ASHTON – A conservation group wants Idaho to create a panel to review wolf killings after an eastern Idaho prosecutor decided not to file charges against an Ashton man who earlier this month killed two wolves, one after tracking it for more than a mile on a snowmobile.
The Greater Yellowstone Coalition said the decision not to file charges demonstrates how local prosecutors could be hesitant to prosecute wolf killings when it could cost them votes in future elections.
“If they won’t even prosecute a case this blatantly illegal, there is a problem,” Marv Hoyt, a spokesman for the coalition, told the Post Register.
On April 1, Bruen Cordingly shot two wolves he said were threatening his horses. He reported the killings and officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game investigated.
They determined the first wolf was shot within view of Cordingly’s home, and the second was killed more than a mile away on property belonging to someone else. The report said Cordingly pursued the second wolf on a snowmobile.
Steve Schmidt, a regional supervisor with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game based in Idaho Falls, said the agency recommended that Cordingly be charged for killing the second wolf.
“We believe that when he shot the first wolf, he was well within Idaho law to do that,” said Schmidt. “We believe he violated Idaho code when he shot the second wolf. The distance from the house, better than a mile and a third away, made us question whether that wolf was actually attacking or molesting his animals.”
Fremont County Prosecutor Karl Lewies, in a letter to Fish and Game, wrote that “In my opinion, there is ‘reasonable doubt’ whether the wolves were, or were not, molesting livestock or domestic animals.”
Lewies did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Monday.
Hoyt said both killings could be illegal because it’s unlikely the wolves were molesting a herd of 20 healthy horses.
“Then the guy fired up his snowmachine, tracked the wolf down in the snow and killed it a mile away,” Hoyt said. “I think that clearly fails to meet the law the Legislature just passed this last session.”
In late March, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter signed a bill to allow ranchers, outfitters and pet owners to kill wolves harassing livestock. The law gives owners up to 72 hours to report wolves they’ve killed after catching them annoying, disturbing or stalking animals or livestock.
Cordingly could not immediately be reached for comment. But in an interview with KIFI last week, he said he went after the wolves when he saw them near his home and livestock.
“This is my livelihood, these horses and stuff and my kids,” he said. “I don’t want to have to be worried about my kids going outside. I don’t want to have to be worried about my horses getting killed in the middle of the night.”
Schmidt said the wolves were part of the Bishop Mountain Pack, but it’s unclear how many wolves are in the pack.
Hoyt said Idaho officials should expand a system of appointing special prosecutors to include wolf killings to take local prosecutors out of the equation.
“It is going to be tough as an elected official to prosecute cases like this, even if you are inclined to, because it may cost you the election,” Hoyt said.
The shooting and investigation came just days after wolves roaming in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were removed from the federal Endangered Species List. That decision gave each state the responsibility to manage the predators under their own rules and policies.
Fish and Game estimates Idaho has 800 gray wolves.
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