UPDATE: Heated, emotional debate at Colville wolf management mee - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

UPDATE: Heated, emotional debate at Colville wolf management meeting

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Heated debate in Colville as wolf management plan is discussed Heated debate in Colville as wolf management plan is discussed
COLVILLE, Wash. - UPDATE: An emotional and sometimes contentious meeting in Colville Tuesday evening, as Washington state officials discussed the state's wolf management plan, and took comments by those affected. From the get-go officials with the department of Fish and Wildlife were under fire. They tried explaining the management plan to a group of people, mostly ranchers, who have lost a lot of livestock to the wolves. That's money they say, stolen from their pockets. One woman said, "They're killing the animals that our residents are trying to raise to make a living."

In a 3-week period over the summer, more than 2 dozen sheep and cattle were injured or killed by two packs of gray wolves in Ferry and Stevens county. The state says they are committed to the recovery of gray wolves, but also have a responsibility to protect livestock, pets, and the public. Steve Pozzanghera, Regional Director of Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, "If there are major themes here where we believe that there is some manner in which we can improve upon the way we are implementing the state's wolf plan, then we will certainly take that into consideration."

The ranchers also spoke up, saying the wolves aren't just killing their pets, they're destroying the ranchers livelihood. One said, "I'm hoping you guys realize that we're fed up and we're tired of the Department of Fish and Wildlife doing everything they can to destroy our herds and destroy our livelihood." His comment was met with cheers and clapping.

There was also a small number of people at the meeting hoping to protect the growing wolf population. One woman said, "Once all the wolves are gone, then are you going to go after the cougars, and bears, and coyotes that also prey on your cattle?" Her comment was met with groans.

The department will take the feedback they received Tuesday night, and add it to their plan moving forward. The next wolf management meeting will be later in October in western Washington.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
The public will have an opportunity to discuss wolf management in northeast Washington state, with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) leaders during a meeting Tuesday night in Colville.

WDFW officials will provide information on recent wolf attacks on livestock in the region, and on the packs involved in those incidents: the Huckleberry pack in Stevens County and the Profanity Peak pack in Ferry County.

There will also be a question and answer session, which is expected to be heated.

BACKGROUND:

Wildlife experts say at one time, hundreds of thousands of gray wolves roamed the West. When their natural food sources dwindled after human settlements, they sometimes turned to livestock. By the middle of the last century, most wolves had been killed off. In 1978, the U.S. reclassified the gray wolf as an endangered population throughout the U.S. The gray wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s. Wolves have spread from there, and are moving into Washington and Oregon from Canada and Idaho.

TODAY:

In 2008 biologists documented the first wolf pack in Washington in at least 70 years. Today state Biologists confirm 13 wolf packs, five successful breeding pairs and at least 52 individual wolves based on surveys through the end of 2013. Nine of the packs are in northeastern Washington with four along the east slopes of the North Cascades. But with a greater number of wolves, come a greater number of interactions with people.

In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protection for gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon, as well as all of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The federal action left wolf recovery and management in those areas to the states, including the area of Washington where the Huckleberry pack attacked on the rancher's sheep. Under Washington state law, wolves remain listed as an endangered species throughout the state. However, state law authorizes WDFW to remove or kill wolves and other wildlife that are "destroying or injuring property," regardless of the protective status of those species.

THE KILLINGS:

In 2012, the WDFW authorized the killing of several wolves in the Wedge Pack, which had been located in far northeast washington, near the Canadian border. In all, 6 wolves were killed. The remainder of the Wedge Pack wolves from that area.

During a three-week period in August, wolves from the Huckleberry pack killed or injured more than two-dozen sheep in multiple attacks on private and public lands in Stevens County. These attacks continued despite preventative measures such as guard dogs, spotlights, and nightly patrols. On August 23, 2014, a marksman contracted by WDFW shot and killed a female member of the Huckleberry Wolf Pack. It turns out that wolf was a breeding female, which could have serious consequences for the pack, but any consequences at all remain unknown at this time. Wildlife experts say the loss of a breeding adult in a pack could cause chaos within the pack and unpredictable future behavior.

After that initial killing, the wolf attacks continued, and despite saying they would not actively hunt the wolves, the WDFW authorized a marksman to kill 4 more wolves. That has not yet happened, and wildlife officers say that at this time they are only monitoring the pack. To prevent further losses, the sheep rancher moved his flock out of the area August 31. WDFW says they are committed to the recovery of gray wolves in Washington, but adds that the department also has a responsibility to protect livestock, pets and public safety.

More recently, WDFW officials confirmed that wolves were responsible for killing a cow and calf at a cattle grazing site in Ferry County, within the range of the newly discovered Profanity Peak pack. WDFW wildlife conflict specialists continue to monitor that situation.

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