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Valley elk group eyes state wolf plan

The Upper Snoqualmie Valley Elk Management Group is wondering how the state’s new wolf plans will affect local elk — and people.

Elk Group President David Willson said the Valley non-profit will send a letter to a state committee listing its concerns with the wolf plan.

The state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan spells out ways to conserve and manage wolves in Washington. The preferred alternative, chosen by a committee of 17 stakeholders, allows the wolf population to grow while listing ways to address wolf impacts on livestock, deer and other wild animals. The final plan will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration in 2010.

There are currently three documented packs of gray wolves in Washington, centered on the southeast and northeast corners of the state, and in the north near Twisp.

“They are far away from North Bend right now,” Willson said. But with roaming ranges of 100 miles, “they could potentially be in our area in the next few years.”

Wolves were exterminated by humans in the Snoqualmie Valley 80 years ago.

One concern with the plan is that the Snoqualmie Valley may not be ready to deal with wolves. The elk group is currently seeking to find ways to manage the Upper Valley’s growing elk population.

While wolves might prey on the elk herd, thus lowering its size, adding wolves to the mix might make it harder for elk to find their own habitat outside of local cities.

Public safety is also a factor. This fall, Snoqualmie Middle School evacuated after a cougar was sighted at a nearby park. Willson wondered if wolf sightings might spark similar reactions.

For Willson, unanswered questions linger on how to manage or remove wolves if they someday become a nuisance in the Valley.

“We need a clearer picture,” he said.

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