On December 3, 2011, after nearly five years of development and extensive public review, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously adopted a plan, with some modifications that will guide state conservation and management of gray wolves in Washington. Key provisions of the plan establish recovery objectives for wolves in three regions of the state, along with procedures for addressing predation on livestock and impacts on ungulates such as deer, elk, and caribou. WDFW began developing the wolf plan in 2007, anticipating that wolves would naturally migrate into the state from Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. Since then, five wolf packs have been documented in the state - three in northeastern Washington and two in the Cascade Mountains. The plan was developed with the assistance of a 17-member advisory citizen Wolf Working Group, and was the focus of 23 public meetings, written comments submitted by nearly 65,000 people, and a blind scientific peer review.
Key elements of the plan include:
- The plan establishes a delisting objective of 15 breeding pairs of wolves that are present in the state for at least three years, with at least four in Eastern Washington, four in the northern Cascades, four in the southern Cascades/Northwest coastal area, and three others anywhere in the state. The plan also provides for WDFW to consider initiating the delisting process if 18 breeding pairs are documented during a single year, and the distribution objectives are met.
- The plan provides a variety of nonlethal and lethal management measures - from technical assistance for landowners to lethal removal - to control wolves that prey on livestock. The plan also establishes conditions for compensating ranchers who lose livestock to wolf predation.
- The plan allows WDFW to use lethal and non-lethal measures to manage wolf predation on at-risk ungulate populations if wolf numbers reach or exceed the recovery objective within a region where predation occurs.
No wolves have ever been reintroduced into Washington, and under the plan, WDFW will not import wolves from other states or Canada. All aspects of the plan will take immediate effect east of Highways 97, 17 and 395, where wolves were removed from federal protection in May 2011. In the rest of Washington, portions of the plan that are consistent with federal law will take effect. Federal law will supercede the state plan until wolves are delisted under the federal Endangered Species Act. The plan covers management of wolves while they are a state listed species. A new management plan will be developed after the species is delisted.
For more information, see: Wolf Plan Development Process and Archive