Why it Matters: Despite being considered charismatic, wild, and mysterious to some people in our modern age, wolves are not fundamentally different from other wildlife species. It is imperative that states do not treat wolf management as the exception, but rather hold wolves and wolf management to the same science-based standards that have proven time and time again to be extremely successful in recovering species throughout the U.S. under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation submitted comments in both Colorado and Idaho in support of science-based state management of the gray wolf that follows the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
- Despite being relisted under ESA in 2022, the gray wolf remains a true conservation success story.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments in support of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s draft wolf plan as it takes a sensible approach to balancing the states ecological and cultural carrying capacity.
- CSF, along with 14 membership organizations of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project submitted a coalition letter in support of the Colorado’s Draft Wolf Restoration and Management Plan in addition to urging the Parks and Wildlife Commission to incorporate several additional action items not included in the original plan as drafted.
The recovery of the gray wolf in the lower 48 has proven to be one of the most contentious conservation success stories to date. Originally listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1970, the gray wolf was officially delisted in 2020 after wolf populations had reached more than 6,000 and there was significant scientific evidence substantiating that the species was no longer in need of ESA protections.
Despite this success, environmental, animal rights, and wolf advocacy groups staunchly opposed the delisting, making unfounded claims that the states were unfit to manage wolves and that the delisting decision would lead to drastic population decline and the potential extermination of the species. As a result of litigation, public uproar, and the propagation of a false but effective narrative, the gray wolf was relisted in 2022. Fortunately, exemptions were made for Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, where the gray wolf remained delisted, much to the frustration of wolf advocates.
Despite being grossly misrepresented by wolf advocates, state agencies are best equipped to make informed, science-based decisions regarding wildlife management through the regulatory process that provides ample opportunity for public input. State agencies are also provided more flexibility and nuance in balancing the social, biological, ecological, and economic factors that play significant roles in effectively managing gray wolves.
Despite the relisting of the wolf outside of the Northern Rockies, CSF continues to advocate for common sense, science-based state management of the species over frivolous and emotionally based ESA listing.
2023-2028 Idaho Gray Wolf Management Plan
On March 3, 2023, CSF submitted comments in support of the 2023-2028 Idaho Gray Wolf Management Plan as prepared by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game which takes a balanced approach to managing wolf populations well above recovery objectives as determined by the US Fish and Wildlife Service while taking into consideration both the states ecological and cultural carrying capacities.
As predicted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2009 delisting rule, the overpopulation of Idaho’s 1,300 wolves has resulted in reduced prey abundance as seen in areas with below objective ungulate populations (Panhandle, Lolo, Selway, Middle Fork, and Sawtooth) and chronic conflict with livestock. Since 2014, at least 299 livestock producers have experienced more than 1,291 verified losses to wolves. It is extremely likely that these verified losses represent only the minimum of total wolf depredations. Despite repeated adjustments to liberalize harvest in an attempt to mitigate conflict, Idaho’s high abundance of wolves has remained extremely resilient and continues to cause conflict in many parts of the state, further reducing the public’s acceptance of wolves on the landscape.
According to the USFWS 2009 delisting rule, 500 wolves is the for Idaho when taking into consideration suitable habitat, prey abundance, and human-wildlife conflict. The 2023-2028 Idaho Gray Wolf Management Plan as prepared by the IDFG is well poised to actively manage wolves in the state with a variety of tools and strategies to better align population numbers with what the USFWS identifies an ideal population size for the state.
Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan
On February 17, 2023, CSF along with 14 membership organizations of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project submitted a coalition letter in support of the Colorado’s Draft Wolf Restoration and Management Plan in addition to urging the Parks and Wildlife Commission to incorporate several additional action items not included in the original plan as drafted.
Action items highlighted in the letter included:
- Maintaining the identified management thresholds of minimum statewide wolf counts, not dependent on distribution across the landscape
- Providing an option for lethal removal when and where its appropriate
- Collect additional ungulate and hunter satisfaction data locally before wolf introduction
- Develop cost estimates for initial years of reintroduction and management immediately
- Prioritize habitat conservation, supporting healthy populations and connected, functional big game habitats in all future decisions
- Hold wolf management to the same science-based standards that have successfully recovered numerous other species in Colorado and throughout the U.S.
CSF will continue to engage on wolf policy at all levels and advocate for a science-based management approach of this monumental conservation success story.