Gray wolf federal and state legal status

Status of the gray wolf in Washington under federal law

The gray wolf is federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the western two-thirds of Washington. Within this area, it is fully protected by the ESA, which is administered and enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This means that USFWS has the lead responsibility for wolf management in the western two-thirds of Washington.

On May 5, 2011, wolves were federally delisted in the eastern one-third of Washington (east of State Route 97 from the Canadian border to Highway 17, east of Highway 17 to State Route 395, and east of State Route 395 to the Oregon border).

For species listed under the federal ESA, activities that may result in “take” of endangered species are generally prohibited. The definition of “take” includes to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or attempt to engage in any such conduct. Penalties for violations of the ESA include fines of up to $100,000, with a maximum prison term of one year in jail.

For further information, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 5-year Review: Summary and Evaluation – Lower 48-State and Mexico Gray Wolf (Canis lupus), February 2012.

Status of the gray wolf under Washington state law

The gray wolf was listed as endangered by the State of Washington in 1980 (WAC 220-610-010) and receives protection under state law (RCW 77.15.120) from hunting, possession, malicious harassment, and killing. It was listed because of its historical occurrence in the state, near elimination from the state, and existing status as endangered under the federal ESA.

State law specifies that when species are federally listed, WDFW will recommend they be added to the state’s list. Penalties for illegally killing a state endangered species range up to $5,000 and/or one year in jail.

Because wolves have been federally delisted in the eastern one-third of Washington, WDFW has management authority over the species in this part of the state.

Delisting activities

Wolf-dog hybrids

Wolf-dog hybrids have no federal or state legal status.