State moves to downgrade wolves
Fish and Wildlife draft proposal would move species from 'endangered' to 'sensitive'
Last updated 5/19/2023 at 10:09am
OLYMPIA – Wolves may be downgraded from an endangered species to “sensitive” under a proposed reclassification by state Department of Fish and Wildlife staff.
The gray wolf was already removed by the federal endangered species list, but the state has maintained the status despite the rapid population growth over the last decade.
The reclassification comes with the required five-year review of endangered, threatened and sensitive species in the state.
"This draft recommended reclassification to sensitive reflects that progress and most accurately describes the current status of wolves in Washington,” the agency’s wolf policy spokeswoman, Julia Smith, said.
The state’s first gray wolf breeding population was identified in 2008 and has increased an average of 23% annual since that time.
As of Dec. 31, the state estimated there were 216 wolves, 26 breeding pairs and 37 packs in the state. Almost all of the packs are located in Northeast Washington.
Wolves have become an issue for ranchers across the region with multiple attacks on cattle and sheep documented over the last decade.
And on the Colville Indian reservation, tribal officials have noted wolves have dramatically impacted the deer and elk population.
The tribe already has a wolf-hunting season for tribal members to help control the population on the reservation that spans much of North-Central Washington.
Despite the wolf population growth, the agency does not want to “de-list” the species because there are not any wolves most of Western Washington and no breeding pairs in the southern Cascades.
The state is accepting comments on the plan to downgrade the species to sensitive through Aug. 16.
To comment, email [email protected] or call 855-925-2801 and enter project code 2573. WDFW will accept comments until 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2023.