VICTORY! Stopping Wildlife Services from Killing Wolves in Washington
Wildlife Services is a stand-alone federal extermination program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that kills roughly 4 million animals per year, including wolves, bears, otters, foxes, coyotes, and birds—with almost no oversight or accountability. In the summer of 2014, Wildlife Services finalized plans to conduct wolf damage management in Washington. This allowed Wildlife Services to contract with the State of Washington, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and tribes to investigate depredation incidents, trap wolves, and when authorized, kill wolves through aerial gunning, shooting, and trapping. In March 2015, we filed a lawsuit against Wildlife Services challenging its authority to kill state-endangered wolves in Washington on behalf of five conservation groups.
Wildlife Services claims killing wolves reduces wolf-caused losses of livestock, yet recent peer-reviewed research directly contradicts this conclusion, finding that killing wolves increases wolf-livestock conflicts. Wildlife Services has also failed to fully analyze the ecological effects of killing wolves in Washington, including impacts on wolf populations in neighboring states and on non-target animals, including federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx.
Wolves were driven to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Wolves began to return to Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia in the early 2000s, and the wolf population in the state has grown to 18 confirmed packs and at least 90 wolves. Despite this growth, there are just eight breeding packs. Wolves in the state are far from recovered and face ongoing threats—including the threat of being shot and killed by Wildlife Services.
In late 2015, Federal District Judge Robert Bryan vacated Wildlife Services’ “finding of no significant impact” of its wolf killing plans and ordered the agency to complete an environmental impact statement. Washington’s wolves are safe from Wildlife Services for now, and we’re monitoring the situation for the future.