The grey wolf has made a comeback across the Northern Rockies, thanks to federal protection, and Idaho and Montana now allow wolf hunting and trapping to keep the population in check.

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

  • Man guilty of illegal wolf hunting, transport

    A Twisp man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to kill a protected wolf and send its pelt to a friend in Canada in return for the friend’s help in illegally …

  • Landers: Hunters must consider their image

    Hunters and trappers have always had a tendency to be their own worst enemies. Nowadays they can do it in a global way.

  • Twisp man pleads guilty in wolf killing case

    A Twisp man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to kill a protected wolf and send its pelt to a friend in Canada in return for the friend’s help in illegally …

  • Groups call for investigation into wolf death

    LEWISTON — Two environmental groups are calling on state and federal officials to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a wolf that was trapped and killed in northern Idaho …

  • Field reports: Hundreds of bald eagles wintered in Oregon

    WILDLIFE – The Oregon Wildlife Commission took bald eagles off the state endangered species list recently, five years after the big birds were removed from the federal list. In 1963, …

  • Idaho hunters: Wolves taking too many elk

    KELLOGG – Steve Blahunka used to bow hunt in Idaho’s St. Joe region, but he switched his hunting grounds after he and his buddies saw fewer and fewer elk. Wolves …

  • Aerial gunners kill 14 wolves in North Idaho

    Federal wildlife agents shot and killed 14 wolves from helicopters in Idaho’s remote Lolo Zone earlier this month.

  • Exhibit sets record straight on Quileutes

    WASHINGTON – Elaborate headdresses, drawings of rituals and a basket, all with wolf themes, are part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian trying to make a point: The Quileute …

  • Idaho wildlife official clears wolves in dog death

    WALLACE — A state wildlife official says an investigation has failed to find clear evidence that a dog died in an attack by wolves last week in northern Idaho.

  • Hungry wolf pack rearranges balance in Yellowstone Park

    Typically content to stay in Yellowstone National Park’s remote Pelican Valley where they specialize in killing bison, Mollie’s wolf pack has migrated more than 20 miles to the Lamar Valley …

  • Fish and Wildlife appointee criticized

    The appointment of an Eastern Washington environmentalist to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has upset some rural officials, who say their small-town values are unfairly being pushed aside in …

  • Wolf protection ends in Midwest

    ATLANTA, Mich. – After devoting four decades and tens of millions of dollars to saving the gray wolf, the federal government wants to get out of the wolf-protection business, leaving …

  • Field reports: State Parks staff to be cut 30 percent

    PUBLIC LANDS – Nearly a third of Washington’s year-round state parks staffers are being notified this week they likely will be laid off as a result of lagging sales of …

  • White House moves to clarify endangered species listings

    The Obama administration proposed a new rule today that would end a practice in which some endangered species were classified differently in neighboring states.

  • Panel approves proposed wolf plan

    OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Saturday approved a proposed plan for managing gray wolves, a decision sure to spark criticism from hunting and livestock groups that …

  • Commission will consider wolf proposal next weekend

    After four years of development, extensive public review – and lingering controversy – the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider adopting a plan for managing wolves as they re-establish …

  • Idaho wolf trapping season opens Tuesday

    The first wolf trapping season since the predators were reintroduced to the Rocky Mountains will open in selected areas in the north half of Idaho on Tuesday. Demand is high …

  • Idaho wolf trapping season starts next week

    Idaho’s first wolf trapping season since the predators lost federal protections this year starts Tuesday, and a trapping supply shop says it’s already boosted revenue.

  • Wolf hunts get court hearing

    PASADENA, Calif. – Wildlife advocates appeared in federal court Tuesday seeking to stop gray wolf hunts that are already well under way in the Northern Rockies, arguing that Congress overstepped …

  • Panel considers wolf plan

    Washington is already home to five packs of gray wolves, and state wildlife managers are planning for more. On Thursday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission deliberated on a wolf …

  • State’s wolf plan meeting today

    As Washington Fish and Wildlife officials are slashing budgets for existing programs, they’re meeting in Spokane today to deal with yet another new challenge – wolves. The state Fish and …

  • Yellowstone wolf skeletons studied

    BILLINGS – Yellowstone National Park wolves tend to be healthier than wolves in other areas, based on an examination of about 160 of their skeletons over the last three years, …

  • Washington groups petition to strip protections from wolves

    ELLENSBURG, Wash. (AP) — Two groups have filed a petition with the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in the eastern …

  • Field reports: Columbia refuge mulls camping, hunting changes

    OUTPLAN – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing a new management plan for the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, which could mean changes for campers, hunters and anglers. The …

  • Idaho targets wolves

    An archery hunter near Bozeman killed the first wolf to be harvested in the gray wolf hunting seasons that opened in Montana earlier this month. And at least 10 gray …

  • Captive wolf on the lam

    When Mark Earls saw a shaggy, white wolf crossing a road in North Idaho’s Hoodoo Valley, he pulled out his cellphone to snap a picture of it. “What boggled him …

  • Montana begins wolf hunt season

    BILLINGS – Gray wolf hunts are under way in Montana and Idaho as state officials seek to sharply reduce the predator’s numbers in hopes of curbing attacks on livestock and …

  • Federal poaching trial rescheduled

    The federal trial for a Methow Valley ranch family accused of killing protected wolves and trying to smuggle pelts out of the country has been rescheduled to Jan. 30. The …

  • Landers: Idaho wolf tag sales lagging, so far

    Idaho wolf tag purchases are barely better than home sales. Maybe it’s the economy or the recent lawsuits that threatened to stall the hunting season again, but wolf permits are …

  • Groups ask court to halt wolf hunts

    BOISE – Environmentalists have asked a federal appeals court for an emergency injunction to halt wolf hunts scheduled to start in a few weeks in Idaho and Montana. The request …

  • Idaho panel sets wolf hunting season, quotas

    The Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted a 10-month-long wolf hunting season in the upper Clearwater River basin Thursday and also increased the trapping season beyond what was recommended by …

  • Idaho commission approves wolf hunt rules, dates

    The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved a new set of rules guiding public hunting and trapping of wolves in the state’s forests and backcountry.





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