ID Fish and Game: Don't count on Idaho wolf hunts soon

John Miller of AP wrote this: ID Fish and Game: Don’t count on Idaho wolf hunts soon.

The federal government may lift protections from northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves by March, but a state wildlife manager said Thursday he expects environmentalists’ lawsuits over Idaho’s management plan will delay legal wolf hunts for the foreseeable future. [emphasis mine]

You can always file a lawsuit, but if you are wrong on the law or the facts, you will soon find you have your case dismissed and you are out of money. If Idaho Fish and Game is saying this in advance, it seems like evidence they know their wolf population management plan is defective. I’d argue the plan is arbitrary and capricious.

This is just a feeling. No one let me into a secret meeting, but I think most F & G folks know this is just a wolf killing plan, not a hunt similar to that of other game animals. They are saying what they have been directed to say from higher authorities such as certain entrenched lobbying groups and high state officials.






  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    This plan is not a plan that was developed by biologists. It is a top-down plan that was politically developed. That’s why it will stand a tough time in any court challenge.

    The biologists say over and over that there has been no decline in elk populations or hunting success. There are only two hunting zones, the Selway and Lolo, that are not meeting objectives and even Nedeau says that it is related to habitat. The studies that they have done in the past about removing predators from the Lolo showed that the elk population declined and the Selway, where they didn’t remove predators, the elk population increased. None of the changes were out of the normal population variances that you would normally see. It’s not some big government conspiracy that they are saying that. They have the data to back it up.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Wyoming’s dual status plan, with wolves as trophy game in a small part of the state and predatory animals in most of the state, is even worse than Idaho’s plan, and clearly in violation of the ESA. Nevertheless, according to a recent Wyoming G&F Dept. press release, Wyoming has received formal notice from the US Fish & Wildlife Service that its “modified” dual status plan is approved. We can expect the formal delisting notice in February or March.

    Let the lawsuits begin.

  3. be Avatar

    was it the selway or the lolo that IDFG set about reducing herd numbers in recent years ? ~ i.e. the decreased numbers came about intentionally via increased “harvest” ~ nadeau mentioned in Jerome “we might have overdone it a bit” responding to a whine …

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    In Wyoming, although the G&F Dept. consistently blames wolves for the decline in cow-calf ratios in western Wyoming elk herds, the Dept. has no data–and I mean no data at all–to suggest, much less demonstrate, that wolves are indeed regulating elk herds by reducing cow-calf ratios.

    However, we do have data showing aggressive herd reduction throughout the area through issuing late season cow-calf tags to hunters. These late season hunts are directly attributable to landowner complaints about too many elk. They’ve been going on for years, but have been especially aggressive during the time that wolves were expanding their range in western Wyoming.

    We also have data demonstrating the extensive drought we have been experiencing throughout western Wyoming for more than a decade, beginning before wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone.

    Given the drought and the extensive late season cow-calf hunts, I think we can explain low cow-calf ratios without reference to wolf predation. There has been some improvement in ratios the last couple of years with the easing of the drought.

  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I attended the Boise IDFG Wolf meeting and thought it went well. Everyone was polite to each other and all of us were allowed to ask questions about the plan and we were able to present our views to fish and game personel after the presentation.
    I am not opposed to limited hunting of wolves that is closely monitored and done in a biologically correct manner. That means no hunting in the spring, while the pups are in dens, and no hunting in the summer and fall, until the pups are able to fend for themselves. This means a short winter hunt from late December through February when the wolf pelts are prime. I expressed that idea to the IDFG personel at the meeting and found them receptive. I think there is a middle ground that can take into account the many different views on wolves.
    Wolf reintroduction in Idaho has been an outstanding success story. Wolf numbers are high enough to sustain some hunting and still have lots of wolves for photographers and wolf watchers to enjoy. Wolves have a high reproductive capacity and will respond to hunting by producing more pups just like coyotes do.

  6. Jim Avatar

    Larry, wolves do not reproduce like coyotes do. They do respond to increased pressure by having more pups. In fact they do the reverse.
    If wolves reproduced like coyotes there’d be millions of them nationwide like there are coyotes.

  7. be Avatar

    i don’t see the plan as illustrating any means to determine the actual cause of herd numbers below objectives. i wonder whether the state will even need to demonstrate such causation in particular instances of control. it seems that predator reductions/controls will be used to inflate numbers no matter the cause in units the state wants an increase big game number.

    all they need to do is demonstrate that reducing wolves increases ungulates somewhere and no matter the cause for the original decline in a particular unit, wolf controls will be at the top of the list to increase big game.

    this i why the plan needs to be rejected off-hand. the biology is operationalized in terms reactive to big game or bovine management. they’re not managing wolves, they’re managing for big game and for bovine using wolf reductions as a tool regardless of its original relevance to particular objectives. this quells any assurances one might find for the plan in actual consideration for biology. just look at how the science is being operationalized. just look at the plan.

    i think a lot of people would be a lot more content if there were measures in the plan which assured a conservation interest, if the “adaptive management” aspect of the plan were entirely ripped out and replaced with concrete assurances and directives that illustrated how the plan is to be actually executed when biologists find a or b or c – this way, we can assure the objective application of biology rather than the perpetual moving target always applied to “control” wolves regardless of the findings. concrete and specific application might even spur third party biologists being employed via conservation or big game interest to supplement the findings and continue the learning toward a more and more appropriately informed management.

    they’re not interested in that ~ when conservationists say “it was drought that reduced the herd here, look at this” they’ll say, “and it’s wolf reduction that will increase the herd, look at that” …

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You wrote:

    I am not opposed to limited hunting of wolves that is closely monitored and done in a biologically correct manner. That means no hunting in the spring, while the pups are in dens, and no hunting in the summer and fall, until the pups are able to fend for themselves. This means a short winter hunt from late December through February when the wolf pelts are prime.

    You probably saw this, but in case not, they do not propose a short winter hunt. The proposed hunt is from Aug. 31 through March 31 — 7 months.

  9. Larry Thorngren Avatar


    I pointed this out to the IDFG during the presentation and again in conversations with one of the directors later. I showed them photos of the Haydens taken in late October and they agreed that the pelts were still rough.
    I also mentioned that the Hayden pups did not participate in the hunt for elk in October and wouldn’t until late in December. (Click on my name above to see the Haydens in action)
    I also passed along the proposals from your blog about a wildlife stamp or license plate to help fund wolf management so that non-hunters and wolf watchers would have a greater voice in how wolves are managed.

    I think that the IDFG is between a rock and a hard place with all the pressure from all sides and we should consider the wolf plan a proposal that can and will be changed.

    All of us that disagree with the plan need to respond and suggest changes that make biological sense. I think that doing so in a calm and informed way is more likely to produce the desired changes. I intend to follow up and personally contact the IDFG personel and directors I met and continue to voice my concerns.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan