Earthjustice: Wolves in Danger: Timeline Milestones

Click here to visit the EARTHJUSTICEWolf Timeline.  The timeline follows wolves extermination in the West to their protection under ESA to their slow recovery and finally to their tragic delisting by the Obama Adminstration and the litigation to reverse it.

Over five hundred wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009/2010. The hunts claimed 263 wolves in Idaho and Montana. Wildlife Services, the extermination arm of the USDA, killed 272 wolves for agribusiness. Twenty five entire wolf packs were gone at the end of 2009, approx. 64% of them wiped out by WS.  Our tax dollars at work. 

The feds spent $3,763,000 on Northern Rockies “wolf management” in 2009 and their projected budget for 2010 is $4,206,000.  Lots more wolf killing coming up. 

When has a species been targeted in this way? Oh wait, I can think of one. WOLVES. Remember, that’s why they were listed  in the first place because ranching and the government teamed up to wipe them off the face of the Western map? They were exterminated in the West!!

Within months of wolves losing their ESA protection, the states of Montana and Idaho  initiated wolf hunts. This is almost unprecedented, that an animal coming off the Endangered Species List would be hunted immediately.  Minnesota, with a population of  3000 wolves,  has stated they would wait FIVE YEARS, if wolves were delisted, to consider if or when they would have a wolf hunt, with plenty of public input. 

“Under state law, no public hunting or trapping seasons on wolves is allowed for at least five years after delisting. Federal law also requires USFWS to monitor wolves in Minnesota for five years after delisting to ensure recovery continues.”

It certainly puts the Montana and Idaho rush to hunt in perspective. What was the hurry? Where is the reasoned management we were promised?  It’s unbelievable behavior and shame on  US Fish & Wildlife Services for pushing for wolf delisting. They had to know this would happen. All the years of work and money spent on recovering wolves and it’s come full circle back to killing them again?

Once totaling more than 350,000 in the US West, wolves “were hunted and killed with more passion and zeal than any other animal in US history,” according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

As their numbers dwindled toward extinction in the contiguous 48 states, the gray wolf became protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974.

The states couldn’t wait to start the wolf hunts. These are the people that are responsible for a newly delisted species? And we’re supposed to trust them with the welfare of wolves? Five hundred wolves died and that’s a success story?  

Oh but wait, they counted wolves again at the end of 2009 and TA-DA their numbers had grown 4% (still the lowest growth since wolves reintroduction.) 

Supposedly there are now 1706 wolves in the tri-state area, after all the killing. So how can this be you say, if there were approx 1500 wolves at the beginning of 2009 (that number fluctuates depending on who you talk to from a low of 1450 to a high of 1650). How did the population grow when five hundred gray wolves were slaughtered?

Their 2009 count was actually done at the end of 2008, before the pups were born in the Spring of 2009, the year they were delisted. So those pups weren’t included in the count. Here is what we are being asked to believe.  There were approx. 1500 wolves in the Northern Rockies at the beginning of 2009, pups of that year had not been counted yet. Over five hundred wolves were killed in 2009/2010 between the hunts and Wildlife Services.  That would bring their numbers down to 1000 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  That’s 1/4 of the total wolf population. But somehow when they counted wolves at the end of  2009 they came up with 1700 wolves. So that means more then 700 puppies were born in the Spring of 2009 and they all survived.  Since wolf pups have a high mortality rate, it would have to be way higher then 700 pups to account for their high death rate. Wolf pups die from disease, predation and unfortunately starvation because Wildlife Services and now the hunts are making orphans out of  many of them.  Now pups have another danger, they can be shot.  31% of wolves killed in Montana’s hunt were under a year of age (juveniles) and another 31% were yearlings. 62% of wolves killed  in Montana’s wolf hunt in 2009 were a year old or under a year of age, in other words, PUPPIES!  My malamute puppy weighs a little over sixty pounds and he’s six months old.  That was the average weight of the puppies (juveniles) who were shot and killed. Shocked? Did you know the wolf  hunt included  killing  puppies? Only 38% of wolves killed in Montana’s hunt were adults. 

