Idaho Pays Hunter to Wipe Out Wolf Packs in Wilderness Area

By Tom Bacon

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has hired a hunter to wipe out two wolf packs on federal land in central Idaho. Fish and Game Director Jeff Gould said he okayed paying a hunter to fly into the Frank Church River of No Return wilderness to kill wolves in two packs, because the predators are killing too many elk calves. He said the rugged area is too difficult for sport hunters to get into.

The US Forest Service gave the state agency permission to use a backcountry airstrip and a cabin in the Payette National Forest as a base for the hunter. The University of Idaho, however, turned down a request for use of its airstrip in the same general area, saying the facility is meant only for research and education. The state wildlife agency paid out more than $22,000 for aerial wolf hunting last year in the Lolo Pass area in which 14 wolves were killed. 

Conservationists are also dismayed by plans for a competitive wolf and coyote hunt near Salmon, Idaho at the end of this month. The tournament, sponsored by a gun rights group, will offer cash prizes for killing the largest wolf or the most female coyotes, It's believed to be the first competitive wolf shoot to be held in the US since 1974, when wolves were put under endangered species act protection.

At the beginning of this year. Idaho Fish and Game officials estimated Idaho's wolf population at 683, an eleven percent drop from the year before. In 2009, the estimated wolf population in the state was 859.
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