SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - The state of Idaho has authorized sheriff’s deputies in a tiny mountain town to kill wolves blamed for preying on pets and elk, a spokesman for the state fish and game department said on Tuesday.
The move marks the second of two wolf kills sanctioned by Idaho less than two weeks after federal protections were lifted from most wolves in the Northern Rockies and states, including Idaho and Montana, resumed management of the animals.
For the first time since wolves were reintroduced to the region in the mid-1990s, the state is permitting sheriff’s deputies to kill a pack of about seven wolves near Elk City, a community of 200 residents in north central Idaho.
Wildlife officials say the wolves are in close proximity to people and appear to have no fear of human communities.
“We want wolves to be wild, not hanging around town,” said Mike Keckler, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman.
Although a newly passed law in Idaho declared wolves a “disaster emergency” akin to a flood or a wildfire, Fish and Game needed no additional authority to enlist the aid of local law enforcement.
The agency has permitted outfitters to kill problem predators, just as it has licensed ranchers to shoot wolves or mountain lions attacking livestock.
For the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act, wolves in the Northern Rockies in April were removed from the endangered species list by Congressional action rather than scientific review.
Federal safeguards were officially lifted from the estimated 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana on May 5, the same day Idaho began selling permits for wolf hunts.
The two states are seeking to kill hundreds of wolves, mostly through licensed hunting. Montana last week set its quota at 220 out of 550 wolves and Idaho is considering the same quota for its 700 wolves.
The region’s ranchers and hunters have taken aim at wolves for preying on livestock and elk. Wildlife advocates said it would be open season on wolves when federal oversight ended.
Idaho last week launched an aerial attack on wolves in a hunting zone where they are accused of reducing elk herds.
Gunners killed five wolves before the helicopter was grounded because of costs and because of difficulty targeting radio-collared wolves under the cover of trees.
The state has recruited outfitters to kill another 55 wolves in the area.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune