February 8, 2016
Contacts: Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater (208) 882-9755
Ken Cole, Western Watersheds Project (208) 429-1679
Wolves in Idaho’s ‘Lolo Zone’ Being Gunned Down by GovernmentMoscow, ID- Aerial gunning of wild wolves is underway in remote and rugged areas of the Clearwater National Forest, conducted by the federal “Wildlife Services” agency at the behest of the Idaho Fish & Game Department. The government is using helicopters to kill wolves in the so-called ‘Lolo Zone,’ which covers portions of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and stretches north across the North Fork Clearwater drainage. Approximately 50 wolves have been killed from the air in the Lolo Zone since 2011, despite the low wolf population in the area and throughout the state.
Aerial gunning operations are occurring in remote areas of the Clearwater National Forest. The North Fork Clearwater contains close to 1-million acres of roadless public wildlands that qualify for wilderness designation. These wildlands offer some of the best habitat for large carnivores in the entire Lower 48. Despite this, the IDFG seems to be trying to sanitize the wild landscape for game animals.
“The Idaho Fish & Game Department is wrongfully blaming the decline of elk populations in the Lolo Zone on native carnivores, including gray wolves,” said Gary MacFarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director of the Friends of the Clearwater. “Everyone, including the Idaho Fish and Game Department, knows the decline is due to long-term habitat changes in that area. Targeting predators like recovering gray wolves is unscientific, won’t work to boost elk numbers and violates the wildness of these public lands.”
“Excellent habitat for native predators like gray wolves, lynx, wolverines, and fisher exists throughout the Clearwater National Forest, including in the Lolo Zone,” said Ken Cole, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. “But the Idaho Fish & Game Department wants to turn this wild country into an elk farm and that’s ridiculous and inappropriate.”
Conservation groups are especially concerned by the precedent of the wolf killing in the Lolo Zone that uses radio collars to track the packs, because earlier this year, the Idaho Fish & Game Department landed helicopters in the iconic Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to collar elk and “accidentally” collared a number of wolves, too.
“The collaring of wolves appears to be one strategy that Idaho Fish & Game uses to track down and kill wolves in the Lolo Zone,” said Gary Macfarlane. “It is likely that the department collared the wolves in the Frank Church area so that they would eventually know the location of those individuals and their entire packs. We suspect that the wolf collaring that took place in the Frank Church may end up being used to kill wolves there too.”
Money from the Idaho Wolf Depredation Board funds the aerial gunning operations in the Lolo Zone. The fund is a combination of fees collected from hunting licenses and state taxpayer dollars.
“It’s important for the citizens of Idaho to realize that their hard-earned tax-payer dollars on being spent on helicopter wolf gunning operations,” said Ken Cole. “Governor Otter should be spending that money to fund public schools, highways and other important services, not on the killing of Idaho’s native wildlife.”