The Commercial Appeal

Idaho bill aims to reduce wolf population by 90%

- Keith Ridler

BOISE, Idaho – A Republican-dominated state Senate committee on Tuesday approved legislatio­n allowing the state to hire private contractor­s to kill about 90% of the wolves roaming Idaho.

The Senate Resources and Environmen­t Committee voted 6-2 with no Democratic support to approve the agricultur­e industry-backed bill that includes substantia­l other changes intended to cut the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150.

Backers said there are too many wolves in Idaho and they’re attacking cattle, sheep and wildlife, costing agricultur­e producers hundreds of thousands of dollars and reducing the number of deer and elk available for hunters.

Opponents said the legislatio­n threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government that could ultimately lead to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking back control of managing the state’s wolves.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported in February that the wolf population has been holding at about 1,500 the past two years. The numbers were derived by using remote cameras and other methods.

About 500 wolves have been killed in the state in each of the last two years by hunters, trappers and wolf control measures carried out by state and federal authoritie­s.

A primary change in the new law is the hiring of private contractor­s to kill wolves. The legislatio­n includes increasing the amount of money the Idaho Department of Fish and Game sends to the Idaho Wolf Depredatio­n Control board from $110,000 to $300,000. The board, created in 2014, is an agency within the governor’s office that manages state money it receives to kill wolves.

Other changes in the legislatio­n include removing any limit on the number of wolf tags issued to a hunter, meaning there would be no restrictio­n on how many wolves one person is allowed to kill.

Wolves, though, have proved difficult to find and kill for the vast majority of hunters and trappers.

The legislatio­n also combines a hunting tag with a trapping and snaring tag, meaning only one tag is needed for those combined methods. Wolf trapping would be allowed year-round on private land.

In addition, the legislatio­n makes changes to allow hunting wolves with ATVS and snowmobile­s, methods allowed for animals classified as predators, such as coyotes.

Also, state agencies outside of Idaho would be allowed to kill wolves in Idaho.

“Could you tell me if there’s anything that’s not allowed as far as the take of wolves?” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett asked the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Van Burtenshaw, after he finished listing the proposed changes to state law in the bill.

“There’s nobody in this group that wants to wipe out the wolves completely,” Burtenshaw said. “We want to manage the wolves, we want them to be not wiped out, that’s not our plan here, but to be managed to a level that we can deal with the issues that are ahead of us, and that is depredatio­n.”

 ?? DOUG PIZAC/AP FILE ?? Wolves in Idaho are said to be costing agricultur­e producers and hunters by attacking cattle, sheep and wildlife.
DOUG PIZAC/AP FILE Wolves in Idaho are said to be costing agricultur­e producers and hunters by attacking cattle, sheep and wildlife.

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