For Immediate Release, April 7, 2023
Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington’s Wolf Population Increased Just 5% in 2022
State Keeps Killing Wolves While Failing to Adopt Nonlethal Solutions
OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington’s wolf population increased by just 5% in 2022, according to figures released today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That increase is far less than what’s necessary to achieve a healthy wolf population in the state.
The state reported a 2022 minimum population of 216, a 5% rise from 2021’s reported minimum population of 206 wolves. The number of Washington’s packs increased from 33 to 37, and breeding pairs increased from 19 to 26 at the end of 2022.
This marks the fifth straight year that growth was well below the 30% expected for a wolf population still in the early stages of recovery. Last year was marked by still more wolves killed by the state as well as an investigation into multiple wolf poisonings.
“What this report tells me is that it’s well past time to take a proactive approach to heading off conflict between livestock and wolves,” said Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission chose not to adopt comprehensive rules to curb conflict by requiring the use of nonlethal risk reduction measures. That decision means we’ll continue to see livestock-wolf conflict and Washington will keep killing a state endangered species on behalf of livestock operators.”
Today’s report shows that at least 37 wolves died in 2022, all in northeast Washington. This means that one-quarter of all wolves living in northeast Washington last year died. Of those, six of the human-caused deaths were due to the state agency killing wolves in response to conflict with livestock.
In October 2022 the department announced that six wolves in northeast Washington had been illegally poisoned earlier that year. This announcement came on the heels of ongoing conflicts with livestock and wolves within the range of the Leadpoint and Smackout wolf pack territories. Those conflicts led to a department kill-order for members of both packs. Tragically, the kill operation resulted in the shooting death of a 5-month-old pup who was a member of a third pack, which had not been involved in any conflicts.
In late 2020, following the state’s killing of multiple wolves and entire packs over the years, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the agency to draft rules for the Fish and Wildlife Commission mandating the use of nonlethal solutions prior to killing wolves. The department underwent a rulemaking process dealing with livestock-wolf conflict, but the commission voted not to adopt any of the rules.
“Killing wolves doesn’t prevent future conflict, as the ongoing problems in the Kettle Range show,” said Ressler. “I had hoped that new rules would prioritize nonlethal ways to reduce conflicts. We’ll keep pushing for commonsense rules that protect wolves and keep livestock safe, too.”
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.
Although wolves are protected as an endangered species under state law, the state has killed 41 wolves over the past eight years, with most of the killings occurring on public lands.
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.