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Sustainable Idaho: Wolf Management

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As a brief recap, Sustainable Idaho has been exploring the topic of wolves in Idaho and Bill 1211, which technically allows the killing of up to 90% of Idaho’s wolves. However, as we learned last week with Representative Manwaring and Senator Burtenshaw, killing that many wolves is not the bill’s goal. Wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995 and have thrived since. Idaho now has a population of just over 1,500 wolves, but many think that this number is too high, hence Bill 1211. On the flip side, many conservationists, like John Robison from the Idaho Conservation League, think that there’s not actually a wolf problem and if there were, there are better ways of managing it.

That leads us to this week’s focus; this week on Sustainable Idaho, we invited Suzanne Stone and Toby Boudreau to come talk about wolf management strategies and options. Suzanne Stone is a wildlife management expert and co-founder of the Wood River Wolf Project, which aims to promote wildlife-livestock coexistence.

Stone explained her work in the Wood River Project area and stated that using non lethal methods has actually led to the lowest rates of livestock losses in the state. The project spent about a dollar or two per sheep in the project area. Thus, this project used a variety of methods that are generally cheaper than lethal methods. While the project worked primarily with sheep, Stone noted that these methods have also worked with cattle.

Non lethal deterrent techniques can include using flagging, lights, motion-detective technology, horns, and human presence to ward away wolves. These methods are one alternative to the past set up, where wolves, sometimes whole packs, were hunted down after they killed livestock.

Now, Idaho Fish and Game serves as an important mechanism to manage the statewide population of wolves. To learn more about Fish and Game’s role, we invited Toby Boudreau, Idaho Fish and Game’s Wildlife Bureau Chief. Boudreau first spoke to how hunting and trapping of wolves has changed, noting that the opportunities to kill wolves has expanded.

We asked whether the state has a wolf population number in mind and Boudreau stated that a goal number hasn’t been set yet. While Boudreau could not give a goal number for wolf populations, he did highlight that for a sizable amount of the Idaho public, there is a desire to lower wolf numbers. From what we’ve heard, most of these folks are ranchers, some of whom use public lands to graze cattle. Suzanne Stone brought up an interesting point on the topic of public lands, and spoke about how affordable it is to utilize public lands and that these cheap prices come with the expectation of stewardship.

Some, like Stone, argue that when individuals make a profit from public lands, they have a higher obligation to our ecosystems. Non lethal wolf management strategies are a way that ranchers can be good stewards of public land. Stone went on to summarize the benefits of non-lethal strategies.

In this episode, we spoke with Suzanne Stone who argued that the non-lethal management strategies are the most cost effective, environmentally friendly, and allow ranchers to take management into their own hands. Toby Boudreau explained Fish and Game’s management approach of increasing lethal techniques for both private and public actors, and stated that as of right now, there is no goal number to bring wolf populations down to.

Our guests have provided insightful information about how wolves can be managed. If you are interested in learning more about Stone’s work, please visit the Wood River Wolf Project online and tune in next week for the start of a new series on nuclear energy. Join us for Sustainable Idaho, every Tuesday morning at 7:35 am.

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Eizaak Jordan was born and raised in McCall, Idaho. He spent summers in Yellowpine, Idaho, near the Frank Church Wilderness Area. Eizaak's days were characterized by interacting with the natural world in both locations, curating his passion for Idaho’s ecosystems. He is currently an ISU Political Science student and President of ISU’s Sustainability Club. After graduation, he will be applying for a graduate program in environmental politics, which will hopefully open opportunities to gain full employment doing environmental advocacy. Eizaak spends his free time reading, cooking, and fly fishing.
Ailie Maclean was born and raised in Alaska but moved to Kimberly, Idaho right before high school. Ailie is an undergraduate Political Science and Global Studies major at ISU. She is going into her last year at ISU as Vice President of Idaho State’s student government, ASISU, and has served as an Honors Program Mentor, Communications Envoy, and ASISU Supreme Court Justice in past years. In her free time she enjoys reading, longboarding, hiking, watching anime, and swimming in unique places (Silfra in Iceland for example). Ailie plans on studying environmental, or some variation of international law, after taking a gap year to travel and work abroad.