Wednesday, March 18, 2009

End private game feeding

Wolves have been spotted this month in and near the Wood River Valley. It's likely they are the well-known Phantom Hill pack that summered north of Ketchum.

The pack reportedly killed a cougar in a dispute over an elk carcass near Elkhorn, fed on elk in another canyon and wandered near Trail Creek Road near Sun Valley where dog owners go to let their canines run in the winter.

The appearance of the pack has created anxiety as well as excitement in the valley as its human inhabitants try to work out their feelings about sharing the canyons with a wolf pack.

Like other predators, wolves follow elk and deer herds in hopes of bagging a meal. The valley's humans have made that a lot easier by privately feeding elk in areas near homes—contrary to the advice of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Private feeding now means that wolves are part of the package, yet there are no restrictions on private feeding that attracts and concentrates wintering elk.

People do so with the best of intentions—to help big game survive the harshest winter months when snow is deep, temperatures are cold and food is scarce. Attracting wolves is surely an unintended consequence, but a fact now that once endangered wolves have been re-established in Idaho.

It's time to stop private feeding. Fish and Game feeds a small number of herds well away from human habitation, but it cannot control private feeding.

The Idaho Legislature should enact laws to prohibit private feeding and to provide penalties. To let private feeding go on will only encourage conflicts among humans, big game and predators.

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