Did We Only Bring Wolves Back So We Can Kill Them Again?

Photo of gray wolf closeup


Wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s. But in 2011 the government began stripping their protection under the Endangered Species Act, which transfered "management" to the states. By 2019 well over 5,000 wolves had been slaughtered in just seven states. Now the entire species is teetering on the brink of losing federal protection across the nation. Help us stop this tragedy!

Wolves' Future: Protection or Slaughter?

Introducing Our Film, "The Imperiled American Wolf"


Wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s when they gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Today the American wolf is again in grave danger.

Since President Obama removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in April 2011 and turned management of these majestic animals over to state wildlife agencies, about 5,000 wolves have been senselessly slaughtered by sport hunters and trappers alone in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan (see sport kill totals in sidebar at right). 1,141 of these wolves were killed during the 2012-13 season alone. This "kill tally" does not include the scores of wolves slaughtered by poachers and federal and state predator control programs.

The situation is now dire, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to remove protections for wolves across nearly the entire country. This will be disastrous for gray wolf recovery.

Our film, "The Imperiled American Wolf," explains the reasons wolves cannot be successfully managed by state wildlife agencies: not only do their methods ignore the core biology of how wolves hunt and breed, but their funding depends on hunting and trapping fees. In fact, current wolf management may actually lead to wolves' demise. Predator Defense and this film make a bold call for federal relisting of these important apex predators as endangered species.

The war being waged against wolves is senseless and tragic, and it is up to all of us to speak out now on their behalf. Read more about how the war is playing out in different parts of the country below. Better yet, take the steps listed below to stop the slaughter.

Wolf Slaughter Could Spread Nationwide, As Delisting Proposed in Lower 48 States

On June 7, 2013 the Obama administration proposed removing gray wolves from federal protection in the remaining states where they are still covered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  


What does this ruling mean?  In 2011 and 2012 wolves were delisted in five of the states that had managed to establish significant populations--Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's new proposal would allow all other states in the lower 48 to establish wolf hunting and trapping seasons with the prospect of killing any wolves that might migrate in from neighboring states.  This would essentially preclude the establishment of any significant wolf populations in the remaining states.  

The Obama administration has specifically and relentlessly targeted the American wolf.  First, under Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, wolf populations that were thriving were delisted and put under state control where hunters and trappers systematically and indiscriminately have begun to kill down their populations, fragmenting packs and destroying the social cohesion essential to pack survival.  Approximately 25 percent of those wolves have already been killed since the 2011 delisting.  

Now one of the first actions under Obama's new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, is to propose removing protection from wolves in all the remaining states, with exception of Arizona and New Mexico where federal protection for the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies, will continue.  The same forces that have driven the political decision to delist wolves across the U.S.—ranching and hunting interests—are responsible for the pathetic failure to protect and restore the Mexican wolf.  The reintroduced wolves there have been repeatedly and illegally poached by hunters and ranchers, leaving only 73 alive.

The final ruling to delist wolves nationwide is expected in 2014.  The required public comment period was extended through Dec. 17, 2013. During this time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was to review and address concerns of the public and other interested parties.  Public hearings were also requested and held.

A WORD TO THE WISE: Don't expect a fair deal from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Their delisting proposal gives new meaning to the expression "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

The political takeover of what should be scientific decision making, as required by the Endangered Species Act, is epitomized by the bogus process being used by USFWS to determine the status of the gray wolf and whether the species is to be protected federally. Read more in Salon.com article, "Is the far right driving gray wolves to extinction?"

The process used by the FWS boils down to back-room deal-making between federal and state fish and game managers.  Does this sound like science driven decision making? 

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility deserves credit for persistently digging into the process used by the USFWS to come up with their proposal to delist the gray wolf. Their work has exposed the process to be based on politics and economics, not science.  Read about the trumped up decision-making process called "Structured Decision Making." 

Not only was the delisting proposal itself strongly biased, the peer review of the proposal required by the ESA was also found to be a stacked deck.  A private contractor hired by the the USFWS to conduct the peer review was directed by USFWS to eliminate scientists who had sent a letter opposing wolf delisting.  Read August 15, 2013 New York Times editorial, "Wolves Under Review."

