Category: Non-Game Management and Conservation
Published: March 17, 2017
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 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 under a section 6 agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the federally listed portion 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 28% over 2015 estimates to at least 115 known wolves in 20 known packs including at least 10 breeding pairs. Pack size ranged from 2 to 13 and averaged 5.1 wolves per pack. During 2016 tribal, state, and university biologists captured 15 wolves (14 new wolves and 1 recapture) from 10 different packs and monitored a total of 25 unique radio collared wolves from 13 different packs, in addition to 1 lone wolf with no pack affiliation. WDFW documented 14 mortalities during the year with causes of mortality including agency removal (n = 7), legal harvest (n = 3), other human-caused (n = 2), and unknown/under investigation (n = 2).
Wolf populations were managed to ensure progress towards recovery goals while also minimizing chronic loss of livestock caused by wolves. Statewide, WDFW investigators confirmed 9 cattle were killed by wolves and an additional 6 were classified as probable wolf-kills. Six cattle were confirmed to have been injured by wolves while 1 injury to a dog was classified as probable. Four packs (20% of known packs) were involved in at least 1 confirmed livestock mortality. Seven wolves were lethally removed through agency actions during 2016. The WDFW processed 6 claims and paid a total of $20,037.45 to compensate livestock producers who experienced direct livestock losses caused by wolves. In 2016, the Livestock Review Board recommended payments in full to two claimants and WDFW subsequently paid a total of $65,648.19 for indirect losses possibly caused by wolves.