But even so, inhumane wolf hunts are picking up steam, as state laws empower hunters to use whatever means necessary to kill off wolves. In Idaho, for example, hunters have free rein to use traps, hounds, and vehicles to kill up to 90% of the state’s wolf population.
Given the close connection between humans and wolves, it is critical to stop these hunts and do everything we can to protect these animals. As the ancestors of modern-day dogs, wolves helped early humans survive and form civilizations. In early societies, wolves served as hunting partners and slowly evolved into our closest companions. Together, early humans and wolves shared food and kept each other warm around the fire.
Somewhere between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago, these wolves evolved into the domesticated modern dogs we know and love today. Though it’s hard to imagine, even chihuahuas were once wolves. In fact, modern dogs share 99.99% of their DNA with their wolf ancestors.
The ingrained connection between humans and wolves means we should be protecting the creatures—not destroying the species.
In addition to hurting human’s closest companions, today’s wolf hunts jeopardize the safety of other animals, as well. Here’s how:
The effects of hunting are permanent, and mistakes are irreversible. But when hunters shoot from a distance, they don’t always know what they’re killing. Sometimes, they mistakenly shoot dogs—especially breeds that look like wolves. For example, this summer an Idaho hunter shot a family’s pet dog that wandered off from a campsite during a hiking trip. As laws allowing for unrestricted wolf killings continue, pet dogs will inevitably become the victims of deadly mixups.
Some mechanisms of wolf hunting don’t even rely on a human to determine whether or not to attack. In Idaho, hunters can use wolf traps, which are designed to clamp down on wolves to prevent them from escaping. But these traps can ensnare any creature walking through the woods. Earlier this year, a wolf trap in Idaho, caught a golden retriever walking with his owner. The dog was stuck for over an hour as the trap cut off his circulation and he went into shock. With indiscriminate trapping implements, these wolf hunts put all creatures in danger.
Downstream ecological impacts
As keystone species, wolves are stewards of the environment and ensure that one species doesn’t dominate over another to cause mass extinction. For example, when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone National Park in the early 1900s, countless other species suffered as a result. The elimination of wolves allowed the local elk population to boom, and elk took resources from other animals, like beavers. But with the reintroduction of wolves to the park in 1995, the environment regained balance, and a diversity of species were able to live and thrive in the region as wolves kept the local elk population under control. Current hunts jeopardize this ecological balance and the downstream effects of wolf extinction can damage other species, as well.
Disrupting Tribal Sovereignty
Not only do these wolf hunts put the wellbeing of animals in jeopardy, but they serve as an infringement upon the rights of the indigenous tribes who have traditionally stewarded the land and protected American wildlife. As documented in the film “Family,” many indigenous tribes consider the wolf to be sacred, and the decimation of the species is an attack upon the rights of tribes to practice their culture and beliefs. As states enable these inhumane wolf hunts, they disrupt tribal sovereignty and set a precedent for ignoring indigenous belief systems and traditional ecological knowledge.
What can be done?
Wolves should be relisted on the Endangered Species List, but the Biden administration has signaled that it is not going to do this. The removal of wolves from this list by the Trump administration opened the door for states to allow unrestricted hunts—hunts that jeopardize the wellbeing of wolves as well as other creatures. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the hunting of all listed species and is our only hope for the wolves of North America. You can learn more here.
Wolves of the Rockies is a 501(c)3 organization that has driven nearly every positive wolf conservation change in the Northern Rockies and Yellowstone regions over the last decade. Their mission is to protect and defend the wolves of Yellowstone National Park and the Rocky Mountains by advocating and educating, and gathering wolf advocates worldwide to consolidate our voices into a force that will influence the protection and acceptance of wolves that call the Rocky Mountains their home.