Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, has introduced legislation that would create zones in Idaho where wolves could be hunted year-round.

BOISE -- Sen. Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson, Dist.23) introduced a bill, in the Senate Resources and Environment committee on Jan. 22, creating zones where wolves could be hunted year-round.

The bill would designate 11 big game hunting units, primarily located south of the Snake River, as “wolf-free zones,” allowing hunters and trappers to take wolves any time of the year. Chronic depredation zones, where Idaho Fish and Game or USDA has identified four depredations in the past five years, would also be allowed year-round hunting.

Currently, Idaho only allows wolf hunts a few months out of the year, typically between late summer and spring of the next year, though wolves attacking livestock or pets can be killed at any time without a tag. Under Brackett’s proposal, hunting licenses and wolf tags would still be required year-round to hunt or trap wolves, and hunters would still have to report wolf kills to Fish and Game within seven days.

Brackett, a rancher in his Twin Falls County district, said the bill aims to “get a handle” on the long-running problem of wolf depredations on livestock. While incremental efforts have been made through hunting, trapping and Fish and Game’s Wolf Management Plan, Brackett said wolf numbers have continued to increase along with depredation events.

“I don’t want to diminish the efforts [by Fish and Game] already being made,” Brackett said. “We have a good management plan—we just need to follow it. But ranchers’ livelihoods are being threatened.”

The Capital Press reported in December that USDA Wildlife Services confirmed 75 wolf-caused depredations between July 1 and Nov. 15, down 48 percent compared to the same period in 2018. But total wolf depredations over the fiscal year ending June 30 hit a record high of 175, up 25 percent from the previous year.

The bill includes a “trigger” of 20 wolf packs or 200 wolves total. If Idaho wolf populations dropped below that level, Fish and Game would be authorized to review the policy and “take appropriate action” to restore numbers. The current Wolf Management Plan has a threshold of 15 packs before review or restorative action is needed.

The committee voted 7-2 to send Brackett’s bill to print, ensuring a hearing in committee at a later date. Sens. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum, Dist. 26) and Maryanne Jordan (D-Boise, Dist. 17) voted against the proposal. Jordan said she was “uncomfortable” with the broad scope of the bill at present, but was keeping an open mind for further discussion on the proposal’s parameters.

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