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.
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Latest updates in this topic
Environmental groups ask Inslee for wolf-kill limits
Aug. 28, 2014 in Region SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock … 20
Hunter hired by state kills one Stevens County wolf
Aug. 26, 2014 in City on Page A8 One wolf has been killed by a hunter hired by Washington, where the animals have been regaining a foothold in recent years after being heavily hunted in the early 1900s. …
State targets wolf pack
Aug. 24, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A1 A death sentence has been issued for a portion of a wolf pack that’s killed at least 22 sheep this month in southern Stevens County. Efforts to haze and deter … 84
Helicopter gunners target wolves in Stevens County
Lethal force authorized for wolves preying on Stevens County sheep
Aug. 21, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A6 A northeastern Washington wolf pack that’s acquired a taste for sheep could get a taste of lethal force. A rancher and state wildlife officials herding 1,800 sheep away from the … 9
Wolves kill 14 sheep in year’s first taking in Washington
Aug. 16, 2014 in Outdoors on Page B1 Wolves killed 14 sheep in northeastern Washington this week, state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said Friday. Agency field staff confirmed that one or more wolves from the Huckleberry … 7
Wolves kill 14 sheep in Stevens County
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that one or more wolves from the Huckleberry Pack in southern Stevens County killed 12 sheep Aug. 11 and two more … 64
Idaho suspends plan for hired wolf hunter
Wandering Oregon wolf has pups in Cascade Range
Idaho biologists find, monitor wolf pups
June 1, 2014 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page B1 The wolf pup had downy fur and a chubby little belly. But as it bolted from the den, it already showed signs of an adult wolf’s fleetness. Lacy Robinson was … 51
Idaho Department of Fish and Game defends handling, collaring wolf pups
June 1, 2014 in Idaho on Page B9 Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say the value of the information gained about wolf pup behavior and survival is worth the slight risk that accompanies handling and collaring … 14
Rich Landers: An issue of prey, not the endangered predator
May 29, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O1 Wildlife managers are tiptoeing through the recovery of gray wolves in Washington. Some special-interest groups are entrenched poles apart, with livestock growers and hunters who have the most to lose … 9
Highlights from the Big Horn Show
March 27, 2014 in Outdoors on Page O3 Here’s a sampling of highlights from the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center last weekend: Hottest topic: “Wolves,” said Mike Wilkinson, one of …
Field reports: Lawmakers back wolf protections
March 23, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C11 WILDLIFE – Federal lawmakers pressed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday to drop the administration’s plan to end federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states. … 1
Out & About: Rare wolf-dog hookup indicates wolf population thin
March 16, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C12 OUTBRED – Last week, the saga of wolf recovery in Washington took a strange tryst. News that a large domestic guard dog got loose and mated with a female gray … 6
Agency spays endangered wolf after dog impregnated it
March 12, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A6 A domestic dog that took a monthlong romp on the wild side in Pend Oreille County forced Washington wildlife officials to capture and spay an endangered female gray wolf on … 3
Washington confirms 4 new wolf packs
March 9, 2014 in Outdoors Gray wolves established four new packs and expanded their territory in Washington over the past year, according to the annual status report on the state endangered species released Saturday by … 126
Wolf 47 works full-time for Washington wildlife researchers
March 9, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page C14 Conventional wisdom in northeastern Washington suggests that gray wolves are lurking everywhere – that is, until you try to catch one. Capturing a wolf for research ranges from dangerous to … 27
Idaho killed 23 wolves by helicopter in February
Feb. 28, 2014 in City Idaho Fish and Game, in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, killed 23 gray wolves from a helicopter near the Idaho-Montana border during February in an effort to relieve predation …
Wolf kill bill passed by Idaho House
Feb. 22, 2014 in Idaho on Page B2 BOISE – Idaho would spend more than $2 million to eliminate problem wolves and set up a new state board to oversee the effort, under legislation that cleared the Idaho … 17