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Washington State Wolves

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Gray Wolf Conservation and Management

April 2010 Update

Development Timeline for the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statement
October 2006 – June 2011 Development Timeline for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Draft and Final EIS for the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan

Click herefor Draft Plan and
Environmental Impact Statment

Wolf Reporting Hotline
for Washington

More Contact Numbers
and Information

Gray Wolf – Canis lupus
Photo by Gary Kramer, USFWS
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The gray wolf is an endangered species throughout Washington under state law, and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state. Historically, wolves were found throughout most or all of Washington. They were extirpated (removed) from Washington by the 1930’s through targeted trapping and hunting, with the exception of a few individuals dispersing periodically into the state since then.

In recent years, wolf populations have re-established in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming through ongoing wolf-recovery programs. As wolves in these states increase in numbers and expand their range, they will be dispersing into Washington and establishing breeding populations here. Washington’s first fully confirmed wolf pack in many years was discovered in Okanogan County in July 2008, and the second was found in Pend Oreille County in July 2009.

In response to the eventual return of wolves and the state management responsibility following federal delisting, (as well as state law (WAC 232-12-297) requirements), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began developing a conservation and management plan for the species in 2006. Seventeen citizens with a broad range of perspectives were appointed by the WDFW director to a Wolf Working Group to advise staff in developing the plan.

The working group and WDFW staff met eight times in 2007 and 2008 (see Meetings) and public scoping meetings were held throughout the state in August 2007. A draft plan underwent scientific peer review in 2008. A revised draft was discussed in September 2009 by the Wolf Working Group, with comments from that discussion added into the plan. A 90-day public-review of the draft plan and accompanying draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was conducted in fall 2009, as required by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and included public meetings throughout the state.  At the same time, blind peer review of the draft plan and EIS was conducted.  Comments from these processes will be incorporated into the draft plan and EIS during the first part of 2010. A final working group meeting will then be held to discuss changes to the plan. Once a final draft plan is developed, it will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for consideration..

Gray wolf

Once all but wiped out in the lower 48 states, gray wolves are returning but still struggling for survival in their native home ranges.

The Cascade Mountains wolf

Gray wolf. Photo courtesy USFWSTake action to help conserve Washington’s wolves

The “Cascade Mountains wolf” is a subspecies of the gray wolf that has lived in forested regions from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Coast. Early settlers described the wolf as “common” and speculate that one or more wolf packs may have occurred in each of all major river drainages. Yet with the arrival of settlers came animosity towards the wolf, government-sponsored bounty payments, and, eventually, loss of wolves and nearly all other large predators, like the grizzly bear, from large parts of the Northwest.

Thirty years ago wolves were officially protected as an endangered species in the lower 48 states. They were successfully reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. In 2009, the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population was “downlisted” (see a timeline) to receive less protection and hunting has begun again.

Wolves in 2008 returned on their own to Washington state, and a management plan for their return is ongoing. Conservation Northwest is part of that conservation planning.

Read the return of the wolf to Washington by special projects director Jasmine Minbashian.

Wolf facts

  • Canis lupus, the gray wolf, is the largest of the canines (55 to 130 pounds).
  • Wolves have excellent hearing and super sense of smell. They hunt and socialize in packs.
  • According to animal behaviorists, domestic dogs behave a lot like very young wolves.
  • The eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) was the first subspecies of the gray wolf recognized in the US.
  • Sprawl and development spells loss of habitat for wolves and their prey.
  • Overall, the greatest threat to wolves is people’s fear and misunderstanding about them.
  • As a top carnivore, the gray wolf, along with other predators such as the bear and cougar, 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, promoting stable ungulate populations. Biologists tell us that big game herds like bighorn sheep, elk, and deer are healthier with wolves.
See an animated map of historic and current Gray Wolf distribution
Learn much more about wolves at
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