Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Senate committee passes wolf bait rule

House committee must also pass new rule

Express Staff Writer

A rule that would allow trappers to use wolf carcasses and salvaged roadkill as wolf trap bait passed a Senate committee with little discussion Friday.

Under Idaho code, the Legislature can reject agency rules deemed contrary to the laws under which they were implemented.

The pending Fish and Game rule, which combined and clarified rules regarding bear baiting and wolf trapping, was heard in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. 

The rule allows trappers in certain game management units determined by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to use legally salvaged big game animals to bait wolf traps. Previously, and in other game management units, wolf traps could be baited but not with parts from game birds, fish or big game animals such as elk. Wolves could be trapped near the carcasses of big game animals, but only animals that had died naturally.

Sharon Kiefer, spokeswoman for the Fish and Game Commission, which presented the rule to the committee, said in an interview that this measure would help increase trapping efficiency in places where elk populations are at risk.

“Those are sort of pilot measures relative to more effective trapping,” she said. “It was kind of a pilot project to find out if it was more effective.”

The other part of the rule allows wolf trappers to use skinned wolf carcasses as bait for wolf traps. Trappers must still present the skull and hide of a trapped wolf to an agency conservation officer or regional office to have the hide marked and a premolar tooth removed and kept by the agency. 

However, trappers would be able to leave the rest of the carcass behind under the new rule to attract other wolves.

Kiefer said the benefits of this rule are twofold.

“Wolves are generally very territorial, and this was thought to be a way to specifically attract wolves rather than any other species,” she said, adding that the rule would likely reduce the incidental take of animals such as coyotes that would avoid a wolf’s scent. “It certainly reduces the possibility of incidental takes.”

Kiefer said the agency has not received many reports of incidental takes of other animals in wolf traps, but the possibility remains.

Another reason for allowing trappers to use wolf remains for wolf bait is that backcountry trappers would be able to only pack out the hide and skull, leaving the remaining meat and putting it to use rather than packing in additional bait, Kiefer said.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said Tuesday that she voted for the rule, though she personally disagrees with trapping.

“I couldn’t really vote no,” she said. “There wasn’t anything legally questionable about it. In the end, you have to follow what statute and the Constitution say.”

The rule is now set to come before the House Resources and Conservation Committee in an upcoming hearing. If the committee chooses not to reject the rule, it will go into effect.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game commissioners decided Thursday to approve a recommendation to move $50,000 allocated to coyote control in eastern Idaho to wolf control within elk management zones where elk populations are struggling.

A department press release states that the funding for this program came from hunting and fishing license revenue that goes to the Animal Damage Control Board for control of predatory animals and birds.

The $50,000 allocated to wolf control came from funds for coyote removal that was unused in 2012 and carried forward into this year.

Kate Wutz:

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