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Idaho Wildlife Groups Sue State Over Controversial Wolf-Trapping Bill

— December 9, 2021

Western Watersheds Project and other wildlife groups are suing the state over a new law that allows hunter to trap and kill wolves.

Western Watersheds Project in Hailey, Idaho just joined a handful of other wildlife groups in a lawsuit against Idaho lawmakers. Why? Well, according to the suit, the plaintiffs are suing over the “state’s new wolf trapping regulations, citing what they view as a substantial risk to two federally protected species.”

Idaho Capitol Building
Idaho Capitol Building; image courtesy of JSquish via Wikimedia Commons,

The defendants include Gov. Brad Little, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever, and the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. The suit argues that “Idaho’s indiscriminate trapping of wolves will lead to higher incidental mortality of Canada lynx and grizzly bears.” As a result, the plaintiffs are asking for an injunction to “halt all wolf trapping in grizzly bear and lynx habitat in central and northern Idaho and a declaratory judgment stating that the defendants are in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

The suit also cites “instances of grizzly bears caught and killed in wolf snares in Idaho, including two deaths last year involving wolf snares in northern Idaho’s Panhandle Region and a third bear accidentally killed in a foothold trap by Fish and Game sometime before 2016 while staff members were conducting research on wolf trapping.” It further states:

“Because such incidents are under-reported, the number of grizzly bears and lynx captured by Idaho wolf trappers is likely much higher than these data indicate.”

On top of that, the plaintiffs note that “five Canada lynx have been reported trapped in Idaho since the start of the 2011-2012 trapping season, including one in a wolf trap in 2014.” According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service species assessment in 2017, “lynx are more likely to survive, breed, and replace themselves in the breeding population if they occupy home ranges where trapping is prohibited or trapping pressure is low.”

The state’s wolf hunting regulations were formally updated on July 1 and signed into law by Governor Little. The new regulations include a “permanent, year-round wolf-trapping season on private property and reverse the state’s previous ban on wolf trapping and snaring between April and August.” The new law was passed with the intention of “reducing wolf attacks on sheep and cattle and boosting elk number.” It also allows “hunters to pursue wolves from ATVs, snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles using any method, including baiting and aerial gunning, at any time of day.” The law also directs $800,000 of taxpayer money to the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board to help “finance wolf-control operations and help compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves.”

When commenting on the suit, Suzanne Stone, director of the local Wood River Wolf Project and the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, said she was “appalled that the state was not managing wolves exactly like we manage black bears and mountain lions.” She added:

“Idaho does not allow trapping, snaring, or killing black bears and mountain lion cubs in their dens as they now do to wolves…Idaho is exterminating wolves, not managing them and they don’t care that other species such as lynx and grizzly are also being impacted because of their obsession to persecute wolves.”

Patrick Kelly, Idaho Director with Western Watersheds Project, agrees with Stone and said:

“Idaho politicians have made no secret of their deep hatred for wolves, enacting a policy of eradication based in fear, not science.”


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Lawsuit Challenges Idaho Wolf Trapping Laws That Endanger Grizzlies, Lynx

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