Idaho Earmarks $200K in Payments for Hunters, Trappers Who Kill Preying Wolves

Idaho officials are offering bounties for hunters and trappers who kill wolves in hope of reducing livestock attacks, the Associated Press reported.

The state budgeted $200,000 for the bounties available through next summer. The money will come from licensing and fees for hunters to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and will be distributed by Idaho's Wolf Depredation Control Board in partnership with the Foundation for Wildlife Management, a group that strives to protect deer and elk herds.

Hunters will be paid $2,500 for killing a wolf in an area where Fish and Game says wolves are chronically preying on livestock and $2,000 per wolf in locations where the department says predators are keeping elk from "meeting management objectives." Hunters can also receive $1,000 per wolf in the northern tip of Idaho and $500 per wolf in other areas.

The bounties promised might be cut if the budget starts to run out before June of 2022.

"This bounty system for wolves is one of the things that would contribute to the relisting of wolves. This was a foreseeable consequence that the Fish and Wildlife Service would take a close look at some of the changes that were made," said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Wolf In Yellowstone Park
Idaho has budgeted $200,000 in bounties to kill preying wolves. Above, a wolf in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service/Associated Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the request of environmental groups concerned about the expanded wolf killing in the two states, last month announced a yearlong review to see if wolves in the U.S. West should be relisted under the Endangered Species Act.

Idaho has managed wolves since they were taken off the list in 2011. State wildlife managers had been incrementally increasing wolf harvest during that time, but not fast enough for lawmakers, who earlier this year passed the law backed by some trappers and the powerful ranching sector.

Idaho Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever told lawmakers on the state Natural Resources Interim Committee during an informational meeting last month that the agency has been carefully tracking wolf kills.

"It is my opinion that they [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] will be looking at the change in harvest in Idaho over the next 12 months and looking at the components of that, and if there is a large change, and if it can be attributed to a change in regulatory mechanisms, that might be of considerable interest to them," Schriever told lawmakers.

"I don't think this thing is going to jump off of the rails, but I will assure you we are watching this very closely," he said.

Schriever told lawmakers that wolf mortality through early September has not had a big spike compared to previous years. The new law took effect on July 1.

Idaho is also facing a potential lawsuit concerning the possible killing of federally protected grizzly bears and lynx due to the new law. Another environmental group has asked the U.S. Forest Service to protect wolves in wilderness areas in the two states from professional contract hunters and private reimbursement programs.

Idaho Republican Governor Brad Little earlier this year signed the measure lawmakers said could lead to killing 90 percent of the state's 1,500 wolves before federal authorities would take over management. Schriever said a new wolf population estimate will be available in January.

Most of the high-dollar reimbursements are in central and west-central Idaho, and include designated wilderness areas.

Justin Webb, the group's executive director, didn't return a call from AP.

Besides setting up the reimbursement program, the new law also expands killing methods to include trapping and snaring wolves on a single hunting tag, no restriction on hunting hours, using night-vision equipment with a permit, using bait and dogs, and allowing hunting from motor vehicles. It also authorizes year-round wolf trapping on private property.

In Montana, state wildlife authorities approved a statewide harvest quota of 450 wolves, about 40 percent of the state's wolf population. Methods for killing wolves that were previously outlawed can now be used. Those include snaring, baiting and night hunting. Trapping seasons have also been expanded.