Agency approves permanent wolf rule

— An emergency rule for taking lethal action against attacking wolves is now part of permanent state rules.

The state Fish and Wildlife Commission approved changes to its wildlife interaction rules Oct. 4.

The “caught in the act” provision states that an owner of a domestic animal, including livestock or a pet, can kill one gray wolf without a permit if the wolf is attacking the animal.

“It’s about time,” Okanogan County Farm Bureau President Jon Wyss said. “I’m just glad we have the rule and that it’s permanent, but it should have been for all of Okanogan County.”

The provision applies only to the eastern one-third of the state where the gray wolf is federally delisted, which includes part of Okanogan County. Wolves are still federally listed west of U.S. Highway 97.

“I am glad that the provisions of the permanent rule essentially implemented the temporary rule,” Sen. John Smith, R-Colville, said. “I think the negotiated temporary rule that we had represented broad bipartisan support… and I think it was a good way to go.”

Smith’s challenger, Ferry County Commissioner Brian Dansel, did not return requests for comment before press time.

The owner – or family member or employee – who shoots the wolf must report it to the state within 24 hours, then turn over the carcass and grant access to their property for an investigation.

A statement from the commission noted that the new amended rules are “more consistent with Washington’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and implement 2013 legislation.”

One provision that applies to wolves is that property owners must try non-lethal measures to prevent wildlife attacks on livestock before killing the wildlife or requesting compensation. The state also requires photographic proof.

“In statute, the Legislature said that producers have to be using practicable measures to prevent damage from wildlife, whether it’s wolves in this case or whether it’s deer and elk,” state Department of Fish and Wildlife Game Division Manager Dave Ware said. “They have to demonstrate that they have taken some measures to keep their livestock from being attacked and eaten.”

The Department of Fish and Wildlife can charge a person who kills a gray wolf that was not attacking a domestic animal at the time it was killed.

Animal owners can still seek compensation from the state for losses. The list of allowed animals has expanded from cattle, sheep and horses to include goats, swine, donkeys, mules, llamas and alpacas.

Guard dogs are also included, Ware said. Guard dogs are defined as “dogs that are trained for the purposes of protecting livestock from wildlife or for hurting livestock,” he said.

The state will pay market value for lost livestock, according to the new rules, regardless of whether the animals were raised for commercial purposes. The new amendments will go into effect within 45 days, Ware said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still considering whether to delist the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.

The public comment period has been extended until Oct. 28.

As of December 2012, the state counted 51 confirmed gray wolves and five breeding pairs, four of them in northeastern Washington in the Diamond, Nc’icn, Huckleberry and Smackout packs. The fifth breeding pair was located in the Teanaway Pack near Wenatchee. The wolf count will be updated this December. The next count could include a new breeding pair in the Lookout Pack near the Methow Valley, where three new pups were spotted this spring, Fish and Wildlife wolf biologist Scott Becker said.

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