SEATTLE -- State Sen. Kevin Ranker said Thursday that he wants answers from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDF&W) about how it came to its decision to destroy a pack of wolves in northeastern Washington.
"I'm going to be holding a hearing on this and really diving into the facts," said Ranker, a Democrat from Orcas Island who chairs the Senate committee overseeing the WDF&W.
"What did happen and what didn't happen. What did the rancher do? What did the rancher do not do to try and prevent this situation," he said.
Ranker has been critical of the decision to kill the members of the Wedge Pack ever since WDF&W announced it would destroy its eight members September. Sharpshooters in a helicopter used a locator collar recently put on the pack's alpha male to track down the wolves and shoot them.
Ranker said WDF&W and operators of the Diamond M Ranch needed to try other methods to deter the wolves from preying on cattle grazing on public forest lands in the Colville National Forest.
Department officials said none of the accepted methods they tried worked. They said it was a very tough decision but they and the ranchers could not keep the wolves away from the cattle. After the pack killed two and attacked 15 other head of cattle, the department said they had no choice but remove the pack.
Ranker said he has gathered evidence over the last two months that raise questions about the number of attacks and what efforts were actually taken to deter them. He said he will be calling in top wolf experts to testify.
Ranker said he understands WDF&W is in a very difficult situation trying to manage wolves in livestock areas and he is not going to ask for reprimands or resignations. But he said he wants to clarify the state's policies on lethal removal of wolves to prevent this situation from happening again.
Experts believe it won't be long before a new pack moves into the so-called Wedge area of Stevens County.