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Wildlife Director Defends Wolf Hunting Decision

The head of Washington's fish and wildlife agency may find himself on a hot-seat next Tuesday in Colville. The topic is wolves, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife's decision to kill some wolves preying on sheep.

Washington State wildlife managers must try to pull off a delicate balancing act in overseeing wolves. Although wolves lost federal protection under the endangered species act in 2011, they're still protected under Washington State law.

Despite their protected status, however, Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson said sometimes managers have no choice but to kill wolves that prey on livestock; hence the order in August to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry pack in Stevens County.

As it turned out, aerial hunters found and killed only one wolf in that pack, a breeding female. Anderson said the attacks on sheep stopped immediately after she was killed, so Anderson called off the order to kill three more animals.

The agency estimates that the state's wolf population, concentrated in northeastern Washington, has grown by only one  in the past year to 52 wolves. But Anderson warned the count is only an estimate, at best. He said a more important indicator is that four new wolf packs were established last year, and that the population has grown steadily since the first pack was documented in 2007.

Next Tuesday's public meeting is at the Colville Ag Trade Center on the Northeast Washington fairgrounds.

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