Grouse Hunting Down, Wolves on the Move 

In the Oct. 5 issue, BW reported that the number of wolf hunters is down from the last time the state held a hunt. Turns out the number of hunters going after sage grouse is down as well.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported that there was a significant decrease in both the number of sage grouse hunters and the number of birds taken compared to a year ago. As of Oct. 3, 615 hunters had checked 277 birds before the Oct. 7 season closure. In 2010, 873 hunters took 448 birds.

Fish and Game also pointed out that's a 52 percent decrease from the five-year average of 1,282 hunters.

Officials attribute part of the decline to the fact that the one-week season opened the same day as several other bird seasons, as well as the fact that many more people are aware that sage grouse are a candidate species for the Endangered Species List, although populations are stable in southwest Idaho.

Speaking of the Endangered Species List, one of the West's most controversial species might be removed from the list in Wyoming. While wolves are under state control in both Idaho and Montana (each of which conducts a regulated hunt), Wyoming has failed to come up with a management plan that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials feel has enough protections for the species--until now.

Fish and Wildlife announced Oct. 4 that it is proposing wolves be removed from federal protection in Wyoming now that the state has come up with a more acceptable plan. Wyoming's new plan, which still has to be formally adopted, keeps wolves inside national parks and reserves (including Yellowstone National Park and the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole) under federal protection, while the species will be treated as a trophy game animal, with limits on hunting. Wolf advocates have come out against the proposed delisting, saying the plan doesn't offer enough protections and that the species could still be hunted openly across 90 percent of the state. Defenders of Wildlife also pointed out that protections shouldn't be dropped when the plan still hasn't been adopted by the state.

Fish and Wildlife will take public comments on the proposed removal from the Endangered Species List through Jan. 13, 2012, at regulations.gov. A peer review panel will look at the proposal during that same time period, after which it will issue a formal recommendation.

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