Hunters Weigh in on New Elk Plan: Wolves No. 1 Threat

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Wolves are again the top concern registered by Idaho hunters who logged comments on a draft elk management plan from the Idaho Fish and Game.

IDFG commissioners were in Jerome this week for their quarterly meeting, where they met with stakeholders and parsed through the 442 comments submitted from around the state—the majority coming from the Panhandle and Southwest Idaho.

According to the Twin Falls Times News, those who testified at the Thursday meeting overwhelmingly said that the reintroduction of wolves poses the largest threat to elk, with one hunter calling wolf predation "epidemic."

While reduced elk populations in the northern parts of the state are more clearly identified as the result of predation, IDFG officials added that that's not the case everywhere in the state. In southern Idaho, elk numbers have been cut by overharvesting and habitat changes. In some areas of the state, elk populations have actually increased to the point that they are adversely affecting crops.

Idaho's controversial wolf hunting season runs year-round in the Panhandle Zone, and this year will be in effect from Aug. 30 through March 31, 2014 in all zones except Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork, where it will close at the end of June 2014. Wolf trapping opens in most zones on Friday, Nov. 15.

At the close of the 2012-2013 season, IDFG reported that 425 wolves were killed in 2012: 329 killed by hunters and trappers, 73 by ranchers or federal wildlife agents, and 16 killed by other means, such as being hit by automobiles. The 2012 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Report put the state's wolf population at 683 animals living in 117 packs—an 11 percent decline from 2011. The report also showed 92 cattle, 337 sheep and two dogs were suspected of being killed by wolves.

More than 1,200 people viewed the draft plan, which is the first update to the state's elk management policies since 1999. The Times News reports that a final plan could be adopted as early as next year.