The Idaho Senate approved a bill this week that would permit the state to hire contractors to kill up to 90 percent of Idaho’s wolves with the goal, supporters said, of protecting cattle and other agricultural interests.
“These wolves, there’s too many in the state of Idaho,” State Senator Mark Harris, a Republican, said on the Senate floor before the vote on Wednesday, after telling a story about a “gentleman rancher” whose livelihood was jeopardized when a pack of wolves scared off his cattle.
Idaho’s Wolf Conservation and Management plan calls for the state to maintain a wolf population of at least 150 wolves. At last count, Mr. Harris said, 1,556 wolves were roaming the state.
“They’re destroying ranchers; they’re destroying wildlife,” he said.
The bill would give the state’s Wolf Control Fund an additional $190,000 to hire contractors to kill wolves. The bill also would remove a limit on the number of wolves a hunter is permitted to kill.
The Senate approved the bill in a 26-7 vote on Wednesday. The measure now goes to the State House of Representatives.
Backers of the bill said that wolves also reduce the numbers of deer and elk available to hunters, taking an additional economic toll on the state.
State Senator Michelle Stennett, a Democrat who voted against the bill, said on the Senate floor that managing contractors is difficult. “There is very little control over what they will do,” she said, adding that at least some of the money might be better spent elsewhere. “I just wished we’d had 1 percent of that to give to tourism or recreation or something,” she said.
Federal protections for Idaho’s wolves were lifted in 2011, according to Maggie Howell, the executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center. Since then, she said, Idaho has adopted several wolf policies that she described as hostile and extreme, and that she said have failed to consider the animals’ ecological value.
“Beyond the wanton cruelty and devastation the passage of this bill would bring to wolves, this legislation poses a threat to wolves nationwide,” she said in an email. “With the Trump administration’s decision to transfer wolf management authority from the federal government to the states, Idaho’s policies can influence expectations about wildlife management beyond its borders.”
Cameron Mulrony, the executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, applauded the bill. “Idaho needs the ability to manage the conflict between predators, our domestic animals, as well as our ungulate population in the state,” he said in an email, using a term to describe hoofed mammals. “We feel this bill gives those within our state, which have been tasked with the job, some necessary tools to continue to manage the conflicts caused by these predators.”