I may be putting the cart before the horse here somewhat in anticipation that eventually the gray wolf in parts of this country will be removed from federal protection and put back in the hands of the states. If and when that happens will the current plans to manage wolf populations be effective? In fact, will authorities be able to have any control at all over wolves with the plans they have?

Idaho has some serious problems with their wolf management plans. I suspect that in the next issue of the Outdoorsman, we will all be educated by the editor and publisher, George Dovel, to the extent of which the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has overstepped their authority in creating wolf management plans. (This is all part of dealing with a fee increase being requested by the IDFG Commission.)

I got a bit of a peak into what we might expect in the Outdoorsman and came to realize that Idaho’s rules that IDFG has established for hunting wolves, should the day ever come to pass, will be inadequate to control wolf populations.

According to the information provided by George Dovel, the only wolf management plan the state of Idaho has ever approved is the Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan of March 2002. This plan was approved as part of HCR 134. It is important here to note that on page 24 of the Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan it states that:

IDFG will update this plan periodically and submit any changes to the Idaho Legislature as if it were a new plan submitted for approval, amendment or rejection under Section 36-2405, Idaho Code.

There are some key issues in the Idaho wolf management plan that should be addressed. First, as part of HCR134 it points out once again that the state of Idaho is on record with the House Joint Memorial 5 in 2001 asking the Federal Government to remove wolves from the state.

On Page 4 we are reminded what the Idaho Constitution says:

The Idaho Constitution, Article 1, Section 1, states: “All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.” The Governor’s Office of Species Conservation shall begin immediate discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to define how the rights guaranteed by Article 1, Section 1, will be preserved and recognized. Without management, conservation is overcome by conflict.

Also on page 4 of the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, it states the following:

If it can be shown that wolves can expand their range without causing unacceptable conflict, they will be allowed to do so. However, population growth is unlikely to be controlled by sport hunting. In general, regardless of their location, wolf packs that are not creating conflict will be allowed to persist.

There are several other portions of the plan that clearly defines the wishes of the state of Idaho. It becomes clear the state is interested in providing a sustainable wolf population but at levels that will not conflict with the Idaho Constitution that guarantees its citizens the freedom to protect property, be safe and prosper.

But for the purposes of this article, the one point I wanted you to pay close attention to is when the Idaho Legislature clearly pointed out that sport hunting would not work in controlling wolf populations. Here is that statement again.

However, population growth is unlikely to be controlled by sport hunting.

I pointed out early in this article that George Dovel, editor/publisher of The Outdoorsman, stated and supports through his own research, that the March 2002 Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is the ONLY plan approved by the Idaho Legislature and I’ve provided you with fact that that plan states that no changes can be made without the approval of the legislature. This has not been the case.

Dovel points out that on March 6, 2008 the IDFG Commission approved the Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan for 2008-2012, without the approval of the Idaho Legislature. This illegal plan is the one that is being used by IDFG to manage wolves and also in creating rules for hunting, which they say will be used to control wolf populations. (I might also add that this plan is the one the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is using as an “approved” plan as part of their delisting process.) The legislature in the passage of the Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan prohibits fish and game from changing that plan and also states that sport hunting is unlikely to be able to control wolf populations.

In addition to the new and illegal Wolf Population Management Plan, which states that the state will manage for 500-700 wolves, are far cry from the 100 the state was told, fish and game has stripped all means of being able to hunt wolves from those wishing to pursue the animal during a hunting season.

Essentially, those wishing to hunt wolves are restricted to a gun, bow or muzzleloader, period. These are not the same rules used in managing other predators such as bears and mountain lions. These kind of restrictions render the notion of hunting as a viable means of wolf population control useless and reeks of a backdoor attempt at more wolf protection by the IDFG.

In Will N. Graves, “Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages“, he writes extensively on methods used over the years in attempts to control wolf populations. Clearly we need to take a few lessons.

Graves discovers in his research into the Russian people dealing with wolves for many, many years that first, it is absolutely necessary to control wolf populations and two, it is extremely difficult to do and has to be done continuously.

He shows repeatedly that when Russia put forth efforts to reduce wolf populations that as soon as they stopped any kind of population controls, wolf populations rapidly bounced back. Graves writes in Chapter 9, page 119: “When one listens to people who want to protect wolves and one does protect them, then soon there are so many wolves that it is difficult to bring their numbers under control. The help of the wolf as a “sanitarian” of nature is not needed, as humans have the experience and means to manage wildlife properly. Humans need and can use the meat that was used by the wolves.”

But there’s more to this than simply stating that we need to control wolf populations. Graves lists in Chapter 10 all the methods employed by the Russians trying to figure out ways to control wolf populations.

1. Drive Hunting with Flags – Large squares of cloth tied a couple feet apart and strung by rope was used to force wolves to specified areas where hunters waited in ambush.
2. Drive Hunting Without Flags
3. Hunting Over Bait
4. Call Hunting – Use of man made calls that imitate sounds that will lure wolves.
5. Scouting for and Finding Dens – This is a method used by natives in Alaska and other parts of the world. Wolves often return to the same denning areas each year. Hunters would locate these dens, remove the cubs and kill them.
6. Hunting With Russian Wolfhounds
7. Hunting on Skis
8. Hunting From Horseback
9. Trapping
10. Using Poison
11. Hunting with Eagles and Falcons
12. Hunting From Light Aircraft
13. Hunting From Helicopters
14. Hunting From Snowmobiles and Vehicles

Combine any and all of the above mentioned methods with times that the Russian government added bounties to the heads of wolves, and still controlling wolf populations was extremely difficult using thousands of well trained hunters and trappers.

Of all the methods used, over time, with proper training and development of skills, the use of light planes and helicopters were the only viable means to control wolf populations. While all this may sound harsh to some people, the realities are that wolves just simply are not some regular game animal that you can hunt the same way we do other animals in order to control populations.

As extremely difficult and time consuming as Will Graves discovered it has been since the beginning of time to properly manage and control wolves in Russia, fish and game departments, like in Idaho, should not be so quick to rule out necessary tools for wolf population control.

Tom Remington