Cattlemen: Call Sheriff’s Office before WDFW

(COLIN HAFFNER/Chewelah Independent)

GO LOCAL?: Stevens County Cattlemen say call sheriff before WDFW, but sheriff contends state agency still the lead for wildlife conflicts….

A June 18 letter released by the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Asscociation, or SCCA, urges residents of Eastern Washington to contact their local sheriff’s office first about predator attacks instead of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“Eastern Washington residents that are experiencing problems with predators to call their local sheriff first, before calling the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW.),” the letter started.

“I had no idea that they were publishing that,” Stevens County Sheriff Brad Manke said in an article published by the Spokesman Review, “As far as I’m concerned, Fish and Wildlife is, and will remain, the primary agency on the response for these calls.”

The letter appears to be instigated by an incident over Memorial Day weekend when a man shot and killed a wolf that had approached him and his daughter and notes that the sheriff is a publicly elected official tasked with protecting the public while the WDFW is focused on managing wildlife as a priority, leading to what the SCCA claims as questionable actions by the WDFW due to differing perspectives of duty.

“WDFW did not notify the local sheriff of this incident. When WDFW did share information with the sheriff’s office, the names of those involved were redacted. The agency also suggested the man didn’t need to defend himself and downplayed the seriousness of the situation,” the letter quoted SCCA president Scott Nielsen as saying, adding further that “There have also been incidents where WDFW is confirming and then later denying that livestock injuries were caused by wolves. Other predator issues, like cougars, are also not being fully addressed.”

Manke questioned the logic in the letter, telling the Spokesman that the WDFW would likely have put the man in jail if they didn’t think the shooting was justified as self defense.

“I’m not sure where that came from,” Manke said in the Spokesman article about the allegation against the WDFW that they said the man didn’t need to defend himself and downplayed the situation.

WDFW Police Capt. Dan Rahn also questioned the assertion in the letter that managing wildlife is a greater priority than public safety, telling the Spokesman, “Public safety is a priority for us. I mean, we care about the wildlife and everything, but people’s safety is the highest priority.”

The SCCA pointed out in their letter that Stevens and Ferry Counties now have a committed deputy, Jeff Flood, to handle work with predator issues, “giving residents an extra resource that [is] based in the community.”

“In our experience, local law enforcement has always been behind the people in this county and is most interested in their safety and welfare. If we don’t involve our sheriff in all predator incidents, we are removing accountability for WDFW,” the letter quoted Nielsen as saying.

However, Rahn told the Spokesman that the WDFW and the sheriff’s offices in both Stevens and Ferry Counties work closely together, with Manke adding in the article that he thought the WDFW acted appropriately, taking the Memorial Day incident seriously.

The letter reinforced the importance of contacting the local sheriff by citing accountability and having an accurate record of the incident according to Flood.

“If the public doesn’t call the sheriff’s dispatch first, then no local record of a predator incident is being created. Having an accurate record available for law enforcement is important for the sheriff’s department to protect public safety,” Flood is quoted as saying in the letter.

WDFW Wolf Advisory group meeting in Ellensburg June 27-28
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that the next Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) meeting will be held June 27-28, 2019. The meeting will be held in Ellensburg at the Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center. There will also be an open house-style public comment period prior to the WAG work session. Meeting times will be from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on June 27 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 28. On June 27, WDFW staff will be available for members of the public for questions from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The WAG work session will be open to the public to observe and will follow the same format used in the past, including public comment opportunities at the end of each day.