08:11 PM

Washington Wolves on the Road to Recovery


Contact: Leigh Anne Tiffany; (202) 772-0259; ltiffany@defenders.org


Washington Wolves on the Road to Recovery

SEATTLE (Mar. 17, 2017) – Washington state’s 2016 wolf count was released today. The total number of wolves, number of packs and number of breeding pairs increased from 2015. In total, there are 115 wolves, up over 25 percent from last year. Two additional packs were formed in the state, bringing the number to 20. Lastly, there are two more breeding pairs, making a total of 10.

Wolf counts in Washington have remained constant or increased every year for the last nine years. Significantly, the number of livestock producers using nonlethal, coexistence measures also continues to increase.

Shawn Cantrell, Northwest director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:

“Washington wolves are making strides on the long road to recovery. We’ve gone from zero to 115 confirmed wolves in less than a decade. This is great news.

“The number of ranchers using nonlethal tools has also increased significantly every year since 2014. Adoption of coexistence tools has increased by 89 percent in the last year alone, according to projections by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. These methods result in less wolf-livestock conflict on the ground and more social acceptance for wolves. Ultimately, this helps people to coexist with wolves peacefully on the landscape.

“We have long way to go, but wolves in Washington are coming back, and we believe this will be a benefit for all.”


By the early 1900s, wolves were eradicated in the Pacific Northwest because of government-sponsored bounties, trappings and poisoning campaigns. In the 2000s, wolves began to return naturally to the state from British Columbia, Idaho and western Montana. Washington has conducted counts of its wolves over the last nine years using federal monitoring guidelines.

This count uses the minimum number of wolves in 2016 – meaning only wolves that have been explicitly confirmed – and assumes that there are more wolves than the minimum. A pack is defined as any two wolves (mates, relatives, etc.) traveling together. A breeding pair – which is the most important criterion when determining recovery of a population – is a male and female with at least two pups born in the springtime that survive through the end of the year.

Wolves are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of the state of Washington. They are also listed under the state Endangered Species Act and protected by the Wolf Conservation & Management Plan. To be considered officially recovered in the state, there need to be 15 breeding pairs over three years in a row. Also, these wolves must be spread throughout the state’s three wolf regions. Currently, most wolves are concentrated in the northeastern part of the state, with three packs known to exist in the North Cascades and none residing if the western half of the state.



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