Thursday, February 23, 2012

Proposed Idaho legislation could let ranchers use dogs as live bait to kill wolves

Feb 20, 2012 
KUSA - Dogs could soon be used to lure wolves in Idaho as an effort to kill off the wolves that attack livestock. Idaho Senate Bill 1305, introduced by State Sen. Jeff Siddoway (R-Terreton), faced the Senate Resources and Environmental Committee for a hearing Monday.

Wolves were protected by the Endangered Species Act until December 2011. Wolves are now off that list because their population in North America has improved. However, their removal from the endangered species list makes it no longer illegal to kill a wolf.

"We killed wolves, we reintroduced wolves, and now they've been removed from the Endangered Species Act," Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of Colorado-Boulder, said. "So there's a real ethical dilemma here. You kill animals and you bring them back and then you kill them again and so it's a waste of time, a lot of person power and money."

Siddoway, who proposed the Wolf Depredation Control bill, is a sheep rancher. The bill would amend existing Idaho laws relating to the control of wolves and would give more freedom to ranchers.

Under the measure, if a wolf killed livestock, the rancher could hunt down the wolf and kill it without a permit within 30 days of the livestock attack. Bekoff has studied coyotes for years and says it takes a long time for a person to be able to reliably identify a wolf or coyote that they've seen.

"It's going to result in mass killing of wolves because people will say, 'Well, the wolf came in and I just killed the wolf who came in,' but they'll have no evidence of that at all," Bekoff said.

The proposed legislation would allow ranchers to use a number of different ways to kill the wolves, like using live bait to bring the wolf to a particular area to be killed. Domestic dogs, sheep and goats are some of the examples cited of what could be used as live bait.

"From a dog's perspective, being used as bait would be a terrifying experience," Bekoff said. "They would know that there's danger out there. It would be terrifying and, physiologically, it could kill them. It's known that animals under these conditions lose weight, they stop eating, just imagine yourself being used as bait."
Members of Idaho's livestock industry believe the bill is needed to control the predators.

Many ranchers at the hearing Monday supported the bill, saying they've lost thousands of dollars worth of cattle from wolves.

"I applaud this bill, the Idaho Wool Growers Association certainly is in support of this," Harry Soulen, Idaho sheep and cattle rancher, said. "We need all the tools out there that are available to us to hopefully curtail some of our losses."

The legislation would also allow ranchers to use a number of different ways to kill the wolves, including the use of night-vision scopes to shoot the wolves and even the use of an airplane to shoot the animals from the air.

As it stands now in Idaho, an animal that is killed by a wolf has to be verified by state officials before any action can take place.

Because the legislation faced only a hearing Monday, there was no vote on it. The committee will take this bill up again on Wednesday.

"I think this bill could pass in the state of Idaho which is notorious for killing wolves," Bekoff said. "I'm holding my breath that it won't but in some ways after reading some of the comments in the newspaper articles about it, and just seeing the zeal with which these legislators are going after it, I think it's got a good chance of passing."