Why We Should All Care about the Plight of Western Washingtons Wolves

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is seeking public comment from February 22 to April 11, 2022, on proposed rule changes to address wolf-livestock conflict deterrence.

In September 2020, Governor Jay Inslee directed the WDFW to initiate rulemaking to institute practices that would reduce the number of livestock killed or injured by wolves and the number of wolves lethally removed because of depredations of domestic animals.

So why should Western Washingtonians care about this proposed rule and what is happening East of the mountains?

We should care because removing a species can change the world.

Wolves are a keystone species, defined as “an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.”[1]

Keystone species are often predators, like wolves, who have low functional redundancy. This means if they were to disappear from an ecosystem, no species would be able to fill the void left by its absence.

So, what do wolves do for an ecosystem?

Wolves keep the prey populations from getting too large, which ensures that a greater variety of species survive and thrive. Overgrazing of natural resources influences other populations of birds, small reptiles and plant organisms which can threaten their survival.

They usually kill weak or diseased animals also helps sustain a healthy environment. A 2020 study from Colorado State University showed that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) infected deer were four times more likely to fall to predation than their healthy counterparts.[2]

By simply existing wolves (and other predators) may potentially help slow down disease in deer, primarily CWD.

In addition, wolf kills create an abundant and dependable food source for many other species. Researchers have documented wolf kills benefiting coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, grizzly bears, black bears, ravens, magpies, red foxes and at least 20 other species.

As of the end of 2020, there were 132 wolves in Washington State, with 46 more reported by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Over the years, many packs have been wiped out over cattle grazing rights.

The motivation for removing predators is easy to understand, but will doing so achieve the desired results? One of the oldest ways of dealing with predators is to cull or remove them, and time after time, it just doesn’t work.

The proposed rule change, if adopted, would amend the language of Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 220-440-080 to require that, to authorize lethal removal of wolves, the WDFW director (or WDFW staff designee) would need to confirm an owner of domestic animals has proactively implemented appropriate non-lethal conflict deterrence measures.

This would also create a new rule (WAC 220-440-260) that directs WDFW staff, in consultation with willing, affected livestock producers, as well as affected federal, state, and tribal agencies, to author conflict mitigation plans that would establish area-specific criteria for the use of non-lethal and lethal measures to mitigate wolf-livestock conflict in areas of chronic conflict.

“If adopted, the proposed change to WAC 220-440-080 would align the code with the agency’s long-standing commitment to non-lethal conflict mitigation strategies,” said Wolf Policy Lead Julia Smith.

“The proposal creating WAC 220-440-260 aims to address areas that have experienced significant levels of livestock depredation and subsequent wolf removals year after year, an especially difficult scenario for all communities concerned about wolf conservation and management. This proposal focuses limited time and resources to areas where the most livestock and wolf loss has occurred in the state.”

In addition, a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) that analyzes the environmental impacts of four alternative rulemaking options and a Small Business Economic Impact Statement (SBEIS) that evaluates the potential costs to businesses in the livestock industry resulting from the proposed rule and rule change was developed as part of the rulemaking process.

During this public comment period, WDFW is looking for input on the draft proposed language for both WACs and feedback on the DSEIS.

Please use this link to review the rule change materials and share feedback on the proposed rule language. Written comments can also be submitted via email to WolfConflictDeterrence102@PublicInput.com, or members of the public can call 855-925-2801 (enter project code 3861) to record their input.

  • Please use this link to review the SEPA materials and share feedback on the DSEIS. Written comments can also be submitted via email to SEPAWolfConflictDeterrence@PublicInput.com, or members of the public can call 855-925-2801 (enter project code 6659) to record their input.

A Public Hearing is expected to be scheduled for April 2022. The final SEIS is planned to be issued in May, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider the proposal in May of 2022. The rule and/or rule changes that may result from this process are proposed to be effective in January 2023.

Visit the Department’s website for more information on the proposed rule and the rule-change process. More information on wolves in Washington can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/gray-wolf.

