Outdoors

Idaho wolf hunting plan: No limit

Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore, left, and big game manager Jon Rachael, right, announce Idaho's proposal for a fall wolf hunt. (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore, left, and big game manager Jon Rachael, right, announce Idaho's proposal for a fall wolf hunt. (Betsy Russell)

BOISE - Idaho is planning a fall wolf hunt with no overall limit - and no limits in four zones, the Panhandle, Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones - because of “documented impacts to elk and other prey species in those zones,” Idaho Fish and Game officials announced today. It’s also planning a trapping season for wolves in the fall, in an effort to reduce the wolf population by more than the 188 animals taken in the state’s first public wolf hunt during the 2009-2010 season.

Virgil Moore, state Fish & Game director, said the plan is consistent with hunting regulations for other animals. “We don’t have harvest limits on most of our other species,” he said, instead using a “general-season approach” for management. Said Jon Rachael, big game manager for F&G, “This is very consistent with the approach we take for black bears and mountain lions. We’ve done that for a long, long time.”

The proposal also would allow hunters to get two wolf tags per calendar year, rather than one.

Hunters who purchased wolf tags during the last hunt had a low success rate, with less than 1 percent killing a wolf. Wolves are elusive and hard to hunt, wildlife managers said.

“Seeing wolf tracks or scat, hearing wolves howl or even catching a fleeting glimpse of a wolf is not the same thing as having the opportunity to take a wolf,” Rachael said.

The lack of a statewide wolf quota concerns Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Willdlife. Idaho has an estimated 1,000 wolves, compared to thousands each of cougars, black bears, elk and coyotes., she noted.

“Wolves play a very valuable role in nature and I think that is what is being overlooked in this rush to reduce their numbers to such low numbers,” Stone said.

Wolves cull weak and diseased animals from deer and elk herds, and prevent herds from overgrazing streamside riparian areas, she said. The Northern Rockies region needs several thousand wolves for the species to fulfill their intended role in the ecosystem and allow for a healthy genetic pool, Stone said.

Fish & Game is launching a survey of hunters and the public about the proposal, and it will be up for a vote by the Idaho Fish & Game Commission at its July 27-28 meeting in Salmon. Moore said under the plan, wolf harvests would have to be reported within 72 hours, and if the number killed becomes excessive, hunting can be cut off in a particular zone. However, he said he doesn’t expect that to happen.

The department’s goal is to reduce the number of wolves in Idaho, well staying well above the minimum federal recovery level of at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs statewide, though the department’s not setting a specific number for the reduction.

The proposed 10-week trapping season from December to mid-February will run in all or some of the Panhandle, Lolo, Dworshak-Elk City, Selway and Middle Fork zones, and will include an annual bag limit of five wolves by trapping.


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Rich Landers

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