Wolf, © John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk / National Geographic Stock

Wolf Weekly Wrap-up

Court upholds delisting and wolf hunting – Wolves can be legally hunted in Idaho and Montana. Maybe you already knew that, since more than 500 wolves have already been killed by hunters and trappers so far this season. But until this week there was still a legal challenge contesting the hunts as well as the constitutionality of the budget rider Congress passed stripping federal protections for wolves. A group of environmental organizations (Defenders was not a party in the lawsuit) challenged Congress’ authority to delist a single animal under the Endangered Species Act by legislative fiat. Unfortunately, the court upheld Congress’ ability to do so, setting a very damaging precedent for other species Congress might someday try to delist. Read more coverage from the Associated Press in the Oregonian.

Living with wolves in Wyoming – Some sad news was reported in Jackson Hole, Wyoming yesterday. A family’s pet dog was seriously injured by one of the wolves that have been spotted on the outskirts of town. While wolves are generally skittish around humans, like other wildlife they can be a danger to unattended pets. As canines, wolves often perceive domestic dogs as rivals and may try to challenge them if they feel threatened. This tragic incident is an important reminder that dogs should always be kept on-leash in wolf country or kept inside. Residents should also secure pet food, garbage, and other items with a strong scent that could attract wolves to the area.

Wyoming Game and Fish is working to raise public awareness about living with wolves and other large predators. This month and next they will be hosting public seminars to help educate people on what to do if they encounter a wolf, bear, or cougar. Click here to learn more.

Learning to live with wolves is the only way to ensure a healthy, sustainable future for the species once the state takes over wolf management. Early this week, Wyoming issued draft hunting regulations that would allow a total of 52 wolves to be killed in the trophy game area in the western part of the state outside of Yellowstone National Park. There are about 230 wolves living outside of the park, the majority of which are located in the trophy game area. Wolves found beyond the trophy game area could be shot on sight without a license.

More surprises from Bitterroot elk study – Wolf opponents may have one less excuse to scapegoat wolves for the decline of select elk herds. A long-term study of elk mortality in Montana’s Bitterroot valley is finding that wolves take far fewer calves and cow elk than expected. According to a story in the Billings Gazette this week, researchers discovered that only one collared cow elk was killed by a wolf last year. One was killed by a cougar, and four died of other natural causes. Of the 97 elk calves that were tagged earlier this year, a total of 38 had died. Cougars killed 13, black bears killed four, and wolves killed four. While we can’t draw specific conclusions about the impact that wolves have on elk populations, it’s becoming clearer that they are just one piece of the puzzle.

The story behind the story – What really happened with wolf delisting last year? Chris Ketcham tells the whole sordid story for The American Prospect. He chronicles the special interest politics played by anti-wolf extremists in the hunting and ranching community that ultimately led to the delisting. It’s a long read, but well worth it to get the inside scoop on how it all went down.

Gray wolf in South Dakota? – It’s true. The AP reported this week that federal officials confirmed a wolf was shot in South Dakota a month and a half ago. Before that, the last confirmed sighting was 2006 when another wolf was hit by a car. Single wolves have often shown up in the Dakotas but there are no federal plans to restore wolves to this region.