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
Wolf ruling ends plan to hold settlement talks
Aug. 6, 2010 in Idaho A judge’s ruling to restore federal protections for the Rocky Mountain gray wolf has scuttled settlement talks between the parties involved in the lawsuit that had been scheduled for next …
Idaho will ask feds for OK to kill Lolo wolves
Ruling puts Oregon wolves back on federal list
Aug. 6, 2010 in Region Oregon’s wolves are back under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. A federal judge in Montana on Thursday overturned the Obama administration’s decision to give wolf management to …
Judge orders protections reinstated for gray wolf
Aug. 5, 2010 in Idaho, Region A federal judge today reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho, saying the government made a political decision in removing the protections from just two of … 16
Panel eases Idaho wolf-hunting rules
July 9, 2010 in Idaho on Page A7 Trapping wolves will be allowed in Idaho, and hunters can use electronic calls to attract the elusive predators, Idaho wildlife officials decided Thursday. By liberalizing hunting methods, members of Idaho’s … 1
Montana plans to raise quota for wolf hunt
July 7, 2010 in City on Page A6 HELENA – State wildlife officials will recommend increasing the quota of wolves allowed to be killed by hunters this year to 186, compared to 75 in last year’s inaugural hunt. …
Judge hears wolf appeal
June 16, 2010 in City on Page A7 MISSOULA – A federal judge heard arguments Tuesday on whether gray wolves in Montana and Idaho should be protected once more under the Endangered Species Act. Wildlife advocates sued the …
Judge hears arguments in federal wolf case
June 15, 2010 in Idaho, Region A federal judge heard arguments today on whether gray wolves in Montana and Idaho should be protected once more under the Endangered Species Act and whether those states can ensure …
Alaska wolf kill blocked
June 8, 2010 in City on Page A3 ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A federal judge on Monday denied the state of Alaska’s request for a preliminary injunction to kill wolves, a step it said was needed to protect a … 2
Lethal week for Montana wolves
June 6, 2010 in Outdoors on Page C9 Fifteen gray wolves from five different packs were killed in Montana for preying on livestock between May 17 and May 21, making it one of the deadliest five-day stretches in … 1
Wolf plan panelists divided
May 30, 2010 in Outdoors on Page C10 Five states are working at dramatically different paces to deal with the reintroduction of gray wolves. Wyoming’s kill ’em on sight plan landed them in last place, mired in court … 2
Ranchers obtain wolf permits
Group to host talk about gray wolves
May 25, 2010 in Idaho on Page A6 The Spokane County Chapter of Citizens’ Alliance for Property Rights will host a talk on expanding gray wolf populations from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Greyhound Park Event …
Judge to hear arguments in wolf delisting lawsuit
April 27, 2010 in Idaho, Region A federal judge in Missoula will hear oral arguments on June 15 on whether gray wolves in Montana and Idaho should be removed from the list of federally protected species.
Study: Elk more likely to flee humans than wolves
April 20, 2010 in Outdoors, Region Elk respond more strongly to threats from humans than from wolves, and they are more likely to flee for protected refuges if there are hunters in the area, a recent … 6
Field reports: Wallowa anglers net record kokanee
April 11, 2010 in Outdoors on Page C9 FISHING – Northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa Lake is producing state-record kokanee of saltwater proportions. Wan Teece of Enterprise, Ore., caught a 26.25-inch long kokanee weighing 8.23 pounds on March 24.
Wolf hunt season ends with killings shy of limit
April 1, 2010 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A6 BOISE – Idaho closed the first regulated wolf-hunting season in the lower 48 states Wednesday, and state Fish and Game officials are calling it a success. “I’d be severely disappointed …
First wolf-hunting season a success, official says
March 31, 2010 in Idaho Today, Idaho closes the first regulated wolf-hunting season in the lower 48 states, and state Fish & Game officials are calling it a success. “I’d be severely disappointed if we … 7
Elk reproduction woes tied to wolves
March 27, 2010 in Idaho on Page A1 After hours of watching Yellowstone elk herds through a spotting scope, Scott Creel noticed a few interesting things. When wolves appeared, the elk turned skittish. They spent more time on … 12
Montana wolf kills authorized after miniature horse deaths