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.
Welcome home, Washington's wolves
That changed in the 2000s as wolves started coming back naturally to Washington from wolf populations in British Columbia and Idaho. In 2008, cameras operated by a Conservation Northwest Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program volunteer captured the first images of wolf pups born in Washington in nearly a century.
As of the summer of 2014, the Washington State Department of Wildlife estimates there are a minimum of 52 wolves in Washington, with 13 confirmed packs. However, the future of Washington's wolves is not yet assured, and their recovery is still precarious.
Conservation Northwest believes Washington can be the state where natural wolf recovery works in the long run; for people, wolves and all the Northwest’s wildlife. But to achieve this goal it will take hard work, respect and compromise from stakeholders on all sides.
- Washington's Wolves on Facebook
- Talking points on Washington wolf recovery
- Wolves and ranches can coexist
- Range rider success is building tolerance for wolves
- Tips for hiking in wolf country
- What we do for wolves!
- Wolf press
- Wolf timeline
Gray wolves are currently listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington state, which includes the Lookout, Teanaway and Wenatchee Packs of the Cascades. Though state Endangered Species protections remain statewide, wolves have been federally delisted in the eastern third of Washington state.
Management of the species is governed by the state's Wolf Management Plan until the species hits recovery objectives for breeding packs and overall wolf numbers.
What we are doing
Conservation Northwest is the premier group working on recovery of Washington's wolves. We are working to:
- Help ranchers in Washington's wolf country fund, train and implement range riders to supervise livestock and prevent conflicts with wolves
- Install fladry around cow calving pastures and use other non-lethal tools to prevent livestock depredations
- Fund wolf-livestock conflict prevention in Washington state, gaining over $1 million in funding so far
- Use the sale of specialized "vanity" license plates to fund predator conflict prevention, a successful program that began in 2013
- Advise WDFW on implementing the state’s wolf plan by continuing to serve on the Washington Wolf Advisory working group
- Helping to stop poaching, by working with hunters and hosting "Eyes in the Woods" trainings to help citizens identifty, document and report poaching and natural resource abuse
- Host educational forums for ranchers, landowners, farmers and wildlife managers, helping them adapt to wolf recovery
- We helped shape the state's 2011 wolf plan, serving on a governor-appointed Wolf Working Group and organizing citizens to speak up for science-based recovery
- Coordinating with state legislators, the governor and other elected officials in Olympia to support wolf recovery
- Actively monitoring wolf packs around the state and collaborating with the people who live, work and recreate in Northwest wolf country
More on wolves
- Wolves are naturally returning to Washington on their own from wolf populations in British Columbia, Idaho and western Montana. These wolves are not a new "Canadian" subspecies and are genetically the same as wolves that once thrived in the Pacific Northwest
- 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
- Wolves are very wary of humans and do not pose a significant risk to human safety. In the last century in North America, there have only ever been two confirmed fatal attacks on humans by 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 are also coming back to Oregon and, so far, a single wolf to California.