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
Idaho commission approves wolf hunt rules, dates
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved a new set of rules guiding public hunting and trapping of wolves in the state’s forests and backcountry.
Area wolf poaching case to trial in September
The case of a Methow Valley ranch family accused of killing protected wolves and smuggling their hides out of the country is set for federal trial in Spokane this fall. …
Idaho wolf hunting plan: No limit
Idaho is planning a fall wolf hunt with no overall limit - and no limits in four zones, the Panhandle, Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones - because of “documented …
Wolf’s delisting could imperil other species
WASHINGTON – The Endangered Species Act has long had its foes, particularly in the West. But in recent months, the law has taken an unprecedented hit from Congress. Republicans, led …
Three indicted on charges in endangered wolf deaths
A federal grand jury has indicted a Twisp, Wash., man for illegally killing two wolves near his property and trying to ship one of the pelts to Canada. After Tom …
Eye on Boise: Six receive state Medal of Honor
It was an evening last June when an EMS crew from the Coeur d’Alene Fire Department was dispatched to a scene where a vehicle had crashed into a home. Firefighters …
Aerial killing of wolves called off
LEWISTON – Aerial gunners in a helicopter have killed at least five wolves in north-central Idaho since Wednesday in an effort to protect elk herds, but the hunting has been …
Wolf protections lifted; Idaho, Montana plan hunts this fall
The Obama administration on Wednesday moved to lift Endangered Species Act protections for 5,500 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes, drawing the line on the predators’ rapid …
Gray wolves go back to state control
The Obama administration today announced it is lifting endangered species act protections for 5,500 gray wolves in eight states in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes.
Bangs retiring after leading wolf recovery
HELENA – Ed Bangs, who for 23 years led the effort to reintroduce and recover healthy wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains, is retiring from the U.S. Fish and …
Despite reservations, Otter signs wolf measure
BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law a measure to allow the state to declare a disaster due to wolves and take emergency measures to combat the …
Otter signs wolf disaster bill into law
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law a measure to allow the state to declare a disaster due to wolves and take emergency measures to combat the animals.
Otter, officials to discuss wolf hunt
LEWISTON – Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game plan to meet with Gov. Butch Otter on Monday to discuss a public wolf hunting season. “We will be …
Budget rider gives states wolf control
Gray wolves in most of the Northern Rockies will be removed from the endangered species list under a policy rider attached to Congress’ budget bill. The rider returns wolf management …
Budget would delist wolves
BILLINGS – Gray wolves in Montana and Idaho would be taken off the endangered list under the budget bill pending before Congress, two Western lawmakers said. Inclusion of the language …
Field reports: Settlement paves way for wolf delisting, hunting revenue
FISHING – The tradition of Washington salmon season being debated and set on the West Side as been altered to give East Siders access to the process. On Wednesday, the …
Litigants endorse settlement allowing wolf hunts to go on
BILLINGS – Facing mounting pressure from Congress, wildlife advocates and the U.S. Department of the Interior on Friday reached an agreement to lift gray wolf protections in Idaho and Montana …
Deal would lift wolf protection in Idaho, Montana
Facing mounting pressure from Congress, wildlife advocates and the U.S. Department of Interior today reached an agreement to lift gray wolf protections in Montana and Idaho and allow hunting of …
Field reports: Roosevelt cabins could be removed
PUBLIC LANDS – The National Park Service may require the removal of 25 private cabins that have been built and upgraded within the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. That’s one …
Mange study trims wolves
Paul Cross found out it takes about five people to hold down an adult gray wolf for a shave. The disease ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Bozeman was …
Field reports: Wolverines, wolves, trout
WILDLIFE – Researchers studying wolverines in the North Cascades have new hopes pinned on their latest catch – Mattie. The young female may be pregnant, and if she is, she …
Cattlemen sue feds over region’s wolves
Washington Cattlemen’s Association has filed a lawsuit in Eastern Washington that challenges the wolf’s endangered status throughout the Northern Rockies.
Lawmaker’s plan would let wolf kills go unpunished
A North Idaho Republican says the state should not punish people who kill federally protected gray wolves.
Former Idaho candidate urges residents to kill wolves
A failed Idaho gubernatorial candidate has told a crowd they should take matters into their own and start killing wolves.
Idaho panel suspends wolf management
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday endorsed a decision by Gov. Butch Otter to halt state management of wolves.
Wolf talks at impasse, Schweitzer says
BILLINGS – Montana’s governor said negotiations to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list have hit an impasse after Wyoming and Idaho refused to go along with an Interior …
State, federal leaders continue wolf talks
BILLINGS – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and governors from three Northern Rockies states resumed negotiations Thursday to remove the region’s wolves from the endangered list, but reached no conclusions. Western …
Wolf negotiations resume, but no consensus
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and governors from three Northern Rockies states resumed negotiations today to remove the region’s wolves from the endangered list, but reached no conclusions.
Landers: Audacious wolves add spice to Inland Northwest life
Grizzlies and cougars can get our attention, but wolves are the all-stars of whipping up human emotions. To see them or even just to hear their howling can freeze us …
Salazar, states discuss wolf management
After years of legal wrangling over wolf management, the Obama administration and the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming on Monday discussed crafting an end-game – including whether Congress should …
Governors meet with Salazar on wolf management
After years of legal wrangling over wolf management, the Obama administration and the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming on Monday discussed crafting an end-game - including whether Congress should …
Run-in with wolves puts nature in new perspective
A North Idaho woman said she was confronted by at least four wolves between Tensed and Plummer as she walked alone up her rural driveway at dusk on Saturday. The …