Online Threats Lead To Cancellation Of Washington Wolf Meetings

Wolf recovery is a controversial issue in Washington state. ( USFWS )

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has cancelled a series of 14 wolf-related public meetings as a precaution for the safety of the public and staff.

“We got to a point where the department could simply not assure the safety of the public or the staff,” said Steve Pozzanghera, the department’s eastern region director told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Fish and Wildlife was to hold meetings to discuss post-recovery and management plans for when the wolves are no longer a state or federally endangered species. Public input was needed for that process.

Pozzanghera said as his agency started planning the meetings, they worked with local law enforcement knowing wolf issues are usually contentious. That’s when they started seeing Facebook posts threatening violence, including threats focused around agency plans to kill wolves that had attacked cattle. The threats came from both wolf-partisans and wolf-haters.

“Both sides were playing equally poorly,” he said. “We had concerns, given that environment, these meetings wouldn’t be productive.”

Wolves have killed and injured a number of cattle this summer, prompting agency officials to kill members of the Old Profanity Territory pack. The pack was completely eliminated by department staff earlier this month, prompting anger and lawsuits from some environmental and conservation groups.

Washington officials say according to an annual survey, the state has at least 126 wolves, 27 packs and 15 breeding pairs. The state’s wolf population has grown, on average, 30 percent per year since the canines naturally returned to Washington in 2008.

While the meetings have been canceled, the process remains open to public comment online through Nov. 1.

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