The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the state’s wolf population has grown slightly to a minimum of 126 wolves, with 27 packs and 15 breeding pairs. The news comes despite state wildlife managers killing several wolves at the end of 2018 and virtually wiping out two entire packs in northeast Washington.
“It’s exciting to share my home state with more wolves, but we need better rules to stop Washington officials from killing so many of them,” said Sophia Ressler, a Seattle-based staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These important, majestic animals still need strong state and federal protections to fully recover in Washington.”
The science shows that nonlethal methods are more effective than killing at resolving conflicts between livestock and wolves. But the state ordered the killing of the Togo and Old Profanity Territory packs in late summer and fall. The kill operations left behind only one adult animal and young pups incapable of hunting wild prey.
In September, wildlife officials killed the father wolf of the Togo pack, leaving his mate to fend for their two pups. In October, the fish and wildlife department killed the breeding female and a five-month-old pup from the Old Profanity Territory pack. The department issued another kill order for members of the Smackout pack in Stevens County and gunned down a large male in November.
Since 2012, state officials have killed 22 wolves, 18 of which were killed to appease the same livestock owner.
“Wolf recovery in Washington is still a work in progress,” Ressler said. “Killing wolves is hindering the advancements we’ve made. The science shows we don’t need to kill wolves to protect livestock. Washington needs to stop the unnecessary slaughter and instead work toward full wolf recovery.”
Wolves are currently federally protected in the western two-thirds of Washington and protected everywhere in the state under state law. In March, the Trump administration proposed to strip endangered species protection from gray wolves across the lower 48 states.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.