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
Mont., ID seek wolf kills despite fed protection
Sept. 27, 2010 in Idaho, Region Documents released today show that Montana is seeking federal approval to kill 186 endangered gray wolves in a special “conservation hunt” and neighboring Idaho wants permission to remove up to …
Crapo, Risch sponsor wolf delisting bill
Sept. 23, 2010 in Idaho on Page A6 Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced legislation Wednesday to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, as well as portions of Washington, Oregon and …
Risch, Crapo to introduce bill to delist ID, MT wolves
Wolves among predators exacting a toll on elk in Idaho
Sept. 16, 2010 in Outdoors on Page K11 Since the return of wolves to Idaho 15 years ago, Idaho’s overall elk population has dropped by 20 percent from 125,000 to about 100,000. Idaho Fish and Game research in …
Wolf hunts on hold
Sept. 16, 2010 in Outdoors on Page K15 Wolf-hunting seasons scheduled for fall in Idaho and Montana were stopped this summer by a federal lawsuit that put wolves back under federal protection, at least for now. Gray wolves …
Pup’s discovery spurs wolf search
Sept. 14, 2010 in City on Page A6 Washington wildlife officials are scouting for what could be the state’s third breeding wolf pack after a gray wolf pup recently was caught in Pend Oreille County near the Canada …
Wildlife officials suspect third wolf pack
Sept. 13, 2010 in City Washington wildlife officials are scouting for what could be the state’s third breeding wolf pack after a gray wolf pup recently was caught in Pend Oreille County near the Canada … 1
Wolf killings likely to expand as agencies seek broad authority
Sept. 7, 2010 in City, Outdoors on Page A5 BILLINGS – Government agencies are seeking broad new authority to ramp up killings and removals of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes, despite two recent court actions …
Wyoming not apologetic for thwarting wolf plans
Sept. 5, 2010 in Outdoors on Page C13 CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Wyoming remains committed to classifying gray wolves as predators that can be shot on sight across most of the state despite complaints that its position will stop … 3
Idaho adapts to wolf ruling, plans appeal
Aug. 22, 2010 in Idaho on Page B1 BOISE – Idaho’s top wildlife officials have agreed to appeal a federal judge’s decision placing wolves back on the endangered species list, but they’ve also agreed to work with the …
Idaho officials to cull up to 80 wolves
Idaho F&G unveils Clearwater wolf-kill plan
Wolf ruling ends plans for talks on lawsuit settlement
Aug. 7, 2010 in City, Outdoors on Page B2 HELENA – A judge’s ruling to restore federal protections for the Rocky Mountain gray wolf has scuttled settlement talks between the parties involved in a lawsuit that had been scheduled …
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 …