SEATTLE— Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directed the state’s fish and wildlife agency on Monday to dramatically rein in its wolf killing.
“The status quo of annual lethal removal is simply unacceptable,” Gov. Inslee wrote in a letter instructing the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to focus on finding nonlethal solutions for conflicts between livestock and wolves.
“This is a huge step forward for the protection of Washington’s wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “After years of unscientific, unethical wolf killing by state wildlife officials, it’s a relief to have Gov. Inslee calling for reforms. Most Washington residents support wolves and wolf recovery. We’re grateful that the governor has stepped in to do what’s right.”
Inslee’s letter comes during a year when more wolves have been killed by the state wildlife department than ever before. The agency gunned down the entire eight-member OPT pack this summer. State officials killed the last four members in the early morning hours, just before a court hearing in a lawsuit seeking an injunction against killing the pack.
Today’s letter follows years of advocacy by the Center and other conservation groups. Such efforts include administrative petitions seeking accountability and transparency from the department in its implementation of the state wolf-management plan.
Lawsuits and other actions by the Center and its allies, several of which are still pending, challenge the state’s wolf-killing policies and violations of the state’s Environmental Policy Act and federal Administrative Procedures Act.
Wolf supporters have rallied outside wildlife department headquarters to protest kill orders and funded full-page newspaper ads in the Seattle Times and Spokesman Review, along with billboards in Seattle. In June the Center submitted the signatures of 532,836 people from Washington and across the country that oppose the state’s ongoing killing of wolves for conflicts with cattle.
“Gov. Inslee understands that recovering endangered wolves requires science-based solutions focused on keeping wolves alive, not killing them,” said Weiss. “He clearly appreciates these ecologically essential and wondrous animals. With the governor’s direction, we’re hopeful the state will take immediate steps for reform.”
Only 126 confirmed wolves lived in Washington at the end of 2018, in 27 packs and with 15 confirmed breeding pairs. Washington’s gray wolves are fully protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington, and throughout the state under state endangered species law.
Over the past seven years, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed 30 state-endangered wolves for conflicts with livestock, killing 26 of those for the same livestock producer. Most killings occur on public lands. The science shows that nonlethal measures effectively reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock, and that killing wolves can create conflicts, reduce social tolerance for wolves, and increase poaching.
Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of livestock owners. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a slow comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia.