Saturday, January 12, 2013

Idaho looks to hike pressure on wolves

January 11, 2013  • 

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is considering two unusual measures to increase pressure on wolves.

The first would take $50,000 from a coyote control program in eastern Idaho and use it to supplement wolf control efforts in areas where elk herds are in decline. In the second effort, the department is looking to develop relationships with successful wolf trappers and possibly give them financial assistance.

Jeff Gould, manager of the department’s wildlife bureau in Boise, said the agency is hoping to offset some of the costs incurred by avid wolf trappers so long as they are working in areas where the department has documented elk declines.

“When there is a benefit to wildlife, we will see if there is an opportunity to help facilitate their activities,” he said.

The department has a goal of reducing Idaho’s wolf population well below current numbers but not so low that it would risk the animals once again coming under federal protection. Trapping is allowed in parts of the Panhandle, Dworshak-Elk City and McCall-Weiser zones and all of the Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones.

Gould said the department will ask trappers what would be of help to them and suggested it could be something as simple as helping with gas money or other expenses. He also said it is possible the department could contract with some wolf trappers to continue their efforts after the trapping season closes in March. Through Monday, trappers had killed 28 wolves since the season opened in November.

The department is also seeking approval from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to take money it approved for coyote depredation and instead use it to assist with wolf depredation efforts.

Each year the department transfers $100,000 from the sale of hunting licenses to the Idaho Animal Damage Control Board. Half of that money is used for general wildlife damage control efforts in the state and the other half is for specific projects chosen by the commission.

Since 2005, the commission directed the money to be used to kill coyotes in southeastern Idaho in an effort to increase survival of mule deer.

However, the money wasn’t used last year because of an unusually mild winter. As a result, Gould said the program has a surplus and the department would like to divert this year’s allocation to wolf control.

He said the money would be used to help offset expected declines in the budget of the federal wildlife services agency.

“It’s a priority to make sure we are managing wolves in those areas where we are below (elk) objectives.”