Idaho Legislature Sets Sights on Wolf Extermination

New bill would allow for 90 percent of wolves in the state to be killed


For the Idaho legislature, it seems, the only good wolf is a dead wolf. 

In late April, the Idaho legislature passed a bill that would allow hunters to kill up to 90 percent of Idaho’s wolf population. The legislation is now awaiting Governor Brad Little’s signature. If it’s signed into law, hunters and trappers will be able to kill as many wolves as they’d like, without restrictions.

The Idaho legislature’s savagery does not stop at doing away with hunting limits. The law would permit hunters to run down wolves with motorized vehicles and hunt in the dark using night-vision equipment (nearly all states restrict hunting to daylight hours). It would also extend the trapping season on private property to year-round, even during the breeding season, and allow hunters to trap or shoot as many animals as they want on a single tag. The law would also allow the state’s Wolf Predation Control Board to hire private contract killers to take out wolves, and it would increase the board’s annual budget from $110,000 to $300,000.

The proposal, which was fast-tracked through the state legislature in less than a week, represents the latest development in a chilling trend of Republican state lawmakers trying to eradicate wolves. From Wisconsin, where hunters pushed the state into allowing the slaughter of 20 percent of the population, to Montana, where trapping associations successfully lobbied lawmakers to bring back bounties, wolves face a level of persecution not seen since the turn of the 20th century.  

Suzanne Stone, director at the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, says passage of Idaho’s SB 1211 could “absolutely” warrant federal officials reviewing whether it’s time to return wolves in the Rockies to the endangered species list. As a part of the federal rule that removed wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list over a decade ago, Idaho agreed to maintain a population of at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves. But this is a floor, not a ceiling. Idaho Fish and Games estimates there are currently about 1,500 wolves in the state. The race to kill most of those animals could and should trigger federal oversight, says Stone, who has worked in wolf conservation for over 30 years.

“It’s like [lawmakers] don’t have any fear that the federal government is going to step back in and take over management if they betray their agreement,” Stone says. “There will definitely be people who pursue this not only from litigation but from new legislation as well.” 

According to the delisting agreement, there are four scenarios that could warrant wolves being returned to Endangered Species Act protection: if wolf populations drop below 10 breeding pairs or 100 individuals; if the population falls below 15 breeding pairs and 150 individuals for three consecutive years; if increased human pressures “significantly threaten” the wolf population; and last (specific to Wyoming wolf management), if the wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park falls below seven breeding pairs for three consecutive years. Stone says the new law would make it easy for Idaho to meet the first three of those criteria.

Violating the agreement with the federal government isn’t the only thing that could jeopardize the current state management of wolves. If the bill becomes law, Idaho could be in danger of violating its commitment to manage wolves as a game species, said Jonathan Oppenheimer, external relations director at the Idaho Conservation League, when he testified against the bill. 


As a source population for wolves in other western states, Idaho’s wolves are vital to the success of overall wolf recovery in the West. In fact, the most recent federal delisting for wolves outside of the northern Rocky Mountains relies on thriving populations there to justify removing federal protections in other regions such as the Great Lakes. If wolves in the Northern Rockies become scarce, that could undermine the argument for further delisting, Stone says.  

“The federal delisting is already being litigated. So it’s very possible that Idaho and Montana will now fall under that review because of major changes in the regulatory mechanisms that were in place to help guarantee that the wolf populations here would be stable,” Stone told Sierra.  

Even though the wolf-killing bill passed the legislature in a lopsided 58–11 vote, opposition to the proposal has come from many directions—including some surprising ones. Conservation groups including the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Sportsmen issued statements rebuking SB 1211 for its disregard of ethical hunting principles. Last week, almost 30 former state, federal, and tribal wildlife biologists sent a letter to the governor urging him to veto the bill over similar concerns. And during the Senate committee hearing, Senator Michelle Stennett, a Democrat from Ketchum, raised concerns over the law’s risk to state management and called out the lack of federal inclusion.  

“I’m a little disturbed,” said Senator Stennett in her closing remarks. “US Fish and Wildlife wasn’t consulted. . . . I understand those that are interested parties putting this together, but in the end, we do still have to work with the Feds in order to keep this agreement together.”

For his part, bill sponsor Senator Van Burtenshaw, a Republican from eastern Idaho, has been clear about the groups he’s hoping to please. “We had the sheep men, the cattlemen . . . we had [the] Farm Bureau, we had outfitters and guides, as well as trappers at the table,” said Burtenshaw. “They put together a piece of legislation that was sponsored by the industry and agreed upon by the industry. And that’s how this came about.” 

Not coincidentally, these interest groups are extensions of the same constituencies that exterminated wolves in the United States a century ago. The rush to oblige them now means lawmakers prioritize killing and eradication over non-lethal measures.  

Yet research tells us that not only are lethal measures ineffective but also that the fears they’re based on are overblown. A 2019 report from the US Humane Society found that wolves account for less than 1 percent of cattle and sheep deaths in Idaho. “They have demonized the wolf to the point where they’re trying to legislate controlling the demon that is simply in their imagination,” Stone told Sierra.

Meanwhile, hunters argue that wolves are gorging on elk and deer, leaving them with fewer opportunities to hunt. Idaho Fish and Game employees, however, have referred to the recent spate of successful elk harvests as the “golden age of elk hunting.” Elk reports show that the state is meeting its harvest quotas in 16 of the 22 hunting zones, and the current population stands at approximately 120,000—just 5,000 animals below the all-time highest count.  

For Andrea Zaccardi, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity in Idaho, the Idaho legislation is a prime example of what happens to wolves when they lose federal protections. The state already has a very permissive hunting season that allows the killing of wolf puppies, allows year-round hunting in some areas, and permits a single person to kill up to 15 wolves, including via the use of chokehold snares. 

“I think Idaho is setting the exact bad example that everyone has been afraid of in terms of what state management of wolves may look like,” Zaccadi told Sierra. “This is the first step in terms of Idaho just usurping authority from state management, making political decisions that are not scientifically based, and just goes to show the state is not responsible enough to manage wolves.” 

