The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kristine Akland,

Northern Rockies Gray Wolves Denied Endangered Species Act Protection

New Lawsuit to Protect Persecuted Wolves Is Likely


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today denied a listing petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and other wildlife conservation groups seeking federal protection for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that the Fish and Wildlife Service is turning a blind eye to the cruel, aggressive wolf-killing laws in Montana and Idaho,” said Kristine Akland, northern Rockies program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By denying protections to these beautiful creatures the Service is letting northern Rockies states continue erasing decades of recovery efforts.”

The petition sought to relist gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains under the Endangered Species Act. This would have stopped states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from allowing the widespread killings of wolves, which is currently allowed under state laws.

Idaho law lets the state hire private contractors to kill wolves, lets hunters and trappers kill an unlimited number of wolves and permits year-round trapping on private land. It also allows hunters and trappers to kill wolves by chasing them down with hounds and all-terrain vehicles. In 2022 and 2023 alone, Idaho hunters and trappers killed more than 560 wolves.

In Montana, wolf hunters and trappers can now use night-vision scopes and spotlights on private land, strangulation snares on public and private land, and bait to lure wolves. A single hunter can purchase up to 10 wolf-hunting licenses, and trappers have a bag limit of 10 wolves. That means someone who has both hunting and trapping tags can kill 20 of the animals.

Montana’s new laws also extended the wolf-trapping season by four weeks and established a bounty program to reimburse hunters and trappers for costs associated with killing wolves. Montana hunters and trappers killed 258 wolves during the 2022 harvest season and have already killed nearly 200 wolves in the 2023 harvest season, which runs until March 15.

Across most of Wyoming gray wolves are designated as predatory animals and can be killed without a license in nearly any manner and at any time. Wyoming hunters have legally killed numerous wolves within 10 miles of the border with Colorado, where wolves are finally returning to the state through dispersals and historic releases.

“Unlike the Service, we won’t stand idly by and watch as northern Rockies wolves are slaughtered year after year,” said Akland. “Wolves are an invaluable part of their ecosystems and deserve strong federal protections.”

The Center is considering a legal challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s denial of the listing petition.


Wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah lost federal protections through a congressional legislative rider in 2011. Following a court battle, wolves in Wyoming also lost federal protection in 2012. Since losing Endangered Species Act protection, wolves in the Northern Rockies have suffered widespread persecution.

In 2021 the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and Sierra Club petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to again protect gray wolves in the northern Rockies after Idaho and Montana enacted aggressive wolf-killing laws. The petition asked for immediate relisting of wolves under the Endangered Species Act, saying the new, destructive wolf-killing state laws made federal protection necessary.

In August 2022 wildlife conservation groups were forced to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to make a final decision on whether gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains warrant federal protection under the Act. The Service’s denial comes in response to a court-imposed deadline resulting from that lawsuit.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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