Conservation Groups Seek to Stop Wolf Hunts

Idaho and Montana Plans Could Undo Greatest Conservation Success Story

Livingston, MT (August 21, 2009) — In a continuation of the legal battle over wolves in the Northern Rockies, yesterday the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and a large consortium of conservation groups filed for an injunction to block wolf hunts this fall in the states of Idaho and Montana. The groups, with significant scientific backing, claim that the hunts will prevent the conditions necessary for full recovery, including a larger population and genetic exchange between the three subpopulations in the region.

"At a point when we are so close to having a truly restored wolf population, the State of Idaho is going to issue an unlimited number of wolf tags to eliminate 30 percent of the state’s wolf population,” said Louisa Willcox, Senior Wildlife Advocate for NRDC. “As a top predator, these creatures are vital to the health of the northern Rockies ecosystem, but many of the ecological improvements that we’ve seen as a result of their reintroduction to the region will be imperiled by the Idaho and Montana hunts. While we are not against hunting, we are against conducting them prematurely, and in such a reckless and counterproductive manner."

On Monday of this week, Idaho's Fish and Game Commission announced their wolf hunting season would open September 1st, with a quota of 255 wolves (220 for hunters and 35 for the Nez Perce Tribe), or 30% of the population in the state.  Because the state's wolf hunt will be additive to other sources of killing, NRDC expects that, based on 2008 wolf killing levels, the population could be reduced by nearly 600 wolves---over 50% of the state's wolf population. This could be the first time in American history that an animal will be removed from the endangered species and hunted down to unsustainable population levels.

For a deeper look at the issues, NRDC science, policy, legal, and advocacy experts have posted their thoughts on the hunts online:

  • Staff Scientist Sylvia Fallon, whose work was central to the injunction last summer, takes a deep look at the Idaho hunt numbers and their dangerous implications for a sustainable wolf population in the region in this blog post.
  • Louisa Willcox reacts to the hunts from Livingston, MT and points to a number of more reasonable and constructive ways to deal with wolf conflicts in the region in this blog post.
  • Wildlife Conservation Program Director Andrew Wetzler looks closely at the number of tags likely to be awarded for the hunt and the problems they could lead to when it is time for the shooting to stop in this blog post.
  • Montana wildlife advocate Matt Skoglund appreciates the need for a sustainable hunt, but not until the population is appropriately sized in this blog post.
  • Josh Mogerman looks at some important issues around celebrity wolves, tourism, and a fair hunt brought up by the Idaho Statesman in this post.

The conservation groups are represented by Earthjustice. Joining NRDC in the coalition are Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.