Independent Peer Review Panel Determines Government's Wolf Delisting Proposal Is Based on Outdated and Flawed Science

Spring 2014 - Believe it or not, it's still possible that conservation science, not political science, will determine the future of America's imperiled gray wolf. This means there is still hope the wolf may be able to continue to recover and expand its range into land where the species once roamed and called home.

The reason for hope is two-fold: Not only has USFWS received over a million comments on their ill-advised proposal to remove protections for wolves nationwide, but in February 2014 a scientific peer review panel rejected their proposal. 

What happened was USFWS canceled the first peer review in the wake of the scandal exposing their biased methodologies (as mentioned above). Then the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at U.C. Santa Barbara took over peer review of the delisting proposal and provided a fair, professional, and scientific analysis. The reviewers in this independent panel unanimously decided that wolf delisting is not supported by the best available science and that removing protections would be premature. The NCEAS peer review report exposes the shoddy work and bias toward hunting and livestock interests behind the USFWS delisting proposal.

As a result, USFWS opened an additional 45-day public comment period that ran February 10-March 27, 2014. Countless people submitted comments, telling USFWS they knew their initial study was flawed and taking them to task for not operating in good faith with the public by willfully ignoring, discounting, and in some cases misrepresenting the best available science.

ACT NOW! Please speak up for wolves. Here's what you can do:

1. Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at (800) 344-9453, or write them at www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm.

2. Contact your federal representatives (Senate and House).

3. Contact the Interior Secretary: (202) 208-3100, feedback@ios.doi.gov, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

4. Sign on to the Relist Wolves petition.

5. Expand our reach by making a contribution. Any amount truly helps.

We'd like to extend a special thanks to Congressmen Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA), along with the 53 other federal representative cosigners, who asked USFWS to keep ESA protection for wolves. We have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship with Representative DeFazio for over two decades and greatly appreciate his dedication to exposing the abusive operations of the USDA Wildlife Services' lethal predator control program.

Removal from Federal Endangered Species List Spells Doom for American Wolves

On April 15, 2011, when President Obama signed the federal budget into law, he also signed the death warrants for hundreds of wolves. Montana Senator Jon Tester had added a last-minute wolf-killing rider to the budget bill that removed wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act and prohibited further judicial review. As a result, conservation interests are no longer able to legally intervene.

Never in the history of the Endangered Species Act has a species been delisted because of politics. Wildlife management and politics have hit a new low and established a dangerous precedent. Now management of wolves is left to states, and already state managers are opening hunting seasons on wolves who have just managed to gain a toe hold and reoccupy territory from which they were extirpated by ranching and agricultural interests just a few decades ago.

Wolf management has swung full circle in 50 years from extermination to recovery, and now back again. Free roaming packs of wolves in America will be lucky to survive, much less thrive, anywhere outside of the national parks, where they are protected.  Hunters and trappers are gaining access to those wolves as well, by lying in wait for them when they cross the park boundaries, as has happened in Montana.

Please read the following for more details:

In Wake of Delisting, Wolf Slaughter Continues Relentlessly; States Nationwide Set Hunting and Trapping Seasons

The "war on wolves" is rapidly spreading across America.  More aggressive hunting and trapping seasons are slated in states where wolves are already delisted.   In anticipation of nationwide delisting, other states are amping up anti-wolf actions in preparation for killing seasons. Please act now to stop this travesty

Each state is using both of their two wildlife decision-making bodies—the state legislature and the fish and wildlife commission—to put wolf-killing laws and regulations into place.  Ranching and hunting interests historically dominate state commissions and legislatures, so the playing field is not level.  It is therefore no surprise that state wildlife management decisions are based on political special interests, as opposed to science.

Utah and South Dakota Prepared to Set Wolf Seasons, Even without Established Populations
Utah and South Dakota do not have established wolf populations, but that has not stopped state lawmakers from moving bills in preparation for killing seasons.  South Dakota has reclassified wolves from "protected" to "varmint" status, meaning they will have no protections and will be treated like rodents.  Part of the state's population was included under the Great Lakes wolf delisting, the remainder will lose protection when/if the feds delist the entire species nationally. 

Like South Dakota, Utah is racing to get ready to kill wolves in anticipation of national delisting, but the sought after status there is "game animal." In the small northern corner of South Dakota where wolves lost protection when Northern Rockies wolves were delisted, no wolves are permitted to become established.

