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
Legislative committee takes on testy wolves and wildfire bills
Feb. 6, 2015 in City on Page A9 OLYMPIA – Two of the most contentious issues in rural Eastern Washington, wildfires and wolves, are generating demands for change and a stream of legislative proposals. After a hearing on … 4
Kretz legislation proposes relocating wolves
Feb. 5, 2015 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A1 Washington’s best wolf habitat is in the southern Cascade Mountains, where vast federal lands support more than 20,000 elk in the state’s two largest herds. State biologists expect wolves to … 23
Idaho wolf control board seeks renewed funding
Feb. 4, 2015 in City, Idaho on Page A6 BOISE – A state board launched July 1 to reduce Idaho’s wolf population has so far spent $140,000 to kill 31 wolves. The wolf control board was approved by lawmakers … 15
Wolves, predators of caribou, will be killed by B.C. wildlife officials
Jan. 17, 2015 in Outdoors on Page A1 Up to 24 wolves in British Columbia just north of Idaho will be shot by helicopter gunners this winter in an effort to save the 18 remaining southern Selkirk Mountains … 76
Canadian wolves to be shot to save woodland caribou
Jan. 16, 2015 in Outdoors, Region Up to 24 wolves in British Columbia just north of Idaho will be shot by helicopter gunners this winter in an effort to save the 18 remaining southern Selkirk Mountains … 68
Twentieth anniversary of gray wolves in Inland Northwest rouses mixed responses
Jan. 15, 2015 in Outdoors on Page O4 PREDATORS – Monday was the 20th anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to Idaho. It marked 20 years since the wolves trapped in Canada were released in Yellowstone National … 2
Polarized wolf groups battle with billboards
Jan. 11, 2015 in Outdoors on Page C12 Opposing views of gray wolf recovery in Washington are on display in a Spokane-area battle of the billboards. The Defenders of Wildlife, a national wildlife advocacy group, has contracted for … 142
Idaho wolf derby begins today
Jan. 2, 2015 in City on Page A7 BOISE – A hunting derby with $1,000 each for whoever kills the most wolves and coyotes is scheduled to start at sunrise today in east-central Idaho. Idaho for Wildlife’s three-day … 11
Wolf-hunting derby starts Friday in Idaho
Wildlife officials track new reports of wolves
Dec. 25, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O4 While a sheep-killing gray wolf may still roaming in Whitman County, a new wolf pair has been confirmed in Asotin County and another pair has been reported near the Chelan-Okanogan … 4
Special to The Spokesman-Review: It’s time we accept wolves’ presence, right past wrongs
Dec. 13, 2014 in Opinion on Page A13 Have you seen the billboards around town about the Big Bad Wolf? They’re clearly designed to scare us in the hopes that wolves stay gone forever from this part of …
Landers: Wolf issue should be decided by facts, not fear
Dec. 11, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O1 The latest rumor about gray wolves in Washington surfaced at a Spokane County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. According to a county cattleman, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been … 86
Wildlife officials investigate Whitman County wolf kill
Dec. 9, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A1 The first sheep kill attributed to a wolf in Whitman County is being investigated by Washington wildlife officials. One ewe in a flock of about 1,200 was killed Friday on … 90
Wolf kills increase livestock deaths, WSU study says
Dec. 4, 2014 in City on Page A1 Rob Wielgus noticed something interesting when he studied reports of wolf attacks on sheep and cattle in the Northern Rockies. Killing wolves to reduce livestock predation actually led to more … 207
Field reports: Wolf-shooting case in prosecutor’s hands
Nov. 30, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C13 POACHING – A Whitman County wolf-shooting case has been turned over by state officers to County Prosecutor Denis Tracy. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police delivered their evidence to … 8
In brief: Anti-wolf group starts billboard campaign
Nov. 20, 2014 in Outdoors, Sports on Page O4 A newly organized anti-wolf group says it’s targeting Spokane with a billboard campaign to highlight its concerns about the increasing number of wolves in Washington State. Four billboards featuring a … 3
Washington’s proposed Game Management Plan available online
Nov. 16, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C11 Trends in controversial issues such as big-game baiting, lead shot restrictions and wolf management are mapped out in Washington’s draft 2015-21 Game Management Plan that was revised in October. The …
Reward posted in shooting death of wolf
Nov. 15, 2014 in Outdoors on Page A5 A $15,000 reward has been offered in the case of a federally protected wolf that was shot and killed near Salmon la Sac, Washington. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials confirmed … 7
Hunter fires gun during wolf encounter
Field reports: Sea lions take toll on spring chinook
Nov. 9, 2014 in Outdoors on Page C13 FISHING – Prized spring chinook returning from the ocean to the Columbia River Basin are likely being killed in alarming numbers by seals and sea lions between the estuary and …