ELK CITY, Idaho -- Efforts to reduce wolf numbers around Elk City and in the Lolo Elk Hunting Zone have been largely fruitless more than a month after being implemented.
Idaho County deputies have not shot any wolves in the Elk City area, and hunting outfitters have been unable to kill wolves in the Lolo country. An Idaho Department of Fish and Game conservation officer shot one wolf near Powell last Saturday.
"I would have thought we would have had more, but that is it," said Dave Cadwallader, supervisor of the department's Clearwater Region.
In May, shortly after wolves were removed from federal protection, Cadwallader authorized deputies in the Elk City area to shoot wolves. He made the move after months of complaints by Elk City residents about wolves that had frequented the remote hamlet for much of the winter and spring. Cadwallader said wolves are still seen there but not as frequently.
"I think it's the time of year," he said. "The elk have moved out and are calving and the wolves have moved on."
Cadwallader also authorized hunting outfitters who operate in the Lolo Zone to shoot wolves while guiding clients during spring black bear hunting trips. At the same time, he gave authority to his conservation officers working in the Lolo Zone to shoot wolves. Wolves sometimes are attracted to black bear hunting baits, but that has not happened this year.
"Most of the outfitters I have talked to just aren't seeing any wolf activity."
When the state took over wolf management last month, it attempted to reduce wolf numbers in the Lolo Zone through aerial gunning. Five wolves were shot, far short of the goal of killing as many as 50.
While wolves were still under Endangered Species Act protections, the department had sought permission to help declining elk herds in the Lolo by reducing wolf numbers. Its plan had gone through peer review and public comment and was awaiting a final decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when wolves were delisted. The plan was intended to be carried out during the winter, when wolves can be more easily shot from aircraft.
At the end of 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the Idaho wolf population to number at least 700. Idaho officials believe the population is higher, but they don't know how high it might be.
A lawsuit filed by a handful of environmental groups claims Congress infringed on the powers of the judiciary when it passed a bill that included language that delisted wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of three other suits. The case is pending before Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont.
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(c) 2011, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
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