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Conservation groups ask Washington state to kill fewer wolves

Officials working for the state have killed 31 wolves in Washington since 2012, under a system that environmental groups contend favors ranchers over the animals.

Editor's note: The above video about the removal of a Washington state wolf packed aired on KING 5 in 2019.

Conservation groups are asking the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to sharply limit the number of endangered wolves that are killed over conflicts with livestock.

Officials working for the state have killed 31 wolves in Washington since 2012, under a system that environmental groups contend favors ranchers over the animals.

Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, called it a broken system. Officials for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The conservation groups want the wildlife commission to amend its rules to require that livestock producers use appropriate non-lethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves.  

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

RELATED: Washington agency to look at other wolf management tools

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.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Staci Lehman said last year the department is starting to discuss and research other non-lethal approaches.

RELATED: Killings of another Washington wolf pack sparks debate over predator management