This summer, hunters in Idaho have snapped up nearly 11,000 tags that confer permission to hunt the 850 or so gray wolves that now live in the state thanks to a reintroduction program in the region started in 1995. Idahoâ€”whose governor “Butch” Otter once vowed to be first in line for the permitsâ€”will allow 220 wolves to be killed for the bargain basement price of just $11.75; neighboring Montana will permit 75 starting September 15.
Grey wolves (Canis lupus) (Canis lupus), a close relative of domestic dogs, were nearly hunted to extinction in the western U.S. in the early 20th century, though they continued to thrive in Alaska. But the reintroduction scheme, started in Yellowstone National Park, has seen wolves fan out across the mountain Northwest.
All told there are now some 1,650 gray wolves living in 110,000 square miles of the northwestern Rockiesâ€”up from zero just 14 years agoâ€”and they’ve become targets again thanks to this population rise and their predilection for livestock. A federal judge had postponed previous years’ hunts but is still considering whether the wolves need to be returned to the Endangered Species List. According to the Billings Gazette, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy speculates that a wolf hunt might provide wildlife managers with a better sense of the actual wolf population. So the hunt is onâ€”and will last, barring judicial intervention, until the end of March next year.
Already the season’s first wolfâ€”a two-year-old femaleâ€”has been killed near the Lochsa River by a 34-year-old real estate agent, according to the Associated Press. Whether such hunting helps manage the populationâ€”or eliminate it againâ€”remains to be seen.
I’m not sure what I think about this. I understand it may be needed. The overpopulation of deer where I live shows how bad it can get. Overpopulation of wolves could be a disaster, for both the wolves and whatever livestock they could get their teeth into. Anytime a population becomes too dense; illness and disease break out.
On the other hand, I love wolves. I love the idea and the fantasy/legend of the wolf. A part of me is sreaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!