BOISE, Idaho – Hey Mister, want a wolf? How about 200?
Moscow Republican Sen. Gary Schroeder, who owns a fur-trading business in northcentral Idaho, introduced a predator giveaway bill in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Monday that he says could reduce Idaho’s Rocky Mountain gray wolf population to a manageable level by offering them — live — to other states.
Under the bill, which Committee Chairman Schroeder concedes is largely offered as a symbolic gesture, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game would “have 30 days to contact their agency counterparts in the other 49 states and ask them if they want some wolves. Then we’ll round them up.”
Any state that jumped at the offer would need to pay the costs of trapping and shipping the animals, he said.
Nearby neighbors Montana and Wyoming have an abundance of wolves and are wrestling with their own wolf issues.
Idaho is estimated to have about 825 gray wolves. The predator came close to being removed from the endangered species list in January but that action was put on hold after President Barack Obama said he wants to review executive orders, such as delisting the gray wolf, put into place before former President George Bush left office.
If the predator had been removed from the list, Idaho could have opened a wolf hunting season to help manage the population.
Schroeder’s bill came the same day as Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and the state’s bipartisan congressional delegation sent a letter to Obama asking him to resolve the issue quickly.
The letter stressed that the gray wolf’s reintroduction to Idaho by federal officials in 1995 is one of the state’s most controversial natural resource issues.
“Idaho’s wolf population quickly flourished to eight times the recovery objectives for Idaho under the Endangered Species Act,” the letter stated.
Schroeder said the gray wolf population has multiplied so quickly that the state’s elk and deer populations are suffering. There are at least 25 wolf packs that have come into repeated direct contact with livestock, he said.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the state’s wolf population met its recovery goals in 2002.
Speaking in front of a Canadian wolf pelt he’d hung up on the wall for effect, Schroeder could not name a state that would be interested in taking Idaho’s wolves. Fish and Game officials said they could not think of one either.
“From a legal standpoint we can say we offered them out,” Schroeder said.
The proposal dramatizes widespread Idaho dissatisfaction with federal protections that shield the predator.
Schroeder said during the committee meeting that every other state that has wolves is having a similar problem — and if Idaho can’t give them away, it needs to be able to manage them itself.
Ideally, Idaho would have 500 to 600 wolves, he said.
If wolves are delisted, Idaho plans to manage its wolves so it has at least 15 packs, according to the state’s wolf management plan.
Asked for comment on Schroeder’s proposal, Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies director for the Defenders of Wildlife, said the wolf population has not reached a viable number because the animals are still too closely related genetically.
Stone said even if another state were interested, the process could take several years.
“You can’t just pick up an endangered species, carry him somewhere and let him go,” she said.
Assistant Fish and Game Director Sharon Kiefer said relocating the wolves might require permission from the federal government but any state that wanted the animals would be responsible for getting the OK.
Kiefer said current law allows the Department of Fish and Game to remove wolves in the southern part of the state if they have a substantial effect on wildlife or livestock. Those wolves are protected as an experimental, nonessential population. In the portion of the state north of Interstate 90, they’re protected as endangered.
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