At the end of 2008 the US Fish & Wildlife Services reported there were 95 breeding pairs in the Northern Rockies. Wolf litter size varies from 4 to 7 pups, so using 5 as an average number of pups per litter and multiplying 95 breeding pairs by 5, it comes to 475 pups. Even being generous and using 6 pups as the average litter size you would still get only get 570 pups. And of course many of these pups died or were killed as I stated previously. 

The only other scenario that would increase the wolf population is dispersing wolves from Canada. Those are the only two possibilites.  In light of this information, are we buying these wolf counts?

Also if anyone thinks killing 500 wolves had no effect on pack structure, think again.  Of course in the world of  “wolf management”, a wolf is a wolf is a wolf.  They’re  interchangeable, didn’t you know?  Wolves just make more wolves and everything is peachy.  This is science? 

Wolf researcher, Dr. Daniel MacNulty states wolf hunts drive the age of wolves downward. resulting in younger and younger wolves.

 “It’s been shown in other hunted populations of wolves that hunting skews the population toward younger age classes,” he explains. And, as his research shows, that could spell more deaths, not fewer, for the elk.

The reason hunting pushes a population’s age structure downward is because being hunted is like playing Russian roulette. If, starting early in life, every member of a society had to play Russian roulette regularly, not too many would live to a ripe old age, he says.

Elk are doing just fine in Montana and Idaho according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 2009 press release but I wanted to point out just one of the effects wolf hunting has on pack dynamics. 

When Idaho Fish and Game started selling wolf tags, 3500 were sold in three hours. Eventually Idaho would sell  26,428 wolf tags at $11.50 a pop, hauling in $423,280 to kill 220 wolves. Montana sold 15,603 wolf tags, which filled state coffers to the tune of $325, 916, for a chance to kill 75 wolves. And they call wolves blood thirsty?

Mourn the 500 dead. Don’t believe the propaganda about livestock or elk. Wolves are in danger, make no mistake. Sadly, they are being persecuted once again in the West. What a surprise. Did anyone think anything different would happen once they were delisted?  They were on the Endangered Species List for a reason and now without ESA protection they are in danger of history repeating itself.  


Idaho and Montana Wolf Hunts End

States plan to kill even more wolves next season

April 1, 2010


02 April 2010, 12:07 PM Terry Winckler

Wolf Hunts End But Not The Fight


Delisisting A Recipe For Conflict

Open Season On Wolves




Posted in:  gray wolf/canis lupus, Idaho wolf hunt, Montana wolf hunt,  Wolf Wars, Howling For Justice, wolf 2009 delisting

Tags: wolves in the crossfire, Wildlife Services, ESA lawsuit wolves, aerial gunning of wolves

USFWS 2009 Wolf Report…Just Peachy!

According to the newly published USFWS 2009 report on wolves, all is peachy in the Northern Rockies with wolves. The report touts the wolf population in the Northern Rockies grew in 2009 but the tiny 4% increase is the smallest since wolves were reintroduced in 1995. That’s because over 500 wolves were lost in 09 due to hunting, lethal control, SSS (shoot, shovel and shutup) and general wolf mortality. Yellowstone wolf numbers are below 100, from 124 in 2008.  The famous and studied Druid Peak Packwho once numbered 37, are now down to just one wolf, sadly the Druids are finished and so a legend fades into history. (Although we can hold out hope the missing six Druids will resurface)

USFWS states wolves are fully recovered and conveniently all the counting adds up so nicely for them.

Wolves were delisted by the Obama administration in Spring 2009. Since that time wolves have been hammered by Wildlife Services even though cattle depredations were lower then 2008. Yet 272 wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 for killing 214 cows out of SIX MILLION COWS.  The irony is ranchers complaining about their tiny livestock losses were reimbursed $457,785 in 2009 by private and state agencies.

How many cattle have ranchers sent to their deaths? That would be 100%, unless they raise them as pets. It’s the ranchers not the wolves killing all the cows because cattle are raised to be killed for profit. Once cattle are old enough they are sent to feed lots to be fattened up, then sent off to the slaughterhouse. Over 41 million cows die horrible deaths every year in this country for the cattle and dairy industries. 

