A bill that would allow ranchers to use live bait to lure marauding wolves to traps or shooters was sent to the floor of the Idaho Senate Wednesday on a 7-2 party-line vote.
The bill, introduced by Terreton Republican Jeff Siddoway, would allow anyone whose livestock or family pet was killed or harassed by wolves, to shoot them from airplanes, use night scopes on rifles or even lure the wolves in with live bait with 36 hours. Then they can get a 60-day permit from the state.
The bill has attracted national attention since Siddoway, a sheep rancher himself introduced it. He said he has lost thousands of dollars of sheep and the bill is necessary for he and other ranchers to protect their livestock.
He told the committee the aerial hunting provision is the important aspect of the bill. But it’s the live bait section that getting the most attention.
Siddoway used his wife’s dog Sophie as an example of how a dog might be used as bait to lure wolves in. He said he would place Sophie on a 20-30-foot chain and then set up in a blind some distance away with a rifle. Then he would turn on an electronic call of wolves howling.
“You try to get Sophie to chime in with the wolves,” Siddoway explained.
“If they come down out, just start shooting,” he said.
He also explained how he would place sheep in a corral surrounded by traps in the mountainous area along the Wyoming border in the Targhee-Caribou National Forest where he grazes his sheep.
Siddoway said he could not understand why his critics have compassion for the live bait but don’t have concerns for the sheep and guard dogs that are killed by wolves.
“There’s no compassion for the guard dogs who are paying the full price for protecting our sheep,” Siddoway said.
Democratic Ketchum Sen. Michelle Stennett said she understands how Siddoway plans to use the powers allowed in the bill and doesn’t doubt his intentions. But she said it sets no parameters for the use of live bait and worries it could lead to the “possibility of torture of these animals.”
She also expressed fears the bill would violate the state’s agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that led to he delisting of wolves under the federal Endangered Species Act. “I’m afraid this bill will put that at risk.”
Bennington Republican Sen. John Tippets expressed the same concern. But he said the rising number of wolves and the problems ranchers face is enough to get him to vote for the bill.
“When is enough, enough? Tippets asked.