10-year anniversary of northern Rockies wolf delisting comes amid on-going slaughter

10-year anniversary of northern Rockies wolf delisting comes amid on-going slaughter

Undemocratic move decade ago opened floodgates for widespread wolf killing in Idaho and Montana, paving the way for even more barbaric wolf-killing schemes

MISSOULA, MONTANA—Ten years ago today, federal Endangered Species Act protections were stripped from gray wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern Utah because of a rider attached to a must-pass budget bill by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID).

This undemocratic move a decade ago—which blocked any judicial review of the rider—opened the floodgates for widespread wolf killing in the northern Rockies, including by hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies. State “management” of wolves in the northern Rockies has included Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) hiring a professional hunter-trapper to go into the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to slaughter wolves and IDFG conducting aerial gunning operations to kill wolves in some of the most remote roadless federal wildlands remaining in the lower-48 states.

More recently–during a 12-month period from July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020–hunters, trappers, and state and federal agencies killed 570 wolves in Idaho, including at least 35 wolf pups. The state of Idaho also allows a $1,000 “bounty” paid to trappers per dead wolf, including wolves slaughtered on America’s federal public lands and deep within designated Wilderness areas. Right now, a bill currently sits on the desk of Idaho Governor Brad Little that would allow the state to kill 90% of the wolves in the state (up to 1,350 dead wolves in total) by hiring private contractors and allowing unlimited wolf killing by individual hunters and trappers.

The dire situation for wolves in Montana following the 2011 delisting rider is much the same. Fresh off revelations that Governor Greg Gianforte violated state hunting regulations in February when he trapped and shot a collared Yellowstone wolf, Gov Gianforte has since signed numerous draconian bills to slaughter more wolves.

New barbaric laws in Montana allow hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves with a single license, allow a wolf “bounty,’ allows trappers to use cruel strangulation neck snares, extend the wolf-trapping season, and authorize night-time hunting of wolves on private lands and baiting of wolves.

“The barbaric situation facing wolves in Montana and Idaho prove that the gray wolf still needs federal Endangered Species Act protections. As we clearly warned ten years ago, the state ‘management’ of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone native species,” said Sarah McMillian, the Montana-based conservation director for WildEarth Guardians.

“WildEarth Guardians and our allies filed a lawsuit ten years ago in an attempt and overturn this undemocratic, spiteful wolf rider because we believed the wolf delisting rider violated the U.S. Constitution. While our lawsuit wasn’t successful because Congress simply closed the courthouse doors, the hateful and on-going attempts to completely decimate wolf populations in Idaho and Montana warrants national outrage and action by Congress to restore wolf protections in the northern Rockies,” said John Horning, WildEarth Guardians’ executive director.

“State ‘management’ of wolves in Idaho and Montana harkens back to an era when people sought to exterminate wolves altogether, and nearly succeeded. These types of actions were not only deplorable in the early 1900s, but they have zero place in science-based management of a keystone species in 2021, especially in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and nature crisis,” said McMillian. “We must not abandon fragile wolf-recovery efforts and allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push these iconic species back to the brink of extinction.”

Alpha female wolf by Ray Rafiti.


13 thoughts on “10-year anniversary of northern Rockies wolf delisting comes amid on-going slaughter”

    • Thanks, Toby for the link to the book. I don’t quite get, though, how domesticating animals is necessarily worse than hunting and killing them directly. I realize that the author is trying to make the point that mistreatment of animals led to the kinds of institutional murders that occurred at Treblinka. People have killed each other and continue to kill each other. The difference to my mind was that killing civilians based on their religion/ethnic background became institutionalized by a government and “regular people” signed on (and were forced to do it). Not an accident of warfare. Not an angry mob.

      It would be an interesting experiment to redo the history of humans without domesticating animals, or possibly even hunting. It seems like we wouldn’t have been able to survive in places where plants don’t grow well (cold or dry or both). Don’t know what that would have done to human evolution.