Group asks US to cut funding to Idaho over wolf-killing bill

Group asks US to cut funding to Idaho over wolf-killing bill – The Washington Post

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 1995, file photo, a wolf leaps across a road into the wilds of Central Idaho. The Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, is asking the U.S. government to cut off millions of dollars to Idaho that’s used to improve wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities in the wake of legislation that could lead to killing 90% of the wolves in the state. (AP Photo/Douglas Pizac, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 14, 1995, file photo, a wolf leaps across a road into the wilds of Central Idaho. The Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, is asking the U.S. government to cut off millions of dollars to Idaho that’s used to improve wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities in the wake of legislation that could lead to killing 90% of the wolves in the state. (AP Photo/Douglas Pizac, File) (Doug Pizac/AP)

By Keith Ridler | APMay 4, 2021 at 12:13 p.m. PDT

BOISE, Idaho — A conservation group is asking the U.S. government to cut off millions of dollars to Idaho that is used to improve wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities because of legislation that could lead to 90% of the state’s wolves being killed.

The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter Monday to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, saying states may be deemed ineligible to receive federal wildlife restoration money if states approve legislation contrary to that goal.

Idaho received about $18 million last year in that funding, which comes from a tax on sporting firearms and ammunition. States can use it to pay 75% of the cost for projects including acquiring habitat, wildlife research and hunter education programs.

The conservation group’s request is a reflection of the long-simmering tension between ranchers and those seeking to protect wolves in the American West. About 1,500 wolves are in Idaho, with disagreement over whether that is too many or not enough because the predators are known to attack cattle, sheep and wildlife. Ranchers say they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to those attacks.

The Idaho legislation, backed by the agriculture industry, allows the state to hire private contractors to kill wolves and opens up ways the predators can be hunted.

Those methods include hunting, trapping and snaring an unlimited number of wolves on a single hunting tag and allowing hunters to chase down wolves on snowmobiles and ATVs. The measure also allows the killing of newborn pups and nursing mothers on private land.

“We won’t stand idly by while federal taxpayers are forced to fund Idaho’s wolf-slaughter program,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Idaho is entrusted with protecting its wildlife for all Americans, and its failure to do so should be met with serious repercussions, including the loss of federal funding.”

Idaho lawmakers have approved the legislation. Republican Gov. Brad Little, whose family has a long history with sheep ranching in Idaho, hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the measure.

Last week, nearly 30 former state, federal and tribal wildlife managers sent a letter to Little asking him to veto it, saying the methods for killing wolves would violate longstanding wildlife management practices and sportsmen ethics.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission also opposes the bill because it removes wildlife management decisions from the commission and its experts and gives them to politicians.

Supporters say the changes could help reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150, alleviating attacks on cattle and sheep. The Idaho Cattle Association said it supports the measure because it allows the free-market system to play a role in killing wolves.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, using remote cameras and other methods, reported in February that the wolf population has been holding at about 1,500 the past two years.

About 500 wolves have been killed in the state in each of the last two years by hunters, trappers and wolf-control measures carried out by state and federal authorities.

Idaho’s wolf conservation and management plan calls for at least 150 wolves and 15 packs. Supporters of the measure say the state can increase the killing of wolves to reach that level.

According to the plan, if Idaho’s wolf population fell to 100, there is a possibility the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could resume management of the predators in the state.

Fact-Checking Idaho’s Wolf Eradication Law

The state is about to pass a law calling for 90 percent of its wolf population to be killed. It’s based on fear and lies.

A wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park.

Wes SilerWes Siler

Apr 29, 2021

This week, Idaho governor Brad Little is expected to sign into law a bill that calls for the extermination of 90 percent of the state’s 1,500-strong wolf population. Proponents say wolves are ruining the livelihoods of ranchers and hunters. Opponents say the wolves are necessary to a healthy ecosystem.

“They’re destroying ranchers,” said Republican senator Mark Harris, one of the bill’s sponsors, during a debate in the Idaho statehouse. “They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill.”

“The politicians behind this bill lack science, ethics, and fact,” Amaroq Weiss, senior West Coast wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, told Outside

After being eradicated earlier in the 20th century, wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995. Initially protected by the federal government under the Endangered Species Act, the state legislature worked to establish political control over management of the species. The Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was passed in 2002, creating a blueprint for the state’s Fish and Game department to take over management of the species upon delisting from the ESA, which took place across the northern Rocky Mountains in 2011. 

That original plan, written by the legislature, not Fish and Game, called for a minimum population level of 15 packs. Given that wolf packs in this part of the world average about ten members, that roughs out to a population of about 150 wolves. That number was determined by the legislature to be the population size that would allow the species to remain sustainable in the state—without creating conflict with ranchers and hunters. Wildlife biologists, in contrast, argue that wolves must return to the entire portion of their historic range that’s currently able to support the species before their population can be considered sustainable. 

This new bill, SB 1211, calls for Idaho’s wolf population to be reduced from its current estimated size of 1,556 back to that politically determined level of 150 wolves. To achieve that, it devotes $590,000 to hire contractors to exterminate the animals and removes any limits on the number of wolves hunters may harvest, while freeing them to use any method currently legal in the state, including trapping, the use of night vision equipment, shooting from vehicles, and baiting. 

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission opposes the legislation, arguing the bill would remove decisions about how to manage wildlife from the department’s professionals and place that decision making in the hands of politicians. Idaho’s approach is also in conflict with that of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Here are the reasons the bill’s proponents argue such extraordinary action is necessary—and how they compare to science. 

The Claim: Wolves Kill Livestock

“A cow taken by a wolf is similar to a thief stealing an item from a production line in a factory,” Cameron Mulrony, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, told The Guardian

And in the debate at the statehouse, Idaho’s Senator Harris called wolf livestock depredation a “disaster.”

The Reality: The Number of Kills by Wolves Is Exceptionally Small

In 2018 there were 113 confirmed wolf kills of cows and sheep. In 2019 that number was 156, and in 2020 it was 84. That gives us a three-year average of 113 wolf kills per year in the state. There are currently 2.73 million head of cows and sheep in Idaho. That means confirmed wolf-caused losses amount to 0.00428 percent of the state’s livestock. 

According to a study published in 2003 and widely cited by the agriculture industry, variables like terrain can sometimes make it hard to find dead livestock, so the true number of wolf-related losses may be up to eight times greater than the official tally. Assuming that worst-case scenario applies universally, wolf kills may account for as much as 0.02 percent of the state’s livestock. 

