Status of the gray wolf in Washington under federal law
CURRENT FEDERAL LISTING STATUS: On Feb. 10, 2022, a U.S. District Judge’s order to restore federal protection for gray wolves in certain areas of the U.S. means that wolves in Washington are now federally endangered in the western two-thirds of the state. Wolves in that area were previously listed under the Endangered Species Act until January 4, 2021. As of the date of the judge’s ruling, the federal status of wolves in Washington reverts to its previous listing prior to January 4, 2021:
Wolves are federally delisted in Washington east of Highway 97 from the British Columbia border south to Monse, Highway 17 from Monse south to Mesa, and Highway 395 from Mesa south to the Oregon border, and are federally listed west of these highways.
Please note that the “caught in the act” provision (section 1) of WAC 220-440-080 only applies to the area of the state where the gray wolf is not listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (the eastern one-third of Washington), and is now no longer available in the western two-thirds of Washington.
The status of gray wolves under federal law has been debated and litigated for many years, and the level of protection for the species has changed several times.
On March 15, 2019, the USFWS published a proposed rule (Federal Register, Vol. 84, No. 51) to remove the gray wolf from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The USFWS proposed this action because the best available scientific information indicated that the listed gray wolves no longer met the definitions of a threatened species or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act due to recovery. The Final Rule to remove gray wolves from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife (Federal Register, Vol. 85, No. 213) was published on November 3, 2020. The final rule went into effect on January 4, 2021 and wolves in Washington State were delisted from the Federal Endangered Species Act statewide, until February 10, 2022, when a U.S. District Judge’s order overturned this decision.
For further information, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 5-year Review: Summary and Evaluation – Lower 48-State and Mexican 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 throughout Washington, WDFW is the management authority for the species throughout the state with the exception of tribal and National Park Service lands.
Wolf-dog hybrids have no federal or state legal status.