by Greg Moore
BOISE, Idaho – Idaho officials say livestock depredations by wolves appear to have reached a low point, showing that the program is on the right path.
Idaho Wildlife Services Director Todd Grimm says his office killed 70 wolves in Fiscal Year 2016, which ended Oct. 1, 50 of the wolves were tied to livestock depredations. The recent numbers were about the same as during FY 2015 and slightly down from 2013.
Grimm says he believes depredation cases have gotten about as low as they will be.
Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation Administrator Dustin Miller says the state, which recently took over wolf management, has greater flexibility to manage the predators that the federal government did. He says he expects the trend of depredations to stay low.
Gray wolf pups. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
PREDATORS — Idaho Fish and Game is asking for the public’s help in determining who is responsible for removing and killing young wolves from a den in North Idaho.
The incident occurred in Kootenai County, about 15 miles from Coeur d’Alene, in the Sage Creek drainage, says Phil Cooper, department spokesman. The incident likely occurred sometime during the week of May 16.
“Fish and Game manages wolves in Idaho as big game animals,” he said. “There was no open season for wolves in the area when the juvenile wolves were killed.”
Fish and Game officers collected evidence at the scene and are following leads.
Information about the incident can be called in to the Citizens Against Poaching Hotline, (800) 632-5999.
“Callers may remain anonymous,” he said. “A reward is available for anyone providing information that leads to criminal prosecution of the case.”
Wolves killed four hound dogs valued at several thousand dollars near Moody Bench earlier this month.
Idaho Fish and Game official Gregg Losinski reported that wolves killed the dogs while they were hunting for black bears. The owner had allowed the dogs to run off in search of the bears.
“These were not dogs in a person’s yard or with an individual on a trail. These were dogs that were let loose to track down a black bear and to tree a black bear,” he said.
Wolves prove notoriously territorial and will kill hunting dogs thinking they’re part of a rival pack, Losinski said.
“Wolves don’t see hound dogs as dogs but as other wolves. In their world, they kill the other pack that’s there. It’s not about emotions. It’s about survival. They’re programmed to do that,” he said.
Fish and Game believes the wolves responsible for killing the dogs are part of a wolf group called the White Owl Pack. There’s not much that Fish and Game officials can do about the attacks other than to warn dog owners that there is a wolf population.
“All we can do is alert people that Idaho is a wild place. When you go out there, things happen. Hopefully you’re in control,” he said. “If you know there’s wolves in the area, we encourage hunters not to release their dogs in the area.”
If a dog owner caught a wolf attacking his pet, the owner is within his rights to shoot the wolf. But you can’t just shoot a wolf unless it is hunting season. The state gives residents the chance to do that by summer’s end. It’s allowed wolf hunting for the past five years.
“Depending on where you’re at, you can harvest five wolves through hunting and five through trapping,” Losinski said.
The wolves’ hide is often highly sought after, he said.
“The pelt of the wolf is in its prime during the winter and is a desirable pelt on people’s walls,” Losinski said.
It’s often difficult to successfully hunt and kill a wolf, but that’s what often motivates sportsmen, he said.
“Hunting is oftentimes not about food but for the sport of it,” he said.
Right now the state is in the middle of black bear hunting season. Wolf hunting starts Aug. 30.
In the meantime, Losinski urged hunters to be cautious.
“Do your homework. If you hear wolves, it is not advisable to release hound dogs in that area,” he said.
Losinski also warned that another wild animal, the grizzly bear, will run after dogs if they don’t kill them first.
“Grizzly bears pursue hound dogs. They chase them back to their owners. Black bears will tree,” he said.
Losinski likens the situation to someone fishing for minnows, knowing perfectly well that there’s a shark nearby.
“It’s about situational awareness. Think about where you’re at and what you should do,” he said. “It’s all part of the sport and knowing what you’re getting into.”
TUESDAY, JAN. 12, 2016, 1:10 P.M.
