Category: Non-Game Management and Conservation
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were classified as an endangered species in Washington under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. In 2011, wolves in the eastern third of Washington were removed from federal protections under the ESA when a portion of a federal budget bill directed the Secretary of the Interior to reissue the final delisting rule for gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment (NRM DPS), with the exception of Wyoming. Wolves in the western two-thirds of Washington continue to be protected under the ESA and are classified as an endangered species under federal law. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is currently conducting a status review of wolves in the contiguous United States (lower 48 states) to determine whether they continue to warrant threatened or endangered status under the ESA where they are currently listed. This review does not apply to those areas where wolves have already been removed from federal protections. A draft decision on this review should be completed in 2013.
In December 2011, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission formally adopted the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan to guide recovery and management of gray wolves as they naturally recolonize the State of Washington. At present, wolves are classified as an endangered species under state law (WAC 232-12-014) throughout Washington. Washington is composed of three recovery areas which include Eastern Washington, the Northern Cascades, and the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast. The WDFW is the primary agency responsible for managing wolves in the Eastern Washington recovery area while WDFW works as an agent of the USFWS in the remaining areas of the state. Wolves that inhabit tribal lands within Washington are managed by those specific tribal entities.
The minimum estimated wolf population in Washington increased by approximately 31% over 2011 levels to at least 51 known wolves in 9 known packs including at least 5 breeding pairs. Average pack size was 5.6 wolves per pack and the average litter size for breeding pairs was 3.6 pups per litter as of 31 December 2012. We documented 9 mortalities in Washington during 2012 and the causes of mortality included agency control (n = 7), human-caused (n = 1), and unknown (n = 1). Two additional radio collared wolves that were radio collared in Washington were legally harvested in Idaho and British Columbia, Canada and were counted towards their respective mortality totals.
Wolf populations were managed to ensure progress towards recovery goals while also minimizing chronic loss of livestock caused by wolves. Seven cattle and 1 sheep were confirmed wolf-kills and an additional 6 cattle and 2 sheep were confirmed injured by wolves. Three packs (33% of known Washington packs) were involved in at least 1 livestock mortality and 1 pack (Wedge) was responsible for approximately 75% (12 of 16) of all confirmed livestock injuries and mortalities. Agency control efforts removed 7 depredating wolves to reduce livestock injuries and mortalities and the State of Washington paid $1,595.00 to compensate livestock producers who lost livestock to wolves in 2012.