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New bill would collar ‘problem’ wolves in Washington state

A new bill in the Washington Legislature seeks to help mitigate the threat that some Washington wolves potentially pose to livestock by mandating radio collars for those in “problem packs.”

For years, ranchers have complained that growing wolf populations in northeastern Washington are killing their livestock. The issue can be contentious between ranchers who’ve had their cattle killed by wolves, and those opposed to lethal removal orders of said wolves.

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The bill has 11 co-sponsors and was introduced by Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, reports the Spokesman. It stipulates that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) “must radio collar at least two wolves in every pack in conflict. The department is encouraged, but not required, to radio collar at least one wolf in every pack in the state that has been confirmed by the department.”

The collars would allow ranchers to track where wolves are and make it easier for the WDFW to target the ones who killed cattle.

In 2019, wolves killed and injured a number of cattle. The WDFW killed several of the offending wolves, which was met with outrage and lawsuits from conservation groups. There was also anger on the part of ranchers who felt that the WDFW hasn’t responded fast enough to the cattle killings.

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According to the WDFW, 14 wolves in eight packs are collared, and their lethal policy enables termination if any wolves attack livestock three times in a 30-day period (or four times in a 10-month period), as well as under the condition that two nonlethal deterrents have already been tried.

The bill is supported by the Washington Cattleman’s Association, though environmental groups sent a letter in opposition, arguing that collaring is difficult, poses a danger to the wolves, and is the wrong application of limited resources.

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