BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants a third infusion of state funds for a program charged with killing problem wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife, even though wolf attacks are down.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, there hasn’t been a report of a wolf attack on wildlife or livestock in Idaho since mid-October.
Richard Savage, board member of the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Fund, told the Legislature’s joint budget committee Monday that a falling number of wolf attacks is a sign the board’s efforts are working.
Savage said the $400,000 request for next year is the third such installment on a five-year plan. “We feel strongly that the board is serving a need a long time in the making,” he told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
In calendar year 2015, the board’s efforts led to the killing of 72 wolves, including 19 taken by Fish and Game from the Lolo zone last February, where the department is focused on elk populations.
When Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, inquired about the cost, Todd Grimm, state director of the USDA Wildlife Services Program for Idaho, said, “We don’t break it down by wolf.”
In addition to the $400,000 a year in state general funds, matching funds are provided by the livestock industry and Idaho Fish and Game, up to $110,000 each.
Savage told the lawmakers, “I think that dividing the number of wolves killed by the number of dollars spent is really poor math in this situation. Remember that we are a depredation board. At this point there is no way that we can put a dollar amount on the cost of depredation by wolves in Idaho.” The board doesn’t pay livestock producers for their losses; it focuses on preventing further losses, he said. “We’ve found chewed-up animals for a long time.”
The board’s activities include contracts with both USDA Wildlife Services and Idaho Fish and Game, for killing problem wolves that are preying on wildlife or livestock, or for collaring or removing those problem wolves, particularly in elk zones with predation management plans.
“This past year, they received the fewest number of depredation complaints since 2005,” Savage said. “In my opinion, this is a far better measure of results achieved by the board than how many wolves were removed. If the presence of Wildlife Services in the field results in fewer depredations, then I believe the funding we are putting on the ground is working as intended.”
Still, he said, “Wolves are unpredictable, and can become a big problem for a livestock producer quickly.” So the board’s not requesting any decrease in funding for next year.
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