Today, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the nation is taking notice of how Idaho is managing wolves just two years after they were stripped of the protection of the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Congress. This weekend anti-wolf forces are having a highly controversial 2-day wolf and coyote killing contest where two person teams will receive prizes for the biggest wolf and most coyotes they kill. At the same time, Idaho Department of Fish and Game has hired a private trapper to kill the entire Monumental Creek and Golden Creek packs of wolves deep inside one of the nation’s largest wilderness areas – the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area – far away from any livestock simply because an outfitter whined to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game commissioner.
The nation is taking notice. This morning the New York Times published a scathing editorial titled “Wolf Haters“, the Idaho Statesman published a Guest Opinion by Rick Johnson of the Idaho Conservation League, and even the BBC reported on the derby.
Idaho’s management of wolves is highly questionable. Since wolves were stripped of Endangered Species Act protection the population has declined by over 20%, Idaho Department of Fish and Game has hand captured and surgically implanted radio transmitters into pups that were just 9 lbs, they allow hunting year-round in some areas of the state, they have inflated the number of breeding pairs by changing the definition of what a breeding pair is, they have shot dozens of wolves in the Selway/Lochsa from helicopters, and now they are allowing wolf killing contests and hiring a trapper to kill wolves in the middle of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area with the permission of the US Forest Service who is letting the trapper stay at their Cabin Creek facility. The US Forest Service, by the way, should withdraw this permission since this kind of activity runs contrary to the Wilderness Act and requires a special use permit. The US Forest Service should conduct an open and public process before this activity proceeds any further.
This type of management has fueled the most virulent conflict among both sides of the debate. The Wildlife News receives virulent comments that never see the light of day on a regular basis. Things are heating up and the Idaho political system feeds the virulence or remains silent. People are even going so far as to poison pups at their den using an artificial sweetener touted by anti-wolf goons. 4 of them were found dead this spring.
Clearly Idaho’s predator management violates the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation. It violates it in many ways that I think have been spelled out well in this essay published on the For Nature’s Sake blog in October.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game needs to listen to the message that it received loud and clear at the Wildlife Summit that it organized last year. But, even before it finished, Director Virgil Moore dashed any hope that the Department would elevate the thoughts of the non-hunting and fishing community to the level impact that hunters and fishermen have. All Idahoans, and even non-Idahoans, have a stake in how Idaho’s wolves and wildlife are managed. Our wildlife deserves better than this politicized and virulent atmosphere that is brewing today. You need to start listening to all sides not just those who pitch a fit the loudest. Killing for fun is not sportsmen like. Killing wolves in the wilderness so that some rich hunter can shoot an elk on a guided trip violates the meaning of wilderness.