Idaho loses about 40,000 cattle each year to non-predator causes like disease, birthing complications, and inclement weather. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife provides the state of Idaho with funding to compensate ranchers for confirmed cases of livestock lost to wolf depredation. Currently that amount covers 50 percent of the rancher’s total cost.

The Claim: Killing Wolves Reduces Depredation

“We need proper management to keep Idaho ranchers in business,” wrote Cameron Mulroney, vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, in an opinion piece published by the Idaho Statesman. He goes on to call for taxpayer-funded wolf culling and increased wolf hunting opportunities for members of the public. 

The Reality: Healthy Packs Prefer Natural Prey

“Multiple state-sponsored studies have concluded that large-scale wolf removal through public hunting or significant lethal control does not substantially reduce livestock losses to wolves in areas of recurring conflict,” Zoë Hanley, a representative of Defenders of Wildlife, wrote in a letter to Idaho lawmakers. 

Many biologists believe that, because wolves function in packs, destabilizing and weakening those packs by killing members of them forces the wolfs to seek easier prey. “The odds of livestock depredations increased four percent for sheep and five to six percent for cattle with increased wolf control,” said a study that tracked livestock depredations across Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming between 1987 and 2012. 

The study does confirm that culling wolves to the point of removing them from an ecosystem can be demonstrated to reduce depredation. 

The Claim: Wolves Decrease Hunting Opportunities

Wolves are “destroying wildlife,” said Senator Harris in the debate. Hunters complain that they must compete with wolves for their natural prey, elk and deer, and that wolves push those animals out of traditional hunting areas, while reducing their outright numbers. 

“The old place where you took your Dad or your dad takes your son, you can’t go there anymore because the elk are gone,” wrote Benn Brocksome, executive director of the Idaho Sportsman’s Alliance, in an opinion piece. “There’s one or two deer where there used to be hundreds, they’ve really pushed the elk and deer populations around, and really diminished the populations in different areas.”

The Reality: Wolves Create Healthy Ecosystems

Despite all those pesky wolves, elk populations in Idaho are actually at or above management objectives. The outright number of elk in the state currently stands at 120,000, just 5,000 fewer than the all-time high of 125,000. That’s also 8,000 more elk than were counted in 1995, the year wolves were reintroduced to Idaho. 

As of 2019, the population of bulls (male elk) was above management objectives in 41 of Idaho’s 78 elk-hunting zones. According to Idaho Fish and Game, 2019 saw the 14th-highest elk harvest of all time in the state. In fact, the biggest problem elk populations in Idaho face is a lack of hunters prepared to hunt tough terrain. “One of the challenges we face in managing elk populations is getting enough hunters to hunt hard for and harvest antlerless elk in areas where we are working to bring elk herds back to the population objectives in the statewide elk plan,” Rick Ward, the department’s deer and elk program coordinator, said in a statement.

Mule deer aren’t fairing quite as well. “The three-year stretch of winters spanning from 2016 to 2019 was tough on many of Idaho’s mule deer herds, largely due to poor-to-average fawn survival,” according to Idaho Fish and Game. Still, 24,809 mule deer were harvested during the 2020 hunting season, with 28 percent of hunters finding success.Below average, but far from the lowest. 

It doesn’t appear that wolves decreased populations of ungulates, and the predators may even play an important role in protecting them: chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a contagious neurological disease that degrades brain tissue in deer and elk over time, leading to emaciation and eventually death. CWD has not yet reached Idaho, but it has been found just over the border in southwest Montana and in Wyoming. There is currently no known cure and no effective tool for preventing its spread.

At least that’s what researchers thought until they began a research project into CWD’s spread in Yellowstone National Park. There, preliminary results suggested that wolves may be effective at slowing its spread by killing infected animals. Wolves cannot be infected by the disease.

“Wolves wouldn’t be a magic cure everywhere,” Ellen Brandell, the Penn State University researcher leading the project, told The New York Times. “But in places where it was just starting and you have an active predator guild, they could keep it at bay and it might never get a foothold.” 

Gary J. Wolfe, a wildlife biologist and the former president and CEO of hunting advocacy group the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, agrees. “While I don’t think any of us large carnivore proponents are saying that wolf predation will prevent CWD, or totally eliminate it from infected herds, it is ecologically irresponsible to not consider the very real possibility that wolves can slow the spread of CWD and reduce its prevalence in infected herds,” he said in a statement released by the Sierra Club. “We should consider wolves to be ‘CWD border guards,’ adjust wolf hunting seasons accordingly, and let wolves do their job of helping to cull infirm animals from the herds.”

SB 1211 isn’t going to save livestock and won’t help hunters, but ultimately it may pose one major problem for anti-wolf Idahoans: if it causes the state’s wolf population to fall below ten packs, the bill could eventually lead to the state losing the ability to manage wolves within its borders. The 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, written by Idaho’s own legislature, calls for wolf management to revert to U.S. Fish and Wildlife control if the state’s population falls below ten packs. 

“In the unlikely event the population falls below ten packs … wolf management will revert to the same provisions that were in effect to recover the wolf population prior to delisting,” according to Idaho’s management plan. That’s the Endangered Species Act. 

Idaho’s Wolves Need Your Help NOW!

Project Coyote

Today the Idaho Legislature passed SB 1211—a heinous bill that would allow the slaughter of 90 percent of Idaho’s 1,500 wolves by any means: traps, snares, aerial shooting, running over with snowmobiles—and even wildlife killing contests. There will be no bag or tag purchase limits or seasonal respite from trapping. The bill seizes wildlife management authority from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and supports the hiring of contract killers with an additional $190,000 from the Idaho Wolf Control Fund, which already receives $400,000 to kill wolves. Read this Guardian article to see international coverage of the issue.Our last chance to stop this all-out war against wolves in Idaho is to urge Governor Brad Little to veto this bill. Even if you don’t live in Idaho, you can still speak up. Idaho needs to know the world is watching! Urge Governor Little to veto SB 1211 TODAY!Here’s how you can help:Call Governor Little at 208-334-2100 now and follow up with an email to urging him to veto SB 1211, using the talking points below.Share this action alert and infographic with friends and family and on social media! Talking points to craft your message (please personalize):If you are from or currently live in Idaho, state your town. If you don’t have connections to Idaho, explain why you will not spend your tourism dollars in a state like Idaho that wantonly slaughters wildlife.Over 76% of Idahoans believe wildlife belongs to all citizens and that management decisions should be made without political influence by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission – whose members oppose this bill 5-2.Taking authority away from the Commission and the agency biologists that inform them is not science-based management and sets a dangerous precedent for the management of other wildlife.Wolves cause less than 1% of cattle deaths and any depredation can be properly managed without this bill.Killing wolves at this rate will only support decisions to relist them with Endangered Species Act protections.Wolves alive and thriving bring value to Idaho in many forms, including ecosystem services and tourism dollars.The majority of Idahoans and Americans support wolf recovery at levels where wolves can fulfill their ecological functions. Almost no one supports wasting tax dollars to recover wolves, just to exterminate them again.

Montana governor signs bill allowing payment to wolf hunters



Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday allowing the use of private funds to reimburse wolf hunters or trappers for their expenses — reminiscent of bounties that widely exterminated the species in the last century.

Hunting and livestock groups, and their Republican allies in the legislature, contend not enough of the 1,200 wolves in Montana are being killed by hunters to limit their impact on big game outfitters or cattle and sheep producers.

The bill was sponsored by GOP state Sen. Bob Brown, who said there are too many wolves in his mountainous district in northwestern Montana.TOP ARTICLES ADWho will be next president of Modesto Junior College? Three finalists are revealed.

The reimbursement program is similar to one in Idaho, where a private group pays its members up to $1,000 for costs incurred while scouting, hunting or trapping wolves.

Opponents argued there are tourists who come to Montana to see wolves and if too many are killed, they will return to protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Last week, Gianforte signed bills to allow the snaring of wolves, in addition to trapping; and another one to extend the wolf hunting season.

Lawmakers have also forwarded to the governor a bill to allow individuals to kill an unlimited number of wolves, hunt at night with artificial lights and night vision scopes and use bait to lure wolves into traps.

In Idaho, a bill that would allow the state to hire private contractors to reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150 is quickly moving through the legislature. It allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.

Backers cite cattle and sheep deaths that cost ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while opponents say the legislation threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government.

Biden administration mum on gray wolves endangered species listing

Biden administration mum on gray wolves endangered species listing (


Photo by: National Park Service via AP, FileFILE – In this March 21, 2019, aerial file photo provided by the National Park Service, is the Junction Butte wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park.By: Jacob Fischler – Daily MontananPosted at 8:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021 and last updated 7:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021

A controversial decision in the last months of the Trump administration to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list led to a massive overhunt in Wisconsin this year that Ojibwe tribal representatives said disrespected their wishes.

But there’s no indication yet that the Biden administration will attempt to roll back that move, despite an order the day President Joe Biden took office that departments across the government review decisions from the previous four years that were “damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” The order specifically cited the gray wolf delisting as one to reconsider.

It’s also unclear what effect the three-day hunting season in Wisconsin, where hunters killed nearly double the state’s non-tribal quota, will have on other states.

The season was held in late February after a Nov. 3 Fish and Wildlife Service order removed gray wolves from the endangered species list in all of the lower 48 states, mostly affecting the Great Lakes region. Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains had already been delisted federally.

A Wisconsin judge ruled in February that state law required a wolf hunting season. The state set a limit of 119 wolves that could be harvested by the general public, with an additional 81 reserved for the Ojibwe tribes.

The tribes intended not to harvest wolves, but to use their quota as a means for conservation, said Dylan Jennings, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a group that represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

Hunters killed 216 in just three days.

“The second it gets beyond a certain threshold, there’s a quick and irrational desire to hunt them again,” Jennings said.

Jennings’ group opposed the hunt because of biological factors and because of the reverence for wolves in Ojibwe culture.

The animal’s fate is seen as tied to the Ojibwe people, and they view policies throughout U.S. history where the government has sought to remove both Native Americans and wolves as strengthening that shared existence, Jennings said.

“What happens to one happens to the other,” he said. “There’s a mirror prophecy…. And that mirrored history is pretty fresh in the minds of a lot of our tribal nations.”

Although the state was forced by the court decision to hold a hunting season, Jennings said tribes were not meaningfully consulted.

“When you’re pushing for a hunt to happen in a week’s time, you’re essentially saying ‘We’re going to bypass the tribal consultation process,’” Jennings said. “And that’s exactly what tribal communities viewed as happening.”

The timing of Wisconsin’s hunt, when females may be pregnant and wolf pelts are not as valuable, added a layer of disrespect, the group said in a statement before the season opened.

Representatives for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

Managing large carnivores

Government management of large carnivores like wolves is often controversial. The animals can pose a danger to people, livestock and the livelihoods of ranchers.

“Wolves are strong, smart and vicious predators,” Luke Hilgemann, the CEO of Hunter Nation, the organization that sued the state to force a wolf season, wrote in a March 19 op-ed for the Wisconsin State Journal. “Wolves are to be respected and revered. But too many of any species — particularly predators — can wreck the entire ecosystem.”

In neighboring Minnesota, wolf populations have remained strong since before the animal was listed on the federal endangered species list, said Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The population has hovered around 2,700 for the past three years, about double the 1,250-1,400 goal that federal authorities set.

Stark said he didn’t have enough information about the Wisconsin season to speculate about how it might affect Minnesota’s management plan, but that examples from across North America, including Wisconsin’s, helped inform best practices for wolf hunting.

“Anything we can learn about what methods were allowed or what steps were taken to manage and provide the controls for that season closure could help inform us as we develop or if we adopt a proposal for a season,” he said.

Minnesota DNR policymaking committees include tribal members and formal tribal consultation is also part of the process, as is consultation with people concerned about wolves preying on livestock, Stark said.

The department’s review of its wolf management policy was slowed by the pandemic, Stark said. A review committee would likely have a plan ready for public review in the summer and a final recommendation in the fall.

Jennings said there was no indication of how the federal government might act. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American person to hold that office, but tribal communities understand her job goes beyond their concerns, Jennings said.

Other than citing the gray wolf in the executive order, the Biden administration has not given any other sign it intends to undo the delisting, which could be a lengthy process.

“The administration cannot simply yank back the rule,” said Kristin Boyles, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group suing the federal government over the delisting.

If the agency agreed the rule was invalid, it could begin a new rulemaking process to put the gray wolf back on the list, she said.

The government’s answer to the Earthjustice suit is due April 19.

A spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment. A spokesman for the Interior Department did not return a request for comment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service kept the grizzly bear, another well-known large and potentially dangerous mammal, on the endangered species list, the service announced this week.

Wolf hunting in Montana

In Montana, where wolf hunting has been legal since a 2011 law authored by Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the state Legislature has pursued measures to expand hunting.

The Montana Wildlife Federation, which supported the 2011 law, has asked Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, to veto seven bills. The proposals include measures to allow the use of spotlights in hunts, baits near traps, the killing of more than one wolf with a single license, and other measures conservationists consider unethical.

“What we’re seeing this session is an all-out war against wolves,” Nick Gevock, the conservation director for MWF, said. “We support ethical wolf hunting, but this is something different. This is a purposeful effort to drive their numbers to a bare minimum.”

Gilles Stockton, the president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, said the state’s official tally of around 870 wolves is likely an undercount. The animals are overpopulated throughout the state and are a threat to livestock producers, he said. Hunting is an important tool in managing that threat, he added.

The group didn’t have a position on the specific bills the Legislature has passed, but said “more aggressive methods are necessary and should be allowed.”

Many in western Montana, where wolf populations are more plentiful, have advocated for similar measures for years, Gevock said. But with the state now led by a Republican governor after 16 years of Democratic control, the chances of enactment are greater.

Gevock said the governor’s office has not said if it will veto the bills.

State authorities fined Gianforte earlier this month for killing a wolf without first taking the proper training course.

Tribal officials hopeful new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland can end wolf hunting in Wisconsin

Frank VaisvilasGreen Bay Press-GazetteView Comments0:580:58

Tribal officials, especially those from Ojibwe nations in northern Wisconsin, are hopeful new U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland can help restore protections for gray wolves and stop another hunting season this fall.

Haaland was confirmed by the Senate last week as the first Native American to head a presidential cabinet department.

The agency manages 480 million federal acres, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Haaland, 60, a citizen of the Pueblo Laguna tribe in New Mexico, had faced stiff criticism from Republican senators for past statements opposing fossil fuel extraction in favor of clean energy and for tweeting that “Republicans don’t believe in science.”

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Native American Caucus co-chair, speaks to reporters on March 5, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Haaland as interior secretary. The historic pick would make her the first Native American to lead the powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation's tribes for generations.

Environmental groups applauded her confirmation, and tribal officials in Wisconsin are optimistic her office can address environmental concerns in the state.

These include officials from at least three Indigenous nations: the Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles and Sokaogon Ojibwe nations, who all want a stop to the hunting of gray wolves in northern Wisconsin.

RELATED:Tribal leaders in Wisconsin applaud Biden’s Native American pick for Cabinet

The gray wolf, or Ma’iingan, plays an important role in Ojibwe culture. The Ojibwe believe man arrived in the world after the rest of creation, but soon became depressed and lowly in spirit because he felt alone. Creator then introduced man to the wolf, and the two became brothers. 

“This forms the foundation of the Ojibwe relationship with wolves today,” said Peter David, a biologist for the Odanah-based Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. “We consider the wolves’ best interests.”

The Ridges Sanctuary holds a free, two-part class.on learning to track carnivore mammals, such as the wolf.

David said tribal officials favor non-lethal methods in resolving conflicts wolves might have with the pets and livestock of people in and around forested areas where wolves hunt.

Conservationists say that while some farmers may lose more livestock than others to wolves, the estimated total livestock lost to all predators in Wisconsin is about 1%. They also argue there is some evidence that wolves play a large role in helping to create a much healthier ecosystem, but more research is needed.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated in late winter 2020 that there were about 1,195 wolves in the state, the highest in recent years.

The population comeback of gray wolves prompted the Trump administration last fall to remove the animal from the federal endangered species list, paving the way for Wisconsin to once again have a wolf hunting season.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission represents 11 Ojibwe nations in northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan in their treaty rights to hunt, fish and harvest in Ceded Territory outside the reservations.

The treaties with the U.S. guaranteed these rights to the Ojibwe in exchange for the government taking Ojibwe land.

As part of an agreement with the DNR, GLIFWC can claim a portion of the sustainable harvest in the Ceded Territory.

Although GLIFWC officials are not commenting whether Haaland’s office can have an impact on restoring protections for gray wolves, they did claim a portion of the quota the DNR set to be killed this winter.

Wisconsin’s minimum wolf population was recently estimated at nearly 900.

That harvest goal was 200 wolves, and GLIFWC claimed a quota of 81 with the intention of protecting that number from being killed.

The gray wolf is still a protected species under tribal codes of law.

Only 119 wolves were allotted to be killed, but hunters and trappers killed a total of 216 this winter. Tribal officials feel slighted by this, and other issues, and believe Haaland can help better protect their interests.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

“Our legal right to meaningful consultation by state government about mining, protected species (including gray wolves), chronic wasting disease, air and water pollution and many more decisions impacting life-sustaining resources for future generations is often given short shrift or completely ignored,” said John D. Johnson Sr., president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “Respect for our culture and traditions is consistently denigrated by many in power, and we believe Secretary Haaland can make a big difference in protecting our people, our culture and our traditions.”

Officials with other Indigenous nations in the state are hopeful Haaland’s office can help address other environmental concerns.

Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, vice chairman for the Oneida Nation Business Committee, said Haaland’s office can have a major positive environmental impact in the Green Bay area.

“She’ll have an impact on all of northeast Wisconsin,” he said.

That might include increasing funding for the Silver Creek Pilot Program, which aims to reduce phosphorus runoff from farm fertilizer into streams in northeast Wisconsin.

Yellowbird-Stevens said the Oneida Nation has already been able to reduce runoff by 90% working with farmers on the reservation by constructing buffers in swales.

He said her office might also help increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to increase the health of the Great Lakes.

“Invasive species are the main concern,” Yellowbird-Stevens said.

It is unclear whether Haaland’s office would have a direct impact on some of the other high-profile environmental concerns challenged by Indigenous nations, such as the Back Forty Mine

The Menominee Nation, in federal court, has challenged efforts by Canada-based Aquila Resource to start an open-pit mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that would extract gold, silver, zinc and copper.

Tribal officials argued the mine would negatively impact the environment, affecting the water in the region, which is historically significant to the Menominee Nation.

Attorney Janet Brimmer, who has represented Menominee Nation in the case, said that although the mine is near the Menominee River, the tribe hasn’t had much of a say in permit applications because the mine is in Michigan.

