by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News
OLYMPIA, Wash. — A battle over whether to make it legal to kill wolves for protection is heating up in Olympia. At a hearing Wednesday, legislators heard from ranchers who say if the laws don’t change, they’ll take matters into their own hands.
The ranchers and rural county officials didn’t travel to Olympia to put things lightly.
“Under threat of being sued, I will make that choice to act,” said West McCart, Stevens County Commissioner.
Many spoke out in support of a bill allowing ranchers to kill attacking wolves. A separate bill would add wolves to the state’s list of game animals.
“The wolf is a predator,” said Ray Campbell, Okanogan County Commissioner. “It’s not a magnificent wonder of nature placed on earth for people to worship.”
Legislators from the wolf-rich east side of the state are making these bills a priority. They save wolves are increasingly dangerous to livestock and humans. Several agencies, including the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, support killing the wolf for protection, saying it would not affect wolf recovery.
But activists say the bill violates the state’s wolf protection plan. Some ranching families are still trying to find a way for cattle and wolves to co-exist.
“The cattlemen have to, in my opinion, be more willing to possibly change some of their practices even though that’s not going to be as easy as a lot of people think it should be,” said Dave Hendrick, Conservation Northwest board member.
Also in the audience was John Stevie and his dog, Shelby, the Siberian Husky attacked by wolves 10 days ago on the family’s back porch in Okanogan County.
“It had her by the head on the porch,” said Stevie. “They’re not even afraid of you. They will sit there and they will watch you, and they will pace back and forth and they will stand their ground.”
Okanogan County commissioners say it’s reason like these they want to declare a state of emergency if the bill doesn’t pass, so the ranchers can protect their livelihood and their life.
“I will protect my son,” said Stevie. “Whether this bill goes through or not, I’m not going to let this happen again.”
The bill has already passed through the Republican state Senate. KING 5 sources say it’s likely there will not be enough votes in the House to make it law.