By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
We just filed a legal petition urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately restore Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The wolves in this region are in grave danger due to new laws passed in Idaho and Montana, and the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are proud to join with a coalition of conservation organizations fighting to protect these animals.
Wolves in Idaho and Montana have been subjected to increasingly aggressive killing since they lost their federal protections in 2011, and recent state laws have only made things worse. In May, Idaho’s legislature passed a law that allows the state to hire private contractors to kill up to 90% of the state’s wolf population. The law also allows individual trophy hunters and trappers to kill as many wolves as they want, run down wolves with all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles and hunt them with bait. Wolf trapping is also now permitted year-round on private lands — which puts non-target animals, like pets and other wild animals, at risk of getting trapped, injured or even killed.
Montana has passed a slew of similar laws to maximize wolf carnage. Senate Bill 314, which could lead to the slaughter of more than 85% of the state’s wolves, presses the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to authorize individual trophy hunters and trappers to kill as many wolves as they want through baiting, trapping and night hunts with night vision scopes and spotlighting. Another law recently passed in Montana allows trappers to snare wolves during the state’s newly expanded trapping season, and another brings back what is essentially a wolf bounty system that incentivizes hunters to kill wolves by reimbursing them for their costs.
Against these threats, we are taking a stand for wolves, who are valuable apex carnivores, contributing to the balance of ecosystems. Last week, we detailed how the fight to protect wolves faces powerful special interest groups involves confronting powerful special interest groups that profit from killing wolves. We will not stand by while Idaho and Montana order the extermination of wolves to appease misguided fear and hatred fueled by the livestock industry and trophy hunters. Further, these rollbacks of wolf protections are not based on sound science. Conflicts between livestock and wolves are extremely rare. Studies have even shown that randomly killing wolves — as occurs through trophy hunting — can exacerbate human-wolf conflicts because trophy hunting and trapping disrupts wolf family units and creates social chaos.
Gray wolves used to thrive across the country until they were hunted down in massive numbers or perished because their habitats were destroyed. Today, wolves are still absent from about 70% of currently suitable habitat in the lower 48 states.
The no-holds-barred wolf slaughter sanctioned by the laws in Idaho and Montana could wipe out wolves in those states forever. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must restore Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the Northern Rockies; as our petition explains, returning wolves to federal management is both legally required and necessary for these wolves’ survival and recovery.
This legal petition is just one way we’re fighting the reckless killing of this charismatic native species. We are also in court to overturn the most recent federal delisting of wolves from Endangered Species Act protections, and we continue to urge the Biden Administration to follow the science when making choices about wolf conservation.
You can take a stand for gray wolves by signing the petition telling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately reinstate federal protections for these animals.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.