More than a dozen environmental groups on Monday filed a lawsuit seeking to block Idaho’s recently expanded wolf trapping and snaring regulations.
The Center for Biological Diversity and others in the lawsuit filed against Republican Gov. Brad Little and state wildlife officials said the new regulations violate the Endangered Species Act because federally protected grizzly bears and lynx could be killed.
The groups are asking the court to prohibit wolf trapping and snaring in areas where lynx and grizzly bears are found until the case is decided on its merits.
For lynx, the conditions could cover most of Idaho except for the southwestern portion of the state. For grizzly bears, the areas would include portions of northern, central and eastern Idaho. Wolves are found in roughly the northern two-thirds of the state.
“Traps and snares are indiscriminate and the dangers to nontarget species are well known,” said Benjamin Scrimshaw, associate attorney for Earthjustice’s Northern Rockies office. “The failure to take any effort to protect threatened grizzly bears and lynx while pushing the slaughter of wolves violates the Endangered Species Act.”
The Idaho attorney general’s office defends state agencies in lawsuits. Spokesman Scott Graf said the office had no comment on the lawsuit.
In May, Little signed a measure lawmakers said could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves through expanded trapping and hunting. It took effect July 1.
It was backed by hunters and the state’s powerful ranching sector but criticized by environmental groups. Backers said it would reduce the wolf population and attacks on livestock while also boosting deer and elk herds.
A primary change in the new law allows the state to hire private contractors to kill wolves and provides more money for state officials to hire the contractors. Idaho wildlife officials announced in October the state would make available $200,000 to be divided into payments for hunters and trappers who kill wolves in the state through next summer.
“The (Endangered Species Act) not only prohibits a person from taking a listed species, but it also prohibits a third party from authorizing or allowing a person to conduct an activity that results in the take of a listed species” the lawsuit states.
In addition to setting up the reimbursement program, the new law expands killing methods to include trapping and snaring wolves on a single hunting tag, using night-vision equipment with a permit, using bait and dogs and allowing hunting from motor vehicles. It has no restirictions on hunting hours and authorizes year-round wolf trapping on private property.
“In their zeal to reverse decades of effective, science-based conservation, Idaho politicians have not only endangered the long-term viability of Idaho’s wolves, they have recklessly promoted snaring and trapping that kill and maim both lynx and grizzly bears,” said Patrick Kelly, Idaho director with Western Watersheds Project.
State wildlife officials in late October said there had not been an increase in the number of wolves killed, but didn’t immediately respond Monday with more recent numbers . A new wolf population estimate is expected in January.
About 500 wolves were killed in Idaho in both 2019 and 2020 by hunters, trappers and wolf control measures carried out by state and federal authorities.
Montana this year also expanded wolf killing
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.