- Wildlife Research and Management
- Wildlife Research and Management -- Non-Game Management and Conservation
Published: March 30, 2018
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 Fish and Wildlife 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 220-610-010) 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 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), acting on policies set by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, 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 6% over the 2016 minimum count to at least 122 known wolves in 22 known packs including at least 14 breeding pairs. Pack sizes ranged from 2 to 13 wolves and averaged 4.8 ± 2.6 wolves per pack. One collared wolf in the North Cascades in Skagit County has a defined territory, but no other wolves have been confirmed. State, federal, and tribal biologists captured 12 wolves (10 new wolves and 2 recaptures) from 12 different packs and monitored a total of 22 unique radio collared wolves from 15 different packs, plus one lone wolf with no pack affiliation, that existed in Washington at some point during 2017. WDFW documented 14 mortalities in Washington during the year including three due to agency removal actions, three legal harvest, two caught-in-the-act, two vehicle collisions, and four other human caused that are still under investigation.
Wolf populations were managed to ensure progress towards recovery goals while minimizing chronic loss of livestock caused by wolves. WDFW investigators confirmed 8 cattle as being killed by wolves and none as being probable wolf-kills. Five cattle were confirmed to have been injured by wolves. Five packs (23% of known packs that existed at some point during the year) were involved in at least one confirmed livestock mortality. Three wolves were removed through agency removal actions during 2017. WDFW processed two damage claims and paid a total of $3,700.00 to compensate livestock producers who experienced losses caused by wolves during 2017.