For Immediate Release, February 8, 2016
Contact: Andrea Santarsiere, (303) 854-7748, firstname.lastname@example.org
Idaho to Renew Aerial Wolf Slaughter
Plan Highlights Critical Need to Extend Federal Monitoring of Idaho Wolves
VICTOR, Idaho— Ignoring recent research indicating Idaho officials could be overestimating the state’s wolf population, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services announced plans today to allow gunners in helicopters to start shooting wolves in the Lolo Elk Management Zone of the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho.
The renewed wolf slaughter comes on the heels of a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other conservation organizations questioning the accuracy of wolf estimates by state officials and asking the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue monitoring wolf populations in Idaho and Montana for another five years. The Service has yet to respond to the petition, which was spurred, in part, by a recent study published in the journal Science that questions the accuracy of wolf counts in the two states. But the information released today shows that Idaho will aerially gun wolves in the Lolo Zone for the third year in a row, as the Idaho legislature requests another $400,000 to kill wolves for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
“It’s urgent that the Fish and Wildlife Service immediately grant our petition request to continue federal monitoring of wolves in Idaho and Montana for another five years,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney at the Center. “The plans to renew the aerial wolf slaughter demonstrate why such monitoring is so necessary. We’re hoping to receive a response to that petition no later than next week.”
This will be the third year in a row that Wildlife Services has shot wolves from the air at the request of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. The stated goal of the wolf killing is to increase elk populations, although Idaho admits that elk populations in the Lolo Zone declined due to habitat changes well before wolves were reintroduced in Idaho. In February 2014 Wildlife Services killed 23 wolves in the Lolo Zone from a helicopter, and in February 2015 the agency killed 19 wolves. During the last five years, six other agency wolf-control actions in the Lolo Zone removed an additional 48 wolves.
At the same time, the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board has requested an additional $400,000 to kill wolves in Idaho, a request Gov. Butch Otter has indicated he plans to support. This will be the third such installment since the Board was created by the Idaho legislature in 2014. According to supporters of the bill creating the Board, the goal of the law is to reduce Idaho’s wolf population to as few as 150 individuals. The program will be in place for five years, through June 30, 2019, and permits the Idaho legislature to allocate $400,000 to kill wolves in the state annually. The law also provides up to $110,000 annually from assessments made on livestock producers, as well as another $110,000 annually from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. With the exception of the money provided by Fish and Game, the law requires that all money (up to $510,000 annually) must be used to kill wolves. Last year this funding was used to kill 72 wolves that may have been involved in livestock conflicts, at an estimated cost of more than $7,000 per wolf.
“It is these aggressive tactics that caused us to file a petition to Fish and Wildlife Service to continue federal monitoring of wolves in the first place,” said Santarsiere. “Idaho is making it clear that it has no intention to curb its attempts to decimate Idaho’s wolf population.”
The Center had requested that the Fish and Wildlife Service respond to its petition by Feb. 15. The current monitoring period is set to end May 5.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.