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
Oregon officials plan to kill more wolves in northeast pack
Authorities plan to kill another two wolves in Northern Oregon after more livestock were attacked.
Oregon authorities kill 2 wolves after cattle attacks
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities shot and killed two adult wolves in response to multiple attacks on cattle grazing in northeast Oregon.
Hiker with dog has close wolf encounter in North Idaho
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Bear attack avoidance tips offered by biologist
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Oregon will kill 2 wolves at the request of ranchers
Oregon wildlife officials will kill two adult wolves in northeast Oregon at the request of ranchers who say animals in their pack have preyed on cattle for more than a …
Court keeps Great Lakes wolves on endangered species list
A federal appeals court Tuesday retained federal protection for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region, ruling that the government acted prematurely when it dropped them from the endangered …
Oregon rancher asks state to kill wolves that attacked calf
A rancher in northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa County has asked state officials to kill wolves from the Harl Butte pack after an investigator confirmed wolves killed a calf.
In brief: Fishing lake along Tucannon River gets makeover
Rainbow Lake, a popular fishing destination in the Wooten Wildlife Area of Columbia-Garfield counties, is closed for a makeover designed to improve both angler experience and salmon and steelhead habitat …
Idaho may offer hunters bounties for bad wolves, allow bait
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has proposed putting bounties on problem wolves and allowing hunters to lure wolves with bait.
Lethal removal of wolves authorized for Smackout Pack
A wolf pack in northeastern Washington recently associated with a fourth confirmed attack on livestock since September – despite the presence of range riders – has triggered a protocol that …
Idaho draft wolf plan has predator’s fans, foes howling
Officials at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are likely to release a draft of their plan next month, and wolf critics claim the agency is going soft on …
Eye on Boise: Ahlquist alters his ‘blueprint’ plank on same-sex marriage
Idaho GOP candidate for governor Tommy Ahlquist has changed the wording on his website about his position on gay marriage, deleting a section that many read as a promise to …
Montana’s wolf specialist marvels at carnivore’s recovery
In 1979, Diane Boyd left her native Minnesota and headed west to begin tracking the first radio-collared gray wolf from Canada to recolonize the Western U.S., where humans had effectively …
Idaho Fish and Game to review wolf baiting proposals
A proposed Idaho Fish and Game rule that would allow the use of bait during wolf hunts is raising eyebrows. No other state allows that, and Idaho currently allows bait …
Idaho Fish and Game to review wolf baiting proposals
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is accepting public comments on a proposal to allow hunters to bait wolves.
Washington game farm welcomes two timber wolf puppies
A Sequim wolf pack is expecting two timber wolf puppies to join their family.
Field reports: Kayak guide dies rescuing client in Yellowstone
A kayak guide in his first season on the job in Yellowstone National Park has died while trying to rescue a park visitor who capsized on Yellowstone Lake. Initial reports …
Gray wolves getting comfortable with Mount Spokane
For the second consecutive year, a Spokane man’s motion-activated trail camera has captured an image of what appears to be a gray wolf in Mount Spokane State Park. Wolves are …
Wolves may be exploring new territory in Western Washington
Gray wolves appear to be checking out territory west of the Cascades in eastern Skagit County, according to photos, tracks and other signs, federal officials say.
Field Reports: Washington sets gray wolf conflict protocols, requires deterrents
Washington has released a revised “Protocol for Wolf-Livestock Interactions” that requires livestock producers to try at least two proactive deterrence measures appropriate to their operation before the state would consider …
Reward upped to $25,000 for info about Yellowstone white wolf death
Yellowstone National Park is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information about the shooting death of a rare white wolf near Gardiner, Montana.
$24K reward offered for killer of Yellowstone wolf
The reward for information leading to whoever shot a rare white wolf found inside Yellowstone National Park rose to $24,000 this week after a wolf advocacy groups and a Go …
Yellowstone wolf family tree and genealogy available online
Details of Yellowstone National Park’s individual wolves and their inter-relatedness can be found in one place: online at Ancestry.com, a website formerly reserved for rooting out human family trees.
Washington looking for ways to control wolves without killing them, keep information private
New laws look for nonlethal ways to control wolves, privacy for people who report wolf attacks.
Living with predators – adaptation
“Grizzlies won’t be a problem for livestock, they’ll prey on hikers.” So said the wildlife conflict specialist from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Professor accuses WSU of violations after he criticized cattle rancher, wolf pack removal
Washington State University professor and researcher Robert Wielgus filed a complaint against WSU on Thursday alleging the university has seriously damaged his academic career through the unwarranted use of suppression, …
Advocates say wolves may help curb disease in elk
Wolves are the perfect tool to help reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease among elk, deer and moose, wolf advocates told the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission on last …
Yellowstone elk herd growth tricky to manage
Managing the Northern Yellowstone elk herd, one of the most popular in the world, is no easy task.
Some information on wolf control programs won’t be made public
Personal information on people involved in fighting wolf attacks on livestock would be kept from public.
More wolf packs expected in southwest Oregon
When gray wolf OR-7 made his historic and famous trek from northeastern Oregon to find a mate and territory of his own, the lone wolf wandered well over 1,000 miles …
Montana plans to keep wolf hunt quotas outside Yellowstone
Montana wildlife officials are proposing to keep the number of wolves that can be hunted or trapped just outside of Yellowstone National Park at four.
Washington wolf population continues to grow
Wildlife officials say the Washington wolf population is on the rise in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife latest report.