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
NIC hosting film, discussion on wolves
“An Evening with Wolves” features a presentation of an award-winning film titled “Wolves,” narrated by Robbie Robertson, and a panel discussion by local residents. The free event will be from …
State seeks to kill North Idaho wolves
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to kill wolves in northern Idaho to protect deer and elk herds.
Mexico, now that’s the ticket
I felt the sunshine on my bare shoulders, beach sand between my toes, a sea-kayak paddle in my hands and the spray of warm saltwater in my face when I …
Gray wolf leaves its mark throughout the Northwest
The 2008 Critter of the Year for the Inland Northwest had no rivals at the top of the food chain — except for man. The gray wolf garnered love and …
Wolf kills at all-time high in ’08
BILLINGS – Record numbers of endangered gray wolves were shot this year by government wildlife agents and ranchers in the Northern Rockies, as the predator’s attacks on livestock met with …
Wolves targeted despite hunt ban
A court order that restored endangered status to the region’s gray wolves has put proposed wolf-hunting seasons on the back burner, but government guns are being called in to help …
Gray wolves are state residents
The body of a gray wolf found last month near Tum Tum in Stevens County is the first physical proof that the species has returned to Washington, state wildlife officials …
Wolf gets fresh start as managed species
The reintroduction of gray wolves to the northern Rockies has been officially declared a success. They were removed from the federal Endangered Species list on March 28, transferring most wolf …
Big snowfall brings out wolves
Deep snow is forcing deer, elk and moose – and the wolves that prey on them – down from the mountains and into the small communities flanking the St. Joe …
Critter watch: From wolves to whales, region’s wildlife on the move
The coming and going of wildlife is in the news this week. Killer whales roam: A Puget Sound pod of Orcas has been spotted off California’s Monterey Bay.
Stevens County fears wolf cost
Washington’s wolf management plan hasn’t been released. Already, Stevens County Commissioners and cattle ranchers don’t like it.
Sheep rancher learns to keep the wolves at bay
KETCHUM, Idaho – It’s about as thickly populated by wolves as anywhere in the region, but environmentally conscious sheep producer Lava Lake Land & Livestock is developing a track record …
Field Reports: Wolf management meeting in Spokane
Citizens can comment on gray wolf management in Washington during public meetings at seven towns across the state, including Spokane. The wolves are federally protected as endangered species, but their …
Washington wants input on wolves
Wolves are now making regular forays into the forests of northeastern Washington, and state wildlife officials are developing a plan to manage the predators. Public meetings are being held across …
Aerial survey finds problem with elk numbers
LEWISTON – Elk numbers continue to dwindle in some of north-central Idaho’s legendary big-game country, and the state is considering reductions in elk permits. The survey conducted in the last …
Field Reports: Wolf delisting topic in Spokane
Spokane Valley is the last stop for a six-state U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tour to gather comments on removing Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species …
Wolf sightings more common
BOISE — Thousands of vacationers in the West will likely see a wolf in the wild for the first time this summer, often from the road but sometimes while camping …
It pays to always be prepared
A Spokane fly fisherman caught a once-in-a-lifetime North Idaho experience in Tepee Creek Monday, and we’re not talking about cutthroat trout. The angler asked to remain anonymous because … ahem …
Overall numbers of wolves are up
BILLINGS, Mont. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the number of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies has increased to more than 900 since last year, but a …
CONSERVATION Retailers to stay in Utah
Another Yellowstone Wolf May Have Litter
Biologists believe another wolf transplanted into Yellowstone National Park has had a litter of pups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday. During a routine monitoring flight over the …
Six Wolves Reluctant To Leave Pen Biologists Open Yellowstone Gate, But Predators ‘Do Their Own Thing’
Wildlife biologists opened the gate on a pen holding six Canadian gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, but the predators were in no hurry to leave. Biologists opened …
Judge Clears Way For Return Of Wolves To Western U.S. Reintroduction To Yellowstone And Central Idaho Could Begin As Early As This Weekend
A federal judge in Wyoming refused Tuesday to halt a federal effort to bring wolves back to the Rocky Mountain West, clearing the way for the animals’ return to an …