Don't forget: The Idaho Fish and Game is holding a public meeting this Thursday to discuss its proposal to eradicate 75 percent of the wolf population in the Lolo elk management zone of the Clearwater Region of Northern Idaho. Why does this meeting matter? Because despite what you think you know about wolves, elk and the fondness of the latter for the former, the decline in elk populations is not so simple as "the wolves ate them"--at least, according to the very document that is the subject of the public meeting.
According to the IFG's draft proposal, titled "Effects of Wolf Predation on North Central Idaho Elk Populations," viewable either at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov, or through a link with this story at www.boiseweekly.com, wolf predation is third on the list of causes why the elk in Lolo Pass are dropping. First on the list is declining habitat, as fire suppression and declining timber harvests have caused the surrounding forest to encroach on the brush and meadows that are better suited to support elk herds. Second is declining calf survival rates, which the biologists attribute largely to bears and mountain lions (who are, in turn, aided by increased cover provided the advancing forest, the proposal says). And third on the list is poor cow-elk survival rates, which the proposal says wolf predation "can contribute to," along with tribal hunters and mountain lions.
In other words, this is hardly a cut-and-dry debate, and wolf advocates are adamant that wolves are being treated as scapegoats for the elk's more immediate threats. To learn more, head to the hearing, which will take place on February 2, from 5 to 9 p.m., in the Juniper Room at the DoubleTree Riverside Motel, located at 2900 W. Chinden Blvd. in Garden City. To submit written comment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or to IDFG Wolf Comments, P.O. Box 25, Boise, 837807. The deadline for written comment is February 17.