BOISE – State wildlife managers could get more control over Idaho’s wolf population soon, including authority to kill wolves that are preying on elk, officials say.
Under new rules approved in January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed wildlife agencies in Idaho and Montana to take a more active role in day-to-day wolf-management decisions.
A memorandum establishing that broader authority in Idaho is expected to be approved in the next several days, state Fish and Game Department program director Steve Nadeau said Thursday.
“I think we will be in the wolf-management business in the next month,” Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker said last week at a meeting of the Clearwater Elk Collaborative in Lewiston.
Even after the state takes a more active role, wolves will remain protected by the Endangered Species Act. But the state would be able to issue kill permits to ranchers having problems with wolves, and might be able to kill wolves found to be hindering growth in depressed big-game herds.
Huffaker said a study on wolf and elk interaction could be completed this month and forwarded to the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in September. The study would then go out for peer review and be given to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“If they agree, we would possibly take out some wolves this winter,” Huffaker said.
In the meantime, he said, the state is seeking permission to land helicopters in Idaho wilderness areas to further study wolf and elk interactions. Biologists want to put radio collars on both wolves and elk.
“You can’t manage wolves and elk without knowing what is going on with both,” Huffaker said.
There are believed to be more than 400 adult wolves in Idaho, up from the 35 reintroduced to wilderness areas in the center of the state 10 years ago.
The Nez Perce Tribe took on day-to-day wolf-management duties at the time of reintroduction and continues to monitor wolves in the Clearwater Basin and the McCall area.
Nadeau said the proposal applies to wolves south of Interstate 90, because wildlife managers believe there were native wolves in the Idaho Panhandle before the reintroduction in the mid-1990s.
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