OLYMPIA — A wolf attacking livestock or pets in Eastern Washington can be immediately killed under an emergency rule adopted today by a state board.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission allowed Director Phil Anderson to issue an emergency rule that allows owners, family members or employees to kill one wolf “caught in the act” of attacking domestic animals without first obtaining a permit.
The owner would have to notify the Department of Fish and Wildlife within 24 hours, which would investigate the incident and take the wolf carcass. If wildlife agents determine the owner did have cause to kill the wolf, he or she would be issued a permit to kill another wolf “caught in the act.”
The commission was responding to the rapid increase in the number of wolves and wolf packs in Eastern Washington, and to a request by legislators to provide emergency relief after a bill that would allow residents to take that action stalled.
Anderson told the board that states like Wyoming and Idaho, where similar rules have been in place for about 10 years, have had relatively few wolves killed for attacking animals and have harmed recovery efforts of the formerly endangered predator.
The rule is not expected to inhibit recovery efforts, he said. It’s rare for people to witness a wolf attacking another animal, because they generally hunt at night. Although wolves often hunt in packs, Anderson said experts in other states with similar rules said they knew of no instances in which a landowner needed to kill a second wolf to stop an attack on livestock or pets.
“After one is shot, the likelihood of others continuing the attack… is remote,” he said.
Wildlife officials inspecting a reported wolf killing will use the common dictionary definition of “attack”, and won’t require that the domestic animal is severely injured before the wolf can be shot, he added.
Under the current wolf management plan, a commercial livestock owner must first attempt non-lethal methods to ward off predatory wolves before receiving a permit to kill one.
But with the recent growth in wolf packs in Eastern Washington, farmers, ranchers and other residents have reported increased attacks on domestic animals, many of which are family pets or domestic animals not raised commercially.
Commissioners said the new rule could actually help wolf recovery by discouraging animals from attacking wildlife and easing tensions in Eastern Washington.
The emergency rule is in place for 120 days, and could be renewed for another 120. Over the summer the commission will study a permanent rule, which could be changed based on experience with emergency rule. It is scheduled to vote on a permanent rule in October.