December 7, 2012
After eight months of deliberation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation decided earlier this month to open a hunt on wolves living within the boundaries of its reservation, John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Business Council said in a telephone interview Friday.
The tribe made the decision after surveying its membership, and
discerning through the work of its biologists that the wolves on its
reservation are denting the local population of deer and elk, which
tribal members hunt for subsistence. The tribe elected to allow a wolf
hunt in order protect the tribe's food supply, Sirois said.
"Wolves are starting to have an impact," Sirois said. "We decided it
was much better to manage the population so we can keep the numbers down
a little bit. We would rather do that than what the state Fish and
Wildlife did and take a whole pack. We didn't want a helicopter coming
Sirois was referring to the decision by the state Department of Fish
and Wildlife in September to kill an entire pack of wolves in the
northeastern part of the state, called the Wedge pack, after a rancher
complained of cattle killed by the pack.
One of the members of Wedge Pack. All of the wolves in the pack were killed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Photo, courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Killing the seven members of the pack with a marksman shooting from a
helicopter was highly controversial. Some, including UW wildlife
biologist John Marzluff, say the state didn't need to kill the Wedge
pack. See his op ed in the Seattle Times.
The tribe's decision to allow a hunt has also been hot.
"Oh man, it is blowing up," Sirios said. "I have a lot of hateful
messages from people, it's 'Why are you killing your brother.' The
decision wasn't made easily, there was a lot of debate. But in terms of
feeding our people, this is one we had to make."
Sirois said he doubts many wolves will be taken. "It is not as easy
as people think. We have authorized three areas, with threes wolves for
each one. If they get one per zone, they will be lucky."
No wolves have been taken yet, Sirois said.
The Colville's reservation is a sprawling expanse of largely open
country, in northcentral Washington. The tribe successfully trapped and
collared several wolves last summer, Sirois said, part of its work to
monitor the wolves within the tribe's borders. At least two packs are
believed to roam the rez. Collared animals may not be legally hunted.
Hunting with tribal permits on the Colville reservation is only open to tribal members.
Wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act west of
SR 97, but east of it, on the tribe's reservation, they are not. The
tribe also has authority to set its own hunting regulations for tribal
members on its lands. The season runs until the end of February.
Sirois said the wolf is an important animal to the tribe culturally.
"It is definitely one of the animals we hold sacred, and that is one of
the major internal discussions we had. But we also weighed the fact that
a lot of people are utilizing the deer and elk as subsistence foods. In
order to have some balance, it was something we had to do."
For more information on wolves in Washington, see the state WDFW website. and the website of Conservation Northwest.