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New Laws Spell Doom For Wolves In Montana, Idaho, And South Dakota

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockJul 7 2021, 12:17 UTC
Wolf cubs photographed near their den in Montana. Image Credit: outdoorsman/Shutterstock.com

Wolf cubs photographed near their den in Montana. Image Credit: outdoorsman/Shutterstock.com

It is not a great time to be a wolf in many American states. It is particularly bad in South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, where new laws and regulations are expected to drastically reduce the population of wolves in those states.

In South Dakota, as of January 2021, hunters are allowed to shoot grey wolves all year round, just as they do with coyotes. The state has no permanent population of these animals, so the ones killed are usually unfortunates that wandered from other states.

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Not that the situation is safer in the adjacent state of Montana. In April, newly elected governor Greg Gianforte passed law SB0314 that would reduce the wolf population from the estimated 800 to 1,200 individuals to at least 15 breeding pairs. Gianforte was given a written warning after trapping and killing a Yellowstone wolf that wandered into the state. Gianforte had not completed a state-mandated wolf trapping certification course.

Aggressive culling law was also passed in Idaho in May. S1211 aims to kill 90 percent of the population of Idaho wolves from 1,500 individuals to just 150 members. One of the reasons claimed for this law to be necessary is the predation of wolves on livestock. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 130 cattle and sheep in Idaho were either confirmed or probably killed by wolves between July 2019 and June last year.

There are over 2 million cattle alone in Idaho. Country-wide statistics put that death by predation in adult cattle was less than 2.5 percent of the total back in 2015. The vast majority of that was done by coyotes, and not by wolves. The number of cattle lost to non-predatory causes in Idaho that year was about 40,000 animals. Culling wolves might also have counterproductive effects as weaker packs might look for easier prey to hunt: namely cattle.

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The Idaho fish and game commission opposed the law, which has liberalized trapping rules and even increased funding to hire professional exterminators that can shoot wolves from helicopters. The money to cover this comes from funds that were originally destined to the Department of Fish And Game.

The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park back in the 90s had a profound effect not only on the numbers of other animals but even on the landscape. Wolves began hunting elks whose number was doubled what it used to be. The herbivores began avoiding certain areas of the park leading to the recovery of willow, cottonwood, and aspen trees.


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