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A wholesale slaughter of gray wolves is underway in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Wisconsin, with the number of wolf killings at the highest level since the early 1900s. Here are just some of the numbers:
- Last year, more than 495 wolves were killed in Idaho alone, with a staggering 4,500 killed in the state since 2011. The state’s governor recently signed legislation allowing hunters to kill 90 percent of Idaho’s remaining wolves.
- In a killing frenzy last year, hunters in Wisconsin killed 216 gray wolves in less than 60 hours.
- In recent months, hunters have shot and killed 23 of Yellowstone National Park’s renowned gray wolves as they roamed just outside the park boundary.
- In 2020, the most recent year with published numbers, the United State Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) killed 386 Wolves, including pups that were still in their den.
Wolves were hastily delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) after minimal population targets were met. Those decisions did not take into account the longstanding cultural hostility toward wolves in some states, or the resulting policies that so rapidly and dramatically have wiped out decades of progress.
Gray wolves, hunted virtually to extinction in the lower 48 states by the early 1900s, were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974. Their recovery had been a great American conservation success story. However, in 2011, Congress ended wolf protections in the northern Rockies, and in 2020 the Trump administration stripped wolves of their critical ESA protections nationwide.
Since then, much of the wolf population gains that were made during decades of ESA protection have been wiped out and the gray wolf is once again in peril.
Much of the zeal to kill wolves is due to the mistaken view that wolves compete with hunters for game species such as elk and moose. In fact, wolves typically kill only the weakest of these species, thus improving the populations’ overall health. Also, by preying on weak and sickly elk, wolves reduce the transmission of brucellosis and other diseases from elk to cattle.