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.
By content type
Latest updates in this topic
Idaho hunter organizing two-day wolf derby
Dec. 22, 2013 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page B8 BOISE – An Idaho outfitter is organizing a post-Christmas contest where two-person teams of hunters will be awarded $2,000 in cash prizes and trophies for shooting wolves and coyotes, angering … 24
Dogs vulnerable to Idaho wolf traps
Dec. 15, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C12 Idaho’s wolf trapping season rekindles the anxiety a Sandpoint woman suffered in February as her dog, with a cable locked around its neck, nearly choked to death in her arms. … 23
Hunt for elk proves more challenging
Nov. 30, 2013 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page A1 NEAR ST. MARIES – Calob Wilson sat on the tailgate of his dad’s pickup, dandling a rack of antlers on his knees. It was the opening weekend of rifle season, … 29
Out & About: Wolf kill rumor tracked down
Nov. 24, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C14 OUTSPOKEN – Rumors that wolves had attacked three horses near La Crosse, Wash., have been rejected. Several Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police and biologists followed up on the …
Cattle ranchers track wolves with GPS, computers
Nov. 10, 2013 in City, Idaho, Outdoors on Page A1 COLVILLE – Before the sun breaks over the mountains, Leisa Hill is firing up a generator in a remote cow camp in eastern Stevens County. Soon she’ll be poring over … 161
Wolf advocates post how-to manual for saboteurs
Aug. 13, 2013 in Outdoors, Region HELENA, Mont. — Environmentalists upset with a federal proposal to remove protections for wolves across most of the U.S. have posted a manual on how to disrupt wolf hunts and … 66
Landers: Wolf presentation focuses on gray areas
July 18, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 State agencies charged with managing wolves that are naturally repopulating their range in Washington are poked like dead meat in every direction by sportsmen, ranchers, wolf-loving zealots and rural district … 8
Landers: Wolf presentation focuses on gray areas
July 17, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports State agencies charged with managing wolves that are naturally repopulating their range in Washington are poked like dead meat in every direction by sportsmen, ranchers, wolf-loving zealots and rural district … 1
Experts study wolf skeletons for clues into behavior
July 14, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C10 The wolf’s skull told a painful story. Teeth were broken and missing; the jawbone infected. An injury – probably caused by a kick to the wolf’s face – had also … 3
Predators a powerful attraction
July 14, 2013 in Idaho on Page A7 LAMAR VALLEY, Wyo. – Yellowstone tourists are riveted to their spotting scopes, watching a life-and-death scene unfold. Bison are plunging into the swift-flowing Lamar River to widen the distance between … 28
From rival to hated enemy
July 14, 2013 in Idaho on Page A9 It’s not surprising that fairy tales give us the “big, bad wolf.” Anti-predator feelings run deep in our mythology and heritage, says Jim Garry, a storyteller, naturalist and one-time cowboy … 1
In debate over protecting wolves, public opinion runs deep
July 14, 2013 in Idaho on Page A1 LAMAR VALLEY, Wyo. – Seeing wolves for the first time left Jimmy Jones awestruck. Wolves were mythic, larger-than-life creatures to the 59-year-old Los Angeles resident. Yet there they were, two … 111
Landers: Wolf chases Sandpoint cyclist on Alaska Highway
July 11, 2013 in City, Outdoors on Page A1 Growing up in the Yukon, Melanie Klassen had seen numerous bicycle tourists pedaling the Alaska Highway, but never one with a canine companion running behind him. “I thought it was … 31
Sandpoint teacher chased by wolf while bicycling in Yukon
Field reports: Sockeye fishing opens on upper Columbia
June 30, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C9 FISHING – Sockeye will be fair game in the upper Columbia River and a portion of the Okanogan starting Monday. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says salmon anglers …
Field Reports: Oregon wolf dies from parvovirus
June 2, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C9 CRITTERS – The first case of parvovirus in Oregon wolves has been documented by the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. The wolf known as OR19, found dead by Oregon … 1
Lake trout impact elk calves
May 19, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C12 Fewer cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake could be part of the reason that elk herds migrating out of the park are declining. Two recently published studies conducted in Yellowstone National … 1
Landers: WFWD needs public’s help
May 16, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 “Wolves are the most challenging wildlife issue on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s plate this year, bar none,” says Nate Pamplin, assistant director. “And we don’t want to be … 1
Field reports: Michigan paves way for wolf hunting
May 12, 2013 in Outdoors on Page C11 PREDATORS – Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill Wednesday that clears the way to schedule Michigan’s first gray wolf hunting season since the resurgent predator, reviled by some as a … 1
Rule allows killing of wolves
April 27, 2013 in City on Page B1 OLYMPIA – A wolf attacking livestock or pets in Eastern Washington can be killed immediately under an emergency rule adopted Friday by a state board. The Fish and Wildlife Commission … 12