The Idaho state legislature passed a new wolf killing bill in May 2021, that goes into effect on July 1, 2021. Drafted by ranchers primarily to address the interests of livestock producers, the law is intended to make it easier to kill wolves due to claims that wolves are devastating livestock producers and destroying elk herds. Neither claim is remotely based in fact.
Recent estimates indicate Idaho’s wolf population ranges between 1,000 – 1,500 wolves, depending on the survival rate of the spring’s litters of pups and the impact of the hunting and trapping season. In 2020, 512 wolves were killed in Idaho by hunters, trappers, IDFG and Wildlife Services. That was not enough dead wolves to appease ranching interests and those who falsely claim that wolves are decimating Idaho’s robust elk population.
After once again expanding wolf hunting and trapping regulations in March of 2021, Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game announced the new rules in June 2021, that make additional allowances for wolf hunting and trapping in accordance with the new law.
What has changed?
The new rules create more opportunities for hunters and trappers to kill wolves through extended seasons, an expansion of the areas where wolves can be trapped, along with “expanded methods of take.” The following are now allowable means of killing wolves in Idaho:
- night hunting with spotlights and infrared/thermal imaging systems
- use of dogs to track wolves, endangering the dogs as well as wolves
- expanded use of formidable leg hold traps
- hunting from motorized vehicles, with no restrictions, including the use of the vehicle itself as a weapon to run down and kill wolves
- hunting year-round on private land, with no weapons restrictions
- hunting with the use of bait to attract wolves on private land
All of these expanded methods of take, except hunting with the use of bait, will also be allowed on public land from November 15 to March 31 in 43 of Idaho’s 99 designated hunting units. The underlying intent is to allow for a maximum reduction of Idaho’s recovering wolf population. For now, aerial hunting is one of the few options that will still not be permitted for recreational hunters in Idaho, and fortunately, the use of poison to kill game animals is prohibited by federal law.
Even some hunting groups in Idaho have opposed these new measures, which contradict “fair chase” principles as originally established by Theodore Roosevelt and carried forward by The Boone and Crockett Club. Fair chase principles have traditionally rejected practices that “give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals.”