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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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
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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
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Wolf 47 works full-time for Washington wildlife researchers
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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
Reward for poached wolf
$7,500 reward offered in Stevens County wolf-poaching case
Timing is of the essence for many wild animals
Feb. 20, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Winter doesn’t put a chill on the reproductive instincts of certain wild critters. When you’re hot, you’re hot, even if the temperatures are not. Critters such as wolves and great … 1
Timing is of the essence for many wild animals
Idaho officials seek to allow wolf baiting in Panhandle
Feb. 13, 2014 in Idaho on Page A6 Hunters in the Idaho Panhandle would be allowed to bait wolves under a proposal being discussed by state officials. Idaho Fish and Game officials want more hunters to take a … 13
Field reports: Field report: As park elk decline, wolves turn to bison
Jan. 26, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C11 PREDATORS – Bison are playing a larger role in the sustenance of Yellowstone National Park’s wolves as the bison herd has swelled and elk numbers have declined, according to the … 1
Field reports: Farmers raise fees, aid wolf control
Jan. 5, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C11 PREDATORS – Idaho Farm Bureau Federation members have passed a proposal to raise the state brand renewal fee by $25 to increase funding for wolf-control efforts by Idaho Wildlife Services. … 1
2013 outdoors: Wolf issues
Dec. 29, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C12 The gray wolf, reintroduced to the Rockies in the mid-1990s, continued to leave its mark across the Northwest in 2013 and into the legislatures. Here are some highlights. • Idaho …
Idaho hunter organizing two-day wolf derby
Dec. 22, 2013 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page B8 BOISE – An Idaho outfitter is organizing a post-Christmas contest where two-person teams of hunters will be awarded $2,000 in cash prizes and trophies for shooting wolves and coyotes, angering … 24
Dogs vulnerable to Idaho wolf traps
Dec. 15, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C12 Idaho’s wolf trapping season rekindles the anxiety a Sandpoint woman suffered in February as her dog, with a cable locked around its neck, nearly choked to death in her arms. … 23
Hunt for elk proves more challenging
Nov. 30, 2013 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A1 NEAR ST. MARIES – Calob Wilson sat on the tailgate of his dad’s pickup, dandling a rack of antlers on his knees. It was the opening weekend of rifle season, … 29
Out & About: Wolf kill rumor tracked down
Nov. 24, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C14 OUTSPOKEN – Rumors that wolves had attacked three horses near La Crosse, Wash., have been rejected. Several Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police and biologists followed up on the …