When asked her opinion of the proposed rule change, Samantha Bruegger Executive Director for Washington Wildlife First, said “The proposed rule does not address the problems that the rulemaking petition sought to solve, and is not responsive to the request from Governor Inslee to implement “clear and enforceable measures” to address wolf-livestock conflicts. The state’s endangered wolves deserve better protection, and the citizens of Washington deserve a rule that will hold the Department of Fish and Wildlife accountable and require it to meet certain standards before it kills state-endangered wolves.”

“Ultimately, I would urge the Department to start over again, using the carefully crafted language proposed in the rulemaking petition. In the past year and a half, the Department has done nothing to improve on that language but has instead watered it down to the point that it imposes no additional restrictions on its authority. As a result, the proposed rule does nothing but solidify that the Department Director can authorize the killing of endangered wolves without any transparency, accountability or adherence to meaningful standards.  The people of Washington, whose tax dollars pay for the Department to operate its wolf-killing program, deserve better, and wolves most certainly deserve better.” 

But aside from the rule change being the correct administrative thing to do, it should be changed because all animals deserve a place in the ecosystem. We may not like what one animal does, but that does not give us the right to remove that animal.

One of the most enduring and moving sounds anyone can hear is a wolf’s howl as darkness falls. Whether it is a feeling of tranquil peace or utter fear, it is an emotion that can only be evoked by wild wolves that are free to reign in the land that was once theirs.

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/role-keystone-species-ecosystem/#:~:text=12th%20Grade-,A%20keystone%20species%20is%20an%20organism%20that%20helps%20define%20an,species%20have%20low%20functional%20redundancy.

[2] https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/people-predators/wolves-and-disease-8-006/?fbclid=IwAR2_M07-oRL5-el59p1na9gmS_Ujexyu4aDg4bDl7D0zaqIihRsVTmKLSUo

Comments are closed.


  • Please think about the farmers and individuals who have to deal with these predators. Their livelihood and safety is constantly infringed upon by touchy-feely articles that advocate for “cute” animals over human lives.

    Very easy to say “One of the most enduring and moving sounds anyone can hear is a wolf’s howl as darkness falls.” when you don’t have to deal with the reality of the situation.

    1. There are plenty of ways to deter predators, and deterrents have been very effective in WA with wolves, except for a few places that have been slow to implement deterrents. I’m in a busy cougar/bobcat/bear/coyote/raccoon/hawk area and most of the issues that have popped up are from lack of good fencing, no covered night shelter for poultry, lack of electric fencing, etc. Yes, it does take extra steps to add protection, but we should be doing that, with or without wolves.

    2. Do you believe your own BS?
      “Their livelihood and safety is constantly infringed upon by touchy-feely articles.”
      “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a metaphor. On the other hand, you might be correct: that dead body by the news stand might have been killed by a touchy-feely article. Help us city people understand: how many people in WA have been killed by apex predators? How many kids by school shootings? What is the body count from wolves, vs a good night in Tacoma?

    3. There’s nothing touchy-feely about this article.Its based on the best science on preserving ecosystems and wild species that human society as it “advances’ have almost wiped out. We face an extinction and climate crisis threatening life on this planet and all voices like yours can offer is to cheer it on or ask for one of the same.

      I for one want to see wild species protected.
      It’s well known and proven that many of these wolf “culls” that have been done by WDFW here have been done by ranchers who refuse to take measures to mitigate predation.
      And many for even a single particular rancher who has demanded WDFW kill wolves a number of times.

      Ridiculous that he gets to get WDFW act as his personal executor of animals that should be a national trasure. All because he and others would rather see wolves wiped out. I personally am sick of it and sick of such small-minded selfishness expressed to animals who should be considered wonders of evolution and the natural world

    4. Why should deference be paid to those who exploit animals for profit? If they don’t want their livestock killed before they have a chance to make money off it, there are countless measures they can take to safeguard their ‘property’ that do not include the slaughter of wildlife that has every right to exist and no regard for private property or prey that is predetermined to fill another entity’s belly. The livestock industry is responsible for so much cruel, senseless slaughter and destruction of the natural world. Enough is enough. Especially in light of our ever-intensifying climate crisis, the world needs to transition away from grazing cattle and toward the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity. For our sake, if not for theirs, these animals must be protected and preserved.

  • A healthy ecosystem requires apex predators. This is a cost of doing business near public land.

    1. I am 90 years old and lived in Oregon since 1939 I am a hunter and a conservationist any prediction by wolves should not be tolerated since man has taken over a great amount of the country and also management of our forest nothing has been left to Nature we think we know more and we don’t rules are not a necessary part of eco definitely not outside of parks too many other thanks are affected such as for example cats dogs children livestock are all in danger because loving wolves impatient people that is wrong remove the wolves outside of parks that are strictly controlled and monitored

  • Meat and vegetable Protein User. An open mind with years of personal friendship with the collected12, alongside those that came after minerals were discovered to the north. Born of the eastside on a Geographical Palouse. Typing from the wests ancient Rain Forest. To pass forward, so others might see. (breath in, breath out)
    Even Billy Ray Jr. went to jail until the plight of his people and Puget Sound was heard. To leave us the warning and legacy that brought Real Change. And Change that is being Adopted. Let us not do it West verses East. Blue verses Red. Look to the care takers of Yellow Stone. Others of good examples with valid results.
    Know the ground you walk. Less paperwork that becomes false or destroyed. Trust a process and jump in. Or out. Myself? I don’t care for meat protein from 4 packing plants. Washington grown and locally butchered “is” better. It has been done here from 1904 till WWII when for better range, the wolf was removed. My first wolf 3 miles shy the northern border was 81’_83′? I could write a book to the 12 minutes we sat together. A lone gray muzzled, come to visit from the Canadian side. Pure black and long legged. Alone to die. Or old wise wisdom that would have led more into that range. We all need to coexist. No Yellowstone in NE Wa. Less paperwork. If you are going to Mars, don’t burn all life on your exit. Per-say-veer.

    1. Is the reason what populations have dwindled before they brought them back they’re vicious they kill for no reason sometimes and they’re impacting our agriculture safety in the woods and other things it’s time to put an end to this BS of bringing them back like let’s bring back a tyrannosaurus Rex there’s a reason they’re not here no more so be it

      1. Hahaha “they kill for no reason sometimes.” Predators don’t kill for “no reason” that’s just ridiculous! Thanks for the laugh 😂

        1. They kill for the sport and the hunt..takes very little to feed the pack..i personally find many wolf kills that are barely touched.they kill and move on..they all should be taken out

      2. You and your run on sentences, SUCK!!!!!!
        You and others like you, are a serious problem.
        Do us all a favor, hurry up and die!!!!!!!

  • Everyone who is happy to have wolves living on the other side of the state should adopt a cattle rancher for a year. Go live in their shoes, Wolves will kill the easiest prey they can find – and it doesn’t get much easier than cattle. And killing is only a small part of the loss. Just a wolf’s presence near a herd will adversely affect pregnant cattle and the general health and well being of the whole herd. What if a stalker moved into your back yard and looked through your windows every night? Would you be nervous and anxious? Maybe lose some weight? It’s easy for those on the west side to talk about how the ranchers should implement deterrents and “learn to live with it”. But what if it was YOUR livelihood at stake?

  • J Barnum, I fully support your concern for the economic challenges faced by cattle ranchers and all agriculturists. However, in 2021 in Washington state there were 1.2 million cattle and wolves killed 13. Yes, there might be other detrimental effects of wolves on cattle but compared to other factors like weather (climate-changed-causing drought causes poor forage, nutrition, and reduced water sources) and disease, these behavioral costs are insignificant. In addition, in Washington state, ranchers are compensated for wolf predation at up to double market values. If we want to help U.S. farmers, we should be willing to pay more for food and ask our government to better regulate corporate agriculture, including enforcing anti-trust laws on meat processors.

