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
Sue Lani Madsen: Managing wolves in Washington requires balance, realism
As popular culture loses daily touch with nature, romanticizing it becomes the dominant attitude. “Wolves are really, really popular if you don’t have any,” northeast Washington state Rep. Joel Kretz …
State wildlife staff kill 2 wolves in northeast Washington
State helicopter gunners have shot and killed two adult female wolves in northeastern Washington and efforts to remove wolves are continuing.
Landers: Put your own spin on Mount Spokane wolf photo
No one should be surprised that a trail-cam photograph has been circulating of what appears to be a gray wolf on Mount Spokane.
In brief: Mount Spokane road closure delayed
The closure of Mount Spokane State Park road for summer construction has been postponed until Monday, the Washington Department of Transportation says.
Montana keeps wolf hunting, trapping quota near Yellowstone
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will keep the quota of wolves that can be hunted or trapped just north of Yellowstone National Park to two.
Wolf delisting lawsuit against Oregon reinstated
The Oregon Court of Appeals has decided to reconsider a lawsuit against the state that was dismissed a couple of months ago over its decision last year to remove the …
Reward grows in wolf pup poaching case in North Idaho
More than $16,000 in reward money has been offered for tips leading to arrests in the case of wolf pups poached from their den in Kootenai County.
Rare red wolf pups emerge from Wolf Haven den
TENINO, Washington – Five rare red wolf pups have ventured outside their den at Wolf Haven International sanctuary south of Olympia KING-TV reported that the pups are just 5 weeks …
New wolf pack confirmed in Washington brings total to 19
Washington officially has a new gray wolf pack. State wildlife managers this week reported that part of a northcentral Washington wolf pack has split away and formed a new group.
Briefs: ‘State of the Scotchmans’ sized up in Sandpoint
Once a year the
Environmental groups challenge federal wolf killing in Idaho
Five conservation groups on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Idaho seeking to stop a federal agency from killing wolves in the state until a new environmental analysis is prepared.
Area ranchers get briefing on wolves
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials met with Asotin County ranchers Wednesday at Clarkston to explain the emerging protocols to deal with wolves that prey on livestock, including the …
Idaho wolf control actions draw crowd in Coeur d’Alene
Paying government sharpshooters to kill wolves from helicopters in Idaho’s backcountry drew passionate testimony at the state Fish and Game Commission meeting in Coeur d’Alene this week.
Matriarch wolf of Washington’s Tucannon pack dies
LEWISTON – The alpha female of southeastern Washington’s Tucannon wolf pack has died, apparently from an infection acquired last week while being trapped and fitted with a radio collar. Donny …
Rich Landers: Grizzly hunt would be wrong if it was only goal of ESA
The Endangered Species Act gets favorable reviews for ushering the recovery of critters, such as bald eagles, that don’t take up too much space in our lives and emotions. But …
Tucannon wolf pack suspected of killing calf in Asotin County
Protected wolves have made their first confirmed strike against livestock in southeastern Washington.
Oregon plans lethal action against 4 wolves
State wildlife officials said Thursday they plan to kill up to four wolves responsible for attacks on livestock in northeast Oregon, the third time lethal control has been employed since …
Breeding season monitors see 50 shades of gray wolf
Chronicling the sex lives of gray wolves in February in Yellowstone National Park combines a strange mix of clinical jargon, voyeurism and hypothermia along the side of Highway 212.
Washington wolves serve as random attraction
Wolves have a legion of admirers willing to spend money to hear the charismatic carnivores howl and see them run and hunt.
Rich Landers: Pet dogs caught up in Idaho’s wolf-control effort
Mary Franzel and her pets almost made it through Idaho’s 2015-16 wolf trapping season unscathed. On Friday, the Clark Fork resident was cross-country skiing north of town on Lightning Creek …
Idaho lawmakers back spending another $400,000 to shoot problem wolves
Idaho lawmakers on Tuesday backed another $400,000 expenditure of state general tax funds next year to kill problem wolves – the third straight year of such expenditures – even though …
Wolf tracker uses Altai Skis for speed, mobility during surveys
Ray Robertson, who does wolf monitoring in the Okanogan County region, is among the growing number of wildlife professionals who are using Altai Skis in their work.
House backs bill to boost hunting, fishing on public lands
The House on Friday approved a bill to expand access to hunting and fishing areas on public lands, extend protections for the use of lead bullets in hunting and strip …
Man sentenced for shooting dog he mistook for wolf
A Bonners Ferry man who shot two dogs on a Forest Service Road last year after his dad allegedly told him to “shoot the wolf” was sentenced to two years …
Landers: Wolf management requires a team effort
Allowing gray wolves to naturally reestablish packs in Washington is one of the most divisive wildlife management goals in state history. Some people love wolves for their unique social structure …
Wolf kills do lower livestock attacks, UW study says, in contradiction to WSU report
Does killing wolves that attack sheep and cattle reduce livestock deaths over the long-run? That’s an issue of scientific debate, with a new study recently published by University of Washington …
Twenty wolves shot from the air in northern Idaho in the past week
Twenty wolves were shot from a helicopter in the Lolo elk zone in northern Idaho, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Wednesday, in a wolf-control operation that lasted …
Idaho wolf board officials kept news of kill operation from lawmakers
When the head of an Idaho board charged with killing problem wolves was asked directly by a state senator on Monday how many wolves the board has had killed this …
Wildlife officials to kill wolves in remote Idaho region
LEWISTON, Idaho – Federal wildlife services and Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials have joined forces to kill wolves in the Clearwater Region for the third year in a …
Idaho wolf board requests more money, though wolf attacks on livestock, wildlife down
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants a third $400,000 infusion of state funds into a state board charged with killing problem wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife next year, even …
Wolf pack scrutinized after harassing dog near Chewelah
ENDANGERED SPECIES – A northeastern Washington wolf pack is under scrutiny after rural residents fired shots to scare at least five wolves away from a confrontation with their two dogs. …
Federal judge rejects some wolf kill plans in Washington
A federal judge has rejected plans by a federal agency to assist in the killing of problem wolves in Washington. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma issued a …