Letters from the West

Possible April wolf hunt would be ‘cruel,’ Defenders of Wildlife says

The Defenders of Wildlife is calling a plan to extend Idaho’s yearly wolf hunt into the April denning season cruel.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission tabled a plan Thursday to extend the hunting season in Southern Idaho an additional month, until April 30, to allow overlap with spring black bear seasons that open in April. The commission wanted more information effectively putting the decision off until the 2019 season.

“This proposal to allow the hunting and killing of denning wolves and their newborn pups is unethical and unspeakably cruel,” said Suzanne Stone, senior Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife in Boise.

Stone said wolf packs stay around the dens to help the mothers. The vulnerable period is why Fish and Game avoided April hunting in the past.

“Wolves are so dedicated to their young that they will risk their own lives to protect their pups,” Stone said. “These pups are born blind and deaf and depend entirely on their parents and dens to survive.”

Stone also was unhappy with what she said was short notice of the proposal, with her group learning of it Monday.

“Their mandate is to manage wildlife in the state for all the people, not just for the people who hate wolves,” Stone said of Fish and Game.

Public notice of the proposal was put out in mid-March, wrote Jon Rachael, Fish and Game’s wildlife game manager, in the agenda notice compiled for the commission. In addition to increasing the opportunity for bear hunters, he wrote, several hunting units within the area are below their objectives for elk, implying the hunt could reduce wolf numbers.

“And most units have a history of chronic wolf depredations on livestock,” Rachael wrote.

Idaho must maintain a population of at least 150 wolves. Fish and Game estimates that there are at least 600 more than that statewide, said Steve Alder of the pro-hunting group Idaho for Wildlife.

“We just need to keep the pressure on wolves,” Alder said. “I have to give Fish and Game credit. I believe they know what they’re doing.”

The commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Washington Group Main Auditorium, 720 East Park Blvd.

It also will take public comments at this link through the end of Tuesday.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker