Washington state officials have one way of dealing with wolves. Meanwhile, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, as ICTMN’s Jack McNeel reports, have another.
Off the reservation the issue is whether killing the wolves was warranted, even after they became accustomed to feeding on livestock instead of hunting game. This was the logic behind the annihilation of the Wedge pack earlier this fall.
On the Colville reservation the underlying issue is whether there are too many wolves to be a danger to game such as elk, deer and moose, which tribal members hunt for subsistence. Colville methods include soliciting tribal members’ input, closely monitoring the wolves’ development and using killing as an absolute last resort. If it has to be done at all, it would be accompanied by the appropriate cultural ceremonies.
Two wolves were captured on the reservation in early June, a male and female, and pups were heard yipping and howling. That pack has been named the Nc’icn, the Okanogan word for wolf. On September 2 another wolf was captured about 25 or 30 miles west. Trail cameras had routinely been photographing two wolves in the area. Tribal biologists Eric Krausz and Donovan Antoine caught one of those, though they are hesitant to assume it’s a new pack.
The biologists heard from more than 200 people when they put out a “wolf reporting form” to help gauge tribal members’ sentiment when it comes to managing wolves. The results, McKeel wrote, were interesting.
Thirty percent of respondents said that spiritual or cultural importance was very important, while 47 percent said it was of little or no importance. Asked what they would consider to be sound reasons for harvesting a wolf, just 16 percent said for ceremonial or spiritual purposes such as regalia, whereas 40 percent responded that it would be to help promote healthy elk, deer and moose populations.
Predation on cattle didn’t seem to be a big concern. Only 20 percent listed that as their biggest fear, and in another question asking if the tribe should pay damages for confirmed cattle depredation, nearly 64 percent said no. When it came to wolf management, results showed a high preference for hunting by tribal members and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department biologists. Only 13 percent felt wolves should not be hunted at all. Poisoning was definitely not desired, with only 16 percent saying it was acceptable. These results will all factor into management plans should wolf populations continue to increase.
Balance is crucial in any management plan, the biologists said.
Besides the need to manage the animals, there is a ceremonial side to wolf management, if it comes to that, Krausz said.
“I think there will be a lot of excitement about the opportunity to harvest a gray wolf at some point,” he said. “There’s a cultural side too, dress and dance are involved with that historically and it’s an opportunity for tribal members they haven’t had for almost a century.”