Few wildlife conservation efforts have been as controversial as that of the grey wolf in the Northern Rockies. Federal efforts to protect the wolf have clashed with state efforts to control wolf populations and protect livestock and game from predation by wolf packs.
Idaho and Montana have been given federal authority to manage wolf numbers using public hunts. Federal officials require Idaho to maintain a population of at least 150 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.
Idaho wildlife officials have boosted bag limits, expanded trapping and extended hunting seasons in some areas to help further reduce wolf populations in all corners of the state. Its 10-month wolf season runs until June.
Idaho’s wolf managers estimated 500 to 600 wolves roamed the state as of spring 2012, down from the more than 1,000 when the 2011 hunting season opened in August.
Hunters and trappers killed 364 wolves since the 2011 season opened, while dozens more wolves have died of natural causes or been killed for preying on livestock or targeted as part of a strategy to lessen impacts on specific elk herds in the state.
A federal appeals court in March rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that wanted to block wolf hunts across the Northern Rockies. The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves in spring 2011.
Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals. Wildlife advocates claimed in their lawsuit that Congress violated the separation of powers by interfering with the courts. But the court said Congress was within its rights, and that lawmakers had appropriately amended the Endangered Species Act to deal with Northern Rockies wolves.
There are more than 1,700 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and expanding populations in portions of Eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Wolf hunting could resume in Wyoming this fall.
In parts of Montana, ranchers and local officials frustrated with continuing attacks on livestock have proposed bounties for hunters that kill wolves. Montana wildlife officials said they will consider ways to expand hunting after 166 wolves were killed this season, short of the state’s 220-wolf quota.
Wolves once thrived across North America but were exterminated across most of the continental U.S. by the 1930s, through government sponsored poisoning and bounty programs.
Wolves were put on the endangered list in 1974. Over the last two decades, state and federal agencies have spent more than $100 million on wolf restoration programs across the country. There are more than 4,500 of the animals in the upper Great Lakes and a struggling population of several dozen wolves in the Desert Southwest.
Prior lawsuits resulted first in the animals’ reintroduction to the Northern Rockies and then later kept them on the endangered list for a decade after the species reached recovery goal of 300 wolves in three states.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is monitoring the hunts. But agency officials have said they have no plans to intervene because the states have pledged to manage wolves responsibly.
Federal officials have pledged to step in to restore endangered species protections if wolf numbers drop to less than 100 animals in either Montana or Idaho.
Even without hunting, wolves are shot regularly in the region in response to livestock attacks. Since their reintroduction, more than 1,600 wolves have been shot by government wildlife agents or ranchers.
Latest updates in this topic
Chris Bachman: The wolf you feed
It is time to bridge the divide and collaborate, supporting human interests and protecting wildlife.
Bill to keep Idaho wolf control board headed to governor
Legislation to keep operating a state board that pays a federal agency to kill wolves that attack livestock and elk is on its way to Gov. Brad Little after a …
Wolf trapping is a tool Idaho wildlife managers want to keep, but at what price?
You can earn more than $1,000 for trapping a single wolf in Idaho, but it will cost you.
Wolf Advisory Group meeting canceled due to weather
Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group was scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Olympia.
Montana wolf payout bill called unethical
A pair of bills to encourage more people to kill wolves drew spirited debate at the Montana Legislature’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee Jan. 31.
Wolf shot, killed near Sprague Lake about 40 miles from Spokane
In an area where no documented wolf packs roam, a rancher shot a wolf Monday.
Wolf Advisory group meeting Tuesday, Wednesday
The Washington Wolf Advisory group will discuss what to do once wolves are delisted in the state during a meeting on Olympia, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Battle in Yellowstone: Video shows long-legged elk schooling wolves
A pack of wolves in Yellowstone National Park found themselves floundering through deep snow while hunting elk Dec. 27. The bull elk had the advantage outpacing and fending off the …
Washington bill calls for wolves to be relocated to Bainbridge Island
A northeast Washington politician has introduced a bill that would move wolves onto Bainbridge Island.
Idaho’s declining moose numbers prompt reduction in hunting opportunities
The Idaho Fish and Game commission voted last week to drastically reduce the number of available moose tags for the 2019-20 seasons.
Idaho wolf control board seeks approval to keep operating
Lawmakers have advanced legislation to keep operating an Idaho board that manages money to pay a federal and state agency to kill wolves that attack livestock and big game.
UW researchers use scat-sniffing dogs to bolster wolf count in Washington
It’s quite possible that the statewide population of wolves is closer to 200 rather than 122, according to UW researchers using scat-sniffing dogs.
Oregon rancher uses inflatable dancer to shoo wolves
A rancher in Jackson County who has had gray wolves eat his livestock is now using a lime-green inflatable dancing man to keep the predators at bay.
After beloved wolf’s shooting near Cooke City, baiting rumors rile mountain town
Questions about whether some Cooke City residents are baiting wolves has raised the hackles of a few of the remote town’s business owners.
Stevens County Commissioners issue wolf safety announcement
The Stevens County Commissioners announced that wolf “packs have come very close to homes in several areas of Stevens County,” Tuesday.
Wolves kill two calves, one cow in Ferry County
The carcasses of two calves and a cow were discovered in Ferry County early in January.
Environmental groups withdraw from Oregon wolf plan talks
Environmental groups have withdrawn from talks aimed at updating the wolf management plan in Oregon.
Yellowstone wolf’s killing raises questions
The November killing of a Yellowstone wolf outside the park has generated “hundreds” of emails and phone calls to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials suggesting that the hunt was …
Wolf advisory group meeting in Spokane
Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Spokane following a difficult year of state wolf management.
Spokane-area photographer captures image of beloved Yellowstone wolf nearly a year before she’s killed by a hunter
Nearly a year ago, Craig Goodwin was driving through Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley when he saw a group of people convened by the side of the road.
Legendary Yellowstone wolf was killed by hunter; years later, her daughter was, too
It was a chance encounter between Marc Cooke and 926F. The wolf looked as though she could be a dog. It paced about 50 yards off the road where Cooke’s …
Popular Yellowstone wolf falls to Montana hunter
A Montana hunter has legally killed a wolf that was popular with photographers and wolf watchers in Yellowstone National Park.
Canine steals deer from Stevens County hunter
A canine chased Eastern Washington University student Andrew Norby away from a buck he shot Oct. 20.
House of Representatives votes to delist gray wolves, bill’s future uncertain in Senate
The House of Representatives voted 196-180 on Friday to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48. The legislation will next head to the Senate.
House of Representatives votes to delist gray wolves
The House of Representatives will vote Friday on whether to delist gray wolves in the contiguous United States.
Dr. Robert Wielgus: The wolf wars in Washington can easily be prevented
Once again, wolves in the old Profanity pack territory (OPT) are being lethally controlled by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because of livestock depredations by wolves in the …
Reflecting on 40 years of change in Yellowstone following wolf reintroduction
Longtime wolf researcher Mark Boyce presented a paper reflecting on his 40 years of work – as well as the work of some of his students and colleagues – on …
Washington wildlife officials order killing of members of two more wolf packs
For the first time Washington wildlife officials will attempt to kill wolves from three separate packs.
WDFW considers killing Togo pack members after attack on calf
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that a member or members of the Togo wolf pack attacked and injured a calf on Oct. 26.
State will kill remaining 2 wolves of pack killing cattle
The state has decided to kill the remaining two wolves from a pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle in the Kettle River Range of Ferry County.
Fish and Wildlife approves killing of remaining two wolves in the old Profanity Peak pack area
The final two members of a wolf pack occupying the old Profanity Peak Pack area will be killed, according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.