Idaho and Montana step up their efforts to reduce wolves

Although wolf hunting season is not yet closed in certain areas of the west, both Idaho and Montana are setting their sights on new ways to reduce their wolf populations.  Last week, Matt pointed to a resolution by Idaho’s legislature to declare a state emergency allowing for the reduction of wolves.  Over the weekend two more articles came out that highlight the states’ ability to reduce wolf numbers through a variety of means.

An article in the Helena Independent Record reports that Montana is making it easier to kill wolves through the use of Wildlife Services – a federal agency that already has wide discretion to kill wolves and other predators for the benefit of the livestock industry.  Wildlife Services will no longer need to receive permission from Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks division to kill wolves in the vicinity of confirmed livestock depredation sites.  Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks director also said he expects hunting quotas to increase next season as another way to lower the wolf population.

The Idaho Statesman is similarly reporting that Idaho plans on increasing their “management tools” to reduce their state’s number of wolves.  Unsatisfied with the results of this year’s hunt, Idaho’s Fish and Game director is proposing to increase harvest limits, issue multiple tags and allow trapping of wolves. 

These news stories aren’t exactly a surprise to us.  Central to our concerns over delisting is the latitude that the states have to reduce their wolf populations to well below current levels – levels that don’t get us to a recovered population.  As we have pointed out, due to outdated recovery plans that call for only around 300 wolves in the three state region of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, these states have little motivation to maintain more than a couple hundred of wolves – far fewer than the thousands of wolves that more recent science says is necessary for a viable population in the long term. 

In fact, these stories help illustrate exactly why we are in court to challenge the removal of endangered species protections from these wolves.  This season’s hunts stopped the wolf population from growing for the first time since reintroduction.  And as the hunts come to a close later this month, it is all too clear that this was just the beginning of the states' plans for wolves in the Rocky Mountains.

Image removed.

Image: Gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park, shared by SigmaEye via Flickr.