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The Game Trail

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a report on Idaho's first wolf hunt

March 31, 2010, marked the end of the first wolf season in Idaho with hunters bagging 185 of the statewide quota of 220.  Only seven of the twelve wolf hunting zones reached their hunting quotas, hardly a slaughter as some predicted. As a matter of fact, the hunt was well organized and hunters showed good compliance with rules and with check-in and call in requirements. Although the statewide quote was not met, the hunt did succeed in stopping Idaho’s wolf population from further growth.

Hunters bought a total of 26,428 wolf tags in the 2009 season which included 25,744 resident tags and 684 non-resident tags bringing $423,625 into the Idaho Fish & Game spent on wolf tags. Some argue that we are just “lining our coffers” by selling wolf tags. While that amount of money is a large sum to me, it’s a drop in the bucket when you think about the administrative, research, enforcement, and education costs of producing a wolf management plan and conducting a hunt. Once again the sportsmen who hunt in Idaho are putting the dollars up for preserving, protecting, and perpetuating Idaho wildlife for everyone to enjoy.

Roughly 86 percent of the wolves harvested were taken by resident hunters and twelve of the 185 wolves harvested were wearing radio collars. Wolves killed during the hunt ranged in weight from 54 to 127 pounds. No, there was no 200-pound-plus wolf shot in Idaho and I seriously doubt that we have any such critter like that running around in our woods.  I received numerous calls from folks inquiring about that monster wolf that never existed. I suppose it’s like an embellished fish story though, part of the hunting and fishing culture.

Of the wolves taken, 58 percent were male, and 15 percent were juveniles less than a year old. Most of those wolves were shot in October and the fewest were taken in January. The largest harvest in any wolf hunting zone was 49 wolves taken in the Sawtooth zone, and the smallest was two wolves in the Southern Idaho zone.

Our wolf zone is considered the Panhandle Zone. Generally that area consists of the St. Joe River north to the Canadian border. As outlined in the Wolf Plan wolf-livestock and wolf-ungulate conflicts in this zone are classified as low, but a potential for moderate levels of conflicts is noted if wolf populations increase. Management direction for wolves in this zone is to stabilize wolf numbers at the 2005-2007 level. The IDFG Commission established a harvest limit of 30 wolves for this zone during the 2009 harvest season initially set for 1 October 2009 through 31 December 2009.

The Panhandle Zone was home to eight documented resident packs, 13 border packs, one suspected pack and two other documented wolf groups during 2009. Six of 13 documented border packs were recorded as Idaho border packs and likely spent some time in Canada, Montana, or Washington.

Ten of 14 documented packs tallied for Idaho produced litters and all qualified as breeding pairs. The reproductive status of four packs was unknown, but did not necessarily mean those packs did not reproduce.

Thirteen wolves were legally harvested from the harvest limit of thirty and four died of other human causes. Because the harvest limit was not reached by the end of 2009, the season was lengthened through 31 March 2010 by the IDFG Commission at their November 2009 meeting. No documented or probable wolf-caused livestock losses occurred in this zone, however there were some suspected cases. Twelve wolves were captured by agency personnel resulting in the placement of 10 radio collars.

The planning has already begun and new ideas are surfacing for the 2010-2011 wolf season. Potential changes include allowing hunters to kill a second wolf in certain zones, adjusting season length, changing zone boundaries, decreasing tag fees for non-residents and allowing hunters to use electronic predator calls. 

 A coalition of 13 special interest groups filed a legal challenge to the wolf delisting in Federal District Court in Missoula, Montana. Their complaints allege the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population is not recovered and that the delisting violates the Endangered Species Act for several reasons, including challenges to Montana and Idaho’s regulatory frameworks and the assertion that it is not legal to delist only a portion of this distinct population.  A hearing date for oral arguments has not been set, but is expected within a few months. Let’s hope things can move beyond courts back to science with proper wildlife management techniques.

It’s that time of year when landscaping and spring clean up around the house need to be done. Everything seems to happen at once because it’s a great time to get out and do some fishing, mushroom picking, or spring bear and turkey hunting. Pry those video games and cell phones out of your kid’s hands and take them out to appreciate our great outdoors.    

Leave No Child Inside

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

Tagged as:

wolves, outdoors, wildlife, hunting

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