A bill requiring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to immediately review the state’s wolf population, among other things, passed through the Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Friday.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, would also require WDFW to consider changing the listing status of wolves either statewide or regionally and increase staffing in Ferry and Stevens counties for nonlethal deterrence and conflict resolution, among other things.
The state’s wolf recovery plan states that wolves can be delisted after 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years, or after officials document 18 breeding pairs in one year. To be eligible for delisiting the packs have to be spread evenly throughout the state’s three wolf management areas.
According to the latest WDFW estimate, there are a minimum of 122 wolves, 22 packs and 14 successful breeding pairs statewide. That estimate was reported nearly a year ago. Most of those animals live in northeast Washington.
That number is likely much higher. University of Washington researchers, using scat-sniffing dogs, said the number of wolves in the state could be closer to 200.
The bill passed out of committee 11 to 3.
Conservation Northwest supported much of the bill in a news release but said that “setting a precedent of regional delisting could have unintended consequences for other species in the future. As such, we do not support provisions of this bill related to regional delisting.”