Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 16, 2018

Contact:  Amaroq Weiss, (707) 779-9613,

Washington Wolf Population Increases Only 6 Percent After 14 Wolves Killed in 2017

State, Ranchers, Automobiles, Poachers All Killed Wolves

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Washington’s wolf population increased by only 6 percent in the past year, according to the latest annual wolf population estimate issued today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That’s a sharp contrast to the previous three years, when the population increased by an average of 30 percent each year.

The end-of-2017 wolf count yielded 122 wolves, an increase of only seven from the 115 wolves confirmed the year before. This news follows a year of multiple human-caused wolf deaths, as well as legal actions challenging the department’s wolf-killing protocols and actions.

“The sharp departure from wolf number increases in past years is cause for serious concern,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “While population growth hasn’t stopped entirely, these modest numbers clearly indicate the state should not kill any more wolves.”  

Last summer, the department killed three wolves for conflicts with livestock, including one of only two known Sherman pack wolves. This killing eradicated the pack, making it the third pack to be wiped out for the same livestock owner and self-proclaimed wolf opponent.

Two wolves — including the breeding female of the Smackout pack who had recently given birth to pups — were killed by livestock owners or their ranch hands. Earlier, the breeding female of the Sherman pack was struck and killed by a vehicle, and another wolf was euthanized after being mortally wounded in a car collision.

Three Washington wolves were reported by the Confederated Tribe of the Colville Indian Reservation Fish and Wildlife Department to have been killed during a tribal-authorized hunting season on the Colville Reservation during late 2017 and early 2018.

There were also two confirmed cases of poaching, plus two deaths likely from poaching that remain under investigation. Experts report that most wolf poaching goes undetected  and that for every poached wolf found, one or two other wolves that have been poached will not be discovered.

In September 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity and Cascadia Wildlands sued the department for violating the State Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedures Act in failing to conduct required environmental impact assessments of the department’s protocols and orders to kill wolves. In November, the Center also filed a separate lawsuit against the department for violating the state’s Public Records Act in failing to turn over requested documents pertaining to its wolf kill actions.

“Wolf recovery in Washington is still in its infancy and the population should be continuing to grow, not stagnating,” said Weiss. “This new report validates our lawsuit’s contention that the department’s killing of wolves must be scientifically evaluated for how it impacts wolves alongside other sources of wolf mortality and the overall population status.”

Wolf recovery in Washington has largely been driven by federal Endangered Species Act protection, which led to the reintroduction of wolves in adjacent Idaho and made it a crime to kill wolves. As wolves from Idaho and British Columbia began to disperse into Washington, the wolf population grew from zero wolves in 2007 to the estimated 122 wolves in 22 packs announced by the state Fish and Wildlife department today.

While the department’s annual survey indicated an increase in numbers of packs confirmed from 20 to 22, the overall population grew by only six percent.

Smackout pack wolf

Photo of Smackout pack wolf courtesy Western Wildlife Conservation. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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