PREDATORS -- Deputies deep in north-central Idaho’s forests are getting the go-ahead from state wildlife officials to take aim at wolves suspected in attacks on dogs and livestock in Elk City, the Associated Press reports.
The state Department of Fish and Game is authorizing Idaho County sheriff’s deputies to kill a pack of about seven wolves frequenting the tiny mountain town in the Nez Perce National Forest, according to The Lewiston Tribune.
Read on for details from the AP and Lewiston Tribune.
Residents of this hamlet of 2,000 at the end of State Highway 14 southeast of Lewiston said the wolves have become habituated to humans.
The pack has been "hanging in and around town," said Fish and Game regional supervisor Dave Cadwallader.
“They are there frequently,” Cadwallader said. “It’s just getting too close for comfort, and I am going to go ahead and issue kill permits, and the agents are going to be two deputies that live there and a couple of Fish and Game officers.”
Cadwallader believes this is the first time his agency has delegated authority to local law enforcement agents to kill wolves.
Idaho County Deputy Stan Denham said some residents are carrying guns when they go outdoors, and others have talked about taking the law into their own hands. Denham said wolves killed one of his female hounds this spring.
The hound "had seven puppies — she was killed right in my yard about a month and a half ago," he said. "There was one other dog that was attacked right in front of a guy when walking between his house and his shop.”
Denham said the wolves are attracted to elk that moved into town and seem content to stay.
Knowing how difficult it will be to shoot the wolves that typically come into town at night to hunt before returning to the forest by day, Denham said he’d favor trapping the predators.
“It’s just tough to see one and get a chance to shoot," he said. "I’ve seen a lot of wolves, probably 40 or more wolves since they were introduced but the number I could have shot is pretty minimal and I get out a lot.”
The move to authorize deputies to kill wolves comes just a month after protections for them under the Endangered Species Act were dropped.
In the wake of that move, five wolves from another north-central Idaho hunting area, the Lolo Hunting Zone, were killed by shooters aboard a helicopter. It was part of the Department of Fish and Game’s broader plan to kill dozens of wolves there in a bid to help restore lagging elk numbers.
Hunting outfitters who operate in the Lolo zone also have permission to kill wolves during the black bear hunting season. Elsewhere in the state, six additional wolf-kill permits have been distributed to address wolves blamed for preying on livestock.
The official number of wolves in Idaho is about 700, though state wildlife officials say the population is probably closer to 1,000.