Shelby sits while his owners John Stevie and Sharon Willoya describe the wolf attack that almost killed the dog on March 10.
OLYMPIA – The key witness at a hearing on whether Eastern Washington needs new laws on wolves need to be changed didn't say a word Wednesday.
Shelby, a six-year-old mostly Siberian Husky mix, sat or lay quietly while county commissioners, cattlemen and wildlife officials warned about the growing danger from wolves in Eastern Washington. Then she followed her owner John Stevie to the witness table where he explained how the 60-pound dong knows about wolves first hand.
One attacked her on the porch of his home outside Twisp, 10 nights earlier. . .
. . . Stevie told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee he let her out in the evening and awoke a few hours later to hear his bigger dog inside the house going crazy and Shelby whining on the porch. He looked outside to see a wolf he estimated weighed more than 100 pounds with Shelby's head in its mouth. The larger dog charged out, the wolf let go of Shelby, jumped off the porch and ran.
“She’s got holes all over her head,” Stevie said of Shelby, who made her appearance at the witness table with large parts of her head and neck shaved. “Another four seconds and she would've been dead.”
Among the bills the committee is considering would allow a person in some areas of Eastern Washington to shoot a wolf causing an “immediate threat” to people, livestock or pets without first obtaining a permit now required, which shows steps have been taken to reduce the likelihood of such attacks.
Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, the sponsor of the bills, agreed that preventive measures need to be tried, as a plan on wolf management suggests. But using dogs to discourage wolves is a preventive measure in the plan.
The wolf population in Eastern Washington is growing much faster than the plan anticipates, he said. The law only covers the areas of the state east of U.S. Highway 97. West of that, wolves are still relatively rare and a permit would be needed.
Washington had five packs in 2012, Dave Ware of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said. Now it has 11 packs. It spent $750,000 on wolf management programs last year; at the current rate of growth of the wolf population, it might spend $2.3 million this year.
The department supports the law, Ware added, and doesn’t think it will affect wolf recovery in the state.
Jim DeTro, an Okanogan County commissioner, said Eastern Washington has a wolf problem and told legislators the should “separate your egos” from the issue: “It is time for you to stand up and pronounce that the reality check has bounced on the philosophical, progressive, liberal ideology of this situation.”
If the Legislature doesn’t act, commissioners in some Eastern Washington counties are prepared to declare a state of emergency over the increasing wolf population, DeTro said.
But Diane Gallegos of Wolf Haven International, a sanctuary for the animals in Tenino, said the law already provides enough non-lethal options to keep wolves at bay, such as using air horns or shooting over their heads. Dogs can be attacked by all sorts of predators, and pet owners need to keep them close, she said.
Stevie said his family has the two dogs at their 40-acre spread, in part to protect them from wolves and other predators. When his 12-year-old son goes outside, the dogs go with him.
“Wolves aren’t even afraid of you,” he said. “I will protect my son whether this bill goes through or not.”
The two bills the committee heard on wolf management passed the Senate earlier this month.