Field & Stream Online Editors

The future opportunity to hunt wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming would not automatically follow removal of wolves from the endangered species list if money for management becomes a problem between these states and the federal government. As of press time, all three states are expected to submit their plans for review to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in mid-November, and all three plans must be approved in toto before federal delisting can occur.

“If the states can present a management plan that will maintain [BRACKET “wolf”] numbers, we are more than ready to hand off the responsibility to them,” says Ed Bangs, the head of the wolf reintroduction project for the USFWS. “We want to see wolf management that includes hunting.” At least 10 breeding pairs have lived in each state for the past three years, satisfying a major criterion of delisting.

“One thing that could bring delisting to a halt, though, is the states’ request for additional federal money to manage the wolves if delisting occurs,” says Joe Fontaine of the USFWS’s Helena, Montana, office. “Michigan and Wisconsin are doing a very good job of managing their wolves without any federal money [BRACKET “beyond basic wildlife allocations”]. Why do Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming need extra federal money?”

The one proposal that most likely would not pass federal approval is Wyoming’s, heavily influenced by the livestock lobby, to consider wolves as trophy game animals in wilderness areas but apply a shoot-on-sight rule to them anywhere else, relegating them to varmint status. The USFWS would not comment on this, but such a plan would create a logjam in the delisting process. Montana’s plan recognizes wolves as “a native species…[BRACKET “to be”] integrated as a valuable part of Montana’s wildlife heritage.”

Idaho’s plan is similar.