Gray wolf federal and state legal status

Status of the gray wolf in Washington under federal law

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. Their federal status is currently consistent across the state.

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.

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

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