MISSOULA, Mont. — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Idaho Fish and Game Department in opposition to a lawsuit aimed at stopping the management of wolves in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, according to a press release from the group.
“There is nothing illegal about this management activity,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “It clearly falls within the guidelines of Idaho s federally-approved wolf management plan.
IDFG hired a hunter in late 2013 to track and kill wolves from two packs in central Idaho after determining wolf predation is a major factor preventing ailing elk populations in the area from recovering.
“The wilderness is a special place, but it is different from a national park,” said Virgil Moore, IDFG director. “Backcountry hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing are treasured opportunities, and Fish and Game has actively managed wildlife in central Idaho since before the area was designated wilderness.”
Moore said aerial surveys in the Frank Church Wilderness indicate elk populations dropped 43 percent since 2002 and wolf populations are too high in relation to elk numbers. He also said there are at least six documented packs in the Middle Fork Salmon zone and several more across the wilderness area.
“Wolf hunting and trapping by sportsmen in the Middle Fork zones have not been sufficiently effective in reducing elk predation. Even if successful, this action will in no way come near to eliminating wolves,” added Moore. “That is not, and never will be, our goal.”
Last year IDFG managers estimated Idaho’s wolf population at 683, an 11 percent drop from 2012, but more than 300 percent above the original minimum recovery goal of 150 established in the mid-1990s. The highest total was in 2009, when it estimated 859 wolves were in the state.
“There is a small fraction of people that believe the wolf deserves special rules and designations above and beyond all other wildlife. Wolves need to remain under state management like elk, deer, bears and lions in order to ensure balance and that there is sufficient habitat for the survival of all species,” added Allen.
RMEF also remains committed to learning more about wolves through research efforts. Since 1989, RMEF invested nearly $664,000 in research grants to advance scientific understanding of wolves, wolf interactions with other species, and overall wolf management. The total includes more than $200,000 in science grants in just the past five years. Most of the contributions paid for independent research by leading universities, state and federal wildlife conservation agencies and tribes.