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Endangered Species Act Rules Reinstated For Montana Wolves

Fish & Wildlife

Friday, July 25, 2008

With the recent federal court decision that reinstated Endangered Species Act  protection  for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, federal law will once again guide Montana's management of its population.

As a result of the decision, the line that once divided Montana's wolf population as a "nonessential experimental" population in the southern half of the state, and an  "endangered" population to the north, has also been reinstated by the court.

"We’re disappointed with the ruling because Montana’s wolf population is healthy, growing and firmly established in our state," said Jeff Hagener, director Montana Fish, Wildlife  & Parks in Helena. "Montanans have shown great patience and cooperation during wolf recovery and, on Montana's behalf, FWP is committed to continue its participation in the legal proceedings."

FWP recently intervened in a federal lawsuit that seeks to over turn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the list of endangered species.  FWP also opposed a request from about a dozen groups that sought a preliminary injunction from the federal district court in Missoula where the lawsuit was filed. The court, however, granted the injunction on July 18, which reinstated federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies while the court considers the lawsuit.

Montana will retain the authority to manage wolves according to federal regulations for as long as they remain listed, Hagener said. Under these regulations:

  •  Endangered wolves in northern Montana can not be hazed, harassed, or killed by livestock owners or other private citizens.
  • Experimental wolves in southern Montana can be hazed or harassed when too close to livestock.  Wolves could be killed by livestock owners if seen actively chasing, or attacking livestock or domestic dogs on either public or private land.  The incident must be reported to FWP within 24 hours. 

State and federal officials can employ additional lethal and nonlethal controls of problem wolves in each area. Hunting or trapping of wolves is prohibited.

Anyone could kill any wolf in self-defense or to defend the life of another person.

To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at, Click Montana Wolves, where visitors can also tell FWP when they see wolves or wolf sign.  The information helps to verify the activity, distribution, and pack size of Montana’s recovered wolf population.