Letters From the West

Idaho wolf control bill goes to Otter as F&G Commission liberalizes hunting and trapping of trophy species

Wolves in the Northern Rockies (Associated Press photo)

Wolves in the Northern Rockies (Associated Press photo)

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has on his desk a bill to create an Idaho Wolf Control Board.

The House gave final approval Thursday to the board, which lawmakers say will fill in the funding gaps created by cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency. It will tax livestock ranchers and take funds from hunting and fishing licenses along with $400,000 of taxpayer dollars to kill wolves.

Their target are wolves that threaten livestock statewide and elk herds in places like the North Fork of the Clearwater River, where Fish and Game says they are eating too many elk. The bill’s passage comes as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game increased the wolf seasons and allowable wolf tags per hunter Thursday to increase the harvest, already about 253 since last summer.

“Political leaders in Idaho would love nothing more than to eradicate Idaho’s wolves and return to a century-old mindset where big predators are viewed as evil and expendable,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The new state wolf board, sadly, reflects that attitude. The legislature couldn’t even bring itself to put a single conservationist on the board, so the outcome is predictable: Many more wolves will die.”

Congress in 2011 voted to remove Endangered Species Act protection from wolves in Idaho. Since then, 1,592 wolves have been killed in those states. There are anywhere from a minimum of 480 to 600 wolves in the state I’m working on a column for Monday on the larger ramifications of the state’s wolf action and the rhetoric of its leaders.

Here is a short look at what the Fish and Game Commission did to increase the wolf hunt.

  • Change hunting bag limit to 5 wolves per calendar year in all zones.
  • Allow year-round wolf hunting season on private land in the Clearwater Region.
  • Extend hunting season in the portions of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to close June 30 instead of March 31.
  • Change trapping bag limit to 5 wolves per trapping season in those areas open to trapping wolves.
  • Add new wolf trapping seasons in nine units in portions of the Sawtooth and Southern Mountain zones.
  • Change opening of trapping season for wolves in the North Fork of the Saint Joe River and other north-central units to Oct. 10.
  • Allow trapping season for wolves on private land only in Unit 45.
  • Allow the use of legally salvaged wildlife parts for trapping wolves statewide.

Idaho Fish and Game Big Game Manager Jon Rachael told the commission from a practical standpoint the changes are not going to lead to a big increase in harvest

Through the middle of March roughly a little over 253 wolves had been taken so far this season which started last summer. Of the 41,600 hunters and trappers who got a license only 181 killed a single wolf. Seven took two, six took three, four took four and two people killed five. No one took more than five, he said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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