Community meeting addresses growing predator problem in southeastern Washington
February 20, 2020
DAYTON–Over fifty Columbia County residents gathered to share concern over the growing problem of area predators, namely wolves and cougars during a meeting called by ex-Columbia County Commissioner Don Jackson and former member of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission (2013-2019) Jay Holzmiller. Coyotes and bears were also discussed.
The core issue is current protections for these animals have increased their numbers and therefore their predation of elk, deer and other animals including livestock. They are being seen moving into towns and attacking animals at these locations. Thus, hunting, livelihoods and public safety are all affected.
Holzmiller claimed that the department biologists are underreporting the actual number of predators in the state. This, is in part, because of pressure put on them by well-funded pro-predator groups. As a result, legislation was previously put in place to protect the wolves and cougars, even in the event of imminent threat to the public. Only recently has the law changed to protect the community from any threat, however it has to be handled by law enforcement.
The growing number of gray wolves are of particular concern. They number over 126 in Washington State. According the department’s Wolf Advisory Group spokesperson, Samee Ledgerwood-Charriere, the number is an estimate because the collars placed in 2012 on wolves either don’t work anymore or the wolves have died. There has not been an attempt to collar wolves since. The same is true for the cougar population and the collars place on them.
Last fall, in southeastern Washington, one kill was authorized because of multiple livestock killings in the area of Anetone grasslands, and was carried out by a Fish &Wildlife employee or contractor. It was a female gray wolf from the Grouse Flats pack. Wolf killings are allowed only by agencies or law enforcement until the killings cease. As the law stands now, one can shoot a dog if it attacks cattle, but not a wolf. Holzmiller said this is a “waste of resources that we can’t be hunting” these predators. Those present at the meeting want strongly to be able to manage these situations on their own land.
County Commissioner, Chuck Amerein affirmed that the problem of predators is real and says that joining Columbia County with Walla Walla, Asotin and Garfield counties, will help the voices of concern by heard.
Additionally, it was suggested that getting various groups organized such as sportsmen, cattlemen, farmers will help provide a strong united front advocating for the control in predator groups.
Attorney and local resident, Kelly Allen stated that one tool that the group has is access to public records. By getting copies of the memos, discussions, drafts and agendas, public officials can be held accountable and pressure can be put on the department.
In an effort to work towards taking back predator management, citizens were highly encouraged to attend Fish & Wildlife Commission meetings and speak up. Committees will also be forming and regular meetings like the one held Saturday will also be scheduled.