Saturday, February 25, 2012

Conservation groups blast Idahos decision to kill wolves from helicopter

Conservation groups are blasting Idaho's decision to kill wolves along the Idaho-Montana border from the air, saying the move is "misguided" and not backed up with scientific evidence.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game caused a flurry of response from wolf advocated Thursday when it announced it helped fund USDA Wildlife Service's successful efforts to kill 14 wolves from a helicopter in the Lolo Zone of the Clearwater National Forest.

The state says in the Lolo zone, hunters had killed 11 wolves this year, with another 11 caught by trappers and half-a-dozen killed through "control efforts" last spring. Along with the 14 wolves shot from the air earlier this month that brings the total wolves removed to 42.

In September 2010 Idaho Fish and Game set a target of 40 to 50 wolves to be removed to help maintain healthy elk populations on the Idaho side of the border. Biologists say the wolves are the "primary cause of death" for cow elk and calves under six months old.

Deputy Director Jim Unsworth says the state would "like to see one of Idaho's premier elk populations recover as much as possible." But Defenders of Wildlife is blasting the move, and previous occasions where it says the state has killed wolves through aerial gunning.

"It's wrong to ask American taxpayers to subsidize the pointless killing of wolves in order to boost game populations. The removal of wolves in the Clearwater National Forest runs counter to science-based wildlife management and is an inappropriate use of limited resources that should be aimed at conserving wildlife," said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for the Defenders.

"Hunters and trappers have already killed more than 20 wolves in the area in the last six months, and the season continues until the end of March. There's no scientific evidence that the ecosystem is out of balance due to the return of wolves and thus no justification for having Wildlife Services kill more wolves to boost elk numbers."

Defenders of Wildlife worries the state will try a similar approach elsewhere in Idaho.

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