Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Helicopter Hunt In Idaho?
Reasons given for wolf control action and helicopter use in the Lolo Zone.
Idaho Fish and Game has a study area within the Lolo Zone to collect detailed information on wolves and prey populations in addition to broader-scale information gathered for the entire zone. There are at least 12 packs in the Lolo including five packs that travel back and forth between Idaho and Montana. Fish and Game will continue to collect information to evaluate the effectiveness of control actions in meeting population goals for all big game species. Lolo elk populations have been in decline for years, dating back to the early 1990s. Fish and Game has conducted extensive research that indicates wolf predation is the leading cause of death of adult cow elk and calves older than six months, while black bear and mountain lion predation is the leading cause of death for younger elk calves.
Although Fish and Game’s elk objectives for the Lolo Zone are set below historic population highs to address declines in habitat quality, these objectives aren’t being achieved. Fish and Game has been working with federal land managers for several years to improve habitat in the Lolo Zone. Public hunting of black bears and mountain lions in the Lolo Zone appears to be meeting Fish and Game’s objectives for reducing elk calf predation by these species. Public harvest of wolves in the Lolo Zone, however, is well below objectives for reducing wolf predation on elk. As of December 15, 2011, the public had harvested only 7 wolves.
Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce the wolf population in the Lolo Zone to 20 to 30 wolves in 3 to 5 packs for a period of 5 years to give Lolo elk populations a chance to recover. Assuming public harvest of wolves remains low in the Lolo Zone, Fish and Game will conduct agency control actions through a combination of trapping and aerial control. These actions are consistent with its predation management plan for the Lolo Zone. Fish and Game’s predation management plan is based on research information and data regarding predator and prey populations.
Even while wolves in the Lolo Zone were on the Endangered Species List, there was a process for U.S. Fish and Wildlife to approve reducing local wolf populations to address unacceptable impacts to elk herds. Fish and Game was in the process of obtaining U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval for wolf reductions in the Lolo Zone through Endangered Species Act rules when wolves were delisted. Scientific experts outside the agency have reviewed the framework for Fish and Game’s proposal to reduce the Lolo wolf population and underlying research.
Idaho Fish and Game does not have specific details regarding Lolo aerial control actions at this time. Fish and Game will provide information regarding wolf control actions in monthly wolf management updates that will be posted on the Fish and Game website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov
IDFG Lolo Predation Management Plan
IDFG Wolf Management (Harvest Information, Monthly Management Reports)
USDA Wildlife Services . The USDA Wildlife Services Environmental Assessment, evaluating methods for controlling wolf populations in Idaho under the National Environmental Policy Act