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Idaho governor greenlights killing of 90% of state's wolf population

The new law allows the animals to be shot from snowmobiles and ATVs and diverts taxpayer money to pay private contractors to kill an estimated 1,350 wolves.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a controversial bill Thursday that will allow the killing of most of the wolves in the state.

The bill allocates taxpayer money to pay private contractors to kill wolves, as well as expanding permission for hunters and trappers to kill the animals. 

Senate Bill 1211 allows for up to 1,350 wolves to be killed, or about 90% of Idaho's wolf population. 

The measure, which was backed by the agriculture industry, is expected to cut the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150. It allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.  

Proponents of the bill say the wolf population in Idaho is too high, and argue the large canines are costing ranchers money by attacking sheep and cattle.

The bill was opposed by both the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and animal advocates, who have warned that the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take back over management of Idaho's wolf population if numbers fall too low. 

About 500 wolves were killed across the state in both 2020 and 2019 through hunting, trapping, and state population control methods. 

The legislation being signed into law may also disqualify Idaho from receiving $18 million in wildlife management funding the state currently gets under the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Little's decision was slammed by both the Humane Society of the United States and the Center for Biological Diversity, which decried the bill's goal as "horrific."

"Backed by an array of misinformation and fearmongering, the state legislature stepped over experts at the Idaho Fish and Game Department and rushed to pass this horrific wolf-killing bill," said Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "And Republican lawmakers have promised that this is just the beginning, even though the new measure would doom 90% of Idaho's wolves. We're disappointed that Gov. Little signed such a cruel and ill-conceived bill into law." 

Amanda Wight, program manager of wildlife protection for the Humane Society, said the group is calling on federal authorities to intercede in response to the planned killings.

"Governor Little has signed a death warrant for hundreds of Idaho's iconic and beloved wolves. This bill, which has no grounding in science or public values, demonstrates that Idaho can no longer responsibly manage its wolves," Wight said in a statement. "The time has come for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and abide by their obligations to review and relist these imperiled animals under the Endangered Species Act now that Idaho is allowing unlimited killing."

Gray wolves were removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act last year.

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