Colville Tribes Say ‘Not Going To Sit Idly By’ On Wolf Management

A big article on Indian Country Today outlines thinking about wolves on the Colville Reservation, where there’s at least two packs by state definitions.

A questionaire that tribal fish and wildlife managers posted online drew 235 responses:

Thirty percent of respondents said that spiritual or cultural importance [of wolves] was very important, while 47 percent said it was of little or no importance. Asked what they would consider to be sound reasons for  harvesting a wolf, just 16 percent said for ceremonial or spiritual purposes such as regalia, whereas 40 percent responded that it would be to help promote healthy elk, deer and moose populations.

Predation on cattle didn’t seem to be a big concern. Only 20 percent listed that as their biggest fear, and in another question asking if the tribe should pay damages for confirmed cattle depredation, nearly 64 percent said no. When it came to wolf management, results showed a high preference for hunting by tribal members and U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) biologists. Only 13 percent felt wolves should not be hunted at all. Poisoning was definitely not desired, with only 16 percent saying it was acceptable. These results will all factor into management plans should wolf populations continue to increase.

The article says that, similar to outside the reservation, there are differences of opinion on how to handle expanding populations.

Says wildlife program director Joe Peone:

“We’ll manage them. We’re not in a position where we can allow our ungulate populations to drop to a point where it’s not providing that sustenance opportunity for our membership. There’s a constant need for elk, deer and moose meat. I think it’s wrong not to manage wolves.”

 Adds tribal biologists Eric Krausz:

“There’s definitely a need to manage these animals, and we know that. We’re not going to sit idly by and cross our fingers and hope for the best. I’m ultimately responsible for managing big game and providing subsistence opportunities for tribal members and their families for the long haul. That includes managing predator populations, whether it’s black bear, gray wolf or cougar.”

Besides the need to manage the animals, there is a ceremonial side to wolf management, if it comes to that, Krausz said.

“I think there will be a lot of excitement about the opportunity to harvest a gray wolf at some point,” he said. “There’s a cultural side too, dress and dance are involved with that historically and it’s an opportunity for tribal members they haven’t had for almost a century.”

The 1.4-million-acre Colville Reservation, between the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers in North-central Washington, is in that part of the Northwest where wolves have been federally delisted. The tribes plan to manage the species themselves on their lands.

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