Twenty-five years ago, our time at wolf camp in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains came to an end. We never could have foreseen all that would unfold in the years that followed. We certainly didn’t expect, two and a half decades later, that wolves would once again be facing enormous challenges simply by trying to survive.
This last year represents a huge setback for wolf recovery. Although the wolves of the Northern Rockies were removed from the Endangered Species List a decade ago, at least the wolves of the Great Lakes had remained under federal protection. But in January of 2021, gray wolves across the lower 48 states lost endangered species protections.
In February of 2021, Wisconsin conducted a wolf hunt where 216 wolves were killed in less than three days. The hunt was stopped early because so many wolves were killed so quickly, far exceeding the targeted quota of 119. State officials had set a quota for another 130 wolves to be killed this fall, but the hunt has been temporarily halted by a judge.
Wolves in the West had been slowly recovering, year by year, despite increasingly grim hunting and trapping regulations in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. But now, it would appear the western states are doing their best to repeat history and kill as many wolves as possible. This year, Idaho and Montana both passed aggressive legislation in an effort to dramatically reduce their wolf populations. There is now no limit to the number of wolves an individual can kill in Idaho. In Montana, the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will only re-evaluate their new regulations after 450 wolves have been killed.
Fortunately, federal officials have finally taken action. Thanks to so many organizations and individuals who spoke up – perhaps you were one of them who joined us – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is initiating a 12-month status review of the wolves in the Northern Rockies. During that timeframe, they will assess whether the new threats to wolves are grave enough to afford wolves protection once again.
This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland could, at any time, authorize an emergency relisting to halt the assault on wolves that is coming. If she does not, many hundreds of these essential animals are going to be lost to us in the coming year. Therefore, we will continue to expose what is happening on the ground where wolves live. We remain vigilant to ensure that decision-makers know that we will not condone the continued persecution and slaughter of wolves.
With your support, we continue to protect wolves to allow them their rightful place in the wilderness.