January 20, 2014 in Idaho, Outdoors

Idaho commission approves elk management plan

 

BOISE – Idaho Fish and Game commissioners have approved a statewide elk management plan that includes killing more predators to boost elk populations.

Commissioners unanimously approved the 10-year plan Thursday that calls for killing more wolves, bears and cougars, reported the Times-News of Twin Falls, Idaho.

“The wolves are here to stay,” Commissioner Mark Doerr said. “And despite the vernacular that has gotten into the argument right now, that Fish and Game is exterminating wolves, that’s not the objective.”

The plan also calls for monitoring elk habitat changes, and the damage caused by elk on crops and fences.

Toby Boudreau, a wildlife program coordinator who wrote the new plan, said nine and a half management zones are meeting elk population objectives, 11 exceed goals and eight and a half are falling behind goals.

“In those areas where habitat either moderately or highly limits elk populations, we actually built in metrics for habitat change,” he said. “Basically that’s treating a number of acres of noxious weeds, prescribed burning or logging a certain number of acres to promote elk calving habitat or winter range or whatever. They are specific to each zone.”

Success rates among hunters in recent years have been about 22 percent, down from about 32 percent in the early 1990s before wolves arrived.

Some wildlife advocates said the plan isn’t balanced, but is intended to turn rangeland into an elk farm.

Boudreau said the new elk plan aggressively targets predators where appropriate. He said that in some areas, elk numbers have declined because of wolves.

“While I don’t know if I would use that exact word, ‘decimation,’ it is pretty bad (in some areas),” he said.

But declines in elk numbers in other areas, he said, could be the result of overharvesting by hunters or other factors.

Trappers told the commission that it took too much time and was too costly to target wolves, particularly in remote areas.

Doerr said he wanted to change wolf trapping and hunting rules in a way to encourage more trappers and hunters to pursue wolves.

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