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The grey wolf has made a comeback across the Northern Rockies, thanks to federal protection, and Idaho and Montana now allow wolf hunting and trapping to keep the population in check.

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 wolf kills authorized after miniature horse deaths

    MISSOULA — State wildlife officials have authorized killing a pack of wolves that killed four miniature horses near St. Regis.

  • Hunting hasn’t slowed wolves

    At least 1,706 gray wolves in 242 packs and 115 breeding pairs were roaming the Northern Rockies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming at the end of 2009, according to reports …

  • Wolf stars fade

    After a somewhat dominating 14-year reign in the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park, one of the park’s most-prolific and most-viewed gray wolf packs in the world may have perished. …

  • Wolf population rose last year in Northern Rockies

    The wolf population in the Northern Rockies rose last year, but at the slowest rate in nearly 15 years, according to a report released Thursday by U.S. Fish and Wildlife …

  • Yellowstone wolves decline in ’09

    PREDATORS – The number of wolves in Yellowstone National Park declined about 23 percent in 2009, a change park biologists say is typical of natural fluctuations for wildlife species. Yellowstone’s …

  • Elusive target

    AVERY, Idaho – Milt Turley wants to shoot a wolf. He and his wife, Kay, live in close proximity to the shaggy-haired predators. Wolf tracks have appeared on the couple’s …

  • Actual wolf weights often skimpier than hunters estimate

    Rumors of 150-pound wolves abound in the Idaho Panhandle, but most of the wolves taken by hunters are much smaller. Adult females averaged 86 pounds, according to Idaho Department of …

  • Wolves touted as park stewards

    BILLINGS – With ballooning elk and deer populations eating up greenery and altering ecosystems at national parks across the country, a group of researchers is suggesting an unusual solution: Introduce …

  • Idaho closes another wolf hunting area

    State wildlife managers say another Idaho wolf hunting zone has been shut down after hunters filled a state quota.

  • Wolf toll on livestock increases

    Gray wolves killed livestock in Montana at the rate of an animal per day in 2009, stirring a backlash against the predators in rural areas and depleting a program that …

  • Wyoming argues for wolf oversight

    CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no legitimate reason for its refusal to turn over management of gray wolves to the state of Wyoming, the state …

  • Idaho wolf advocate posts hunters’ names on Web

    A Boise wolf advocate has used a public records request to get the names of hunters who reported killing a wolf in Idaho and posted all 122 names on a …

  • Tapeworms infect wolf packs

    A Washington State University wildlife researcher said he was “absolutely shocked to see such a high prevalence” of tapeworms found in Rocky Mountain gray wolves. “Some of these wolves had …

  • Cascade wolf sightings increase

    GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Wolves that have moved into Oregon from Idaho appear to be extending their range west, with recent sightings in the southern Cascades and the Ochoco Mountains. …

  • Wolf plans at different stages

    As Wash- ington continues to formulate a wolf management plan and Idaho has extended the first wolf hunting season in decades, Montana wildlife managers are regrouping. Montana’s first fair-chase wolf …

  • Wolf season extended by three months

    Idaho’s wolf hunt will be extended through March 31, or until each hunting zone reaches its quota, the state’s Fish and Game Commission decided at a Thursday meeting in Coeur …

  • Idaho’s wolf-hunting season extended three months

    Idaho’s wolf hunt will be extended through March 31, or until each hunting zone reaches its quota, the state’s Fish and Game Commission decided at a Thursday meeting in Coeur …

  • Idaho shuts another wolf hunting zone

    State officials say hunters have reached their limit for killing wolves in a hunting zone in northern Idaho.

  • Outside View: Washington state’s plans for wolves reasonable

    We have wolves in Washington. Wolves are not optional. We cannot declare the state a wolf-free zone or build an impenetrable wolf barrier along our border to keep the interloper …

  • Idaho may consider extending wolf hunt season

    Idaho wildlife officials are thinking about extending the wolf hunting season in certain hunting zones across the state.

  • Wolf hunting closed in eastern Idaho zone

    Hunters reached the five-wolf limit in eastern Idaho’s Upper Snake Wolf Zone, prompting state wildlife managers to close the season there.

  • Wolf plan meeting Tuesday in Spokane

    ENDANGERED SPECIES – Public comments will be heard in Spokane on Tuesday on a recently released draft management plan with guidelines for removing gray wolves from Washington’s state endangered species …

  • State may pay wolf-kill damages

    OLYMPIA – Hoping to ease Washington ranchers’ concerns about gray wolves, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing what may be the most generous compensation in the West …

  • Wolf plan to get public hearings

    A draft management and conservation plan released recently for gray wolves in Washington presents a blueprint for ushering the predators through their gradual revival to eventual delisting from state endangered …

  • 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 …

  • Out & About

    World-record bass caught in Japan OUTCAST – The world-record largemouth bass that trophy anglers have been stalking for decades from Florida to California apparently has been caught – by a …

  • 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 …