Wolf

The leader of a foundation that helps ranchers and others control the number of wolves in Idaho will speak at a Washington state gathering.

Justin Webb, executive director of the Foundation for Wildlife Management in Ponderay, Idaho, will speak to the Spokane County Citizens Alliance for Property Rights at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Spokane Valley Library.

Webb's nonprofit organization helps hunters and trappers manage wolves by reimbursing their costs when legally killing wolves through a harvest reimbursement program started in 2012.

"We bring those who want wolves managed together with those who have a means of getting the job done," Webb said. "We certainly are not anti-wolf; we believe wholeheartedly in wildlife conservation."

When ranchers are overwhelmed and USDA Wildlife Services can't keep up, the foundation has put some of its top trappers on the ranchers' kill permits, Webb said.

Webb said the program has reimbursed hunters and trappers for more than 500 wolves, at an average of $563 per wolf.

According to the foundation website, without the program, USDA Wildlife Services would have to be employed through the Idaho Wolf Control Board to remove the wolves, an expense that averaged $9,005 per wolf in 2016 and $8,003 per wolf in early 2017, much of which is Idaho tax dollars.

The foundation has 1,770 members. Funding comes from a $35 membership fee,  fundraising banquets and grants.

The foundation works with Idaho Fish and Game biologists to identify areas where wolves have harmed moose, elk, deer or livestock. 

The foundation has never killed more wolves than were born in a given season, Webb said.

He estimates more than 70,000 elk — the wolves' top food source — have been saved.

Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in Idaho in 2011. Under Idaho code, wolves attacking livestock or domestic animals may be killed by the owners, employees, agents and animal damage control personnel without a department permit.

The incident must be reported to the director within 72 hours. Wolves killed this way remain the property of the state.

A permit must be obtained from the state Fish and Game director to remove wolves not attacking livestock or domestic animals. Control is also permitted by farmers and employers under Idaho Department of Fish and Game harvest rules. 

Webb said he's heard from Washington sportsmen that managing Idaho wolves may be the best way to stop them from spilling into Washington.

He stresses that residents need to be involved, and attend agency meetings.

"We would not have the moose, elk and deer numbers that we have right now if we hadn't worked so hard to build them to that point," he said. 

Webb says he hears from a wide range of viewpoints, from those who are 100 percent for reducing wolf numbers to those who are 100 percent against any management.

He tries to listen to all perspectives respectfully and with an open mind, he said, then he presents the facts.

"These are the numbers, this is the math, this is what it takes to be able to have both a healthy prey base and a healthy predator population," he said. "Unless we work to create that, it will all collapse."

Recommended for you