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Wolves De-Listed Again…Now What Happens in Idaho?

March 9, 2009

Boise, ID – Wolves officially are being removed from the endangered species list again, but it could be temporary. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is expected to present a wolf management plan, and if it looks like the last one, it will be back in court, wolf advocates say.

On March 6, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar affirmed the February decision of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to de-list the northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves, except for those in Wyoming. His action shifts management from federal and tribal agencies to the states. Because state management plans likely will allow wolves to be hunted, some say de-listing could mean about $30 million for the hunting recreation industry.

USFWS managers estimate that more than 1,500 wolves and at least 100 breeding pairs now inhabit territory in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Wolf advocates fear that if de-listing occurs, 1,000 of the animals will be killed.

Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife says she had hoped wolves would be treated like other wildlife species the state manages, such as bears, but she doesn't expect that to happen because emotions run so high on the topic.

"Wolves are treated so differently than any other animal. It's hard to explain to people outside the region. It really isn't based on science."

Those who support dramatically reducing wolf numbers say it's in the interest of protecting livestock and wildlife species such as elk. Stone says it is in everyone's best interest to focus on sustainable numbers for wolves, or the animal will end up back on the endangered species list. Her group wants to see all interested parties sit down at the table and design a plan.

"The agency should work with all the stakeholders – ranchers, hunters, conservationists and others – to look at the management conflicts that are occurring on the ground and find better ways to address them."

A federal judge rejected federal de-listing once, and Stone says she expects the latest de-listing to wind up in court, too.

Wolf populations were eradicated in the Lower 48 by the mid-1930s – mainly due to conflicts with livestock. After the species was federally listed as endangered, a few pairs of wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana in the mid-1990s.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID