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
Four wolves in two packs captured, radio collared
June 10, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C9 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 … 4
Lost wolf pup finds temporary home
Calf in Methow Valley likely killed by wolves
May 24, 2012 in City on Page A6 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 … 1
IDFG: Wolf legally caught
April 15, 2012 in Idaho on Page B2 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 … 1
Man guilty of illegal wolf hunting, transport
Landers: Hunters must consider their image
Twisp man pleads guilty in wolf killing case
April 4, 2012 in City, News, Outdoors 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 … 4
Groups call for investigation into wolf death
April 4, 2012 in Idaho, Region 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 … 7
Field reports: Hundreds of bald eagles wintered in Oregon
April 1, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C9 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
March 4, 2012 in City, Outdoors on Page B2 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 … 14
Aerial gunners kill 14 wolves in North Idaho
Exhibit sets record straight on Quileutes
Jan. 28, 2012 in City on Page A1 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
Hungry wolf pack rearranges balance in Yellowstone Park
Jan. 15, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C12 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 … 2
Fish and Wildlife appointee criticized
Jan. 8, 2012 in City, Outdoors on Page B2 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 … 3
Wolf protection ends in Midwest
Dec. 22, 2011 in Nation/World, Outdoors on Page A8 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
Dec. 11, 2011 in Outdoors on Page C11 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
Dec. 9, 2011 in Idaho, Outdoors, Region The Obama administration proposed a new rule today that would end a practice in which some endangered species were classified differently in neighboring states. 3
Panel approves proposed wolf plan
Dec. 4, 2011 in City, Outdoors on Page B3 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 … 1
Commission will consider wolf proposal next weekend
Nov. 27, 2011 in Outdoors on Page C12 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 … 6