In Northern Rockies, Loss of Federal Protection Leads to Thousands of Dead Wolves

IDAHO - Since wolves lost federal protection in 2011, Idaho has become the national poster child for wolf slaughter. In fact it is the biggest wolf-killing state in the Lower 48.

Before delisting Idaho had the largest wolf population in the Rockies, at approximately 1,000. Hunters and trappers killed over 1,500 between April 2011-April 2016. Hundreds more have been killed by government and private sources for "damage control." And Idaho's governor wants to bring the total wolf population down to 150, a scientifically egregious and socially heinous goal. Read more

Idaho wolf tags sell for a bargain at just $11.50, with 5 hunting and 5 trapping tags allowed per hunter, no quotas in much of the state, and very few hunting restrictions.  For more details, visit Idaho Fish and Game.

At present, wolves in Idaho are not able to perform their essential ecosystem services as apex predators. They are under such tremendous pressure from federal agents gunning them down from helicopters—let alone hunters and trappers—that they are performing almost no ecosystem services at all. They are living in social chaos and running for their lives. This must stop.

On June 1, 2016 we filed suit with five other groups to stop the federal government's illegal and scientifically egregious slaughter of wolves in Idaho. Our suit saught to halt all federal wolf control and killing activities being performed in Idaho until the agency doing the killing—USDA Wildlife Services— completed an updated, valid Environmental Impact Statement. The suit declared that Wildlife Services had not only completely ignored the best available science, but also failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. This case marks an important first step—going after the federal government's ecological misbehavior.Read press release | Legal complaint

Attorneys from Advocates for the West and Western Watersheds Project represented us and the other co-plaintiffs, who included WildEarth Guardians, Friends of the Clearwater, and Center for Biological Diversity. This case was in good company, joining the 2015 Washington lawsuit, which we won, and an Oregon lawsuit, filed in February 2016.

While we did not prevail in the 2016 Idaho lawsuit, we have another one pending in 2018. Stay tuned...

MONTANA - Montana is fast becoming one of the most wolf-aggressive states in the nation. A total of 1,036 Montana wolves were slaughtered by hunters and trappers between April 2011-April 2016. Both their legislature and their wildlife commission have actively worked at liberalizing wolf killing by increasing the length of the kill season, allowing the first wolf trapping season (which permits up to three wolves to be killed per trapper), and no longer imposing a statewide kill limit. Now into their fifth killing season, Montana has killed 209 wolves half-way into the 181-day season. 

In 2013 hunters and trappers even waited outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park to kill protected wolves, including some wearing GPS collars being studied by scientists within the park.  Among those wolves killed was the alpha female of the famous Lamar Canyon pack who was well known to and photographed by tourists.  The outcry resulted in a temporary hunting/trapping closure which was quickly overturned by the courts, and finally a law was passed making boundary areas officially open to hunting and trapping.  More legislation is moving rapidly to reduce restrictions to all predator hunting and to allow extreme wolf killing practices, such as the use of snares, electronic calls, and even the skinned carcasses of pack members as bait. For more details, read these articles:

Learn more about how Montana has ignored science to support bad wolf management decisions and sign the petition to Montana's governor to help their wolves. Details on Montana wolf hunting policies are available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website.

WYOMING - WYOMING is no longer hunting wolves...for the moment anyway. Thanks to a lawsuit, wolves are now back under endangered species protection after a federal judge ruled that the state’s wolf management plan was inadequate and unenforceable. Pro-hunting groups and the state wildlife department fought the decision. They lost. And wolves won...for now.

Wolves had previously lost federal protection in Wyoming in September 2012, thanks to the urging of the Obama administration. In spite of the fact that Wyoming ranchers lost only 26 cows to wolves (out of a total of 1.3 million head of cattle in the state), it is not surprising that Wyoming agriculture special interest groups are controlling wolf management decisions. 

By July 12, 2014 a total of 148 Wyoming wolves (over a third of the population) had been killed. This includes as many as 10 wolves killed in 2012 when they strayed from the protected boundaries of Yellowstone National Park where they were being studied. It is likely many more Yellowstone wolves will be ambushed by Wyoming hunters this season.


For further information visit the Wyoming Fish & Game Department website.

Midwest Gray Wolves Placed Back Under Endangered Species Protection

Dec. 19, 2014 - The holiday season has trumped the killing seasons for wolves in the Midwest!

