TWIN FALLS • It’s not open everywhere, but Idaho hunters now have the option to kill wolves all year.
This year’s newly approved wolf hunting season allowed hunters to begin killing wolves on private land in the Panhandle Zone starting July 1. The rest of the state will open for wolf hunting on Aug. 30, and most trapping areas will open Nov. 15.
Previously, Idaho’s 2011-2012 wolf hunting season was open 10 months throughout most parts of the state. During that time, hunters killed 255 wolves and trappers killed 124.
Hunters are allowed to purchase five wolf tags, but half the state’s zones only allow hunters to use two tags in that area. For trappers, five tags may be purchased and used in all trapping zones except the McCall-Weiser Zone.
New changes to Idaho’s trapping rules include allowing the use of wolf carcasses as bait in the Panhandle Zone and approving the use of rimfire rifle, handgun or muzzle-loaded handguns to kill a wolf in a trap.
The all-year hunting access isn’t sitting well with wildlife advocates. The newly approved rules are disappointing, said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rocky Mountains representative for the Defenders of Wildlife.
When Idaho first started managing wolves, wildlife officials promised to control the canine predators like fellow big game species, such as mountain lions. But wolf hunting seasons rules have progressively loosened over time, Stone said.
“This is the first time they can hunt wolves on private lands, but they don’t allow that for other species,” Stone said. “That’s our biggest disappointment.”
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s website, mountain lion and bear hunting seasons do not allow hunters to use private land. Trapping is also not allowed for any of the big game species managed by Fish and Game.
“They’re managing wolves like vermin,” Stone said. “That’s a huge concern.”
Under federal law, Idaho must maintain at least 150 wolves and be home to at least 15 breeding pairs to keep the species off the endangered list. The wolf has been delisted in Idaho since May 2011.
Not everyone is against the new hunt changes. Sportsmen groups approve the rules, saying it’s another example of what the state is obligated to do to properly handle wolves.
“I support Fish and Game and what they have to do to manage wolves,” said Jack Oyler, vice chairman of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Idaho. “This is a big game species and Idaho has a statute to follow. It’s the environmental groups that create the extra hype when it comes to wolves.”