Conservation and Trapping Science

Another Article: Governor signed extensive wolf-kill bill
May 11, 2021 17:37 ET

[Reprinted from original]

A bill signed into law by Gov. Brad Little on May 6 will allow hunters and private contractors to kill an unlimited number of wolves starting July 1, potentially removing more than 90% of Idaho’s gray wolf population.

Little signed the controversial measure, Senate Bill 1211, without comment or press release.

Under the bill’s terms, wolves can be pursued from ATVs, snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles and killed by any method, including baiting and aerial gunning. The bill will also allow wolf hunters to use night vision equipment and spotlights to locate the animals, according to bill sponsor Sen. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton.

Along with a significantly higher wolf harvest, the legislation allows year-round trapping and snaring of wolves on private property. It also directs $800,000 to the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board, a state agency that uses taxpayer dollars and funding from the state Department of Fish and Game to finance lethal wolf-control operations and compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.

The board previously operated on an annual budget of about $620,000. Of its new $800,000 budget, $300,000 from Fish and Game will be used to kill wolves that prey on elk, and the remaining $500,000 from state tax dollars will be used to kill wolves that prey on sheep and cattle.

One major change specified in the bill is the Wolf Depredation Control Board’s use of private contractors to kill wolves. Any group or individual recognized as a private contractor by the board, regardless of residency, will be authorized to conduct large-scale wolf-kill operations in Idaho. One contractor already lined up is the Foundation for Wildlife Management, an organization based in Ponderay that pays trappers up to $1,000 per wolf killed.

“Wolves may be disposed of by any federal agency, state agency or private contractor,” the new law states.

Senate Bill 1211 will also allow residents to buy an unlimited number wolf tags—currently capped at 15 hunting and 15 trapping tags per person—and will make all tags simultaneously valid for hunting, snaring and trapping.

The wolf-culling bill was passed 58-11 on April 27, one week after Burtenshaw introduced the legislation and six days after it cleared the Senate. The House floor vote fell mostly along party lines last month, with District 26 Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, the only Democrat voting in favor of the bill.

“SB 1211 is not a perfect bill, but the legislation starts the conversation for balanced wildlife management,” Toone told the Express at the time. “Our state agencies, wildlife associations and industry must work toward a solution for all of Idaho.”

Burtenshaw, an east Idaho farmer, rancher and livestock dealer who represents District 35, told lawmakers at the state Capitol that the bill would benefit ranchers by reducing wolf attacks on sheep and cattle. It would also benefit Idaho’s elk hunters, who are forced to compete with wolves, he said.

“I represent our cattlemen, our woolgrowers and outfitters. This bill has been crafted by them,” he said on April 27. “This is legislation put together by that industry, for that industry. There were no legislators invited to those meetings.”