Idaho, once home to thousands of wolves, eradicated its wolf population by the mid-1930s. Wolf numbers had been in dramatic decline for well over a century as settlers brought livestock, guns, bounties, and poison in order to establish their control over the land. Bison and indigenous people who depended on them were also decimated as part of the European immigrants' pursuit of domination of the native landscape.
In 1973, Americans chose a new path for wolves – as federally protected endangered species - an action that eventually would restore the persecuted species back to Yellowstone and the Rockies. It was so successful that the 66 wolves released in the mid-1990s grew to almost 2,000 across the region and expanded their interconnected range through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and California. Today, the first wolves from that population are even starting to return to Colorado though still not in numbers that would secure their recovery.
To avoid conflicts with livestock, most states have found ways to help livestock owners adapt to having wolves back on the landscape. Oregon requires reasonable nonlethal deterrents be applied to protect livestock before compensation is offered for losses due to wolves. Montana has taken the lead on developing new nonlethal methods and helping ranchers implement them to avoid conflict with wolves. Only Idaho and Wyoming have chosen to continue an antagonistic approach to wolves seemingly vying to be the worst place for wolf survival in the nation.
Today, Idaho is seeking public comments on a plan that would approve an 11-month to year-round season allowing trappers to kill even nursing mothers and their pups in den sites. Hunters and trappers would be allowed to killed 30 or more wolves in a year even on national public lands that belong to all of us. And Idaho is now funding bounties on wolves – up to $1,000 per wolf no matter the age.
If you care about justice for wildlife, about protecting wolves from persecution or just believe that Idaho should be held accountable to the plan they promised to uphold when they were granted authority from the federal government to manage wolves, it’s time to make your voice heard.
It takes 2 – 3 minutes to speak for the wolves. Most importantly, please submit your comments here:
Vote no to expanding wolf seasons. Use the comment sections to tell Idaho officials to stop the War on Wolves and live up to their promise to manage wolves like black bears and mountain lions.
What Can I Do Next?
Have you already submitted your comments but have time to go one step further? Please write to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials and Governor Brad Little. Be polite because only civil words will help. They have the fate of the wolves in their hands.
Use this suggested paragraph (which helps if you personalize it) or create your own. You're welcome to use any of the background materials below.
To the Attention of __________
Re: Idaho's Wolf Management
My name is _______________ and I care about wolves because _______________
I'm writing today because I believe that Idaho is failing to uphold its state legislative Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. Specifically, the plan states that in most instances, wolves can be managed similarly to how (note 4, p. 31) other large native mammalian predators (black bears and mountain lions) are traditionally managed.” (page 1, section 3) The plan goes further to address public concerns about the plan’s minimum population level objective of 15 breeding pairs or 150 wolves overall by referencing this commitment again but imply that wolves would be managed more protectively than mountain lions (2,000 – 3,000 statewide) and black bears (20,000 – 25,000 statewide) by adding this section:“4. Managing wolves similarly to how bears and lions are managed. One reviewer saw inconsistencies in the wolf plan regarding the idea of managing wolves similarly to how Idaho manages bears and lions. Wolves will be managed similarly to bears and lions, but not exactly as bears and lions are managed. The differences are the strong national interest in wolf management (evident in the federal wolf program) and the fact that wolves, unlike bears and lions, will be a recovered threatened species.” (page 31, section 4).
Regarding control measures, the plan states that at 15 packs and over, “Depredation control is treated like all other large mammalian predators. However, wolves are not being managed today in a similar manner to lions and bears despite their much lower numbers. And the new proposals both by Idaho Fish and Game and the State Legislature Senate Bill 1274 would violate the state wolf management plan by failing to uphold the basic management tenets established by the plan.
While I would prefer more protection for wolves, I ask at minimum that you uphold Idaho's commitment to manage its wolf population in a similar manner to the more abundant mountain lion and black bear populations in the state. Do not allow year round or unregulated take. Prohibit the killing of wolf pups or nursing mothers. Prohibit conibear or other trapping or snaring devices on public lands as they are cruel, indiscriminate, and threaten the public's recreational use (and that of our dogs and families) of our national public lands in deference to a small minority's special interests.
You can send one email to them all or separately. If you live in Idaho, tell your regional commissioner that you live in his district. That's important.
Idaho Governor Brad Little: email@example.com
IDFG Director, Ed Schriever: firstname.lastname@example.org
IDFG Regional Commissioners:
Salmon Commissioner, Jerry Meyers: Salmon.Commissioner@idfg.idaho.gov
Panhandle Commissioner, Brad Corkill: email@example.com
Southwest Idaho Commissioner, Tim Murphy: firstname.lastname@example.org
Magic Valley Commissioner, Greg Cameron: MagicValley.Commissioner@idfg.idaho.gov
Southeast Commissioner, Lane Clezie: email@example.com
Upper Snake Commissioner, Derick Attebury: firstname.lastname@example.org
IDFG Wildlife Chief, Toby Boudreau: email@example.com
The 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan
Under the 2002 Idaho State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, the State of Idaho committed to manage wolves as it does mountain lions and black bears in order to obtain authority from the federal government to take over the management of wolves in the state. Specifically, the plan approved by the Idaho Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee, as amended by the 56th Idaho Legislature, states:
“Population Objectives – Wolf population estimates are, at best, approximations, and establishment of specific population sizes to be maintained is not realistic. In most instances, wolves can be managed similarly to how (note 4, p. 31) other large native mammalian predators (black bears and mountain lions) are traditionally managed.” (page 1, section 3)
The plan goes further to address public concerns about the plan’s minimum population level objective of 15 breeding pairs or 150 wolves overall by referencing this commitment again but imply that wolves would be managed more protectively than mountain lions (2,000 – 3,000 statewide) and black bears (20,000 – 25,000 statewide) by adding this section: “4. Managing wolves similarly to how bears and lions are managed. One reviewer saw inconsistencies in the wolf plan regarding the idea of managing wolves similarly to how Idaho manages bears and lions. Wolves will be managed similarly to bears and lions, but not exactly as bears and lions are managed. The differences are the strong national interest in wolf management (evident in the federal wolf program) and the fact that wolves, unlike bears and lions, will be a recovered threatened species.” (page 31, section 4).
