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
Spokane Audubon meeting features Washington wolf management
The Spokane Audubon Society’s Dec. 14 meeting, featuring wolf conservation and management in Washington state, will be in-person and available online via Zoom online.
Cougars kill wolves in Washington, raising questions about predator-on-predator dynamics
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Idaho wolf population stable one year after liberalized hunting, trapping rules went into effect
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Washington officials determine 6 wolves found dead in Northeastern Washington were poisoned
Wolf advocacy groups are offering reward money for the conviction of the poachers.
Washington wildlife officials mistakenly kill wolf pup
Washington wildlife officials mistakenly killed a wolf pup Thursday believing the animal was an adult member of the Smackout pack.
Washington wildlife commissioners vote against wolf-livestock rule
Washington will not implement wolf-livestock rules two years after Gov. Jay Inslee asked state wildlife managers to reduce the number of wolves killed.
State wildlife commission debates wolf rule in charged meeting
In a sometimes heated meeting Washington wildlife manages continued to debate whether or not to implement new wolf-livestock rules, Friday.
Togo wolf pack kills another calf in northeast Washington, state considering how to proceed
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Four wolves found dead in northeast Washington; environmental groups allege poisoning
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At least 175 wolves counted in Oregon annual survey
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Study contemplates predators’ role in reducing chronic wasting disease
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Washington spends $1.4 million on wolves in 2021 as state population continues to grow
There were a minimum of 206 wolves and 33 packs in Washington state in 2021, according to an annual survey conducted by state and tribal biologists.
Cattle ranchers don’t want Montana wolves moved to Colorado
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The Montana Stockgrowers Association has asked its state wildlife agency to reject any requests to capture wolves in Montana to be transplanted in Colorado, after voters …
Responding to pressure from Inslee, Washington wildlife managers consider implementing new wolf-livestock rules
Responding to pressure from Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington wildlife managers are considering implementing new wolf-livestock rules.
Gray wolves ordered back onto federal endangered species list, majority of Washington wolves unaffected
Gray wolves throughout much of the United States, including the western two-thirds of Washington, were ordered back on the federal endangered species list Thursday. However, the majority of Washington’s 180 …
Idaho wildlife officials expand river otter trapping
BOISE – Idaho wildlife officials on Thursday approved expanding trapping for river otters despite widespread opposition.
Idaho wolf population holding steady, wildlife officials say
BOISE – Idaho’s wolf population remained steady at about 1,500 last year, state wildlife managers said Thursday.
Groups challenge Montana wolf hunting, trapping regulations
HELENA, Mont. — Two wildlife advocacy groups are challenging changes to Montana’s wolf hunting and trapping regulations, arguing they were made without public comment.
Idaho wolf control board will have $1 million to kill wolves
State officials on Wednesday requested $392,000 from the general fund to kill wolves in Idaho, and with other revenue sources will have just over $1 million for that purpose starting …
Wolf illegally shot in NE Oregon, police investigating
WALLOWA, Ore. — Oregon State Police are asking for the public’s help as they search for someone who illegally shot and killed a wolf in northeast Oregon.
Revisiting Yellowstone’s trophic cascade: Wolves’ effect on aspen regeneration exaggerated, study finds
Following the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995-97, the regrowth of aspen trees became a worldwide story, highlighting the importance of large predators.
Critics have taken fight over Idaho wolf laws to courts. How many lawsuits are there?
Months after Idaho lawmakers enacted a controversial law expanding wolf hunting and trapping, pushback from critics has continued, with a cadre of opponents once again taking their complaints to the …
CWD expert: Wolves and hunters can help minimize spread of deadly protein
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Reward for info on poisoned wolves grows to nearly $43K
Lawsuit seeks to stop wolf trapping and snaring in Idaho
More than a dozen environmental groups on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Idaho’s recently expanded wolf trapping and snaring regulations.
The epic journey of gray wolf OR-93 comes to a tragic end near California interstate
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Wolf killed in Washington state for preying on cattle
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Senators urge emergency protections for wolves in US West
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Idaho reaches deal to reimburse hunters who kill wolves
Idaho officials will make available up to $200,000 to be divided into payments for hunters and trappers who kill wolves in the state through next summer.
High schoolers tracked Idaho wolf pack for years, and feds killed eight of the pups, conservationists say
Students at Timberline High School in Boise, Idaho, have been studying a group of wolves - known as the Timberline wolf pack - in a nearby national forest since 2003. …
Idaho high school’s adopted wolf pack had 8 pups killed by feds, sparking outrage
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Montana wolf hunt criticized by Yellowstone Park superintendent
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