The Gray wolf (Canis lupus) was listed as an endangered species throughout the coterminous United States and as a threatened species in Minnesota in 1974. In 1995, a federal wolf recovery program was established in which 35 wolves were released into the State of Idaho and 30 more into Yellowstone National Park. Since that time, the number of wolves has increased dramatically in Idaho to approximately 835 wolves in 94 packs and 49 breeding pairs verified by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at the end of 2009. Currently, unofficial estimates put Idaho’s wolf population at over 1,000 animals.
The wolf population in Idaho and other states has greatly exceeded the federal recovery goals and objectives. In fact, 2002 marked the third consecutive year that Idaho met and exceeded the biological recovery goals necessary for delisting wolves. Even though the State of Idaho had for years exceeded these recovery goals, developed a federally approved management plan, and demonstrated time and again its commitment to managing a healthy and sustainable population of wolves, various environmental groups remained vigilant to prevent delisting. Over the past few years, federal attempts to delist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains were met by legal challenges from environmental groups, and it became clear that legal gridlock was going to keep a recovered population of wolves in Idaho listed and under federal control for years to come. In an effort to break this legal gridlock over wolves and reward the State of Idaho for its work in wolf recovery, Congress intervened and delisted wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains through a rider attached to the FY2011 federal spending bill in April 2011. The delisting rider, added by Congressman Mike Simpson R-(ID) required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate the previous rule from 2009 that, for a short time had delisted wolves in Idaho and Montana, and portions of surrounding states. On May 5, 2011, wolf delisting in Idaho was made official.
Wolves are once again delisted in Idaho and are currently being managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game pursuant to the 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.