Brian Merchant,
August 31, 2009

Starting tomorrow, the gray wolf is about to be hunted for the first time in decades. The Obama administration removed the wolves from the endangered species list last March. And unless a federal judge decides to halt the hunt and reopen the question of whether the species is threatened, the gray wolf hunt starts tomorrow in Idaho–and hundreds of wolves will be killed. There are now some 1,640 gray wolves in the wild, living in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Federal officials say that number is large enough to constitute a full recovery, and that the wolves no longer need protection. Wildlife conservationists think otherwise. From the New York Times:

Wildlife advocates cite several reasons for wanting to stop the hunt. They say that the state plans do not have enough protections, that hunting will prevent the wolves from roaming the Northern Rockies freely enough to preserve genetic diversity and maintain access to the proper habitat.

They’d like to see a steady population of between 2,000-5,000 wolves before any sort of organized hunting begins. And especially given the low-seeming number of some 1,600 wolves, I have a problem with how these numbers stack up from Idaho’s wolf hunt plans: (Stats from the NY Times)

-The limit of wolves to be legally killed in Idaho this season is 220.

-6,000 hunters in Idaho have bought licenses to hunt gray wolves.

-“Idaho game officials say they would like to have a little more than 500 wolves in the state, though the official plan calls for at least 150.”

All told, that to me looks like a recipe for mismanagement. A smaller hunt (with a target of 75 wolves to be killed) is set to take place in Montana, starting September 15th.