Idaho’s wolf hunt could be growing, possibly as soon as this fall.
Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, said he thinks the 2009-10 hunt has been a success on several levels and that next fall’s hunt will likely have a larger quota of wolves for hunters to harvest. Schroeder has served on a panel of lawmakers that has looked at the wolf hunt and other natural resource issues in Idaho during the past seven months.
Licensed Idaho hunters have killed 142 wolves since September in the state’s first wolf hunt. The quota is 220 wolves.
Schroeder feels the current quota is low. ““We had a very modest quota and we’re fulfilling that,” he said.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which manages the hunt, reported that five of those kills were either illegal or accidental. A preliminary report from fish and game says that 273 wolves died in Idaho last year. That’s higher than the hunting limits in part because Idaho law allows animal and livestock owners to kill wolves that attack their animals.
Schroeder said the hunt has been orderly so far and has received a positive reaction for hunters. “The hunters' attitudes toward the wolves have changed,” he said. “If you talk to the people that have harvested them, they’re excited about the fact they got them.”
Schroeder estimates that at least 1,000 wolves still live in Idaho, and that the next wolf hunt will likely have a higher quota. That decision on how many wolves would be killed by hunters is made by fish and game commissioners.
Organizations opposed to the wolf hunt feel the number of wolves in Idaho should go any lower. “Having a thousand wolves on the landscape really isn’t that many,” Jesse Timberlake, a northern Rockies associate with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife said. Timberlake said he’s not against all hunting, but said the populations of other big game species, like bear and elk, are much higher.
Defenders of Wildlife is one of a dozen groups that lost a federal court case in Montana before Idaho’s hunt started last September. The next round of that legal dispute could start within a couple months. Those groups are trying to reverse the decision to remove wolves from the national endangered species list.
Timberlake said the next court case may turn out differently. “During that hearing (last year), the judge said that we had a pretty good case,” he said. “The judge said that the delisting could be illegal.”
Idaho conservation groups are also challenging a plan by the Department of Fish and Game to land helicopters and collar wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in central Idaho.