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
10 wolves killed in northern Idaho to boost elk numbers
Federal officials have killed 10 wolves in northern Idaho at the request of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to boost elk numbers, and state officials say more might …
Imported guard dogs deployed as part of U.S. wolf-sheep study
Nearly 120 dogs from three large breeds perfected over centuries in Europe and Asia to be gentle around sheep and children but vicious when confronting wolves recently underwent a study …
Idaho can keep data on animals tracked illegally amid appeal
Idaho officials don’t have to destroy information right away that came from tracking collars placed on wolves and elk by a helicopter crew that landed illegally in a wilderness area …
Famous Yellowstone elk herd rebounds two decades after wolf reintroduction
The Northern Yellowstone elk herd, one of the most famous and closely watched in the world, is finally growing at a healthy clip.
‘I just want out’: Large carnivore conservation lab director opens up about relationship with WSU
Robert Wielgus has been at the center of a whirlwind of conflict with his employer, Washington State University.
Liberty Lake man fined $8,000 for killing wolves
An eastern Washington state man who killed two wolves has been fined more than $8,000.
Idaho wolf control board seeks another $400K next year to kill problem wolves
A state board charged with contracting to have problem wolves killed asked state lawmakers for another $400,000 on Friday, though the board has received that amount from the state each …
Livestock owners concerned about wolves in Boise foothills
Federal officials say there have been no reports of livestock kills associated with a seven-member wolf pack that roamed in the Boise foothills last spring.
Spokane group adds money to wolf poaching reward
After two wolves were illegally killed in northeast Washington in November and December a slew of nonprofit conservation groups offered rewards leading to conviction.
State wildlife officials confirm wolf killed alpaca
Investigators from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife have confirmed that wolves killed an alpaca on private land in Union County.
Reward for wolf poacher raised to $20,000
The reward for information leading to the conviction of an alleged poacher has grown to $20,000.
Poachers kill two wolves in northeast Washington, at least one in Stevens County
Two wolves were illegally killed in northeast Washington last month, according to Conservation Northwest officials.
Oregon delays vote on wolf plan that could lead to hunting
Oregon officials are delaying a decision about whether to adopt a new wolf management plan that could eventually open the door for a wolf hunt.
Report: Wolf population increase not hurting deer numbers
The growing population of wolves in eastern Washington state does not appear to be hurting the populations of deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep, according to a report issued this …
Idaho fighting order to destroy wilderness wolf, elk data
Idaho officials are challenging a federal court order to destroy information collected from tracking collars placed on elk and wolves obtained illegally by landing a helicopter in a central Idaho …
Wolves’ return to Oregon brings conflict and opportunity
Today, Oregon’s statehood is secure, but the future of its wolf population once more hangs in the balance. Wolves have returned after decades, and this time, humans are having a …
Groups ask governor to reopen wolf killing investigation
More than a dozen conservation groups have asked Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office to reopen an investigation into the Oct. 27 killing of a wolf by a hunter who claimed …
Third federally protected gray wolf killed in Oregon
Another gray wolf has been found dead in Oregon, marking the third such unsolved death of a federally protected wolf in the past year, state and federal wildlife officials said. …
Oregon hunter fatally shoots wolf; claims self-defense
Oregon State Police say an elk hunter alerted the agency that he killed a wolf in self-defense, after initially believing he shot a coyote.
Reward offered for info on wolf-killing poacher in Oregon
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and five conservation groups have teamed up to offer $15,500 for information about the illegal poaching of a federally protected gray wolf that was …
Wildlife managers track daughter of famous OR-7 wolf
State and federal wildlife managers will again be able to track gray wolf OR-7’s Rogue Pack now that one of his presumed offspring is sporting a new GPS collar.
Analysis counters WSU profs’ opposition to wolf killing
A Washington State University professor erred in controversial research released in 2014 suggesting that killing wolves that attack cattle is counterproductive because it stimulates more attacks, according to a statistical …
Oregon authorities kill wolf following cattle attacks
ENTERPRISE, Ore. – Oregon wildlife officials have killed a fourth member of a wolf pack in the northeast part of the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife tells …
Idaho F&G Commission unanimously rejects wolf-baiting, at least for now
In a unanimous vote, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has rejected the idea of allowing hunters to bait wolves, at least for now. A large majority of the public …
Oregon officials plan to kill more wolves in northeast pack
Authorities plan to kill another two wolves in Northern Oregon after more livestock were attacked.
Oregon authorities kill 2 wolves after cattle attacks
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities shot and killed two adult wolves in response to multiple attacks on cattle grazing in northeast Oregon.
Hiker with dog has close wolf encounter in North Idaho
I’d planned a July day hike with my dog along a North Idaho stream for a good dose of outdoor exercise and a cool respite from the summer heat. The …
Bear attack avoidance tips offered by biologist
Hikers in the Inland Northwest are in carnivore country and should think ahead to what they would do in a close encounter with a bear, wolf or mountain lion, says …
Oregon will kill 2 wolves at the request of ranchers
Oregon wildlife officials will kill two adult wolves in northeast Oregon at the request of ranchers who say animals in their pack have preyed on cattle for more than a …
Court keeps Great Lakes wolves on endangered species list
A federal appeals court Tuesday retained federal protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, ruling that the government acted prematurely when it dropped them from the endangered …
Oregon rancher asks state to kill wolves that attacked calf
A rancher in northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa County has asked state officials to kill wolves from the Harl Butte pack after an investigator confirmed wolves killed a calf.
In brief: Fishing lake along Tucannon River gets makeover
Rainbow Lake, a popular fishing destination in the Wooten Wildlife Area of Columbia-Garfield counties, is closed for a makeover designed to improve both angler experience and salmon and steelhead habitat …