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Gray wolf

Image of gray wolf

Scientific name: Canis lupus

Listing Status: Endangered in the western 2/3rds of Washington, west of U.S Highway 97, State Route 17 and U.S. 395.  Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has primary management authority to the east of that line. Wolves that inhabit tribal lands east of highways 97, 17 and 395 are managed by those specific tribal entities.

Critical Habitat: None

  • Background and Status

    Gray wolves (Canis lupus) nearly became extinct in the lower 48 states in the early part of the 20th century. Predator-control programs targeted wolves, and wolf habitat was altered and destroyed as forests were logged and then converted to agriculture and livestock production. Across the lower 48, many other species that made up the wolves’ prey base were also made scarce or brought to nearextinction by settlers and market hunters. Predator-control programs, loss of habitat, and loss of prey resulted in the elimination of wolves throughout most of the lower 48 states

    Historically, gray wolves were common throughout much of Washington, but numbers began to decline as human populations increased in the latter half of the 1800s. Encouraged by high prices for hides, bounties, and government sponsored predator control programs, wolves were believed to be extirpated from Washington by the 1930s. Sporadic reports of wolves were received over the next several decades, and increased during the 1990s to early 2000s, but no resident packs were documented during this time. Dispersing wolves from increasing populations in Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia, Canada, were likely responsible for the documented reports of wolves in northern Washington during the 1990s to early 2000s. In 2008, the first resident pack in the state since the 1930s was documented in Okanogan County in north-central Washington. Since that time, wolves have continued to naturally recolonize the state via dispersal from resident Washington packs and neighboring states and provinces.

    Range in Washington

    Washington's wolf population has continued to grow, according to a statewide survey conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2015-16. The survey confirmed the presence of at least 115 known wolves in 20 known packs with a total of at least 10 breeding pairs by the end of 2016.

    For maps and more information, visit WDFW's Gray Wolf Conservation and Management page. 

    What do I do if I think I have seen a wolf in Washington? 

    WDFW and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service keep track of wolf sightings and other evidence of wolves in Washington (tracks, scat, howling, and photos from motion-sensitive remote cameras) in the state.

    To report sightings of a wolf or wolf tracks, use WDFW's online Wolf Observations and Sightings reporting system. 

    Frequently Asked Questions about Wolves in Washington



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