The federal government removed the gray wolf from the endangered list in the Northern Rocky Mountains in 2011, essentially leaving wolves’ fates in the hands of state fish-and-game departments, hunters and ranchers. The predictable happened: hunting resumed, and the wolf population fell. In states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, an age-old antipathy to wolves flourishes, unchecked.
In Idaho, two recent developments have alarmed those who want to protect wolves and see them not as vermin, but as predators necessary for a healthy ecosystem.
First was the hiring, by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, of a hunter to travel into federal wilderness to eliminate two wolf packs. The reason: wolves kill elk, and humans want to hunt elk. Normally the agency would just rely on hunters to kill the wolves, but because the area where these packs roam — in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness — is remote, the agency decided it would be more efficient to bring in a hired gun. A photo last week in The Idaho Statesman showed the hunter, Gus Thoreson, astride a horse, with three pack mules, looking like a modern-day Jeremiah Johnson.
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