Since wolves were delisted over fifteen years ago the feds have killed 1300 wolves for 1300 cattle depredations. Don’t you find that tit for tat style “management” simply appalling?   How many cows do you think died in the last fifteen years from disease, weather, theft and reproductive issues? Millions! Yet the government continues the war against wolves, spending close to four million dollars last year counting wolves, controlling wolves, stalking wolves, darting wolves and killing wolves. All that federal spending for a non-problem. Their 2010 wolf budget is projected to be $4,200,000. More wolf killing coming up.

Wolves do not deserve this kind of scrutiny or lethal control. This is a PR campaign to appease constantly complaining ranchers and hunters who blow the wolf issue completely out of proportion and everyone knows it. The key statement in the USFWS wolf report is: 

“Although wolf depredation results in a comparatively small proportion of all livestock losses in the NRM DPS, wolf damage can be significant to some livestock producers.” 

Get it? Wolves kill miniscule numbers of livestock but because ranchers complain, wolves are killed. Does this make any sense to you? What kind of management is this?  What about the non-ranching, non hunting public that would like to view wolves in the wild? Apparently our feelings and opinions don’t matter.

Cattle Losses From AGRO’s Website
In 2005, U.S. producers raised 104.5 million head of cattle (USDA, 2005a). Approximately every five years, NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service)reports on unintentional cattle deaths as a result of predation, weather issues, disease etc. The latest cattle death report was released in May 2006 (USDA, 2006). The government’s own figures again show that mammalian carnivores kill very few livestock (0.18%) 

Cattle Deaths from other causes: 3.5% (3,861,000)

Respiratory problems, Digestive problems, Calving, Unknown, Weather, Other Disease, Lameness/Injury, Metabolic Problems, Mastitis, Poison, Theft


In  2005 104,500,00 cattle were produced in the United States 

Carnivores killed  0.18% (190,000) Cattle

Coyotes (51%, 97,000), Other Unknown (21%), Domestic Dogs 21,9000), Felids (8% 14,700), Vultures (5%), Wolves (2% , 4400), Bears (1%)

The statistics don’t lie. Wolf kills on livestock are a blip on the radar screen. Heck vultures killed more cows then wolves in 2005. Coyotes were responsible for most of the kills by far but predation only accounted for 0.18% of cattle mortality, while other causes accounted for 3.5% or 3,861,000 dead cows.

Predation by mammlian carnivores is a tiny part of cattle mortality. Wolves are barely in the picture. Yet we have a huge federal program to track wolves like they are terrorists. The new USDA NASS cattle mortality figures will be out this year. I will be posting them. Is anyone in the wolf killing business really interested in these stats or is it simply about keeping wolf numbers low to boost ungulate populations and appease ranchers?  This is why I will repeat once more, State Game Agencies Should Not Be Managing Predators, period!

The USFWS report is all about wolf and livestock numbers but what it doesn’t include is a report on the hysteria that’s building in Idaho and Montana around wolves. The Idaho legislature actually passed a resolution asking their governor to declare a State of Emergency in Idaho concerning wolves. Idaho has already stated they want to reduce the wolf population from 850 to 500.  Montana FWP recently decided Wildlife Services can operate on their own to kill wolves, no longer needing permission from Montana FWP. Wolves can now be shot on sight by Wildlife Services for being near a dead cow. Joe Maurier, head of Montana FWP, stated hunting quotas would likely increase next year if wolves are not relisted. We all knew that was coming.

From the Missoulian:

“In a hearing before the Environmental Quality Council, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director Joe Maurier said federal Wildlife Services agents no longer need FWP authorization to kill wolves at or near confirmed livestock depredation sites.

The agents also will be able to immediately kill any wolves that are trapped when they return to those sites to feed on dead livestock.

“For the amount of conflict we have in all sectors today, we probably have too many wolves on the landscape,” Maurier told the council. “We had tolerable conflict on the landscape; now it’s intolerable. Now we have to go back to the point where it’s tolerable at all levels but we still have a viable population.”

