November 13, 2023

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission Denies Wolf Rulemaking Petition

Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: A petition to initiate rulemaking around wolf-livestock conflict was taken into consideration by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission at their meeting on October 28, 2023. The rules proposed by petitioners would have hindered WDFW’s ability to properly manage wolves in Washington State, slowing recovery of the species while harming the state’s existing collaborative processes. While this petition looked specifically at wolf-livestock interactions, it would have had an impact on overall wolf management potentially delaying delisting and future opportunities for more proactive management in Washington State.


  • As a member of the WDFW Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supported efforts to create current protocols in Washington State through a collaborative process with WDFW department workgroups.
  • Washington State has one of the highest wolf populations in the region and yet has the fewest reported annual depredation events.
  • CSF provided testimony against this petition’s onerous rules through WAG and during the October WDFW Commission meeting.

On September 15, 2023, a rule making petition was filed with the WDFW Commission on behalf of eleven wolf protection groups. First, this petition sought to introduce and codify more restrictive standards relating to the use of lethal and non-lethal methods of addressing wolf conflicts. The second aim of the petition was to amend the language of WAC 220.440.080 eliminating the ability for immediate lethal removal of wolves “caught in the act” of attacking domestic animals in Eastern Washington, instead requiring department issued permits. Petitioners claimed that both the new rule and the proposed rule changes were needed, or wolf recovery would be hindered in Washington State.

WDFW’s presentation to the Commission showed the opposite to be true when comparing Washington’s non-binding protocols to more restrictive laws in states like Oregon and California. WDFW’s Endangered Species Recovery Section Manager, Julia Smith, revealed that Washington State has more wolves than Oregon and California combined, and yet has fewer depredation incidents and fewer lethal removals each year. Washington’s success in mitigating conflict is due to its current wolf management policies which Mrs. Smith pointed out were based on a foundation of collaboration, by bringing diverse and divergent viewpoints to the table at department workgroups, like the WAG, to create strong protocols and management plans.

As demonstrated by the WDFW presentation the bottom line is:

  • Under current department protocols, wolves are recovering in Washington State with sustained annual population growth.
  • Washington State sees the lowest levels of wolf-livestock depredation in the nation.
  • Evidence points out that stricter rules may potentially lead to an increase in depredation events by hindering current management efforts.

While this petition and the presentation focused mainly on wolf-livestock interactions, it would have had an impact on overall wolf management in the state. Wolves in Washington State are nearing their recovery goals and WDFW has already recommended downlisting the species to state sensitive. At the current rate of growth, Washington wolves could soon reach a point where they would be eligible for removal from endangered species listing at the state level. This delisting would allow for proactive measures and better considerations for ungulate populations in the overall wolf management plan.

CSF’s Senior Coordinator for the Northwestern States, Marie Neumiller, has been actively engaging on this issue on behalf of sportsmen’s interests through her position on the WAG, and through testimony at Commission meetings. She will continue this representation at the next quarterly WAG meeting November 15 & 16, 2023 where the agenda topics includes: grey wolf updates, cross boundary advice to WDFW (final draft), and a depredation compensation review.  More information on that upcoming meeting, including the Zoom link, will be available on WDFW’s website.

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