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
Emergency wolf rules approved
Field Reports: Wolf levels high despite 2012 kills
April 14, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C11 PREDATORS – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists confirmed Friday that the Northern Rockies gray wolf population has remained sustainable two years after wolves lost their endangered-species protections in most …
Landers: Wolf repatriation continues to confound
April 4, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Washington’s moose, elk and deer herds do not yet appear to be suffering heavy losses from the revival of gray wolves, so far, to the best of the Fish and … 13
Idaho wolf population decreased by 11 percent in 2012
April 3, 2013 in Outdoors on Page A1 Idaho’s gray wolf population fell by 11 percent in 2012, less than wildlife managers hoped for considering the state’s extended hunting and trapping seasons plus agency animal control efforts. At … 3
Idaho Senate OKs wolf fund
March 28, 2013 in Idaho on Page A6 BOISE – The Senate voted 26-8 to divert money from a Department of Fish and Game hunter-access program to wolf control, an effort backed by the state’s livestock industry. Wednesday’s … 1
Biologists search for answers to decline of moose
March 24, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C14 They seem invincible, the largest species in the deer family, 6-feet tall at the shoulders with mature bulls averaging 1,000 pounds. Yet the moose subspecies found in the lower 48 … 3
Moose declining in Idaho, spreading in Washington
March 24, 2013 in Idaho, Outdoors, Region on Page C14 Moose in Washington appear to be bucking the decline that’s plaguing the animals across most of the lower 48 states, a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist says. Rich Harris, … 2
Out & About: Poacher offers $6K to ease conscience
March 24, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C14 OUTREPENT – Saying he’s been burdened with guilt, a Montana man has mailed Washington wildlife officials $6,000 to compensate for deer he said he killed illegally – more than 40 … 1
Field Reports: Montana curbs increase of wolves
March 24, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C13 PREDATORS – Montana wildlife officials say hunting and other measures have turned the tide on the growth of gray wolf populations increasing since the 1900s. At least 625 wolves inhabited …
Man backing wolf laws brings badly hurt dog
March 21, 2013 in City, Outdoors on Page A5 OLYMPIA – The key witness at a hearing Wednesday on whether Eastern Washington needs new laws on wolves didn’t say a word. Shelby, a 6-year-old Siberian Husky mix, sat or … 61
Field Reports: Cool support needed for Idaho cutthroats
March 17, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C13 FISHING – Warmer water temperatures recorded in North Idaho streams and rivers are creating unhealthy conditions for trout, especially the region’s westslope cutthroats, Idaho environmental officials say. A recent analysis …
Bills address wolf control, compensation
March 9, 2013 in City on Page B1 OLYMPIA – Legislators in different chambers approved two very different plans Friday to address the growing wolf population in Eastern Washington. The Senate voted to allow people to shoot wolves … 24
Oregon’s first year as ‘wolf-safe’ state
Landers: Spring has already sprung for wildlife
Feb. 28, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 The early hint of spring weathering into the region this week is a game-changer for outdoorsmen, but merely a confirmation of what’s already under way for wildlife. Skiers coming off …
Field reports: Deer killing prompts $5,000 reward
Feb. 17, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C11 POACHING – Up to $5,000 in rewards is being offered for a tip that leads to the conviction of the culprits in the latest spree poaching case in Eastern Washington. …
Wolves in Washington nearly double in year
Feb. 17, 2013 in City, Outdoors, Region on Page B10 The number of gray wolves in Washington nearly doubled in the past year, according to a new survey released Friday by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The survey … 4
Wolf hunts affect Yellowstone study
Feb. 10, 2013 in Outdoors, Region on Page B10 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – Yellowstone National Park has lost a record number of wolves to this year’s hunting season, and that’s left scientists scrambling to keep years of research … 1
Landers: Outdoors issues hot topic in Olympia
Jan. 31, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Issues from the great outdoors are trying to see the light of day in the 2013 Washington Legislature. Wolf reintroduction and the cash-poor state parks are issues likely to generate … 1
Wolf debate reaches Senate panel
Jan. 30, 2013 in City on Page A6 OLYMPIA – Farmers, ranchers and county officials from Eastern Washington said a plan to manage wolves as they are re-established in the state has good ideas but doesn’t go far … 1
Bill would send wolves to inhabit West Side, too
Jan. 19, 2013 in City on Page B2 OLYMPIA – State Rep. Joel Kretz wants Western Washington to enjoy one of the “advantages” Eastern Washington has: wolves. Kretz, R-Wauconda, has introduced a bill that would allow the Department … 12