Idaho's wolves have been designated big game animals, a first step toward eventual hunting seasons.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission unanimously approved changing the official status of gray wolves from "endangered species" to "big game animal" when it met in Boise March 24-26.
Commission action does not mean gray wolves will be hunted in Idaho any time soon. Although federal wildlife authorities have approved the Idaho plan for wolf management, final action to take Idaho wolves off the federal Endangered Species Act list and turn them over to state management is still some time off. Gray wolves were reintroduced in 1996 into Idaho where they have expanded their numbers from 35 to nearly 400.
Secretary of the Interior Gayle Norton has announced a proposal to give tribes and Idaho and Montana more authority to manage wolf populations in their reservations and states, consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. "Wolf populations now far exceed their recovery goals under the Act in the northern Rocky Mountains, and Idaho and Montana have both crafted responsible wolf management plans for their states," Norton said. "Although we are unable at this time to continue with the process to delist the wolf population in the region because we do not have approved plans for all three states (including Wyoming where a plan acceptable to the federal government has not been concluded), we believe that it is appropriate for us to pursue as much local management for this recovered wolf population as we can."
Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker told Commissioners that Governor Kempthorne's office deserves credit for working with federal authorities to move wolf management toward Idaho's control. He also recognized Steve Nadeau, manager of Fish and Game's large carnivore program, led cooperative interagency training sessions for Fish and Game employees all over Idaho on wolves and wolf management, assisted by representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Federal Wildlife Services.
Huffaker also mentioned that the big game designation does not preclude the taking of wolves by traps or snares. The Commission has the authority to allow those methods of take, he said. At the public hearing before the Commission meeting, several individuals expressed concern that trapping would not be permitted under a big game designation and they asked instead that wolves be named a furbearer instead. That designation was not needed to allow trapping, Huffaker confirmed.