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Washington state commission rejects petition to limit killing of wolves

The petition was filed in May by four conservation groups who sought to prevent conflicts that have led to the killing of 31 wolves in the state since 2012.

Editor's note: The above video about a wolf pack removed in Washington state previously aired on KING 5 in 2019.

WASHINGTON - A petition that called for new rules to limit when the state can kill endangered wolves that prey on livestock was rejected Friday by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The petition was filed in May by four conservation groups who sought to prevent conflicts that have led to the killing of 31 wolves in the state since 2012.

The conservation groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians. 

The groups requested rules that would require ranchers to use non-lethal deterrence measures to prevent conflict in an effort to avoid killing wolves.

RELATED: Conservation groups ask Washington state to kill fewer wolves

In October of 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to WDFW saying the state's wolf management plan does not appear to be working in the Kettle River Range area of Ferry County. Inslee sought changes in how the state deals with problem wolves in an effort to reduce the number of gray wolves that are being killed. 

Late last year in response to Gov. Inslee's complaint, the WDFW said it will try "previously unused tools" to protect cattle and avoid shooting wolves in the Kettle River Range, though it did not specify any new tactics.

The department, which describes the region as "saturated" with wolf packs, has defended killing as a last resort when non-lethal measures failed to keep cattle losses from mounting.

In April of this year, the Washington Department Department of Fish and Wildlife said the wolf population in the state increased by at least 19 animals in 2019, despite multiple lethal removals due to wolf-livestock conflict. 

The WDFW estimated the wolf population grew to an estimated 145 wolves in 26 packs. That's compared to 126 wolves in 27 backs in 2018.

RELATED: Report says state population of wolves grew 11% in 2019