OLYMPIA — Wildlife advocates and ranchers — some wearing their hats — filled the room as members of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Parks discussed four bills Tuesday on wolves and the threat they can pose to livestock.
Two of the bills would allow legalize the killing of wolves of cases where lifestock is threatened, the other two would require the state to pay for losses if a wolf kills or injures livestock.
Senate Bill 5187 and Senate Bill 5188 are sponsored by Sen. John Smith, R-Colville. The first would allow private citizens to kill wolves if livestock is threatened, and the other would allow county officials to kill wolves if livestock is threatened. Smith said the bills aren’t intended to declare open season wolves, but to protect private property and pets, which he referred to as family members.
“If we awoke one night to hear our family dog being attacked by wolves, I would have no choice but to just listen to the dog being ravaged,” Smith said.
Members of Washington Cattlemen’s Association spoke in favor of the bills, but members of wildlife-advocacy groups argued that shooting wolves contradicts the management plan outlined by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. Mitch Friedman, director of Conservation Northwest, said the plan, which allows for wolves to be killed only in extreme situations, was put in place for a reason and should be followed.
“Wolves aren’t angels or devils,” Friedman said. “They can respond favorably to management techniques.”
Senate Bill 5079 and Senate Bill 5193 were met with less polarized opinion, with groups such as the Washington Cattlemen’s Association speaking in support. SB 5079, sponsored by Rep. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, would allocate $50,000 a year from the state general fund to pay for livestock losses. SB 5193, sponsored by Smith, would do the same with funds from the Department of Fish & Wildlife. Smith’s bill would also establish a program for people could buy wolf license plates with the proceeds going toward non-lethal wolf management.