New wolf harvesting laws upset U.S. protection groups
On May 26, wildlife advocates leapt into action, trying to revive federal protections for gray wolves across the Northern Rockies. Three major wildlife advocates, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the United States and Sierra Club filed a legal petition. This petition asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to use her emergency authority to return wolves in the region to protection under the Endangered Species Act.
The petition seeks to restore protection in at least six states, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and a small area in northern Utah.
This push came after lawmakers in Idaho and Montana made it much easier to lethally remove the predators. Legislation in recent weeks allows hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves in the Idaho and Montana area.
In May, Idaho’s Legislature passed Senate Bill 1211, allowing the state to hire private contractors to kill up to 90 percent of Idaho’s wolf population. Montana’s Senate Bill 314 could lead to potentially setting back 85 percent of the wolf numbers.
Aggressive tactics, such as hunting from ATVs and helicopters, utilizing night-vision scopes and setting lethal snares that some consider inhumane are allowed under these resolutions. Idaho’s law also allows the state to hire private contractors to remove wolves.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was very clear a change in state law which allowed for unregulated, unlimited take of wolves would set off the alarm,” said Humane Society of the United States Attorney Nicholas Arrivo. “This is essentially an attempt to push the population down to the very minimum.”
Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said “These newly enacted laws could decrease the gray wolf population dramatically.”
Behind the scenes
The reason for this legislative change in Idaho comes from lawmakers who introduced the goal to reduce the state’s 1,500 wolves to the allowed minimum of 150 to protect livestock and boost deer and elk populations.
In April, Montana signed a law requiring wolf numbers to be reduced, but not below the 15 breeding pairs of the animals.
“It wasn’t to reduce them to zero, it was to reduce them to a sustainable level,” said Greg Lemon, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We’ve got the track record and the statutory framework to ensure they are managed at that sustainable level.”
Idaho should be able to track how many are killed through a mandatory reporting system. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long contended it’s not necessary for wolves to be in every place they once inhabited to be considered recovered. It’s also noted that Idaho has slowly loosened hunting regulations over the last decade without a spike in animals hunted and there haven’t been any dips of low numbers.
The protection agencies would like for the Interior Secretary to act before July 1 as this is when the laws will go into action in Idaho.
Bob Brown, Montana state senator and bill sponsor, said during a legislative hearing in March, “We can’t sit by and allow our game, the thing which feeds so many families, to be taken off the table.”
Cameron Magee is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.