  • Thomas sees the elk herd, he breaks into a trot showing his intent to take one. The herd starts running, Thomas chases them; noting that one is lagging, he cuts it from the scrambling melee, biting the elk on its haunches until the massive animal falls to the ground. Thomas has moved the herd away from the area it was browsing. Thomas spots a herd of cattle, knowing they are easy prey, he drives another rancher out of business. Thomas knows pure B.S., though try as he might, he cannot quite achieve it. His assertion, like his B.S., is hard to swallow.

    Then, we have J Barnum, who does not understand that western Washington has already adopted and supported cattle ranchers for years. While the cattle industry pays less than $200,000 in taxes to the state, WDFW alone spends more than a $Million to support the industry. WA subsidized cattlemen with an interest-free loan of $1.2 Million to build a USDA-certified slaughter house that cattlemen decided to not support–it failed. King County sends about $0.37 of each of its tax dollars to eastern WA. Stevens County gets back $2.00 for each dollar it pays. Let’s let the counties support themselves, and maybe they’ll realize they have been ungrateful asses all these years.

    My quarter acre where we’ve lived since the 1970s has property tax of $12,000. Some friends a city over pay $20,000 for their quarter acre. Maybe a rancher can adopt us, what with all the acreage they control with public grazing leases for $1.35 per AUM? Wolf ate a cow? Compensation. Just a different customer that saved the rancher the problem of playing Columbus in the Fall trying to discover his herd. It’s time to stop the whining about a subsidized life style that loses a bit of inventory. Why not publish a list of all the Washington ranchers that have failed because of wildlife? Compare it to failures in the mid-west where they don’t have scary creatures that generally avoid people, but are hyped like the latest Halloween horror movie to increase hoped-for subsidies. The cattlemen’s pity party is tiresome. Perhaps western Washington should work with the legislature to introduce cattle country to the sub-species of wolf known as Payyourowntaxes. That bite would quickly put cattlemen in line to swap for the old wolf that brought compensation when it bit.

    It’s not that apex carnivores are cute and furry, it’s that they’re an integral part of the ecosystem that supports life. It’s too baad that some people are sheepish about learning the facts of life, they prefer their tales of Little Red Riding Hood and living in a pretend world that hasn’t existed for more than a century. Let’s have 100,000,000 people hunt for good healthy meat, and see how long that lasts. Let’s kill every moose, elk, or deer that gets into a private field or orchard to feed, or wanders within 5 miles of a school or daycare. That will solve the problem.

    1. here here ..oh the poor welfare ranchers have the grazing permits reduced every year not to mention they are actually grazing on PUBLIC lands so you have no right to be there any more than the wolves do. Oh wait, the wolves have more right to be there. MY tax dollars and I am not interested in subsidizing any rancher’s way of life. So, when you talk about the city folks paying for your livelihood, WE ALREADY ARE! And that’s not even getting into the ranchers who deliberately graze their calves next to denning wolves. Give me a break. The day a wolf walks into a school and shoots a bunch of kids, then maybe i’ll start worrying.

  • Ya we missed them so badly for the years that they where cleared out. Ok so maybe not. We were fine without them thanks. I’ll take cats over wolves any day. Wolves are horrible horrible creatures.

  • Great article. Home run on the summary and great closing statement. Always enjoy your thoughtful writing.

  • There’s an easy answer for all of this crap you guys are writing about wolves. It’s simple if you have livestock and other animals you should oh I don’t know put an electric fence around where you have them, or how about bringing them in at night. They hunt for food and why you guy’s didn’t think about the “dangers” in your area when you got your farm animals is beyond me. A responsible animal owner you would think would have a fence and a barn to keep their pets safe, instead of complaining about nature getting to them and if you didn’t think about any of that then maybe you shouldn’t own animals.

