Wolves, a controversial animal in western states, have just been given a death warrant in Idaho. Last week, the Idaho Senate approved a plan to kill up to 90% of the state’s wolves.
Senators were overwhelmingly against the wolves, voting 26-7 for their near annihilation. “These wolves, there’s too many in the state of Idaho now,” said Republican Idaho Senator Mark Harris during a Senate debate. “We’re supposed to have 15 packs, 150 wolves. We’re up to 1,553, was the last count, 1,556, something like that. They’re destroying ranchers. They’re destroying wildlife. This is a needed bill.” Harris sponsored the bill, which is now moving to the State House of Representatives.
The advocacy group Living with Wolves puts the population figure at only 900. “For a keystone species and native wild animal of paramount importance to Idaho ecosystems, if passed, this bill will mean that Idaho’s 900 wolves will be killed without limit, at any time, by anyone without the need to buy a hunting tag, or the need to report the wolves they kill, by any legal means,” said Garrick Dutcher, a program and research director at Living With Wolves, in a statement in February. “The small list of other species in Idaho that are managed by this designation include skunks, raccoons and coyotes, each of which likely number in the tens of thousands of animals, not 900.”
The bill will allot an extra $190,000 to Idaho’s Wolf Control Fund to put out contracts on wolves, bringing the budget up to $590,000 in state funds. Hunters will be allowed to kill as many wolves as they can.
Historically, Americans have had a difficult time living with wolves. While gray wolves used to live all over Idaho, early European settlers began persecuting and poisoning wolves almost as soon as the settlers arrived in the region. By 1974, wolves were declared endangered in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act. In 1995, they were reintroduced to Idaho. They have been breeding, and driving ranchers mad by preying on their sheep and cattle, ever since. Gray wolves were delisted from the U.S. endangered species list in 2020. That same year, Idaho Wildlife Services confirmed 156 instances of wolves killing livestock.
Image via Marcel Langthim