Endangered Species Act Protections Sought for Wolves as Idaho & Montana Plan to Kill Wolf Populations, Pay Contractors to Kill

Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Photo courtesy of Jim Peaco, National Park Service
Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Photo courtesy of Jim Peaco, National Park Service

On May 26, 2021, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Sierra Club petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to restore federal protection under the Endangered Species Act to gray wolves, after Idaho and Montana passed legislation aimed at drastically reducing wolf populations in those states.

Idaho’s and Montana’s legislative directives to kill wolves by nearly any means possible seriously endanger wolf populations in the West,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The US Fish and Wildlife Service should immediately return Endangered Species Act protections to these wolves to halt the impending statewide slaughters before it’s too late.

In May 2021, Idaho’s legislature passed Senate Bill 1211, allowing the state to hire private contractors to kill up to 90% of Idaho’s wolf population. It also allows hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves, run down wolves with ATVs and snowmobiles, and trap year-round on private land across the state.

Similarly Montana’s Senate Bill 314 could lead to the slaughter of more than 85% of the state’s wolves. The law pushes the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to authorize hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number of wolves through baiting, trapping and night hunts using night-vision scopes and spotlighting.

In addition, Montana House Bill 224 allows trapping-license holders to snare multiple wolves during the state’s trapping season, while House Bill 225 expands the wolf-trapping seasons by four weeks. Costs that wolf hunters and trappers incur during this prolonged season can be reimbursed under Senate Bill 267’s bounty program.

“The US Fish and Wildlife Service cannot stand by while Idaho and Montana order the extermination of wolves to appease the livestock industry and trophy hunters,” said Nicholas Arrivo, managing attorney for wildlife at the Humane Society of the United States. “The agency must follow its obligation to reinstate federal protections, or risk wolves disappearing from the West again.”

Because the recent Idaho and Montana legislation calls for the near eradication of wolves, the petition explains that returning wolves to federal management is both legally required and necessary for these wolves’ survival and recovery.

“As a keystone species, wolves play a critical role in maintaining the health of ecosystems and in reducing the spread of wildlife diseases such as chronic wasting disease,” said Bonnie Rice, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “These extreme and unethical laws in Montana and Idaho aimed at killing 85-90% of the states’ wolf populations will not only reverse 50 years of wolf-recovery efforts but will unravel entire ecosystems. Endangered Species protections must be reinstated for Northern Rockies wolves now before it’s too late.”

“Time and time again the federal government’s pandering to special interest has resulted in the unwarranted deaths of thousands of gray wolves due to state mismanagement of this species,” said Keisha Sedlacek, director of regulatory affairs at the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “It is time for the Biden administration to fulfill its commitment to using sound science to protect imperiled wildlife and act swiftly to reinstate federal protections for gray wolves, especially those in the Northern Rockies.”

In response to Idaho’s wolf-killing legislation, the Center earlier this month called on the US Department of the Interior and the Service to disqualify the state from receiving federal wildlife-management funding under the Pittman-Robertson Act. The Center also urged the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to show restraint in implementing the new wolf legislation or risk being disqualified for those federal funds.

In 2020 Idaho received more than $18 million in wildlife-management funding authorized by the Pittman-Robertson Act; Montana received more than $24.4 million.

The Endangered Species Act requires the Service to respond to today’s petition within 90 days.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office.

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