Too Much, Too Soon: Wolf Hunts in Idaho and Montana Are Premature


The Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted to approve a wolf hunt on Monday, which is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks on September 1st.  The Commission set the quota at 220 wolves for the general hunt and 35 wolves for the Nez Perce Tribe. 

With Idaho's last reported estimate of its wolf population at 846 wolves, killing 255 wolves would reduce Idaho's wolf population by 30%.  And that figure doesn't include wolves that are killed by government removal actions, natural mortality, or illegal poaching.  

Last month, Montana wildlife commissioners approved a wolf hunt for this fall with a quota of 75 wolves, which is about 15 percent of Montana's wolf population.  (And the same caveat about that figure not reflecting the true number of wolf mortalities applies.)

Because wolves have not yet biologically recovered in the Northern Rockies, we strongly oppose these premature wolf hunts. 

To ensure the long-term health and viability of Northern Rockies wolves, scientists call for a larger wolf population with effective genetic exchange between the subpopulations of central Idaho, northwest Montana, and greater Yellowstone. 

That has not happened yet.

Greater Yellowstone wolves are largely isolated from the central Idaho and northwest Montana subpopulations.  Meaningful genetic connectivity between greater Yellowstone and the other two subpopulations, which is absolutely critical for the Northern Rockies population, is not yet occurring.

And wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho this fall -- neither of which protects wolves in the corridors between the subpopulations -- will only make it more difficult for significant genetic connectivity to transpire.

Once biological recovery has been achieved, we'll support a sustainable wolf hunt in the region.

But until then, Montana and Idaho should spend their time and money on greater efforts to enhance genetic connectivity between the subpopulations and prevent wolf-livestock conflicts.

Wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies at this juncture are too much, too soon, which is why NRDC and other conservation organizations, represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion for preliminary injunction yesterday, seeking to prevent the wolf hunts and restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves while our lawsuit proceeds. 

(For more on the Montana and Idaho wolf hunts, please see the blogs of my NRDC colleagues Andrew Wetzler, Louisa Willcox, Dr. Sylvia Fallon, and Josh Mogerman.)

About the Authors

Matt Skoglund

Director, Northern Rockies office

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