Friday, January 18, 2013

Using wolves to trap wolves?

Pending rule would expand allowances for trap baiting

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Wood River Wolf Project Members of an Idaho wolf pack congregate in the forest.

Some Idaho trappers could soon be able to use wolf carcasses and roadkill to bait traps for gray wolves, if a rule currently in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee is not rejected.

The pending rule is titled “Use of Bait and Trapping for Taking Big Game Animals” and is essentially a combination of the rules for bear baiting and wolf trapping. A document containing the rule prepared for the Senate Resources and Environment Committee states that the rule would allow the use of legally salvaged roadkill and the use of gray wolf carcasses for baiting gray wolf traps.

Unlike a bill brought before the Legislature last year, it would not allow the use of live animals as bait. That bill was withdrawn in March following concerns that allowing ranchers to shoot wolves from vehicles, helicopters and powered parachutes would lead to wolves’ being returned to federal protection.

The rule would retain restrictions on placing wolf traps near Idaho Department of Fish and Game elk feeding sites, such as the one out Warm Springs Road near Ketchum. Traps could be set near naturally killed animals, but trappers are not allowed to move the carcass of a naturally killed animal to increase the effectiveness of a trap.

Previously, no game animals, birds or fish could be used for bait. The new rules allow for use of accidentally killed game animals, such as elk killed by motor vehicles, in certain units in Northern Idaho.

Gray wolf carcasses, whether accidentally or intentionally killed, could be used for bait as long as the skin has been removed. Fish and Game rules require the skin of a killed wolf to be taken to a regional office, marked and reported.

Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, said the use of wolf carcasses for trap baiting would be effective only due to the social nature of the animal.

“It’s exploiting the wolves’ sense of family bonding,” she said. “It sounds like what they’re proposing is using members of the pack to bait other family members. [Wolves] keep very close track of each other. They worry if a member is gone, and they would go looking for it.”

Sharon Kiefer, spokeswoman for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, said the commission introduced these rules as a “pilot program” to see how effective these measures would be to increase trapper success and elk survival. 

“Wolf trapping in this state is still relatively new, and that is why we are taking some kind of pilot approaches,” she said. 

Kiefer said using wolf carcasses to bait traps works because wolves are territorial, and will be drawn to the scent of a strange wolf in a nearby trap. She said this measure would allow trappers to carry out only the pelt and skull from a wolf in a remote trap and leave the carcass to bait the same trap.

The pending rule is up for consideration by the Senate Resources and Environment Committee at 1:30 p.m. today, Jan. 18. To prevent the rule from going into effect, the committee must pass a concurrent resolution to reject it, which must then be passed by the entire House and Senate.

If the Senate committee chooses not to consider rejecting the measure, the House Resources and Conservation Committee could consider it as early as Jan. 23. If both committees choose not to reject the rule, the new rules would be in effect immediately.

Kate Wutz:

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