OLYMPIA – Hoping to ease Washington ranchers’ concerns about gray wolves, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing what may be the most generous compensation in the West for livestock losses to the newly returned predators.
Under the preferred plan out of four alternatives in a 249-page draft environmental impact statement released Oct. 5, a livestock producer would be entitled to twice the value of livestock confirmed to have been killed by wolves on grazing sites of at least 100 acres and half the full value on smaller sites.
For animals considered less likely prey, compensation would be double the full value of the animal on larger grazing sites and the full value on smaller sites.
The proposal defines livestock as cattle, pigs, horses, mules, sheep, llamas, goats, guarding animals and herding dogs. The plan, which is subject to approval and funding by the Legislature, could cost an estimated $4,000 in 2010, rising to $25,000 in 2015 as the wolf population grows.
Two other alternatives would place more emphasis on protecting livestock from wolves. One plan would allow more wolves to be shot to prevent predation on domestic animals, deer and elk, and the fourth alternative would be for the state to do nothing.
Public meetings are planned early next month in Wenatchee and Okanogan, and public comment period ends Jan. 8.
Based on the experience with reintroduction of wolves in Idaho and Montana, the study estimates that if Washington’s wolf population reaches 200 animals, they will likely kill as many as 2,520 elk and 4,180 deer a year, compared with an average of 7,390 elk and 38,100 deer killed annually by hunters.
This story has been updated to correct errors about the date of the proposals and the preferred compensation alternative.