Wolves are now making regular forays into the forests of northeastern Washington, and state wildlife officials are developing a plan to manage the predators.
Public meetings are being held across the state in coming weeks to provide a chance for citizens to offer views on gray wolf management. Spokane’s meeting is Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at Mount Spokane High School, 6015 E. Mount Spokane Park Drive.
“This public comment opportunity is intended to ensure that we receive a full range of citizen views as we develop a conservation and management plan for the gray wolf,” Rocky Beach, wildlife diversity manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said in a statement.
Gray wolves were largely eradicated in Washington by the 1930s. The state is not reintroducing wolves, but the species is expected to become re-established in Washington on their own. Wolf packs are established near Priest Lake and in British Columbia.
There is no evidence of an established pack in Washington, but individual wolves have been spotted recently in Pend Oreille County, said Madonna Luers, WDFW spokeswoman.
The federal government is in the process of removing Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves, but the animals will remain protected under Washington law. The state management plan is expected to include provisions for protecting livestock.
A panel of 18 citizens has been working since winter on the plan that’s expected to be available for review in March and completed by June.
Although the state is looking for comments and ideas on how to best manage wolves, Luers said keeping wolves out of the state is not an option.
“They are coming, and they are part of Washington’s wildlife heritage. We will manage for them,” Luers said. “Not having wolves is just off the table, but we are also not going to proactively bring wolves in.”
Along with Wednesday’s meeting in Spokane, the state is holding sessions in Clarkston on Tuesday at the Clarkston Center of Walla Walla Community College; and in Twisp on Aug. 20 at the Methow Valley Community Center.
Written comments will be accepted by mail or e-mail through Aug. 31. E-mail comments to SEPAdesk@dfw.wa.gov or mail them to Wolf Plan Scoping, SEPA Desk Habitat Division, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.