The Idaho wolf population management plan open house at Pocatello was a low key affair with about 45 people (excluding the Idaho Fish and Game staff). There were a lot of skeptical questions about the plan — how it was constructed, whether it would really maintain a large population of wolves, the length of the wolf hunting season, why the wolf tag price was so low, and I thought most interesting, the fact that the whole thing is based on the notion of conflicts between wolves and livestock and big game.
When Steve Nadeau, large carnivore coordinator for Idaho, said the wolf conflicts with livestock were on the rise with 200* dead sheep and 23 dead cattle (mostly calves) in 2006, it seemed no one was impressed that this was any sort of conflict level about which to base a hunting plan. When Nadeau replied that maybe 7 times as many cattle were really killed by wolves but not confirmed, it still didn’t seem to impress folks as very many cattle, and because Nadeau couldn’t point to any elk problems outside the Lolo and Selway, conflict between wolves and big games seemed like an odd way to base a plan. Nadeau then said the foundation of the plan (on conflict) was due to the earlier Idaho Wolf Conservation Plan.
I asked why all DAU’s (the wolf management areas) were slated for a decrease in wolf numbers or of stabilizing their numbers? Wouldn’t a balanced plan have some increase numbers goals too, especially in areas adjacent to SW Montana and Wyoming so that genetic interchange could take place?
A member of the audience and the interchange made it clear the plan was not supported by Defenders of Wildlife or the Idaho Conservation League, although both were among the “stakeholder” groups that participated. Nadeau said he assumed that when the wolf was delisted in March, Defenders would then sue.
Many other issues were raised, but neither the television station nor the newspaper did anything more that report what Idaho Fish and Game said. Note. The Idaho State Journal will be doing a followup on the Pocatello meeting.
To me, and I would guess most others, it was apparent the important decisions will be made at the March Idaho Fish and Game commissioner’s meeting, such as how large the first hunt will be — number of tags and whether the hunt will be general or limited to areas so they can test the effects and side-effects of a hunt before going for a statewide hunting season?
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Addition, Nadeau said he thought maybe having a wolf hunt would reduce the anti-wolf feeling among many. Those who got good at killing wolves, and he stressed how valuable a pelt is, would lobby for keeping more wolves around. Of course, if you want good pelts, you don’t hunt them August through November. The season should be December, January, Februrary
* Nadeau said the sheep figures were probably accurate because shepherds watch and know when a wolf has been in the sheep.