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Sarah Gilman | Feb 25, 2009 10:35 AM

Idaho is not exactly known for its wolf tolerance, so it's not surprising that the state is again proposing to kill wolves in an effort to boost elk numbers on the eastern side of the panhandle.

The Ravalli Republic reports:

In the next few weeks, the Idaho Fish and Game Department will ask the federal government for permission to remove close to 100 wolves on the Idaho lands bordering the Lolo National Forest . . .

While state biologists found more elk were killed by rifles than predators in some areas of Idaho, in the 2,300 square mile area designated as the Lolo Zone wolf predation was keeping elk numbers from rebounding, (George Pauley of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Association) said.

The area's elk herd once numbered close to 16,000 in the late 1980s, the Republic reports, but the herd has crashed to around 4,000 cows and bulls thanks in part to declining calf survival and a harsh winter in the mid-1990s. Idaho hopes that culling most of Lolo's 130 to 150 wolves will help reverse that trend and bring the herd closer to what the state's "elk plan" says the area can sustain: between 6,100 and 9,100 cow elk and 1,300 to 1,900 bulls.

But as Idaho wildlife officials acknowledged in 2006 when the state proposed to kill off 58 of the area's wolves,, and as High Country News reported at the time: the elk herd's biggest problem is habitat.

Decades of wildfire suppression have allowed dense forest to reclaim many of the open meadows the elk need for forage and calving grounds,  (says Suzanne Asha Stone of Defenders of Wildlife). . .

(And) John Kie, a University of Idaho biologist who reviewed the proposal for the state, points out that a bigger herd (boosted by predator control) could outgrow the existing habitat and crash (again).

(And don't forget all those guys wandering around the woods with guns)


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