This article originally appeared in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on January 10, 2014. Written by Pat Peek.
If you have ever heard wolves howl just at dusk in the high mountains you will never forget it. When wolves were restored in Idaho in 1995, the wild was put back in wilderness. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, and the state of Idaho ironically, tragically and irresponsibly has hired a professional trapper to kill them. If wolves can’t live in wilderness, where can they live?
Wolves are at the top of the food chain, along with cougars and bears. When they entered the scene, all the players in the system were affected. The very heartbeat of the wilderness was stepped up. Elk and deer, already in decline for various reasons, became scarcer. They dispersed to new areas. They became wary – in other words, more wild.
The guide/outfitters and their clients, who pay up to $5,000 to hunt in the Frank Church Wilderness, were not happy. They howled. Up until then, they were the top predator, and they had already seriously diminished the cougars. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game listened, and once biologists agreed the reintroduction was successful, they established a hunting season on wolves three years ago. Not just out where cattle and house pets may be affected, but in the wilderness, in the very area that belongs to the wolves.
This was not enough for the hunters. Their howl became a steady whine in the ear of the IDFG. “The wolves are too smart,” they said. “The country is too steep, and it’s difficult to reach.” “We can’t kill enough wolves,” “We need help.” The IDFG, strapped for funds, listened again because they also depend on the elk. A single nonresident elk tag brings in $416.75 to the department and a license adds another $154.75.
They hired Gus Thoreson, a professional trapper from Salmon, Idaho, to enter the wilderness and trap wolves. The packs to be targeted are the Golden and Monumental packs. Jeff Gould, wildlife bureau chief for the IDFG, said “If you’re looking for cost benefits you remove an entire pack.” He’s talking cost benefits in the wilderness. I know some other groups that are howling, and it’s not the outfitters or the wolves.
The trapper is allowed to stay in a U.S. Forest Service cabin, use an airstrip and set up traps. This is in wilderness where you are not allowed to leave a cooler or use a chain saw.
Let’s blend our voices with the wolves. Let them hear our howl in Boise.
- Virgil Moore, director, Idaho Fish and Game, State Capitol P. O.
Box 25, Boise, ID 83707; phone (208) 334-3700; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. n Governor Butch Otter, P. O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720; phone (208) 334-2100; or email email@example.com.