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
Montana suspends wolf hunting near Yellowstone
Montana wildlife officials suspended wolf hunting near Yellowstone National Park on Thursday, after nine kills in just three weeks pushed the area’s wolf harvest close to its season-long limit.
29 wolves shot in Idaho so far this hunting season
Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials said a female wolf with the Phantom Hill pack was killed by a hunter, marking the 29th wolf kill since Idaho’s hunting season …
Fish and Wildlife unveils wolf plan
International borders and state lines are no deterrent to gray wolves, which are drifting into Washington from neighboring packs in British Columbia, Idaho and Montana. At least two wolf packs …
First North Idaho wolf kill reported
A wolf was shot in the Marble Creek area of the St. Joe River drainage Thursday during the opening day of wolf season in the Idaho Panhandle.
Idaho man illegally shot at wolf pack from sky
BOISE — A shotgun-wielding motorized parachutist fired on a pack of wolves earlier this year from the eastern Idaho sky, something forbidden even under a state permit that allows aerial …
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First wolf kill of Montana season reported
HELENA, Mont. — State wildlife officials have received the first report of a wolf killed in the hunting season that began Tuesday.
Special wolf tags to be auctioned
BOISE – Idaho is looking at auctioning off 10 “special wolf tags” to the highest bidders as a fundraiser for wolf management. Such an auction was authorized by state lawmakers …
‘Special’ wolf tags could go to auction
Idaho is looking at auctioning off 10 “special wolf tags” to the highest bidders, as a fundraiser for wolf management.
Wolf advocates won’t appeal ruling allowing hunts
Wolf advocates have decided not to appeal a federal judge’s decision that let wolf hunting seasons go forward in Idaho and Montana.
Ruling allows wolf hunting to go on
Wolf hunting can continue in Idaho, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, but he hinted that the bigger court case behind the request may land the wolf back on the endangered …
Man cited for wolf poaching
An Eagle, Idaho, man was cited by the Idaho Fish and Game department this week for poaching after he shot a wolf outside an approved hunting zone.
Gray wolf hunts can continue, federal judge says
A federal judge said gray wolf hunts can go on for the first time in decades in the Northern Rockies, just months after the animals were removed from the endangered …
Trust the real experts in wolf debate
Wolves are running a spectrum of emotions in the thoughts of people across the nation this week. Certainly it’s news to ask a hunter why he wants to kill a …
Idaho’s wolf hunt is still on, for now
BOISE – Gray wolves were back in the crosshairs of hunters Tuesday, just months after they were removed from the federal endangered species list and eight decades since being hunted …
Real estate agent takes Idaho’s first gray wolf
Gray wolves were back in the cross hairs of hunters on Tuesday, just months after they were removed from the federal endangered species list and eight decades since being hunted …
Judge weighs wolf decision as Idaho hunters head out
BOISE – While a federal judge ponders whether to issue an injunction stopping wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana, Idaho hunters are heading into the woods, ready to target wolves …
Start of wolf hunt nears with no ruling yet from judge
While a federal judge ponders whether to issue an injunction stopping wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana, Idaho Fish and Game officials are hurriedly preparing signs to warn away hunters …
Idaho wildlife manager talks about elk herds and wolf packs
Fewer North Idaho families will have elk steaks in their freezers this fall. Two severe winters, plus a growing wolf population, have dramatically reduced elk calf survival rates. To allow …
Wolf hunting just one facet of management, experts say
Some tough love – including regulated hunting – is needed to carve a permanent niche for wolves reintroduced to the Northern Rocky Mountains, say leading wolf authorities in this region …
Pro-wolf group plans to boycott Idaho spuds
BOISE – A Connecticut-based animal rights group angry over Idaho’s planned wolf hunt aims to punch the state in its tuber. Friends of Animals is urging foes of the hunt, …
Wolf hunt foes, supporters say science backs them up
Milt Turley, an elk hunter, hung a sign on his pickup that read: “Wolves are eating my family’s dinner as we speak.” Others carried signs proclaiming “Wolves – part of …
Wolves kill 120 sheep near Dillon, Mont.
DILLON, Mont. — Wolves killed 122 buck sheep in a pasture south of Dillon earlier this month, surpassing the number of sheep killed by wolves in the entire state in …
Wolf hunt friends, foes to rally at agency office
Idaho’s proposed wolf hunt will draw both opponents and supporters to Friday demonstrations at the Idaho Fish and Game office in Coeur d’Alene. Members of the Sandpoint-based North Idaho Wolf …
Six dead wolf pups found in Idaho
FAIRFIELD, Idaho – Six dead wolf pups have been discovered on national forest land in south-central Idaho, state officials announced today.
Wolf hunting sparks plans for demonstrations
Idaho’s proposed wolf hunt will draw both opponents and supporters to Friday demonstrations at the Idaho Fish and Game office.
Thousands buy Idaho wolf hunting tags
The first hunter to buy a wolf tag at Idaho’s Fish & Game headquarters in Boise this morning, J.D. Dennis of Kuna, arrived 55 minutes before the sale started. “Fortunately, …
Groups ask judge to block wolf hunts in Idaho, Mont.
A coalition of environmental and animal rights groups asked a federal judge Thursday to stop wolf hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana planned for this fall.
Idaho lays out wolf kill
BOISE – Idaho will start selling tags Monday for its first public wolf hunt, to give hunters from both inside and outside the state a shot at up to 220 …
Idaho’s wolf hunt is on
Idaho will start selling tags next Monday for its first-ever public wolf hunt, to give hunters from both inside and outside the state a shot at up to 220 of …
At a glance: Proposed 2009 Idaho wolf hunt
Idaho has joined Montana in planning to let hunters shoot wolves starting this September — the first open gray wolf hunts in the lower 48 states after the lifting of …