idaho wolf
Image: Doug Smith/Yellowstone National Park

Federal Court Limits Idaho Wolf Trapping in Grizzly Habitats

Environmental groups are celebrating a federal court ruling limiting Idaho's season for trapping and snaring wolves in a grizzly bear habitat. 

According to Tuesday's decision, the state can only authorize wolf trapping or snaring in a bear habitat from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, or "during the time period when it is reasonably certain that almost all grizzly bears will be in dens." 

In the ruling, the court agreed with the plaintiffs who argued that even lawfully set wolf traps and snares pose a danger to grizzlies, which the federal government considers a threatened species in the lower 48. 

The court said grizzly bear habitats in the state of Idaho include the Panhandle, Clearwater, Salmon, and Upper Snake regions. 

Colette Adkins, the carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead plaintiff in the case, called the ruling "a relief for me and for everyone who cares about grizzlies and wolves." 

"The court recognized that trapping's just not legal when it can end up causing agonizing pain and injury to endangered animals," Adkins said in a statement. "This is a common-sense ruling that will make grizzly bears and other wildlife safer from traps that are inherently cruel."

The group filed the case in December 2021 along with a dozen other environmental and wildlife groups following Idaho's decision to make wolf trapping on private land a year-long activity along with other permissive rules and financial incentives to killing wolves. 

In a statement, Dana Johnson, an attorney and policy director for Wilderness Watch, said the ruling will provide a "reprieve" for grizzlies and wolves in Idaho. 

"This ruling makes their homes more secure and increases the odds of grizzly bears finding their way back to prior homelands," Johnson said, adding, "Grizzly bear communities in the state are already struggling—the last thing grizzlies need is to be collateral damage in Idaho's war on wolves." 

Given that there are less than two weeks left in the current season, the court said the ruling will apply to the 2024-2025 season on both public and private land.