Annual Survey Shows Washington Continues to Lead Wolf Recovery Efforts 

Annual Survey Shows Washington Continues to Lead Wolf Recovery Efforts 

Conservation Northwest / Apr 29, 2024 / Restoring Wildlife, WDFW, Wolves

Conflict deterrence measures reduced mortality, helping the state wolf population grow by 20 percent over the past year.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) released its annual wolf survey last week, showing robust growth in wolf populations and their expansion into new territories. The WDFW and partnering Tribes documented at least 260 wolves in 42 packs with 25 successful breeding pairs at the end of 2023 through aerial surveys, tracks, collar data, and camera monitoring.  

Washington’s wolf population has grown an average of 23 percent per year since 2008, making it the most successful recovery effort in the nation. Across almost every metric, Washington’s wolf recovery efforts have redefined conservation success for this iconic wildlife species. 

“Wolves are doing well in Washington as the 2023 WDFW Annual Wolf Report indicates. Numbers related to population health are generally up or holding steady,” said Jay Shepherd, who leads Conservation Northwest’s wolf program. “This has been accomplished with the hard work of cattle producers, county, state and federal agency staff, and many non-profit folks, including those in our organization.” 

Non-lethal deterrence methods, such as those championed by Conservation Northwest, have successfully minimized livestock depredation. With only two wolves lethally removed by department staff and one caught-in-the-act killing during 2023, this approach has proven effective in minimizing wolf mortality. We recognize the hard work that ranchers put in to keep their livestock safe and that this puts stress on them and their communities. We acknowledge the need to continue to support ranchers and rural residents with adequate tools to allow them to co-exist with wolves successfully.

While populations continue to expand in Northeast and Central Washington including the development of seven new packs in those regions, the final recovery zone in the Southern Cascades and Northwest Coast is beginning to show early signs of wolf recovery.  

While the 2022 Big Muddy Pack only held one wolf by the end of 2023, collar data indicates that multiple wolves have begun exploring south of I-90. Under this continued trajectory and through collaborative conservation efforts, we are optimistic that it is only a matter of time before we witness the presence of wolf packs across the state.


Washington: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Spokane Tribe of Indians, Yakama Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2024. Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2023 Annual Report. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ellensburg, WA, USA.

Additional links: Annual survey shows growth in Washington gray wolf population in 2023 | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Oregon: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2024. Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management 2023. Annual Report. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE. Salem, OR, 9730

Additional links: ODFW Gray Wolf Population (

California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2024. Wolf Management Update 2023. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1701 Nimbus Road Suite D, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.

Additional links: Gray Wolf (, California Gray Wolf Update: 6 Wolf Packs Statewide, 2 New Packs Named (

Arizona & New Mexico: Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, U.S Forest Service, and White Mountain Apache Tribe. 2024. Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Quarterly Update 2023.

Additional links: Q-4-Wolf-Report-2023.pdf (, Mexican Wolf Program Annual Progress Reports | U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (

For more updates on wolf management, check out the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Wolf Management Annual Report for 2023.

Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) Looking up in a snowy forest.