Over 1,500 wolves killed in the contiguous U.S. since hunting legalized

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
February 06, 2013



Wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.
Wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.

Hunters and trappers have killed approximately 1,530 wolves over the last 18 months in the contiguous U.S., which excludes Alaska. After being protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for 38 years, gray wolves (Canis lupus) were stripped of their protected states in 2011 by a legislative rider (the only animal to ever be removed in this way). Hunting and trapping first began in Montana and Idaho and has since opened in Wyoming, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

In Minnesota's first season of wolf hunting since the species lost their protected status, hunters and trappers killed 412 wolves, slight above the state's ceiling of 400 wolves. Before the hunting, Minnesota was estimated to have around 3,000 wolves, the most in any state other than Alaska which houses upwards of 7,000 wolves.

During Wisconsin's first season, hunters and trappers killed 117 wolves. Before its kick-off, it was estimated that 850 inhabited Wisconsin's forest, but the state has established a policy to cut down this population to just 350 wolves and keep it there.

In the western U.S., the total has hit just over 1,000 animals since hunting began in Montana and Idaho in late 2011, according to the Defenders of Wildlife. Three hundred and forty-five wolves have been killed in Montana in the last eighteen months, 582 in Idaho, and 74 in Wyoming.

Gray wolves were decimated by hunting, trapping, and poisoning throughout the 19th and early 20th Century, until the only survivors in the contiguous U.S. were in northern Minnesota. Wolves re-entered the western U.S. from the Canada, with packs moving into Glacier National Park before scientists began re-introduction efforts further south in Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Since then the highly resilient species has moved into Oregon, Washington, and California. Meanwhile, protection under the ESA allowed Minnesota's wolves to expand into Wisconsin and Michigan.

Michigan, which has an estimated population of 680 wolves, is now debating whether or not to open up a wolf season.

As top predators, wolves play a massive role in ecosystem health according to scientists. The re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park allowed forests to recover after decades of over-browsing by unafraid elk herds. Elk responded to the return of the wolf with what scientists dub "the ecology of fear": they stopped browsing along streams or out in the open, and instead spent more time in deep forests. The return of riverside bushes and trees improved songbird populations and allowed long-absent beavers to return. Shade from the burgeoning trees have cooled streams—leading to less evaporation—while beavers have created in fish habitat.













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (February 06, 2013).

Over 1,500 wolves killed in the contiguous U.S. since hunting legalized.

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