Bill Would ‘Accelerate’ Wolf Dispersal Across Washington

It would be out with the passive approach to wolf recovery and in with a more aggressive one, under a bill introduced in Olympia yesterday.

Instead of relying on wolves to naturally filter into the South Cascades and elsewhere, Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short’s bill would require the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to look at more active ways to get them where they need to be to meet minimum recovery goals for statewide delisting.

A GRAY WOLF TRAVELS PAST A TRAIL CAM SET IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. THOUGH THIS INDIVIDUAL WAS PROBABLY TAKEN OUT DURING THE REMOVAL OF THE WEDGE PACK, THIS CORNER OF THE STATE HOLDS THE MOST PACKS. (WDFW)

A GRAY WOLF TRAVELS PAST A TRAIL CAM SET IN NORTHEAST WASHINGTON. THOUGH THIS INDIVIDUAL WAS PROBABLY TAKEN OUT DURING THE REMOVAL OF THE WEDGE PACK, THIS CORNER OF THE STATE HOLDS THE MOST PACKS. (WDFW)

“The goal of the pilot project is to accelerate the restoration of the wolf population in Washington to a self-sustaining size with a geographic distribution that has a high probability of persevering in the state into the future,” says their bill, HB 1224.

This past Monday marked 20 years since the reintroduction of wolves into the Northern Rockies, which fast-tracked their recovery there, and translocating wolves is part of WDFW’s management plan. But state wildlife managers have not been eager to pursue it.

At the same time, angst is building — and being built up — in Washington’s upper righthand corner, where around a dozen packs roam and 2014 saw over two dozen sheep and cattle depredations. Both Kretz and Short, who are Republicans, represent Northeast Washington.

For Kretz, it’s a more sober take at “sharing the joy” of wolves.  Legislation he introduced in 2013 called for shipping them to Orcas Island, where a certain lupus-lovin’ state senator lives.

REP. JOEL KRETZ (R-5)

REP. JOEL KRETZ (R-5)

The bill continues:

“At a minimum, the pilot project required by this section must explore the feasibility of translocating wolves from recovery regions where population recovery has met or exceeded, or is projected to meet or exceed, recovery objectives to recovery regions where, as of the effective date of this section, the natural dispersion of the species has not resulted in known and recognized established wolf packs. To maximize the acceleration of wolf recovery, the department must, when considering translocation sites, give priority consideration to suitable habitat that is located the furthest from any known and recognized wolf packs and the most unlikely to be populated through the natural dispersion of the species.”

new wolf map

WDFW would be called on to prepare a feasibility assessment and conduct environmental reviews, with a goal of moving wolves by Dec. 31, 2017.

Currently, the bill is waiting for a hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, on which Kretz sits.

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