BOISE -- The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will put more resources into keeping down the wolf population. The decision was made Thursday morning and Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore says it's a way to complement what has been effective management of the animals. But others say it's only more killing, and not management at all.
The first wolf hunt in Idaho was more than three years ago, and Idaho Fish and Game officials say hunters and trappers have done a good job controlling the population in and around farms and ranches.
But Moore says the wolf population is increasing in remote areas in north and central Idaho where hunters can't get to. "These are backcountry zones that are difficult to access," Moore said.
That's resulted in the elk population, which was already dropping, to drop at a quicker pace in those spots. Fish and Game commissioners decided to move $50,000 from funding research that's almost done, to killing and trapping of more wolves in areas like Clearwater, Lolo and the Selway.
"They've killed a lot of wolves, it's clearly been very effective. But their job is actually to conserve wolves," says Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife, an advocacy group.
She says killing and trapping is not the way to manage the wolf or elk population. "We propose that commission use the money for non-lethal tools that are more effective in reducing livestock losses, and certainly more effective in reducing the impact on wildlife, including wolves," Stone said.
One of those non-lethal means includes almost 24/7 supervision of livestock, which Stone says has had great success in Blaine County.
But Moore says, while he's open to new ideas, he believes right now, the department is using the best management tools available. "I believe our cross-section of management using sport hunting, sport trapping, directed take through our biologists, and other means of mortality are the correct ways to go," Moore said.
There's clearly disagreement there on a fundamental level but Moore says he's putting together opportunities for advocates like Stone to talk to Fish and Game biologists about their management techniques.
Coming up next year, Fish and Game will see their federal dollars to help with wolf management reduced significantly. Moore says that might result in higher fees for hunters and anglers, but he isn't sure yet.