Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 11, 2022


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

More Than 200 Wolves Reported in Washington in 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The official Washington wolf population numbers released today show a statewide total of 206 wolves in 33 packs, with 19 successful breeding pairs. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife documented 30 wolves killed by people in 2021, up from 16 last year.

The data shows that two wolves were killed by the wildlife department itself, 22 were legally hunted by Tribal members and four were struck by vehicles. Two wolf deaths are still under investigation. Although Washington state law protects gray wolves as an endangered species, the wildlife department has killed 35 wolves over the past nine years, with most of the killings occurring on public lands.

“It’s heartening to see our wolf population increasing but with people still killing so many wolves we shouldn’t be celebrating,” said Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are still recovering in Washington and need to be protected, not killed, by the state.”

Unlike previous reports, the wolf population data released today includes wolves counted by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Population data from 2019 and 2020 did not include the tribal numbers because no formal count of those wolves was conducted. As a result, the growth of the wolf population in 2021 cannot be determined through comparison to the reported wolf population from the two previous years.

Following the state’s killing of the Wedge pack in August 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the agency to draft new rules requiring the use of nonlethal solutions prior to killing wolves. In a win for conservationists, the governor’s mandate reversed the state Fish and Wildlife Commission’s denial of a petition filed by the Center and conservation allies.

Inslee requested the rules be enacted by the 2021 grazing season, but the department failed to meet that deadline and now predicts rules will be in place by January 2023.

Washington’s ongoing wolf recovery was initially driven by wolves moving into the state from Idaho and British Columbia. But wolves in Idaho and Montana — another dispersal source for Washington — are facing an onslaught of newly enacted legislation and regulations designed to greatly expand the killing of wolves.

The new laws in Idaho and Montana are predicted to wipe out a large portion of their wolf populations — up to 90% in Idaho and 85% in Montana. The laws expand hunting seasons, allow for methods such as baiting and strangulation snares, and even permit hunters to run over wolves with snowmobiles.

Department staff have told members of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission that they should not rely on wolves dispersing into the state from outside its borders to ensure population recovery.

The department and commission are currently undergoing a rulemaking process that will develop the regulations requested by the governor. They will regulate when the agency is allowed to kill wolves for conflict with livestock and establish requirements for nonlethal deterrence before taxpayer money is used to kill wolves.

“Thankfully Washington isn’t making the lethal mistakes that we’re seeing in the Northern Rockies,” said Ressler. “With the unbridled wolf slaughter occurring just east of us, the need for strong rules that work to lessen conflict is more vital now than ever.”


Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. With protection from the Endangered Species Act, however, the animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s.

A gray wolf. US Fish and Wildlife Service/J&K Hollingsworth

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations