OLYMPIA – Although wolves have been removed from federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection in the eastern third of Washington state, they remain protected as a state endangered species throughout Washington.
Under Congressional direction that prevents any judicial review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has removed the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from federal endangered status. The action affects wolves in Montana, Idaho, the eastern third of Oregon and Washington and a small area of north central Utah.
The federal de-listing covers eastern Washington east of State Route 97 from the Canadian border to Highway 17, east of Highway 17 to State Route 395, and east of State Route 395 to the Oregon border. That federal de-listing boundary was based on the anticipated dispersal of wolves from recovered populations in the other states.
Wolves are still state-listed as endangered in Washington because their numbers are low and they do not inhabit most of their historic range, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists. The state population is estimated at two dozen wolves, with only a couple of successful breeding pairs or packs with pups documented to date.
Wolves remain federally listed as an endangered species in the western two-thirds of the state.
“The federal de-listing means that in the eastern third of Washington, the state is the lead for wolf management, including response to reports of suspected wolf depredation of livestock,” said Harriet Allen, WDFW’s manager of threatened and endangered species.
Under state law (RCW 17.15.120) it is illegal to kill, harm or harass endangered species, including the gray wolf.
WDFW has collaborated with USFWS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to develop wolf response guidelines that address wolf/human conflict issues such as livestock depredation. The guidelines are posted on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/contacts.html#guidelines.
In the western portion of the state where wolves remain federally listed, USFWS has the lead for wolf management.
The recent federal delisting action does not impact the timeline of WDFW’s Draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The state plan has been under development with a 17-citizen Wolf Working Group since 2007. Plan development included public scoping and a public comment period on draft alternatives. WDFW staff members are currently incorporating public comments into the draft plan. The draft plan is scheduled to be reviewed with the Wolf Working Group in June, and is scheduled to be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in August. Commission review and action on a final plan are anticipated by the end of this year.
Information about wolves, including wolf-livestock conflict prevention and suspected wolf depredation reporting, is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/. Reports of wolf sightings can be made on the wolf reporting hotline at 1(888)584-9038.
After being extirpated as a breeding species in the 1930’s, wolves have been naturally returning to Washington over a period of years. The first documented breeding pair was confirmed in western Okanogan County in 2008. A second pair with pups was confirmed in Pend Oreille County in 2009. WDFW biologists continue field work to document the presence of other possible breeding pairs.