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Great Wolf Debate: 'People In Downtown Seattle Haven't A Clue'

Washington state’s wolf population grew by 30 percent last year – a big success for the state's wolf recovery plan.

But rancher Len McIrvin of Diamond M Ranch doesn't see why state conservationists are patting themselves on the back. And he finds it baffling that people are so fond of wolves. To him, they’re bloodthirsty predators.

“Those people in downtown Seattle haven't a clue,” McIrvin said. “They should not even be allowed to enter the debate. People who are suffering the loss should be the ones who make the decisions.”

McGovern has seen a wolf kill his livestock. The view that wolves are predators and threaten the livelihood of farmers and ranchers is a big reason why some state lawmakers think we need to revisit the state’s wolf recovery plan.

They've proposed killing some wolves, which doesn’t sit well with wolf advocates. That debate has spurred a culture war in the Pacific Northwest about what to do with the 68 wolves – 16 wolf packs – living within our state borders.

Wildlife tracker David Moskowitz thinks about this a lot. He believes that wolves are a proxy for other things. He is also an author of the book, “Wolves in the Land of Salmon.”

“For urban people that have no connection with nature, wolves may represent a connection to something very wild,” Moscowitz said. “And for a rural person living in the United States, wolves might represent government intrusion or the intrusion of things that are threatening their livelihood.”

Washington state encourages hunters and hikers to report wolf sightings.

The latest report of a wolf sighting came from Colville on Oct.30, 2014, in the morning. A hunter had seen a wolf skirting along the brush.

“He yelled and shot into the air and the wolf left,” the report says. “He then saw three additional wolves about 25 yards ahead of him and they ran in the same direction as the first wolf.

“(The hunter) then heard a noise in the brush, yelled to see if it was his hunting partner and got no response. A black wolf then appeared within 15 to 20 yards of him and approached him. (The hunter) shot at the wolf, believes he hit it, and the wolf ran off.”

Fish and Wildlife investigated and found the hunter was within his legal rights.

But McIrvin doesn’t feel the state protects ranchers.

“I asked one Fish and Wildlife man -- we had a meeting in Olympia – ‘When I get home tonight, if I see a wolf pulling down one of our cows, can I shoot it?' He said no -- not unless you want 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.”

Produced for the Web by Isolde Raftery.

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