Professional Wolf Hunter Ends 'Action' In Frank Church Wilderness

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In the Jan. 22 issue of Boise Weekly, we travel to the Lemhi County city of Salmon to talk to locals about wolves in Idaho and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's controversial move to hire a Salmon-based hunter to actively hunt wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness.

"Fish and Game is taking action to see if it can alleviate the impact of predation to help recover the elk population in the Middle Fork zone," IDFG spokesman Mike Keckler told BW. "The Middle Fork elk herd has declined by 44 percent since 2002 (from 7,485 in 2002 to 4,223 in 2011). The recent ratio of calves to cow elk during winter was less than 13 calves per 100 cows. Since 1998, the cow-to-calf ratio has been too low for the annual reproduction of calves to replace the adult cow elk that die annually."

But some conservation advocates pushed back against the IDFG's contract with the hunter.

"Seemingly covert predator control actions like this erode the public trust and disenfranchise wildlife supporters who are critical to the department's long-term success," wrote John Robison, public lands director for the Idaho Conservation League.

On Jan. 27, IDFG announced that would end this year's "action," after the hunter killed nine wolves since his hunt began in December, but no wolves killed in the past two weeks. IDFG said it would take a few days more for the hunter to collect his equipment and transport out of the Frank Church Wilderness.

“We remain committed to working with Idahoans to ensure that both wolves and healthy elk populations remain part of the wilderness,” Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said. “This action was an important step toward achieving our goal of stabilizing the Middle Fork elk population.”