By Rich Landers
WILDLIFE — In a lawsuit filed by animal protection groups, a federal judge has ruled that Idaho’s regulations for trapping furbearers in North Idaho violate the Endangered Species Act by allowing the inadvertent capture of federally protected Canada lynx.
Here are details from the Associated Press:
The 26-page decision made public Monday in U.S. District Court requires Idaho to propose a plan within 90 days that protects lynx in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions.
“We hope Idaho will now recognize that these rare and beautiful animals need more protection than the state has been willing to grant them,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.
The Center, the Western Watersheds Project, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians filed the lawsuit in June 2014 asking that lethal body-crushing traps and snares be made illegal. The groups also want to limit the size of foothold traps in lynx habitat and require daily checks of traps.
Named in the lawsuit are Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore, and members of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.
Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler said Monday the agency is reviewing the decision and couldn’t comment.
The Idaho Trappers Association intervened on behalf of the state.
“I believe the judge made a mistake,” said the group’s president, Patrick Carney. He said if all the limits the conservations groups want on trapping are put in place, it would greatly limit trapping in the regions.
“If they implement all that, wolf trapping is over, and so is all of the other trapping,” he said.
Besides wolves, other animals legal to trap in Idaho include coyotes, bobcats, otters, beavers, foxes, marten and mink.
The conservation groups in the lawsuit said trapping in Idaho has increased from about 650 licenses issued in the 2001-2002 season to more than 2,300 in recent years. Officials say that at least four lynx have been trapped in Idaho since 2012. One was killed after a trapper mistook it for a bobcat.
Judge B. Lynn Winmill in his ruling found that trappers likely would capture additional lynx in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions through inadvertent trapping.
The conservation groups sought to limit trapping based on potential lynx encounters in other parts of the state as well. But Winmill rejected that argument, noting that the record didn’t support inadvertent trapping of lynx in those areas.
Canada lynx weigh about 20 pounds and have large paws that give them an advantage in both pursuing prey and eluding predators when traveling across snow. They feed primarily on snowshoe hares and are believed to number in the hundreds in the continental U.S. It’s unclear how many are in Idaho.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed lynx in the continental U.S. as threatened with extinction in 2000.
The Idaho Fish and Game Department has announced that no wolves will be killed in the federally-protected Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness during the winter of 2015-16.
The announcement comes after a lawsuit brought by Defenders and other conservation groups to stop the killing of wolves to boost elk populations in federally-protected wilderness lands like Frank Church Wilderness.
The Frank Church Wilderness is the largest national forest wilderness area in the Lower 48 States and a core habitat for gray wolves in the western United States. I know you share my view that wilderness should be managed as wilderness, not as a game farm for favored hunters and commercial outfitters.
The state has previously planned to kill up to 60 percent of the wolves living in Frank Church, in large part to artificially inflate elk numbers for hunters. Those wolves can breathe easier for another winter after this latest decision.
Still, it’s important to remember that this reprieve is only temporary and that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to defend wolves in Idaho.
But thanks to you and your support, Defenders will continue to work tirelessly to protect wolves throughout the Lower 48.
Thank you for your compassion and your continued partnership!
A gray wolf patrols its territory in the mountains of Idaho.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015 4:00 am
Idaho Wildlife Services has killed five wolves due to two incidents of sheep depredation that occurred on BLM land at the head of Croy Canyon and two incidents of cattle depredation that occurred on private land about 10 miles northeast of Fairfield.
Wildlife Services director Todd Grimm said the Idaho Department of Fish and Game confirmed that wolves had killed a ewe and a lamb on May 26 and a second ewe on June 3. He said the department confirmed a wolf kill of a calf on June 24 and a probable wolf kill of a cow on July 3.
Grimm said three wolves were shot on May 28 and two were shot on June 4.
He said the sheep were attended by herders and guard dogs, but said he did not know whether any scare devices were employed. He said the agency does not release the names of livestock producers whose animals are involved in depredation incidents.
