Idaho Governor Sign a Law Allowing Hunters To Kill 90% of the State’s Wolves

Gray Wolf Photo: Wiki CC

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Idaho Governor Brad Little has signed a law that could allow private hunters contracted by the state to kill 90% of the state’s wolves. Those in favor of the measure, including lawmakers, ranchers, and hunters would like to reduce the state’s 1,500 wolves to 150, to bring down the number of attacks on livestock and deer. The law also allows hunters to trap and snare an unlimited number of wolves, use night-vision equipment, and even shoot them from helicopters. Newborn pups can be killed if found on private land. 

Why this Matters: This law is a step back for wolf conservation— Zoe Hanley of the Defenders of Wildlife said in a statement that this decision “marks a low point for gray wolf recovery in the U.S.”  As apex predators, wolves are an important part of forest ecosystems, yet they have been hunted almost to extinction because they prey on livestock. When wolves were re-introduced to areas like Yellowstone Park, they had a positive impact. Wolves not only restored vegetation but also increased tourism and brought a huge economic boost to the area. Moreover, to meet the United States’ #30×30 goals — to get to 30% of the planet set aside for nature by 2030— we will need to both protect pristine areas and restore others to proper ecological function, making wolves essential.

Lawmakers Cry Wolf?

Opponents of this Idaho bill suggest that it overestimates the harm wolves cause to the environment, and puts the power to protect them in the hands of politicians rather than wildlife managers, who may not have wolves’ best interests in mind. 

Environmental groups have tried to fight the bill — the Center for Biological Diversity, for example, asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to remove millions of dollars from Idaho’s habitat maintenance and outdoor recreation funding, since the new law does not enhance wildlife. Meanwhile, nearly 30 former state, federal and tribal wildlife managers signed a letter to Governor Little last month asking him to veto the measure, because the bill condoned brutal, unethical methods for killing wolves.

The good news is that in the worst-case scenario, should the government allow Idaho’s wolf population to fall to 100, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could resume control of wolves in the state. But it seems that this bill is a throwback to a more difficult time for the wolves. 

Defenders of Wildlife’s Hanley said in a statement: “For years Idaho wolves have been intensely persecuted through the nation’s most permissive hunting and trapping seasons, and this bill all but pushes the species back to the brink of federal relisting.”

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