Idaho commissioners to decide Thursday on 2021-22 gray wolf seasons following new law

·3 min read

Jun. 16—Idaho's fish and game managers will make changes to the 2021-22 wolf hunting season Thursday, following a new law aimed at drastically reducing wolf numbers.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will meet via conference call at 8 a.m. To listen to the conference call, go to an Idaho Fish and Game Regional Office.

There will be no public comment.

The Panhandle Regional office is at 2885 W. Kathleen Ave., Coeur d'Alene.

The decision follows the passage of a law aimed to reduce Idaho's wolf population by as much as 90%. The law takes effect July 1.

Senate Bill 1211 extends wolf hunting and trapping with foothold traps to year-round on private property with landowner permission, according to an IDFG news release. The law also expands the legal methods of take for wolves to include methods legal in Idaho for taking other wild canines, such as coyotes and foxes, but closed for taking other big game species.

* Those expanded methods of take include:

* Weapon restrictions (for hunting big game) do not apply.

* Exemption from shooting hours. (Written permission from the landowner is required on private land, and a permit from the Director of Fish and Game is required on public land, which is consistent with requirements for spotlighting coyotes at night.)

* Hunting wolves over bait is allowed on private land.

* Motorized vehicle restrictions for hunting big game do not apply.

* Dogs may be used to pursue wolves, and no hound hunter permit is required.

These expanded methods do not include aerial shooting of wolves, which is subject to the Federal Airborne Hunting Act and not allowed in Idaho. If Idaho should allow aerial hunting of wolves, it would be specific to designated control actions and by permit from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, which is authorized through the Federal Airborne Hunting Act, according to an agency news release.

While the recent law establishes a year-round foothold trapping season for wolves on private land and provides the ability to allow expanded methods of take, the expectation of the Legislature was for the Fish and Game Commission to set seasons for snaring and expanded methods of take through proclamation.

Fish and Game proposes no change to the wolf snaring seasons currently in place on public and private land, and it also proposes no change to the foothold trapping seasons on public land.

The proposal allows expanded methods of take on private land year-round, provided landowner permission. The proposal also allows expanded methods of take for hunting on public land from Nov. 15 through March 31 in areas with a history of chronic livestock depredation, or where elk herds are below management objectives, including units 4, 4A, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10A, 12, 14, 15, 16, 16A, 17, 18, 19, 20, 20A, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 36, 36A, 36B, 37, 39, 43, 44, 49, 50, 62, 64, 65, 67.

Wolf hunting and methods of take would remain unchanged from established seasons on public land between April 1 through Nov. 14 in those same units.

Wolf hunting seasons and methods of take on public land in all other units (those without a history of chronic livestock depredation or that are meeting biological management objectives for elk) will also remain unchanged.

Numerous conservation and environmental group have decried the law. On Wednesday, more than 50 groups sent President Joe Biden's administration a letter urging it to restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. On May 26, an emergency petition was filed.

The Fish and Wildlife Service must respond to the relisting petition by Aug. 24.

"The unsustainable management of gray wolves by the states clearly demonstrates that the states cannot be trusted to protect this iconic species," said Tara Thornton of the Endangered Species Coalition said in a news release.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must step in to ensure gray wolves aren't once again exterminated in the Northern Rockies."

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