Local wolf advocate Lynne Stone, director of the Boulder White Clouds Council, said the wolves were part of the Red Warrior pack, which had been viewed by people this winter on the hillside opposite the Warm Springs base area. She said that at that time, the pack consisted of nine wolves, though the alpha female died before the depredation incidents occurred.
“These wolves were in a great place with lots of wild country,” she said. “Then in came the sheep and we lose the wolves.”
Stone contended that Wildlife Services was “jumping the gun” by using lethal means before giving other methods a chance to scare off the wolves.
“When one ewe and one lamb get killed, they go in with their airplanes and shoot the whole pack,” she said. “We’re not going to have wolves in Blaine County if this is what the sheep industry and Wildlife Services are going to continue to do.”
Grimm said that elsewhere in the state this season, Wildlife Services killed three wolves due to depredation incidents in the Pahsimeroi Valley and three near Cascade. In February, the federal agency killed 19 wolves in the Lolo zone in northern Idaho at the request of the Department of Fish and Game to boost a declining elk population there.
“Since 2009 more than 1,300 wolves have been hunted or trapped in Idaho, and another nearly 500 have been lethally removed from Idaho’s landscape,” Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “In the face of these astounding numbers, it’s no wonder that Idaho may have experienced a nearly 50 percent drop in breeding pairs.”
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game in a 70-page report released April 3 said there were at least 770 wolves in the state, with a minimum of 26 breeding pairs, as of Dec. 31, 2014. The Center notes that’s a steep drop from the 49 breeding pairs in 2009, when wolves in Idaho reached their peak.
The Center also questions the state agency’s estimate of 6.5 wolves per pack, a key number as it’s part of an equation — when multiplied by the number of packs in the state— to tally the overall population.
Jim Hayden, a biologist with Fish and Game, defended the state report’s estimate of the minimum number of wolves in Idaho. Hayden is listed as an editor of the report.
“The 770 is a number we’re very confident with,” he said. “We know the actual truth is higher than that, we just don’t know how far higher.”
He said the agency stopped counting breeding pairs of wolves after surveying 43 packs because it’s expensive and the number had cleared the minimum as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal agency could retake management control of the Idaho wolf population if numbers fall below certain criteria.
If the state fails to maintain 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves over any three-year period, or if the population falls below 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in any year, the federal agency could take over.
Mike Jimenez, Northern Rocky Mountain wolf coordinator for Fish and Wildlife, said the federal agency reviewed Idaho’s methodology and is confident in the numbers.
“From our perspective, they are far above recovery goals,” he said. “How to manage wolves and hunt wolves — that’s a state issue.”
The wolf population has grown so much, Jimenez said, that biologists can no longer rely on using radio collars when doing counts.
“We’re way past that,” he said. “We have a very large wolf population in the Northern Rockies. We’re trying to reduce the need for radio collars.”
Fish and Wildlife estimates that a minimum of 1,783 wolves in more than 300 packs roamed the six-state region at the end of last year.
Hayden said that radio collars on 32 packs in Idaho were used by Fish and Game to come up with 6.5 wolves per pack, which is an increase from 5.4 wolves per pack the previous year.
But he said the agency is relying more on remote cameras and, this spring, will be collecting scat at wolf rendezvous sites to get DNA samples. The DNA can help determine pack size and the number of pups. He noted the wolf population is expected to jump 40 percent with the addition of pups this spring.
The DNA can also be used to help determine harvest levels by hunters.
Some groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, would rather there be no harvest.
“We don’t think wolves should be hunted at all,” Santarsiere said. “But with such aggressive killing of a species so recently considered endangered, there at least needs to be careful monitoring.”
[Yesterday it was reported that Alaska killed 18 wolves to boost moose (for humans, of course), today, Idaho officials announced that they killed 19 wolves to boost elk herds (also for the benefit of humans). What’s next and when will it end?]
LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) – Idaho officials say 19 wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.
Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game tells the Lewiston Tribune in Lewiston that elk numbers in the region have dropped dramatically over the past 26 years.
Fish and Game says the area had an estimated 16,000 elk in 1989 but that the agency now believes the population could be as low as 1,000.