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
Special to The Spokesman-Review: It’s time we accept wolves’ presence, right past wrongs
Dec. 13, 2014 in Opinion on Page A13 Have you seen the billboards around town about the Big Bad Wolf? They’re clearly designed to scare us in the hopes that wolves stay gone forever from this part of …
Landers: Wolf issue should be decided by facts, not fear
Dec. 11, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O1 The latest rumor about gray wolves in Washington surfaced at a Spokane County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. According to a county cattleman, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been … 86
Wildlife officials investigate Whitman County wolf kill
Dec. 9, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A1 The first sheep kill attributed to a wolf in Whitman County is being investigated by Washington wildlife officials. One ewe in a flock of about 1,200 was killed Friday on … 90
Wolf kills increase livestock deaths, WSU study says
Dec. 4, 2014 in City on Page A1 Rob Wielgus noticed something interesting when he studied reports of wolf attacks on sheep and cattle in the Northern Rockies. Killing wolves to reduce livestock predation actually led to more … 207
Field reports: Wolf-shooting case in prosecutor’s hands
Nov. 30, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C13 POACHING – A Whitman County wolf-shooting case has been turned over by state officers to County Prosecutor Denis Tracy. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police delivered their evidence to … 8
In brief: Anti-wolf group starts billboard campaign
Nov. 20, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O4 A newly organized anti-wolf group says it’s targeting Spokane with a billboard campaign to highlight its concerns about the increasing number of wolves in Washington State. Four billboards featuring a … 3
Washington’s proposed Game Management Plan available online
Nov. 16, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C11 Trends in controversial issues such as big-game baiting, lead shot restrictions and wolf management are mapped out in Washington’s draft 2015-21 Game Management Plan that was revised in October. The …
Reward posted in shooting death of wolf
Nov. 15, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A5 A $15,000 reward has been offered in the case of a federally protected wolf that was shot and killed near Salmon la Sac, Washington. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed … 7
Hunter fires gun during wolf encounter
Field reports: Sea lions take toll on spring chinook
Nov. 9, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C13 FISHING – Prized spring chinook returning from the ocean to the Columbia River Basin are likely being killed in alarming numbers by seals and sea lions between the estuary and …
Vanity plates helping fund wolf efforts
Nov. 2, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C14 Washington drivers who pay extra for personalized license plates on their vehicles play a big role in managing wolves. The 2013 Legislature earmarked $10 from the purchase or renewal of … 1
In brief: All game and fish possession requires documentation
Oct. 16, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O3 Helping a friend or family member haul a deer or elk out of the mountains can get a person a ticket without proper documentation. Same goes for transporting or sharing …
Farmer being investigated for shooting gray wolf in Whitman County
Oct. 14, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A6 A farmer is being investigated in the shooting of an endangered gray wolf in Whitman County on Sunday. The wolf was shot southwest of Pullman, said Washington Department of Fish … 193
Landers: Hunter honored to name wolf pack
Oct. 9, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O1 Bob Jensen is a big-game hunter, one of the three Washington wildlife watchers featured in a Sunday Outdoors story who found a new Washington wolf pack and earned the prize … 1
Anger over wolf attacks rekindles at Washington agency meeting
Oct. 8, 2014 in City, Outdoors, Region on Page A5 A tense summer between ranchers and wolves led to a packed crowd Tuesday night in Colville at a public meeting with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson. … 391
Naming a wolf pack is prize for citizens who discover a pair or more
Oct. 5, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C12 While they view predators from widely different viewpoints, Steve Gilbertson, a hiker, Ross Hurd, a rancher, and Bob Jensen, a hunter, are among Washington’s most distinguished wolf watchers. Each had … 19
Wolf to be captured, relocated to wildlife park
Oct. 2, 2014 in City, Outdoors on Page A6 A female wolf that’s become too comfortable hanging around homes and domestic dogs near Ione will be captured and put in a Western Washington wildlife park, Washington Department of Fish … 20
Judge reinstates federal protection for wolves in Wyoming
Sept. 24, 2014 in Nation/World on Page A2 CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming wolves are back under federal protection after a ruling Tuesday by a federal judge in Washington, D.C. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday rejected …
Colville-area ranch family receives Forest Service award
Sept. 23, 2014 in City on Page A6 A ranching family from Colville has received a national award from the U.S. Forest Service for their stewardship of public rangeland. John and Melva Dawson, and their son, Jeff, received … 2
Wolf impact on elk keeps heat on wildlife managers
Sept. 21, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C14 Idaho elk hunters have had to adapt to a “new normal” that looks a lot different from boom years of the 1990s, when the harvests topped 25,000 three times, in … 16