As of Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Aerial gunning of wild wolves is under way in remote and rugged areas of the Clearwater National Forest, conducted by the federal Wildlife Services agency and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Defenders of Wildlife and Friends of the Clearwater noted Feb. 8. The agencies are using helicopters to kill wolves in the Lolo Zone, which covers portions of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. About 50 Lolo Zone wolves have been killed from the air since 2011.
“The Idaho Fish & Game Department is wrongfully blaming the decline of elk populations in the Lolo Zone on native carnivores, including gray wolves,” said Gary MacFarlane, Ecosystem Defense Director of the Friends of the Clearwater. “Everyone, including the Idaho Fish and Game Department, knows the decline is due to long-term habitat changes in that area. Targeting predators like recovering gray wolves is unscientific, won’t work to boost elk numbers and violates the wildness of these public lands.”
“Killing wolves isn’t going to bring back the elk, and it doesn’t address the real issues causing the decline,” said Suzanne Stone, Defenders of Wildlife Northwest Representative. “Scientists point to a significant change in habitat conditions in the Clearwater National Forest — due to invasive species and fire suppression — causing elk populations to drop naturally. Killing wolves is simply a scapegoat for these much bigger issues.”
In a Feb. 9 report, the Lewiston Tribune confirmed through both agencies that a “control effort” is under way and noted IDFG’s Lolo Predator Management Plan “calls for reducing wolf numbers by 70 percent to 80 percent...wolves can sustain an annual harvest rate of as much as 40 percent without reducing overall numbers.”
An IDFG spokesperson told the Tribune’s Eric Barker that the department’s policy is to “not release information out of concern for operation safety until after an action is complete”