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
Start of wolf hunt nears with no ruling yet from judge
Aug. 31, 2009 in Idaho, Outdoors, Region 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 … 2
Idaho wildlife manager talks about elk herds and wolf packs
Aug. 31, 2009 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A5 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 … 3
Wolf hunting just one facet of management, experts say
Aug. 30, 2009 in City, Outdoors on Page A1 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 … 1
Pro-wolf group plans to boycott Idaho spuds
Aug. 30, 2009 in City, Outdoors on Page B10 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
Aug. 29, 2009 in Idaho on Page B1 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 … 2
Wolves kill 120 sheep near Dillon, Mont.
Wolf hunt friends, foes to rally at agency office
Aug. 26, 2009 in Idaho on Page A6 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
Wolf hunting sparks plans for demonstrations
Thousands buy Idaho wolf hunting tags
Aug. 24, 2009 in Idaho, Outdoors 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, … 1
Groups ask judge to block wolf hunts in Idaho, Mont.
Idaho lays out wolf kill
Idaho’s wolf hunt is on
At a glance: Proposed 2009 Idaho wolf hunt
In brief: Wolf, two pups captured, tagged and released
Aug. 1, 2009 in City on Page B3 An adult male wolf was captured and outfitted with a satellite-tracking collar in northern Pend Oreille County Friday. The collar will help state biologists monitor Washington’s second confirmed wolf pack, …
Gray wolf collared in Pend Oreille County
Gray wolf pack is state’s second
July 14, 2009 in Idaho on Page A1 Acting on a tip from loggers, wild-life biologists have confirmed the presence of a wolf pack with pups in northeast Pend Oreille County. At sunrise Friday, Scott Fisher played digital … 2
State may have second wolf pack
July 13, 2009 in City, Outdoors Acting on a tip from loggers, wildlife biologists have confirmed the presence of a wolf pack with pups in northeast Pend Oreille County. At sunrise Friday, Scott Fisher played digital …
Montana OKs hunt for 75 wolves; Idaho quota next
Out & About
June 14, 2009 in Outdoors on Page C10 OUTFIELD – A game camera monitored by Washington state wildlife biologists recently caught an image of what appears to be a lactating female wolf in the middle of Pend Oreille …