Colville Tribal members are able to hunt gray wolves in designated areas through Feb. 28, or until the quota of nine wolves is met.
Business Council Chairman John Sirois said recently the decision has been a long time coming and has been controversial.
The tribes’ reason for the wolf hunt is that the predator is denting the local population of both deer and elk herds, Sirois said.
The tribes elected to allow a wolf hunt in order to protect the tribes’ food supply. Many tribal members and families rely on deer or elk for their winter meat, Sirois pointed out.
“Wolves are starting to have an impact,” Sirois stated. “We decided it was much better to manage the population so we can keep the numbers down a little bit. We would rather do that than what the state Fish and Wildlife did and take a whole pack out.”
He was referring to what happened in Stevens County, where state officials used a helicopter and sharpshooter to destroy an entire pack that had been taking livestock in the area.
The tribes approved the hunt on the south side of the reservation, in Okanogan and Ferry Counties, where two wolf packs have been identified. In only one zone, the Gold Mountain wolf management zone, is a permit required.
A spokesman said Wednesday that no kills have been reported.
Altogether, there are 12 identified wolf packs in Washington, and the tribal area is the only hunt allowed in the state.
Wolves from the two packs identified came from Canada and Idaho, authorities noted.
Sirois said he doubts that many wolves will be taken.
“It is not as easy as people think, We have authorised three areas, with three wolves for each one. If they get one wolf per zone, they will be lucky,” Sirois said in a news release.
The tribes successfully trapped and collared several wolves last summer, as part of its work to monitor the wolves within tribal boundaries. Wolves with collars may not be legally hunted.
“Oh man, it is blowing up,” Sirois said. “I have a lot of hateful messages from people, it’s why are you killing your brother?”
The decision had been in the works for eight months, and was not an easy one, Sirois stated. Tribal members had been kept informed.
The news of the wolf hunt hasn’t been met with enthusiasm off the reservation either. One party responding noted that the Colvilles are the only tribe in the United States that is allowing a wolf hunt on their reservation.