OLYMPIA, Wash. -- At least eight bills dealing with Washington state wolves are prowling their way through legislative hearing and committee rooms this session as lawmakers tackle one of the most divisive issues to emerge in decades.
The wolf controversy exploded during the summer of 2012 when ranchers recorded their first substantial losses and State Fish and Wildlife Managers destroyed an entire pack they say had grown too dependent on a herd in Stevens County.
Lawmakers on both sides of the wolf issue say that was a nightmare scenario that must be avoided in the future. One bill would give ranchers what they say is the reasonable right to shoot and kill wolves they catch in the act of attacking livestock or pets.
Other bills designed to protect ranchers would allow counties to establish their own emergency removal methods, create public funds for reimbursing ranchers who lose livestock to wolves, and a tongue and cheek bill that would relocate wolves from eastern Washington to western districts where outspoken wolf supporters live.
Bills to protect wolves include one that would bar ranchers from grazing their livestock on public lands if they refuse to adopt non-lethal hazing methods that are proved to deter wolves from attacking cattle.
Meanwhile some ranchers attending a hearing Tuesday say they have already signed agreements with the state to use those techniques and are willing to work on ways to co-exist with a rapidly growing Washington state wolf population.