Idaho's perspective on wolves
by Idaho Fish and Game Department
November 7, 2008
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission Wednesday, November 6, directed Fish and Game staff to pursue hunting seasons in the fall of 2009 and ways to control wolves in areas where wild deer and elk herd numbers are depressed.
Wolves in Idaho remain on the federal endangered species list, and wolf hunting seasons remain on hold.
"We've been in a waiting mode for a very long time," Commissioner Fred Trevey of the Clearwater Region said.
Idaho Fish and Game waited for the state to get a role in wolf recovery, then waited for a delisting rule, and that lasted a fairly short time, Trevey said. Now Fish and Game is waiting for a delisting rule again to let state exercise management and control of wolves.
The commission action included direction to the Department of Fish and Game to review conflict levels, population status and harvest objectives needed to set wolf hunting seasons in the fall of 2009 - if wolves are successfully delisted.
Deputy Director Jim Unsworth laid out a timeline for the commissioners that could result in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisting gray wolves in Idaho and the Northern Rocky Mountains before January 20, 2009. That timeline includes a public comment period, review and a 30 day delay between publishing the delisting rule in the Federal Register and the rule taking effect.
The commission action calls on Fish and Game to develop population estimates on wolves in wilderness areas, to develop and use wolf monitoring and estimation techniques, and to develop ways allowed under current federal law to control wolves in areas where wolves are affecting ungulate numbers, in the event that wolves are not delisted.
"We're not managing a national park ," Trevey said.
Commissioners discussed wolf conflicts in agricultural areas and rural towns, as well as areas where wolves are having significant effects on elk herds, such as the Lolo Elk Management zone in the Clearwater Region.
"It's too bad we couldn't move forward with our plan to manage wolves like other big game species," Unsworth said. "With our hands tied, we have to use what tools we can to deal with wolf conflicts."
Wolves in Idaho were removed, temporarily it turned out, from the endangered species list on March 28.
Federal protection was reinstated for wolves in Idaho on July 18, when U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in federal court in Missoula issued a preliminary injunction that returned the wolf to federal endangered species protection.
The injunction was sought by parties to a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's earlier decision to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list.
Rather than fight it out in court, however, U.S. Department of Interior and Department of Justice officials asked the court to drop the delisting rule and start over. On October 14, Molloy granted the motion to remand the delisting rule to the Fish and Wildlife Service. He also dismissed the lawsuit.
That put the wolf back on the endangered species list. On October 28, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period on its proposal to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Meanwhile, Idaho's wolf population management plan, state laws governing wolves, and wolf hunting seasons and rules are ready. But wolf hunting seasons remain on hold and no wolf tags will be sold until wolves are
As of July 18, wolf management south of Interstate 90 had reverted to a section of the Endangered Species Act known as the 10(j) rule, which was amended in January. Simply put, the 10(j) rule allows states and tribes with approved wolf management plans some options to manage wolves to ensure the health of wild elk and deer herds. It also provides more flexibility to protect livestock and private property.
The rule allows individuals on private or public land to kill a wolf that is in the act of attacking their stock animals (horses, mules, donkey, llamas, goats used to transport people and possessions) or dogs, except land north of Interstate 90 in Idaho, or land administered by the National Park Service, and provided there is no evidence of intentional baiting, feeding or deliberate attractants of wolves.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's delisting rule that would remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the federal endangered species list was posted in the Federal Register on February 27.
On March 6, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan, which includes a framework for future wolf hunting seasons.
The delisting rule became final on March 28, and Idaho assumed full responsibility for wolves. But that would last only three months.
On April 28, 12 conservation and animal rights groups file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to remove the gray wolf in Idaho and the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list. The lawsuit included a request for a preliminary injunction staying the delisting rule until the lawsuit is settled.
On May 22, the commission adopted proposed wolf hunting seasons and rules for fall 2008.
The July 18 injunction put delisting on hold, and the demand put wolves back on the endangered species list.