  • Upper Michigan has 143 paks of wolves constantly eating our valuable game animals, livestock and pets. They are very costly and a great expense as their is meeting after meeting with the public and experts trying to determine what to do with these constant killers. They kill for fun called surplus killing. Do not just watch TV and talk to people who go to Yellowstone but talk to our sheep farmers, our woodsmen who climb trees to get away, the family of the teacher killed and eaten by wolves, the dairy farmer who was advised by DNR to not let his children walk alone to the barn because the wolf pack was not afraid of humans, talk to the farmer who had his prise 2000 lb bull killed by wolves, talk to hunters who have wolves follow them after dark, talk to the dairy farmer who lost a prise cow killed and eaten right in the barnyard……and the cost goes on and on. It is just a matter of time before another human is killed and eaten. Wolves eat their prey alive. Any body that wants them does not want any other thing living in the woods. No benefits can ever be given. They are very costly.

    1. The Wildlife Society reports between 2002 and 2020 a worldwide study documented 489 victims of wolf attacks, of which 13 were fatalities (less than one per year). Most of the attacks were related to rabid wolves. Forty-two others were attacked after provoking wolves, three of them fatally. About 13% of the attacks appeared predatory in nature, though. Sixty-seven people were victims of predatory attacks, including nine who were killed. Three fatalities between 2002 and 2020 were from North America.

      All human fatalities are tragic, but we should remember that 400 people in the U.S. are killed each year by animals. 200 people a year die from collisions with deer. Dogs kill 30 people a year. Cows kill 30 people a year. The reality is in the U.S. deer, bees, snakes, cows and even our pet dogs are more likely to kill your children than a wolf.

      The question is are the ecosystem benefits of predators (or sharing our space with cows and pet dogs) worth the safety risk? I think yes.

      1. Well said Fred. What “We” will have, is but a small portion of a greater Cascade Range to grow into. After Federal, Native and Local Governing body’s sign. It is hard for me to think of walking a dog with lithium batteries. Knowing the difference between carrying a mortgage and owning patented property. Per-say-Veer.

    2. How about relocating a few packs from the eastern washington to Western washington and the pacific coast. Since Bellevue area complain about the coyotes killing there cats and dogs sent a pack to them

      1. I’m in North Bend so I can’t speak for my hometown of Bellevue but personally, I’m fine with wolves moving in. We’ve had a couple amble through on their way to somewhere else, so quietly they were only seen on trail cams. Oddly enough my 20-pound dog is still thriving under my watchful protection. We already manage to survive the bears and cougars that I see regularly so go ahead. Send them.

  • wolves have zero benefit to our ecosystem. They are a poor game managment tool aside from any issues they may cause.

  • Enforce ranchers doing mitigation, which many don’t. Pay them if a cow is taken out. The wolves are more important than their cattle. A stalker? Please. Wolves aren’t stalking humans. We are stalking and eliminating them. I would LOVE IT if i lived next to wolf country and had them in my back yard and yes, I go through that country and through cougar country. And yes, one must take precautions. You just seem fearful of wild animals. Hate and fear like yours is what has engendered wiping out apex predators throughout history. Much of the issue with wolves/cougars, etc. is because human society keeps wiping out natural habitat and taking away where they live and food that they can survive on. That’s producing, along with many other factors, an extinction and ecological crisis. Keep on with this and pretty soon there will be no more wild and complete destruction of living ecosystems and you know what that means? An end to human society as well. At least get some facts right.

    1. Your head got stuck up inside your lower half in the delusion that you could get it back out. Much like the delusion that wolves do anything beneficial to our ecosystem.

      1. Actually it’s not a delusion, it’s been shown by scientific study many times the value of apex predators including in Yellowstone and elsewhere. You have no actual FACTS to back up anything you say, or to refute what has been laid out a number of times in this thread about the value of wolves to ecosystems, the number of actual wolf attacks on cattle and humans, etc. etc. This just stems from FEAR of whatever is wild and the need to try to dominate or extinguish it, which is why we’re where we are on the planet. Quickly annihilating anything that can be used to turn a buck. Pathetic and also short-sighted.

