Reintroduction of wolves in Idaho started in 1995. Classified as endangered species, the government had the leeway in the process of reintroducing the grey wolf pack in Idaho. The process sparked off battles between stakeholders in the state. In 1966 when the idea was introduced to congress, the main concern was the critically high elk population in the region and this was because of the eradication of the wolves by the residents. For decades, the elk population grew tremendously because there were no predators in Yellow Park causing ecosystem instability. Soon after, other species disappeared such as the aspen because of the huge population of elks. The coyotes could not manage the large ungulate population; moreover, the large coyote population diminished the red fox. The government struggled with the wolf issue from the 1974 when a wolf recovery team was established. The general public has been engulfed in the wolf reintroduction debate for a long time until the implementation of the plan in 1995 in Idaho. The reintroduction has had legal, political, social, economic, and ecological impact in the state of Idaho.
Management of Wolves in Idaho
The introduction of wolves in Idaho began in January 1995. Since then, wolves have become a major component of the native wildlife in the state. The state manages the wolves through Idaho Department of Fish & Game (Idaho Department of Fish and Game 2008 ). Wolf is designated a major game species and classified as a predator. The state undertakes inventory, performs predator-prey research and works with other stakeholders including the local population, neighboring states and Canada to limit depredations. In addition, the state also manages hunting and trapping of the wolves.
The cornerstone of the wolf management lies in their monitoring. The state monitors the population figures, distribution and breeding. There is a selected packs tagged with radio devices spread across the occupied area, including those that are predisposed to depredation on domesticated animals. Monitoring in this case also predicts occurrences of depredation initiating proactive management (Idaho Department of Fish and Game 2008 ). The state monitors and document movement of wolves within the state and neighboring states. The distribution of wolves in Idaho starts from the Canadian border to Snake River plain. Some wolf packs occur on United States Forest Service (USFS) lands. Fifteen documented packs that use the area at the border between Montana and Idaho, residing half-year on either sides. Two to three packs move in the area between Wyoming and Idaho.
According to The goal of the IDFG plan is to maintain the wolf levels at 518 to 732 through adaptive management. This is to ensure sustained validity of the grey wolf population in the state. The Department aims at maintaining ?15 breeding pairs (floor threshold), In line with the delisting rule (Idaho Department of Fish and Game 2008 ).
Radio collard wolves provide an estimation of production and pack size. Observations by field personnel also provide more information on the ones that are not radio monitored. Fuller (1989) asserts that humans are the main mortality factor occurring to these animals in their range. Therefore, the human factor is an essential component in the wolf management. The Department faces the challenge of illegal taking of the animals, which is the main impediment to the restoration and management of the wolves. It has undertaken rigorous law enforcement to limit illegal taking as well as reducing public perception of wolf management.
The Department incorporates strategies that assist in limiting depredations as a management plan. Wolves need to be harvested from study packs; the Department factors the effect of harvesting into the study drawn from those packs. Distribution of the harvest is monitored similarly to the other carnivora. The monitoring is based on the same requirement as for the mountain lion and bears, report the location and sex of the animal.
The Department targets a balanced predator- prey populations ensuring transfer of genetics through connectivity among the neighboring states and metapopulation processes. It incorporates evaluation the effects of predication on the native prey as a wolf management plan. Unfavorable weather patterns such as drought and severe winter may reduce the native prey, hence inhibiting the big game population recovery. It is therefore necessary to remove wolves that can affect the survival of the big game; by doing this, the Department increases the prey population. The Department does this by monitoring the prey levels and especially the native ungulates population trends and mortality causes. In addition, the Department conducts annual census of selected prey that exist within the range of study packs. This helps in detection of trends and prediction of population size.
The state legislature of Idaho, established the Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee to undertake the Wolf management plan after the delisting. This was mainly to delegate management authority to the state (Idaho Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee 2002). The statute authorized the Idaho Department of Fisheries and Game (IDFG) to manage the state's wildlife.
"All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping. " (Law 2011)
This made it possible for the IDFG responsible for wolf protection as well as manage their habitat and ecosystems within the state.
The State adjusted laws aimed at protecting the wolf in their habitat. Hunters therefore are subjected to stringent laws and in case of incidental take; the penalty is equal to that of other illegally taken big game in the state. Therefore, "Incidents of illegal take deemed deliberate shall be punishable under the rules of illegal take of wildlife" (Idaho Legislative Wolf Oversight Committee 2002, 7). In addition, if one is convicted of killing of the species, illegal possession waste of wolf, a penalty of restitution is paid to Idaho for each violation as specified by the code.
Several groups filed suits following the reintroduction of wolves in Idaho's Yellow stone Park. The American Farm Bureaus filed a suit in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal in Denver to halt the wolf program. The ranchers are responsible for wiping out the wolves population from the region in favor of their activities. They argued that the reintroduction of wolves violated the Endangered Species Act as wolves were already in the neighboring state. They also added that wolves posed a threat to their livestock (ABC News 2000). ABC News (2000), reveal that the Denver court in a 3 to none vote reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge William Downes in 1997 who ordered the removal of the wolves from Yellowstone.
The U.S. Congress in 1991 directed the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the purpose of wolf re-introduction in central Idaho. A document published by the U.S.F.W.S in 1994 paved the way for the re-introduction process though with opposition (Weiss, et al. 2007, 311). The National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club opposed the plan in citing the possibility of inadequate protection in the proposed Yellowstone Park. The Farm Bureau of Idaho opposed the move arguing that the grey wolf was a wrong subspecies to be re-introduced in Idaho.
The introduction of wolves in Idaho in 1995 resulted in a heated political debate regarding wildlife in the United States. One of the contentious issues in the debate was the constitution of the Endangered Species Act. Certain groups claimed that this was as a state issue and that the federal government should not interfered with. The debate led to the passing of the anti-wolf bills at the country level and in state legislatures. The issue brought to light the wolf management, majority of citizens got information on the impact of the wolves on livestock and the ungulate population preyed upon by wolves.
The residents of Idaho felt that the Federal government had imposed the conservation measure upon them. They saw the move to re-introduce wolves in the state was not the decision of the state government but rather the Federal government. The Federal government then sort to delist the grey wolf from the endangered species to reduce the impact of political battles between wolf conservationists and ranchers and to give the state the mandate to manage the wolves in compliance with Fish and wildlife policy. Despite the approval by Fish and Wildlife, Idaho's management plan, did not meet the required standard.
In 2012, the Governor of Idaho advocated for the killing of 500 wolves, eighty percent of the population in addition to limiting the breeding pairs to 10. This increased the number of wolves killed, more than a third of the population killed since…