase in the wolf population, impacting the elk and deer populations.
"Certainly our tribal member ranchers are definitely concerned about that as well," he said, noting there have been no livestock deaths reported. "We're going to keep an eye on that."
Sirois estimated fewer than 30 wolves in the area, based on the number of wolves collared with GPS devices and breeding pairs.
The killing of nine wolves is not expected to have a negative impact on the total wolf population, he said.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore section manager Donny Martorello told the Capital Press that the state recognizes the sovereignty of the tribe to make the decision to hunt wolves.
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.
With the wolf hunt under way, a state lawmaker wonders why the tool is not open to private landowners.
Washington Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, recently sent a letter to state Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson asking for clarification and documentation regarding the tribal hunts, according to a press release.
In the release, Taylor said he's not questioning the tribe's efforts to control the wolf population but he wonders why non-tribal ranchers and private property owners are required to take rigorous, proactive, non-lethal steps to avoid wolf and livestock conflicts.
"I just want to make sure we're all playing by the same set of rules and game management tools being made available to one segment of the state's population are available to all Washington citizens," Taylor stated.