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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokesman-Review’s Eli Francovich discusses the polarizing nature of wolves at Northwest Passages

Wolves in Washington are in some ways symbolic of the political divisions between rural and urban America, Spokesman-Review outdoors editor and author Eli Francovich said at a Northwest Passages event at the Bing Crosby Theater on Thursday night.

The animals, which are the subject of Francovich’s debut book, “The Return of the Wolves: An Iconic Predator’s Struggle to Survive in the West,” were reintroduced to the Western states in 2008, and their numbers have since grown. That growth has inspired heated debate among conservationists and those who make their living off the land.

“It became contentious because wolves in Washington are concentrated in the east side of the state in the rural areas and there is a perception, that is sometimes true, that they don’t have as much say politically because a lot of power is on the western side of the state,” Francovich said during a Q&A with Spokesman-Review photographer Tyler Tjomsland, whose photography is included in the book. “That’s the basic divide I see, is between this urban and rural split.”

“Return of the Wolves” follows the story of Daniel Curry, a range rider who works with Eastern Washington ranchers to protect their livestock from wolves, but who also seeks to protect the growing wolf population.

“I’ve never been around someone who can connect with animals the way that he can,” Francovich said of Curry, who later joined Francovich and Tjomsland on the Northwest Passages stage for an audience Q&A.

Curry’s success is in part due to his ability to create dialogue with ranchers and farmers, he said .

“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, because we should listen twice as much as we speak,” he said. “When you live with them, it’s much different from loving them from an area in Seattle, and I don’t mean that negatively. It’s just a different mentality you have to hold.”

Francovich first wrote about Curry in The Spokesman-Review in 2019, which prompted his book.

Washington state biologists confirmed last week that a pack of wolves is living on Mount Spokane.

“We live an hour away from Mount Spokane. That’s a very unique situation to be in,” Francovich said. “I think Washington … has done a very good job of managing that situation of having humans living very close to predators, because for a lot of human history, coexisting meant killing predators or moving them as far as possible, and that’s not what we’re doing now in Washington.”

“Return of the Wolves” was released this week for purchase.