Idaho legislators say they want the state to continue participating in planning for reintroduction of grizzly bears.
Legislation authorizing the Idaho Fish and Game Department to take part in the planning process expires in July. After an update on work on grizzly projects Friday afternoon at the Statehouse, members of the Senate and House resource committees voted informally to keep the state involved in the process.
Legislation will be drawn up and presented to lawmakers next week.
Idaho lawmakers opposed reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves into central Idaho and at Yellowstone National Park, with little result.
Sen. Laird Noh, R-Kimberly, chairman of the Senate Resource and Environment Committee, said planning for grizzly reintroduction in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and in central Idaho “is shaping up much the same way.”
Noh said he is reluctant to have the state continue to take part in the grizzly planning process, “only to have it meet an untimely end.”
Ted Koch, project director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said his federal agency continues to track the 14 surviving wolves released in central Idaho in late January.
One wolf was shot to death in Lemhi County. A ranch owner found the animal dead next to a newborn calf.
Koch described it as an illegal killing, bringing objections from some committee members that that wasn’t proven yet.
But Koch said under the protection afforded the wolves under the Endangered Species Act, the wolves can be killed only by property owners who find the animals attacking livestock.
Koch said the landowner said he didn’t kill the wolf, so by definition, it is an illegal killing.
The federal agency has been tracking the wolves by the transmitters on collars the wolves carry.
Koch said one wolf, a female, has traveled a total of 300 miles since she was released, but keeps back-tracking over territory she has already covered.
A male wolf, at 101 pounds the largest of those released, was located near Lolo Pass, near the border between Clearwater and Idaho counties. Two have moved into Montana and a third has been traveling along the border between the two states.
Seven wolves haven’t traveled far from their release points, Koch said.
He was asked when wolves at Yellowstone Park, which have been kept in pens, will be released into the wild.
Koch said it “could be tomorrow” or it could be in four weeks, when the mating season is over.