Wolves remain protected in Washington state
Although wolves have been removed from federal Endangered
Species Act (ESA) protection in the eastern third of Washington
state, they remain protected as a state endangered species
Under Congressional direction that prevents any judicial review,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has removed the northern
Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves from federal endangered
status. The action affects wolves in Montana, Idaho, the eastern
third of Oregon and Washington and a small area of north central
The federal de-listing covers eastern 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. That federal de-listing boundary was based on the
anticipated dispersal of wolves from recovered populations in the
Wolves are still state-listed as endangered in Washington
because their numbers are low and they do not inhabit most of their
historic range, according to Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife (WDFW) biologists. The state population is estimated at
two dozen wolves, with only a couple of successful breeding pairs
or packs with pups documented to date.
Wolves remain federally listed as an endangered species in the
western two-thirds of the state.
“The federal de-listing means that in the eastern third of
Washington, the state is the lead for wolf management, including
response to reports of suspected wolf depredation of livestock,”
said Harriet Allen, WDFW’s manager of threatened and endangered
Under state law (RCW 17.15.120) it is illegal to kill, harm or
harass endangered species, including the gray wolf.
WDFW has collaborated with USFWS and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to develop wolf response guidelines
that address wolf/human conflict issues such as livestock
depredation. The guidelines are posted on WDFW’s website at
In the western portion of the state where wolves remain
federally listed, USFWS has the lead for wolf management.
The recent federal delisting action does not impact the timeline
of WDFW’s Draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The state plan has been under development with a 17-citizen Wolf
Working Group since 2007. Plan development included public scoping
and a public comment period on draft alternatives. WDFW staff
members are currently incorporating public comments into the draft
plan. The draft plan is scheduled to be reviewed with the Wolf
Working Group in June, and is scheduled to be presented to the
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in August. Commission
review and action on a final plan are anticipated by the end of
Information about wolves, including wolf-livestock conflict
prevention and suspected wolf depredation reporting, is available
on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/.
Reports of wolf sightings can be made on the wolf reporting hotline
After being extirpated as a breeding species in the 1930’s,
wolves have been naturally returning to Washington over a period of
years. The first documented breeding pair was confirmed in western
Okanogan County in 2008. A second pair with pups was confirmed in
Pend Oreille County in 2009. WDFW biologists continue field work to
document the presence of other possible breeding pairs.