The End of Proper Wolf Management

Environmentalists After wolves were delisted in Montana and Idaho, an alliance of 13 environmentalist organizations sued the federal government to get wolves back on the endangered species list. They argued that it is illegal for a species to be federally protected in one area of its range and not another.
The environmentalists ended up wining this case. "This decision is a significant victory for wolves, for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and for all Americans who care deeply about conservation," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, one of the main environmental groups that brought the lawsuit. "The court's ruling makes it clear that decisions under the Endangered Species Act should be based on science, not politics."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife This is a federal government agency that is under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Interior. It delisted wolves in Montana and Idaho and paved the way for the 2009 wolf hunts, which were the first wolf hunts in the lower 48 states in decades.
The agency however did not take wolves off of the endangered species list in Wyoming, citing the fact that the state did not have a proper management plan in place for a wolf hunt. Photo: Chris Muiden
Molloy said allowing wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho while they were federally protected in Wyoming would be like "saying an orange is an orange only when it is hanging on a tree." Photo: Daniel Stahler National Park Service
Molloy has drawn heavy criticism from the hunting community, but he originally ruled on the side of hunters when he O.K.'d the 2009 wolf hunt. The difference this time around was not whether a wolf hunt was the right thing to do from a conservation standpoint, but rather the legality of a wolf hunt while wolves are still protected under the Endangered Species List in Wyoming.
Last year 185 wolves were killed during the hunt and Idaho had plans to increase it wolf quota this year. Photo: Jim Peaco National Park Service
But now that those plans are spoiled, Idaho game officials are worried about wolves decimating elk herds. The Lolo elk zone in northern Idaho is a special concern, since game officials were hoping that hunters would kill 80 wolves in the area. It will now most likely be up to game officials to trap and kill those wolves.
But the Gem state hasn't turned it's back on a public wolf hunt yet. The game commission is trying every option including attempting to get the wolf downgraded on the Endangered Species list, appealing the federal judge's ruling and applying for a special federal permit to hunt wolves even though they are endangered. Photo: National Park Service
Montana There are about 525 wolves in Montana, consisting of 100 packs and 34 breeding pairs. During its wolf hunt last year Montana hunters killed 73 wolves. Before the ruling this year, game officials decided to bump up the wolf quota to 186.
Like Idaho, Montana is now working to reinstate a wolf hunt and figure out effective ways to manage its wolf population, but it's unlikely that any type of public wolf hunt will take place this year.
Wyoming Veterans of the wolf war understand that Wyoming is one of the main reasons this year's wolf hunt was axed. Wyoming currently has wolves classified as a predator species not as a game species. This would allow for loosely regulated wolf hunting across all of Wyoming if wolves are ever delisted in the state.
Out of the three main western states that wolves are repopulating, Wyoming has the fewest, with about 300 wolves.
Democratic Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal doesn't plan on rewriting state wolf laws and steadfastly supports the current management plans. "No matter what the Fish and Wildlife Service does to move the bar, the science has remained constant. We have always believed, and at one time the Fish and Wildlife Service believed, that the best science available supports delisting as outlined in Wyoming state statute and carried forward in the state's wolf management plan and regulations," he says.
Ranchers Ranchers are a powerful player in the wolf war. They stand to lose thousands of dollars if wolves are not managed properly and are allowed to feast on livestock.
Hunters Unfortunately, hunters seem to be the most recent losers in the wolf war. Not only was their hunt taken away, but deer, elk and moose populations have been decimated in many regions.
Wolf Poachers A side effect of the federal court ruling is that a segment of the hunting and ranching community has vowed to kill wolves anyway. Whether you consider these people criminal poachers or vigilantes with good intentions, they are out there and they mean business. Photo: dallidee
In anticipation for an increase in illegal wolf killings, Idaho has requested that the federal government pay to enforce the game laws. The state argues that since it will have less funding through license sales (because of the canceled wolf hunt) the federal government should have to pick up the tab on wolf poaching. "We definitely feel with the current state of the status of the wolves, the federal government has an obligation to pay," Idaho Fish and Game spokesman Ed Mitchell told MagicValley.com, emphasizing that the department won't turn a blind eye to illegal wolf killings either. "[Funding is] going to have to come from somewhere and the [state] determined that as long as we don't have a funding source, i.e. tag sales, the funding should come from the federal government." Photo: Dalliedee