Wildlife Groups Challenge Idaho's Wolf-Trapping Law

Two endangered species are also at risk.

The gray wolf or grey wolf
Gerald Corsi / Getty Images

More than a dozen wildlife groups filed a lawsuit against Idaho’s recent wolf-trapping legislation, saying the bill could also harm two federally protected species.

The lawsuit contends that “traps and snares are indiscriminate and are known to capture, injure, and kill non-target species at high rates, including grizzly bears and lynx.”

Grizzly bears and Canada lynx are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and share some of the same habitats as wolves.

As of July 1, Idaho updated its wolf-hunting regulations to create a year-round hunting season for wolves on private property. Previously, there was a ban on wolf hunting between April and August.

Hunters may now purchase an unlimited number of wolf tags. They can chase wolves from motorized vehicles and can use bait for trapping.

Wildlife groups reported that the expanded regulations would likely reduce Idaho’s wolf population by 90%. The legislation was passed with the belief that it would reduce attacks on livestock and increase the elk population.

According to a government statement, “Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said the Commission’s action provides a ‘meaningful balance’ that focuses on providing hunters and trappers with additional tools to address conflicts between wolves, livestock and other big game.”

Reported and Under-Reported Incidents

The lawsuit cites several incidents when other animals were harmed by wolf hunters. 

In 2020 two grizzly bears were killed in wolf snares in Idaho’s Panhandle region. In one case, a grizzly was found dead with a wolf snare wrapped around its neck and another around its front paw. In the second reported case, a hunter shot a grizzly believing it was a black bear. The animal had a wolf snare around its neck.

The suit mentions another incident by Idaho Fish and Game “sometime before 2016,” when staff members accidentally caught a grizzly in a foothold wolf trap while trapping wolves for research.

Since 2010, neighboring Montana has reported seven grizzly bears captured in traps set for wolves or coyotes. There have also been reports of grizzlies with toe and foot injuries.

Similarly, the suit notes that five lynx have been reported trapped in Idaho since 2011, including one in a wolf trap. In Montana, four wolves were trapped during that period, including one in a wolf trap.

“Because such incidents are under-reported, the number of grizzly bears and lynx captured by Idaho wolf trappers is likely much higher than these data indicate,” the filing says.

Advocates Weigh In

The new legislation has been filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Footloose Montana, Friends of the Clearwater, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Global Indigenous Council, the Humane Society of the United States, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, Sierra Club, Trap Free Montana, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch and Wolves of the Rockies.

Animal rights advocates have been outspoken on the topic.

“Experts agree that steel-jawed leghold traps and snares are inherently indiscriminate due to their design. There are innumerable examples of non-target animals being seriously injured or killed in traps set for other species," Nicholas Arrivo, attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, tells Treehugger. "We filed this lawsuit to protect federally threatened grizzlies and Canada lynx from the dangerous traps that will now litter their habitat year-round in the state.”

“It’s sickening that Idaho has approved what amounts to unregulated hunting and trapping in an effort to wipe out its wolf population,” said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Other animals, like federally protected grizzly bears and lynx, will be injured or die in these cruel traps and snares. The state’s disregard for all of their lives is outrageous and unacceptable.”

View Article Sources
  1. "United States District Court for the District of Idaho." Earth Justice.

  2. "Listed Animals." U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services.

  3. "Senate Bill No. 1211." Legislature of the State of Idaho, 2021.

  4. "2021-2022 Gray Wolf Hunting & Trapping Seasons & General Rules." Idaho Fish and Game, 2021.

  5. "Lawsuit Challenges Idaho Wolf Trapping Laws That Endanger Grizzlies and Lynx." The Humane Society of the United States, 2021.

  6. Phillips, Roger. "F&G Commission Amends Wolf Hunting and Trapping Seasons to Align with New State Law." Idaho Fish and Game, 2021.