        1. I have seen plenty. Their effect on domestic animals is, i agree, small but not insignificant especially to those few farmers that deal with that. The state is usually pretty workable on removing those trouble makers but the same cant be said about the wild grazers. Elk, deer, and black bears get decimated and you can actively see their populations drop as wolf packs multiply. Often times wiping out entire herds that have taken decades to build up with the proper game management we now have. Wolves make for poor game management. They kill everything on their menu and then starve themselves into decline. Then the grazer population picks up after years and the cycle starts all over again.

          1. Your position is not based on any facts. You are unable to articulate anything meaningful except distain.

            1. I could give you all kinds of data but you are just going to ignore anything that doesn’t fit your delusion.
              What do you make of these numbers happening right now to Idaho’s elk? These are population that will take decades or even longer to recover even if we were able to remove all the wolves right now.
              “What’s all the Howling About – Managing Wolves and Elk in Idaho”

              1. That is a 12-year-old report. A quick google search shows a newer study that says “The outright number of elk in the state currently stands at 120,000, just 5,000 fewer than the all-time high of 125,000. That’s also 8,000 more elk than were counted in 1995, the year wolves were reintroduced to Idaho.”

        1. Sometimes tis better to tell them, Just take a walk.
          Had to learn that one myself, then walk with respect. Some even like me better for it.

  • That is because after this data Idaho started a campaign to significantly reduce the wolf population with a goal of 90% reduction.

  • That is interesting because the data I’m seeing is 705 wolves in 2010 when the elk numbers were dwindling (according to the report you cited) and 1556 wolves in 2020 when the elk population is thriving.

  • So you are saying that removing all regulations on hunting wolves up to 90 per person isn’t lowering their population? Perhaps they have some counting problems. As wolf harvesting numbers are up over 600%.

  • Well no, what I’m saying is that apparently having more wolves is not harming the elk population as the first report you posted inferred.

  • Maybe wdfw should talk to Idaho and Montana about wolves. Maybe a inter agency phone call could answer alot of important questions. Just saying. I live in a newly ” wolf enhanced ” area and have noticed a large drop off of deer numbers as well as black bears. But that’s just my personal findings as someone who actually lives in the boonies/mountains…

    1. WA is never going to use Idaho and Montana’s management practices. That is the whole problem with even going down this horrible rabbit whole. By the time WA decides more severe management practices are necessary the balance will be so far tipped it will be years before it recovers.

  • There is no ecosystem. Humans have more than Interfered with it, and disrupted it. Everyone needs to accept that. If not, then find another planet to live on. As for wolves in Washington state. With all the research I have done. I have yet to find any real evidence that they were ever in this part of the country. Other than certain people claiming they existed here. Even if they did at one time. The state of Washington has got along just fine for many years without them. I don’t believe there is any room for wolves in the Lower 48. I do accept having them in Yellowstone national park. So you people can experiment with your so called natural ecosystem. Anything outside of the park boundary is fair game to kill.

  • You moderators are a joke!!! I say something positive and you still take it off? F.U. ☺️

    1. Says a rude person, with no regard for others, no regard for people and how their delusional ideas may affect them. You put your delusion over the value and quality of human life.

  • Has ANYBODY on here ACTUALLY heard a wild wolf howl in WA? I mean honestly, if you haven’t you don’t deserve to comment here.

    1. 50 years ago, along the NE state line with Canada. Singles would cross the border to the south once in a while. 1 to 3 miles deep, then back to Canada. Long before replanting. Never heard of much damage.
      Today’s communication is tuff. Newer generations with gadgets in hand, sometimes running nowhere. Like the difference between what the internet was dreamed of fulfilling, compared to what it has become.
      I cherish the wildlife. But then not everyone knows how to operate a government phone with 2 magnetos, 12 miles of number 10 wire and people of the same salt at both ends.
      When they poisoned the wolf out, was to protect the human interest.
      When they brought them back, was to protect the Wolfes interests.

  • Living Snoqualmie