Since 2011, the Washington Wolf Conservation and Management Plan has served as a framework for state efforts to manage the state’s growing wolf population. That plan, which reflects endangered species laws as well as public comments received from thousands of people around the state, has defined the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) policies on such issues as:
- Non-lethal deterrence: “Non-lethal management techniques will be emphasized throughout the recovery period and beyond.” (Page 85)
- Compensation: “To receive compensation, producers will be responsible for following appropriate management methods that seek to limit wolf attractants in the vicinity of their livestock, including removal of dead and dying animals and other proactive measures.” (Page 91)
- Lethal deterrence: “Lethal removal may be used to stop repeated depredation if it is documented that livestock have clearly been killed by wolves, non-lethal methods have been tried but failed to resolve the conflict, depredations are likely to continue, and there is no evidence of intentional feeding or unnatural attraction of wolves by the livestock owner.” (Page 88)
In most cases, however, the state plan left WDFW to determine how to put these policies into action. It did not, for example, define precisely what types of technical assistance WDFW should provide to livestock producers or how many times a wolf must attack livestock before it is subject to lethal deterrence.
To answer those and other questions, WDFW has worked with the citizen’s Wolf Advisory Group to define those operational steps to ensure its management actions are both consistent with the state plan and transparent to the public. Key guidelines include:
- Provides a checklist of non-lethal measures, tailored to specific conditions, that livestock owners must follow as a step toward qualifying for compensation for wolf depredation.
- The department's past protocol for lethal removal of wolves was not well-understood or -supported by the public, and even generated differences of opinion within WDFW. Lacking support for such an important aspect of wolf management and recognizing the long-term polarization of public values on wolves, the Department sought external expertise in addressing social conflict.
In May 2015, the Department doubled the membership of the Wolf Advisory Group and began a process to bring the WAG stakeholders and Department staff together to re-engage on key issues and to reach a sufficient consensus on recommendations to the Department on wolf management policies. Also in May, the expanded WAG had its first meeting with Francine Madden, a consultant with Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, who was retained to help reduce the conflict that had surrounded wolf management in Washington state. Since then, the WAG members and a diversity of Department staff, from field biologists to managers, met six times, and along the way reconciled relationships, learned about each other's values and needs, and worked hard toward positive outcomes.
The current protocol reflects a wide range of values and extensive participation from livestock producers, environmental groups, and hunting advocates. It also reflects the Department of Fish and Wildlife's commitment to do everything we can to understand and respond to public values and community concerns regarding wolf recovery. This protocol wasn't created in two days. It required a year-long process that emphasized positive stakeholder relationships, a respectful approach to resolving differences, and a willingness to tackle serious, challenging issues. Through that process, the WAG members and Department staff unanimously agreed to the current protocol, which the Department began operating under on May 31, 2016.