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
Repeat of wolf kill unlikely
Nov. 14, 2012 in City on Page A5 Killing seven members of a wolf pack that repeatedly attacked a Northeast Washington rancher’s cattle cost about $76,500, according to preliminary state figures. The amount includes all hunts targeting the … 35
Field reports: Kokanee fishing to reopen at Lake PO
Nov. 11, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C13 FISHING – For the first time since 1999, anglers will be allowed to harvest kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille starting in 2013 under fishing regulations adopted Thursday by the Idaho … 1
Idaho wolf trapping to open, dog owners warned
Nov. 11, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C13 For the second year, wolves will join furbearers as targets during Idaho’s winter trapping season. Although trappers must take a course in safe techniques before they can purchase a wolf-trapping …
Officials finish culling cattle-preying Wedge Pack
Sept. 28, 2012 in Outdoors on Page A8 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a helicopter gunner killed the alpha male of a cattle-preying wolf pack Thursday, concluding the mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack in … 12
Wolves alter field for hunts
Sept. 27, 2012 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page K9 While Idaho sportsmen will be hunting for wolves again this season, hunters in both Idaho and Washington will be hunting with wolves in the area. Either way, wolves have changed … 1
State kills two wolves in Stevens County
Sept. 26, 2012 in Outdoors on Page A8 Shooting from a helicopter, a marksman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two wolves in northeast Washington on Tuesday in the effort to eliminate a pack that … 6
State aims to kill elusive wolf pack
Sept. 22, 2012 in Outdoors, Region on Page A1 A wolf pack that acquired a taste for cattle in northern Stevens County this summer is being targeted for elimination, Washington officials announced Friday. “The Wedge Pack has turned to … 53
Landers: Wolf issue as fiery as woods
Sept. 20, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Wildfires have smoked out the Inland Northwest hunters and recreationists in many significant areas this month. But before we assess some of the impacts, let’s visit the gray wolf front, … 2
Landers: Wolves make taking dogs into wild risky
Sept. 13, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Wolves have changed the playing field in northeastern Washington. Livestock grazers aren’t the only people who must make adjustments as wolves reintroduce themselves to their former range. Hikers, hunters and … 10
Field reports: Wolf pack confirmed; another being hunted
Sept. 9, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C15 WILDLIFE – The Colville Tribe confirmed Washington’s ninth wolf pack last week as it trapped and released a 104-pound gray wolf. The new pack has been called the Strawberries Pack. 2
Groups write governor to protest killing wolves
Aug. 25, 2012 in Outdoors, Region on Page B1 Seven pro-wolf groups have asked Gov. Chris Gregoire and other state officials to end efforts to kill some of the wolves involved with cattle attacks in northern Stevens County. In … 5
Stevens County ranch reports new wolf attacks
Aug. 17, 2012 in Outdoors on Page A6 State wildlife officers responded Thursday to the latest in a monthlong series of wolf attacks on cattle in northern Stevens County. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering …
Landers: TV show tackles contentious wolf hunting issue
Aug. 9, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Washington leaped this week to a contentious milestone in the early stages of its modern wolf management era. The state Fish and Wildlife Department has killed the first gray wolf … 1
Official kills wolf associated with attacks on cattle
Agency considers wolf action
People still believe too many myths about wolves
Aug. 2, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 While wolves generate passionate polarized responses from people who love or hate them, it’s pretty clear that most people don’t give a damn. Speaking before several service clubs in recent … 10
Scientist’s family slams elk group for wolf stance
July 22, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C10 MISSOULA – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has removed all references to its Olaus Murie conservation award after the researcher’s family objected to the group’s policy on wolves. In a … 1
Landers: Wolf issues come home to Washington
July 19, 2012 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Washington is no longer on the sidelines watching Idaho and Montana cope with the explosive revival of a formerly extirpated predator. Gray wolves are commanding more attention from courtrooms to … 4
Wolf kills one sheep, injures two others in Spokane County
June 30, 2012 in City on Page A1 A wolf killed one sheep and injured two others on a small Nine Mile Falls ranch earlier this month, the state’s wildlife agency said Friday, marking the first wolf attack … 99
Wolf kills one sheep, injures two others in Spokane County