Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 5, 2019

Contact: Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

Washington Wolf Population Rose Slightly in 2018, Despite Destruction of Two Packs

Stronger Rules Limiting Wolf Killing Needed for Further Recovery

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife this week 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.”

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. The animals began to return from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s. Their population has grown to 27 confirmed packs as of the end of 2018.

Wolves are currently federally protected in the western two-thirds of Washington and protected everywhere in the state under state law. A bill recently introduced in the state legislature aims to make it even easier for the state fish and wildlife department to kill more wolves and avoid accountability for spending taxpayer funds.

In March the Trump administration proposed to strip endangered species protection from gray wolves across the lower 48 states. That would give Washington wildlife managers full control over the protection of wolves, despite their previous indiscriminate killing of the animals.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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