Those of you following NRDC’s battle to prevent the termination of federal protections for the Northern Rocky Mountains population of gray wolves may have recently read about the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which just set a quota for wolf hunting: 220 animals, apportioned between different “zones” throughout the state.
As Matt, Louisa, and Sylvia have explained, that’s a big number that is likely to have an even bigger biological impact. What caught my eye was the way that Idaho is going to “meet” it: unlimited hunting tags.
That’s right, for the low, low price of $11.75 any hunter in the state (and there are about 140,000 of them) can buy the right to kill a wolf; if you’re not from Idaho, a tag will cost you more. The only catch is that you need to report any wolf kills within 24 hours (you even get an undefined grace period if hunting somewhere remote). Once the limit of 220 kills is reported, the state will close the season. Tags go on sale this coming Monday.
Now Idaho’s wolf population is not all that big; there are only about 850 animals in the state. The margin for error here is, accordingly, small. Idaho is already permitting hunters to take about 25% of the state’s wolf population, and that doesn’t even include the harvest of another 35 animals set aside for the Nez Perce tribe. If just 22 (10%) more wolves are killed than anticipated, we’re talking more like 30%. As you can see, the math is pretty remorseless.
So my question to any hunters reading this blog is, do you think this approach is even remotely reasonable? Seriously, I can understand using such a system when you're dealing with a very large population, like a fishery or maybe even Idaho’s huge elk population that’s over 100,000 strong, but a population below 1,000? Even granting that wolves are hard to find and kill, wouldn’t a small lottery more reasonable? And what does this tell us about Idaho’s real intentions when it comes to wolf management?
If, as one Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner speculated during a public meeting, half of Idaho hunters purchase a wolf tag there will be 70,000 hunters gunning for wolves when the season begins. That will be one helluva 24 hours.