SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington has canceled a series of wolf-related meetings, saying it fears they might be accompanied by violence.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the cancellations at a Wolf Advisory Group meeting on Tuesday in Moses Lake.

“We’ve seen incredible intensity around wolf issues this summer, on both sides of the issue. For outreach to be meaningful, our meetings have to be productive. Unfortunately, we’ve received some information that indicates to us that the meetings could be disrupted, possibly creating an unsafe meeting environment for the public participating,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Based on our initial outreach to stakeholders, we think digital open houses and a robust survey will be our most productive means of gathering feedback on this initial scoping effort.”

The department is planning for a time when wolves are no longer a protected species, and public input is necessary for that process.

In lieu of the public open houses, WDFW will hold three live webinars where participants can receive information, ask questions, and learn how to provide input. The dates for these digital open houses will be announced soon.

The return of wolves to the state from surrounding areas in 2008 has led to numerous conflicts between the animals and livestock producers, especially in northeastern Washington state. Agency officials told The Spokesman-Review they started to see Facebook posts threatening violence.

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