The latest in the gray wolf saga sees the Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Society of the United States suing for a final answer on controversial hunting laws.
Both groups are asking Montana’s U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to order federal officials to make a final decision – and they’re doing so via lawsuit. Alongside fellow wildlife advocates, officials from both organizations resorted to suing Tuesday after the federal government missed a crucial deadline. And protections for gray wolves across the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains hang in the balance.
The deadline should have been decided by June 1, and would’ve decided if protections to gray wolves should be restored. But no decision came.
The war over wolf conservation has raged since the Trump Administration removed endangered species protections for the iconic predators during his sole term in office. Republican-led states capitalized in the wake, making it easier to hunt and kill gray wolves.
But the Biden administration’s preliminary findings last September found that protections for wolves may need to be restored. Increased hunting in both Montana and Idaho showed immediate impact on wolf packs across their Rocky Mountain range. If gray wolves remain unprotected, the U.S. risks wiping these predators out entirely; a fate we’ve been on the brink of several times before.
The War of the Wolf
In the 19th and 20th centuries, government-sponsored trapping, poisoning, and hunting eradicated the wolves across the majority of the U.S. By 1930, gray wolves were completely exterminated from American habitats they’d occupied for millennia. Their U.S. presence was reduced to zoos and conservation rescues, and the wild wolf became a myth of a bygone era.
Removing a keystone species from ecosystems always proves detrimental. Prey animals like deer, rodents, and other smaller predators flourish in the absence of predators, and the results can be catastrophic.
To combat this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would reintroduce gray wolves to the northern U.S. Rockies towards the end of the 20th century. With their resurgence, however, came the flipside of the coin: attacks on ranches, farms, and homesteads by wolf packs seeking out easy prey: pinned livestock.
These predatory attacks are not daily occurrences. But they are part of a struggle mankind has been locked into since the dawn of our species. Despite domesticating wolves into modern dogs, the predators remain man’s most feared competition. It’s engrained in our DNA. It’s part of who we are.
And their reintroduction to America has been highly successful. Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho have become wolf strongholds once again. Greys are spreading, too; re-expanding into areas they once thrived like Oregon, Washington, and even California.
America’s Battle Over the Gray Wolf Continues
When asked to comment on this latest lawsuit, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Vanessa Kauffman declined comment to outlets like FOX NEWS.
The outcry by wildlife officials and advocates remains warranted, nonetheless. Republican governors of both Idaho and Montana signed laws in 2021 that expanded gray wolf hunting entirely. Under their new legislation, the species sees slaughter in a multitude of ways (and places) that had been off the table for decades.
And the impact was immediate. Wolves met their end in droves within Yellowstone National Park and outside park borders. Similar incidents in Michigan and elsewhere were unprecedented.
The response by wildlife biologists, officials, and advocates has been fierce. Tuesday’s lawsuit is the latest move on the chessboard determining the species’ fate. How the gray wolf’s King topples is now in the hands of the federal government.