The debate continued Wednesday over a measure allowing livestock and pet owners to kill endangered gray wolves without a permit when the wolves are attacking their animals.
A coalition of commissioners from Okanogan, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties traveled to Olympia to deliver a stern message in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
“Will we act as county commissioners if you fail to? I will make that choice to act because we can’t wait any longer,” said Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart. “The ability to protect your life, your family, your food, your pets – to me this is one of the Constitutional rights that we have and under the law. If you shoot a wolf without a permit right now, you will go to jail or pay a fine or both. This is wrong.”
Under current law, the penalty for killing a wolf without a permit is a gross misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class C felony for the second offense, which could result in a $5,000 fine or a year in jail.
The commissioners say they have collectively agreed to file a state of emergency and take care of the problem themselves if the Legislature doesn’t approve Senate Bill 5187.
Lawmakers also heard from John Stevie, whose Siberian Husky was attacked by a wolf last week in the backyard of his home near Twisp. Stevie brought the dog, Shelby, to Olympia on Wednesday to illustrate the risk posed to his pets and family.
“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I pulled the doors open and about two feet from me as I stepped out onto the deck, this wolf he was 100 pounds plus … it had her by the head on the porch,” Stevie said. “What’s it gonna take here? We have no rights to do anything. We can’t protect ourselves. We can’t protect our animals. Whether this bill goes through or not, I’m not going to let this happen again.”
Opponents of the measure told the committee the bill would hurt the state’s wolf recovery efforts after years of work went into the state’s wolf plan.
“We believe it undermines the balance of the conversation and management plan. People already have the ability under the plan to kill wolves caught in the act of killing livestock by asking landowners to acquire a permit when they see a problem developing,” said Jasmine Minbashian with Conservation Northwest.
The committee did not take action on the bill.