Wednesday, July 13, 2011

State wants looser rules for wolf hunt

Hunters could have calls, leg traps at their disposal


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Hunters eager to bag a wolf will be able to trap, call and shoot wolves without limits in much of the state, if the latest proposal from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is approved by the Fish and Game Commission later this month.

In contrast to earlier statements from the department that the 2011-2012 season would likely be similar to the 2009 season, the proposed rules for the upcoming season are much looser.

Hunters would be allowed to purchase two wolf tags per calendar year, doubling the bag limit from 2009. Electronic calls, prohibited during the 2009 season, would be allowed to lure wolves. Hunters could use leghold traps in specific areas with a special license for a 10-week period from December through February.

Garrick Dutcher, wolf advocate for nonprofit Living with Wolves, said he doesn't see the public being in favor of the trapping season.

"When people start getting their pets stuck in a leghold trap, it's not going to go over very well," he said. "We're past the day and age when trapping and snaring are socially acceptable by the majority."

Wolves would be under a general hunt structure in much of the state, including the Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones in northern Idaho, where the department reports that wolves have been impacting elk and other ungulate populations.

However, there would be a limit of 25 wolves killed in the Southern Mountains zone, which encompasses Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley, as well as the Sawtooth and Salmon zones just to the west and north.

The proposal states that the reason for these changes is that less than 1 percent of hunters who purchased an Idaho wolf tag in 2009 were successful. That year, the department sold more than 30,000 tags.

This year, the department had only sold 3,539 resident and 67 non-resident tags as of Tuesday afternoon.

Despite low tag sales, Dutcher said he's still concerned about the impact the proposed hunt would have on Idaho wolves.

"Ultimately, my concern is for pack cohesiveness and the biological function of a wolf pack," Dutcher said. "What will it be like when packs that are used to being eight to 10 wolves are left with only a few?"

The proposed season would run from Aug. 30 through March 31, except in two zones that would close on Dec. 31.

The proposals can be viewed and commented on at the department's website, fishandgame.idaho.gov.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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