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Sports >  Outdoors

Idaho Fish and Game moves to expand wolf hunting, trapping season

In this Jan. 14, 1995, photo, a wolf leaps across a road into the wilds of central Idaho. (Doug Pizac / AP)
In this Jan. 14, 1995, photo, a wolf leaps across a road into the wilds of central Idaho. (Doug Pizac / AP)
By Nicole Blanchard The Idaho Statesman

Less than a week after an Idaho lawmaker proposed “wolf-free zones” and year-round wolf hunting seasons, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has proposed extending hunting and trapping seasons for wolves.

On Monday, the commission announced a proposal to extend the season for wolf hunting and trapping on public and private land across the state.

Last week, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, introduced a bill that would offer increased opportunities for wolf harvests in areas with chronic wolf depredation on livestock. It would also allow for year-round wolf hunts in proposed “wolf-free zones” across southern Idaho.

Brackett told the Statesman on Monday that he does not plan to rescind the legislation.

Fish and Game Commission Chairman Jerry Meyers said Tuesday that Brackett contacted him early on and expressed interest in altering wolf seasons. Meyers said the commission’s proposals “go much farther” than Brackett’s bill.

“We’re moving ahead with (our proposals) fairly rapidly,” Meyers said. “It’s not a competition. We’re just trying to get something done if that’s what the public wants.”

In all, the Fish and Game Commission offered seven hunting proposals and two trapping proposals. In general, the proposals aim to extend the wolf hunting season across much of the state to an 11-month season that would run Aug. 1 to June 30. In southwest and south-central Idaho, there would be year-round wolf hunting on public and private land. The current season in that area runs from Aug. 30 to March 31.

Any areas with existing year-round hunts on private land would maintain the year-round season.

The proposal also calls for year-round hunts on public and private land in 19 units with chronic wolf depredations – at least one depredation in four out of the past five years.

The trapping proposals would allow the use of snares in some hunting units and create a new trapping season on public land in hunting units across southeast Idaho. The new season would run from Oct. 10 to March 31.

Wolf population estimates allow for increased hunting, trapping

On Jan. 23, Idaho Department of Fish and Game director Ed Schriever announced that the agency estimates there are about 1,500 wolves in Idaho. It’s the first time since 2015 that Fish and Game has had an estimate on the population. The numbers came from a study conducted in 2019 using trail cameras, recognition software and mathematical modeling.

According to the Fish and Game Commission’s Monday proposals, federal criteria for wolf recovery require only 150 individual animals across the state.

“We decided once we got the scientific study done, that something needed to be done toward managing the wolves to the management plan,” Meyers said.

He said he knows the public comment period will draw strong reactions.

“It’s going to be polar opposites,” Meyers said. “The people that are in favor of the wolves are going to feel strongly against it. I think sportsmen and ranchers are going to be pretty happy with it. There’s not really any middle ground.”

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