Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wolf season proposal delayed

State could lose quotas in most areas

Express Staff Writer

A supporter of wolf management lets his feelings be known in Ketchum in 2009.

Hunters anxious to get a look at the proposed rules and seasons for this year's wolf hunt will have to wait a while longer, say state officials.

Despite earlier projections that the state would have proposals ready for public comment yesterday, Niels Nokkentved, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said state wildlife managers won't release proposals until late this week.

"There seems to be a delay somewhere and I don't know why," he said. "They're working out the details. What they're hung up on, I couldn't tell you."

This news comes in the wake of an announcement from department Deputy Director Jim Unsworth that there will be no quotas in much of the state. Instead, wolves will be managed under a general hunt structure, the same way the state manages cougar and bear hunts.

Unsworth said the department will monitor the age and sex of the wolves killed to maintain at least a baseline population.

Unsworth told The Associated Press last week that there's little worry that the absence of quotas in some areas will result in populations dipping so low that federal officials will step in. However, he said the department does have a safety net.

"We can always close seasons," he said. "If we're getting concerned at all we can close the season."

Hunters last year failed to meet quotas in five of 12 wolf hunting zones, despite a high level of tag sales to wanna-be wolf hunters.

"We ended up harvesting 188 wolves and sold 30,000 tags," Unsworth said. "We're not expecting the same kind of harvest levels [this year]."

So far this year, the department has reported only 3,100 wolf tag sales since they became available in May.

Unsworth said there would still be quotas along the Idaho-Montana border, so wolves would be able to travel across the border and breed, ensuring a genetically diverse population.

Unsworth said he and other department wildlife managers were still working out exact details on the plan, which would need to garner final approval by Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners before being implemented.

This is the second Idaho wolf season since reintroduction in 1995. Department officials have stated that they expect this season to be conducted similarly to the 2009-10 season. That season began in October and continued through the end of March in the Southern Mountains Zone, the zone in which Ketchum and Sun Valley are located.

Hunters were not allowed to use traps or electronic calls, and were also prohibited from using bait or hunting wolves within half a mile of any big game feeding sites.

Despite restrictions, hunters legally killed 10 wolves in the Southern Mountains zone, filling the zone's quota.

Katherine Wutz:

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