A real gift of life arrived in a legal package for wolves in the Great Lakes states where a coaltion of humane organizations triumphed in a lawsuit to stop the killing of wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The judge found the 2012 federal delisting of wolves to be "arbitrary and capricious" in those states and reinstated federal protection for them under the Endangered Species Act.

We hope this ruling remains intact to allow the packs in those states to reestablish themselves and recover from the senseless assault waged by hunters, trappers and ranchers facilitated under the states’ management agencies.

History: Midwest Wolves Under Assault, 2012-14

In January 2012, wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin were placed under the control of state managers, with frightening results. You could see the true "sporting" nature of wildlife decision-makers at work in Michigan, where hunters hurried to start the state’s first wolf season in November 2013.  Midwestern wolf advocates took aim at hunters and trappers to prevent or mitigate wolf-killing seasons in the Great Lakes and finally prevailed in December 2014.

MINNESOTA - Minnesota's 3,000 wolves form the largest population in the lower 48 states.  As of Dec. 12, 2014, three killing seasons in, 921 wolves had been killed. Minnesota hunters and trappers had already exceeded their total 2014-15 kill quota of 250 by 22 wolves after only 28 days of the 78-day season. Minnesota allows traps, snares, baiting and electronic calling. Read more on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website

Because Minnesota's wolf population has declined 25 percent since 2009, the initial wolf kill quota was cut by 50 percent for the second two seasons. In spite of efforts to slow the killing, the newly established quotas were reached and significantly exceeded before the seasons' end.  

Activists are rallying for Minnesota wolves. In past years bills have been introduced to establish a five-year moratorium on the wolf hunt.  We hope 2015 will be the year for successful bill passage. Howling for Wolves, a Minnesota advocacy organization, is largely responsible for this remarkable effort.  KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!

WISCONSIN - Wisconsin's aggressive hunting and trapping seasons took a toll on their wolf population, which was estimated at 850 before delisting. As of Dec. 12, 2014, Wisconsin hunters and trappers had killed a total of 528 wolves in the less than three years since delisting. The kill quota, which was reduced from 275 to 150 for this year's killing season, has already been exceeded by four "extra" dead wolves. It is unclear whether any of the wolves were killed by dog hunting, which began four days before quota was reached and the season closed.

Wisconsin is the only state where wolves are hunted with packs of dogs.  A bill to prohibit the use of dogs to hunt wolves was introduced and supported by advocacy groups in 2012.  A legal battle around the extreme practice of pitting dogs against their wild ancestors has waged since the wolf hunt began, and it is not over yet. Read more about Wisconsin's use of dogs for hunting wolves.

Additional information is available on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.

MICHIGAN - Good news! As of Nov. 25, 2014, Michigan's wolf season was placed on hold, hopefully for the entire 2014-15 season, but at the very least until after the November election when Michigoans will have chance to vote on a referendum overturning wolf hunting.

The background here is that dirty politics had kept wolf killing going in Michigan in spite of public opposition, but it was challenged and exposed by a dedicated group of activists.  In 2012, after 40 years of federal Endangered Species Act protection, the wolf population of Michigan was estimated at 700, with only four verified depredations on livestock by wolves in the state that year.  But the Michigan legislature passed a bill declaring wolves a "game animal" in preparation for establishing killing seasons. A coalition of activists quickly organized to launch a ballot measure to kill the wolf season and miraculously managed to collect 255,000 signatures to qualify the  referendum in a matter of weeks. 

Sadly, their efforts were undermined by anti-wolf legislators who quickly fast-tracked a bill that undercut the advocates' tireless work.  In May 2013 the governor happily signed the bill into law before the signatures could even be verified. The law allowed the Department of Natural Resources to establish game animal status, thus nullifying the voters' ability to challenge the hunt because decisions made by the governor-appointed commission cannot be addressed or changed by citizens' initiatives.

But Michigan’s dedicated activists met this challenge by launching a second referendum to repeal the law and restore public input into what species are hunted and trapped in their state.  In doing so activists have discovered and exposed outrageous lies told by both legislators and wildife managers to further their wolf killing agenda.  Shockingly they also uncovered that one single rancher was responsible for claiming 80 percent of the livestock losses used as justification for the hunt, that he intentionally baited predators in with deer and cow carcasses, and that he has received thousands of dollars in compensation for his claimed losses. 

