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

  • Stevens County ranch reports new wolf attacks

    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

    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 …

  • Official kills wolf associated with attacks on cattle

    Washington officials use authority to kill protected wolves after documenting one pack’s pattern of attacking livestock near Laurier.

  • Agency considers wolf action

    A calf injured in a wolf attack in northern Stevens County – the fourth wounded or killed in one cattle herd in four weeks – has left the Washington Fish …

  • People still believe too many myths about wolves

    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 …

  • Scientist’s family slams elk group for wolf stance

    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 …

  • Landers: Wolf issues come home to Washington

    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 …

  • Wolf kills one sheep, injures two others in Spokane County

    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 …

  • Wolf kills one sheep, injures two others in Spokane County

    Biologists believe a wolf killed one sheep and injured two others on a small Nine Mile Falls ranch earlier this month, marking the first wolf attack on livestock in Spokane …

  • Wolf hunt opponents forgo appeal to Supreme Court

    BILLINGS, Mont. — Wildlife advocates say they decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court to keep wolves on the endangered list in Idaho and Montana after their arguments were …

  • Four wolves in two packs captured, radio collared

    State biologists recently caught two adult male wolves in the Smackout Pack in northeastern Washington, ending a drought of attempts to collar wolves with GPS transmitters to monitor Washington’s expanding …

  • Lost wolf pup finds temporary home

    Campers on Friday outside of Ketchum, Idaho, picked up what they thought was a lost domestic puppy but it turned out to be a wolf.

  • Calf in Methow Valley likely killed by wolves

    OLYMPIA – Federal and Washington state wildlife managers say wolves likely caused fatal injuries to a Methow Valley calf and the landowner would qualify for compensation. State Fish and Wildlife …

  • IDFG: Wolf legally caught

    BOISE – No laws were broken involving a North Idaho trapper who posed for a photo in front of a live wolf caught in a leg-hold trap surrounded by blood-splattered …

  • 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.




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