Idaho Suspends Wolf Killing Program in Frank Church Wilderness for 2014

Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area.  Image Source: usda.gov.

Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. Image Source: usda.gov.

On July 28, 2014, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) announced that their controversial wolf extermination program in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area will not be implemented in the winter of 2014-2015.  In a sworn statement submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 24, 2014, IDFG Wildlife Bureau Chief Jeff Gould stated that the agency “will not conduct any agency control actions for wolves within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness before November 1, 2015.”

In December, 2013, the IDFG hired Gus Thoreson, a professional hunter, to eliminate the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek wolf packs in an effort to boost elk numbers for outfitters and recreational hunters.  He was pulled out of the area in January, 2014, considered by the agency to have completed the job.  He had killed nine wolves via traps and hunting.  The IDFG originally planned to resume the program as early as December 1, 2014, with state officials announcing plans to continue to boost elk populations by killing 60 percent of the wolves in the Middle Fork section of the wilderness area over several years.

IDFG director Virgil Moore’s acknowledgement that Thoreson utilized US Forest Service (USFS) airstrips and equipment for his work prompted strong reactions from wolf advocates.  Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, and Wilderness Watch filed suit against the IDFG and the USFS in January, arguing that the program disregarded the USFS’s own predator policy as set forth in the wilderness management plan for the area, failed to appropriately consider the environmental impacts of this action, and was conducted without appropriate public input.

The suspension of the program for this winter season does not mean that the program will not resume in the future.  Court proceedings are ongoing.  Conservationists continue to push for an injunction to prevent IDFG from resuming its program of wolf extermination in the Frank Church Wilderness Area.

Related articles can be found here, here, and here.

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