Last March a plan was approved to lift the protections on endangered wolves in Idaho and Montana. Now because of a state-regulated wolf hunt the Rocky Mountain wolf population is being hunted and killed off at an alarming rate. On May 4, 2009 wolves were taken off the endangered species list and the states are introducing big game hunting regulations on the animals in an apparent attempt to land the animals right back into endangered territory.
In the past wolves were hunted out of fear and misunderstanding to the point of near extinction until they were put under protections and given a chance to re-populate. The states of Idaho and Montana, where it used to be illegal in some areas to not put poison on fence posts to kill the wolves, had come a long way towards restoring the feeble wolf populations of the Rocky Mountain regions until they decided to take a giant step back and open season on sport hunting for wolves.
The wolf population in these regions is barely back at a sustainable level and they are now offering tags to shoot the animals for fun, since not many people hunt the animals as a food source. There are only about 850 wolves in Idaho right now and the state is issuing 220 tags to hunters who claim that wolves are competing with them for elk. Some hunters are even claiming that wolves kill and maim elk ‘for fun’ and don’t eat the animal after they have taken them down. Although difficult to imagine that an idea like that is based in any form of reality it seems that, if it were true, it is only acceptable for bloodthirsty hunters to kill animals for fun and sport. When the wolves do it, it is evil and they need to be wiped out, when the hunters do it, it’s just a good time.
This disturbing backslide into the time when wolves and other animals were killed off on a regular basis without any regard to the eco-system is frightening for many who believe that nature will find a population balance for wolves. Many on the pro-hunt side of the argument believe that the wolf population is out of control and needs to be regulated, but wolves are a territorial animal that require large ranges and small packs to survive. There are only as many wolves as there is food to sustain them and considering that wolf sitings are rare and livestock casualties are not very high it is obvious that the population is sustainable. If we kill off a quarter of them every fall they will end up right back at the brink of extinction.