When wolves come to town
Capital Press 1/30/19
Cattle and sheep ranchers in Washington’s Stevens County have
been hectored by wolves for years. Now the wolves are coming
close to town.
Wolves have come “very close to homes” near Colville in
northeast Washington, according to Stevens County commissioners,
who issued a public safety announcement Jan. 8 warning residents
to protect their pets and livestock.
This is the first time the county has issued an alert to
residents, county Commissioner Don Dashiell said Jan. 11. The
county has not received any reports of anyone being threatened
by wolves, he said.
“I think we’d feel lacking in our response if we waited until
wolves came and jerked somebody’s dog off the lease and ate it,”
Dashiell said. “It’s not out in the middle of nowhere, it’s two
miles west of Colville.”
Dashiell said commissioners took the initiative to alert the
public because the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has not
warned residents in the past about wolf activity. The county did
not ask the department to issue a notice in this case, he said.
What can the people of Colville do if wolves attack their dogs
or livestock? Not much, and even less if a westside legislator
gets her way.
Rep. Sherry Appleton, a Democrat who represents Bainbridge
Island across Puget Sound from Seattle, has introduced a bill to
bar the state Department of Fish and Wildlife from killing
wolves in the eastern one-third of the state.
Federal law already prohibits lethal control of wolves in the
western two-thirds of Washington. Appleton wants a statewide ban
on killing wolves.
So if the wolves were roaming around the better neighborhoods of
Seattle and Olympia, what would be the response?
Would the tech millionaires and billionaires around Lake
Washington rush to hang fladry on their fences? Would Madison
Park deploy range riders? Would Olympia schools post guard dogs
to watch over kids playing at recess?
Somehow we think urbanites would find these efforts lacking if
even only a house cat or two fell victim.
Wolves are coming to town, but Colville isn’t Seattle. Anyone
who loses their cats or dogs will be expected to accept it the
way the ranchers are expected to accept it as part of the price
of living in wolf habitat.
While they’ve not always been happy about it, Washington
ranchers have tried to accommodate the growing wolf population.
Their fellow Washingtonians around Puget Sound need to
appreciate both that effort and the real economic hardship
wolves present to the state’s livestock producers.
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