It’s not the first time someone in Eastern Washington has suggested relocating gray wolves west of the Cascades Mountains, but one tongue-in-cheek bill introduced this year highlights real divisions over what to do with the endangered predators.
Lamenting that “the entire citizenship of the state has not been fully able to enjoy the re-establishment of this majestic species,” a Republican lawmaker suggests moving some of the animals to Western Washington.
“OK, all of you who love wolves and advocate them in the state, I want you to be able to share in all the benefits in having a wolf pack,” said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, who represents the northeast corner of the state where many of Washington’s eight confirmed packs roam.
“It’s a stupid bill, and it’s a waste of our resources,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island.
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Kretz’s measure, House Bill 1258, suggests moving gray wolves to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands — a jab, Ranker noted, directed at him, since the plan would send the animals to his district. Ranker was a vocal critic of last fall’s state-sanctioned killing of a wolf pack that had repeatedly killed cattle in Stevens County.
The bill has not gotten a hearing in the Democrat-led House, but similar sentiments have been echoed over the years as the state has wrestled with how to handle wolves that have recolonized faster than expected.
In 2008, there were only a handful of wolves. This year, there are eight confirmed and four suspected wolf packs, numbering between 51 and 100 animals.’
All are on the eastern side of the state, and many in that region have complained they bear the burden of the state’s wolf-recovery efforts.
Eastern Washington legislators have introduced a slew of bills that would give ranchers and local counties more leeway to deal with gray wolves.
Among the measures, Senate Bill 5187 and House Bill 1191 would allow livestock owners to shoot and kill wolves that threaten their livestock without first obtaining a permit from the state.
Wolf advocates and others oppose the measures, saying it would hurt the wolf-recovery efforts and contradict years of efforts put into hashing out a state wolf plan.
Gray wolves are protected as an endangered species throughout the state.
The animals are federally listed as endangered only in the western two-thirds of the state.
The state’s wolf plan, approved in 2011 after three years of meetings, requires 15 breeding pairs of wolves to be established for three years in all regions of the state before they could be removed from endangered status and their populations could be controlled. A breeding pair means a male and a female raising two or more pups in a given year.
Relocation isn’t unheard of. The state’s wolf-management plan says it’s an important conservation tool, and Conservation Northwest says it supports moving wolves to speed up recovery.