Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feds meet with wolf advocates

Fish and Game, Wildlife Services to work with wolf project

Express Staff Writer

Members of the Wood River Wolf Project listen for wolf-tracking signals in the northern Wood River Valley. Photo by Mountain Express

A project intended to deter wolves from attacking livestock by putting radio collars on the predators took a step forward last week when its coordinators met with agents from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Wildlife Services.

The Wood River Wolf Project is a program run by conservation group Defenders of Wildlife. It involves fencing animals, using sound alarms and using telemetry to track radio-collared wolves in the area.

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen, the county's liaison to the project, said he organized the meeting to discuss the upcoming season's efforts as well as protocols regarding livestock depredation.

"Blaine County is somewhat unique in that we have a significant population that cares about both livestock losses and wolf losses," he said. "Really, my intention was to open up lines of communication and new cooperative efforts."

Schoen said the meeting resulted in the potential for more radio collars for wolves, so ranchers can have a better idea of the location of nearby wolf packs.

"It was a good first meeting," he said, but added that the differences in opinions among the agencies pose a challenge.

"In the policy debate about wolves in Idaho, people's feelings get hurt," he said. "People have different passionately held views on this issue. There's a lot to overcome there."

Schoen will also spend a day meeting with the national head of U.S. Wildlife Services and the National Resource Conservation Service during a trip to Washington, D.C., next month to promote the project and lobby for a NRCS grant to the project.

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