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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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 …
Wolf-hunting goes to court in two states
June 3, 2009 in Nation/World on Page A4 BILLINGS, Mont. – A pair of federal judges will decide which states in the Northern Rockies have enough gray wolves to allow public hunting, as the bitter debate over the …
Lawsuits over wolves filed in two courts
June 2, 2009 in Idaho, Region BILLINGS — A pair of federal judges will decide which states in the Northern Rockies have enough gray wolves to allow public hunting, as the bitter debate over the region’s …
Twisp wolves ‘well-behaved’
May 26, 2009 in City on Page A4 TWISP, Wash. – Despite the controversy that surrounds them, the gray wolves that made a home for themselves near Twisp are acting rather neighborly, so far. There has been one …
Fatso video strikes chord years later
May 12, 2009 in City on Page A5 History is littered with great artists who were ignored and unappreciated while alive, only to find fame after shedding their mortal coil. And so it is for an orange Spokane …
Wolf off endangered list in Northern Rockies
Delisting of wolves will face legal fight
April 2, 2009 in Idaho on Page A6 The federal government’s decision to take gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the Endangered Species List is headed for court. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday formally …
Wolves enter mainstream
March 29, 2009 in Outdoors on Page C9 Montana and Idaho are ready to go with gray wolf management plans that include limited hunting now that the predators are being removed from the federal endangered species list. The …
Washington wolves protected
March 29, 2009 in Outdoors on Page C9 The recently announced removal of the gray wolf from federal “endangered” status included wolves found in the eastern two-thirds of Washington. However, Washington still lists the wolf as endangered. Therefore, …
Officials look into gray wolf killing
March 28, 2009 in City, Outdoors on Page B3 SEATTLE – Washington state and federal wildlife officers are investigating the illegal killing of a protected gray wolf in Okanogan County in north-central Washington. The investigation began when a shipper …
Gray wolf population strong
March 18, 2009 in City on Page A8 BILLINGS – Federal officials say a record 1,645 gray wolves counted in the Northern Rockies this winter shows the predators’ population remains strong, but is no longer expanding as rapidly …
Salazar challenged over wolf delisting
March 15, 2009 in City on Page A1 WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to stick with a controversial Bush administration move that took gray wolves off the endangered species list in most of the Northern Rockies …
Residents warned of pack of 10 wolves
Idaho proposing shorter elk-hunting season
March 11, 2009 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A5 Hunters might have fewer chances to bag an elk in the Idaho Panhandle next fall. Wildlife managers are proposing shorter hunting seasons to allow elk herds to recover from the …