After scrapping plans for a series of public meetings, state wildlife officials are now seeking input online on how to manage Washington’s growing wolf population.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking people to take an online survey or leave comments by going to bit.ly/2ki1TMV. The department will also have interactive webinars later this month and in October where people can ask questions and find out how to provide their views.
Comments may also be mailed to WDFW — Wolf Post-Recovery Plan Scoping, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200. The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 1.
Washington’s wolf population was virtually eliminated in the 1930s but has rebounded since 2008. The numbers have now grown to the point where wildlife officials expect wolves to be removed from the endangered species list in Washington in the next few years.
The state agency maintains a map of gray wolf packs on its website and shows four in this region, including:
the Touchet pack, with at least four wolves including a successful breeding pair in southern Columbia County as well as the upper Whiskey Creek and Coppei Creek areas of Walla Walla County,
the Butte Creek pack, also in southern Columbia County, with at least two wolves but not considered a breeding pair,
the Tucannon pack with a minimum of two wolves not considered a successful breeding pair in southern Columbia and Garfield counties,
and the Grouse Flats pack with at least two wolves considered a successful breeding pair in southern Garfield and Asotin counties.
In a release, WDFW officials said they are now working to develop a post-recovery conservation and management plan for wolves. The plan will guide how wildlife workers will manage wolves once they are considered recovered.
The Seattle Times reported in August that the state’s plans for 14 public meetings from Spokane to Montesano had been canceled due to fears of violence. Staci Lehman, spokeswoman for the agency, told the Times the decision was made after agency law enforcement determined they didn’t have the resources to staff the meetings where there was a possibility they could be disorderly, or even unsafe.
Lehman declined to be more specific about what it was that worried law enforcement officials.