Maurier added that he expects the wolf hunting quota to be increased next season from the initial statewide quota of 75 as another way to lower the wolf population. Initial estimates put Montana’s wolf population at 500 animals this year, which is about the same as last year.

IDFG has been given permission to land in the Frank Church wilderness to dart and collar wolves, which I believe is clearly a violation of The Wilderness Act. The Idaho hunt is  ongoing. It’s now the beginning of wolf denning season in Idaho and pregnant alphas are returning to their dens. Will they be killed in their dens before giving birth? I have to ask this question because Idaho extended it’s hunting season SEVEN LONG MONTHS, to March 31st, 2010.  I wonder what next years wolf count will look like if wolves are not relisted, because make no mistake this is an all out war on wolves. 

Things are most certainly not peachy for wolves in the Northern Rockies no matter how bright a picture USFWS wants to paint. The stark reality is wolf persecution has only increased since the hunts started. Wildlife Services has gotten bolder, wolf haters are crawling out of the wood work and I predict if wolves are not relisted we will see serious declines in wolf  numbers in 2010.

There is also nothing in the report about the effect the hunts have had on wolf packs, except to report  numbers. Wolves are highly socialized animals. When alphas or the mothers and fathers of a pack are killed the packs almost always disband. Twenty eight total wolf packs disappeared in 2009, 64% killed for livestock depredation. Oregon killed one entire wolf pack  for cows and they only have three total. Fairly amazing coming from a state I thought was progressive in it’s thinking. I guess ranching interests trump everything else, even in Oregon. Are any of the state game agencies prepared to fine ranchers for poor animal husbandry practices, ie. not protecting their investment, leaving livestock unattended? Will public grazing leases be pulled when ranchers refuse to remove dead cow carcasses not killed by wolves but left to rot?  If a wolf is caught feeding on one, they can be killed.

Did the hunts drive down the average age of wolves? If wolves are subjected to the Russian roulette (as Daniel MacNulty, wolf researcher calls it) of hunting and Wildlife Services killings each year, what chance do they have to retain cohesiveness and stability among packs?  Daniel MacNulty, the Yellowstone wolf  researcher, has stated hunting wolves pushes the age of wolves downward, resulting in younger and younger wolves.

 “It’s been shown in other hunted populations of wolves that hunting skews the population toward younger age classes,” he explains. And, as his research shows, that could spell more deaths, not fewer, for the elk.

The reason hunting pushes a population’s age structure downward is because being hunted is like playing Russian roulette. If, starting early in life, every member of a society had to play Russian roulette regularly, not too many would live to a ripe old age, he says.”

Despite the peachy picture painted by the USFWS 2009 wolf report, wolves need ESA protection, without it they will continue to be killed and persecuted, there is no middle ground on this.

2009 was a horrendous year for wolves and 2010 isn’t shaping up to be any better unless Judge Molloy rules to relist them. If he doesn’t there is no telling what fresh hell will reign down on wolves in the Northern Rockies.


Posted in: gray wolf /canis lupus, howling for justice, wolf 2009 delisting

Tags:  USFWS 2009 Interagency Wolf Report,  wolves or livestock, Frank Church Wilderness, aerial gunning of wolves, endangered species act

The Wolf Numbers Game….


The deadline to file briefs in the wolf delisting lawsuit has ended. As we wait to see if Judge Molloy will hear oral arguments or rule without them, I reflected on what constitutes wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies? 2000, 4000, 6000 wolves? It occurred to me the numbers game has been the nail in the coffin for wolves ever since they were reintroduced to Yellowstone and Central Idaho in the mid-nineties. We’ve been stuck on numbers ever since. The number of breeding pairs, the number of pups, the number of packs, the number of livestock depredations. It’s always about numbers. But is it?

I challenge this paradigm. I believe wolf recovery has little to do with numbers. It’s the numbers game that’s betrayed gray wolves. The true test of recovery for wolves will be their ability to disperse across state lines, to achieve genetic connectivity among sub-populations, to overcome fragmentation and marginalization, in effect to repopulate their entire habitat that was lost to them when they were slaughtered by the federal government for agribusiness and eliminated from the West, without mercy. 

