Washington state leaders try to find solutions for wolf depredations and killing of wolves

By Courtney Flatt (Northwest News Network)

Some ranchers are saying it is time to find creative ways to deal with wolf attacks on livestock. That’s what a new bill in the Washington state Senate hopes to do — to the frustration of some wildlife rights groups.

A big goal of Senate Bill 5939 is to lethally remove wolves that chronically attack livestock. Right now, ranchers say, current methods — with all the paperwork and decisions — are like disciplining your pet, days later. The wolves don’t understand why they are being targeted.

“I think if people listen to what’s being proposed, they will find goodness whether you like wolves or you don’t like wolves,” said bill sponsor Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, during a public hearing Thursday.

The bill would create a three-year pilot program where ranchers can kill the first wolf to return to where the livestock was killed. It’s unclear if that means livestock carcasses, which can attract wolves, would be left in the area or not.

“We would rather go after the culprit early in the game and then not try and get the cousins, aunts and uncles that come in for a dinner later, because they all have to eat. We understand that. They don’t know the difference,” livestock producer Jeff Dawson said.

Going after the culprit early also would help prevent more livestock from getting attacked, said rancher Samee Charriere, who is on the state’s Wolf Advisory Group, or WAG. Charriere spoke via Zoom from inside her tractor, saying she was about to feed her cattle after she testified.