BOISE • State Sen. Jeff Siddoway may have been the happiest man in the Idaho House on Monday as Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter rolled out a proposal for $2 million in start-up funds to control Idaho’s wolf population.
Controlling that population doesn’t hit as close to home for many legislators as it does for the longtime Terreton Republican and sheep rancher.
In August, Siddoway Sheep Co. herders said they came across a gruesome scene: a pile of 176 sheep carcasses killed in a wolf attack. It’s the greatest one-time loss from wolves the company has ever had. Siddoway said he hopes the Wolf Control Fund will help prevent such losses for Idaho livestock owners.
“Anything that reduces the wolf population is a good thing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a person in the state that could give you an accurate estimate about how many wolves we have. All we’re hoping is that if we get a reduction in numbers, that our losses are ultimately going to be less.”
During his State of the State address, Otter proposed establishment of the fund and of a five-member board to manage it. The money will go to reduce the wolf population, not to reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.
“With your unflinching support,” Otter told legislators, “we were able to fight through the opposition of those who would make Idaho into a restricted-use wildlife refuge and take back control of these predators from our federal landlords.”
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Wolf advocates, such as the Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance, decried the proposal, citing concerns over the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s recent decision to hire a hunter to control wolf populations around the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Siddoway said the board will be co-chaired by Fish and Game’s director and the director of the Idaho Department of Agriculture. Otter will appoint the other three members: representatives of sportsmen and of livestock owners plus a member at-large. That at-large member likely would represent the wolf advocates, Siddoway said.
Otter wants $2 million to start the fund for fiscal 2015, with annual contributions of $110,000 from the livestock industry and a match from Idaho sportsmen thereafter. Some of that money will come from hunting licenses, Siddoway said.
“This three-pronged approach will provide the revenue needed to more effectively control Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population and ease the impact on our livestock and wildlife,” Otter said.
Said Siddoway: “It’ll allow more people to go out and actually do the hunting and trapping. It’ll finance that. Some of the work may be done aerially either by fixed-wing (aircraft) or helicopter, depending on the terrain.”
Idaho law stipulates that only agencies — not citizens — can kill wolves aerially.
So far in the 2013-14 season, 192 wolves have been killed, Fish and Game reports. In the 2011-12 season, 202 were killed; in 2010-11, the count was 270.
In 2012, the agency reported 345 animals killed by wolves in 122 confirmed incidents: 90 cows, 251 sheep and four dogs.
The pending legislation to establish the fund was overseen by representatives of the governor’s office, Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said Sharon Kiefer, Fish and Game’s deputy director for programs and policy.
“This has nothing to do with compensation; this has everything to do with depredation,” Kiefer said.
Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, said sportsmen and other constituents are as concerned as ranchers about controlling wolves. “Hunting opportunities have just disappeared in some areas because of the depredation (and loss of) some of the elk,” Bair said.