Jun 24, 2022 - News

Wolves are making a comeback in Washington

A photo of a pair of juvenile gray wolves in the woods.
A pair of juvenile gray wolves confabbing near Mount Rainier. Photo: Ron Reznick/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Gray wolves are growing more abundant in Washington and seem headed toward recovery — but they're not out of the woods yet, state wildlife officials say.

By the numbers: Washington's wolf population grew for the 13th consecutive year in 2021, climbing to 206 wolves in 33 packs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Why it matters: Gray wolves have been on the state's endangered species list since 1980. Their recovery would mark a coup for successfully restoring a native species to the wilds of eco-friendly Washington.

  • The wolves also were federally relisted as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington this year, after being taken off that list briefly last year.
Data: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios (Note: WDFW also includes survey counts from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.)

Zoom out: The latest tally represents the highest count since the state started surveying wolves in 2008.

  • Even so, it's likely an undercount, WDFW says.
  • Washington's wolf population has grown an average of 25% each year since 2008.
  • Most wolf packs range across public and private lands in the state's northeast and southeast regions, but wolves increasingly are seen in north-central and central Washington.

Yes, but: Wolves preying on livestock continues to be a problem.

  • Eight packs were involved in livestock depredation last year.
  • Two wolves were killed due to livestock depredation — one by state wildlife officials and another by a landowner with a permit.

What they're saying: "[W]e recorded the lowest number of livestock depredation incidents in the state since 2017 and removed the fewest wolves in response to conflict since 2015," WDFW wolf policy lead Julia Smith said in the report.

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