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Wolf Season Approaches

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A look at this year's regs on The Game Trail

Summer is slowly melting the snow and ice in the higher elevations. A patrol to the high mountain lakes proved that old man winter has been enjoying his stay in North Idaho, and wants to lounge around for a few more weeks.  The trails were covered in snow and in some cases, the lakes still covered in ice. Maybe by the time this prints things will have melted a good deal more. However, I wouldn’t doubt if there are some snow fields in the crests of the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains that persist until the next snow fall!

Huckleberries seem to be doing well, with people enjoying some nice fat berries in the low elevations thanks to July rains. Higher elevations are proving to be a little behind schedule; can’t really blame them though! An attempted trip into Darling Lake in mid-July, cut short by snow, showed the berries to be just in the flowering stage. Well, at least it will keep the bears happy late into the fall.

With fall right around the corner, so are hunting seasons with some starting as soon as August 30!  The season I get asked the most about is, of course, the wolf hunts. We had a very successful season in 2009, but the 2010 season was stopped by a judicial ruling.  IDFG is looking forward to managing wolves like all the rest of the critters we have. The IDFG commissioners met July 27 and 28 in Salmon, Idaho where they laid the groundwork for this year’s wolf hunts.  Here’s a look at the hunting season.

Standard hunting season dates statewide: August 30-March 31, except for August 30-December 31 in Island Park and Beaverhead wolf management zones.  Hunters may buy two tags per calendar year. Bag limit: No person may take more than one wolf per legal tag in his or her possession. Wolf seasons are Any-Weapon seasons. Electronic calls may be used statewide. Wolves may be taken incidentally during fall bear baiting. Reduced-price nonresident wolf tags ($31.75) will be offered statewide. Hunters must report killing a wolf within 72 hours. Hunters must present skull and hide to IDFG office within 10 days. The wolf season closes when the harvest limit for that zone is reached or on the season closing date, whichever comes first. 

Harvest limits are being proposed in the Salmon, Southern Mountain, Beaverhead, Island Park and Sawtooth Zones, where hunting proved effective in more open country and additional wolf mortality occurs from control actions to resolve ongoing livestock depredations.

Recent research confirms wolves are dispersing throughout the northern Rocky Mountains, and Idaho wolves are breeding with populations in other states and vice versa. Nevertheless, Fish and Game has proposed a closing date of December 31 for the Beaverhead and Island Park Zones, which closes hunting prior to the peak snowmobile season in Island Park and corresponds to the closing dates in Montana. These zones are late winter/spring dispersal areas between Yellowstone Park and other wolf populations in Montana and Wyoming.

Fish and Game is not proposing specific harvest limits in the Panhandle, Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork Zones because of documented impacts to elk and other prey species. Terrain or access is difficult in these areas and hunters did not reach harvest limits in the Panhandle, Lolo, and Selway Zones in 2009. Fish and Game isn’t proposing specific harvest limits in the Palouse-Hells Canyon, Dworshak-Elk City, McCall-Weiser, and Southern Idaho Zones because of high conflict potential with livestock and other domestic animals.

Fish and Game uses a similar strategy for black bears and mountain lions, which have long been under state management. In general, both populations are thriving in Idaho.

Hunters will be required to report wolf harvests within 72 hours and bring harvested wolves to Fish and Game to confirm gender, approximate age, kill location and other information. In 2009, less than one percent of hunters who purchased an Idaho wolf tag were successful. To increase harvest rates in 2011, Fish and Game proposes to allow electronic calls and increase the annual bag limit to two wolves for hunters.

Based on hunter success in 2009 and the inability of hunting pressure to manage wolves across most of their range in North America, Fish and Game proposes a trapping season from December 1 through February 15 in all or some of the Panhandle, Lolo, Dworshak-Elk City, Selway and Middle Fork Zones.

These include areas where access is limited and terrain is difficult, but where wolves are having significant impacts on other big game animals or approaching isolated communities such as Elk City. Fish and Game proposed these areas and this timeframe to allow trapping when pelts are prime, and when there is less potential for conflict with other hunting seasons and recreational uses. Here’s a look at the trapping regulations.

Trapping season dates: December 1-February 15. Trappers may buy up to three tags with trapping license for use in those zones with an open trapping season in addition to two tags purchased for hunting; unused tags from hunting season (up to two) may also be used to tag trapped wolves. Bag limit: No person may take more than one wolf per legal tag in his or her possession. Methods of take: Both snares and foothold traps w/jaw spread not to exceed 9 inches are legal during wolf trapping season. Tags purchased for trapping may be used to take wolves through hunting where and when the wolf trapping season is open. Baiting regulations for trapping wolves are consistent with regulations for fur-bearers. A mandatory trapping education class  is required before purchasing tags for wolf trapping. There is a 72-hour trap check requirement, same as for fur-bearer trapping. You must make a mandatory report within 72 hours of kill; mandatory check within 10 days. 

If you have any questions or confusion on the regulation framework just give your local Conservation Officer a call, or you can always call our Regional Office in Coeur d’Alene at 208-769-1414.

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Author info

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

Tagged as:

wolves, The Game Trail, wolf hunting

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