Spokane Hunter-writer Calls For Wolf Translocation Studies To Begin

You can read the frustration in Spokane hunter and longtime outdoors columnist Rich Landers’ blog yesterday about Eastern Washington bearing “the weight” so far, of wolf recovery in the Evergreen State.

Six of the eight packs now known to be roaming around are in the woods and mountains just to the north and northwest of him.

Three new packs have been confirmed just this year; at least two of those and another have had pups.

What’s that growing density going to do to Northeast Washington’s elk, moose and deer and endangered caribou herd as we wait for wolves to fan out into the North Cascades and South-central Washington?

Right now, there are just two known packs west of, basically, Highways 97 and 17, and only one breeding pair.

The Whites shooting the Lookouts up hasn’t helped — though the Teanaway alpha female is related to that Methow Valley group — nor will talk of or anyone acting on SSS.

The management plan requires there to be at least seven breeding pairs, for three straight years, here before delisting.

Delisting and possible wolf hunts are tied to statewide recovery goes, not regional ones which clearly are going to be met first in Landers’ country.

It binds the right-hand side of the state.

“The East Side is getting wolves without management authority whether they like them or not. West Side residents get to have a say in whether they want wolves in their woods,” he blogs.

The wolf plan does have a workaround, called translocation — moving Washington wolves around inside the state, not bringing in BC, Idaho or Oregon animals.

“With eight packs confirmed in Eastern Washington and more unconfirmed packs almost surely formed in the area, it seems like NOW is the time to begin the environmental reviews and public outreach required to get the ball rolling toward delisting wolves,” Landers writes.

Translocation has always made me very uneasy. I understand it in principle and I’m on board with getting to recovery as fast as possible.

But it could also potentially turn hunters against each other in the state — those who don’t want wolves in elk-rich South-central or Coastal Washington could argue against it, and in the process leave the Northeast to fend for itself.

Translocation drew support from members of the Wolf Working Group, hunters, livestock interests and wolf advocates who helped craft the management plan.

They’re said to have said something along the lines of it would help “share the joy” of wolves in Washington when the topic was discussed.

The hitch is money and interest from WDFW.

I haven’t sensed a great desire on the agency’s part to try translocation at the moment.

If I was a state wolf manager who recalls the meetings prior to and the outfall from the reintroductions into Yellowstone and Idaho, I don’t think I’d want to dabble in it either.

But that leaves the Northeast and its game and its livestock and its wolves and its hunters and its cattlemen …

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