Upping the Wolf Ante

Draft plans for this fall's wolf hunts in both Idaho and Montana call for significantly higher harvest quotas and--in Idaho, at least--the use of bait and traps to help put the brakes on rapidly expanding predator populations.

The draft rules would more than triple the harvest quota from Montana's inaugural hunt last fall. In Idaho, the harvest goal might be double last year's quota of 220, though specific numbers won't be available until the state's wildlife commission meets in August. But game managers have signaled that new rules will allow trapping, baiting and the use of electronic calls.

Of course, this fall's hunts may never take place. Federal District Judge Donald Molloy has scheduled a hearing on June 15 to hear arguments from environmental groups pressing to return gray wolves to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Because wolves will remain a hot-button issue, no matter which way Molloy rules, it's time to get up to speed on wolf data, trend information and important dates. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's wolf information has the latest population estimates, range maps and fact sheets. Start studying!