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Dead Wolves Walking

Wolf Hunts Scheduled in Idaho & Montana Unless Federal Judge Intervenes

Since April, when Congress removed gray wolves in Idaho and Montana from the protection of the Endangered Species Act by inserting a rider in a federal budget bill, state governments have been racing to prepare for wolf hunts this fall. (Read Gibson's compelling report, "Cry Wolf", on the issue in the Journal's Summer 2011 edition.)

Photo by dalliedee

So far, Idaho’s winning the race. In early July, the state’s fish and game director Virgil Moore announced a full seven-month hunting season — from the end of August to the end of March. Hunters can use any weapon they choose, utilize electronic calls to lure wolves within range, and kill two each. Trappers can kill three. Of the estimated 700 plus wolves in Idaho, all but 150 — just under 80 percent — can be killed. Director Moore says this many wolves need to die in order to remove “social and biological conflicts” between elk hunters and ranchers and the wolves. If the hunters don’t have the right stuff, then the State of Idaho will step up to the job, deploying helicopter-borne shooters equipped with radio telemeters to track wolves wearing transmitters. “We will get at them whether the hunting season is open or not,” Moore vows.

Montana trails far behind in this macabre contest, planning a modest hunt to remove only 220 of the state’s estimated 560 wolves, roughly 40 percent. Thus far the state has not announced plans to launch its own air assault if the hunters fail, but last year the federal government’s Wildlife Services in Montana killed more than 200 wolves accused by ranchers of depredation against livestock.

Poor Wyoming, a perennial wallflower, got left out of the April budget rider that delisted wolves because the state never developed a wolf management the US Fish and Wildlife Service considered even vaguely credible. For years Wyoming officials argued that 150 wolves living in the state’s northwest near Yellowstone National Park were the only ones off-limits:  all other wolves in the rest of the state would be declared vermin, subject to an open season. But in early July, Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced that they had agreed “in principle” to remove wolves from federal protection. A version of Wyoming’s previously rejected plan will now be accepted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service: the other 190 wolves in the state, 56 percent of an estimated 340, can be killed.

A wolf bloodbath appears likely. But the constitutionality of the April budget rider faces legal challenge from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Wild Earth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity, and others. Plaintiffs argue that since the legislation did not actually change the language of the Endangered Species Act, but instead intervened in ongoing litigation in a federal court, then the bill represents an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Judge Molloy in Missoula’s federal district court hears oral arguments on July 26 and is expected to rule within weeks. If the conservationists win, the fall hunts will be cancelled while state and federal officials search for options.

Wolf advocates have declared August to be a month for organizing “Howl Across America” rallies to discuss strategies, such as how to exploit the photos of dead wolves that will appear if the hunts go forward and how to revitalize the movement when the Republican Party actively demonizes wolves and the Democrats do nothing but passively consent.  

James William Gibson is a professor of sociology at California State University, Long Beach, and a Faculty Fellow at Yale University’s Center for Cultural Sociology.

James William Gibson
James William Gibson writes regularly for Earth Island Journal. Among his books is The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam (1986).

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Correction to Bill’s article - IDFG is proposing to allow FOUR tags per hunter in the 7-month hunt and TEN tags for trappers. The hunt details will be finalized in a week. Many people in Idaho support wolves and we are totally against IDFG’s plan to slaughter hundreds of them. The push is coming from big game outfitters who don’t want wolves eating “their” elk, and anti-wolf groups like the Rocky Mt Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for some Fish & Wildlife, and others. Our governor Butch Otter opposes wolves and he appoints the IDFG Commissioners, who will make the final hunt rules. This is going to be horrible time for our state & I would advise that you don’t visit Idaho from Aug 30 to March 31 unless you enjoy seeing wolves including pups shot or with an arrow stuck in them, or in traps or snares. The last hunt in 2009-10 hurt businesses that relied on recreation like hiking, camping, & family outings. If you hike or ski with your dog, you need to be especially careful if it looks anything like a wolf or a coyote.

By LK Potter on Sun, July 24, 2011 at 4:10 am

Oh this whole think just makes me so sick and sad. I have only tears and few words.

By Brigid Courtney on Sat, July 23, 2011 at 8:33 am

Slaughtering our beautiful wildlife is a thing of the barbaric past. Saving our wildlife instead of the old way of a Hitleristic bloodbath, is the way to the future. Saving our wildlife and taking care of our earth will not only create numerous jobs, it will trigger a new way of thinking. Increasing numbers of people all around the world are very concerned about what is happening to our wildlife at the hands of government. I invite you to think out side the box and be one of the first to join the new world. More and more non-lethal options are being created to deal with the wolves and protect the farmers and ranchers if they will actively use the deterrents. There is really no reason to continue killing our world. Hope you don’t get left behind. I see big rewards for alot of innovative thinking. Very Respectfully yours, Lynn

By Kaylynn Wilson on Fri, July 22, 2011 at 5:53 am

Idaho residents do not understand the wolves. The listened to the politicians say. Ranchers, famers and sportsmen have all said that the wolves are bad.
Wolves were created by God. They do what they were created to do.
How can these wolves ever find peace and rest? How can you give them peace and rest.

By Barbara Bussell on Thu, July 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm

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