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Federal judge's wolf trapping decision could help Idaho grizzly recovery

USFWS - Terry Tollefsbol
Eric Tegethoff

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(Northern Rockies News Service) A federal court ruling that limits wolf trapping and snaring in Idaho could aid recovery of grizzly bears in the region.

U.S. Judge Candy Dale ruled that the state needs to cut back on wolf trapping and snaring because of its impact on grizzly bears, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

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Jeff Abrams, wildlife program associate with the Idaho Conservation League, said a bill passed in Idaho in 2021 expanded trapping and snaring of wolves and likely led to the judge's decision.

"The decision plainly concludes that there's no way to set a trap or a snare in a way that will only capture a wolf," said Abrams, "and state incentives for this activity make the problem even worse."

Under the ruling, wolf trapping season will close between March 1 and November 30 in eastern and northern Idaho.

In response to the decision, Idaho Fish and Game Director Jim Fredericks said the state has expanded wolf snaring cautiously and the agency is considering its legal options.

While grizzlies have made a comeback in parts of Idaho, Abrams said they've been absent in the central section of the state, known as the Bitterroot.

"That recovery zone does not have bears in it right now," said Abrams, "and this ruling very much impacted our ability to begin to work to restore bears in that habitat."

Abrams said he believes lawmakers have been single minded in the their approach to wolf management, expanding it too far.

"The right to trap is guaranteed in Idaho but not if it might impact or harm protected wildlife species," said Abrams. "It also risks the goodwill of a lot of Idahoans that generally support the idea of trapping."