      Personally, I disagree with that Isaac Bashevis Singer quote.

      “What do they know-all these scholars, all these philosophers, all the leaders of the world – about such as you? They have convinced themselves that man, the worst transgressor of all the species, is the crown of creation. All other creatures were created merely to provide him with food, pelts, to be tormented, exterminated. In relation to them, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”

      Like everything, to me there are gray areas. Does a spider in your house deserve the same level of protection as a pet dog? Should we have “pets”? Is hunting wolves wrong? Is hunting elk wrong? Is killing a wolf or bear that kills a cow or human wrong? Or if it kill many cows or many humans?

      Of course, he’s being a polemicist here.

      • Yes, Singer was exercising polemics, and yes, there are always “gray areas.”

        If you think my comparison of what’s being done to wolves to the Nazi Holocaust is “too much,” here’s another causal relationship for you: People who abuse animals as children (or adults) are more likely to be sociopaths as adults. And because “People have killed each other and continue to kill each other.” we’re supposed to not bother trying to stop raising more psychos and teenagers ready to go shoot up their school or the local mall?

        I think abusive behavior toward domesticated animals and the absurdity of thinking that removing wolves will significantly improve the economic situation for ranchers is itself symptomatic of pathological thinking.

        And yes, domestication of both plants and animals has enabled humans to “rule the world.” Check out both books with the title “Against the Grain” (James C. Scott and Richard Manning). It’s working so well, isn’t it?

  1. I don’t understand why trapping of all species wasn’t outlawed long ago. The practice is beyond appalling. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

  2. One thing the opinion piece never mentions is wolf population estimates by year. Does Idaho game or other have reliable estimates of population numbers over time? Hard to tell if hunting them is as horrendous as the article states without any context.

      • You didn’t answer my question. Wolf populations have been stable in recent years despite the “on-going slaughter”. What puts me on my ear is the non-stop hypocrisy from you the environmental community and particularly you Matt. You post frequently about the ills of MTB and the degradation they cause to native places but you are an avid golfer. A sport that has led to the decimation of countless marsh and grassland ecosystems and pumps out huge amounts of fertilizers and pesticides into our native environment. You claim to be an avid hunter but post ridiculous emotionally charged articles about how people shouldn’t hunt wolves or that there are too many hunters altogether. The ho·li·er-than-thou stick where every activity or use that isn’t blessed by you is demonized is a bit much.

        • Patrick,

          Do you fail to realize, or acknowledge, that the situation in Montana and Idaho has changed significantly in the past few months? Please re-read the press release and also the column from Chris Servheen for some facts.

          It’s bizarre how you want to make the state of Idaho and Montana’s barbaric, cruel, backward, and extremely widely condemned “management” of wolves about me personally, but whatever. Go for it.

          For whatever it is worth I actually don’t “post frequently about the ills of MTB and the degradation they cause to native places.” I have posted here about efforts by some mountain bikers to amend the Wilderness Act to allow bicycles and other wheeled contraptions in designated Wilderness. I’ve also posted some about motorized bicycles. Seems like many other people on this blog share my views on the subject.

          I played the game of golf a total of 8 times last year. Over the past twenty years I have engaged numerous golf course managers and superintendents to talk about making the game of golf more sustainable. Yes, human activities, including human leisure activities, have environmental impacts. I also enjoy watching and rooting for the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Badgers, and Elkhart Lake Resorters. My wife and I made a decision to not have any kids and I’ve been “fixed” since 26.

          Yes, I am an avid hunter and have a freezer to prove it. I don’t need to “claim” to be an avid hunter. Of all the hunters I know, I don’t know one who supports wolf-hunting and certainly don’t know one who supports unlimited wolf killing, aerial gunning down of wolves, wolf “bounties,” or baiting of wolves, or snaring of wolves. If you think I’m the only person, or even hunter, in the entire world who holds these beliefs, so be it. Have a great day.

