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
Oregon’s first year as ‘wolf-safe’ state
Landers: Spring has already sprung for wildlife
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Field reports: Deer killing prompts $5,000 reward
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Wolves in Washington nearly double in year
Feb. 17, 2013 in City, Outdoors, Region on Page B10 The number of gray wolves in Washington nearly doubled in the past year, according to a new survey released Friday by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The survey … 4
Wolf hunts affect Yellowstone study
Feb. 10, 2013 in Outdoors, Region on Page B10 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – Yellowstone National Park has lost a record number of wolves to this year’s hunting season, and that’s left scientists scrambling to keep years of research … 1
Landers: Outdoors issues hot topic in Olympia
Jan. 31, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 Issues from the great outdoors are trying to see the light of day in the 2013 Washington Legislature. Wolf reintroduction and the cash-poor state parks are issues likely to generate … 1
Wolf debate reaches Senate panel
Jan. 30, 2013 in City on Page A6 OLYMPIA – Farmers, ranchers and county officials from Eastern Washington said a plan to manage wolves as they are re-established in the state has good ideas but doesn’t go far … 1
Bill would send wolves to inhabit West Side, too
Jan. 19, 2013 in City on Page B2 OLYMPIA – State Rep. Joel Kretz wants Western Washington to enjoy one of the “advantages” Eastern Washington has: wolves. Kretz, R-Wauconda, has introduced a bill that would allow the Department … 12
Landers: Tough decisions loom for wolves
Jan. 17, 2013 in Outdoors, Sports on Page B1 How Washington will handle the gray wolves that are moving into the state and expanding at a rapid rate is a work in progress. But while the methods are debatable, … 13
Wolf makes California his home
Jan. 3, 2013 in Nation/World, Outdoors on Page A1 Like many out-of-state visitors, the lone gray wolf that trotted across the border from Oregon has taken a liking to California. He went back and forth between the two states … 1
Fewer wolves killed
Dec. 23, 2012 in Idaho on Page B10 LEWISTON – Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials say hunters have killed 116 wolves this hunting season through Dec. 15, about the halfway point of the 2012-’13 wolf hunting …
Fladry barriers hold off wolves
Nov. 18, 2012 in City, Idaho, Outdoors on Page A16 Long ago, Polish peasants tied old rags onto ropes, creating corrals that funneled wolves into areas where they could be killed easily. Wary of the unfamiliar objects, the wolves refused … 1
Disease, poison controlled wolves
Nov. 18, 2012 in City, Idaho, Outdoors on Page A13 After bison herds disappeared from the Great Plains in the 1880s, wolves turned to livestock for prey. Western states, and even counties, began offering bounties for killing wolves. In his …
Wolf Project shows promise for sheep herds, wolf packs
Nov. 18, 2012 in City, Idaho, Outdoors on Page A1 NEAR SUN VALLEY, Idaho – Patrick Graham cupped his hands around his mouth and howled into a moonless night. A wolf answered from a distant ridge. Soon, the Pioneer Pack … 27
Repeat of wolf kill unlikely
Nov. 14, 2012 in City on Page A5 Killing seven members of a wolf pack that repeatedly attacked a Northeast Washington rancher’s cattle cost about $76,500, according to preliminary state figures. The amount includes all hunts targeting the … 35
Field reports: Kokanee fishing to reopen at Lake PO
Nov. 11, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C13 FISHING – For the first time since 1999, anglers will be allowed to harvest kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille starting in 2013 under fishing regulations adopted Thursday by the Idaho … 1
Idaho wolf trapping to open, dog owners warned
Nov. 11, 2012 in Outdoors on Page C13 For the second year, wolves will join furbearers as targets during Idaho’s winter trapping season. Although trappers must take a course in safe techniques before they can purchase a wolf-trapping …
Officials finish culling cattle-preying Wedge Pack
Sept. 28, 2012 in Outdoors on Page A8 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say a helicopter gunner killed the alpha male of a cattle-preying wolf pack Thursday, concluding the mission to eliminate the Wedge Pack in … 12
Wolves alter field for hunts
Sept. 27, 2012 in Idaho, Outdoors on Page K9 While Idaho sportsmen will be hunting for wolves again this season, hunters in both Idaho and Washington will be hunting with wolves in the area. Either way, wolves have changed … 1
State kills two wolves in Stevens County
Sept. 26, 2012 in Outdoors on Page A8 Shooting from a helicopter, a marksman with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife killed two wolves in northeast Washington on Tuesday in the effort to eliminate a pack that … 6