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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WDFW delays relaunch of wolf-data sharing program

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist Scott Becker records data on a yearling female gray wolf captured in a trap so it can be fitted with a GPS collar and released. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kerri Sandaine Lewiston Tribune

ASOTIN – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife isn’t ready to roll out changes to a wolf-data sharing system.

During an update provided to the Asotin County Commission on Monday, regional Director Steve Pozzanghera of Spokane said the attorney general’s office is going over the revised agreements, and his agency is addressing concerns from livestock producers about losing access to pinpoint data of collared wolves.

“We want this system to work for producers, counties and the department,” Pozzanghera said. “We are working through some significant concerns in northeast Washington.”

Eastern Washington is home to 19 of the state’s 22 packs, with 16 packs in the northeast corner and three roaming the Blue Mountains.

The state began sharing wolf-tracking data with county officials and commercial livestock producers about five years ago, Pozzanghera said, and the unique system was due for a review.

In some cases, sensitive information was being shared and wolf dens were compromised. Penalties for agreement breaches will be addressed in the new version, along with clarity on how the data can be used.

The agency planned to have the changes ready to go next week, but Pozzanghera said the start date is now in flux.

Fish and Wildlife officials have been gathering feedback on the plan from county commissioners, state legislators and producers who receive sensitive wolf data. The goal is to help producers protect their herds while also protecting the species.

The overall reaction from producers north of Spokane was a mixture of “anger and anxiety,” the regional director said.

When it comes to wolves, “the temperature is still very hot, especially in the northeast,” he said.

In Asotin County, less than six producers have access to the system, and no problems with data breaches have been reported.

Commissioner Brian Shinn said he hasn’t accessed the wolf data-sharing system in three years.

Asotin County officials were alerted when a wolf was spotted on the outskirts of Pomeroy, and again when a wolf crossed by Anatone.

A one-time sighting in wolf country doesn’t usually alarm Fish and Wildlife officials, Pozzanghera said.

“We pay attention to repeat visits and try to find out what is attracting the wolf.”