September 27, 2012 in Idaho, Outdoors

Wolves alter field for hunts

By The Spokesman-Review
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Background and the latest updates

Washington’s wolf central

 Northeastern Washington is home to eight of the state’s 12 confirmed or suspected wolf packs.

 The concentration has had a compounding impact on the region’s big game. Not only are most of the wolves living on the region’s not-so prosperous deer and elk herds, but Washington Fish and Wildlife managers have been hamstrung in being able to monitor the situation.

 “With one of our biologists working virtually full time all summer dealing with the Wedge Pack that’s been attacking cattle (in northern Stevens County), a lot of the deer and elk population survey work just isn’t getting done in northeast Washington this year,” said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman.

While Idaho sportsmen will be hunting for wolves again this season, hunters in both Idaho and Washington will be hunting with wolves in the area.

Either way, wolves have changed the playing field for hunters in the Inland Northwest.

Wolves tend to make elk and other game more wary, nervous and linked more to cover and rugged terrain than to open spaces.

Grouse hunters, as well as cougar hunters, using hounds must be especially wary as they hunt where wolves roam. Wolves are hard-wired to attack other canines, including coyotes, to eliminate competition in their territory.

Bowhunters should carry bear spray or a sidearm where allowed in case a wolf or bear responds at close range to an elk or deer call. In most cases, a wolf can be scared away, experts say. But having handy defense will make the situation much more comfortable.

Idaho Fish and Game officials encourage hunters pursuing other big game to purchase Idaho wolf tags so they can take advantage of wolf sightings incidental to their other hunts. Tags cost $11.50 for residents and $31.75 for nonresidents.

Idaho aims to reduce its wolf population by another several hundred to about 520 wolves through regulated hunting and trapping. Although pro-wolf groups say a sustainable wolf population needs higher numbers, that figure is five-times higher than the 150 wolves called for in Idaho’s federally approved management plan.

Wolves are still protected by state endangered species rules in Washington. Most of the confirmed packs are in the northeast corner, but wolves have been seen for years in the Blue Mountains.

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