The wolf management bill known as SB 1211 has passed both the house and the senate. The bill is now set to be sent to Gov. Brad Little’s desk. The bill will allow the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board to hire private contractors to kill wolves. These wolves have to be a threat to livestock or wildlife to be taken by private contractors. The bill would also remove the current 15 wolves-per-year limits on hunting. Likewise, the bill would extend wolf trapping season on private land to run year-round. All these changes would remain legal unless the wolf population falls below 150 individuals.
“The proposed amendments … represent a significant downside to the state’s ability to manage our wildlife responsibly. Accordingly, the commission has adopted the position to not support Senate Bill 1211.” – Ed Schriever, Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Concerns About the Bill
The bill is raising concerns not just in pro-wolf groups but also hunters and hunting groups within the state. Wolf supporters worry that the bill will decimate the wolf population in Idaho, essentially wiping them out. Hunters and hunting groups worry that this bill sets a dangerous precedent as it subverts the Idaho Fish & Game Commission. The Commission is the administrative branch of the wildlife program. The Commission is charged with creating and setting new wildlife regulations into motion. The main concern now is that Idaho’s wildlife will be managed by the legislature instead of wildlife biologists and personnel. Another worry is that if the wolf population falls below 150 animals the federal government can then step in and return wolves to the endangered species list. For many, this is a greater concern than the current wolf population within the state.
“We all need to understand that managing wildlife needs to be guided by science-based decisions. Those are thrown out the window when we favor these political decisions being made either by voters or legislators. Managing wildlife by ballot box biology — voter initiatives — or by legislation does not tend to ever work out well for wildlife. Voters and legislators are not scientists. They do not have all the ready data. They are influenced by arguments, (and) by donors and special interests.” – Brian Brooks, director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation
Wolf Management in Idaho
The bill’s main goal for wolf management is to push the wolf population closer to the “golden” number of 150 animals without going under it. Some legislators believe that even with these changes, the wolf population will remain steady at around 800- 1,000 individuals. The Fish & Game states that the 15-wolf tag limit has been rarely met since its introduction. During the 2019 hunting season, only six hunters took more than 10 wolves. Because of these numbers, several supporters of the bill believe that they will see minimal increases in wolf harvest.