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Wolf Hunting to Commence in Idaho and Montana

Groups call the hunt illegal

Denver, CO – Today, wolf hunting will commence in Idaho, while Montana’s season opens in four days on September 3.  States will permit hunters to kill hundreds of wolves in 2011-2012, despite findings by biologists that the northern Rocky Mountain population has not yet recovered since the species was reintroduced 16 years ago.   

“Biologists do not believe that the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population has sufficient numbers to exchange genetic materials between packs, nor can these populations endure heavy-handed hunting,” stated Wendy Keefover, Carnivore Protection Director for WildEarth Guardians.

Biologists have shown that hunting wolves causes social disruption, which can cause packs to disband and lead to the starvation of dependent young.  Hunting wolves in the northern Rockies could set back over two decades of taxpayer-funded recovery work and even threaten the wolves with extirpation.  

“Large carnivores did not evolve with heavy human persecution. We wiped them out before and so we must be vigilant that decisionmakers, who seek to appease a vocal minority, do not allow this to reoccur,” remarked Keefover. “Wolf hunting not only harms wolves, it harms all taxpayers and wildlife watchers – the majority of Americans,” she warned.

In April, lead by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), Congress enacted a rider attached to an unrelated budget bill that delisted gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, and portions of Utah, Washington, and Oregon. The rider contravened a judicial order from 2009 that retained Endangered Species Act protection for Rocky Mountain wolves. Three conservation organizations, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians, challenged the constitutionality of the rider, arguing that it violated the Separation of Powers Doctrine in the U.S. Constitution. The groups lost in federal district court in Montana in August, but elevated the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the appeal in October. The groups seek to preserve wolves, protect the public’s interest in wolf conservation and long-term investment in the wolf recovery program, and uphold the U.S. Constitution.

The majority of Americans surveyed want to see wolves conserved. Moreover, wolf-watching tourism by 94,000 visitors to the northern Rockies in 2005 generated $35.5 million in one year.  By comparison, in 2009, Montana reported that its total license revenue for wolf-hunting tags generated $325,916.

“Wolves are priceless. Their beauty and majesty is only exceeded by their value as ecosystem engineers. Wolves make ecosystems robust, ecologically diverse, and even offer protection for other species in the face of global warming,” remarked Keefover. 

Wolf Hunting Seasons in Idaho and Montana


The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that Idaho has 705 wolves (although Idaho Department of Fish and Game claims to have “more than 1,000 wolves” but “will manage for at least 150 wolves”). Idaho did not set a kill quota for wolves and will offer both hunting and trapping seasons in 2011-2012. The hunting season will commence on August 30, 2011, and will remain open for up to six months throughout much of the state. Residents pay just $11.50 for a wolf-hunting tag, while non-residents pay $31.75.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that Montana has 566 wolves (although Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks estimates the total at 645). Montana has issued at least 1,100 hunting licenses and set a kill quota of 220 wolves for 2011. The hunting season will commence on September 3, 2011, with various archery and rifle seasons scheduled through the end of the year. Residents pay $19 for a wolf tag, while non-residents pay $350.

Debunking the Myth of Wolf - Livestock Conflicts in the West

Idaho states one purpose for wolf hunting in that state is to reduce wolf conflicts with domestic livestock, but the number of cattle and sheep depredated by wolves as reported by ranchers in the northern Rockies is highly exaggerated. Two different federal agencies track livestock losses attributed to wolves—the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). FWS uses professional, verified, ground-tested reports from agents. NASS relies on unverified hearsay from the livestock industry. The difference between their annual counts is astounding. In Idaho, FWS verified 75 cattle were killed by wolves in 2010, while NASS reported 2,561 unverified cattle losses, which represents a 3,415 percent difference. FWS also verified that 148 sheep were killed by wolves in Idaho in 2010, compared to NASS's unverified 900 losses, representing a 508 percent difference. View FWS’s verified livestock losses and NASS’s reported livestock losses.

Debunking the Elk Herd Decline Myth in the West

Ungulate hunters, concerned about competing with wolves have decried the decline of elk herds.  Research biologists have noted that the elk herd in and around Yellowstone National Park increased before the wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and declined since, but they also believe that the elk herd remains too high for the habitat (carrying capacity) and the health of the elk herd itself.

Wolf Densities in the Northern Rockies much Lower than Great Lakes Region

According to the Congressional Research Service (August 17, 2011), the 2010 wolf population in the Western Great Lakes was comprised of 4,169 wolves in 78,775 square miles, or approximately 53 wolves per 1,000 sq. miles.  In contrast, the Northern Rocky Mountains distinct population segment numbered 1,651 wolves in about 134,697 square miles, or a density of 12 wolves per 1,000 sq. miles. 

Generally, people in the Great Lakes region have shown far greater tolerance for wolves and ability to coexist with this native carnivore.

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View the NASS vestock losses report at

View FWS’s livestock losses data at


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