WDFW shoots Togo wolfpack male

A wolf in the Togo pack in Ferry County in northeast Washington. A state legislator from Western Washington wants to ban the state Department of Fish and Wildlife from culling wolf packs even after they repeatedly kill livestock.

Rep. Sherry Appleton, a Democrat who represents Bainbridge Island across Puget Sound from Seattle, has introduced a bill to bar the state Department of Fish and Wildlife from killing wolves in the eastern one-third of the state.

Federal law already prohibits lethal control of wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington. Appleton wants to put a statewide ban on killing wolves.

Ranchers in northcentral and northeastern Washington have been hard hit by wolf depredation. This despite having employed range riders, fladry and other protective measures.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife concedes that lethal taking is sometimes necessary to manage wolves.

But Appleton isn’t buying it.

Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican in wolf-populated northeast Washington, doesn’t understand why Appleton doesn’t understand the plight of ranchers in his district.

“That’s the biggest problem we have in the state — the disconnect,” Kretz said. “How could anybody be so tone deaf to the real-world problems people are having with wolves?”

Easy. There are no wolves on Bainbridge Island and it’s unlikely there ever will be wolves on Bainbridge Island.

The owners of whatever livestock might be on the island won’t have to worry about depredation. College students working in the Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve will never be chased up a tree by wolves, as happened earlier this year to a 25-year-old grad student working for the Forest Service in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Wolves aren’t a work-a-day problem for islanders, they are majestic, wild animals. Now, Appleton’s wolf bill would allow Fish and Wildlife to relocate wolves that are attacking livestock. But not to Bainbridge Island.

Kretz in 2013 proposed a bill that would relocate problem wolves to Whidbey Island, also in Puget Sound, after a lawmaker there opposed killing problem wolves. But that was really no more than a stunt.

But Kretz hit the nail on the head in citing the disconnect between rural and urban Washingtonians.

If Kretz were to sponsor legislation to end state subsidies of the ferry system and raise fares to cover costs, he would be criticized by westside residents and legislators as being out of touch with the issues that impact them. And they would be right, though the transportation budget is perhaps more of a statewide issue than wolf management.

While they’ve not always been happy about it, Washington ranchers have tried to accommodate the growing wolf population. Their fellow Washingtonians around Puget Sound need to appreciate both that effort and the real economic hardship wolves present to the state’s livestock producers.

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