Gray wolf timeline
In 1973, gray wolves were given federal protection as an endangered species. Now they are on the return, reintroduced into the Yellowstone ecosystem and coming back on their own to Washington, Oregon, and more.
With a particular focus on wolves in Washington State, a brief timeline of the often tumultuous history of gray wolf protection as an endangered species in the West.
1973: Following decades of ongoing and near total extermination, gray wolves are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower 48.
March 1995: In what became a successful attempt to recover wolves, several dozen gray wolves were captured in Canada and reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park.
April 2003: Gray wolves throughout the eastern and western United States are downlisted from endangered to threatened . The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that it established three Distinct Population Segments (DPS) for the gray wolf, including "Northern Rocky Mountain" wolves.
Feb 2007: US Fish & Wildlife Service proposes to delist (and remove from ESA protection) the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population, which includes Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and parts of northeastern Washington. If delisted, management of wolf populations would fall to the individual states.
July 6, 2007: The agency opens its original public comment period on the proposal to delist gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Feb 21, 2008: A final rule by US Fish & Wildlife Service delists Northern Rockies wolves, citing that “the wolf population in the Northern Rockies has far exceeded its recovery goal.”
Sept 15 - Dec 31, 2008: The state of Montana proposes a “wolf season” (a fall hunting season, followed by a December trapping season). Wyoming and Idaho propose similar wolf seasons.
April 2008: The Natural Resource Defense Council and eleven other wolf advocacy groups challenge the federal government’s decision to delist the wolf by filing for an injunction against the delisting.
June 2008: The Lookout Pack is documented by Conservation Northwest east of the North Cascades, the return of the first documented wolf pack in 70 years to Washington.
July 18, 2008: US District Judge Donald Malloy grants a preliminary injunction to place gray wolves under federal protection until the final ruling. His reasoning agrees with wolf biologists that genetic exchange among subpopulations of wolves is an unmet requirement and that the state management plans set to take over with delisting are inadequate. For example, people would be allowed to shoot wolves on sight in 88% of the state of Wyoming.
Oct 13, 2008: US Fish and Wildlife Service repeals the delisting because it is now obvious that they will lose in court. The litigation is rendered moot.
Oct 28, 2008: US Fish and Wildlife Service re-opens public comment, slated to last 30 days, until November 28. Defenders of Wildlife is successful in increasing the public comment period to 60 days.
Nov 28, 2008: The public comment period for wolf protection closes. A final rule on the delisting of Northern Rocky Mountain wolves is expected by mid-January 2009.
Jan 14, 2009: The Bush administration proposes to strip Northern Rockies wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections.
March 6, 2009: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announces that the US Fish and Wildlife Service follow the lead of the Bush administration and remove wolves in the Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone region from endangered species protections. Management now moves to individual states. What it means
Sept 2009: Idaho initiates a wolf hunt and season in its central and northern mountains.
Sept 9, 2009: A federal judge rules that gray wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho may continue, denying a request by conservationists and animal welfare groups to stop the first legal hunts in the lower 48 states in decades. Conservationists may still challenge the decision, on the grounds that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act by making its decision based on political boundaries.
Aug 2010: A court ruling reinstates Northern Rockies’ wolf protections, returning them to the Endangered Species list. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy rules that the government's 2009 decision to delist wolves in Idaho and Montana was politically, not science, based.
2009: The state of Montana and others appeal Malloy's ruling.
Feb 2011: Legislators introduce Congressional bills that would reduce or strip protections from gray wolves.
March 18, 2011: Wildlife advocates and US Dept of Interior reach an agreement to lift protections in Idaho and Montana allowing hunting of wolves to resume there.
March 24, 2011: 10 conservation groups and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) ask Judge Malloy to accept a settlement that would lift protections from wolves in Idaho and Montana, but maintain protections for wolves in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Utah, where populations are more vulnerable.
April 2011: The agreement falls through. Congress passed a legislative budget rider removing Northern Rockies wolves from Endangered Species Act protections. Included are wolves in Pend Oreille County and elsewhere in the eastern third of Washington State. A state recovery plan for wolves becomes more important than ever.
USFWS delists wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment, except in Wyoming. Wolf management is returned to the states of Idaho, Montana, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, and a small portion of northcentral Utah.
December 2011: The state Fish and Wildlife Commission approves a state plan for Washington's wolves.
Summer-fall 2012: A pilot range rider program begins on a ranch in northeast Washington, with funding support from Conservation Northwest.
July 2012: There are as many as 9 official packs of wolves in Washington, including the latest, the Wedge Pack.
August 2012: The Wedge Pack are removed entirely for livestock depredations on another ranch.
August 2012: Service declares Wyoming gray wolf recovered under the Endangered Species Act and returns management authority to the state
April 2013: US Fish and Wildlife Service considers eliminating protections for most wolves across the lower 48 states, including Cascades wolves.
May 2013: USFWS postpones wolf delisting consideration.