Ranchers can kill wolves harassing livestock

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) – The image of a wolf howling at
the moon has long embodied the American West, but that romantic
symbol is about to get a taste of harsh reality in Idaho.

Next week, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Interior
Secretary Gale Norton are expected to sign an agreement that
would place management of an estimated 500 gray wolves into
state, rather than federal, hands.

Different Idaho groups, including hunters and livestock
producers, pressured state officials to give them greater
control. Officials in Boise then asked Washington to make the
change.

The agreement would give ranchers permission to eliminate
wolves that harass livestock. It also would empower state
wildlife managers to pick off wolf packs that make a dent in
the state’s deer and elk populations.

The wolf’s revival in Idaho started a decade ago when
officials released 35 wolves into central Idaho. Their numbers
have grown steadily since then.

Federal rules have carefully prescribed when ranchers could
act against wolves, requiring ranchers to catch wolves
attacking or eating livestock before they could kill them.

The new Idaho rules will give locals more latitude, but
some residents would like see an even greater offensive against
the animal.

Ron Gillett, head of the Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition, wants
to “immediately remove them by whatever means are necessary.”

“They kill everything, all of the game first, then the
predators, then each other,” he said, adding that they are
outsiders.

“These are Canadian wolves,” Gillett said. “The only place
they belong in Idaho is in a zoo, neutered.”

Wildlife biologists say wolves roamed Idaho long before the
region’s settlement and the threatened species was hunted to
near-extinction before strong nationwide support prompted its
reintroduction to the American West.

Carter Niemeyer, self-described “educator, peacemaker,
moderator and referee on wolves” for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service office in Boise, said studies show that the numbers of
livestock and game killed by wolves are low. “But I know they
don’t want to let facts get in their way,” he said of anti-wolf
activists.

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