We get it. A recent study by scientists from Colorado State and Ohio State universities showed that if predators aren’t around, members of the public generally oppose shooting them.
For example, if you live on Fifth Avenue in Seattle and have never encountered a wolf, cougar, bear or other predator, you’re inclined to be against killing them under any circumstances. After all, it’s no skim off your latte, so what do you care?
On the other hand, if you live in northeastern Washington state and have lost dozens of cattle — primarily calves that didn’t have any chance of surviving an attacking wolfpack — you’re likely to agree that those wolves ought to be dispatched ASAP. Your livelihood is at stake and it makes no sense to keep feeding predators that are eating their way through your herd.
How does one reconcile these diametrically opposed attitudes toward managing predators? We have an idea: local control.
We propose that, instead of establishing a statewide policy for managing predators, it should be based on surveys of the public in each county.
For example, the folks in King County, Wash., largely oppose shooting predators, so the policy for that county ought to be not to shoot any. If a cougar, bear, wolf or other predator shows up, it would be safe from removal even after multiple attacks on pets or whatever else.
In northeastern Washington, there’s overwhelming support for shooting predators that repeatedly attack livestock or other animals. In those counties, wildlife managers should be allowed to manage the predators just like any other game animals. After all, more than 100 wolves roam the area and the loss of a few would not significantly impact the population growth.
This is simplistic, you say. Probably, but it is reflective of the local attitudes toward predators. It’s also reflective of the fact that wolf attacks on cattle in downtown Seattle will be fairly rare.
However, should the number of attacks increase, a new survey could determine what people want to do. Presumably, if the numbers of wolves, bears or cougars skyrocket and attacks begin to increase, the good people of Seattle will have a change of heart.
Wildlife managers will tell you that an isolated attack isn’t the problem in northeastern Washington, or anywhere else, for that matter. It’s when wolves kill again and again that there’s a problem.
Having a county-by-county survey of the public’s attitude toward predators would help managers gauge how best to handle depredations in different parts of the state.
It wouldn’t be perfect, but neither is what we now have, with folks from the urban areas — and even from out of state — trying to dictate how to manage predators.