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Inslee signs bill on wolves

Measure sets up fund to compenate livestock owners

— Livestock owners whose animals are killed by wolves now have some recourse for compensation from the state.

Senate Bill 5193, signed into law on May 21 by Gov. Jay Inslee, will also raise the state’s personalized license plate fee by $10 starting Oct. 1 and create a wolf-livestock account.

Revenue generated from the license plates, an estimated $1.5 million over two years, will be used not only to compensate ranchers for their losses, but to allow the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor the recovery of the gray wolf population and work on preventing more attacks.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out now,” Okanogan County Commissioner Sheilah Kennedy said. “Between that and the emergency rule, we at least have some tools to proceed through the next few months.”

The emergency rule, passed April 26 by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission and in effect for 120 days, allows a livestock owner – or one of his employees or immediate family members – to kill one wolf if it is caught in the act of attacking livestock or a family pet.

“As a whole, ranchers are committed to using non-lethal methods to deter wolves and other predators; however, it has been proven time and time again, that wolves are persistent, unpredictable, and often unfazed by flagery or fencing when they set their sights on livestock,” said Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, the bill’s primary sponsor. “This gives ranchers protection when their livelihoods are at stake.”

“The gray wolf population is recovering quickly in Washington,” Inslee said. “This bill received bipartisan support from legislators across the state because it represents a practical, realistic approach to minimizing wolf-livestock conflict while recognizing the need for fair compensation to ranchers and farmers.”

The emergency rule applies only to areas of Washington where the wolf is not listed with the federal Endangered Species Act – namely, the eastern one-third of the state. Boundaries are east of U.S. Highway 97 from the Canadian border to Highway 17, east of state Highway 17 to U.S. Highway 17 to state Highway 395, and east of state Highway 395 to the Oregon border.

In addition, anyone who kills a wolf must report it to the state Fish and Wildlife Department within 24 hours, and be prepared to hand over the carcass and make their property accessible to an investigation.

A decision is expected this fall on a permanent rule.

S.B. 1593 passed the House on April 25.

The state estimates the gray wolf population is between 50 and 100, a number that doubled last year, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. That number includes 10 confirmed packs and two suspected, mostly located in the quad counties. In addition, two packs in Oregon and British Columbia are known to have members that roam into Washington.

To report wolf sightings or attacks, residents can call the Department of Fish and Wildlife hotline at 1-877-933-9847 or visit the website, www.wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/#.

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