Idaho’s first sanctioned wolf hunt this past winter may have been its last, because a federal judge in Montana put wolves back on the endangered species list.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) erred in separating the wolf populations of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming and then delisting wolves in Idaho and Montana. That FWS decision led to those two states issuing permits to hunt wolves.
“We’re overjoyed that the wolf hunt in Montana and Idaho won’t go forward this fall,” said Jenny Harbine, an attorney with EarthJustice, a non-profit firm that represented 13 conservation groups that sued the FWS. “The court ruled that the federal government violated the law when it eliminated protections for wolves in the northern Rockies.”
“We’re frustrated; we’re angry; we’re disappointed,” Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) Deputy Director Jim Unsworth said. “We’ve played by the rules, but his decision allows procedural technicalities to overcome sound science and common sense.”
Harbine said state agencies such as IDFG have been too aggressive in killing wolves and that wolf populations aren’t yet back to sustainable levels. Conservation groups and IDFG disagree on how many wolves are needed for them to survive in the wild.
It’s unclear what the state’s response to the judge’s ruling will be. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission was scheduled to set quotas for the next wolf hunt during a meeting this month, but its agenda will likely change.
“We’re extremely disappointed with the judge’s decision,” said Wayne Wright of Twin Falls, the chairman of the commission. He said IDFG and the state government need to decide what the next steps to take to manage Idaho’s wolves will be. “Our desire, as a fish and game department and as commissioners, would be to manage the wildlife that we’ve been entrusted with in the state of Idaho. This makes it very difficult for us.”