Idaho is about to declare war on wolves. In a blindingly swift action, the Senate approved a bill that could enable the wholesale destruction of 1,400 of the estimated 1,500 wolves in the state. It would reduce their numbers to a sickly few.
The bill was heard in the Senate Resources and Environment Committee on Tuesday and was passed by the full Senate on a 26-7 vote the next day.
The 500 wolves killed in each of the past two years kept the population stable, but stable apparently was not enough for the agricultural industry that brought the bill.
The bill would override wolf management measures put in place by professional biologists at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the commission that sets its policies.
The bill would allow the state to hire private contractors to kill wolves instead of the federal agency it uses now.
It triples the amount of money the Idaho Department of Fish and Game provides to the Idaho Depredation Control Board. The bill would allow hunters to bag unlimited numbers of wolves. It would allow them to use ATVs and snowmobiles to track them down.
The bill is notable for what it is not.
It is not based on any kind of scientific wildlife conservation management.
It is not based on Idaho’s 2002 wolf management plan, approved by the federal government after it removed Idaho’s wolves from the endangered species list. The bill’s backers acknowledge only the part of the plan that calls for the state to maintain a minimum of 15 wolf packs or invite the return of the federal government to state wolf management.
It is not based on excessive losses of domestic animals to wolves. Last year’s 84 confirmed livestock losses investigated by Wildlife Services in Idaho during its standard reporting period were a reduction of almost half from the previous year.
However, the bill is based on anecdotes and fear that have fed on themselves and grown since the species that was once extinct in Idaho was reintroduced in 1995. It is based on a view of the West as pastoral, predator-free open range.
When wolves returned, opponents said they would attack domestic livestock and devastate elk herds. Supporters of the new bill say those predictions came true and there are now “too many” wolves. Yet, the state’s own numbers show that elk populations in most parts of the state are robust.
Idaho’s radical Republican legislators don’t like wolves or the federal government. They want to write that message in wolf blood and send it to Washington, D.C.
To call this bill an effort to manage wildlife is like unleashing demolition derbies on highways and calling them traffic control. This is not management; it’s wanton massacre.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.