Batt Considers Managing Wolves Advisory Group May Prepare Legislation Restoring State Role

Gov. Phil Batt may be warming up to the idea of state involvement in wolf management in the central mountains.

“Does anyone honestly believe we will be better served with an outside entity managing the wolves instead of Idaho?” Batt asked Idaho wool-growers. “I certainly do not.”

Officials from two states and an Indian tribe Wednesday urged Idaho to get more involved. The state Wolf Advisory Committee is reactivating after two years. The committee of lawmakers, conservationists, sportsmen, ranchers and loggers may prepare legislation that restores a role for Idaho in the wolf recovery plan the Legislature rejected in 1995.

Currently, wolves are managed in Idaho by the Nez Perce Tribe, under contract with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The tribe is in charge of monitoring the 29 wolves left of 35 brought in from Canada since 1995.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game interprets state laws limiting its participation to mean it can have almost no role in management.

That left only the two tribal biologists, two federal biologists and trappers with the federal Animal Damage Control agency available to respond to complaints.

Wolves killed an estimated 30 lambs and several cattle this year. Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Samuel Penney said in a letter to Fish and Game he believes state law allows Fish and Game officers to deal with “nuisance wolves.”

“Conservation officers or field biologists who are well known in rural communities, are familiar with local ranchers and trained in careful drugging and transport of wildlife could assist on an as-needed basis with relocating gray wolves that prey on livestock and be an asset to our collective efforts,” Penney wrote.

Neither Wyoming nor Montana, the other two states where wolves are reviving, has a state management program. Wyoming is considering a draft plan, and Montana, like Idaho, has tabled its own proposal.

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