Earlier this month, Fish and Game opened up a public comment period for proposed changes to 2019 and 2020 big game hunting. One of the animals that could be affected by the changes are wolves. The new regulations would expand wolf trapping on private land and the season would start a month sooner.
Roger Phillips is with Fish and Game. He says expanding trapping will help keep the wolves under control.
"Hunting and trapping are important tools to manage predators," he says.
Garrick Dutcher disagrees. Dutcher is the program director for Living With Wolves, a national nonprofit based in Idaho. He says wolves help maintain ecosystem health. One of his concerns is that fewer wolves could mean chronic wasting disease might enter the state.
"It’s important for people to understand what wolves do and how they operate in order to be able to make their own decisions about how they feel about changes in regulations in expanding trapping," Dutcher says.
Chronic wasting disease is already found in many parts of Wyoming that border eastern Idaho. It’s been detected in animals including elk, moose, mule deer and whitetail deer. Dutcher says that wolves prey on sick and vulnerable animals that might carry it, which keeps the disease from spreading further.
Although it’s not believed to harm people, it does kill off other wildlife species. However, Phillips says he doesn’t think expanding trapping will bring the disease to Idaho.
"I don’t think there’s any direct correlation between chronic wasting disease and the possibility of it entering Idaho. and how large or how small our wolf population is," Phillips says.
The public comment period for the proposed changes to hunting regulations ends February 24.
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