Twenty wolves shot from the air in northern Idaho in the past week

Source: The Spokesman-Review By Betsy Z. Russell

Twenty wolves were shot from a helicopter in northern Idaho in the past week, part of a wolf-control operation designed to improve elk survival in the area.
That’s on top of 20 more wolves killed by hunters and trappers in the Lolo elk zone over the past year, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. That zone straddles the county line of Clearwater and Idaho counties.
The helicopter hunt is the operation the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board was trying to keep secret on Monday when the board had its budget hearing before the Legislature’s joint budget committee. At that time, a representative wouldn’t answer questions about wolves killed so far in 2016. The board receives $400,000 a year in state tax funds to target problem wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife; it also receives money from the Fish and Game Department and from the livestock industry.
“Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where regulated harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals,” the agency said in a statement. “The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter,” necessitating the use of the helicopter, the statement said.
It added, “To date, hunters and trappers have taken 20 wolves in the Lolo zone during the 2015-2016 season. The trapping season ends March 31 and the hunting season ends June 30.”
The agency said the Lolo elk population has declined dramatically over the last 25 years, from 16,000 elk to fewer than 1,000 today. It has conducted aerial wolf-kills in the Lolo zone for the past five years.

Image: John E. Marriott Photography

2 Replies to “Twenty wolves shot from the air in northern Idaho in the past week”

  1. Well, I have taken a quick look at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game report into the Idaho Elk Management Plan (2014 – 2024):

    What’s clear from a quick scan of this plan, is that elk hunting is an estimated “$175m USD” industry, where ‘planning’ is dedicated to satisfying hunters’ demands as far as possible it would seem.

    “Rocky Mountain elk are Idaho’s premier big game animal. Idaho’s diversity of big game species is a hunter’s dream.” – Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Executive Summary

    Of course, any predator that might take elk numbers (rather than hunters killing the elk instead) is a threat to the industry income, the wolf being cited as a major culprit. It would seem to me as an outsider looking in I admit, that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is an authority run by hunters, for hunters (and that’s the only ‘elk conservation model’ that any such ethos can see as ‘credible’ to sustain habitat under their authority). So, the chances of any predator numbers (such as wolves) being ‘tolerated’ and receiving a balanced hearing appears slim when there are hunting income $$ at risk.

    What I did not see in the report is any hunt harvesting numbers clearly displayed (apart from Fig 3, page 21 and page 48). So could over ‘harvesting’ by hunters also be a possible reason for the Lolo elk zone population decline (no reported ‘harvesting’ in Lolo noted), as no doubt Lolo elk herds migrate between zones where they are subject to ‘harvesting’ and not return to their previous zone in sustainable numbers?

    When hunters were asked how important various reasons were for them to hunting elk, the top 6 reasons cited in the plan were “just being outdoors,” “seeing elk in a natural setting,” “being close to nature,” “viewing scenery,” “being with friends,” and “doing something with my family.” Of course, one can do all those things without killing elk (or any other animals for that matter), with arrows and bullets.

    So the killing part must also be a very important factor to the hunters, but perhaps they are not so willingness to admit it so readily (killing for meat of course, not just for the pleasure of killing as that would be ‘unacceptable’ right?). This ”just being outdoors” included hunters resorting to unethical practices such as “flock shooting,” “party hunting” and firing at will from vehicles with “road hunting.” So this latter element is all part of being with friends/family and having fun killing stuff for some hunters I assume, but shows little ethics or any recognisable form of ‘conservation’ in such actions. I don’t believe the cited hunters’ motivations are ‘realistic’ on any level.

    I hope that a more tolerant, balanced, humane and inclusive ‘conservation’ stance is taken by those in authority for the sake of all wildlife that might prey on elk (including wolves, mountain lions, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, bobcats and golden eagles) and not just continue to pander to hunters’ demands.

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