On Tuesday, April 30, KING 5 News reported that an unexpected compromise has been reached regarding the fate of wolves in Washington State. The heated debate over wolves, livestock, and pets appeared to be at a stalemate when state lawmakers failed to reach an agreement during the legislative session.
The Washington State Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission has now accepted a recommendation from a group of lawmakers representing both sides of the wolf issue. The state now has a rule that allows ranchers to use lethal force against wolves if they are caught attacking pets or livestock on private property.
The new measure has strict penalties and rules for violators. Both wildlife protection groups and ranchers agreed to this measure.
After state lawmakers failed to reach an agreement during the legislative session, several of them met afterward to discuss a compromise that could be present to the WDFW Commission.
According to Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, giving ranchers the assurance that they can protect their cattle in wolf country is reasonable if wolves are strictly protected in areas of the state where they are rare.
Jack Field of the Washington State Cattlemen’s Association said that his members are happy with the compromise.
While many have argued that wolves should not have been reintroduced to Washington State, The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) states that wolves were never reintroduced or transplanted into Washington by any state or federal agency.
Wolves are returning naturally to Washington State after dispersing from populations in nearby states and provinces. According to the WDFW, wolf pack territories are typically based upon the density of prey and vary in size, usually ranging from 200 to 500 square miles.
The WDFW states that the number of wolves in Washington state has been growing at a rapid rate. As of March 2013, there were 51 confirmed wolves in nine wolf packs with a total of five successful breeding pairs.
A 2011 survey found 27 wolves with five wolf packs and three successful breeding pairs.
The WDFW states that when livestock owners report suspected wolf-caused injuries or losses of livestock to the WDFW, a depredation investigation team responds to the scene to determine if wolves were involved.
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