Idaho wolf control board seeks approval to keep operating
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers on Monday advanced legislation to keep operating an Idaho board that pays a federal agency to kill wolves that attack livestock and big game.
The Senate Resources and Environment Committee, at the request of the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board, voted to move forward with legislation to repeal a section of Idaho law that would end the five-year-run of the board.
Board member Carl Rey told the committee it is seeing “an increasing need to fund higher levels of complaints and activities surrounding those complaints.”
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 fiscal year 2020, which starts this summer.
The 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 kill livestock. Toby Boudreau of Fish and Game said that agency receives money back from the board that’s used for putting radio collars on wolves and monitoring wolf packs in areas where elk populations are below the agency’s objectives.
Fish and Game also uses money from the board to pay Wildlife Services to kill wolves to boost elk numbers in those areas, Boudreau said.
Rey said that for the first time in the board’s history, it spent more on wolf control in fiscal year 2018 than it took in. Rey previously said in a budget hearing before another committee the board spent $765,000 last year, about $136,000 more than it took in.
Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, said in an email on Monday that in fiscal year 2018, 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 on Monday said that in calendar year 2018, hunters killed 179 wolves and trappers harvested another 133.
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.
“We don’t need as many wolves as we have today,” said the Senate committee’s chairman, Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, after the meeting. “We’re trying to make sure we maintain the population and control the depredation.”