Idaho anti-wolf legislation stampeding toward a vote

Guest opinion by Adam Bronstein, Western Watersheds Project‘s Idaho Director

In a painful example of why states can’t be trusted to manage gray wolves, the Idaho Legislature seems to be fast-tracking Senate Bill S.1211, which aims to slash Idaho’s wolf population by as much as 90 percent. The bill would inappropriately transfer the traditional roles and responsibilities of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to the Legislature, where management would be strictly politicized and any pretense of science thrown out the window.

If passed into law, 1211 would allow an unlimited number of wolf tags per hunter, no restrictions on methods of take, establishment of year-round trapping seasons on private lands, and allowing the state Wolf Depredation Control Board to hire independent contractors to kill wolves. The bill would allow wolves to be killed using any method available for other wild canids–including aerial gunning and, potentially, deadly poisons. And it allows wolf tags to be used for hunting, trapping, or snaring in any unit when seasons are open at the time of take. This proposed legislation comes on the heels of newly expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons for much of Idaho adopted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in February.

The use of wolves as a political pawn is an affront to science-based management of wildlife, and only proves that state management of wolves and other predators without federal oversight is a recipe for extinction. Idaho’s wolf population was removed from Endangered Species Act protection by legislative rider in 2011, and wolves were removed from Endangered Species Act protection nationwide just last year. There is no valid justification in all of wildlife management for this kind of radical reduction of a native species, so far below the natural carrying capacity of the environment. 

In Wyoming, wolves can be killed without license or bag limit, at any time of year, across 85 percent of the state. This Idaho proposed legislation adopts many of the same management-free wolf killing provisions, and seems to be aiming for the same result: extirpation of wolves across most of the state. This is the opposite of sound wildlife management; it’s a free-for-all.

If S.1211 were to pass, it would put further pressure on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Idaho gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, as well as undermine the agency’s rationale for nationwide wolf delisting. Over 500 wolves were killed in Idaho in 2020 — approximately half of the 2019 year-end population. The state seems bent on making the case that wolves need to be listed as endangered in Idaho once again.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization with over 12,000 members and supporters dedicated to protecting and conserving the public lands, natural resources and sensitive wildlife of the American West

** Gray wolf photo accompanying this post on social media is courtesy of Ken Cole.


  1. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I wonder if the USF&W can be sued for not stepping in in the best interests of the species – isn’t that what the deal was, assurances (oh yeah, we’ll take care of ’em; just like the sage grouse) that the states would take over the good management practices for the species, or else they would be listed again?

    These new state hunting rules, and in Wisconsin too, must be pushing the envelope as far as it can go?

    1. Makuye Avatar

      Idaho sneakily is working – as usual – to kill the wolf population down to the miniscule number at which they can just prevent USFWS from taking over management.
      This is how the antiwolf states are working.
      FWS originally released management when just enough wolves survived in a state to avoid immediate fall back through inbreeding depression (remember the Isle Royale wolf population?). The number, around 100, would ensure a slow fall to extinction through inbreeding, “accidental” deaths, and inability to find mates, among a few other problems. This grave mistake was due to FWS NOT following proper guidelines to preserve wolves beyond 40 years. I am completely out of the effective population and positive density dependence, so you will have to go back to school to understand the genetic bottlenecking that Idaho intends.

  2. cynthia brown Avatar

    Do Not kill these wolves they are part of our history
    and need to left alone to live in peace

  3. Dale Houston Avatar
    Dale Houston

    This proposal flies into irrational management of our wildlife and destroys the integrity of maintaining reasonable management of key wildlife for balancing Mother Nature

  4. Charles Fox Avatar
    Charles Fox

    This is not a “reduction” in wolf populations. This is genocide.

  5. Anja Avatar

    Thanks Greta, but why was Montana not included in your article ?
    Bill after bill has been passing through e most right-wing, anti-science and anti-predator legislature in our state. Governor Gianforte has already signed two Bill’s making trapping of wolves legal as well as extending the wolf trapping season by 4 weeks! 900 wolves (!) could be killed in Montana because the state is only interested in avoiding federal listing under the ESA. Governor Gianforte just made headlines for illegally killing Max/1155, a black wolf who had wandered out of his safe home range- Yellowsrone NP– into a likel baited trap before being shot.
    The Montana Outfitter Association, supported by the Safari Club Internation and other wolf and predator-hating trophy hunting clubs, are driving these horrific bills … Gianforte will sign them all … hundreds of wolves will be shot and killed in traps. This is only a snapshot of what’s happening here. As the saying goes, “what’s happening in ID will happen in MT,” this time around though, MT is in the lead with sportsmen, legislatures and the Governor already salivating at the thought of an imminent massacre of wolves and other predators.

    1. Adam Bronstein Avatar

      Hi Anja,
      WWP is horrified about what is happening in Montana and we are working to counter all of the bad bills there. This article is specific to Idaho to inform the public about S.1211. This is a multi-front battle and all of the bad news is heartbreaking and overwhelming. ID and MT are demonstrating that they cannot responsibly manage their wildlife. Sweeping new federal protections are warranted and these dark times might very well be the catalyst for positive change.


  6. Linda Avatar

    This is truly psychopathic. Can’t we sue them for animal abuse or the termination of a species. This really sickens me physically and emotionally.

  7. Maggie Frazier Avatar
    Maggie Frazier

    Havent even read this article yet – but just got word from IDF that the NPS & CCC have okayed continued ranching on Port Reyes – not only ranching but increased ranching etc. I have written comments as many of us have – apparently the National Park Service is in the business of livestock grazing on our National Park?

    1. Maggie Frazier Avatar
      Maggie Frazier

      Well, now have read this one – more slaughter of wolves! No words.

  8. Jim Holyan Avatar
    Jim Holyan

    The USFWS can re-list wolves in case of “emergency” if, this is paraphrased, there is a change in state management direction that could lead to the species being threatened/endangered again. Will they? No way- the federal government considers itself out of the wolf management business.

  9. Ed Loosli Avatar
    Ed Loosli

    The Fed’s back-bone is very weak, so hopefully some courageous judges will be the ones to place the gray wolf back on the Endangered Species List. Please support Western Watersheds Project, the Center For Biological Diversity and the other groups who are already in court over the fate of the gray wolf.

    1. Jim Avatar

      You’re right on Ed, we need more judges who support the natural world.

  10. Keith Swenson Avatar
    Keith Swenson

    Wildlife control should not be left to the legislator. This is again, the government taking away responsibilities that should be left to scientific bodies, such as the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and wildlife researchers. The Idaho legislator will, by this act, force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to again step in and take reasonable action to hold wildlife in balance. As an apex predator, the grey wolf evolved in harmony with other wildlife for its role in helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Without the grey wolf, Idaho will be worse off and its wildlife and wild places diminished.

  11. Ann Avatar

    From reading this article, it sounds like it is taking wolf killing so far, that it will boomerang on Idaho because they have gone too far.

    1. cynthia brown Avatar

      I think it is and it shouldn’t because of the Greed of the
      ranchers not allowing the wolf to live in harmony with
      them and the enviroment they also allow other people’s
      opinion other than just locals

    2. cynthia brown Avatar

      Leave these wolves alone they are part of Hertiage and we
      take care of them. People are too eager to kill. One of
      these days we have Wolven on the prowl and no one can do
      anything about the Spirit World

  12. charles zimmer Avatar
    charles zimmer

    I have been following the plight of the wolf now for over 34 years. Where do people learn such reckless hate and fear of the wolf. This thinking process must be handed down from parents to children not unlike racial and other biases. This cycle must be broken if the wolf and other predators are to have a chance in these areas. Better education is probably the key. Unfortunately the prevailing culture in wolf country and other areas of the the United States is that opinions often take precedence over facts. There is also a wrapped sense of “doing good” by killing predators. How to get past that I don’t know.(again better education maybe)
    Even elected officials set an example eg. the governor of Montana in his senseless act of killing a radio collared Yellowstone wolf. How has this become ok in our society? How have the needs of the few (mostly ranchers and hunters)ended up driving our policies about wildlife management? It seems like its all about money. When the day comes that society appreciates the intrinsic value of wild natural areas and the wildlife that lives there we will then see a change. The politicians that promote this culture of killing will be voted out of office and a new set of leaders officials can set sensible wildlife policies based on science and facts not outdated and inaccurate opinions.
    I live in Florida and do not hunt at all(except occasionally with a camera). Although I live a thousand miles from wolf country I still wish for a world where the wolf can exist without harassment from humans. In Florida we have the panther. But that’s another story…

    1. Naomi Paula Lichtner Avatar
      Naomi Paula Lichtner

      I also do not understand how a few ranchers, using glorified statements with little actual impact, are allowed to control the situation and order massacres. The irony of the fact that they say wildlife must be killed, because it’s killing by wildlife is astounding.

  13. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    The usual suspects as interveners. They don’t have any science for backup, thankfully:

  14. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “But the USFWS has defended its delisting of gray wolves. In a letter to environmental groups, they said their decision was made using the best scientific data available and the delisting recognizes the successful recovery of an iconic species. Gray wolf numbers are estimated at 6000 in the Lower 48, and in some states, they are still protected under state law.”

    Yes, there has been some recovery but not nearly enough. But this decision does not address what comes after recovery, and I cannot understand how this reasoning is allowed to continue – especially with what’s going on in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – and the latest slaughter in Wisconsin, their complete ignoring of DNR hunting rules and regulations, which were pretty generous already.

    I don’t think SCI and NRA can do much now. These decisions by the individual states are going to set back to the beginning all of the ‘recovery’ progress that people have worked so hard for, all gone.

  15. Ed Avatar

    When the “letter” was written by US Fish & Wildlife in early Feb. 2021, Deb Haaland had not even been confirmed as Sec. of Interior. Let’s hope she puts the wolf back on the Endangered Species List – the science backs her up.

    Note also: A Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said the letter was only a “routine response” acknowledging environmentalists’ notice of intent to sue. “The letter did not constitute ​a review of the delisting determination,” spokeswoman Vanessa Kauffman said by email.

    President Joe Biden has directed the Interior Department to reconsider the Trump-era delisting decision.

  16. Beeline Avatar

    Montana governor (I use the term loosely) Gianforte signed a bill last Friday making it legal for private groups to pay for wolf eradication. It is essentially a return to bounty hunting. Several bills are still in process which would make it legal to hunt wolves at night with night vision googles etc..

    They justify such laws to support livestock producers and hunting guides. Republicans support a form of raw and evil capitalism at its worst. Scientists have been marginalized and are completely out of the picture. Even the game managers here in Montana are shaking their heads.

    It is pretty obvious that the entrenched republican air heads will destroy the wolves and the other wildlife species, especially those that do not readily bring in the dollars. So, the culture of brutality and killing continues.

  17. Edward Heisel Avatar
    Edward Heisel

    Disgusting. Time to put them back on the list. These retrograde state legislators cannot be trusted. It’s heartbreaking to see so Americans still harboring views that prevailed in the 1850s.

  18. WM Avatar

    From the article:

    “If S.1211 were to pass, it would put further pressure on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Idaho gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, as well as undermine the agency’s rationale for nationwide wolf delisting.”

    The first part of this sentence makes no sense. Congress passed the delisting for ID, MT, parts of eastern OR, WA and UT, if I recall correctly, by adopting as a statute, in a budget rider, the ESA delisting rule of USFWS. Thus, even if USFWS were to change its rule back to a listing in any of these aforementioned geographically delisted areas, it would still require an act of Congress to put them back on the ESA in those areas where statutorily delisted. What am I missing? I doubt such a statutory removal is in the works, or if it was, would pass. Even Senator John Tester (D-MT) wouldn’t go for it and hope to survive politically in his home state he was an author of the rider. state.

    As for the other areas where wolves were recently delisted nationally by USFWS rule adoption, including WY (which was not included in the 2011 rider because their plan was not approved at the time and they had a court order against delisting), that could change because the rule is not memorialized in a federal statute and is subject to legal challenge, which is currently in litigation.

    Query, will USFWS be required to relist wolves nationally except the geographic area covered by the rider, even in the Great Lakes area (MN, MI, WI) where those states believe the wolf population has recovered and can be managed by those states?

    1. cynthia brown Avatar

      the wolves should be relisted not the oppoiste.We need our
      wildlife and wolves are part of our hertige and need to be
      left alone

    1. cynthia Avatar

      Leave these wolves alone

  19. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Low- and highlights:

    “Supporters say the changes could help reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150, alleviating attacks on cattle and sheep. The Idaho Cattle Association said it supports the measure because it allows the free-market system to play a role in killing wolves.”

    I know that the casual use of the word ‘decimate’ gets criticized; but surely this must qualify? It cannot and should not stand – it should shock anybody. Free-market system?

    “According to the plan, if Idaho’s wolf population fell to 100, there is a possibility the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could resume management of the predators in the state.”

  20. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “The bill would allow hunters to target wolves by use of airplanes, helicopters, ATVs, and snow machines. It would allow baiting, night hunting, trapping, and snaring wolves on private property, and the hunting of newborn pups and nursing mothers on private land. Additionally, hunters could purchase an unlimited number of tags for killing the wolves.”

    Again, this isn’t what anyone had in mind when the states claimed to be able to ‘manage’ wolves. It is past time for F&W to get involved. And it was predictable.

    1. cynthia Avatar

      No this isn’t the way to manage these wolves Iam sure
      there are better ways. Please leave them alone and let them live out their lives in peace. Maybe the ranchers and
      others should change places with them and see what it is like to be chased shot at and poinsed. I bet they won’t like it

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine


  21. Naomi Paula Lichtner Avatar
    Naomi Paula Lichtner

    Received the email from several non-profit conservation organizations to send a comment. Knew it wouldn’t matter. Sadly I was right. Totally expected, unjustified & a brazen exhibition of their brutality that these sadistic humans view as a source of pride.

    We are just going to go right back to 1850.


Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox