Data-Driven Conservation: Downlist Washington Wolves Today

View the Draft Periodic Status Review for the Gray Wolf Document

This draft periodic status review summarizes the biology, population status, factors affecting continued existence, and recent management actions for gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Washington. This review also assesses whether this species should retain its current endangered status under state law or be reclassified. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has not previously published a status report for gray wolves since their initial state listing in 1980.

Recommendation Summary

Based on 14 consecutive years of population growth, population modeling predictions that indicate Washington’s wolf population is robust and will continue to grow and expand its range (including in the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast recovery region), and ongoing state and federal protections, we conclude that the wolf does not meet the definition of State Endangered, which requires that the species is “seriously threatened with extinction” (WAC 220-610-110).

Similarly, WDFW believes that the wolf does not best fit the definition of State Threatened, which requires that a species is “...likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats” (WAC 220-610-110). Current information does not indicate that wolves are threatened with extinction or likely to be threatened with extinction in the foreseeable future in Washington state.  

WDFW’s draft recommendation is to reclassify the wolf to State Sensitive, “vulnerable or declining and is likely to become endangered or threatened in a significant portion of its range within the state without cooperative management or removal of threats” (WAC 220-610-110). This status reflects the significant progress toward recovery that Washington’s wolf population has made since the original state listing in 1980 but recognizes that wolves remain vulnerable in western Washington and should continue to be managed for recovery within the state as a protected species. Continued population growth and range expansion will depend on the robustness of source populations in eastern Washington (as well as neighboring states and provinces) and cooperative management to ensure sources of human-caused mortality do not impede recovery.  

WDFW recommends observing the Wolf Plan recovery targets for delisting of at least four successful breeding pairs in each recovery region. We believe that these targets are attainable through natural recolonization and ensure adequate distribution of reproducing wolves throughout the state. WDFW does not recommend delisting wolves at this time.

Downlisting wolves to state sensitive status would continue to protect them under RCW 77.15.130 and protections precluding hunting would remain in place. The definitions of State Threatened and State Sensitive under WAC 220-610-110 are very similar and both fall under the designation of protected wildlife under RCW 77.15.130. Appendix A of the PSR document shows differences in conservation/management provisions for wolves under endangered and protected state species classifications and can assist policy makers in weighing the implications of future management actions. WDFW anticipates receiving additional information through the Draft Periodic Status Review public process that will help explore how to consider these complex issues.

WDFW remains committed to the recovery and long-term sustainability of Washington’s wolf population. WDFW will continue to work closely with partners, stakeholders, and communities, just as we have over the past decade, on the recovery, conservation, and management of wolves in Washington, with a focus on reducing conflict between wolves and livestock and achieving statewide recovery objectives.

Please provide your comments on this draft periodic status review document.



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