Missoula Story of the Week: Wolf Hunting in Montana


There is perhaps no other animal in the history of the West that has stirred as much controversy as the wolf.

Montana’s recent past with the protection and subsequent reintroduction of wolves has been even more contentious.

The growth in the state’s wolf population led to its removal from the endangered species list last year allowing hunting of the animal in Montana. This move sparked several lawsuits by environmental groups advocating the continued protection of the predator.

Despite last fall’s hunting season in which, according to a recent Missoulian article, 166 wolves were removed by hunters, Montana’s wolf population increased from 566 in 2010 to 653 in 2011.

The increase has pushed Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to consider looser restrictions on the state’s hunting regulations of the species.

Officials may be looking at the more successful hunt that occurred in Idaho last fall where hunting restrictions are less restrictive and include trapping.

A Montana hunter at sunset

Idaho wildlife management seeks to reduce their number of wolves “from an estimated 1,000 animals to as few as 150 through a combination of rifle hunting, trapping, snaring, and other lethal control actions” according to a Huffington Post report.

While the Montana wolf population did increase, advocates for the wolf see the delisting of the species as a threat to the animal’s recovery. In a failed attempt to halt the wolf hunts last fall, conservation groups filed an injunction with the Ninth Circuit Court trying halt the fall harvest.

Environmental groups fear the wolf population is still in danger and not capable of sustaining itself without protection from hunting. James “Jay” Tutchton, an attorney speaking for WildEarth Guardians, is quoted in a CBS news story stating that “the longer the hunting season goes on, the more risk to the population in total.”

The controversial saga of the west’s wolf population will almost certainly continue no matter what future management decisions are made. It is also undeniable that the animal’s presence will remain a controversial point of contention.


Each week, Tom Diddel recaps the week’s most talked-about story in Missoula. Visit the Make it Missoula News & Opinion section for more talk of the town.


Tom Diddel has lived in Missoula on and off for nearly thirty-eight years. He enjoys skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Montana and is currently working as a Freelance Writer and a Para-Educator.