Washington state bill would protect identities of those who report or respond to wolf attacks

Wolves in Washington are sometimes killed to protect livestock, pets and cattle.

ByABC News
February 19, 2017, 2:59 PM

— -- Following reports of death threats to state workers dealing with wolf attacks on livestock or pets, Washington's state legislature has advanced a bill that would exempt from public disclosure information on people who report wolf attacks and public employees who respond.

The bill has cleared a committee for a vote by the lower house of the state legislature..

The legislation would withhold identifying information on people who report wolf attacks on pets or livestock; owners whose pets or livestock are attacked by wolves; and any state employee or contractor who responds to such reports or who "assists in the lethal removal of a wolf."

Rob Wielgus, associate professor and director of the large carnivore conservation lab at the School of the Environment at Washington State University, said in an email to The Seattle Times last year that those who work with wolves, including people he knew at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife were receiving death threats from people seeking to protect the animal.

ABC News reached out to Wielgus and the Fish and Wildlife Department for a comment on the proposed bill, but did not immediately receive a response.

Opponents of the bill say it would make it impossible for the public to know who is involved in the state's wolf-management programs.

The gray wolf is an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Washington's Fish and Wildlife Department says on its website that the wolf "is returning to Washington on its own, dispersing from populations in other states and provinces" and that the state is "working to manage this recovering endangered species, guided by a citizen-developed plan to address conflicts with livestock and impacts to other wildlife species."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.