Bill to keep wolf control board operating clears House panel
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation to keep operating an Idaho board that pays a federal agency to kill wolves that attack livestock and elk moved to the full House on Wednesday.
The House Resources and Conservation Committee voted to move ahead with legislation to repeal a section of Idaho law that would end the five-year-run of the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board.
The legislation has already passed the Senate.
Board member Carl Rey in making the request told lawmakers the number of complaints about wolves killing livestock is increasing. Several Republican lawmakers agreed.
The board has in the past received $400,000 annually from the state. Gov. Brad Little has asked the Legislature to approve $200,000 in general fund tax dollars for the board in fiscal year 2020, which starts this summer. But Rey, in responding to lawmakers, said the board will need more than that to keep operating.
“I would argue you’re probably going to need between $500,000 and $600,000 a year,” he said.
The wolf control board also receives money from the livestock industry that’s matched by the state Department of Fish and Game through fees paid by hunters up to a maximum of $110,000. The board pays the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to kill wolves that attack livestock and elk.
“We’ve got to get these wolves under control because pretty soon we’re going to be dealing with grizzly bears,” Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon said.
Republican Rep. Judy Boyle agreed. “My constituents are having tremendous damage from wolves,” she said. “I surely hope we can come up with some answers for this, and some better actions.”
The seven-member Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which manages Idaho wildlife, supports the legislation. Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever, in responding to a question from lawmakers, said money generated by that agency is used to put tracking collars on wolves.
After the meeting, Schriever said the locations of wolves with collars that attack livestock and elk are given to Wildlife Services to find the wolves and kill them, sometimes resulting in the removal of an entire pack. Schriever didn’t immediately have numbers of collared wolves killed.
The Agriculture Department has said that in the 2018 federal fiscal year, which runs from the beginning of October to the end of September, Wildlife Services killed 83 wolves in Idaho. Of those, 73 involved livestock attacks and 10 were an effort to boost elk numbers in northern Idaho and requested by Fish and Game.
Besides wolf control actions, hunters and trappers also kill wolves. Fish and Game has said that in calendar year 2018, hunters killed 179 wolves and trappers harvested another 133.
Toby Boudreau of Fish and Game, in responding to a lawmaker’s question, said several actions in different parts of the state are currently taking place to kill wolves.
Schriever said his agency was working on a wolf population estimate for Idaho that could be ready before summer.
Fish and Game last year estimated Idaho had 90 packs. The agency doesn’t count individual wolves or provide an overall wolf count number. But it notes that a typical Idaho wolf pack has six to nine wolves — meaning about 540 to 810 wolves in the state at that time.
Federal authorities lifted federal protections for wolves in Idaho in 2011, but if the wolf population falls below certain levels, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take back management from the state. State officials last year said the wolf population is well above levels that would trigger federal oversight.