Friday, August 26, 2011

Wolf hunt set to start Tuesday

Appeals still pending

Express Staff Writer

Idaho's second wolf-hunting season is set to begin on Tuesday, and more than 6,000 Idaho hunters have purchased tags and are ready to go on the prowl.

The Department of Fish and Game reported Thursday that 6,153 resident wolf tags had been sold, in addition to 381 nonresident tags. As of Aug. 3, only 4,000 tags had been sold. Hunters can purchase two tags per calendar year, essentially doubling the bag limit over the first season in 2009-10.

Hunters could theoretically boost their bag limit to four by purchasing two tags in late 2011 and two in early 2012, but then would be prohibited from purchasing tags in the early part of a potential 2012-13 hunting season, department spokesman Niels Nokkentved said.

Much of the state has an open season on wolves, with the exception of some game zones along the Idaho-Montana border that have quotas designed to ensure that wolves can travel and interbreed across state lines.

The Southern Mountains Zone, which encompasses the Wood River Valley, has a quota of 25 wolves, up from 10 in 2009. The season will run through March 31 in the Southern Mountains Zone and all other zones except Island Park and Beaverhead, which are open through Dec. 31, and Lolo and Selway, which are open through June 30.

A new trapping season opens Nov. 15 and goes through March 31 in much of the Panhandle, Lolo, Dworshak-Elk City, Selway and Middle Fork zones. The Southern Mountains and Sawtooth Zones are not open to trapping, pending review by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

As of yet, there has been no movement on two pending legal efforts to stop Idaho's wolf hunt. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week for an injunction to stop the wolf hunts until an appeals case regarding a congressional budget rider that removed wolves from federal protection can be decided.

A motion has been filed by the Center for Biological Diversity to expedite the court's review. Center staff attorney Collette Adkins Giese said Thursday that no decision had been made and she isn't sure one could come in time to stop the hunt before Tuesday.

"I can't speculate," she said. "It's the question we are all asking ourselves right now."

Giese said the number of tags sold compared to the number of wolves in Idaho, an estimated 1,000, is worrisome and could set wolf recovery back.

"We certainly are concerned about the impact any wolf hunt could have," she said. "We think there's a long way to go before wolves in the Northern Rockies are recovered."

Katherine Wutz:

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