This week, after seven months of dodging bullets, Idaho’s wolves got a reprieve: the statewide hunt that left 188 of them dead is over.
The actual number of wolves killed since hunting was legalized last year is more than 500—including those shot during the Montana season and others killed by governmental agents protecting livestock.
Wolves became fair game in Idaho and Montana last year after losing the protection of the Endangered Species Act—a move initiated by the Bush administration and ultimately endorsed by the Obama administration. Almost immediately after Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar agreed to the delisting, the states of Idaho and Montana announced fall hunting seasons.
Last fall, a federal judge agreed with Earthjustice lawyers that the hunts likely are illegal, but he nonetheless allowed the hunts to proceed. The first wolf kill in Idaho occurred Sept. 1, when the season opened. Montana hunters started banging away at their wolf population on Sept. 15, nearing that state’s harvest limit of 75 so fast that the season abruptly ended in November.
Earthjustice, representing 13 conservation groups, is continuing its court challenge to the delisting in U.S. District Court in Montana. The suit seeks to restore ESA protections to the wolf until wolf numbers are stronger, migration corridors are protected, and the states develop adequate laws and regulations to protect wolf populations from extinction.
Doug Honnold, the Earthjustice attorney leading the legal challenge, warned that "unless ESA protection is reinstated to wolves, both Idaho and Montana will increase wolf hunting in 2010, setting back recovery even more."