Otter: $2 million for wolf control

Hunters and the livestock industry would provide matching dollars eventually.

(IDAHO FALLS) POST REGISTERJanuary 8, 2014 

Sen. Jeff Siddoway might have been the happiest man in the Capitol on Monday when Gov. Butch Otter rolled out a proposal for $2 million in startup funds for wolf population measures.

Controlling wolves doesn’t hit as close to home for many legislators as it does for the longtime Terreton Republican and sheep rancher.

In August, the Siddoway Sheep Co. herders said they came across a gruesome scene: a pile of 176 sheep carcasses from a wolf attack. It’s the greatest one-time loss from wolves the company has ever had.

Siddoway said he hopes the Wolf Control Fund will help prevent events such as that from happening to other livestock owners.

“Anything that reduces the wolf population is a good thing,” Siddoway said. “I don’t think there’s a person in the state that could give you an accurate estimate about how many wolves we have. All we’re hoping is that if we get a reduction in numbers, that our losses are ultimately going to be less.”

Otter proposed the fund and a five-member state board to manage it during his State of the State address. The money will go to reduce the wolf population, not reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.

“With your unflinching support,” Otter told legislators, “we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords.”

But wolf advocates such as the Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance decried the proposal, citing concerns over the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s recent decision to hire a hunter to control wolf populations near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Siddoway said the board will be co-chaired by Fish and Game’s director and the head of the Idaho Department of Agriculture. The remaining members will be appointed by Otter and will include representatives of Idaho sportsmen and livestock owners. An at-large member likely will represent the interests of wolf advocates, Siddoway said.

Otter’s budget recommendation calls for the $2 million to start for fiscal year 2015, with annual contributions of $110,000 from the livestock industry and a match from Idaho sportsmen thereafter. Some of that funding will come from hunting licenses sold in the state, Siddoway said.

“This three-pronged approach will provide the revenue needed to more effectively control Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population and ease the impact on our livestock and wildlife,” Otter said.

Siddoway agreed.

“It’ll allow more people to go out and actually do the hunting and trapping,” he said. The work could include shooting from planes or helicopters.

Idaho law stipulates that only agencies, not members of the public, can kill wolves aerially.

According to Fish and Game, 192 wolves have been harvested so far during the 2013-2014 season; 202 were killed during the 2011-12 season, and 270 during 2010-2011.

In 2012, the agency reported 122 confirmed depredation incidents totalling 345 animals killed by wolves, including 90 cows.

Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said hunters and other constituents are as concerned as ranchers about wolves. “Hunting opportunities have just disappeared in some areas because of the depredation (and loss of) some of the elk,” Bair said.

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