The Idaho Fish and Game Commission began collecting comments from the public this week on a joint proposal from the Camas County-based Idaho Trappers Association and Bonner County-based Foundation for Wildlife Management that—if passed—would expand wolf trapping areas and seasons in the Wood River Valley.
To date, wolf trapping has remained illegal in local Game Units 48 and 49, which sit on either side of state Highway 75 in Blaine County. The Foundation for Wildlife Management and the Idaho Trappers Association hope to reverse that ban and to extend the local wolf-hunting season from 11 months to year-round. (The Foundation for Wildlife Management pays trappers an incentive of up to $1,000 per wolf killed, and the program is funded in part by grants from the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.)
In a Jan. 28 meeting, the Fish and Game Commission—an oversight body for the Department of Fish and Game—initially agreed to uphold the ban on big-game trapping in Game Units 48 and 49, but changed course after a lunch break, according to Department of Fish and Game spokesman Terry Thompson.
Thompson confirmed in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express that commissioners did “include a motion to exclude units 48 and 49” from the sportsmen proposals at one point in the meeting. Commissioner Greg Cameron, representing Magic Valley, said he would prefer not to include Units 48 and 49 with any wolf trapping proposals, according to Thompson, and “discussions before lunch concluded with the idea of not including Units 48 and 49.”
Following the lunch break, however, the commission "directed the [Department of Fish and Game] to scope the proposals from the sporting groups with Units 48 and 49 included, so that all may be able to voice their support or opposition,” Thompson said.
The public now has that chance. The comment period, which opened Feb. 8, will run until Feb. 25. Big game seasons are set by the commission on March 18.
Earlier this year, the Blaine County commissioners objected to the proposal. And, in a Monday letter addressed to Commissioner Cameron, Hailey Mayor Martha Burke strongly objected to the sportsmen’s proposals. Burke cited news reports describing a January incident in which state Sen. Michelle Stennett’s dog was caught in a wolf trap near Mackay.
“The news story raised awareness and alarm,” Burke wrote. “Hailey is surrounded by public lands, and these are popular hiking, skiing, walking, mountain biking, and dirt biking destinations. We have seen a tremendous increase in the use of these trails over the past year and expect it to grow.
“A dog, child, adult or animal caught in one of these traps is clearly possible, and would be physically and emotionally devastating to those involved.”
Burke emphasized that the city of Hailey values wildlife coexistence.
“Wolf trapping is not coexistence, and is not welcome on lands surrounding our community,” she wrote. “We urge you to reject this proposal.”
According to Thompson, emailing Commission@idfg.idaho.gov or using Fish and Game’s comment portal at bit.ly/3q8BOMJ are both valid ways to provide feedback, which will be sent to a departmental wildlife advisory group that advises the commission.
Residents can also provide in-person testimony to the commission on Wednesday, March 17, at its Nampa Regional Office, one day before the board will officially set big-game seasons. Social distancing will be observed, Thompson said.
“If anybody is having trouble navigating the website, having trouble with email or just needs help over the phone or in-person, they can call the Magic Valley Regional Office at 208-324-4359 or come into the office,” he said. “They can also mail any comments to the regional office and we will bundle them up and get them over to headquarters.”
Thompson noted that while Fish and Game does not have any “weighting criteria” for comments received, feedback provided by Idaho residents will be “valued and taken very seriously.”