COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) - Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in the northern part of the state are proposing that hunters be allowed to use bait to kill more wolves as a way to bolster elk numbers in the Panhandle region.
The Fish and Game Department made the recommendation this week as part of its Middle Fork Predation Management Plan. The agency also wants to expand hunting for bears and cougars to kill more of those predators.
The department is now collecting public comment on the proposal. It will have to be approved by the state Fish and Game Commission and the Idaho Legislature before it can go into effect.
Wayne Wakkinen, the department's acting regional wildlife manager, told The Spokesman-Review that managers would like to see 30 elk calves for every 100 cows during aerial surveys in the spring. In recent years, calf ratios in some parts of the Panhandle region have dropped to the low 20s and teens, he said.
Wildlife advocates are opposing the predator-management plan. Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, Wilderness Watch, Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the plan.
"The state of Idaho has made clear that it intends to double down on its plan to transform the Middle Fork area of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness from a naturally regulated wilderness to an elk farm benefiting commercial outfitters and recreational hunters," said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso in the prepared statement.
Earlier this year, a coalition of wildlife advocacy groups sued the state and federal officials in federal court, asking a judge to stop a state-hired hunter from using the U.S. Forest Service's backcountry airstrips to reach and kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return. The federal judge rejected their request for a temporary restraining order, but state officials pulled the hunter out of the region after he killed nine wolves.
The lawsuit is currently on appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review