LEWISTON (AP) | Nineteen wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population, officials said.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.
"We have to manage wolves aggressively in order to get elk turned around," Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game told the Lewiston Tribune. "It's going to take work on implementing the (predator management plan) year after year, and it's going to take doing whatever we can do with habitat. We don't control the habitat side. But we are going to keep working with the Forest Service and the (Clearwater Basin Collaborative) to improve the habitat."
Experts said a change in habitat to denser forests less suitable for elk is the primary factor for the decline in elk numbers. But wolves are preventing elk from rebounding in the remote region. Hansen said the area had an estimated 16,000 elk in 1989 but that the agency now believes the population could be as low as 1,000.
The Lolo Zone has a wolf population of 75 to 100, the agency said. The rugged area is difficult to access and keeps many hunters out, Fish and Game officials say, leading to the agency requesting federal officials to kill wolves.
"In a perfect world, our sportsmen would be able to manage wolves to the extent we really need to, but it's so tough to get in there it's about the only tool we have," Hansen said.
State and federal agents have killed 48 wolves in the Lolo Zone in the last five years, most shot from helicopters.
"If it's so remote that hunters can't get in there, why would hunters care that wolves are killing elk in there?" said Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife. "In order for wolves to be impacting hunters, you have to have hunters in the area — and what they have been telling us all along is there's not a lot of people hunting this area and actually few that get far back in there."
So far this year, hunters and trappers have killed 11 wolves in the Lolo Zone, Fish and Game officials said. The agency's Lolo Predation Management Plan calls for reducing wolf numbers by 70 to 80 percent.
The killing of the 19 wolves wasn't announced until after it was finished. "We prefer to get it done and then let folks know about it after the fact," Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler said.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT IDAHO FISH AND GAME AND THE "SPORTSMEN" WILL USE WHATEVER RUSE THEY HAVE IN ORDER TO KILL WOLVES. THESE RUTHLESS PEOPLE ACT IN SECRET, LIKE COWARDS. THEY USE A LIE TO FOOL THE PUBLIC. WHAT THEY WANT IS JUST TO KILL ALL THE WOLVES. MAKE NO MISTAKE, THESE BARBARIANS ARE AFRAID OF THE WOLF BECAUSE THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS BEAUTIFUL PREDATOR. HOW CAN THEY PRETEND TO BE HUMAN WHEN ALL THEY WANT TO DO IS KILL KILL KILL?