UPDATE: Dec. 27, 2013 3 p.m.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale has ruled that a wolf- and coyote-hunting derby can go on as scheduled this weekend in Salmon.
An attorney for Wild Earth Guardians had argued in a morning hearing that the U.S. Forest Service was ignoring federal law in permitting the hunting derby on federal land. But Forest Service officials said that while the hunting—a non-commercial event—was taking place on federal land, any judging and awarding of prize money would take place on private land.
Hunters are being promised a $1,000 prize for the largest wolf killed and a $1,000 prize for shooting the most coyotes.
Following the hearing Dale ruled that organizers weren't required to get a special permit.
ORIGINAL POST: 9 a.m. Dec. 27, 2013
Motions will be heard in a U.S. District Courtroom in Pocatello today in a last-ditch effort by environmentalists to halt a wolf- and coyote-killing contest scheduled to take place near Salmon this weekend.
Wild Earth Guardians, and a number of other groups, argue that the U.S. Forest Service is ignoring federal laws in permitting the hunting derby, set for Saturday, Dec. 28, and Sunday, Dec. 29.
A hunters organization called Idaho for Wildlife says it's hoping to lure as many as 300 hunter to Salmon to boost the economy and raise awareness of wolf and coyote depredation. Prizes include $1,000 for the biggest wolf killed and for the most coyotes killed.
But the wildlife-advocacy groups say feds acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner in not requiring Idaho for Wildlife to obtain a special-use permit for the contest. Organizers said a permit wasn't required because hunting is "of a noncommercial nature" and the judging will occur on private land.
$72,000 has been distributed to Idaho ranchers who experienced livestock losses due to wolf depredation in 2012.
The Idaho Mountain Express reports that the eight-member Idaho State Wolf Depredation Compensation Board, part of the Governor's Office of Species Conservation, made the compensation based on verifications from the federal Wildlife Service agency. The losses included 12 cows, 44 calves, 138 ewes, 66 lambs, two rams and one dog.
The U.S. Congress created the Wolf Livestock Loss Demonstration Project in 2009, which provides for $1 million in annual funds to states and Indian tribes. For 2012, Idaho received $80,000 for loss compensation claims and $50,000 to fund prevention projects. The Idaho board received only $72,000 in loss claims for the year.
The Idaho board is expected to decide on how to spend its prevention funds at a future meeting.
Another wolf hunting season throughout Idaho begins tomorrow.
The 2013-2014 wolf hunt season runs Friday, Aug. 30 through Monday, March 31, 2014, except in the Lolo, Selway and Middle Fork zones, where the season will close at the end of June 2014. On private land in Idaho's Panhandle Zone, the wolf hunting season is open year-round.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says an individual may buy up to five wolf hunting tags per calendar year, but no more than two gray wolf hunting tags may be used in the Salmon, McCall, Weiser, Sawtooth, Southern Mountains, Beaverhead, Island Park and Southern Idaho zones. No more than five tags may be used in the Panhandle, Palouse-Hell Canyon, Lolo, Dworshak-Elk City, Selway and Middle Fork zones.
The wolf trapping season opens Friday, Nov. 15, in most Idaho zones.
The 2012 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Report indicated that 683 wolves lived in 117 packs at the end of 2012, an 11 percent drop from the 746 wolves in Idaho at the end of 2011.
Fish and Game reported that there were 425 wolf killings in 2012—329 were killed by hunters and trappers, 73 by ranchers or federal wildlife agents, and 16 killed by various other means, such as being hit by automobiles. The other deaths were not caused by humans.
The report also indicated that 92 cattle, 337 sheep and two dogs were suspected of being killed by wolves.
Officials with Idaho Wildlife Services say they've had to kill a total of six wolves at Flat Top Ranch in the Blaine County community of Carey. Three of the wolves were pups. The killings came in response to four separate incidents of depredation of sheep flocks between mid-May and late June.
The Idaho Mountain Express reports that ranch owner John Peavey said wolves have killed about 50 of his sheep and additional lambs have died because their mothers were killed.
"We've been picking up lambs in the process of starving," Peavey told the Mountain Express.
An official with Idaho Wildlife Services said wolves were still "present and active near the livestock in the area" of the ranch.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Defenders of Wildlife contends that the wolves are drawn to the ranch primarily because ewes are allowed to give birth on the range, rather than in enclosed pastures or sheds.
"We would like to help them avoid going through the same situation next year," Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife told the Mountain Express. "But if nothing changes, they will."
