July 2021

States Are in a Wolf-Killing Frenzy; Federal ESA Protections Must Be Restored

Wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s, but they remain unrecovered according to top scientists. Disregarding the science, the federal government began stripping Endangered Species Act protections in 2011 and transferring management to the states. Read more This led to hunters and trappers killing over 8,000 wolves in seven states between 2011-2019 and all federal protections being removed in 2020. The multi-state killing frenzy kicked into high gear in 2021, when Wisconsin slaughtered 216 wolves in 3 days and Idaho and Montana passed laws to kill 85-90 percent of their wolves. Idaho's slaughter can legally begin July 1, with Montana's soon to follow.. We have spoken out since the start and are currently working with scientists and activists urging emergency ESA relisting. Join us in taking a stand.

Photos of wolves, call for emergency ESA relisting

2021 Wolf Highlights

The History: Removal from Federal Endangered Species List in 2011 Spelled Doom for American Wolves

Wolves were rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s when they gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. But on April 15, 2011, when President Obama signed the federal budget into law, he also signed the death warrants for thousands of wolves. This happened because Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) added a last-minute wolf-killing rider that removed wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in states that had managed to establish significant populations.

The reality was wolves had barely managed to gain a toehold and reoccupy territory from which they'd been recently extirpated by ranching and agricultural interests. They were not "recovered" by ESA standards. They did not occupy a significant portion of their historial range, and they did not meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's own conservation principles for recovery--the 3 Rs, which include resiliency, redundancy and representation across of range of ecological contexts. Tester's rider also prohibited further judicial review, which meant conservation interests were no longer able to legally intervene.

This 2011 "delisting" turned management of these majestic animals over to state wildlife agencies. State managers moved quickly to open hunting seasons on wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In subsequent years over 8,000 wolves have been senselessly slaughtered by sport hunters and trappers alone in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan--1,141 were killed during the 2012-13 season alone. These kill numbers do not include the scores of wolves slaughtered by poachers and federal and state predator control programs.

Never in the history of the Endangered Species Act had a species been delisted because of politics. Wildlife management and politics hit a new low and established a dangerous precedent. Wolf management has swung full circle in 50 years from extermination to recovery, and 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 also gained access to wolves by lying in wait for them when they cross the park boundaries, as has happened in Montana.

Please read the following for more details:

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

In early 2014 we had a special reason reason for hope that conservation science, not political science, would determine the future of America's imperiled gray wolves--that they would be able to continue to recover and expand their range into land the species once roamed and called home.

The reason for hope was two-fold: Not only did USFWS receive 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 a scandal exposing their biased methodologies. 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 was not supported by the best available science and that removing protections would be premature. The NCEAS peer review report exposed 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.

Watch Our Film, "The Imperiled American Wolf"


Our 2012 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 (details below).

ACT NOW! Five Ways You Can Take a Stand for Wolves

Idaho's horrifying legislation allowing the slaughter of 90 percent of their wolves goes into effect July 1, 2021, with Montana's legislation, which will allow the slaughter of up to 85 percent, to follow soon. We urge you to speak out for wolf protections today, requesting emergency reinstatement of federal wolf protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Here are five actions you can take to help restore wolf protections:

  • Contact The Honorable Deb Haaland, Secretary of the Interior. Call her at (202) 208-3100, email feedback@ios.doi.gov, or use the online form at bottom of page at https://www.doi.gov/contact-us. For inspiration, we encourage you to copy/paste and/or embelish on our sample letter and adapt it for the other recipients below.
  • Contact Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at (800) 344-9453, or write her at www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm.
  • Contact your federal representatives - Senate and House
  • Help boycott tourism in Idaho & Montana: Contact the tourism offices in both states. You can tell them you were planning to visit--to spend money on dine, lodge, recreate, and enjoy scenic views and wildlife in their state--but because of their horrifying laws to kill wolves you will be staying away and urging your friends to do the same. Or you could say you are a concerned citizen who is appalled by the barbaric slaughter of our vital apex predators under false pretenses and are urging all your connections to help boycott tourism in their states.
    - Contact Idaho Tourism Office
    - Contact Montana Office of Tourism
  • Expand our reach by making a contribution. Any amount truly helps and is greatly appreciated. Donate here

Sample Letter to Secretary Haaland

We encourage you to copy/paste/personalize the letter below and email it to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland via feedback@ios.doi.gov. Then adapt it as needed for the other recipients (contact details above). Keep in mind that unique messages are what get leaders' attention, so using your own words as much as possible will make the biggest impact.

Dear Secretary Haaland,

I am writing to request that you quickly reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies via your emergency listing powers as authorized in the ESA.

Emergency action is warranted, due to the significant risk to the well-being of the species posed by states bent on drastically reducing their wolf populations. Idaho's recently passed bill will allow them to kill up to 90% of their wolves, effective July 1, 2021, and Montana's legislation has paved the way to kill around 85%. Their planned actions will undo decades of work toward wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies and beyond.

Key pieces of science and fact are missing from these states' legislation allowing wolf slaughters. They ignore all the details that really matter, including:

  • Top scientists said the 2011 wolf delisting was flawed, as wolves were not recovered. They remain unrecovered to this day.
  • Killing wolves negates the vital role they play in healthy ecosystems, Wolves keep deer and elk on the move, which prevents overgrazing and allows the land to recover. They also take out sick, old and inferior deer and elk, while hunters do not. And that is only the beginning of the services they provide.
  • Elk and deer populations are not declining due to wolves. In fact, in Idaho and Montana they've been thriving.
  • Wolves cause a statistically insignificant number of livestock deaths; most deaths are caused by weather, disease, and poor husbandry. in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, where the majority of wolves live, predation is far less than one percent.
  • Wolves have exceptionally strong family bonds and depend on intact family units. Disruption of wolf packs can lead to increased predation on livestock.
  • Wolves and other predators do not need to be "managed," as their populations are self-regulating for a myriad of evolutionary reasons.
  • Wolves bring in millions in vital tourism dollars. Protecting wolves could be much more valuable to states in the long run.
  • The vast majority of Americans are not OK with bringing wolves back from near extinction only to kill them all over again.

These states' actions are inhumane and unscientific. Please direct the USFWS to establish science-based criteria founded in their own "3R" criteria for delisting: Resiliency, Redundancy and Representation. These are the essential attributes for a self-sustaining species that can be considered recovered and delisted.

Thank you very much for your attention to this vital issue.


[Your Name]

Insiring Letters from Citizens, Scientists and a U.S. Congressman

We believe you may find inspiration in some of the letters below: