Last week the Idaho Fish and Game Commission made a rule change allowing year-round wolf hunting on private property in the state’s northern Clearwater Region, which was quickly followed by the passage of a bill that would set aside $400,000 in funds to control gray wolf populations.
Animal rights groups are calling these latest actions a move by Idaho lawmakers to eradicate wolves from the state. House Bill 470 passed on the last day of Idaho’s legislative season and is expected to be signed by Governor C.L. Otter, who publicly supported the bill.
With the addition of the 16 hunting zones in the Clearwater region, hunters can harvest wolves year-round in much of northern Idaho—as long as their hunts take place on private property. The bag limit was also changed to five wolves per calendar year.
“Political leaders in Idaho would love nothing more than to eradicate Idaho’s wolves and return to a century-old mindset where big predators are viewed as evil and expendable,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The new state wolf board, sadly, reflects that attitude. The legislature couldn’t even bring itself to put a single conservationist on the board, so the outcome is predictable: Many more wolves will die.”
State wildlife officials, however, paint a different picture of Idaho’s wolf problem. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Idaho Fish and Game Department estimated that the state’s elk population had fallen 15 percent since wolves were reintroduced, accounting for a dip in the number of elk hunting permits issued. Federal tallies also counted 2,589 sheep, 610 cows, and 72 dogs killed by the new predators in the state. There are roughly 680 wolves in Idaho across 118 packs.
“We are of one mind, that Idaho wants to manage our wolves and we want to manage them to a reasonable number so that the species don’t get endangered again and the feds don’t come in and take it over again,” Governor Otter said.
Otter previously signed a bill that declared the reintroduction of gray wolves into Idaho a state disaster.
Supporters of House Bill 470 say that it will simply allow the state to properly manage wolves and keep the predators from endangering other wildlife. To date, hunters in the state have harvested about 300 wolves since 2011.