Cattle and sheep ranchers in Washington’s Stevens County have been hectored by wolves for years. Now the wolves are coming close to town.

Wolves have come “very close to homes” near Colville in northeast Washington, according to Stevens County commissioners, who issued a public safety announcement Jan. 8 warning residents to protect their pets and livestock.

This is the first time the county has issued an alert to residents, county Commissioner Don Dashiell said Jan. 11. The county has not received any reports of anyone being threatened by wolves, he said.

“I think we’d feel lacking in our response if we waited until wolves came and jerked somebody’s dog off the lease and ate it,” Dashiell said. “It’s not out in the middle of nowhere, it’s two miles west of Colville.”

Dashiell said commissioners took the initiative to alert the public because the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has not warned residents in the past about wolf activity. The county did not ask the department to issue a notice in this case, he said.

What can the people of Colville do if wolves attack their dogs or livestock? Not much, and even less if a westside legislator gets her way.

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 a statewide ban on killing wolves.

So if the wolves were roaming around the better neighborhoods of Seattle and Olympia, what would be the response?

Would the tech millionaires and billionaires around Lake Washington rush to hang fladry on their fences? Would Madison Park deploy range riders? Would Olympia schools post guard dogs to watch over kids playing at recess?

Somehow we think urbanites would find these efforts lacking if even only a house cat or two fell victim.

Wolves are coming to town, but Colville isn’t Seattle. Anyone who loses their cats or dogs will be expected to accept it the way the ranchers are expected to accept it as part of the price of living in wolf habitat.

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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