          P.S. Why have you posted under 3 totally different names on this blog, Patrick F? I mean Brian? I mean Jim Ranscon?

          • Matthew if you would quit with this claiming you are a hunter bit you’d be a lot more believable. Every hunter who reads it is immediately clued in. Freezer full of farm raised salmon from Costco LOL.

  3. Thanks to Mark Vander Meer, a Restoration Ecologist/Forester/Soil Scientist/Certified Arborist in Missoulian for highlighting this oped printed today in the Missoulian from Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 35 years.

    Legislators should not legislate wildlife management
    By Chris Servheen

    Chris Servheen of Missoula is a wildlife biologist, hunter and fisherman, and served as the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 35 years. He is vice president of the Montana Wildlife Federation.

    The legislatures in Idaho and Montana are dominated by people with a distinct lack of knowledge about wolves, the actual number of livestock killed by wolves, predator/prey relations, the actual big game populations in each state, wildlife biology, healthy natural ecosystems, and the ethics of hunting and trapping.

    In both states, extreme measures to kill wolves are being legislated based on nonsense in order to “save” elk and deer from wolf predation and reduce livestock losses.

    A few key points for Idaho:

    • The three-year average of cattle and sheep lost to wolves in Idaho is 113/year (2018-2020). Ranchers are compensated for every documented wolf kill.

    • There are 2.73 million sheep and cattle in Idaho.

    • The three-year average wolf kill is 0.00428% of the sheep and cattle in Idaho.

    • About 40,000 cattle are lost each year in Idaho to non-predator causes like disease and weather. That is 350+ times the number lost to wolves each year.

    • Idaho legislators want to spend $590,000 to kill 90% of the wolves in Idaho, or $5,221 for each cow or sheep killed by wolves each year.

    • The total number of elk in Idaho is roughly 120,000. This is about 5,000 below the all-time high elk count of 125,000.

    • 2020 was the seventh straight year when the elk harvest in Idaho was more than 20,000 elk and it was the sixth-highest of all time. Idaho Fish and Game calls this “the golden age of elk hunting” in Idaho.

    • The Idaho elk population has not appreciably changed since 1995, when wolves were reintroduced.

    • Mule deer harvest was 24,809 in 2020. More than in 2019 but below the 10-year average, likely due to recent harsh winters, says Idaho Fish and Game.

    • White-tailed deer harvest was 24,849 in 2020; 15% above 2019 and even with the 10-year average; seven of the 10 top harvest years have been in the last 10 years.

    Similar points for Montana:

    • Average number of cattle and sheep lost to wolves in Montana is approximately 110/year (2018-2020). Ranchers are compensated for every documented wolf kill.

    • There are 2.65 million sheep and cattle in Montana (not counting feedlot cattle).

    • The three-year average wolf kill is 0.00415% of the sheep and cattle in Montana.

    • According to Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the total number of elk in Montana in 2020 is 136,151. The elk management plan objective for Montana is 92,138. Elk are now 147% over objective.

    • The 2008 elk count in Montana was 136,032.

    • According to FWP, the total number of mule deer in Montana in 2020 was 328,313. The long-term average mule deer population over the past 10 years was 295,729.

    • According to FWP, the total number of white-tailed deer in Montana in 2020 was 196,154. The long-term average white-tailed deer population over the past 10 years was 202,033.

    Nonsensical anti-wolf bills are what we get when we have legislators making wildlife management policy. Leave wildlife management to the biologists, not the politicians.

      • statistics don’t lie, but liars sure do use statistics

        What I don’t understand is why use that entire garbage op ed, why not simply a link? Sheehan starts out bemoaning the politicisation of wildlife management. How did wolves get to ID in the first place? Stolen PR funds and politicians in other states deciding what’s best for ID. Shoot em all and let god sort em out.

        • “How did wolves get to Idaho in the first place?”
          And let’s not make rules about national resources based on “what’s best for ID.”


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