Take action for Washington wolves
Conservation Northwest / Oct 21, 2019 / Action Alert, Restoring Wildlife, Wolves
WILD NW Action Alert #297: Make your voice heard on how WDFW will conserve and manage wolves after their population exceeds the recovery goals under Washington’s Wolf Plan.
October 2019 update: The public comment period on wolf post-recovery planning has been extended to November 15th. Comment today!
Gray wolves started returning to Washington in the mid-2000s, and in 2008 Conservation Northwest volunteers documented the first wolf pups born in our state in more than 60 years: the Lookout Pack in the Methow Valley.
Now we have a chance to comment on how our state will maintain a recovered wolf population into the future. Take action before November 15 using our simple form!
Over the last eleven years, Washington’s wolf population has grown by an average of 28 percent per year. As of late 2018, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) documented 126 wolves, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs. And we know this is only a minimum estimate, as wolves are very difficult to count. Our state’s wolf population today likely exceeds 150 animals in approximately 30 packs, with some researchers estimating closer to 200 wolves.
Not only is Washington’s wolf population growing, but its distribution is also expanding across the state. In 2018, government biologists confirmed the state’s first wolf pack west of the Cascades, the Diobsud Pack in the upper Skagit Valley west of North Cascades National Park.
We can’t say where wolves will turn up after the 2019 counts, but we can be confident that wolf recovery is progressing well in Washington, and our wolf population is on its way toward meeting the recovery goals outlined in the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan (Wolf Plan) that Conservation Northwest and other wildlife stakeholders developed back in 2011.
With Washington’s wolves expected to meet state recovery goals in the next few years, now is the time for wildlife managers to begin planning for how to conserve and manage wolves when they are no longer a state endangered species. You can weigh-in by taking action today.
For more than a decade, Conservation Northwest has been playing a key role in supporting wolf recovery through field work, including our Range Rider Pilot Project and local training workshops, to help ranchers and wolves coexist on the landscape by reducing the potential for conflict.
At the policy level, we also work with the legislature and the Governor’s office in Olympia and participate in the state’s Wolf Advisory Group to foster dialogue, respect and cooperation for wolves. These efforts and Washington’s collaborative approach have been successful in limiting conflicts and wolf deaths, especially when compared to other states at similar points in wolf recovery.
Now, it’s time to build on this work to help WDFW and the Fish and Wildlife Commission craft a new Wolf Plan that supports a resilient population and acceptance for wolves across rural communities.
Our state must maintain a wolf population above recovery thresholds sufficient to conserve this iconic native species into the future. Preserving intact wolf packs and allowing these highly social animals to persist with minimum harassment is also key to a robust, healthy wolf population in the long-term. And we want to ensure continued support for effective programs aimed at deterring livestock depredations that advance long-term coexistence between wolves and humans.
Many of Washington’s elk and deer herds are in decline, especially populations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades and in the Kettle Range due to habitat fragmentation, recent large fires and severe winters. It will be important for the state and partners to dedicate time and resources to understanding what’s needed to restore healthy ungulate populations, which are vital for predators like wolves as well as for people who depend on them for subsistence, recreation and natural and cultural heritage—from Native American nations to other hunter-conservationists.
Through November 15th, please take action on this important wildlife issue using our simple comment form.
Or, you can take WDFW’s Wolf Post-Recovery Planning Survey, or file an open comment through the Department’s webpage.
Suggested Comments on WDFW’s wolf post-recovery planning
To the Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Thank you for the opportunity to weigh-in on the future conservation and management of Washington’s wolves. I value the return of the wolf to quality habitat across our state, and appreciate efforts supporting the long-term recovery and public acceptance of wolves alongside thriving local communities. This work must continue even after Washington’s wolves meet state and federal recovery goals. Our state must maintain a healthy wolf population above recovery thresholds sufficient to conserve this iconic native species into the future.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a post-recovery management plan for Washington’s wolves should include the following:
A scientific literature review on the role that wolf pack structure and social dynamics play in maintaining resilient populations, especially with respect to climate change and human pressures but also the unique and complex nature of suitable wolf habitat in Washington.
Alternatives that take into account the role of wolf social structure in maintaining a resilient population and minimizing conflict with livestock and humans, as well as management methods that seek to protect the integrity of wolf packs wherever feasible, especially those not involved in livestock conflicts.
A literature review of predator-prey dynamics and how wolves fit into a multi-predator, multi-prey ecosystem along with human impacts. This should include evaluation of predator-prey interactions considering the state and trends of ungulate populations in Washington, particularly in the Cascade and Kettle mountains.
Alternatives that take into account the role of habitat modification, climate factors, wild predation and human-caused mortality on ungulate population trends and how these factors can be managed to restore and maintain healthy ungulate populations for both predators and people.
Address approaches for maintaining a strong program of preventative measures to limit livestock conflicts, including methods that are adaptive to the diverse types of livestock production that occur in Washington, from public lands grazing of cattle to small sheep and goat hobby farms.
One or more alternatives that do not use general sport hunting to manage the wolf population. Research has shown that general public hunting is not an effective means of preventing or reducing wolf conflicts with livestock.
A strong adaptive management component so the plan can be updated as we learn more about wolf ecology, ungulate population response, effectiveness of deterrence measures for preventing livestock depredations, and human social dynamics around wolf presence in Washington.
A strong public outreach and education component to support coexistence as wolves establish packs in new parts of the state, including on wolf behavior and what to do during a wolf encounter.
Assessment of methods to support healthy and respectful dialogue among citizens of Washington, both with each other and with WDFW staff on wolf management over time.
Thank you for developing a new, science-based Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and for working towards long-term wolf recovery and coexistence in Washington.