MT. VERNON, Wash. - If you hear howling this week, it's more likely to
be a rancher or conservationist than a wolf. The Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is taking public comments on a final draft
of its plan to manage the gray wolf population in the state.
Some believe the four alternatives being proposed don't go far enough
to support a healthy wolf population. They would require only 15
breeding pairs statewide in order to remove wolves from state
protection. David Graves, Northwest field representative of the National Parks Conservation Association
, says that number is too low to ensure their survival.
"Some scientists have said we need 300 or more wolves; the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service has said 500 or more wolves is a good population
to help enhance viability. So, we don't know what the exact number
should be -- but it definitely needs to be higher than 15 breeding
pairs for the entire state."
There are now two confirmed wolf packs in the state, both in Eastern
Washington. Ranchers are concerned that more wolves will mean more
livestock deaths, although Graves says that doesn't have to be the
case, and the WDFW proposals already address the issue.
"There are lots of non-lethal means out there that can prevent wolves
-- or at least, deter them -- from attacking livestock. Furthermore,
for producers that have over 100 acres, if one of their cattle is
killed by a wolf, they will get twice the value of that cow in
Graves says his organization and others are also recommending that
wolves be moved into wilder spots, like Olympic National Park, where
they used to be a natural part of the ecosystem and could thrive with
less chance of a livestock encounter.
The public hearings have been well attended, and they continue this
week and next. The remaining meetings are being held tonight (Wed.,
Nov. 4) in Mount Vernon; on Thursday (Nov. 5) in Sequim; next Monday
(Nov. 9) in Omak and Tuesday (Nov. 10) in Wenatchee.
The schedule and draft plan can be viewed online at www.wdfw.wa.gov
, where comments can also be submitted.