Idaho Officials Set Meeting to Plan Wolf Hunt

By Beacon Staff

LEWISTON, Idaho — Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game plan to meet with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on Monday to discuss a public wolf hunting season.

“We will be ready to have another hunting season,” said Jim Unsworth, deputy director of Fish and Game.

He said the meeting will determine whether the state can use the plan devised and used for the 2009 wolf hunt. That season the state set a harvest quota of 220 wolves with the aim of reducing the population in Idaho from about 800 wolves to 518 over five years. Currently, an estimated 800 wolves live in Idaho.

Hunts in Idaho and Montana for 2010 were canceled after a judge ruled the predators remained at risk.

But an attachment to the budget bill signed into law Friday by President Barack Obama strips endangered species protections from wolves in five Western states. Federal wildlife officials said that within 60 days they will take more than 1,300 gray wolves in the Northern Rockies off the endangered species list.

Protections remain in place for wolves in Wyoming because of its shoot-on-sight law for the predators. There are no immediate plans to hunt the small wolf populations in Oregon and Washington. No packs have been established in Utah. Like Idaho, Montana also plans a public wolf hunt.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Helena, Mont., said officials in the two states would monitor the hunts and file reports to the federal agency.

“It’s not that big a deal,” he told the Lewiston Tribune. “The states will do annual reports and the service will look at them and go, ‘Yeah, wolves are doing good.’ ”

Bangs said the language in the budget bill simply returns the management of wolves back to the 2009 delisting rule, which allowed Idaho and Montana, but not Wyoming, to manage their wolf populations.

But the delisting rule was rejected last August after U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Mont., faulted the Fish and Wildlife Service for the 2009 decision that took wolves off the endangered list in Montana and Idaho but not neighboring Wyoming. He said decisions on the Endangered Species Act should be based on science and not on political boundaries, such as state lines.

In the budget bill attachment, protections remain in place for wolves in Wyoming because of its shoot-on-sight law.

Bangs disagreed with environmental groups who said the move by Congress amounted to politics over science.

“There is absolutely no doubt delisting is based on rock-solid science,” he said. “It went through peer-review. It is state-of-the-art stuff.”

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