The Blaine County commissioners will hold a hearing at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, to discuss potential wolf hunting regulation changes with Idaho Department of Fish and Game representatives. (To comment in person at the hearing, visit https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/822865477 or dial 646-749-3122 and enter access code 822-865-477.)
Wolf hunting and trapping in Idaho received a significant boost last winter after Fish and Game commissioners voted to raise tag limits to 15 wolves per person and open up year-round wolf hunting across most of the state.
That trajectory could continue in 2021. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be revisiting wolf hunting and trapping regulations this year and “may consider expanding wolf trapping areas and seasons in the Wood River Valley,” according to a Saturday statement from the Idaho Conservation League.
Wolf trapping is not currently permitted in Blaine County. Though Fish and Game proposed a trapping season for nearby game units 48 and 49 in 2019, that bid was withdrawn after residents voiced concerns over pets, children and other wildlife interacting with the traps.
“Previous Fish and Game Commissioners and IDFG staff recognized the value that this community places on sound wildlife management so, in response to public concerns, have not allowed wolf trapping to date [in Blaine County],” the ICL stated.
Outside of the Wood River Valley, traps and snares intended for wolves have dealt tragic outcomes for pets and their owners.
“In 2013, [Fish and Game] noted that more than 30 dogs were caught in such traps in Idaho. Since then, trapping has expanded significantly,” the ICL said.
After a harrowing run-in with a wolf trap this month, Idaho Senator Michelle Stennett, also a Ketchum resident, is now asking for the devices to be clearly marked and set back further from county and U.S. Forest Service roads.
On Jan. 2, Stennett experienced what she considers “the most helpless, agonizing 80 minutes” of her life after her dog, Teagan, got his leg clamped in the jaws of a wolf trap near Mackay.
Stennett recounted the event in a Thursday evening email to the Idaho Mountain Express. She was hiking with a few friends along a county road “popular for families to find their Christmas trees, snowshoe, back country ski, hike, bike, ride, and fish” when the incident took place, she said.
“We were about 4 miles from my truck when we heard a horrible scream from my golden retriever. He was on the right of way just off the road, slashing at something on the ground,” Stennett wrote. “We ran to him with a sinking feeling as we saw his leg was in a white, self-proclaimed ‘X-treme Wolf Trap.’”
As Stennett worked to uncover the 10-pound trap from the snow, her dog bit both her hands, dislocating her thumb and causing puncture wounds. Despite her injuries, Stennett joined her friends in trying to disable the trap with their weight.
“Our combined weight didn’t budge it and nothing in our possessions worked. There was no cell service,” she wrote. “It was the most helpless, agonizing 80 minutes of my life with my dog in my lap as he was violently shaking, going into shock … I desperately tried to position the trap to get some blood to his leg and paw and lessen the extreme pain he was enduring. I prayed and prayed and cried.”
Two male friends who “miraculously drove up” used their combined weight to eventually pry open the trap, Stennett said, averting what could have been a grim outcome.
Stennett said her experience could become more common as more people relocate to Idaho and venture into the backcountry.
“As our population grows, our loved ones and more wildlife will indiscriminately get hurt,” she wrote.
She noted that Fish and Game does not require trappers to use any flagging or indication that a trap is present, and state law also prohibits destroying, disturbing, or removing a trap.
“What if your child had stepped in that trap? What if a child saw a parent get caught in that trap? A skier? Someone fishing? A horse with rider?” she wrote. “If you cannot open a trap and must move it to save someone’s limb or life, you can be fined and jailed … [M]y moving a trap to make my dog more comfortable, or if I had disassembled the trap to get him out of it, is unlawful. This is absurd.”