Wolf

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Sept. 15 it will review the status of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife will try to make swifter decisions about whether to kill wolves that are attacking livestock, shortening the time from several weeks in some cases to three days, the agency's wolf policy coordinator, Donny Martorello, said Tuesday.

The threshold for culling packs won't change, but lethal removal should be timely to change pack behavior, Martorello told the department's Wolf Advisory Group.

"I don't want this to be assumed to be a rush to lethal. It's not that," he said.

Fish and Wildlife considers shooting wolves after three depredations in 30 days or four in 10 months. Once a pack crosses the line, wildlife managers send a recommendation to Director Kelly Susewind, who makes the call.

"That process in the past can be very long," Martorello said. "That has stretched out in some cases to be several weeks. ... What we're trying to do is set up a system where we can do that in three days."

Ranchers complain that delay increases a pack's appetite for cattle, leading to more dead livestock and making it less likely that shooting only one or two wolves will stop the depredations.

Martorello said the department is working on a decision-making process that includes briefing Susewind the day after a pack has crossed the threshold and giving him a written report two days later.

Stevens County Cattlemen's Association President Scott Nielsen said producers have asked for speedier decisions. Three days still might be a little slow, he said, but was a "huge step" for Fish and Wildlife.

"That would be a vast improvement from what we're currently experiencing with the department," said Nielsen, who directs the Cattle Producers of Washington's wolf-livestock conflict program.

"What we've had in the past is nothing short of embarrassing," he said.

"They build all of these layers. You need to get rid of some layers," Nielsen said. "I'm skeptical they can do it."

Fish and Wildlife must be prepared to defend the decision to kill wolves. The department has pledged to give wolf advocates a full day to go to court and seek a restraining order.

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