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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Chances slim for wolf bills in this Congress
Nov. 22, 2010 in City, Idaho on Page A6 BILLINGS – Lawmakers from the Northern Rockies say pending bills aimed at getting gray wolves off the endangered species list have little chance of passage this year. A time crunch, … 1
Feds delay decision on Idaho wolf killing
Montana elk hunters shoot wolf
Pend Oreille wolf pack likely won’t stay as large
Oct. 29, 2010 in Idaho on Page A6 A wolf pack with a dozen members has been spotted in northern Pend Oreille County, a state wildlife biologist confirmed. The pack, one of three confirmed in Washington state, consists …
Gridlock on wolves alienates key allies
Oct. 28, 2010 in Idaho on Page A1 An impasse over wolf management in the Northern Rockies is alienating hunters and ranchers, groups whose support is crucial to the canny predators’ long-term success in the region, experts say. … 28
Allred wants to retain state control of wolves
Oct. 22, 2010 in Idaho on Page A6 BOISE – Keith Allred, Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, announced Thursday that he opposes Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to pull Idaho out of wolf management, and that if elected, …
Idaho pulling back on wolves
Oct. 19, 2010 in Idaho on Page A1 Idaho Gov. Butch Otter ordered state wildlife managers Monday to stop arresting poachers and investigating illegal killings of wolves, saying the state is getting out of wolf management. Without the … 6
Idaho won’t manage wolves under ESA
Oct. 18, 2010 in Idaho After talks with the federal government collapsed, Gov. Butch Otter ordered Idaho wildlife managers today to relinquish their duty to arrest poachers or to even investigate when wolves are killed … 1
Mont. lawmaker alleges non-protection of wolves in Idaho
Oct. 18, 2010 in City, Idaho on Page A6 MISSOULA – Idaho officials are disputing a claim by Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana that Idaho won’t enforce federal protection of wolves. The Missoulian reported that Rehberg on Thursday …
$10,000 in rewards offered in killing of Ore. wolf
Idaho, Montana propose wolf hunts
Sept. 28, 2010 in Idaho, Region on Page A6 Documents released Monday 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 … 7
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