Washington and Oregon wildlife officials were handed full management of wolves across both states today as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting was made official on the Federal Register.
The species was declared recovered in the Northwest and elsewhere in the country in late October, making way for WDFW and ODFW to take the reins in the western two-thirds of both states after the early 2010s’ delisting in the eastern thirds.
There had been threats of a lawsuit, but with no court injunctions in place, agencies are moving forward.
“We’ve managed wolves in half the state for a decade and are treating this as business as usual,” said WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman in Spokane.
Not much will change in terms of day to day operations with wolves as the predators remain under state protections and no hunting or trapping is allowed outside of tribal seasons in parts of Northeast Washington.
In a press release, ODFW noted that lethal control can now occur where individual animals or packs are chronically depredating cattle and nonlethal measures have failed.
The agency also directed ranchers and other animal owners to the criteria for removals to be considered and other resources.
“We thank all landowners in areas with wolves for going the extra mile to implement non-lethal measures over the past few years,” said ODFW Director Curt Melcher. “We know that regardless of whether or not you lose livestock to wolves, their presence requires changes to your business practices, and we thank you for taking these steps to reduce conflicts with wolves.”
The winter 2019-20 annual reports from ODFW and WDFW said there were a minimum – meaning at the very least and likely many more – of 158 wolves in Oregon and 145 in Washington.
Oregon’s and Washington’s winter 2020-21 counts have begun and will likely find more wolves than ever, if every year since 2008’s confirmation in both states of the modern era’s first packs is any indication and despite culling to head off livestock depredations and other causes of mortality as the native species returns to the Northwest.
USFWS will “continue monitoring gray wolves for five years to ensure continued success.”