Fish and Game hosts open houses

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Courtesy photo Justin Webb, executive director of the Sandpoint-based Foundation for Wildlife Management, holds one of his frozen wolf traps he dug out of the snow in the backcountry.

Wolves on the landscape are also on the mind of Justin Webb.

Webb, the director of the Foundation for Wildlife Management, spends a lot of time considering wolves and their effect on Idaho’s game herds.

His group, a sportsmen-funded organization that goes by F4WM, has for the past seven years been reimbursing hunters and trappers for killing wolves in Idaho.

As its executive director, the Sandpoint-based Webb wants hunters to get involved in discussions with state game managers on how Idaho’s deer and elk — and their predators — are managed.

He is encouraging sportsmen and women to attend upcoming Idaho Department of Fish and Game open house gatherings that started this week across the Panhandle.

“More than anything, I just want sportsmen to attend and open their mouths,” said Webb, a former IDFG technician. “Get involved.”

Meetings are planned Feb. 7, between 5 and 7 p.m. at the Ponderay Events Center and Feb. 9, between 8 and 10 a.m., at the St. Maries Elks Lodge. The Coeur d’Alene meeting is planned Feb. 12, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Coeur d’Alene Fish and Game Regional Office.

Clearwater Region meetings will be Feb. 12, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Latah County Fairgrounds in Moscow, and Feb. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the Fish and Game Clearwater Hatchery in Ahsahka. A Feb. 21 open house is scheduled between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Lewiston Fish and Game regional office.

Webb, who works as a hunting guide for a Panhandle outfitter for part of the year, wants the state to increase the number of wolves it allows Idaho hunters and trappers to harvest.

“Bump the wolf trapping tags up to 10 and the wolf hunting tags up to 10, for a 20 total tag limit per person,” Webb said.

He also wants the state to no longer require a diverter on snares — a wire contraption that is supposed to prevent moose from getting caught incidentally in a backcountry wolf snare, but actually increases accidental deer and elk catches, he said.

Once a trapper catches a deer or elk in a snare, they quit using snares.

“Deer and elk are what they are trying to preserve, so it scares them away from snaring,” he said.

He also wants IDFG to consider an Oct. 1 wolf trapping opener, and to open units closed to snaring — mostly in southern Idaho.

An earlier trapping opener, he said, would get more trappers into the woods earlier before it snows and traps freeze up.

“I had 18 wolves step in frozen traps,” Webb said. “It’s extremely difficult to trap wolves once it freezes.”

Webb has no anti-wolf vendetta, he said. He thinks the apex predators are at the crux of the state’s reduction in elk herds, and that their numbers must be reduced to maintain herds at the objectives set by IDFG.

Wolves have moved from Idaho into adjacent states, Webb said, because Idaho has no more territory for new packs.

At a 30 percent reproductive rate and an average of six pups per litter, new packs have to go somewhere.

“We have way too many wolves,” he said. “There’s no more room for them in Idaho.”

Wolves were introduced in the late 1990s with the intention of establishing 10 packs and 100 wolves in the Gem State. In 2015, IDFG could account for almost 800 wolves.

Since its start in 2012, Webb’s group has paid between $250 to $1,000 for a legally harvested wolf. It costs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service Division around $9,000 to kill a wolf, he said. The group was recently awarded a $23,000 grant from IDFG to assist in managing wolves.

Webb thinks it’s paramount that sportsmen and women take part in the upcoming discussions and in the state’s management efforts.

“Whether you hunt or not, the way we enjoy the outdoors is at stake,” he said.

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