The gray wolf was on the endangered species list only five short months ago. Now in a sad turn of events, the first-ever public wolf hunt began on September 1, 2009 in the state of Idaho. Hunters are being allowed to kill up to 220 wolves, which is one quarter of the species’ population in the state. And all of this begins while animal activist organizations continue to battle in U.S. District Court for an injunction.
The gray wolf became nearly exterminated in the Western part of the country in the early 20th century. When they became almost completely extinct across the U.S., they fell under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. In the 1990’s the wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and parts of Idaho where they made a successful comeback. Their packs now range from Idaho, to Montana and into Oregon.
The federal government decided that the wolves, which have a population of about 1,650, are a recovered species and they lifted their protection from the endangered list earlier this year.
Then Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission voted to allow hunters to thin out the packs by 220 gray wolves as part of their plan for managing the population. A similar plan is in place in Montana where they will begin hunting 75 wolves later this month.
That’s when a dozen animal welfare groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, the Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance, Earthjustice, HSUS and others filed a lawsuit petitioning for an injunction from District Judge Donald Molloy. Earthjustice argued that a hunt could damage the comeback of the gray wolf by “genetically and geographically isolating individual wolf populations.”
“We had expected at this point to be celebrating the recovery of the gray wolf in the northern Rockies. Instead, after decades of recovery efforts, tremendous support and investment from the American public…and one of the most successful wildlife restorations in history, the future of the gray wolf in the Rocky Mountains is once again in jeopardy,” said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife in an interview with the L.A. Times.
The welfare groups have a tough battle ahead of them because there is so much support for a wolf hunt in the state. In 2007 The Spokesman-Review reported that Idaho’s Governor Butch Otter told a group of cheering hunters, “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.”
Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance representative Stephen Augustine said, “We fear that under the guise of wolf management, what’s about to happen is a wolf massacre.”
“It is really astonishing that you could have an animal on the endangered species list at one point, and a bare five months later they’re being hunted,” said Augustine. “To my knowledge there isn’t another animal that has had this happen to them.”
Judge Molloy refused to say whether or when he will act on the lawsuit that was heard in court September 1st. And at the end of the day on August 31st, Idaho had sold more than 10,700 tags to hunters.
Please sign the petition about protecting the gray wolf: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/165659664