Mon. Jul 26th, 2021

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission June 17 amended wolf hunting and trapping seasons to align with a new a state law aimed at reducing the population of the predator.

But wildlife managers said the action is not expected to result in a substantial reduction in the number of wolves anytime soon.

“It’s been widely but inaccurately reported that the new law will reduce Idaho’s wolf population by 90{85245cd25b56c80c5b7fbe16195da482b1a2d4d533fd90ff485ef932778890f3},” Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said in a release. “However, the commission’s action will reduce wolf conflicts while maintaining a viable wolf population that is not subject to relisting under the Endangered Species Act.”

He said the commission’s action provides a “meaningful balance” that focuses on providing hunters and trappers with additional tools to address conflicts between wolves, livestock and other big game. The action also focuses the new management tools that Senate Bill 1211 allows in the right places and at the right times, he said.

The new law substantially increases the allowed harvest and methods of take, primarily to reduce wolf-livestock conflicts. It aims to bring the statewide population closer to 150, the 2002 federal baseline for avoiding relisting gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act.

Fish and Game camera counts in the summers of 2019 and 2020 pegged the population just above 1,500 despite a total harvest of more than 500 wolves both years.

Commissioner Derick Attebury of Idaho Falls told Capital Press the action provides “additional tools and opportunities to reduce the existing wolf population, which the commission supports. We hope our hunters and trappers will utilize the changes in harvesting additional wolves.”

“To this point, the tools available to sportsmen, and other control measures, have not been adequate to control the population,” said Don Ebert, a commission member from the Clearwater region of north-central Idaho. “I believe that we’re not going to put the wolf population in peril. We’ll be lucky to be able to control the population.”

“We’re still going to have harvest reports” from hunters and trappers, “so we will have harvest data in real time,” Fish and Game Public Information Supervisor Roger Phillips said.

A decade of hunting and trapping in Idaho has resulted in gradual increases in harvest but not a decrease in the population, he said. With the commission’s recent action, “we expect to see an increase in harvest, but not enough to drop that population down to levels where we’re concerned about relisting.”

SB 1211 establishes a year-round trapping season for wolves on private property. It allows unlimited purchase of wolf tags. It also specifies that any method used for taking wild canines, such as foxes and coyotes, can be available for taking wolves.

Idaho has 99 hunting units. The commission voted to establish wolf seasons allowing  expanded hunting methods from Nov. 15 to March 31 on public land in 43 hunting units where elk are below population objectives or where there are histories of chronic livestock depredation.

It left unchanged all other wolf hunting and trapping seasons on public land.

On private land, the commission allowed foothold trapping and expanded hunting methods year-round with landowner permission. It left wolf snaring seasons in place on private land.

Environmental groups petitioned the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore ESA protection to gray wolves in the Northern Rockies in light of new wolf laws in Idaho and Montana.