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For the week of April 26 through May 2, 2000

County considers tighter control of wild animals

"When [wild] animals pose a danger to the public, we want to give law enforcement the ability to take action as they would against a pit bull."

Tim Graves, Blaine County deputy prosecuting attorney.

Express Staff Writer

Halfway through April, northern Blaine County was still snowbound. As coyotes hunted for ground squirrels across vast white fields crisscrossed with snowmobile tracks, the human and animal worlds crossed paths.

Development into the fringes of Idaho’s wilderness and increased human encounters with wild animals mean animal control in Blaine County is becoming more than just a dog-and-cat issue.

Concerns have arisen especially in regard to encounters with mountain lions.

To address those issues, the Blaine County Commissioners are considering making a change to the county’s animal control ordinance to allow local officers to pursue and capture or kill dangerous wild animals on private property.

Under the current ordinance, officers are authorized to enter private property only in the case of escaped domestic animals or wild animals that have actually attacked someone.

"When [wild] animals pose a danger to the public, we want to give law enforcement the ability to take action as they would against a pit bull," Blaine County deputy prosecuting attorney Tim Graves said during a hearing held on Monday of last week. However, Graves added that officers should be restrained from killing wild animals until attempts to remove them from dangerous situations have been made.

Commissioner Mary Ann Mix cautioned that the county should be careful in its dealing with the gray wolf, which is protected under the federal endangered species act.

"I’m concerned that if we pass this ordinance people will think they can go in and destroy endangered species," Mix said. "The county could be subject to litigation. We’re not advocating at all shooting threatened or endangered species."

Mix said a "neighboring county" has proposed an ordinance that would allow the destruction of the gray wolf "no matter what."

"We don’t want to go there," Mix said.

Bob Ruesink, superintendent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Snake River Basin office, said in an interview that the agency’s regulations allow killing a wolf only in defense of human life or when it is in the act of attacking livestock.

The county will hold a meeting in the next couple of weeks to further discuss the animal control ordinance. Adoption of amendments to it will then be reconsidered in a public hearing to be scheduled sometime in May.


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