By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Less than two years after Wisconsin held one of the cruelest and most disastrous trophy hunting seasons in recent memory, wolves across most of the country will enjoy a desperately needed reprieve this fall because of our successful lawsuit that restored their federal Endangered Species Act protections. But not all wolves are safe: Because they were legally split off from wolves in the rest of the country and separately delisted in 2011, wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains (encompassing all of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) remain federally unprotected and exposed to the horrible whims of state governments that, bent on decimating still-fragile wolf populations, have enacted some of the most extreme wolf-killing laws we’ve ever seen. These laws allow trophy hunters, trappers and private contractors hired at taxpayer expense to kill more than 85% of the states’ wolves using egregiously cruel methods.
To stop this state-sponsored slaughter, we and our allies petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year to immediately reinstate federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Although the agency took an encouraging first step last fall, it hasn’t taken final action yet. This delay is unacceptable and puts the very survival of the population at risk. Every week the Service waits, wolves in Idaho are subjected to unlimited killing by trophy hunters and private contractors using some of the most inhumane methods imaginable, which include shooting mothers and pups in their dens, chasing them down with packs of dogs and gunning them down from all-terrain vehicles, among other extremely cruel tactics. And we’re rapidly approaching the opening of hunting and trapping seasons in Montana, where liberalized killing on the border of Yellowstone National Park last year wiped out the wolves of the entire Phantom Lake pack, who were beloved by wildlife watchers and which set back decades of wolf research by National Park Service biologists.
Northern Rockies wolves need help now, which is why we’ve filed a new lawsuit challenging the federal government’s delay in acting on our petition. We hope the lawsuit will force the feds to move quickly to address the dire situation of Northern Rockies wolves. If this process drags on too much longer, irreparable harm will be done.
Unless and until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relists wolves, they’ll remain under the jurisdiction of the Northern Rockies states. That’s why we’ve also been fighting to stop the worst anti-wolf policies at the state level. Later this month, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold a hearing on the upcoming wolf hunting season, one with major implications for the future of Montana’s wolves, including key issues like hunting and trapping along the border of Yellowstone National Park. The proposed season could decimate Montana’s wolf population and jeopardize wolf recovery.
If you live in Montana, we encourage you to attend the hearing on August 25 in Helena and urge the commission to be a more responsible steward of wolves and create a buffer zone around Yellowstone to protect wolves who cross the invisible boundary into Montana.
And everyone can help gray wolves in the Northern Rockies by asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to federally protect wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.