Frustrations about the way the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is managing the state’s wolf population ran high Monday in Coeur d’Alene.
Many turned out to testify at a public hearing the state’s Fish and Game Commission held during its meeting taking place Monday and today in the Lake City.
Some of the loudest complaints were from people upset about the use of taxpayer dollars to fund the commission’s Wolf Depredation Control Board. They claimed Fish and Game’s focus is on pleasing hunters and sportsmen instead of doing what is best for wildlife habitat.
Last year and again this year, the Legislature allocated $400,000 from the general fund to the Wolf Depredation Control Board. and up to $110,000 from Fish and Game that is matched by Idaho’s livestock industry. In total, the control board can receive up to $620,000 each year to use for “control actions against wolves when there is a depredation conflict between wolves and wildlife or between wolves and livestock” according to section 22-5301 of the Idaho Code.
Almost all who testified at the hearing urged the commission to suggest the Wolf Depredation Control Board return taxpayer dollars to be used in a better way or to stop killing wolves completely.
IDFG staff is recommending the commision “direct the expenditure of $110,000 for management and control of wolves for the protection of ungulates in areas with department approved predation management plans.”
Ungulates are hoofed animals. Adrienne Cronebaugh, executive director of the Kootenai Environmental Allience, said IDFG is mostly focused on elk. She was not present at the public hearing but is very confused as to why IDFG is blaming wolves for the decrease in elk population.
“They see wolves as a predator of elk so they want to protect elk as their prize hunting resource. Unfortunately, the science that we’ve really researched doesn’t show that killing wolves helps protect those trophy elk. Wolves don’t kill those trophy elk. They pick off the sick and the weak, so we don’t really understand how that’s doing what they say it’s doing,” she said. “What we see are poachers often the cause of taking out a lot of those trophy elk and reducing populations, as well as different forest and habitat impacts. Wolves seem to be taking the blame.”
Brett Haverstick, a member of Friends of the Clearwater, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring wild habitats, stood outside the IDFG Panhandle Region office last night with other members of Friend of the Clearwater and the Kootenai Environmental Alliance protesting the way wolves are being managed.
“IDFG should instruct the control board to return that money to the general fund so it can be spent on more pressing matters like health care, education, highway infrastructure or what ever is deemed most needed in our state,” Haverstick told the commission Monday night. “We have watched the Wolf Depredation Control Board, IDFG and Wildlife Services spend money to hire federal aerial gunners to kill over 60 wolves on the Clearwater National Forest over the past three years. Not only is it archaic, barbaric and unethical, the aerial gunning of wolves in order to try and increase elk population is completely unscientific.”
IDFG says its biologists have determined the primary limiting factor for the elk heard in the Lolo area is wolves.
Haverstick claims specific elk population began decreasing before wolves were reintroduced and the decrease in elk population is mostly due to habitat issues.
Idaho Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Post Falls, who is on the House Resource and Conservation Committee, disagrees with Cronebaugh and Haverstick and told The Press Monday he would like to see more money go into the Wolf Depredation Control Board fund. He was not able to be at the hearing either.
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but it’s primarily opinion. It’s not based in fact. I am in support of controlling the wolves, I wish we could have done it sooner,” he said. “People think there’s an unlimited number of elk, and the reality is the wolf population exploded because the elk population was so big, and with a great food source, they produce larger litters, and so they took off, people argue it, but I don’t think they understand how it works.”
There were a few comments during the hearing jabbing at IDFG to stop basing their conservation and managemnet decisions on what would be best for hunters, but on what would be best for creating a healthy ecosystem. Many people used the term “creating an elk farm” to describe the way IDFG has managed elk populations and elk predators for the benefit of hunters.
Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman Mark Doerr got a lot of laughs from the crowd when he introduced the commission as a way to keep politics out of wildlife management.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission listened to all the speakers and will consider their demands and pleas before voting taking action on the funding for the Wolf Depredation Control Board.
Brad Corkill, the Panhandle representative on the commission said he listened very carefully to everyone who spoke.
“Based on all the information I’ve been given, Idaho has plenty of wolves,” he said. “We are mandated to have 150 wolves, 10-15 breeding pairs. We are way, way, way in excess of that number. The wolf issue is a very passionate issue on both extremes and it’s a difficult social issue to deal with.”
Today at 9:10 a.m., during the comission’s meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Fish and Game commissioners are expected to decide how the $110,000 from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be spent by the Wolf Depredation Control Board.
Juergen Nolthenius of Coeur d'Alene laughs as he and more than 20 others protest on Monday the bounty killing of wolves in Idaho.
Leland Olson, left, expresses his pro-wolf-control opinion on Monday to anti-control protesters Cecilia Nothenius and Jamison Johnson outside the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
More than 20 people gather on Monday outside the Idaho Department of Fish and Game Coeur d'Alene office to protest the controlled killing of wolves in Idaho.