Mostly Trapping

Wolf trapping is a tool Idaho wildlife managers want to keep
Feb 17, 2019 10:36 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

You can earn more than $1,000 for trapping a single wolf in Idaho, but it will cost you.

The traps and gear will set you back a couple thousand dollars and driving or snowmobiling a circuit of more than 50 miles several times a week from November through March gets spendy, not to mention the time.

It could cost friends, too, especially any who think wolves shouldn’t be managed to limit their impacts on big game and livestock.

Wolves are perhaps the most polarizing creatures in North America. Some people deplore the killing of a wolf for virtually any reason. The opposite faction wants them gone. All gone.

Somewhere in between is the Foundation for Wildlife Management (F4WM), which packed a sell-out crowd of more than 600 in the Bonner County Fairgrounds on Feb. 9 for its seventh annual benefit banquet.

Through membership, fundraising and sponsors – including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – F4WM offers rewards of $500-$1,000 for trappers who bag a wolf in Idaho. (Fur buyers might offer another $150 for the carcass.)

“There needs to be a balance,” said Kevin Sawyer, a Sandpoint-area sportsman, trapper and banquet co-host. “Wolves are flourishing and big game is hurting, especially in some units.”

“Trapping can be very focused where problems exist,” said Clay Hickey, Idaho Fish and Game Department (IFG) regional wildlife manager in Lewiston. “When dealing with a very smart critter, wolf trapping is a tool we want in our tool box for sure.”

Fourteen years after their mid-’90s releases, wolf reintroduction to the Northern Rockies was declared wildly successful by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials. Management authority was turned over to Idaho (also Montana) with the caveat that federal Endangered Species Act protections would kick in again if wolf numbers dropped below 150.

“We don’t want to get down anywhere near that number,” Chip Corsi, IFG regional manager in Coeur d’Alene, said last month. “I don’t really see any way that could happen.”

Even though Idaho opened wolf seasons for both hunting and trapping in 2011, wolf numbers have continued to increase to roughly 1,000 in more than 90 packs, according to the state Office of Species Conservation.

“Idaho Fish and Game officials have said for several years that wolves occupy virtually all of the available habitat in Idaho north of Interstate 84,” said Justin Webb, a trapper and F4WM executive director.

“Recovery is complete. Wolves should be managed like other wildlife, just like elk are targeted when their numbers get too high in some areas and they start damaging crops.”

The take of Idaho wolves by hunters and trappers has leveled out in recent years to around 300 annually. The split is roughly 50-50, but trappers are more efficient, taking nearly as many wolves while being outnumbered 100-to-1 by hunters with wolf tags in their pockets.

Wildlife Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal control agency, also targets wolves each year, reporting 83 killed related to livestock depredations in 2018, a record year for Idaho livestock attacks.

The Idaho Office of Species Conservation coordinates compensation to livestock producers related to wolf attacks. In 2018, ISCO reimbursed $166,600 in federal funds for confirmed livestock losses, said Scott Pugrud, administrator. Some producers did not file claims for losses, he said.

In seven years, through 2018, F4WM has paid trappers about $250,000 of privately raised money for harvesting more than 470 wolves, Webb said. The average reimbursement is more than $500. Some payments reach $1,000 for taking wolves in difficult backcountry locations such as the Lolo Zone, where IFG has identified wolf pressure as a reason for severely depressed elk numbers.

“We’re a bargain for the state,” Webb said, “considering that Wildlife Services and the Idaho Wolf Board have been spending $8,000-$9,000 on average to remove a problem wolf when the costs of investigating livestock depredations are included.”

Idaho lawmakers have allocated the state Wolf Depredation Control Board $400,000 a year during a just-ending five-year pilot program. The funding, which likely will be extended at a lower level, pays federal Wildlife Services agents to eliminate wolves caught preying on livestock. The livestock industry and sportsmen, through IFG, have annually chipped in another $110,000 apiece.

Since reintroduction, confirmed wolf depredations in Idaho have claimed more than 700 cattle and 550 sheep, impacting at least 412 different ranchers.

“Wolves are reproducing at a rate of 25 percent each year,” Webb said. “They’re reproducing faster than we can harvest them. The No. 1 killer of wolves is other wolves. Trappers are just a piece of the management.”