In spite of the unbalanced and biased political arena, controlled by agricultural and hunting interests, the truth and facts are coming out thanks to the dedicated and smart advocates fighting on wolves’ behalf.  GO MICHIGOANS! 

By the end of 2013 and the close of the wolf season, 23 wolves had been killed by Michigan hunters.  We hope that was the last wolf season in Michigan.

Washington's Win for Wolves Unraveled; Slaughter Underway

In the summer of 2016 seven members of Washington's Profanity Peak Pack in remote Colville National Forest were killed, due to an irresonsible rancher provoking predation and failing to adequately protect his cattle. True to biological reality, the more wolves the State killed, the more the wolves attacked cattle. For the full scoop, including some surprising "pro-wildlife" groups that were party to the unjust and unnecessary slaughter, watch our provocative film, "The Profanity Peak Pack: Set Up & Sold Out."

Tragically, Washington failed to learn from experience that killing wolves INCREASES predation on livestock. So in July 2017, they resumed the slaughter --same rancher, new wolf pack (the Smackout Pack).


JULY 31, 2017 ALERT: The historical details below on wolf policy in Washington state will be updated soon.

The state wolf management plan in Washington does not yet permit hunting or trapping seasons, but ranchers have pushed their political clout, resulting in the killing of wolves in violation of both the state's wolf plan and the federal endangered species act. Wildlife agencies in Washington have issued kill orders without confirmation of wolf predation on livestock, and without confirmation that the required nonlethal controls were in place.

In late September 2012 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) aerial-gunned and shot to death the remaining members of the Wedge Pack. WDFW took this extreme action in response to complaints from a single rancher—a rancher who refused to cooperate with the WDFW and implement nonlethal controls and who publicly stated that he believes there is a conspiracy to force him to remove his cattle from public lands grazing. 

The WDFW killed the Wedge Pack in violation of Washington's Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.  The agency chose to ignore the state's plan, demonstrating the overbearing control agriculture special interests hold over state wildlife management. In 2013 an emergency rule went into effect allowing ranchers to kill wolves without a permit if they attack pets or livestock. This is also in violation of the wolf plan.

In July 2013 a coalition of conservation groups submitted a petition asking WDFW to codify the provisions of Washington State's wolf plan to make them legally binding. Surprisingly, in August conservation representatives met with WDFW and found the agency was open to codifying some portions of the plan into law. As a result, the conservation organizations withdrew their petition and are negotiating with WDFW.  We will see if WDFW and these organizations can work out a deal to codify the plan’s provisions without the threat of legal intervention. Once Washington's wolf plan is put into law, one way or another, it will not be so easy for wildlife managers to cater to political pressure from agriculture and hunting interests.

In Dec. 2015 a federal judge placed a hold on Washington's plan to kill more wolves, calling it illegal, highly controversial, and unlikely to work. But that hold was only temporary.

While no public wolf hunt is permitted in Washington, one Native American tribe has already established a hunting season. Read more on the Colville Tribe website.

Oregon Wolves Delisted; Killing Has Begun, Future Grim

Until recently, Oregon was thought of as a progressive state in terms of wildlife management. While wolves were driven out over 50 years ago and never reintroduced, as of March 2016 Oregon had a population estimated at just over 100, which was founded by wolves who migrated from Idaho and were allowed to coexist. This population recovery was considered a great start. And, contrary to what the agricultural interests expected, depredation on livestock decreased during the time Oregon's wolf population increased.

But Oregon’s “honeymoon with wolves” is now officially over. Because the population reached the benchmark established by the Oregon Wolf Plan, classifying it as Phase 2, special interests won the day. The Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) removed state endangered species protection on Nov. 9, 2015, circumventing both best-available science and public will. But the game is not yet over.

That decision was judicially challenged by conservation organizations arguing that the best available science was not used to make the delisting decision, as is required by Oregon’s endangered species law.

To further ensure delisting, political special interests in the livestock industry pushed a bill that confirmed the agency’s decision and beyond that precluded any judicial review of the decision. Collusion among legislators and Governor Brown, who vowed transparency in lawmaking, ODFW and lobbyists for the livestock industry to pass the bill was exposed, but not before the bill passed. Shortly after Governor Brown signed the bill the Oregon Department of Justice dismissed the legal challenge to delist largely because the bill made any challenge moot. The conservationists appealed the court’s dismissal and finally in July the court agreed to reinstate the legal challenge. That court date in August will again give Oregon’s wolves and public another fairer chance to see justice done, and hopefully result in the relisting of wolves under the state’s endangered species law.

