Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ketchum to state: Donít kill Blaine wolves

Initiative is first of its kind statewide

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia talks to the Ketchum City Council about wolves Monday in a crowded City Hall meeting chambers. Photo by Roland Lane

   Ketchum became the first Idaho municipality to separate itself from state policies on wolf management Monday night following a unanimous vote by the City Council to advocate nonlethal deterrents to wolf predation on livestock.
    The council passed a resolution asking the state government to recognize the importance of recreation, tourism and wildlife to Blaine County’s economy, and not expand lethal control of wolves there. It asks that trapping, snares and aerial shooting of wolves be prohibited in the county.

“[By passing the resolution,] we set an example for the rest of the state.”
Jim Slanetz
Ketchum City Councilman

    Backed by the local Wood River Wolf Project, the resolution to restrict lethal wolf management combats statewide policies to reduce the number of wolves, which were reintroduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s. This spring, Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill to create a $400,000 fund and five-person Wolf Depredation Control Board. Citing an overabundance of predators affecting domesticated livestock and wild ungulates, proponents said the board’s goal is to reduce the wolf population from 650 to 150. Otter’s stance on wolf management dates back to his public support in 2007 for efforts to reduce the wolf population statewide to 100—the minimum before the animal would be reconsidered for the endangered species list.
    “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself,” Otter was quoted as saying at a January 2007 meeting with hundreds of Idaho hunters.  
    Following a court battle, wolves were taken off the endangered species list in 2011, and management was delegated to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Using data gathered by the state and the Nez Perce Tribe, the department listed 473 wolf deaths statewide in its 2013 annual report. Four hundred and sixty-six were deemed human-caused. The report cited 448 confirmed wolf-caused deaths, mostly of sheep, in the same year. The year-end population was listed at 659 wolves.
    Mayor Nina Jonas said she received about 150 emails in support of the resolution prior to the meeting. The Wood River Wolf Project has been demonstrating alternatives to lethal measures, the resolution states, through collaboration among sheep grazers, government agencies and Defenders of Wildlife, a nationwide wildlife protection organization. The Wood River Wolf Project takes place on 1,000 square miles of federal land, and nonlethal measures such as guard dogs, sound devices, lighting and flagging are successful in keeping wolves away from livestock, the resolution states.
    The resolution cited state-sponsored wolf killing efforts—23 wolves were shot in the Clearwater National Forest in February and a hired trapper killed nine wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The resolution states that the city of Ketchum believes that state policies are harming Idaho’s reputation.
    The resolution states that both local residents and visitors like to see and track wolves. Lynn Stone, executive director of the Boulder White Clouds Council and wolf expedition leader, said she hasn’t seen one all summer and only heard one report of a wolf sighting.
    “Something’s happened to them,” Stone said.
    Ralph Harris, local artist, photographer and fourth-generation Blaine County resident, said now there are more elk and deer locally than he’s ever seen in his life.  His proposal that a swath of local wilderness be designated a “no-hunting zone” was met with cheers from the audience. Harris said he’s been shot at three times while hiking local trails.
    Killing wolves, Councilman Jim Slanetz said, goes against the collection conscience of our valley, and by passing the resolution, the city sets an example for the rest of the state.
    Councilman Baird Gourlay said wolf eradication efforts have made him “embarrassed for our state.”
    The resolution will be sent to Otter, the county’s legislative delegation, the Fish and Game commission and Idaho Wildlife Services to request their support for the Wood River Wolf Project.

Wood River Wolf Project
The Wood River Wolf Project is a local initiative founded in 2008 to promote nonlethal methods to deter wolves from harming livestock. Many sheep deaths in central Idaho circa 2007 prompted collaboration among wolf advocates, ranchers, scientists and government officials to find solutions that didn’t compromise the lives of wolves. According to the organization’s Facebook page, by 2012, documented sheep losses in the targeted project area in the Sawtooth National Forest were 90 percent lower than losses statewide. The Wood River Wolf Project has since expanded to a countywide scope.

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