…WDFW also should open discussions about setting an upper limit on the wolf population. “There’s got to be a top number. We can’t let an apex predator grow unchecked,” he said…
Washington peeks ahead to life after wolves recover
Published:October 31, 2014 1:56PM
With Washington’s wolf population growing, talk about delisting the species has already started.
Washington will have a plan by 2018 for managing wolves after they’ve been taken off the state’s endangered species list, according to a Department of Fish and Wildlife proposal.
The agency sets the date in its 2015-21 game management plan, which has yet to be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The document outlines objectives for managing game animals. WDFW received comments urging it to address wolf predation of deer and elk now.
Instead, the game management plan defers to the state’s wolf recovery program, which calls for establishing wolves in Washington before considering the effects on deer and elk.
The agency did for the first time set a time frame for developing a plan in anticipation the wolf population will outgrow endangered species status.
The department projects wolf-recovery goals could be met by 2021, the year the game management plan expires.
Washington Cattlemen’s Association Executive Vice President Jack Field said he was disappointed wolves didn’t get more attention in the game management plan.
“We’re going to achieve our recovery objective in Washington state,” said Field, who’s on the state’s Wolf Advisory Group. “There’s going to be an impact on ungulates.”
Field said WDFW also should open discussions about setting an upper limit on the wolf population.
“There’s got to be a top number. We can’t let an apex predator grow unchecked,” he said.
WDFW Game Division Manager Dave Ware said wildlife managers have not seen a decline in deer and elk populations in northeast Washington, where the state’s 52 wolves are concentrated.
The state projected in 2011 that once the population reached 50, wolves would take up to 630 elk and 1,500 deer a year, a fraction of the 7,900 elk and 38,600 deer killed by hunters annually.
Ware said the 2018 deadline will ensure the department has a plan ready if recovery-goals are met sooner than expected.
The head of a wolf sanctuary in Tenino, Wash., said WDFW appears set to start working on a post-recovery plan prematurely.
“It doesn’t make any sense to us,” said Diane Gallegos, executive director of Wolf Haven International. “Our focus should be on recovery and working with people who are most effected by recovery.
“We don’t know what the impacts of wolves are going to be in Washington,” Gallegos said. “We’re going to know so much more in five years that anything we do know, we’re going to have to redo.”
Conservation Northwest Executive Director Mitch Friedman agreed talks on managing an established wolf population can wait.
“It’s not a bridge we have to cross now,” he said. “It would create more smoke than light in the near term, and we would have to repeat it in the long term.”