And something else. Wolf recovery is dependent upon humans finding a place in their hearts for wolves to dwell, only then will they have a chance.  

It wasn’t until the enactment of the Endangered Species Act that wolves began to stage a slow comeback. In the 1980’s, well before they were reintroduced to Yellowstone and Central Idaho, gray wolves dispersed on their own from Canada to Glacier National Park. They started to come home. 

In 1995 and 1996 sixty-six MacKenzie Valley wolves from Alberta, Canada were released into Yellowstone and Central Idaho. The official counting of wolves had begun and has never stopped.


The map shows part of their historic home range, wolves now occupy a tiny fraction of that in the lower forty eight. Click on the map to see their current range.

At one time, wolves were distributed over an immense part of the northern hemisphere. Certainly, wolves lived across most of the United States within the last two hundred years. (The only exception was in the Southeast, where the red wolf filled the gray wolf’s niche in the environment.) Even today, there are still a few wolves left in the extreme Southwest and Mexico. (The Mexican wolf is a subspecies of the gray wolf, and is considered extremely endangered.) Today the gray wolf is found in a few northern states in very low numbers. Only Minnesota is home to enough gray wolves for them to be considered in the threatened category. (“Threatened” is one step safer than “endangered.”
Instead of obsessing over numbers we should be concentrating on education to dispel myths that surround wolves. If the wolf is to survive the old attitudes and hates must end. If the wolf is to survive they must be able to move freely across state lines to expand their territory. Yet, a Utah senator recently introduced a bill that would bar wolves from entering that state, on pain of death or relocation, as if wolves can read road signs or understand state boundary lines. 
Colorado is not welcoming them. Wyoming is hostile to them, except for the tiny island of wolves, now numbering below 100, that find refuge in Yellowstone.  Yes, Canadian wolves have dispersed to Washington, which seems the most reasonable of all the states but even there a Lookout Pack pup was killed and then his killers attempted to ship his bloody pelt FedEx to Canada.   
How can the wolf ever hope to make a sustained recovery when they are so persecuted?

A major roadblock to wolf recovery is the livestock industry, who has a stranglehold on state politics, wolves don’t stand a chance until that changes. With the approval  of state “wolf managers”, Wildlife Services  acts  as the rancher’s personal wolf extermination service, courtesy of tax payer dollars.  Likewise state game agencies hamper wolf recovery because their coffers are filled by hunting and licensing fees. They cater to hunters that compete directly with the wolf for the same prey animals. Whose side do you think they will take, the hunter or the wolf ? There is no contest. The wolf loses every time.

We’ve come full circle. Wolves may be relisted by Judge Molloy, solely based on Wyoming’s recalcitrance,  since even the feds know Wyoming’s “management shoot on sight plan” will land wolves right back on the Endangered Species List. It’s an awful game that’s being played with the lives of a magnificent animal that has every right to exist on this earth.

The numbers game is responsible for much of wolf persecution because at some point that magic number will be reached, whether it’s 2000, 4000 or 6000 and the killing can begin again, just as it did in 2009, just as they were exterminated the first time around.  The numbers game says that wolves are living on borrowed time.  That they will always be in the crosshairs.  If we keep moving the numbers around,  how does that help wolves truly recover?

The fate of wolves hangs in the balance. Are we willing to open our hearts and minds to allow this vital apex predator, who is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem, to repopulate their historic habitat, not just a few marginalized pockets? Or will we continue to play the wolf numbers game? 


Legal fight over wolves in Northern Rockies a question of numbers

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2010 11:00 pm

Map: Courtesy of Siteline Institute

Posted in: gray wolf/canis lupus, howling for justice, wolf 2009 delisting, wolf recovery

Tags: wolf numbers game, delisting litigation, wolves in the crossfire

February 3, 2010


Ken Salazar, No Friend of The Gray Wolf

September 21, 2009
When Barack Obama was elected President many environmentalists believed we would have an ally in the White House but were unpleasantly surprised when the President picked Ken Salazar as his Secretary of the Interior. Salazar is a Colorado rancher who inevitably supported the Bush Administration’s flawed policies concerning gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. He allowed their delisting to go forward, which is why they are being hunted in two states, just mere months after losing their ESA protections.

