Wolf, © Western Transportation Institute

Washington Wildlife Commission Approves Wolf Recovery Plan

State will manage for long-term, sustainable wolf population

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Dec. 5, 2011) – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the state’s final wolf recovery plan on Saturday, charting a course toward the long-term sustainability of its growing wolf population.

The following is a statement from Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife:

“The approval of this plan is a clear reflection of broad public support for the return of wolves to the landscape. Washingtonians recognize that wolves play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and can provide an economic boon through wildlife tourism. The Washington Wildlife Commission is to be commended for taking this important next step for wolf conservation.

“The plan strikes a reasonable balance between protecting the state’s nascent wolf population and addressing potential conflicts with livestock. Above all, the plan will ensure the continued recovery of wolves across the state as well as the long-term future of a healthy, sustainable wolf population.

“The return of wolves to the Northern Rockies has been an incredible conservation success story, and the state of Washington is now helping to write the next chapter. Wolves are making a comeback in Washington today thanks to more than 15 years of dedicated efforts by Defenders of Wildlife and others who made the historic reintroduction of wolves possible.”

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife began developing their wolf recovery plan in 2007, and the state’s first breeding pair was documented in 2008. As of July, there were five distinct wolf packs in Washington, including one breeding pair. The wolf plan provides for the recovery of at least 15 breeding pairs (an estimated 97-361 wolves) spread across three regions of the state. The plan also includes provisions to compensate ranchers for confirmed and probable livestock losses and prioritizes nonlethal management strategies in the early years of recovery.

Learn more about what Defenders is doing for wolves in the Northern Rockies

Read WDFW’s press release announcing approval of the plan

Visit WDFW’s wolf management page

Get weekly updates on wolf news on Defenders blog

5 Responses to “Washington Wildlife Commission Approves Wolf Recovery Plan”

  1. Christina Luera

    I am so confused! Wasn’t there a nationwide ban recently lifted that protected wolves? Does that mean wolves are being released that might be shot and poisoned?

    • John Motsinger

      Christina, thanks for your question. I’ll do my best to clarify. You are correct that federal protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies were officially lifted in May. That means that the states are now in charge of managing wolves, and unfortunately many wolves are already being hunted this season in Idaho and Montana. Washington is only bound by whatever recovery plan the state chooses to put in place. So far, there are five wolf packs in Washington including one breeding pair. The plan that was just approved commits the state to ensuring the recovery of at least 15 breeding pairs (an estimated 97-361 wolves) split into three different geographic regions of the state.

      So while there are no longer federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies, the state of Washington is making sure that the species continues to recover for many years to come.

  2. michelle

    i read about this plan…and part of it is this…read the last line carefully…still not the outcome i thought from this plan…when all else fails…shoot them?…that should nor be part of a recovery plan…”The number and distribution of breeding pairs in Washington’s growing wolf population is key. The amended plan calls for four breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, four each in the North and South Cascades, and 3 more pairs anywhere in the state. If more are found, the plan calls for stepping up management actions, like moving wolves around or shooting animals who prey on cattle.

    • John Motsinger

      Michelle, we don’t like the potential for shooting wolves unnecessarily either. The good news is that the plan indicates that the state will prioritize nonlethal management strategies, at least until the wolf population reaches the stated recovery goals. Hopefully, this will translate into responsible wildlife management, and it should give us the opportunity to work with ranchers proactively to reduce conflict before problems arise. But ultimately, this plan is just a framework for restoring wolves. It will be up to Defenders and other wolf supporters to hold the state accountable for their actions and to find common ground on practical solutions that work for people and wildlife. The adopted recovery plan is by no means perfect. But it is a reasonable compromise that guarantees the long-term recovery of a sustainable wolf population while addressing many of the most pressing concerns of the livestock and hunting communities.

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