BOISE – Idaho will start selling tags Monday for its first public wolf hunt, to give hunters from both inside and outside the state a shot at up to 220 of Idaho’s wolves – a quarter of the population.
Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission voted 4-3 for the wolf-hunt plan, with the three dissenters holding out for an even more aggressive hunt to target 49 percent, or up to 430, of Idaho’s wolves. The decision was closely watched by hunters who’ve been deluging Fish and Game with inquiries about the hunt and by wolf advocates who maintain the state’s going too far to target a species that until May was considered endangered.
“We fear that under the guise of wolf management, what’s about to happen is a wolf massacre,” said Stephen Augustine, spokesman for the Sandpoint-based Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance. The group has scheduled public demonstrations against the wolf hunt for Aug. 28 in Coeur d’Alene and Aug. 31 in Sandpoint.
A tag to shoot a wolf will cost $11.75 for an Idaho resident, $186 for a nonresident. That’s in addition to the cost of a hunting license, which runs $12.75 for residents and $154.75 for nonresidents.
In the North Idaho Panhandle zone, hunters will have a shot at 30 wolves during a season that will run Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
In the north-central zones, hunters can start shooting Sept. 1 in the Lolo, Sept. 15 in the Selway. The Lolo season will run through March 31, with a quota of 27 wolves; the Selway season through Dec. 31, with up to 17 wolves that can be taken there.
Tony McDermott of Sagle, Fish and Game commissioner for the Panhandle region, said wolves are not easy to hunt.
“We’ll be lucky to probably hit half of the hunter harvest limit that we’ve set,” McDermott said. “Although we’re encouraged that in the open country we’ll be successful, in the forested areas of central Idaho and northern Idaho, it’s going to be much more difficult.”
He estimated that about 70,000 hunters will get wolf tags, but said many won’t succeed in bagging a wolf. As soon as hunters report bagging the limit for a zone, hunting will be closed for that area. Wolves are controversial in Idaho, especially since they were reintroduced to the state in 1995, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brought 35 gray wolves from Canada to central Idaho over two years. They’ve since multiplied. Ed Mitchell, Fish and Game conservation information supervisor, said Fish and Game estimates there are 1,020 wolves in Idaho. Idaho’s current goal, under its management plan, is to eventually return the state to its 2005 level of 520 wolves.
Suzanne Asha Stone, northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said her organization and 12 others that sued over delisting will decide in the next few days whether to seek an injunction against the hunt.
“We have a wolf population that’s starting to become viable,” she said. “Cutting it down by half is just not responsible wildlife management. It’s too severe.”
Montana also is moving forward with a fall wolf hunt; it set its quota at 75 wolves to be killed statewide. Wolves still are listed as endangered in Wyoming because of the state’s failure to adopt a wolf management plan as required by federal wildlife agencies.
There’s strong support in Idaho’s political establishment for the wolf hunt. In 2007, Gov. Butch Otter told cheering, camouflage-wearing hunters at a snowy rally on the Statehouse steps, “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.” But no bidding is necessary – the tags will be sold everywhere Idaho big game tags are sold, including all Idaho Fish and Game offices, online, and private vendors. Sales will start at 10 a.m. Monday.