With gray wolves in Idaho back on the endangered species list, Idaho Fish and Game will continue with its non-hunting season wolf management.
Fish and Game biologists will continue tracking and monitoring wolves and working with federal officials to prevent livestock depredation, Deputy Director Jim Unsworth said in a news conference Friday.
"Idaho Fish and Game is disappointed with the federal court decision that places gray wolves back on the Endangered Species list," Unsworth said. "The same stewardship Fish and Game provides for other game species will not be applied to wolves as a result of this ruling."
Plans for wolf hunting seasons have been suspended and holders of 2010 wolf tags may be eligible for refunds. The policy and refund request form are available from Fish and Game offices or on their Web site.
Fish and Game also plans to submit proposals the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wolf control actions in the Lolo elk zone and is considering control actions in other elk zones. Officials are going over options for legal actions that could restore regulated wolf hunting in Idaho, and they are looking into the possibility of wolf hunts even while wolves are on the Endangered Species list.
U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula issued an order Thursday, August 5, that in effect returns the gray wolf in Idaho and the Northern Rocky Mountains to the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Wolves south of Interstate 90 in Idaho have reverted to management under a section of the Endangered Species Act known as the 10(j) rule, allowing some flexibility to respond to livestock depredation and impacts on big game. Wolves north of Interstate 90 in Idaho are fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Simply put, the 10(j) rule allows states and tribes with approved wolf management plans to manage these wolves to ensure the health of wild elk and deer herds and to protect private property. The rule also allows individuals on private or public land to kill a wolf that is in the act of attacking their stock animals or dogs, except land north of Interstate 90 in Idaho, or land administered by the National Park Service, and provided there is no evidence of intentional baiting, feeding or deliberate attractants of wolves.
Idaho still must follow the rule of law, and we will look at all legal options to see what's the best way out of this mess. Fish and Game still will work to resolve conflicts between wolves and other game animals, including proposals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wolf control actions to protect dwindling game herds and reduce livestock predation.
At the end of 2009, officials estimate the minimum population in Idaho was 835 wolves - officials say the minimum population estimate at the end of this year would be about 1,000 without hunting.
The ruling sets aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2009 decision to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list. The judge's order is available here.