Saying that the approximate 6,000 gray wolves now living in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes regions are enough to prevent the species's disappearance from the continental United States, the U.S. Department of Interior is inching closer to lifting federal protections of the animals across the nation's Lower 48 states.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that a new rule is already under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which, if approved, would cede federal authority over wolves to individual states, similar to Idaho's model.
"It ends up being a political question more than a biological one," wolf specialist John Vucetich told the Associated Press. "It's very unlikely the wolves will make it to places like the Dakotas and the Northeast unless the federal government provides some kind of leadership."
The Fish and Wildlife Service, in an emailed statement, wrote that "robust" populations of gray woves in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes remain as evidence that the animals' recovery "is one of the world's great conservation successes."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its annual report on wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain region late Friday.
At 2012's year-end USFWS reported 1,674 wolves in 321 packs in the NRM area, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The 2011 report indicated that there were 1,796 wolves in 297 packs in the NRM area.
A year-to-year comparison shows that while the total number of wolf packs has increased 12 percent, the overall population has decreased by nearly 7 percent. Breeding pairs of the wolves also decreased by 5 percent, down from 109 pairs in 2011 to 103 pairs in 2012. According to the report, "[T]he wolf population remains well above the recovery levels identified ... in the recovery plan."
In the Gem State, Idaho Fish and Game removed 73 wolves in 2012 while 329 wolves were killed in public hunts. In Wyoming, 43 wolves were removed by agency control and 66 were harvested through regulated hunting. Washington removed seven wolves. No wolves were killed in Oregon.
Total confirmed depredations by wolves in 2012 included 194 cattle, 470 sheep, six dogs, three horses and one llama. From 2007 through 2011, an average of 191 cattle depredations occurred each year. An average of 339 sheep depredations occurred each year during this period. Ninety-nine of 352 (approximately 28 percent) known NRM Distinct Population Segment wolf packs that existed at some point in 2012 were involved in at least one confirmed cattle or sheep depredation.
Idaho Fish and Game confirms that the number of wolves in the Gem State was declining in late 2012, but breeding season was just beginning.
The 2012 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Report indicates that 683 wolves lived in 117 packs and the end of last year. That's an 11 percent drop from the 746 wolves in Idaho at the end of 2011.
Fish and Game reported that there were 425 wolf killings in 2012—329 were killed by hunters and trappers, 73 by ranchers or federal wildlife agents (for preying on livestock) and 16 were killed by various other means, such as being hit by automobiles. The other deaths were not caused by humans.
The report also indicates that 92 cattle, 337 sheep and two dog were suspected of being killed by wolves.
Fish and Game said the wolves were currently "denning," meaning new pups are expected to be born by the middle of May.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced Monday that Gem State hunters have killed significantly fewer wolves this season—245—compared to last year's kill—379.
But Fish and Game officials quickly added that the hunting and trapping season will remain open through much of the state until the end of the month. Hunting and trapping in Idaho's north-central Lolo and Selway zones will remain open through Sunday, June 30.
The Associated Press reports that IDFG officials are "encouraging hunters and trappers to focus on the hard-to-reach backcountry, where success rates have been low."
Scientists say hunting is quickly on its way to becoming the leading cause of wolf mortality near Yellowstone National Park.
“This is the first year that wolves were hunted on every side of the park,” wolf biologist Doug Smith told the Associated Press. “They’ve learned to tolerate people in the park, but that gets them in trouble if they leave. Some wandered outside the park, and within six hours, they were dead.”
In particular, biologists are concerned over the number of collared wolves that have been killed by hunters.
"The loss of collared wolves is where the rubber meets the road," Smith told the AP. "It hurts us the most."
In early December, Montana officials ordered its state's hunters to silence their guns in some areas north of Yellowstone in the wake of several wolf shootings just outside of the park's borders. A wolf known as 832F was found dead Dec. 6 outside of Yellowstone. The wolf was described as a "rock star" because of her popularity with Yellowstone tourists, and wildlife photographer Jimmy Jones even called the animal "the most famous wolf in the world."
832F was one of eight wolves fitted with GPS collars that were killed in November and early December. Data from the collars suggested that the wolves rarely ventured beyond the park and then only for brief periods. Montana wildlife commissioners decided on Dec. 10 to shut down hunting and trapping in areas to the east and west of the town of Gardiner, Mont., because of the killings.
But on Jan. 2, Montana Judge Nels Swandal overruled state wildlife officials, allowing hunting and trapping to resume.