Joined: 27 October 2004
By JESSE HARLAN ALDERMAN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jan 11, 10:46 PM ET
"Idaho's governor said Thursday he will support public hunts to kill all but 100 of the state's gray wolves after the federal government strips them of protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter told The Associated Press that he wants hunters to kill about 550 gray wolves. That would leave about 100 wolves, or 10 packs, according to a population estimate by state wildlife officials.
The 100 surviving wolves would be the minimum before the animals could again be considered endangered.
"I'm prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself," Otter said earlier Thursday during a rally of about 300 hunters.
Otter complained that wolves are rapidly killing elk and other animals essential to Idaho's multimillion-dollar hunting industry. The hunters, many wearing camouflage clothing and blaze-orange caps, applauded wildly during his comments.
Suzanne Stone, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife in Boise, said Otter's proposal would return wolves to the verge of eradication.
"Essentially he has confirmed our worst fears for the state of Idaho: That this would be a political rather than a biological management of the wolf population," Stone said. "There's no economic or ecological reason for maintaining such low numbers. It's simple persecution."
Wolves were reintroduced to the northern Rocky Mountains a decade ago after being hunted to near-extinction. More than 1,200 now live in the region.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to start removing federal protections from gray wolves in Montana and Idaho in the next few weeks.
A plan drafted by Idaho's wildlife agency calls for maintaining a minimum of 15 wolf packs — higher than Otter's proposal of 10 packs.
Jeff Allen, a policy adviser for the state Office of Species Conservation, said 15 wolf packs would allow "a cushion" between the surviving wolf population and the minimum number that federal biologists would allow before the animals are again considered endangered.
Allen said Otter and state wildlife officials agree on wolf strategy and will be able to reach a consensus on specific numbers.
"You don't want to be too close to 10 because all of a sudden when one (wolf) is hit by a car or taken in defense of property, you're back on the list," Allen said."****************************************************
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