Regarding control measures, the plan states that at 15 packs and over, “Depredation control is treated like all other large mammalian predators. However, wolves are not being managed today in a similar manner to lions and bears despite their much lower numbers and despite wolves taking 50 percent less elk or deer per wolf than mountain lions take individually.
Both the new Idaho Senate Bill 1274 and the IDFG proposed hunting and trapping seasons would create even more disparity from the Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan’s commitment to manage wolves in a similar manner to mountain lions and black bears. Killing wolves is also expensive, unnecessary, and can exacerbate conflicts rather than resolve them, especially over the long term. Since wolf delisting in 2011, management and control budgets have steadily risen yet without a corresponding increase in wolf population numbers. IDFG estimates the wolf population at 1,000 wolves today – comparable to wolf population numbers estimated in 2010. However, livestock losses attributed to wolves have significantly increased since 2010. Last July, Idaho Wildlife Service’s State Director Todd Grimm reported the highest record number of livestock losses since wolves were reintroduced in 1995 stating losses are “up 25% from a year earlier”.
However, during this same time, ranchers using nonlethal preventative measures are documenting far fewer losses not only to wolves but to mountain lions, bears, and coyotes as well. For example, the Wood River Wolf Project in Blaine County has completed 12 years in testing nonlethal measures used to protect highly vulnerable large sheep operations ranging in rugged mountain terrain over the summer grazing season annually. In 2019, the Project helped protect 18,240 sheep from June through mid-October losing only 8 sheep to wolves over the course of the entire grazing season. That’s a loss of only 0.04% in mortality due to wolves, well below the sheep mortality losses in similar operations that depend of routine removal of wolves to minimize losses.
The Project’s primary nonlethal methods include multiple livestock guardian dogs, Foxlights, frequent human presence, and sound devices used to repel predators. Regarding cattle operations, other techniques including carcass management to minimize attractants, rotational grazing and herding techniques, managed calving operations, hazing, and other methods used adaptively are successfully minimizing losses to wolves and other predators. Ranchers have discovered that maintaining stable wolf packs that rarely prey on livestock helps increase the effectiveness of these preventative nonlethal techniques. When wolf packs are broken apart by lethal control measures, the entire pack will often split up or lose its territory to other wolf packs. This destabilization creates unpredictable behaviors making it harder to remedy using nonlethal measures.
The plan further states that “IDFG is charged by statute with the management of Idaho’s wildlife (Idaho Code §36-103(a): “All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.”). This plan will enable the transition of the management of the gray wolf back to the IDFG as either a big game animal, furbearer, or special classification of predator that provides for controlled take after delisting. This classification will enable IDFG to provide protection for wolves as well as consider the impacts of wolves on other big game species, those sectors of the economy dependent upon sport hunting, livestock, domestic animals, and humans.”
Both Senate Bill 1274 and the proposed Idaho Fish and Game proposed expanded hunting and trapping seasons would result in uncontrolled take in violation of the state wolf management plan and it violates Idaho Code §36-103(a): but allowing capture or take of wolves under such conditions that fail to preserve, protect and perpetuate them for the citizens of the state who want to see healthy wolf populations as we do black bears, mountain lions, elk, deer and other valued species.
Bringing Science and Practical Solutions Together for Better Results
The Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan states “The goal of this conservation and management plan is to ensure the long-term survival of wolves in Idaho while minimizing wolf-human conflicts that result when wolves and people live in the same vicinity. Conservation of wolves requires management. Management for wolves means ensuring adequate numbers for long-term persistence of the species as well as ensuring that landowners, land managers, other citizens, and their property are protected.” However, Senate Bill 1274 and the increased trapping, snaring and hunting season proposals under consideration by the IDFG Commission are only focused on lethal control measures. This focus results in spiraling increased costs for wolf management and higher conflicts leading to more demands to control wolf numbers while reasonable alternatives remain underutilized or ignored entirely. It’s time for Idaho to give more these less expensive, more effective strategies a chance to work on behalf of ranchers who need guidance, support and training to better protect their livestock.
Elk and Wolves
The state elk population has increased since wolves were restored in 1995 from 112,333 to 116,800 today. Even in areas where elk herds are declining, these declines are largely due to habitat loss, which is not mitigated by killing predators. And elk are often displaced by large cattle herds, which means that removing wolves on cattle grazing range does not benefit elk in those areas. Mountain lions kill and eat twice as many elk as wolves do. We have room in Idaho for elk, mountain lions, and wolves, which play an essential role in healthy ecosystems and healthy elk and deer herds.
Thank you for helping speak for the wolves of Idaho.