Outdoors

Landers: Idaho wolf tag sales lagging

Idaho wolf tag purchases are barely better than home sales.

Maybe it’s the economy or the recent lawsuits that threatened to stall the hunting season again, but wolf permits are selling at a fraction of the rate they sold during the first wolf hunt two years ago.

A federal court case canceled the 2010-2011 wolf hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana.

Other legal challenges that threatened to stall this year’s seasons have been rejected by the courts, but the tag sales haven’t picked up much.

Only 7,774 Idaho resident wolf tags and 571 nonresident tags had been sold when the 2011 wolf season opened Tuesday. During the 2009-2010 season, Idaho sold 30,619 resident tags and 781 nonresident tags.

The buzz and hoopla preceding the first season had sportsmen beating trails to license vendors.

This year, bear and cougar tags are each outselling wolf tags by about 2-to-1.

Idaho Fish and Game Department officials say hunters this time around are more likely to wait until they purchase their deer or elk tag before buying a wolf tag.

Wolf tags are $11.50 for residents. Nonresident tag sales picked up after they were discounted earlier this year to $31.75.

Wolves proved harder to kill than some people expected in 2009. Hunters killed 188 wolves in the first season, short of the state’s goal of taking 220.

In the seventh-month 2011-2012 season, state wildlife officials plan to use hunting AND trapping to take basically as many of the state’s 1,100 wolves as they can get, knowing the number is likely to be only a few hundred.

Quotas have been set in only a few zones. No quota has been set in the Idaho Panhandle. The trapping season opens in November.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission set the minimum wolf population at 150 animals and 15 breeding pairs.

Some ranchers are as eager as big-game hunters to see the number of wolves reduced.

Cases of wolves preying on livestock in Idaho have increased 17 percent compared with last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports. At least 50 cattle, 34 sheep and three dogs have been killed by wolves since July.

The state compensates ranchers for their losses, but it requires time-consuming documentation.

However, public hunting likely will prevent some of the depredations by making the wolves more wary.

Idaho Fish and Game reports that wolf depredations dropped by about 50 percent when hunters started shooting at them in 2009.

It’s pretty clear the wolves quickly learned that it suddenly got riskier to be nosing around livestock and humans.

That’s exactly the formula the world’s leading wolf researchers recommend.

Keeping wolves wary of humans it the best way to assure their place on our ever-more populated planet.

Taking a tall stand: As The S-R has reported, the prosecuting attorney from Boundary County has joined the chorus of Idaho politicians – including state senators, congressmen and the governor – stumping for the innocence of the man charged with illegally killing a grizzly bear on his property near Porthill.

They’re falling all over themselves to make sure everyone understands this case is being pursued by nasty U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators and not by reasonable people associated with the state of Idaho.

The prosecutor, an elected official, washed his hands of any involvement with filing charges in the case and then went on to describe the incident in detail even though he had no participation in the case.

He refused to give the sources of his information, something that’s not allowed in any court except the one of public opinion.

He also refused to return the calls of newspaper reporters who had questions about his fact gathering.

Nevertheless, his analysis is being circulated far and wide. People like what they hear, so why question it?

Maybe his take on the incident is correct. Maybe it’s not.

Federal wildlife agents must have a reason for pressing charges or they wouldn’t subject themselves to all of this heat. I’m interested in hearing their case.

Everyone might learn a bit about living in the neighborhood with large carnivores by analyzing information delivered under oath rather than rumors spread by email.

One thing I know for sure: No Idaho politician has lost a vote by aligning against the federal government even if it means shying from the facts.


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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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