AP- Gray wolves were back in the cross hairs of hunters on Tuesday, just months after they were removed from the federal endangered species list and eight decades since being hunted to extinction across the
Robert Millage of the lumber town of
"I just wanted to beat my buddies to the punch, but I didn't know I'd beaten everybody in the state," said Millage, 34, who has hunted in
It remained unclear, however, just how much longer hunters would have to thin the wolf population in
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in
"The human population successfully eradicated wolves from this region in the early part of the 20th century, and it would be a true shame after all the efforts that went into recovery if that happened again," said Jenny Harbine, an attorney for Earthjustice, a plaintiff in the case.
An estimated 1,650 of the animals now live in the
The wolves were removed from the endangered species list in those states just four months ago. The environmental groups fear there aren't enough state protections in place to maintain their comeback.
The creatures were once abundant across North America, but by the 1930s had been largely exterminated outside
About 300 wolves in
Last year, about a dozen wolves were killed in
Outfitters said they are not booking trips for hunters exclusively looking to bag a wolf. But guides are encouraging clients to buy wolf tags to have handy when tracking deer and elk later this fall.
"Any success we have with wolves will be more of a happenstance sort of thing," said Richard Huff, a guide for Silver Spur Outfitters and Lodge near Grangeville.
Wolves are difficult to track because they move 30 to 50 miles a day, and hunters can't use bait or artificial calls.
"But I can tell you if I see one it's going to be adios," Huff said.