The Idaho Department of Fish and Game may contract private wolf trappers to kill wolves in key elk hunting units as a part of programs aimed at reducing elk predation.
Fish and Game regional managers are mulling ideas ranging from paying trappers’ expenses to hire them as they seek lower cost methods of controlling wolves.
“There are certain individuals who have built up some pretty good skills,” said Jeff Gould F&G Wildlife Bureau manager.
The agency is seeking to reduce wolf numbers, which it estimated at just over 500 at the end of the season last year, especially in elk units where the game numbers have not recovered. Hunters and trappers have had success statewide killing wolves but there are areas where the agency wants more wolves killed, Gould said.
Trapping is allowed in parts of North Idaho and central Idaho until the end of March. But Gould said they need trappers not only to catch and kill wolves but also to catch wolves and place radio collars on them. It part of the management balancing act, seeking to kill enough wolves but not too many.
The USDA Wildlife Services agency also was contracted in 2010 to do aerial shooting. But trapping can be more effective and cheaper.
“All of these things are very expensive,” Gould said.
In a separate effort, the department will ask the Fish and Game Commission this week to approve its plan to stop spending $50,000 annually to Wildlife Services to kill coyotes in southeast Idaho to help mule deer. Wildlife Services would still get the money but it would be shifted to killing wolves in elk units that are not meeting goals.
The proposals already have prompted wolf advocates to criticize the agency.
"How can anyone defend this as responsible wildlife management?," said Suzanne Asha Stone, Boise representative of the Defenders of Wildlife.