The Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) is an advisory board of volunteers who were appointed to advise the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). They recently began working toward a consensus on recommendations on wolf management policies in Washington State. “The WAG’s volunteer appointees advise the WDFW on current and emerging issues regarding wolf conservation and management in our state,” explained Diane Gallegos, Executive Director of Wolf Haven International. “The WAG represents the wide range of values and needs in our state, including those of livestock producers, hunting advocates, and environmental groups. The WAG is one way to help the Department be responsive to the public needs and values related to wolf management.”
Preventing wolf-livestock conflict is a vitally important component of wolf conservation. “The current protocol clearly defines the expectations for proactive deterrence measures to be implemented by livestock producers,” Gallegos explained. “These include sanitation measures suited to the specific livestock operation, such as removing attractants (dead or injured animals), increased human presence, and/or employing livestock guardian dogs. Many of these measures are already standard practice for most ranchers and farmers, but some practices may need to be adjusted for wolves.”
The WAG, which recently had a two-fold membership increase, is working to conserve wolves throughout Washington State. “Past management decisions related to wolves weren’t well understood or supported by the public,” Gallegos said. “Due to the increase in polarization of public values on wolves, the WDFW sought external expertise in addressing the increasing social conflict. The WDFW contracted with Francine Madden from the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration to provide guidance. The WDFW also recognized the need to have a more broadly represented advisory group and doubled the size. The professional facilitation, combined with the commitment of the WAG volunteers and WDFW staff to work together for creative solutions, will serve wolves and people well.”
There are numerous ways that citizens can become fully informed about wildlife issues in Washington. “A great place to start is the WDFW website (wdfw.gov),” Gallegos said. “This website gives the most up-to-date information about wolves in our state, including WAG meeting schedules and meeting minutes. The list of WAG members is also on the WDFW website, and you can contact any of us for more detailed information about ways to engage.”
While conservationists celebrate the return of wolves to Washington State, Gallegos has some advice to ensure that this is a harmonious homecoming. “It’s important to be responsible when recreating in wolf country,” she said. “Wolves are naturally wary of people, but if you have the pleasure of getting a glimpse of a wolf while out hiking, be grateful, enjoy the moment, and then yell or wave your arms to scare the wolf away. The kindest thing we can do for wolves is to keep them wary of humans.”
She added: “Keep your dogs on leash or leave them at home. Wolves are very territorial and may be attracted by the presence of a dog in their territory. A dog running off leash could be killed or seriously injured by a wolf who is just protecting a family and territory. And, of course, never feed a wild animal.”
To learn more about Wolf Haven International, including their upcoming Wolves and Wine on Sept. 24, visit their website at www.wolfhaven.org.