UPDATED 5:30 P.M. FEB 22, 2019 WITH COMMENTS FROM WDFW NEAR BOTTOM
Colville wildlife managers posted a rule change this afternoon that removes the annual limit on wolves for tribal hunters as well as switched the season to open year round both on the reservation and what’s known as the “North Half.”
Last September, the Business Council had dropped the three-wolf limit on the “South Half” — the 2,100-square-mile reservation in North-central Washington’s southeast Okanogan and southern Ferry Counties — but yesterday members approved extending that to both zones in a 12-0 vote.
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Wolf hunting in the North Half, which is comprised of federal, state and private lands comanaged with WDFW, was otherwise slated to end at the end of this month.
“Tags are still available at the Fish and Wildlife Offices as well as hide sealing by appointment,” a notice from the department reads.
The hunt is only open to tribal members, and there are somewhere around eight packs combined in both halves, including the Old Profanity Territory, Togo, Beaver Creek, Strawberry, Nc’icn, Nason, Frosty and Whitestone wolves.
Following the federal delisting in the eastern third of the state, the Colvilles opened the first wolf hunt in Washington in modern history in 2012, on the reservation, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the first was taken.
Then in 2017, the Business Council opened the North Half with a quota of three wolves.
When the 2017-18 South Half season came to a close last February, wildlife managers reported all three wolves in the quota had been taken.
“We’re not expecting it to represent a conservation concern in the region or statewide,” said Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf manager, late this afternoon.
He confirmed that eight of the state’s 25 known packs overlap the halves and that the recovery region already has 13 successful breeding pairs, three times as many as are required under the state management plan.
Martorello also said that he didn’t anticipate the tribal harvest to be markedly different than what it has been.
When the Colvilles first began hunting wolves, the agency pointed out that the tribes have the right to manage wildlife on their reservation however they wish.
Earlier today in Olympia, a bill directing WDFW to immediately begin a status review of gray wolves across Washington and consider whether to change the species’ listing either statewide or regionally had a public hearing and was passed out of a House natural resources committee.
Chief sponsor Rep. Joel Kretz, a Republican from Wauconda, not far north of the Colville Reservation, said there wasn’t anything “prescriptive” in the bill and that it wasn’t meant to make “to make people nervous,” but that it raised the possibility of managing distinct wolf populations differently.
“My district has 90 percent of the wolves in the state. I get pictures every day of wolves all over, outside pack boundaries, in backyards,” he said.
However, the bill will probably be amended if it moves forward.