No more lethal wolf control in Blaine County, Idaho, says Ketchum City Council

Unanimous vote is a first such pro-wolf measure in Idaho-

Ketchum, Idaho. The city council of Ketchum, Idaho, the largest town in Blaine County, has voted unanimously in favor of non-lethal management of wolf and livestock conflicts that occur in the county. While Ketchum does not set policy for either Blaine County or the state of Idaho, the measure in a first in a state where the politicians have been mostly anti-wolf.

Blaine County has been home to many wolves since they were restored to Idaho. It is very good habitat for deer and elk, and so, good wolf habitat too. However, these lands, many of them public land, also harbor seasonal flocks of domestic sheep and cattle. Ever since Butch Otter became governor of Idaho, Idaho government has sicked the federal government (via USDA’s Wildlife Services) on the wolves, killing many. In recent years, Defenders of Wildlife has mounted a major summer effort in Blaine County to keep sheep and wolves both safe and apart. It has worked.  According to Defenders, “Despite [having] one of the highest concentrations of wolves and livestock sharing the same landscape, the project area has the lowest loss rate of livestock to wolves statewide.”

Defenders says there is little evidence that killing wolves to protect sheep and cattle works because new wolves come in to occupy the area and replace those killed. Moreover, wolf packs, disrupted and weakened by the government killing some of their members, are more likely to resort to easy prey (livestock) rather than the wild prey favored by an intact wolf pack — deer and elk. Wolves are territorial and kill or chase away competing wolves. These things keep wolf numbers in a locale relatively constant regardless. Nonlethal control of wolves prevents the pattern of cycles of killing of wolves and livestock. Examples of nonlethal control use of guard dogs, strobe lights, electric fencing and fladry.

Critics of nonlethal control say it is not really very effective, expensive when government control is free, a bother and does not feel as good as dead wolves lying about.

Blaine country is a bit different than most rural Idaho counties in that it boasts a higher per capita level of education and wealth in Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue, where the overwhelming majority of residents live.

Governor Butch Otter began Idaho’s strong effort to reduce its wolf population immediately when he became governor, although it didn’t really begin to take hold in terms of numbers of wolves until two or three years ago. He is up for election to a third term. He won an unexpectedly close race in the Republican primary election this spring. Now growing numbers of news stories say his Democratic opponent, A.J. Balukoff, could win a rare victory for a non-Republican in Idaho because of the almost last place condition of the Idaho economy and many conflicts the governor has had with his follow conservatives, and moderates and liberals.

Here is more information on the action of the Ketchum city council



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  1. skyrim Avatar

    This is encouraging news. Maybe now I have an Idaho town I can visit and spend time in again. We used to enjoy the Classic Car Auction and Antiques Fair around the Labor Day holiday.
    Found my first early edition of Biography of A Grizzly there. Neat towns all the way up from Twin.

  2. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Wow. Woo-hoo!

  3. Yvette Avatar

    A move in the right direction! I was glad to hear this one. In Idaho! 🙂

  4. Amre Avatar

    This is wonderful news! Especially from a state like Idaho where so much bad news about government-sponsored wolf killing has come out lately. Needless to say, it would be great if “Butch” Otter looses Idaho’s election this fall!

  5. Trish Marie Avatar
    Trish Marie

    I just wrote Mayor Jonas and the Ketchum City Council and thanked them for their humane and enlightened stand. I noted that should I ever get the chance to visit Idaho, I’d be staying and spending my money in their town. I’ve also written the Idaho Potato Commission and noted I will not be buying Idaho potatoes until the state adopts a less barbaric policy towards its wildlife, especially wolves.

  6. snaildarter Avatar

    Maybe Idaho isn’t hopeless after all. Ketchum sounds like a cool place to visit. And they are right if you have wolves in the area that are not bothering livestock they are your best ally against new wolves that might.

    1. timz Avatar

      snail, Ketchum is a cool place to visit but it’s nothing like the rest of rural Idaho politically. A lot of the folks there actually open-minded.

      1. topher Avatar

        The rest of rural Idaho has far fewer Land Rovers and Porsches.

        1. JB Avatar

          Does that mean this can be characterized as a battle between the self-serving and the self-righteous?

          1. topher Avatar

            I’m guessing most the money comes from tourism and property taxes paid by wealthy non-resident property owners. Seems like a symbolic vote might not be a bad idea if your concerned about Idaho wildlife policy scaring off your money.

  7. WM Avatar

    If I understand correctly, the Blaine County population is a bit over 20,000. Ketchum, the largest town, is about 2,100. So, for now anyway, 2,600/20,000 x 100 = about 13% of Blaine County wants non-lethal wolf control. Waiting to hear from the other 87%, as represented through their County Commissioners (or other incorporated cities/towns).

    Ketchum is about the same size as Hailey and Sun Valley, accounting for a total population short of 7,000. So, how are the 12-13,000 rural folks, some with livestock/pets going to weigh in?

    Anyone taking bets?

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Well, it’s certainly a hopeful start. It could be absolute zero, which is what I would have thought. 🙂

    2. Yvette Avatar

      Maybe you missed the point?

    3. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      Recently I called a friend in Leadore, Idaho whom I have not seen or spoken to since the mid 1950s just to see what was happening in her life. My final question was what was her opinion about wolves in the area. Her response was that most of the residents weren’t concerned – just a few ranchers in the area. Although it is not in the same valley it is in similar country a couple of mountain ranges to the east.

    4. Louise Kane Avatar

      WM to echo Barb’s sentiments you should take a look at the first set of comments that citizens sent in when asked about wolf hunting and Idaho’s management plan. If you want them I have a copy of all the comments. A woman who posts here from time to time and myself also created a template to catalogue the comments. I’d be glad to send you the sorted comments thus far. You’d be surprised, but even in Idaho, at least back then at the start of delisting, a MAJORITY of commenters felt the plan was too harsh, did not agree with trapping and snaring etc. Somehow the state agencies seem compelled to ignore the comments they receive and enact harsh lethal control management plans and even extremely educated people like yourself are led to believe that wolves and other predators are vastly feared and not tolerated even though the livestock and trophy hunting industries are really the driving force behind hunting and killing predators. I remember JB posted a study showing that intolerance escalated once hunting wolves started. i can’t recall which state it was in, Wisconsin? anyhow it speaks to what I suggest, that hunting wolves legitimizes hatred for them. Why would a state management agency allow wolves, just off the ESA, to be killed and hunted if they were not dangerous vermin? If you are interested in reading the comments submitted to IDFG just prior to the first hunt, ask Ralph for my e mail and I’ll send you the digital copies along with the sorted comments I have thus far. You’ll be surprised really

  8. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    First, Clem needs to go. He is an embarrassment to himself, not to mention the state of Idiotho. The days of the “tight jeans contest” is over. The state needs some competency at the leadership position; not just a “yes man” for the live stock industry, and Blaine County is just the place to make it happen.

    1. IDhiker Avatar

      I’ll heartily second that, Jeff E!!

  9. WyoWolfFan Avatar

    If a place in Idaho can do that there is hope.