Friday, March 21, 2014

F&G panel expands wolf trapping

Seasons opened in areas around Wood River Valley

Express Staff Writer

     Beginning this fall, wolf trapping will be allowed in areas surrounding the Wood River Valley, though not in the Wood River drainage itself.

     During a meeting Thursday, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved numerous changes to big-game hunting and wolf-trapping seasons in various hunting units, including a proposal to open trapping seasons in eight big-game units in the local Sawtooth and Southern Mountains zones. Trapping for wolves has been prohibited in most of the southern half of the state, including throughout the local zones. Hunting wolves is permitted in all of Idaho’s game units.

     The changes open trapping seasons in units west of the Warm Springs Creek drainage, east of Trail Creek Summit, in the East Fork of the Salmon drainage and in parts of Unit 36, which surrounds and includes the Sawtooth Valley. A season was not instituted for Units 47 and 48, which cover the Wood River Valley.

     Garrick Dutcher, program manager for the Ketchum-based nonprofit Living With Wolves, contended that the initiation of trapping in the area will be a hazard to dogs.

     “People should realize that as soon as you step over a divide, it’s open to wolf trapping,” Dutcher said.

     Dutcher testified against the changes during a public hearing Wednesday. He said he told the commission that their decisions are being made in response to social pressure rather than on the basis of scientific management.

     The commission also approved allowing hunters to buy up to five wolf tags for hunting units throughout the state. Previously, the number of tags available to hunters varied by unit, and was set at a maximum of five.

     An additional change was to extend the end of the wolf-hunting season in the Salmon Zone from March 31 to June 30. That coincides with the end of the season in the Middle Fork Zone to the west and the Selway Zone to the northwest.

     Other changes increased hunting opportunities for black bears and mountain lions in various hunting units.

     Though Fish and Game commissioners and many elected officials have made it clear that they want to reduce the wolf population in order to increase the elk population, an increasing number of elk in the Mountain Home area has posed a problem to farmers there. The commission voted Thursday to increase the number of antlerless elk tags available in four hunting units in that vicinity to reduce crop depredation.

     The wolf hunting season in the Sawtooth and Southern Mountains zones runs from Aug. 31 to March 31. The Sawtooth Zone has a quota of 60 wolves killed and the Southern Mountains Zone has a quota of 40. As of March 18, hunters had killed 13 wolves and in the Sawtooth Zone and 25 in the Southern Mountains Zone.

     Throughout the state this season, 177 wolves have been killed by hunters and 87 by trappers. Fish and Game estimated in 2012 that Idaho had about 680 wolves.

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