Published: April 2014
Author(s): Becker, S.A., T. Roussin, G. Spence, E. Krausz, D. Martorello, S. Simek, and K. Eaton
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. 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. In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule to remove gray wolves from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife where they are currently federally protected, including the western two-thirds of Washington. Furthermore, the USFWS subjected the proposed rule to an independent expert peer review to determine if the best available science was used during the decision making process. The results of the peer review were not available as of 31 December 2013, but the USFWS plans to reopen the public comment period for the proposed rule once the peer review is published sometime in early 2014. A decision by the USFWS on the federal status of gray wolves is expected sometime in 2014.
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 regardless of federal status. 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 in the Eastern Washington recovery area are managed by those specific tribal entities.
The minimum estimated wolf population in Washington increased by approximately 2% over 2012 levels to at least 52 known wolves in 13 known packs including at least 5 breeding pairs. Average pack size was 3.8 wolves per pack and the average litter size for breeding pairs was 2.4 pups per litter as of 31 December 2013. We documented 5 mortalities in Washington during 2013 and the causes of mortality included natural causes (n = 1), human-caused (n = 3), and legal harvest (n = 1). Two additional radio collared wolves that originated in Washington were legally harvested in Idaho and British Columbia, Canada and were counted towards their respective mortality totals for 2013.
Wolf populations were managed to ensure progress towards recovery goals while also minimizing chronic loss of livestock caused by wolves. One calf was a confirmed wolf-kill and an additional 3 dogs were confirmed injured by wolves. One pack (8% of known Washington packs) was involved in at least 1 livestock mortality. No wolves were removed during agency control actions to minimize chronic loss of livestock and the State of Washington paid $0.00 to compensate livestock producers who lost livestock to wolves in 2013.
Becker, S.A., T. Roussin, G. Spence, E. Krausz, D. Martorello, S. Simek, and K. Eaton. 2014. Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2013 Annual Report. Pages WA-1 to WA-20 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rocky Mountain Wolf Program 2013 Annual Report. USFWS, Ecological Services, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Montana, 59601.