More than 550 wolves taken by hunters and trappers in Rockies

SEATTLE — Wildlife managers are calling it an ecological success story. Conservation advocates say it threatens to undermine years of work to recover a once-endangered species.

The debate: A total of 553 wolves that have been killed by hunters and trappers in the Northern Rockies this season, the second since hunting of the furtive predators was made legal.

An additional 216 wolves were killed by federal Wildlife Services agents, largely to prevent ongoing conflicts with livestock.

Figures are trickling in as hunting seasons wind down in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where wolves were hunted to extinction in the last century but, in the wake of  a controversial reintroduction program, are now ensconced in all three states and busting out toward Washington, Oregon and California.

State wildlife officials, fearing the recovery has been too robust, have been encouraging hunters and trappers to shave the numbers back, and the latest figures show that effort has worked, with 225 wolves killed in Montana, 69 in Wyoming and 259 in Idaho.

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