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
Legendary Yellowstone wolf was killed by hunter; years later, her daughter was, too
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Popular Yellowstone wolf falls to Montana hunter
A Montana hunter has legally killed a wolf that was popular with photographers and wolf watchers in Yellowstone National Park.
Canine steals deer from Stevens County hunter
A canine chased Eastern Washington University student Andrew Norby away from a buck he shot Oct. 20.
House of Representatives votes to delist gray wolves, bill’s future uncertain in Senate
The House of Representatives voted 196-180 on Friday to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48. The legislation will next head to the Senate.
House of Representatives votes to delist gray wolves
The House of Representatives will vote Friday on whether to delist gray wolves in the contiguous United States.
Dr. Robert Wielgus: The wolf wars in Washington can easily be prevented
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Reflecting on 40 years of change in Yellowstone following wolf reintroduction
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Washington wildlife officials order killing of members of two more wolf packs
For the first time Washington wildlife officials will attempt to kill wolves from three separate packs.
WDFW considers killing Togo pack members after attack on calf
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed that a member or members of the Togo wolf pack attacked and injured a calf on Oct. 26.
State will kill remaining 2 wolves of pack killing cattle
The state has decided to kill the remaining two wolves from a pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle in the Kettle River Range of Ferry County.
Fish and Wildlife approves killing of remaining two wolves in the old Profanity Peak pack area
The final two members of a wolf pack occupying the old Profanity Peak Pack area will be killed, according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife news release.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife seeks Wolf Advisory Group candidates
Washington’s Wolf Advisory Group is looking for new candidates to serve on the citizen committee that advises the department on wolf recovery and management.
Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate warns Democrat he’ll ‘stomp all over your face with golf spikes’
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Wolf killed in old Profanity Peak pack area
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife killed another wolf in the old Profanity Peak Pack area, Friday.
GOP seeks changes to species law, including stripping wolf protection, after grizzly hunts halted
Galvanized by court rulings protecting grizzly bears and gray wolves, Congressional Republicans on Wednesday launched a push for sweeping changes to the Endangered Species Act despite strong objections from Democrats …
State continues efforts to kill some members of wolf pack
Washington state officials have determined that wolves from a pack in northeast Washington have injured five additional calves, and they continue efforts to kill some pack members.
Washington officials kill wolf in former Profanity Peak pack area, another cow killed
A member of the wolf pack occupying the old Profanity Peak pack area was shot and killed Sunday.
Judge rejects effort to temporarily halt killing of wolves
A Washington state judge on Friday rejected efforts to temporarily block the killing of wolves that are preying on livestock in Ferry County.
Washington wildlife officials order killing of wolves in old Profanity Peak Pack territory
State wildlife officials ordered the killing of more wolves, Wednesday.
U.S. rejects request for information on Idaho wolf attacks
The U.S. government says it doesn’t have to release information to an environmental group concerning investigations into livestock deaths in Idaho that can result in wolves being killed for preying …
Officials confirm that Togo wolf is injured after being shot by rancher in northeast Washington
A member of the Togo wolf pack was shot and injured last week.
Frustrated northeast Washington politicians meet after judge blocks killing of Togo pack wolves
Politicians and ranchers in northeast Washington are chafing after two environmental groups from outside the state temporarily blocked the legal killing of members of the Togo wolf pack.
Ferry County rancher claims to have shot wolf in self defense, wildlife officials investigating
State wildlife officials are investigating the reported shooting of a member of the Togo pack.
Washington wildlife officials order members of Togo wolf pack killed, lawsuit temporarily delays action
State officials ordered the lethal removal of wolves from the Togo pack in northeast Washington, Monday. However, environmental groups quickly filed a lawsuit temporarily blocking the action.
Sue Lani Madsen: Living with wolves takes guts, knowledge
It takes guts for a bureaucrat to act decisively without clear policy as a safety net. Fortunately for a young researcher treed by wolves, somebody had guts.
Wolf kills in northeast Washington not prompting a kill order, for now
Another confirmed wolf kill in northeast Washington has left ranchers and wolf advocates wondering if, and when, wildlife officials will start killing members of the Togo Pack.
Togo wolf pack members kill another cow in northeast Washington
Members of the Togo wolf pack killed a cow in the Colville National Forest and injured another last week, according to state wildlife officials.
Two new wolf packs confirmed on Colville Indian Reservation
Two new wolf packs were confirmed on the Colville Indian Reservation this week.
Idaho commission says wolf-livestock kills hit record in past year
Idaho’s Rangeland Resources Commission says wolf attacks on livestock in Idaho hit a record over the past year, and they’re anticipating more this summer.
Three wolves killed in central Idaho after sheep attacks
Three wolves have been killed by federal authorities in central Idaho near Stanley, an action blasted by an environmental group.
Wyoming OKs increased wolf hunting season
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Wednesday approved a wolf hunting season this fall that allows for hunters to take up to 58 wolves, up from the 44 that …
Helicopter rescues woman treed by wolves in Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest
Two wolves forced a seasonal U.S. Forest Service into a tree on Thursday.