BOISE • Have some “grit” and stop “exterminating” Idaho’s wolves.
That was Pam Marcum’s message to Idaho Fish and Game commissioners Wednesday night.
Marcum’s charge was echoed by numerous other biologists, wildlife advocates and enthusiasts, many of whom questioned the science and ethics behind Fish and Game’s predator management plan.
Many locals complained that the commission was solely focused on boosting elk populations and keeping hunters happy instead of balancing the state’s wildlife. Some said wolves can have a positive impact on the ecosystem, despite hunters’ claims to the contrary.
“Use peer-reviewed science, not political science,” Marcum said.
Several hunters spoke in support of state wolf control. Stabe Hedges said it was upsetting to see so many people supporting an animal that harms Idaho’s economy. He advocated for increased wolf hunting opportunities.
“I personally would like to see the numbers of wolves reduced by 40 or 50 percent,” Hedges said. “I would like to see some of the elk numbers rebound. I hiked 32 miles this year before I saw a single elk, and that’s a vast difference from years gone by.”
The public comment hearing preceded today’s annual commission meeting, which was open to the public.
The commission is set to hear a legislative update and presentations from Fish and Game staff on wildlife such as elk, turkeys, chinook salmon and deer today. Later in the day, it will hear a budget preview and a report on a wildlife collision reduction project.
At 9:35 a.m., the commission is to consider approving its new elk management plan. The plan, last updated in 1999, is a guide for season-to-season management of the state’s many herds.
The plan also addresses changes in elk habitat, how growing elk populations damage crops, and how to more aggressively target predators such as bears, mountain lions and wolves.
Idaho Conservation Leauge’s John Robison said his organization is “deeply concerned” about the elk management plan and its impacts on wolves.
Robison asked for a show of hands from the audience to see who was angered by a recent pack killing at state expense in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Most people in the packed room raised their hands.
“We believe that this unprecedented public outcry about this decision should force the commission to stop and reassess its approach on wolves, wilderness and predators,” he said.
The commission also should reduce its wolf-trapping program, said Ken Cole, a National Environmental Policty Act coordinator with the Western Watersheds Project. It should require trappers to check their snares more often, he said.
“These animals should not be out there suffering for more than 72 hours,” he said.
Not so — the areas where wolf trapping is allowed should be expanded in southern Idaho, said Pat Carney, president of the Idaho Trappers Association.
“Instead of the state having to pay trappers to go in and trap these other wolves, it would be better if locals could go in and do it instead of having tax dollars pay for it,” Carney said.
The decision to kill wolves in wilderness areas doesn’t make sense “economically and ecologically,” said Jennifer Pierce, an associate professor of geosciences at Boise State University.
“As scientists who have worked in the Frank Church area for decades, the eradication of large predators from this ecosystem is potentially detrimental to all parts of the ecosystem,” she said. “Was there a science-based rationale for killing wolves in wilderness? If so, what was it?”