With a decade of growth in the state's wolf population, including a pack identified in Skagit County last year, the state is preparing a plan for post-recovery management of the species.
The state lists wolves as endangered throughout the state, and the federal government lists them as endangered in the western two-thirds of Washington.
While it may be years before wolves are removed from endangered lists, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife is preparing a management plan for when delisting comes, according to a news release.
"Long-term sustainability and persistence of Washington's wolf population will always be a department priority," Fish & Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind said in the release. "We know that Washington wolves are doing well, and it's our responsibility to be prepared to help wolf and human populations coexist in the same landscape."
Fish & Wildlife has found that since 2008 the state's wolf population has grown by an average of 28% per year.
The most recent wolf survey also noted the first pack known to be west of the North Cascades, a pair of wolves living in Skagit County and now called the Diobsud Creek pack. One of those wolves was first documented — and collared by wildlife managers — in the Marblemount area in June 2017.
With that growth and the possibility for the species to be removed from state and federal endangered species lists, the state needs a new management plan. Fish & Wildlife currently uses a 2011 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.
"The 2011 plan was developed specifically to inform and guide Washington wolf recovery while wolves are considered threatened or endangered," Fish & Wildlife Wolf Coordinator Julia Smith said in the release. "The new plan will focus on how the department will conserve and manage wolves after their recovery."
The plan will be developed under the State Environmental Policy Act process, which includes an environmental impact statement, or EIS, that will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of various options of the plan.
The first public comment period, regarding the scope of the EIS, will run through Nov. 1.
During the comment period, a survey is available online, one of 14 open houses will be held at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Bay View and a webinar meeting will be held online.