BOISE -- The Idaho Fish and Game Commission approved broad expansions to Idaho’s wolf hunting and trapping regulations Feb. 20, bringing year-round hunting to more of the state than a bill in the Idaho Legislature had previously proposed.
The revisions, effective immediately upon the commission’s approval, expand the wolf hunting season in much of the state. Southwestern and south-central Idaho, including Owyhee County, will now see wolf hunting from June 30 to July 1 on both public and private land. Previously, the season in those areas was Aug. 30 to March 31.
A slightly shorter season from Aug. 1 to June 30 will be in effect on public land in most other parts of the state, including north and eastern Idaho, with most units still offering year-round hunting on private lands. The modifications also opened a new wolf trapping season for public lands in southeastern Idaho.
Fish and Game’s proposals take a more expansive approach than a similar bill introduced earlier in the state legislative session by Sen. Bert Brackett (R-Rogerson).
Brackett’s bill would have allowed year-round hunting in 11 units south of the Snake River, dubbed “wolf-free zones,” and in a handful of chronic depredation zones with at least one depredation in four of the last five years. Brackett said creation of wolf-free zones aimed to prevent wolf populations from spreading further into southern Idaho.
The new regulations opened 19 chronic depredation zones for year-round hunting along with the 11 wolf-free zones designated by the earlier legislation. It also expanded trapping, which Brackett’s bill didn’t touch.
Brackett said in an interview he doesn’t expect his bill to get any more time in committee because Fish and Game essentially covered the same ground, but he was pleased with the more extensive rules added by the commissioners and thought sportsmen and cattlemen would benefit.
At the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association’s winter meeting in Oreana earlier this month, Brackett said he wanted to gauge support for more wolf hunting among the crowd of ranchers.
“I asked them, ‘show of hands, who would like to live in a wolf-free zone?’” Brackett said. “And I tell you, every hand in that room went up.”
Brackett said he wasn’t directly involved with the commission’s decision-making process, but they were aware of his and other legislators’ goals to reduce wolf depredations throughout the state.
Commissioners proposed the new rules in early February after the Idaho Department of Fish and Game released estimates placing Idaho’s wolf population at over 1,500 animals, well above the federal quota of 150 animals for recovery efforts.
During a two-week public comment period on the proposed rules, Fish and Game received more than 27,000 online responses overwhelmingly against expanded wolf hunting, though the commission noted in a press release only about 5,600 of those responses came from Idahoans. Of Idaho residents that commented, about 55 percent supported the proposals, Fish and Game said in a statement.