Since the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) stripped Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves across most of the country last year, the embattled animals have come under unprecedented attack in several states. In February, Wisconsin authorized the first wolf-hunting season since 2014. In less than three days, hunters (many of them using hounds) and trappers killed 218 wolves. A study by Wisconsin researchers estimated that dozens more wolves have been killed illegally in the state since ESA protections were removed.
In the Northern Rockies, Idaho lawmakers enacted a bill allowing up to 90 percent of the state’s wolf population to be killed by hunters, trappers, government agencies, and private contractors. Around the same time, Montana adopted a series of bills similarly designed to dramatically reduce the state’s wolf population. One authorized snares to be used to trap wolves. Another allowed a month-long expansion of the wolf-trapping season. A third allowed night hunting of wolves, the use of bait to hunt and trap wolves, and the killing of an unlimited number of wolves by the holder of a single wolf license.
Wildlife advocates are pushing back. Several organizations have sued the USFWS, and others have petitioned the agency to exercise its emergency listing authority under the ESA to restore gray wolves in the Northern Rockies to the list of threatened and endangered wildlife.