She said she doesn’t foresee Haaland having much effect on mining permits, but Haaland could possibly encourage Michigan officials to share more information with Menominee Nation officials and improve communication.

Brimmer said Aquila’s efforts are in limbo after a wetland permit was denied by a Michigan judge and the mine is not moving forward at this point, but the company could try again later this year. 

But with Haaland being a citizen of an Indigenous nation, tribal officials in Wisconsin believe she understands the effects environmental policy has on reservations, and the country as a whole and they believe she will represent them.

“The Unites States plays an enormous role in setting climate, natural resource and environmental policies that impact the entire planet,” said Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. “Perhaps no federal agency has a greater share of that role than the department of the interior. … Rep. Haaland … represents a person who will have a deep understanding of all the responsibilities of the secretary of the Interior


Timeline: Wolves in Danger | Earthjustice

The gray wolf is one of North America’s most iconic native predators. The wolf’s incredible comeback in the Northern Rockies is one of our country’s greatest wildlife success stories.

Explore the history of the Northern Rockies gray wolves, beginning in the 1930s when their numbers were decimated after years of persecution, through their successful reintroduction in the 1990s, to current day’s first legal wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies in nearly a century:What’s Happening Now

On Oct. 29, 2020, the Trump administration finalized a rule removing Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental U.S. (More details.)20TH CENTURY1933January catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.ARIZONA HISTORICAL SOCIETYJanuary catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.


Bounty hunters finish killing most wolves in the continental United States.

Tiny remnant populations cling to existence in several spots along the Canadian border in Michigan, Montana, and Idaho.

Reports of ghost wolf sightings trickle in from parts of Wyoming, Washington, and Idaho. 1973President Richard Nixon.WHITE HOUSE PHOTO


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is signed into law by President Nixon.

It prohibits the “taking,” without explicit permission, of species deemed to be in danger of going extinct.

“Taking,” in this instance, means killing, harassing, or damaging habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of the species. 1974A 'wolf-like' animal sighted in Hayden Valley, August 7/8, 1992.RAY PAUNOVICH / BUSCH FILMS VIA NPSA “wolf-like” animal sighted in Hayden Valley, August 7/8, 1992.


As part of the first list of species to receive federal protections, gray wolves are listed as “endangered” under the ESA.

The designation applies to all remaining wolf populations in the lower-48 states. 1982


The ESA is amended to include the 10(j) rule, allowing the Interior Department to classify reintroduced species as experimental and nonessential.

The change is a result of local concerns about reintroduction of species to their historical ranges. 1995Schoolchildren at Yellowstone's Roosevelt Arch welcome a truck transporting wolves, January 1995.DIANE PAPINEAU / NATIONAL PARK SERVICESchoolchildren at Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch welcome a truck transporting wolves, January 1995.


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) begins reintroducing gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone.

Wolves are brought in from Canada.21ST CENTURYJuly 2000


FWS proposes dropping “endangered” status for most wolves in the United States and reclassifying them as “threatened,” a designation under the ESA that carries milder protections than “endangered” status. 2003Wolves howling at Little America Flats in February 2003.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolves howling at Little America Flats in Yellowstone, February 2003.


FWS reclassifies most gray wolves in the lower-48 as “threatened.”

Work also begins to delist most gray wolves entirely. As a requirement for delisting, states with wolf populations must have laws and management plans to ensure continued survival of the species. 2004Wolf lying on glacial erratic at Yellowstone's Little America Flats, February 2, 2004.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf on glacial erratic at Yellowstone’s Little America Flats, February 2, 2004.


FWS accepts Montana’s and Idaho’s proposed management plans for wolves but rejects Wyoming’s.

The State of Wyoming, livestock and hunting interests supported plans to manage wolves as “predators,” which would permit indiscriminate killing in nearly 90% of Wyoming. 2004


The State of Wyoming and 28 Wyoming-based livestock and hunting groups file suit, challenging FWS’s rejection of the Wyoming management plan. November 2004


Earthjustice and other conservation groups intervene in the lawsuit to defend FWS’s decision to reject Wyoming’s management plan for wolves. January 2005


An Oregon district court judge rejects the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to reclassify most wolves in the lower-48 to “threatened” from “endangered.” January 2005


An elk in winter.ISTOCKPHOTOAn elk in winter.

The Bush administration gives livestock owners in Montana and Idaho more power to kill wolves.

Under the new “10(j) rule,” livestock owners can kill wolves without a permit if wolves are chasing livestock.

The rule also says states can take action against wolves if it can be demonstrated they are the primary reason for decline among deer or elk populations.21ST CENTURYMarch 2005Wolf watchers at Yellowstone's Slough Creek, March 2005.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf watchers at Yellowstone’s Slough Creek, March 2005.


Federal District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson tosses out the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming and livestock and hunting interests challenging FWS’s rejection of Wyoming’s management plan.

The case is ultimately appealed to the 10th Circuit. February 2006Wolf near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone on February 16, 2006.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone, February 16, 2006.


FWS announces plans to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rockies (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana) from the Endangered Species List, but only if Wyoming adopts a state management plan that FWS deems appropriate.

Wyoming’s original plan, rejected by FWS, remains under review by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. April 2006Wolf 470F of Leopold Pack near Blacktail Pond.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf 470F of the Leopold Pack, near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone.


The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming and livestock and hunting interests to compel approval of the state management plan is without merit.

The ruling affirms a decision made one year prior by District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson, as well as FWS’s initial decision to reject the plan. August 2006


After 12 months of study, FWS rejects a petition filed by the Governor of Wyoming and the State Game & Fish Commission asking that gray wolves in the Northern Rockies be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The rejection is based on the lack of an adequate state management plan in Wyoming. February 2007


Wolves from the Druid Pack bed down in the snow.NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolves from the Druid Pack bed down in the snow.

FWS issues a proposed rule to delist Northern Rockies gray wolves from the endangered species list.

Wyoming has yet to propose a management plan since their initial one was rejected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Without a Wyoming plan, FWS intends to keep a significant portion of wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list. December 2007


In an about-face, FWS approves Wyoming’s state management plan.

