Idaho wolf hunters fill quotas

Oct 30, 2009
Idaho wolf hunters fill quotas

The Idaho Fish & Game Department (IF&G) has decided to shut down three of 12 wolf hunting zones because hunters in those zones are reaching their quotas. The department is allowing for a total of 220 wolves to be killed across the state, but the three zones are approaching the state’s legal limits.

In the Upper Snake zone, three of five allowed wolves have been bagged. In the Palouse-Hells Canyon zone, the limit is five wolves, but hunters have killed two. In the McCall-Weiser zone, 12 of the allowed 15 wolves have been shot, including one illegally.

Montana, which also has a wolf hunt, has already closed gray wolf hunting near Yellowstone National Park after nine of 12 predators were killed there, but that state is staying with its 75-wolf season quota.

Meanwhile, Idaho wildlife officials say the first wolf hunting tag ever printed in the state has sold for $8,000 to the highest bidder—North Carolina resident Jonny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops. Morris bought Wolf Tag No. 1 in an auction sponsored by the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation. Morris says he will give it to his son, who is planning to hunt in Idaho later this year.

The auction is one of six held by nonprofit groups nationwide to help raise money for wolf conservation. The special tags are good for bagging one wolf, but also commemorate the first public wolf hunt in Idaho’s history.

Tag No. 3 went for $1,700 at an event hosted by the Mule Deer Foundation, while tag No. 5 sold for just $350 at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation auction.

IF&G said the opening weekend of deer season proved to be more successful for hunters than last year, but some elk hunters, on the other hand, are finding nothing but frustration.

IF&G reported four checkpoints set up over the Oct. 10 weekend, including one at Timmerman Junction and another near the Little Wood Reservoir, indicated an increase of about 60 percent in deer taken during opening weekend.

Nearly 2,750 hunters were checked and 368 mule deer found, up from the 227 deer found on the same weekend in 2008. The harvest success rate was 13.4 percent compared with 8.6 percent last year.

The deer were reported to be fat and in good shape because of heavy rain in May and June. A report said mule deer populations have fluctuated over the past few years due to winter conditions.

IF&G blamed poor survival rates on hard winters in 2005-06 and 2007-08 that depressed populations. Wolves are not considered a big factor with deer, but they are with elk, which is having an impact on elk in Idaho, including behavior changes and population decreases, which affect hunts.

In a 2009 helicopter survey of elk in the Smoky Mountains Zone, IF&G found a 20 percent decline from a previous survey in 2007. On the east side of the Big Wood River Valley in the Pioneer Mountains, a 2008 survey found a stable population, but a lower proportion of bulls, leading to a decrease in bull tags and elimination of a young bull hunt.

IF&G also said Randy Strickland, Eagle, was arraigned Sept. 22 in Valley County on misdemeanor charges of taking a game animal illegally and shooting from or across a public highway. It said the wolf was shot on Sept. 6 in the McCall- Weiser wolf zone which was closed to wolf hunting at the time.

If convicted, Strickland could face fines of $200 to $1,000, a $400 civil penalty, and up to six months in jail. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Nov. 16. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent