The state of Washington has canceled a series of wolf-related meetings, saying it fears they might be accompanied by violence.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced the cancellations at a Wolf Advisory Group meeting on Tuesday.

The department said they plan to hold three interactive webinars in September and October instead of holding the open houses. The dates of the webinars are expected to be announced soon.

The department is planning for a time when wolves are no longer a protected species, and public input is necessary for that process.

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But the agency said it cannot assure the safety of the public or its staff if the meetings are held.

“We’ve seen incredible intensity around wolf issues this summer, on both sides of the issue. For outreach to be meaningful, our meetings have to be productive. Unfortunately, we’ve received some information that indicates to us that the meetings could be disrupted, possibly creating an unsafe meeting environment for the public participating,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind.

The return of wolves to the state from surrounding areas in 2008 has led to numerous conflicts between the animals and livestock producers, especially in northeastern Washington state. Agency officials told The Spokesman-Review they started to see Facebook posts threatening violence.

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