A northeast Washington sheriff said Tuesday he may look into trapping and putting radio collars on wolves to protect public safety, after his offer to help the state Department of Fish and Wildlife got a cold reception.
Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke met with Fish and Wildlife officials last week to discuss having wildlife deputy Jeff Flood trap wolves. Flood’s experience as a trapper and knowledge of wolf movements would help the department collar, and track, more wolves, Manke said.
“I made it very clear our help was for free. I made it clear we would assume liability for anything we do,” Manke said.
“They pretty much indicated they didn’t want our help trapping,” he said. “I’d rather cooperate with the department. That would be a better scenario. But I’m going to look at different scenarios.”
A Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said the department has not rejected the sheriff’s offer and is continuing to look into whether accepting it would be in line with rules for sedating and trapping wild animals.
The department consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on trapping methods that minimize the chances of snaring federally protected species. The department also handles drugs in consultation with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and state pharmacy commission, she said.
Manke said he was confident his office could comply with requirements set by federal and state agencies.
“They threw up every red flag they could think of. None seemed insurmountable to me,” he said.
Flood monitors wolfpacks, advises ranchers and helps Fish and Wildlife investigate attacks on livestock. Fish and Wildlife, however, retains sole authority to trap wolves and confirm depredations.
“I think a lot of it is that it’s a territorial issue,” Manke said. “He (Flood) is an important part of the system, whether they like it or not.”
Collars transmit signals that show where packs are most active. Collars are vital to documenting attacks on livestock and finding wolves for lethal control.
Fish and Wildlife managers say they want to collar more wolves, but trapping wolves is hard and success can’t be guaranteed. Plus, the ability to follow packs varies as collared wolves die or disperse, or collars stop working.
Wolfpacks saturate Stevens County, according to Fish and Wildlife. The department currently has collars on two wolves in the county, while an Indian tribe has collared a third wolf.
In an email to Fish and Wildlife officials in January, Manke described the department’s trapping as “sporadic and unsuccessful.”
After meeting with department officials, Manke said he was not optimistic more wolves will be collared.
“They appeared to feel that what they’re doing is adequate, and I just don’t agree,” he said. “Things aren’t going to get any better than they are now.”
The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association is willing to buy wolf collars for the sheriff’s office, the group’s president, Scott Nielsen, said. Cattlemen aren’t clamoring to get the collar data directly, but want the sheriff’s office to have it, he said.
“We’ve been saying we need information, and we’re not getting it from the department,” Nielsen said.
Fish and Wildlife fended off a bill this year introduced by state Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, that would have required the department to collar more wolves. The department said it would be impossible to meet a quota.
Kretz said Tuesday that enlisting Flood would make ranchers more confident in Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to prevent attacks on their livestock. “There’s a lot more trust in him than in the department,” Kretz said.
In the first confirmed attack on livestock this year in Stevens County, the Smackout pack injured a calf on Friday. Depredations usually pick up in the spring and summer as cattle are put out to graze in the summer. “It’s starting,” Manke said.