A controversy has arisen after wolf conservationist and vocal advocate Lynne Stone was issued a warning by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in January for illegally possessing the carcass of a wolf.
Fish and Game Enforcement Chief Jon Heggen said Stone, a Stanley resident, was issued a warning on Jan. 8 after meeting with Fish and Game Conservation Officer Lee Garwood in mid-December to check the carcass of the wolf.
Heggen said that according to state law, it's illegal for a person to be in possession of a wolf carcass that that person didn't legally kill.
Stone had reported the wolf on the Fish and Game hotline, set up specifically for this year's wolf hunt, as is required by any hunter who has killed a wolf.
Also required is for a Fish and Game official to follow up that phone call by physically checking the carcass to ensure that the wolf was killed legally.
Gary Hompland, a Fish and Game regional conservation officer based out of Jerome, said the problem was that Stone, though she did have a wolf tag for this year's hunt, did not shoot the wolf herself.
Instead, Stone had retrieved the carcass of a Basin Butte pack female, killed along with six other members of the pack by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services as part of a control action in late November.
Fish and Game approved the control action near Stanley after the wolves were deemed responsible for 14 depredation incidents since July 2008, including the deaths of 36 sheep in August, and seven adult cows and five calves in the past year.
"If it was harvested in a control action, then it belongs to the state," Hompland said.
Hompland said that upon inspection, it became clear that the wolf, which had its radio collar removed during the control action and still had an identifying tag on its ear, had been one of the Basin Butte pack members killed by Wildlife Services.
Hompland said the wolf carcasses kept by the state after control actions are often used for educational purposes if they are still in good condition. The hides are also sold at an annual auction, the proceeds from which are returned to the agency's general fund.
Garwood said that when he spoke with Stone, she made it clear that she had not shot the wolf herself.
According to a report from The Associated Press in the Idaho Statesman on Tuesday, there was speculation that Stone "apparently hoped it would count against the wolf hunting quota set for that region by the state."
However, Hompland said there was no evidence that that was the case. He said that had there been an obvious attempt at fraud, a misdemeanor citation would likely have been issued.
"We don't know why she was trying to hand in the carcass and there was no proof the intent was fraud," Hompland said. "She tried to comply as best she could. I think she just didn't know the law. We can't treat Ms. Stone differently than anyone else who had found an animal."
Stone could not be reached for comment by press time.
Heggen said that Fish and Game officers have the discretion to offer a warning or citation, with the latter ranging between $25 and $1,000 if the defendant is found guilty.
"There are people upset that we weren't harsher and there are others that think we were too harsh," Hompland said. "One thing with wolves—it's always going to be emotional."
Jon Duval: firstname.lastname@example.org