The plan allows anyone to kill any wolf that wanders outside the northwest part of the state, including wolves that live most of the year in Yellowstone National Park and leave the park for periods in the winter in search of food. December 2007


Earthjustice files comments challenging the approval of Wyoming’s new plan to allow unlimited wolf killing in nearly 90% of the state. January 2008


An elk in winter.U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEMule deer.

Earthjustice challenges the Bush administration 10(j) rule that would allow wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to be indiscriminately killed, including through aerial hunting.

To start killing, states only need to demonstrate that wolves are one of the reasons for elk and deer populations that fail to meet state objectives. February 2008


The final rule for delisting of the Northern Rockies population of gray wolves from the Endangered Species List is published.

Delisting is scheduled to take place in late March 2008. March 2008


The Northern Rockies gray wolves are officially removed from the endangered species list. Wyoming’s contentious state management plan takes effect. March 28, 2008His distinctive gait, walking on three legs, made him one of the more easily recognized wolves in Yellowstone.STEVE JUSTADWolf 253. His distinctive gait, walking on three legs, made him one of the more easily recognized wolves in Yellowstone.


Wolf 253 (aka, “Hoppy” or “Limpy”) is one of the first wolves killed after ESA protections are removed.

A member of Yellowstone’s famed Druid Pack, this particular wolf was unique. “He was a hell of a wolf,” recalled one veteran wolf watcher. April 2008


Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of 12 conservation groups, challenging the decision to delist Northern Rockies gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protections. July 2008


In response to the Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court reinstated ESA protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, just in time to keep wolves safe from fall hunts that would have been implemented in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Since delisting, more than 100 wolves were killed. Fall hunts would have killed hundreds more. January 2009The White House, shrouded in fog.PETE SOUZA / WHITE HOUSE


Days before leaving office, the Bush administration makes a final attempt to remove endangered species protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies (excluding Wyoming).

Earthjustice and other groups announce they will challenge delisting … again. An order by the Obama administration halts the proposed delisting for the time being. March 2009


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.DEPARTMENT OF INTERIORSecretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

After nearly two months of waiting, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar affirms the FWS decision to remove endangered species protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana (as well as parts of Washington, Oregon, Utah and western Great Lakes).

Earthjustice and others announce they will challenge the decision. April 2009


Wolf pups emerge from a den, December 2009.HILARY COOLEY / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEWolf pups emerge from a den, December 2009.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are again removed from the endangered species list. The delisting rule goes into effect on May 4, 2009.

With the exception of Wyoming, where wolves remain federally protected, states will take over management of their wolf populations. June 2009


Earthjustice files suit challenging the decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. July 2009


Earthjustice asks the federal district court reviewing the delisting challenge for an emergency injunction to halt pending fall wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. Earthjustice sought—and won—a similar injunction the last time wolf hunts began. September 2009


A federal district court issues an order finding that the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies was likely illegal, but declined to stop wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

The order comes a week after Idaho’s wolf hunting season opened on September 1. Montana is set to begin wolf hunting on September 15. March 31, 2010


Idaho’s wolf hunt season ends, with the loss of more than 500 wolves due to human killing.

The hunt, along with Montana’s similar season, followed the April 2009 delisting of populations in those states under the federal ESA. August 5, 2010Gray wolf, August 2010.TRACY BROOKS / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEGray wolf, August 2010.


Federal District Judge Donald Molloy restores ESA protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, stating that the decision by FWS to remove protections in only two states is “a political solution that does not comply with the ESA.”

In his ruling, the judge affirmed that protections for the same population cannot differ by state. March 2011Wolf faces a snowstorm in Seney National Wildlife Refuge, January 2011.LARRY MCGAHEYWolf faces a snowstorm in Seney National Wildlife Refuge, January 2011.


Of the 14 conservation groups that joined in the June 2009 lawsuit to protect wolves, not all agree to a settlement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This requires Earthjustice to withdraw as the clients’ counsel. April 15, 2011


President Obama signs into law the “Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2011.

The bill requires the Interior Secretary to reissue the “2009 Rule” which removed ESA protections for all Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, except those in Wyoming. August 3, 2011Storm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOLStorm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building.


Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy upholds the 2011 legislation removing ESA protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

The legislation marks the first time Congress has legislatively delisted an endangered species. Fall 2011


The 2011–2012 Montana wolf hunting and Idaho wolf hunting and trapping seasons begin, during which 166 wolves are killed in Montana, and 379 wolves are killed in Idaho. October 5, 2011


FWS proposed a rule to remove the gray wolf in Wyoming from the endangered species list, claiming Wyoming’s wolf population is stable, threats will be addressed, and Wyoming’s wolf management laws are adequate.

This is notwithstanding FWS’s own peer review of the Wyoming delisting proposal, which concluded that “there is substantial risk to the population” because “the Plan, as written, does not do an adequate job of explaining how wolf populations will be maintained, and how recovery will be maintained.” March 14, 2012Wolf in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, January 12, 2012.U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEWolf in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, January 12, 2012.


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress had the right to strip protections from wolves in Montana and Idaho in April 2011. August 31, 2012


FWS announced it is eliminating federal protections for Wyoming’s wolves, handing wolf management over to Wyoming, which will open almost all of the state to immediate, unconditional wolf killing.

Wyoming’s wolf population is estimated to be only 328 wolves, far fewer than either Idaho or Montana. November 14, 2012


Following the required 60-day notice of intent to sue, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of conservation groups, challenging the federal government’s elimination of ESA protections for wolves in Wyoming.

The state policies will result in wolf deaths that undermine the recovery of the species. May 9, 2013


Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.KEITH SHANNON / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICESecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Six of the nation’s most prominent conservation groups called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to cancel plans by FWS to remove federal ESA protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower-48 states.

The letter is signed by the chief executives of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club. June 7, 2013


FWS proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower-48 states, except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 75 wild wolves remain.

The plan would be disastrous for gray wolf recovery in the United States. December 17, 2013


Wolf in Yellowstone.BARRY O’NEILL / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEA wolf in Yellowstone.

In a public comment period, approximately one million Americans stood in opposition to the proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves across most of the lower-48.

It is one of the largest numbers of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species. February 2014


An independent scientific peer review unanimously concluded that the FWS’s national wolf delisting rule did not currently represent the “best available science.”

The study was commissioned by FWS and conducted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. January 7, 2014A member of the Golden pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCA member of the Golden pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.