The Obama Administration is not off to a good start with Ken Salazar heading the Interior. Salazar, the rancher, is no friend of the gray wolf.


Same bad plan to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies

Salazar strips federal Endangered Species Act protection from wolves in Idaho, Montana

March 6, 2009

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced he has decided to follow the Bush administration’s flawed decision to remove the protections of the Endangered Species Act from wolves in Idaho and Montana.

 he following is a statement by Rodger Schlickeisen, president for Defenders of Wildlife:

“Today is a truly disappointing day for Americans who care deeply about the Northern Rockies wolf population and for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. We are outraged and disappointed that Secretary Salazar has chosen to push the same, terrible Bush administration plan for wolf delisting just six weeks into President Obama’s administration.

“We all expected more from the Obama administration, but Defenders of Wildlife will now move to sue Secretary Salazar as quickly as possible.

“Just three days ago, we were thrilled when President Obama stood before employees of the Department of the Interior, with Secretary Salazar at his side, and vowed to ‘help restore the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act.’ Yet today, Secretary Salazar announced that he is adopting a rule that is just as flawed now as it was when the Bush administration issued this appalling plan.  Americans voted for change last November.  Today Secretary Salazar gave us more of the same discredited approach to conservation followed by the Bush administration for the past eight years.

“All the reasons why this plan was a bad idea when the Bush administration proposed it still stand today. If this rule is allowed to stand, nearly two-thirds of the wolves in the Northern Rockies could be killed. This plan would undermine the goal of ensuring a healthy, sustainable wolf population in the region. Secretary Salazar’s terrible decision leaves us no choice. We will stand up for wolves and endangered species conservation by moving immediately to challenge this delisting in court.”

The following is a statement by Suzanne Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

“Nothing about this rule has changed since it was rejected and deemed unlawful in a federal court in July of 2008. It still fails to adequately address biological concerns about the lack of genetic exchange among wolf populations in the northern Rockies and it still fails to address the concerns with the states’ wolf management plans and regulations that undermine a sustainable wolf population by killing too many wolves.

Click HERE to read more

Photo: White House Photographer Tami Heilemann

Posted in: 2009 wolf delisting, wolf wars

Tags: endangered species act, ken Salazar delists wolves, Obama administration lets wolves down

We May Have Lost The Battle But Will Likely Win the War

September 21, 2009

This speaks for all who are devastated by the killing of wolves in Idaho and Montana.  It reflects the hope and despair of the past few months in the latest round of Wolf  Wars that plague the Northern Rockies.  The decision by Judge Molloy to deny the injunction that would have stopped the hunts, was a blow to all wolf  lovers but all is not lost.  We may have lost this battle but will win the war and see wolves relisted. 


Motion For Preliminary Injunction Denied; Wolf Hunts To Proceed Unabated

Wolf photo by SigmaEye on Flickr

Matt Skoglund

Posted September 9, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana
Last night, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy denied our request for a preliminary injunction to stop the wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana and restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in both states while our underlying lawsuit challenging the delisting rule moves forward.

Judge Molloy’s ruling is both good and bad for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

In order to prevail on our motion, we needed to demonstrate that (1) we are likely to succeed on the merits of our lawsuit and (2) the wolf population in the Northern Rockies is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction (i.e., if the wolf hunts proceeded).

Noting that the standard for irreparable harm requires injury that is significant to the overall population of Northern Rockies wolves, the court found that killing 330 wolves in Montana and Idaho does not constitute irreparable harm.

As such, the wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho will transpire this fall unabated, which is horrible news for wolves in the region.

The good news is that the court found we demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of our case.  Judge Molloy’s order focused on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to leave wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list but to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho.  Specifically, the court stated:

The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science.  That, by definition, seems arbitrary and capricious.

In our lawsuit, NRDC and 12 other conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, are challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s March 2009 decision to remove wolves in Idaho and Montana prematurely from the endangered species list.  Notwithstanding the denial of our motion for a preliminary injunction, the lawsuit will continue and a hearing on the merits of the case is now expected in early 2010.

