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Feds to Otter: No Wolf Hunt this Year!

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Gov. Butch Otter said federal wildlife officials have signaled that they won’t allow a public wolf hunt this year, and said the state is still negotiating with the feds on how to manage wolves.

“We were told that we were not going to be allowed a hunt,” Otter said to the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council Saturday. He said that federal officials turned down Montana’s request for a sanctioned wolf hunt earlier this week. Idaho also asked for a wolf hunt while wolves are federally protected by the endangered species list.

Otter and state wildlife staff met with officials from the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Thursday, the day Otter had set as a deadline for a wolf management agreement. The governor and his staff said no deal is in place, but one could be coming in the near future.

“I don’t want to give anybody false hope,” Otter said. “I don’t think they’re going to go where we want them to go.” Otter said one key to an agreement on wolves is not spending money from hunting and fishing licenses on wolves. Licenses are the main funding source for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG).

Otter said the state spends at least $350,000 on wolf management, including documenting wolf depredation for livestock producers. “If it’s a dollar, as far as I’m concerned, it’s too much,” Otter said about using sportsmen’s dollars for wolf management.

The state also gets $100,000 from the federal government to handle livestock losses and is part of a new federal grant offering an additional $140,000, if the state can find an equal amount of matching funds.

Several sportsmen at the meeting also said they would like to see an increase in license fees to pay for enhanced IDFG services. Otter said he’d try to organize meetings with lawmakers and wildlife groups about potential increases. The governor called himself “a user-pay guy” and said he’d consider a fee increase.

Rep. Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, the chair of the House Resources and Conservation Committee, said a fee increase would be a tough sell, unless all the stakeholders show their support to lawmakers.

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