Earthjustice requested a court injunction to halt an unprecedented program by the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish & Game to exterminate the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek Packs deep within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The area is the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states. IDFG commenced the program in December 2013 without public notice. January 18, 2014


Members of the Monumental pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCMembers of the Monumental pack cross a ridge in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness, after a federal district court judge rejected the injunction request.

The hunter-trapper hired by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has killed nine wolves from the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek Packs. July 29, 2014Members of the Golden pack in the  Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCMembers of the Golden pack.


Faced with the legal challenge and imminent hearing before the federal appeals court, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game abandoned its plan to resume the professional wolf-killing program in the Frank Church during the coming winter. September 23, 2014



A ruling from Federal District Court Judge Amy Jackson invalidated the statewide delisting of wolves in Wyoming, reinstating protections for the species.

Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in challenging the FWS’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in Wyoming.

219 wolves were killed under Wyoming’s management since the 2012 delisting. December 15, 2015


Wolves in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will retain their federal protections after a contentious policy “rider” that would have stripped them of Endangered Species Act protections was excluded from the final omnibus government spending bill.

The rider would have overridden two federal court decisions (including the September 2014 victory for wolves in Wyoming) that found those states’ management plans do not sufficiently protect wolves, while also barring further judicial review of the court decision overrides. January 7, 2016


A coalition of conservationists, represented by Earthjustice, today filed a legal challenge to the decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to conduct approximately 120 helicopter landings in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness as part of a program to manipulate wildlife populations in the wilderness. January 13, 2016


The Idaho Fish & Game Department admitted that it broke an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and used helicopter landings to collar wolves in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness. This followed less than a week after Earthjustice filed its legal challenge. January 19, 2017


The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill concluded that the Forest Service violated the Wilderness Act and conducted insufficient environmental review in allowing IDFG to land helicopters in the River of No Return in January 2016 to capture and place radio telemetry collars on wild elk. IDFG also captured and radio-collared four wolves during these operations—an unauthorized action that was not permitted by the Forest Service, but that threatened to advance IDFG’s plans to undertake widespread wolf-killing in the wilderness by providing locational information on the collared wolves. March 7, 2017


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Zinke, et al., reversing a district court decision that had restored Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming. April 25, 2017


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hands wolf management authority over to the State of Wyoming, despite state policies that promote unlimited wolf-killing across more than 80% of Wyoming and provide inadequate protections for wolves in the remainder. March 6, 2019


The Dept. of Interior announced a proposed rule would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 114 wild wolves remain. The Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental United States. (More details.) October 29, 2020


The Trump administration finalized a rule removing Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental U.S. (More details.)

“This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

Wisconsin opens early wolf hunt after hunter group sued

TODD RICHMOND, Associated PressFeb. 22, 2021Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 2:56 p.m.

FILE - This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones.
FILE – This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones.Dawn Villella/AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin wildlife officials opened a wolf season Monday after hunting advocates sued to move the start date up from November amid fears that the Biden administration might restore protections for the animals.

The hunt will run through Sunday across six management zones. The DNR set the kill limit at 200 animals, with 119 allocated to the state and the other 81 allocated to Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes as per treaty agreements. However, the Chippewa regard the wolf as sacred and will not hunt it, leaving the working kill limit at 119.

The DNR estimates that there are at least 1,000 wolves in Wisconsin and its aim is to maintain a population of 350. The agency issued 2,380 permits, or 20 times its kill limit for non-tribal members. Department officials said Monday that they received 27,151 applications.

Wisconsin law requires the DNR to run a wolf hunt from the beginning of November through the end of February. But wolves have been bouncing on and off the federal endangered species list for the past decade. The DNR ran its first hunt in 2012 after the Obama administration removed protections and ran two more before a federal judge re-listed the animals in late 2014.

The Trump administration delisted wolves in most of the U.S. again in January. The DNR was preparing to hold a season in November, but a Kansas-based hunting advocacy group, Hunter Nation, won an order from a Jefferson County judge that forced the agency to hold a season before the end of February. The group argued that President Joe Biden’s administration could restore protections for wolves before November and deny hunters a season.

Wolf management has been one of the most contentious outdoor issues that Wisconsin has grappled with over the past 20 years. More

Northern Wisconsin farmers and residents say wolves kill their livestock and pets. According to DNR data, the state paid a total of $189,748 in 2019 to farmers and dog owners to compensate them for losses to wolves. It paid out $144,509 in 2018 and $102,600 in 2017.

Conservationists counter that the wolf population isn’t stable enough to support hunting them and that the animals are too beautiful to allow it.

Legislators in neighboring Minnesota have introduced dueling bills that would ban hunting wolves in that state and mandate a season. Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves, a Minnesota-based wolf advocacy organization, issued a statement Monday condemning the Wisconsin hunt.

“As apex predators, (wolves) have the social and biological structure to control their own pack sizes and numbers,” she said. “The political decision to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf is against public sentiment and sound science.”

An animal rights group calling itself Wolf Patrol planned to monitor hunters across the northern management zones starting Monday. In 2016, then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill prohibiting people from bothering hunters in the woods in response to allegations that Wolf Patrol members followed and filmed wolf hunters in Wisconsin and Montana in 2014.

The Wisconsin DNR still plans to go ahead with another season starting in November.


This story has been updated to correct that the DNR issued 2,380 permits, not 4,000.


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Court won’t hear appeal to stop Wisconsin wolf hunt

DNR sets harvest quota of 400 wolves
DNR sets harvest quota of 400 wolves(WBAY)

Court won’t hear appeal to stop Wisconsin wolf hunt (

By Associated PressPublished: Feb. 19, 2021 at 3:51 PM PST|Updated: 18 hours ago

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has dismissed a Department of Natural Resources request to stop the wolf hunt, which is scheduled to begin next week.

The DNR was appealing a court order that requires a hunt this month. Although the Natural Resources Board authorized the wolf hunt on the judge’s orders, the DNR was nevertheless appealing the Jefferson County judge’s order which said the agency violated hunters’ constitutional rights (see related story).

But the appeals court says that the order was not a final judgment, so the appellate court has no jurisdiction over the appeal.

The weeklong wolf hunt will run from Feb. 22 through Feb. 28, and the permit application period closes at midnight Saturday. The state will issue 4,000 hunting licenses. Up to 200 animals will be allowed to be harvested.