LEWISTON, Idaho -- Angry hunters pressed the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Wednesday to act boldly and swiftly to reduce the state's wolf population to the minimum allowed by law.
They called for year-round wolf hunting seasons, trapping, allowing the use of electronic calls and the classification of wolves as predators. Some scolded the commission and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for not doing enough to kill wolves in the brief time they have been under state management.
"You have been delisted for three weeks and we still don't have a hunting season," Milt Turley of Avery said. "You folks are sitting on your hands."
The commission is meeting in Lewiston this week and conducted a two-hour public hearing Wednesday evening.
Nearly all who addressed the commission chose to speak about wolves.
Wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of three other states were removed from Endangered Species Act protection May 5.
The department shot and killed five wolves from a helicopter in the Lolo Zone and issued wolf kill permits to Idaho County sheriff's deputies near Elk City. It has also authorized the killing of wolves involved in livestock attacks.
But some hunters want more and urged the commission to back policies to reduce the wolf population to 150. The federal rule that removed ESA protections for wolves calls for the state to maintain at least 100 animals. If the population drops below 150, the government would consider placing wolves back on the list of threatened and endangered species.
Department Director Virgil Moore said he wants to reduce the wolf population below the 700 believed to be in the state today, but he also wants more than 150 wolves to guard against relisting if the population were to take an unexpected dive.
Some who spoke said the state should maintain exactly 150 wolves and not accept any more.
"Collar 150 of them, keep track of them and kill every other one," said Mike Popp, a hunting outfitter from Kooskia and spokesman for the Committee for a Safe and Wolf Free Idaho.
Many said wolves have devastated big game herds and cause economic turmoil in places like Elk City. They also said wolves are a threat to public safety and even human health. Stan Denham, one of the Idaho County deputies authorized to kill wolves at Elk City, asked commissioners to imagine finding a child mauled by wolves and said he has to keep a close eye on his own kids.
"I can no longer let them play outside like I did when I was a kid," he said.
A few people spoke in favor of wolves and asked the commission to resist pressure to dramatically reduce the population. Gary Macfarlane, of the Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater, said wolves play an important role in the ecosystem and should not be hunted until their numbers are more stable.
Brett Haverstick, also of Friends of the Clearwater, chastised those who say they live in fear of wolves and suggested they should move to urban areas like Boise or Salt Lake City. He also urged the commission to not bend to pressure from a "lunatic fringe minority."
A few people spoke on other matters.
"I'm going to talk about the wolves preying on our spring chinook in the lower river," quipped angler Brad Johnson of Lewiston.
Johnson applauded the commission for communicating with counterparts in Oregon and Washington to make sure those states manage sport and commercial harvest of chinook below Bonneville Dam so sufficient numbers of spring chinook salmon to escape up river to Idaho.
Outfitter Jason Schultz of Lewiston urged the commission to reconsider its recent action to shorten the chukar hunting season and reduce the daily bag limit from eight to six. Avid fly fisherman Craig Lannigan voiced support for the catch-and-release steelhead season on the Clearwater River and asked the commission to consider banning the use of bait during the season that runs from July 1 to Oct. 15.
The commission's formal meeting starts at 8 a.m. today in at the Idaho Fish and Game office, 3316 16th St.
Barker may be contacted at ebarkerlmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273.
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(c) 2011, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
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