Idaho trappers will be able to harvest more wolves due to new or extended seasons that include much of October.
The state Fish and Game Commission for 2019 opened trapping seasons in many hunting units nearly a month earlier, to include most of October. For 2020, commissioners added new wolf-trapping seasons starting Oct. 10 in 18 units, primarily south of the Snake River.
“We saw an increase in wolf-trapping harvest in October and November seasons, and over the entire harvest season” in 2019-20, Idaho Department of Fish and Game Department Public Information Supervisor Roger Phillips said. “Trapping harvest was almost doubled compared to the prior hunting season.”
Trappers in 2019-20 season harvested 231 wolves, up from 124 in a 2018 season that lacked the October period.
Trapping harvest in the most recent season included 157 in fall and 74 in spring compared to the previous season’s 77 in fall and 47 in spring, IDFG reported. Season timetables are among multiple factors affecting wolf harvest and mortality.
The October-November trapping harvest totaled 107 in the earlier-opening 2019 season, up from 44 in 2018 and 28 in 2017.
“It’s hard to call it a trend after only one year, but it appears to initially be achieving the goal of increasing wolf harvest in areas where we have had high depredation,” Phillips said.
“We believe that we will see fewer depredation complaints, and an increased wolf harvest could be a factor in that,” he said.
Idaho’s wolf population is just over 1,500 in summer and closer to 1,000 in winter, according to IDFG modeling based on counts from cameras placed in strategic locations.
Trapping ultimately could make a greater contribution to total wolf harvest. The biggest contributor currently is hunting, which is responsible for the harvest of 133 wolves in fall 2018, 55 in spring 2019, 137 in fall 2019 and 86 in the spring of this year, the department reported.
“When you look at our hunting harvest, it’s relatively stable, and that is with very long seasons,” Phillips said. “To increase the overall wolf harvest, trapping would be the likely area with room for growth.”
Idaho Trappers Association President Rusty Kramer of Fairfield said October is productive because of its relatively warm weather. Foothold traps are buried, and will not deploy if the ground is frozen.
“There are ways around those problems, but they’re just not as effective,” he said. “There are some tricks in frozen ground, but everything is much easier to trap when you’re in dry dirt.”
Heavy snowfall also can keep a trap from springing, in addition to limiting access to trappers, Kramer said. He likes to get out of the high country by early November.
“We appreciate the extended season,” he said.
The Idaho Trappers Association was among about 16 groups that supported new trapping opportunities this year in the additional game-management units, Kramer said. One impact will be that coyote trappers will be able to keep incidental wolves they catch, he said.