Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said April 7 the department will try to decide more quickly whether to kill wolves once packs have met thresholds for lethal control.
As in the past, Fish and Wildlife will remove wolves as a last resort, Susewind told the department’s Wolf Advisory Group. Delays making the decision, however, “limit the value” of lethal control, he said.
“When I say we’ll put a deadline on our decision-making, that doesn’t mean we jump to lethal. But that means we make the decision and get the action underway as soon as we can,” Susewind said.
Fish and Wildlife protocol calls for the department to consider removing wolves after three attacks on livestock in 30 days or four in 10 months. The department says it’s a case-by-case call by Susewind.
Last year, the Wedge pack in northeast Washington crossed the threshold on May 19. The department killed one wolf on July 27. When attacks on livestock continued, the department killed the pack’s last two wolves.
Susewind said that he recently met separately with wolf advocates and ranchers. He said he agreed with ranchers who said the department should shorten the time between depredations and deciding whether to kill wolves.
Fish and Wildlife conflict managers send a recommendation to Susewind on whether to use lethal control. He said his decision has “been the slower part of the process.”
“It’s been on my desk. It’s more on me than on staff. I’m willing to put a timeline on that as well,” he said.
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association President Scott Nielsen told the Capital Press that “huge delays” have let packs become habituated to cattle, forcing the department to kill more wolves to stop the problem.
“I really believe if they were quicker to act, they wouldn’t have to kill as many wolves,” he said. “Absolutely, there’s been a delay. It’s been something we’ve been appealing to Kelly to look at.”
Even if Susewind opts against lethal control, the rancher is better off knowing sooner, Nielsen said. “We need to know what they’re doing.”
Susewind said wolf advocates want the department to ensure ranchers are trying to prevent attacks.
“I told the group that is, in fact, my intention. We’re expecting people to step up to the bar. If they’re not stepping up to the bar, that certainly influences the decision-making,” he said.
”One of my considerations is, certainly, Are the non-lethals in place in a meaningful way?” he said.
Wolf advocates were concerned the department was too quick to kill wolves, Susewind said.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done that. I think we’ve always hit those thresholds and deliberately considered whether lethal removal is the right tool, or not,” he said.
Fish and Wildlife says wolf recovery depends on rural residents tolerating the predators.
”Our goal is to recover wolves. We believe this (lethal control) is a necessary part of doing that, but we do it when we feel it’s the only tool we have left,” Susewind said.