The Wolf Control Board estimates that previous wolf kills cost approximately $4,500 per wolf and Idaho has just approved a major wolf kill.
Earlier this month the State of Idaho Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved $400,000 for the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board to kill problem wolves. The committee vote maintained the same budget level as last year, of which $140,000 was used to kill 31 wolves, at an average cost of around $4,500 per wolf. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the budget proposal, with 17 for and only two against.
The day before the committee vote took place the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced that 19 additional wolves were killed in the northern Idaho Lolo Zone in February as part of the two-year-old program. Those 19 wolves were taken by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel who conducted the shoot by helicopter. 48 wolves have been taken from the Lolo Zone in the last five years, reportedly to help the elk herd in rebuilding its dwindling number. The elk population in the area has dropped from 16,000 in 1989 to a current total of around 1,000. Wolves are seen as the main factor in that decline.
Jerome Hansen of Idaho Fish and Game stated emphatically, “We have to manage wolves aggressively in order to get elk turned around.”
A five-member Wolf Depredation Control Board was formed last year by the Idaho Legislature and Governor Butch Otter to address concerns over wolf predation on domestic livestock and wildlife. The program allows the state’s Fish and Game Department to determine when wolf predation unduly conflicts with human activity or is having a significant negative impact on elk or deer populations.
Supporters of the program contend that the tactics employed by federal trappers and hunters are insufficient to deal effectively with the concerns of landowners and hunters. The work of the Wolf Predation Control Board is meant to deal with the issue where federal efforts fall short. In 2012, wolf survey studies indicated that Idaho had 118 packs with around 680 wolves total.
Some animal rights groups have protested the move to manage wolves by thinning their numbers, but hunter conservationists and farmers have expressed strong support for tightly managing the wolf population in the state. Hunters also see stringent control of wolves as a benefit to the state’s much cherished elk population.