FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Idaho’s Wolf Bounty: a Return to the Dark Ages of Wildlife Management

Timber Wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair

I sometimes feel like I am going back in time when I visit Idaho. The attitudes of Idaho lawmakers and some citizens seems like a time warp. A step backward to the “good old days” is represented by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission who voted to spend $23,069 to help fund a $1000 wolf bounty.

The funds will be given to the Foundation for Wildlife Management, a non-profit group which has been paying trappers and hunters a bonus of $1000 for killing wolves. The foundation also receives funding from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as other donors.

Apparently, the fact that a hunter/trapper in Idaho can legally kill up to 20 wolves a year is not enough incentive for the state’s goal of reducing wolves. It is now reverting to the use of bounties.

Wolf bounties have a long and sordid history in this country, often aligned with discriminatory attitudes towards minorities.

In 1630 one of the first legislative actions of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was to put a bounty on both wolves and Indians.

This attitude of discrimination towards wolves and humans was carried westward. The very first tax that Oregon settlers imposed on themselves were enacted in 1843 to fund a wolf bounty. At about the same time, Oregon residents passed a law that prohibited blacks from settling in in the territory. Any black settler in Oregon could be whipped with “not less than twenty nor more than thirty-nine stripes” for every six months they remained (at that time what is now Idaho was part of Oregon Territory). In 1859 Oregon even rewrote its constitution to prohibit Chinese from owning property.

The same attitudes were carried over into the state Idaho after it separated from Oregon Territory.  Idaho enacted a predator bounty that included wolves in 1907 and passed an “alien” law in 1923 to prohibit Asians from owning property in the state.

Fortunately, these archaic and discriminatory laws towards people have been eliminated, and attitudes towards minorities are more enlightened (but still a long ways to go to end racist policies), but when it comes to predator management, Idaho is going in reverse.

Ironically the Idaho Fish and Game asserts on its web site that “We believe that scientifically developed knowledge and information are the foundation of fish and wildlife management and that we are obligated to develop, use and share such knowledge and information.” Yet numerous studies have found that indiscriminate killing of predators is not based on any “science” and is counter to our current knowledge of the vital role that predators play in ecosystem function.

Wolves help to strengthen prey animals by removing the weak and injured. For instance, there is some evidence that wolves selectively kill elk and deer with Chronic Wasting Disease.

Even if your goal is to decrease livestock losses due to predators, new insights show that indiscriminate killing of wolves disrupts the social ecology of the pack and skews the population towards younger animals who are less experienced hunters. Packs that lose important members are less able to hold a territory likely to be displaced into marginal habitat. This sometimes leads to a higher likelihood that predators will kill livestock.

The Idaho Fish and Game also asserts it is following the North American Model of Wildlife Management, which, among its tenets requires that wildlife not be “wasted.” Most trappers and hunters who target wolves are not eating the animals. And indeed, there are ethical questions about whether the barbaric practice of trapping is humane.

Idaho Fish and Game claim that “All wildlife in Idaho belongs to the citizens of this state. It is held in trust by the state of Idaho for the benefit of its people.”  It would seem the IDFG is ignoring its Public Trust responsibility to manage predators for Idaho citizens, most of whom do not support the persecution of wolves.

Idaho needs to modernize its attitudes towards predators and support the critical role they play in ecosystems. The use of bounties is counter to sound wildlife management, as well as ethics.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 18, 2019
Kenneth Surin
An Excellent Study Of The Manufactured Labour “Antisemitism Crisis”
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Crown Prince Plans to Make Us Forget About the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi Before the US Election
W. T. Whitney
Political Struggle and Fixing Cuba’s Economy
Ron Jacobs
Support the Climate Strike, Not a Military Strike
John Kendall Hawkins
Slouching Toward “Bethlehem”
Ted Rall
Once Again in Afghanistan, the U.S. Proves It Can’t Be Trusted
William Astore
The Ultra-Costly, Underwhelming F-35 Fighter
Dave Lindorff
Why on Earth Would the US Go to War with Iran over an Attack on Saudi Oil Refineries?
Binoy Kampmark
Doctored Admissions: the University Admissions Scandal as a Global Problem
Jeremy Corbyn
Creating a Society of Hope and Inclusion: Speech to the TUC
Zhivko Illeieff
Why You Should Care About #ShutDownDC and the Global Climate Strike  
Catherine Tumber
Land Without Bread: the Green New Deal Forsakes America’s Countryside
Liam Kennedy
Boris Johnson: Elitist Defender of Britain’s Big Banks
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail