Wolves have returned home on their own to Washington, after more than 70 years' absence. A state wolf recovery plan and funding for conflict prevention tools help them recover.
Early settlers described gray wolves as common to Washington and speculated that one or more wolf packs may have made their homes in each of the major river valleys in the state. By the 1900s, after years of animosity towards predators and government-sponsored bounty payments, wolves were gone from much of the Northwest.
That changed in 2008 as wolves started coming back on their own to Washington.
Protection status: Gray wolves are currently listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A June 2013 proposal would remove remove protections from most wolves in the lower 48 states, including Washington's wolves and those in the Cascades that are just beginning to recover. A peer review just found the USFWS's opinion on this wanting, and the comment period for wolves has been reopened.
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Welcome home, Washington's wolves
Wolves are returning naturally to Washington, filtering in across the borders from Idaho and British Columbia. Washington's Lookout pack was the first to return in 2008, and as of March 2013 there are ten confirmed wolf packs in the state, three in the Cascades and seven in northeast Washington.
Of the three in the Cascades, two wolf packs are now breeding, including the Teanaway Pack. Just this year (2013), the Lookout Pack has new pups [video], as they recover from a 2009 poaching that wiped out most of the pack at that time.
The future of Washington's wolves is not yet assured, and their recovery is still precarious. A state wolf plan is key to their conservation and management.
What we are doing
Conservation Northwest is the premiere group working on recovery of Washington's wolves. We have:
- Gained $1 million for wolf-livestock conflict prevention in Washington State
- Sale of special license plates to fund conflict prevention and tools starts in October 2013
- Current funding of three range riders in Washington, following the successful first range rider in 2012
- In 2013, continue to serve on a working group advising WDFW on implementing the state’s wolf plan
- Helped shape the 2011 wolf plan, serving on a governor-appointed Wolf Working Group and organizing citizens to speak up for science-based recovery
- Defeated state legislation harmful to wolves
Together we can recover wolves in the Northwest, protect and connect habitat, and secure a future for this important wild predator. We are:
- Actively monitoring wolf packs around the state
- Hosting educational forums for ranchers and landowners, and presentations on learning to live with wolves
- Helping stop poaching, by posting reward flyers and contributing to a reward fund to deter poachers
More on wolves
- Canis lupus, the gray wolf, is the largest of the canines, 2 to 3 times the size of a coyote.
- Wolves once lived around the state, including the Olympic Peninsula, where their loss has led to big changes in the courses of rivers, vegetation, and other wildlife.
- Wolves have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell. They hunt and socialize in family groups known as packs.
- Washington has a known population of about 50-100 wolves, distributed now in 10 confirmed packs around the state.
- Some of the wolves documented in the Cascades have had their DNA traced to wolves in coastal British Columbia. They have also been documented eating salmon!
- Sprawl and development spells loss of habitat for wolves and their prey; but overall, the greatest threat to wolves is people's fear and misunderstanding about them.
- More than 75% of Washington residents queried in a 2008 wildlife poll supported recovery of Washington's wolves
- As a top carnivore, the gray wolves, along with other predators such as the bears and cougars, control prey populations so that a landscape may support a healthy ecosystem.
- Wolves play a vital role in maintaining the health of big game by culling sick animals and promoting stable ungulate populations. Biologists tell us that herds of big game - from elk to deer - are healthier with wolves in the habitat than without.
- Wolves, which returned on their own to Washington, are also coming back to Oregon and, so far, a single wolf to California.