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MAY 20, 2010

Wolf culling to be allowed by outfitters

By Alannah Allbrett

   Following the first ever regulated wolf hunt in Idaho in 2009-2010, 188 wolves were taken in an effort to control the growing wolf population. The harvest goal was set at 220 wolves, though it was not necessarily expected that hunters would reach that goal. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) estimates there are approximately 835 wolves at year end 2009.

   A controversy arises between advocates of the wolf reinstatement program and outfitters, ranchers, and property owners who wish the wolf would simply go away. Add to that, the fact that the elk population is in steady decline. In the 1980’s the elk population was estimated to be more than 16,000 elk in the Lolo Zone alone. The elk herds had already gone into steady decline before the wolf reintroduction that took place in the 1990’s.

   Wolf advocates say that the decline of the elk population is due to declining habitat, not the increase of the wolf population. The IDFG website reports that their research biologists captured and radio-marked elk, moose, and wolves in January through March as part of Fish and Game’s on-going elk-wolf interaction study in the North Fork Clearwater and Lowman study areas. There are estimated to be 2,100 elk today in the Lolo Zone compared to approximately 5,100 in 2006.

   IDFG, in an effort to control the existing wolf population, has authorized licensed outfitters and guides to help cull the packs. Four outfitters, and their licensed guides, have been authorized to kill five wolves each. This would occur in the Lolo Hunting Zone.

   Jeff Gould, chief of the agency’s wildlife bureau said, “We do believe we can help reduce the predation to get to that stabilization point with the long-term goal of recovery which will benefit wolves in the long term.”

   Tim Craig of Boulder Creek Outfitters said, “We have to do something. We have to do something as fast as possible. It’s bad” [referring to the increase in wolf population]. The B Bar C Outfitters of St. Maries, run by Inga and Joe Cabral, said using outfitters to cull wolf population is the right decision. “We are glad to be able to be of service and be involved in this historic plan. I think it shows they are willing to do something,” said Inga. Cayuse Outfitters and Flying B ranch, out of Kamiah, will also be participating in the program.

   Suzanne Stone, of the Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, said “Even if they killed every single wolf in the area, that elk herd would be in decline and that is because it is a habitat problem. Until the habitat changes,” she said the elk population is going to stay depressed.

   For weekly Idaho updates on wolf management go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/wklyReport/weekly.cfm.