In October 2020, the Trump Administration officially removed the Gray Wolf from the endangered species list as part of its broader goal of undermining and weakening the Endangered Species Act. Since then, states like Idaho and Montana have passed legislation that both allows and encourages the mass slaughter (up to 90%) of wolf populations.
"Raise Your Voice" starring Jason Momoa and created by Sender Films for the #RelistWolves campaign.
On August 20, 2021, the Biden Administration announced that they were backing President Trump’s decision to remove protections for gray wolves despite an estimated population decline of 27% - 33% in Wisconsin and reports of wolf pups being slaughtered in their dens in Idaho.
With the winter hunts currently underway, now is the time for President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland to take swift action and restore federal protection to the Gray Wolf.
Where Hunts Are Happening
Despite this devastation, the policymaking board of the WI Dept. of Natural Resources originally authorized an additional kill quota of 300 wolves, over double the recommendation set forth by the state’s biologists, for the hunt starting on November 6th. Indigenous communities have hit back at this decision as a violation of federal treaty rights and filed a lawsuit against the state. After the lawsuit was filed, the DNR lowered the wolf kill quota to 130.
On October 25, 2021, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction in favor of the wolf and halted the state's wolf hunts scheduled to commence only 2 weeks later.
Idaho passed legislation in the spring of 2021 that incentivizes and sanctions the slaughter of 90% of Idaho’s wolf population using a variety of cruel tactics like chasing wolves with dogs and automobiles until they tire out.
The new laws went into effect in Idaho on July. In addition to ongoing private hunts, the USDA's Wildlife Services has slaughtered wolf pups. The Foundation for Wildlife Management has been using state funds to distribute bounties to hunters that successfully kill wolves.
In Montana, the state government has sanctioned the killing of up to 85% of its wolf population starting in fall 2021.
The new laws allow for the use of choke-hold snares and extend trapping and hunting further into breeding season. Montana Governor Gianforte personally slaughtered a Yellowstone wolf in violation of state law and was given a warning by state agencies. So far over 25 wolves have been confirmed to have been killed in Montana, including at least 3 Yellowstone wolves around the boundary of the park.
Since 2017, wolf hunts have decimated Wyoming’s wolf population. During the 2020 hunt, 119 wolves died in Wyoming. Only 327 wolves now remain in the state.
Nevertheless, Wyoming is allowing a virtually unregulated hunt in 2021. In 85% of the state-- including regions that border Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park-- hunters can slaughter wolves using “whatever means necessary,” including snares, explosives, and ATVS to capture and kill the animals.
Myths vs. Fact
The federal government consulted all relevant stakeholders when deciding to delist wolves
President Trump did not consult Indigenous representatives when he chose to delist wolves, even though wolves are sacred creatures in many Native American cultures. By delisting wolves without the consultation or consent of Tribal nations, the federal government ignored its treaty and trust obligations.
Because of the cultural significance of wolves, some 200 Indigenous tribes have protested the decision to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List and have urged the federal government to relist wolves.
Wolves threaten the livestock industry.
Wolves are responsible for less than 1% of unwanted livestock deaths, though losses can fall disproportionately on some individual livestock producers.
Lethal removal of wolves can disrupt wolf social structures, does not always address the underlying causes of livestock depredation and wolves will often reestablish in the same areas.
Non-lethal methods provide another option for addressing livestock depredations. Implementation of nonlethal tools, like range riders and fladry, which involves creating a perimeter of colorful flags around livestock, combined with other techniques like strobe lights and loud noises have effectively reduced interaction between livestock and wolves. However wolves can become habituated to nonlethal tools over time, therefore, proactive methods to prevent wolves from being attracted to a livestock operation – such as removing bone piles - can further minimize livestock loss to wolves.
Wolves are killing all of the elk in the Northern Rockies, making it more difficult to hunt large game.
Wolves and elk can live in ecological balance, as predator-prey relationships stabilize the populations of both species. Elk naturally defend themselves from the risks of predation by adopting more cautious behaviors when faced with predators. These behavioral adaptations help sustain the elk population.
Today, elk populations in the Northern Rockies are thriving. In 2020, there were over 120,000 elk in Idaho and over 130,000 elk in Montana.
The wolf population has already bounced back to a stable size. As such, the species does not need the protections of the Endangered Species List.
While the wolf population has reached the recovery thresholds that were determined in 1978, these metrics are woefully outdated. As the field of conservation biology has evolved and climate change has posed new threats to endangered species, it is critical to update recovery thresholds according to modern science.
Today, the population of wolves is in jeopardy. Gray wolves are functionally extinct in 80% of their historic range and just 6,000 wolves live across the continental U.S.
Extreme wolf hunts further jeopardize the stability of the wolf population. This year’s Idaho wolf hunt authorizes 90% of the state’s wolves to be killed, and Montana’s laws allow the hunting of 85% of wolves. In Wisconsin, hunters exceeded the state-imposed wolf-hunting limits by nearly 100, slaughtering 216 wolves in three days.
Dan Ashe, the former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director who oversaw the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies, has argued that the wolf population is in jeopardy because state hunts “are erasing progress made to conserve this species.” Ashe has publicly called for the federal government to reinstate protections for American wolves.
Data-driven science helps determine state wolf-hunt quotas in order to prevent massive population declines
Across the country, state legislatures have established wolf hunting quotas that ignore the recommendations of biologists and land managers.
The Idaho wolf hunt law passed despite the objections of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.