The bad decision to delist wolves in Oregon has revealed more than a state wildlife agency that is unduly influenced by the livestock industry; it has exposed the depth and extent of political reach and influence of the agricultural industry over legislators all the way up to the Governor’s office and beyond to the nation’s capitol. Sound familiar? This is how wolves became delisted in the Northern Rockies in 2011. That was the first time political decision changed the endangered species act. Since then, politicians representing ag interests in other states have repeatedly tacked ryders onto federal appropriations bills seeking delisting of wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming.

The outcome of this case is extremely important. A decision to uphold the delisting makes the future for Oregon wolves look increasingly grim. If the current trend continues, Oregon could soon look a lot like Idaho and Montana, which have been wolf-slaughtering fields since 2011 with grisly sport hunting and trapping seasons.

Media Coverage on Oregon Wolf Delisting

Statements from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

Our Statements as Predator Defense


While Oregon's current wolf management plan does not permit hunting or trapping seasons, wolves can be killed if seen predating on livestock. In recent years ranchers have pushed their political clout and wolves have been killed in violation of both the Oregon wolf plan and the endangered species act. ODFW has issued kill orders without confirmation of wolf predation on livestock, and without confirmation that the required nonlethal controls were in place.

Then in March 2016 the ink had barely dried from Governor Kate Brown's signature on the delisting bill when wildlife agents in a helicopter gunned down a family of four from Oregon's first established pack, the Imnaha. They killed legendary 10-year old alpha male, OR-4, his mate, and two yearling pups for preying on livestock on a rancher's land.

Contrary to what the media and ODFW say, nonlethal methods were not used correctly, nor were all the appropriate methods attempted. Please read The Oregonian article below with this in mind. Then read our Facebook post for behind-the-scenes insight:


LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST WILDIFE SERVICES! We are co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in February 2016 that challenges Widlife Services' authority to kill any of Oregon's fledgling population of around 100 wolves. We are contending that Wildlife Services failed to explain why killing wolves on behalf of livestock interests should replace commen-sense, proactive and nonlethal alternatives, such as those already reflected in the Oregon Wolf Management Plan. We have joined a similar lawsuit against Wildlife Services that was filed in Idaho on June 1, 2016.


A History of State Managment of Wolves in Oregon

Wolves as a species were federally listed as endangered in the mid-1970s and became endangered in Oregon in 1987, when the state adopted its own Endangered Species Act. When Oregon wolves were federally delisted on April 15, 2011, their protection (or persecution) was placed under state control.

While the Oregon Wolf Plan is better than most, the change from federal to state management put its fledgling population at much higher risk because of the tremendous influence and power agricultural and ranching interests hold in Salem. These interests worked hard to weaken protection so they could kill wolves at their own discretion. The Oregon Cattleman’s Association and the Oregon Hunters Association have been at the forefront of state legislative efforts to override the management plan and allow the killing of wolves struggling to return.

Just hours after the state took over in 2011, ODFW killed two members of Oregon's first established pack.  ODFW then sought to kill two more members of this pack, but successful legal challenges resulted in all kill orders being put on hold.  It is very worth noting that, during the ensuing year while the killing was prohibited, the number of confirmed wolf depredations decreased significantly from a dozen to four, clearly demonstrating the benefits of nonlethal over lethal control methods.

A settlement reached at the end of May 2013 voided this court-ordered stay and now allows lethal control under certain circumstances. Ranchers are allowed to kill wolves without a permit if wolves are seen attacking or chasing livestock and the following conditions are met: (1) nonlethal practices are in place and have been documented for several months on the premises where predation is occurring, and (2) depredation is chronic, as defined by four confirmed incidents within a six-month period. 


The settlement arrangement actually proved to be very successful. Oregon’s wolf population grew, while depredation on livestock decreased. This kind of success set a precedent among all the states tasked with managing wolves and we hoped it would be recognized when the state decided whether or not to take wolves off its endangered species list. But alas, it was not. By November 2015 Oregon had officially caved to special interests, as detailed above.

Additional Information

For additional historical information on wolf delisting, please visit Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News website.