Washington wolves could be reclassified to sensitive status

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Wolves are in recovery in Washington. As a result, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is recommending reclassifying wolves from state endangered to sensitive.

“Wolves in Washington have made significant progress toward recovery since their original state endangered listing in 1980, when there were no known breeding wolves in the state,” said Julia Smith, WDFW Wolf Policy Lead. “This draft recommended reclassification to sensitive reflects that progress and most accurately describes the current status of wolves in Washington, while also recognizing that wolves are not yet established in western Washington and should remain protected.”

The change in classification would only apply to wolves in the eastern portion of the state. Wolves within the western two-thirds would remain protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Washington wolf numbers plummeted to near extinction by the 1930s, according to the agency. In 1980, they were classified as a state endangered species. Because of this designation, protected wolves were able to slowly recover and, in 2008, WDFW’s first wolf population survey found that the wolf population increased by about 23% for 14 consecutive years. Further, as of Dec. 31, 2022, there were 216 wolves in 37 packs with “at least 26 successful breeding pairs.”

Changing the status of the wolves shows progress toward recovery while still acknowledging “that wolves remain vulnerable in western Washington” and need federal protections for now, according to HOWL for Wildlife

The new classification isn’t a recommendation to delist eastern Washington wolves. “Downlisting wolves to state sensitive status” still provides protections for long-term recovery. WDFW will continue to work with key stakeholders on wolf management and strategy for continued success.

To comment on the new draft status for reclassifying wolves from endangered to sensitive, click here.

Comments will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2023.

Click here for an easy form to submit a comment


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