The court’s finding that we demonstrated we are likely to succeed on the merits of our case is absolutely great news.  If, in the merits phase of the case, Judge Molloy deems the Fish and Wildlife Service’s state-by-state application of the Endangered Species Act illegal, as his order signifies he will, then wolves in Idaho and Montana will return to the endangered species list.

That said, the next few months will be grim for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

On September 1st, Idaho’s wolf hunt began in two of its twelve hunting zones.  Four wolves have been reported killed thus far, one of which was killed illegally.  Two more zones will be open for wolf-hunting on September 15th, and the remaining zones will open on October 1st.  Idaho’s quota for the wolf hunt is 220 wolves for the general hunt and another 35 wolves for the Nez Perce Tribe. 

In Montana, the backcountry wolf hunt begins on September 15th, and the general hunt begins on October 25th.  Montana’s quota for the wolf hunt is 75 wolves.

While we are thrilled with part of Judge Molloy’s ruling, the fact remains that 330 wolves in the Northern Rockies are slated to be killed this fall. 

And forever silencing the howls of so many wolves has left a palpable sense of despair in those who love wolves, wilderness, and wildness.

Posted in: 2009 Wolf Delisting, Wolf Wars

Tags: Endangered species act, ESA lawsuit wolves, gray wolf/canis lupus, wolf intolerance, wolf recovery

2009 Gray Wolf De-Listing By Obama Administration…


September 16, 2009

One of the first acts of the Obama administration was to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies.  Incredible harm and sadness has come from this completely shocking and disturbing decision, a Democrat who promised to set a new tone in Washington, turned his back on the ESA and wolves.



April 1, 2009

Alliance For the Wild Rockies

Interior Secretary Salazar Finalizes Wolf Delisting

Conservation Groups Will Challenge the Removal of Essential Federal Protections

Washington, D.C. – An advance copy of the Federal Register – released today – contains a final version of the federal government’s decision to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky mountains except for those in Wyoming. The delisting effort revives an effort launched by the Bush administration which was halted in January for review when the Obama administration took office. Today’s delisting decision is the second time in twelve months the federal government has removed federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, successfully sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008.

Delisting wolves means they’ll be subject to state sponsored hunting year unless stopped by legal action. Idaho and Montana plan to allow hundreds of wolves to be shot.

The decision to lift wolf protections comes as Yellowstone Park wolves declined by 27 percent in the last year, one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The northern Rockies wolf population also has not achieved a level of connectivity between the greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana areas that is essential to wolves’ long-term survival.

Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “Independent scientists say that between 2,000 and 3,000 wolves are needed to have a sustainable, fully recovered population. After delisting, the northern Rockies wolf population may be allowed to drop to only 300 to 450 wolves. This is not managing for recovery. It is managing for the relisting of wolves.”

Wolves will remain under federal control in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming’s hostile wolf management scheme leaves wolves in ‘serious jeopardy.’ The Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act, including in their earlier decision to not delist wolves without Wyoming’s inclusion. In today’s delisting decision, the federal government flip-flops on its earlier position.

In addition to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have refused to make enforceable commitments to maintaining viable wolf populations within their borders. On the very day the first delisting took effect in March, 2008, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a law allowing Idaho citizens to kill wolves without a permit whenever wolves are annoying, disturbing, or ‘worrying’ livestock or domestic animals. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission established rules that would have allowed 428 wolves to be killed in 2008 alone had the court not returned wolves to the endangered species list. Montana also authorized a fall wolf hunt.

Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, will send the Fish and Wildlife Service a notice that the delisting violates the Endangered Species Act tomorrow. If the agency does not reconsider the delisting rule, the conservation groups will again ask a federal court to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies until wolf numbers are stronger and the states pledge to responsibly manage wolves.

Earthjustice represents Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.


Gray wolf lawsuits filed in Montana, Wyoming

EVE BYRON – Independent Record – 06/03/09 | Posted: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 11:00 pm

As promised, a coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missoula Tuesday to try to halt the removal of gray wolves from the list of animals covered by the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho.

