Senate Resources and Environment Committee Schedules Hearing for Today on the the Wolf Control Board Bill
The Idaho Senate Resources and Environment Committee has scheduled a hearing for H 470, the Wolf Control Board bill. There will be an opportunity for public testimony and a vote will take place to send it to the Senate Floor.
1:30 P.M., Friday, March 14, 2014
Idaho Statehouse, Boise, Idaho.
The bill establishes a board which would be composed solely of people appointed directly or indirectly by the Governor that would oversee wolf control in Idaho. Originally the board was to be funded using $2 million in general funds but this amount seems likely to be only $400,000 due to shortfalls in funding for another program but it will likely be given $400,000 over the following 4 years to total the entire $2 million. An additional $220,ooo in funding for the board will be comprised of $110,000 from the livestock industry, and $110,000 from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on an annual basis making a total of $640,000 available annually to kill wolves.
The membership of the board shall consist at all times of members representing the following executive agencies and interests:
(a) The director of the department of agriculture;
(b) The director of the department of fish and game;
(c) A member representative of sportsmen’s interests;
(d) A member representative of the livestock industry; and
(e) A member of the public at large, not to exclude any person who may have sportsmen or livestock interests.
As I will recap here from my previous post on this bill, Representative Gibbs (R) District-32, Grace gave significantly false testimony in the House session on the bill where it passed with a 49-16 vote. When responding to testimony from Representative Ilana Rubel (D) District-18, Boise, he said:
The good lady from 19 (sic) mentioned that the population has decreased slightly and that the decreased pairs have decreased slightly. That may be true but the problem is that counting wolves is not an exact science. These are known, absolutely known numbers, not speculative, not the ones that have been seen but not confirmed.
Representative Gibbs is correct when he claims that counting wolves is not an exact science but he is incorrect in his assertion that only confirmed wolves are counted. This can be seen when you read through the methodology used to calculate the year end estimate in the 2012 Idaho Department of Fish and Game wolf report.
From 1996 until 2005, wolf populations were counted using a total count technique that was quite accurate when wolf numbers were low and most had radiocollars. Since then, we have used an estimation technique that is more applicable to a larger population that is more difficult to monitor. In 2006, we began using an estimation technique that has been peer reviewed by the University of Idaho and northern Rocky Mountain wolf managers. This technique relies on our documented packs, mean or median pack size (mean or median of the sample pool of packs where counts were considered complete), number of wolves documented in small groups not considered packs, and a percentage of the population presumed to be lone wolves. We have modified this technique slightly since first adoption. In recent years we have used a total count of wolves for those packs where we have a high degree of confidence that we observed all pack members and have applied the mean or median pack size to the remaining packs with incomplete counts. We previously used the mean pack size for all packs. We use the statistical mean when number of packs with complete year-end counts is ≥20, otherwise median pack size is applied to the remaining packs.
In other words, it is an estimate that depends on getting complete counts of enough packs to make their estimate statistically valuable. In addition, because the methodology is based on research conducted on the Northern Rockies wolf population while the population was increasing and there wasn’t hunting, the estimates may sway either way meaning that they could as easily be higher than the actual number of wolves.
Gibbs went on to assert:
The delisting criteria and the state control plan calls for Idaho to maintain ten, ten, ten packs, not a hundred and eighteen, ten packs.
This assertion is incorrect. The 2002 Idaho Wolf Management Plan and the 2009 delisting rule requires the state to maintain a minimum of 15 “breeding pairs” not “ten packs”. There is a big difference in definition between these two terms and the definition of breeding pairs is very specific.
The 2009 Delisting Rule, which is the rule that the USFWS was required to publish in the Federal Register when Congress delisted wolves in the Northern Rockies outside of Wyoming, contains triggers for a status review.
Three scenarios could lead us to initiate a status review and analysis of threats to determine if relisting is warranted including: (1) If the State wolf population falls below the minimum NRM wolf population recovery level of 10 breeding pairs of wolves and 100 wolves in either Montana or Idaho at the end of the year; (2) if the wolf population segment in Montana or Idaho falls below 15 breeding pairs or 150 wolves at the end of the year in either of those States for 3 consecutive years; or (3) if a change in State law or management objectives would significantly increase the threat to the wolf population. All such reviews would be made available for public review and comment, including peer review by select species experts. Additionally, if any of these scenarios occurred during the mandatory 5-year post-delisting monitoring period, the post-delisting monitoring period would be extended 5 additional years from that point.
Gibbs also made an assertion that hunting and trapping has not killed greater than 35% of the wolf population in any of the previous years.
Biologically, we have been told numerous times in committee that harvest of 35% is necessary just to maintain the population. We have never achieved a sustained harvest of 35%-40% on the grey wolf since we started harvesting them in 2011.
This is untrue as well. Based on Idaho Department of Fish and Game numbers the mortality has ranged from from 42-48% when calculated from the beginning of April each year to the end of March. I use these time periods because wolves only have pups once each year in April and the population only declines from this time until they have pups the following year. In this period from 2011-2012 the total documented mortality was 47%, from 2012-2013 42%, and from 2013-2014 – if the mortality trajectory remains the same and is similar to last year – it will be 48%. If you remove all types of control, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife Services, and public control — this leaves leaves hunting, trapping, natural, illegal, vehicle, and unknown mortalities — the mortality was 39%, 37%, and 37% respective to the time periods above.
I assembled some numbers to address other specific points below. The population has declined by 30% since Idaho took over management of the species in 2009. The end of the year estimates are the measure referred to in the annual reports and at the end of 2009 there were an estimated 856 wolves. Presently the end of year population, based on the preliminary estimate given to the legislature by Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologist Jeff Gould, is “less than 600” and about 110 wolves have been killed since then. The Mortality records obtained through public records requests and published on the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website indicate that the population is likely to fall to around 460 animals by the end of March 2014 just before female wolves begin denning activities.
During the period from April 1, 2011 to the present 1,272 wolf mortalities have been documented by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. 98.2% (n=1,249) of those mortalities were human caused, 1.3%, (n=17) were unknown, and 0.5% (n=6) were natural.
Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.
2 Responses to Senate Resources and Environment Committee Schedules Hearing for Today on the the Wolf Control Board Bill
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Ken I listened (thanks for the link) and it is pretty horrifying how stacked it all is. I commend you for trying to speak, your clarity and gentleness, all of which was missed by all of them. I did not get the name of the one other person who was much more blatant and honest, and who was met with such incredible rudeness I could not believe this was a serious meeting – which I guess it was not. They simply dismissed anything either of you had to say. I am actually relieved there was no video for me to see the faces of these intransigent people. Thank you both. Thank you.
Jon Robinson of ICL also gave reasonable and coherent testimony against the bill. What amazed me was the committee chair limited testimony to two minutes and instructed witnesses to “not get into the weeds” on the subject. I guess that means don’t present us with anything factual or anything we don’t want to hear. There were no questions of any witnesses, pro or con, from the committee. It was a done deal from the beginning.