Category: Threatened and Endangered Species
Published: April 2015
Author(s): Becker, S.A., T. Roussin, E. Krausz, D. Martorello, S. Simek, and B. Kieffer
This report presents information on the status, distribution, and management of wolves in the State of Washington from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2014.
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. 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 and these results were published in early 2014. As a result, the USFWS reopened the public comment period for the proposed rule. A decision by the USFWS on the federal status of gray wolves is expected sometime in near future.
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 31% over 2013 levels to at least 68 known wolves in 16 known packs including at least 5 breeding pairs. Pack sizes ranged from 2 to 6 and averaged 3.7 wolves per pack. One pack that existed in 2013 was no longer considered a pack at the end of 2014. State and tribal biologists captured a total of 14 wolves from 9 different packs and monitored a total of 19 radio collared wolves from 11 different packs that existed at some point during 2014. We documented 10 mortalities in Washington during the year and the causes of mortality included natural causes (n = 3), human-caused (n = 4), unknown (n = 2), and agency control (n = 1).
Wolf populations were managed to ensure progress towards recovery goals while also minimizing chronic loss of livestock caused by wolves. Two cattle and 28 sheep were confirmed wolf-kills while an additional 2 cattle, 6 sheep, and 1 dog were confirmed injured by wolves. Two packs (12% of known Washington packs that existed at some point during the year) were involved in at least 1 confirmed livestock depredation. One wolf was removed during agency control actions to minimize chronic loss of livestock.
Becker, S.A., T. Roussin, E. Krausz, D. Martorello, S. Simek, and B. Kieffer. 2015. Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2014 Annual Report. Pages WA-1 to WA-24 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rocky Mountain Wolf Program 2014 Annual Report. USFWS, Ecological Services, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, Montana, 59601.