In an equally expected move Tuesday in Wyoming, the state sued the federal government over its decision to retain protection for wolves in that state.

“This is not about science or biology, it’s about politics,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wyoming says they have too many wolves and the environmental groups say there aren’t enough.

“Both sides are beating each other up, and we’re in the middle of the road. The wolf recovery program made our commitments, we looked at the science and made a decision. So now we’re getting run over by both sides.”

Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, says Bangs’ comment is a “straw man argument.”

“I think he’s being a little hypocritical,” Garrity said. “They said they couldn’t delist wolves before without Wyoming and now they say they can.”

The 13 groups announced their intent to sue 60 days ago, after the Obama administration in April removed gray wolves in Montana and Idaho from the list.

In Wyoming, wolves remain under federal protection because the state’s management plan classified them as predators that could be shot on sight throughout most of the state.

The ability to shoot wolves in Montana and Idaho have more restrictions on when wolves can be shot, but both states’ management plans include hunting seasons.

Critics argue that wolves don’t recognize state boundaries, and they can’t be recovered in one state while endangered in an adjacent state.

In making the delisting announcement in April, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and others with the federal government disagree, with Salazar saying in March that dropping gray wolves from the list is justified by their strong comeback in the northern Rockies, now home to 1,645 wolves in 98 breeding pairs.

An estimated 1,000 wolf pups probably were born this spring, added Bangs.

Montana has a minimum of 497 wolves with 34 breeding pairs; Idaho has 846 wolves with 39 breeding pairs; and Wyoming has confirmed 302 wolves with 25 breeding pairs.

“These numbers are about five times higher than the minimum population recovery goal and three times higher than the minimum breeding pair recovery goal. The end of 2008 will mark the ninth consecutive year the population has exceeded our numeric and distributional recovery goals,” the federal government noted in its decision to delist the wolves.

A breeding pair is defined as an adult male and female that have reproduced to create packs, and Bangs said anywhere from four to 14 wolves can be in the pack.

Yet Garrity and others argue that to ensure biological diversity of any species, about 500 breeding pairs are needed. That would equate to anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 wolves in packs.

“That’s not just in Montana, but throughout the northern Rockies and could include Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Washington,” Garrity said. “So Montana could have the same number of wolves; they would just be spread out among the Rockies.”

The conservation groups warn in their lawsuit that delisting wolves will cause a dramatic decline in populations so they’ll never “achieve true recovery as envisioned by Congress.”

“This suit is about ensuring a successful ending to one of the greatest of all conservation stories,” said Louisa Willcox, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Livingston. “Sustainable recovery for wolves in the Northern Rockies is tantalizingly close, but we are not there yet.

“We look forward to a time when wolves can be taken off the list; but sadly, state-sponsored hunts are only going to push that finish line further away,” Wilcox added. “Until the wolf population in the Northern Rockies reaches a sustainable level, this fight will continue.”

According to the Associated Press, Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg said his state maintains the federal government has no scientific reason to reject Wyoming’s management plan, and that the government is trying to force the state to support more than its fair share of the wolf population.

This is the third attempt to take wolves off the list of protected species, and the second time a lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project and Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council.

In the first lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy stated that the federal government acted arbitrarily in delisting a wolf population that lacked evidence of genetic exchange between the sub-populations and shouldn’t have approved Wyoming’s wolf management plan because it failed to commit to manage for at least 15 breeding pairs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service then pulled its plan, but reissued it without delisting wolves in Wyoming shortly before the Bush administration left office. The Obama administration put a hold on the delisting, but upon review decided to move forward.

Tens of thousands of gray wolves once roamed North America but were trapped, poisoned and shot until near extinction in the United States. They were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and reintroduction efforts began in 1994.

To view the delisting rule and a copy of the environmental groups’ lawsuit, follow the links in this story at

The Wyoming lawsuit hadn’t been posted as of press time.

Click here to read the federal delisting rule.

Click hereto read the conservation groups’ lawsuit.

Reporter Eve Byron:


File Photo

Posted in:  Wolf 2009 delisting, Howling for Justice

Tags: gray wolf/canis lupus, Idaho wolves, Montana wolves,  Obama administration delists wolves,


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