Idaho wolf

A wolf in Northern Idaho in 2016.

The Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board will continue to use USDA Wildlife Services in the coming fiscal year despite a new state law that provides money to hire private contractors to kill the animals.

The board June 16 considered cutting what it pays Wildlife Services by 26% to $480,000 to provide additional money for other contractors.

But the board let that motion die, instead voting to pay Wildlife Services up to $640,000, down just 1.5% from the previous year’s limit of $650,000.

Supporters said Wildlife Services investigations provide a critical base of information on which future control actions can be based.

The state Agriculture and Fish and Game directors co-chair the board, which pays Wildlife Services to investigate livestock depredations and control offending wolves.

Wildlife Services Idaho director Jared Hedelius said reducing funding likely would result in fewer and less prompt investigations. If evidence has more time to decay, ranchers may be less likely to qualify for reimbursement through the state Office of Species Conservation, he said.

Half the current fiscal year’s 205 investigations were confirmed as wolf-caused depredations, he said. Ninety-three wolves were removed and eight were collared to help determine if they are attacking livestock.

Livestock producers experiencing depredations “love the idea of a professional team willing to come in and take care of the issues,” said board member Richard Savage, an eastern Idaho rancher.

The Idaho Legislature this year passed Senate Bill 1211. It greatly increases the allowed wolf harvest. National environmental groups have challenged it by petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take over wolf management in the state.

Some board members discussed spending more on controlling wolves and less on investigations. Savage said the board exists to control depredations, not the wolf population.

Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said investigations help identify where to issue control actions that can reduce wolf-livestock conflicts.

“Without investigations, you’re shooting in the dark to a large extent,” he said.

Through June 30, the wolf board gets $110,000 each from the livestock industry and Fish and Game, and $372,400 from the Legislature’s general fund, sourced mainly by state income and sales taxes.

Starting July 1, Fish and Game will contribute $300,000 — per SB 1211 — and the general fund will contribute $392,000.

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