WDFW opens public comment period for rule making on proposed status change for the gray wolf

News release

Julia Smith, (360) 790-1029 
Staci Lehman, Communications, (509) 710-4511 

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public input on a rule making proposal to reclassify Washington’s gray wolves (Canis lupus) from state endangered to sensitive, based on the current biological status of the species. 

WDFW’s procedures anticipate that the status of wildlife species listed as endangered, threatened, or sensitive will be reviewed every five years through a periodic status review (PSR) process to assess available species information and recommend whether the species’ status warrants its current listing or if a reclassification is recommended.  

Based on 14 years of data and trends on Washington’s wolf population and a population model developed at the University of Washington (UW), WDFW staff recommend reclassifying wolves from state endangered to sensitive. State endangered is defined as seriously threatened with extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state, while sensitive is defined as “vulnerable or declining and likely to become endangered or threatened in a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats” under WAC 220-610-110. For more information on the classifications of endangered, threatened, and sensitive species, read WDFW’s blog Understanding conservation categories for species in Washington: Endangered and Protected.  
 
“Wolves in Washington have made significant progress toward recovery since their original state endangered listing in 1980, when there were no known breeding wolves in the state,” said Julia Smith, WDFW’s Endangered Species Recovery Section Manager. “This recommended reclassification to sensitive reflects that progress and most accurately describes the current status of wolves in Washington, while also recognizing that wolves are not yet established in western Washington and should remain protected.” 

Members of the public can submit comments on the proposed rule several ways: 

  • By calling 855-925-2801 and entering project code 6505 to leave a voicemail, 

  • Or by mailing written comments to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, attention Wildlife Program, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.  

WDFW will accept comments until 11:59 p.m. on May 6, 2024.  

In the western two-thirds of Washington, where wolves are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, this recommendation would not affect their federal status.  
 
Under the proposed state sensitive status, wolves would be protected from unlawful take under RCW 77.15.130 and protection from hunting and malicious and intentional harassment would remain in place. Under state law (RCW 77.12.395), proactive nonlethal deterrents must be included in development of conflict mitigation guidelines regardless of listing status. 
 
While the proposal to reclassify wolves is available for public review, WDFW staff are preparing the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Annual 2023 report. It will include information on status, distribution, and management of wolves in Washington from Jan. 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2023.  

Because annual population data is of interest to both the public and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, WDFW is offering an extended public comment period for the rule making proposal. The following timeline, which allows the public and the Commission time to see and consider information from both the PSR and the 2023 annual report, is as follows: 

  • Feb. 7, 2024 - Publish Periodic Status Review for the Gray Wolf and open public comment period on the rule proposal.  

  • March 15-16, 2024 - Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting that includes a briefing on the proposed rule change, followed by a public hearing.  

  • April 18-20, 2024 - Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting where staff will present results from the Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Annual 2023 report. The Commission will discuss if the data from the report should be considered when deciding whether to reclassify wolves in Washington.  

  • May 6, 2024 - Public comment period ends at 11:59 p.m. 

  • June 20-22 - Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting at which the Commission is tentatively scheduled to make a decision on the proposal. 

Under the proposed change, WDFW will continue to work with partners, stakeholders, and communities on the recovery, conservation, and management of wolves, with a focus on reducing conflict between wolves and livestock, emphasizing proactive nonlethal conflict deterrence, achieving statewide recovery objectives, and supporting wolf expansion into all suitable habitat statewide. 

All members of the public are invited to share their perspectives and participate in WDFW public feedback opportunities regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, language proficiency, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, status as a veteran, or basis of disability. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities. 

Request this information in an alternative format or language at wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation, 833-855-1012, TTY (711), or CivilRightsTeam@dfw.wa.gov.