Friday, February 24, 2012

Wolf-hunting season closed

Regionís hunters meet quota


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The wolf-hunting zone including the Wood River Valley has become the first in the state to reach its quota—25 wolves—killed this season.

Wolf season in the Southern Mountains zone closed Tuesday, a month and a half before it was set to end March 31. When the hunting season was set last year, most of the state's wolf hunting zones were left open through that date—with the exceptions of the Selway Zone, which closes June 30, and the Beaverhead and Island Park zones, which closed at the end of December.

However, Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials set quotas in five hunting zones, saying that limiting hunts in those areas would allow for easier genetic exchange with wolves in Montana. According to department reports, genetic exchange is key to survival of the gray wolf population in the Rocky Mountains.

Niels Nokkentved, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said he wasn't particularly surprised at the zone's early closure.

"I don't know that there were any expectations one way or the other," he said.

Hunters killed 24 wolves with firearms since the season opened Aug. 30, but the original quota—25 wolves—was reduced by one due to what the department called a "non-target trapping mortality."

Calls to state Game Manager Jon Rachael to determine what that term meant—as well as to find out where most wolves in the region were killed—were not returned as of press time Thursday.

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Nokkentved said he had no information on the trapping incident.

Statewide, hunters and trappers have taken down a total of 318 wolves—232 by shooting and 86 through trapping.

This is only the state's second hunting season, and the first season that trapping of wolves has been allowed. The Dworshak-Elk City zone in northern Idaho holds the title for most wolves killed, a total of 60—39 of which were killed by shooting.

The total number of wolves killed is rapidly approaching twice the number killed in 2009-10, when hunters killed 187 wolves.

Though the Southern Mountains zone is closed, along with the Beaverhead and Island Park zones to the north and east, the nearby Sawtooth, Salmon and Middle Fork zones are still open to hunters and trappers.

Both the Salmon and Sawtooth zones have hunting quotas, but the Middle Fork is open until the end of March, regardless of the number of wolves killed.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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