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Ninth Circuit Denies Motion to Bar Wolf Hunting in Northern Rockies

Hundreds of gray wolves may be killed in Idaho and Montana

Additional Contact:  Steve Kelly, Alliance for the Wild Rockies ● 406/586-4421

San Francisco, CA – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request to enjoin wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana while the court considers an appeal by conservation organizations challenging congressional action that removed the wolves from the federal threatened and endangered species list earlier this year. States will permit hunters to kill hundreds of wolves this autumn and winter while conservationists present their case to reinstate federal protection for the northern Rockies population.

“We are deeply discouraged that we didn’t win a stay of execution for wolves, but remain cautiously optimistic that the Court will see the importance of protecting wolves from future persecution by a small but vocal minority,” said John Horning, Executive Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The majority of the public loves wolves as is evidenced by the $35 million wolf-watching tourism industry in the Northern Rockies.”

“We lost the injunction, we have not lost the case,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director for Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “We will continue to fight to protect the wolves and enforce the Separation of Powers Doctrine in the U.S. Constitution.”

Congress passed a rider in April that contravened a judicial decision and ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, and portions of Utah, Washington, and Oregon. The U.S. District Court in Montana upheld the rider in August, although Judge Donald Malloy wrote that, if not constrained by other caselaw, he would have ruled the rider unconstitutional. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit, to preserve wolves, to protect the public’s interest in wolf conservation and their enormous investment in the 16-year wolf recovery program, and to uphold the Separation of Powers Doctrine in the U.S. Constitution.

Idaho and Montana have set hunting seasons to commence on August 30 and September 3, respectively. Although it denied plaintiffs’ current motion to enjoin hunting, the Circuit Court’s order did set an expedited schedule to hear the case this autumn when the court might consider the motion again.

Wolf Hunting Seasons in Montana, Idaho


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that Montana has 566 wolves (although the state 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 just $19 for a wolf license.


The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that Idaho has 705 wolves (although the news media has reported the state has approximately 1,000 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 in much of the state. Residents pay just $11.50 for a wolf hunting license.

Hunting Effects on Wolves

Biologists, in peer-reviewed literature, have written that wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are not yet recovered and that hunting could put populations at risk. Other researchers warn that hunting can reduce wolves beyond their ability to recover. Killing wolves causes social disruption in wolf packs, which can cause packs to disband. Killing the alpha pair can also lead to the loss of pups from starvation. Humans wiped out wolves in the lower 48 states by the 1940s because of misunderstanding and intolerance. Yet Aldo Leopold and others began to signal a warning in that same time period that wolves are critical ecosystem engineers on the landscapes where they occur. The loss of these apex native carnivores can negatively affect entire biological systems.

Myths about 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 here and NASS’s reported livestock losses here.


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