Howling mad

About 70 rally in protest of Idaho wolf hunt

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Todd Hoffman is confronted by Nancy Taylor, owner of The Wolf People, after showing up to the Wolves Belong, Stop the Slaughter rally Thursday in the Coeur d'Alene City Park.

COEUR d'ALENE - Idaho's wolf management plan, said Dr. Catherine Feher-Elston, is not working.

That's because, she said, "it's not management."

"It's killing, it's slaughter," said Feher-Elston, a naturalist and wolf advocate who spoke at what was both a pro-wolf rally and protest of Idaho's year-round hunting season on wolves Thursday at City Park.

"We have to fight to stop this," she said.

About 70 people attended the gathering that included speakers, songs, a dog that lost a leg to a trap, and a presentation of how to release pets from traps. There were signs that read "Stop the Slaughter" and "Wolves Belong," while many wore shirts with pictures of wolves.

And while folks, literally, were howling at times, the meeting was mostly calm, but for a few moments when a man who supported wolf management arrived and began recording some of the speakers.

"We don't need you here," someone shouted.

The rally sponsored by Predator Defense, Northern Idaho Wolf Alliance and Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater, coincided with the 2012-2013 wolf hunt on public lands in Idaho that began Thursday.

"Today in Idaho, the never-ending wolf hunt officially begins," Feher-Elston said.

She said more than 500 wolves have been killed in Idaho and Montana by hunting and trapping methods since the species was delisted from the endangered species list in 2011.

"Half of our Northern Rockies wolves are dead in less than a year," she said.

Organizers protested what they called an inhumane attack on Idaho's wolves, last year estimated to be around 750 and down from a high of 856 at the end of 2009, that included the use of traps, snares and aerial shooting.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported that during the 2011-12 wolf seasons, hunters killed 255 wolves, and trappers 124, for a total of 379 wolves.

Forty of those were puppies, 56 suffered in leg-hold traps before being killed and 67 choked to death in snares, said speaker Brett Haverstick, with Friends of the Clearwater.

"There's a lot of killing going on," he said.

He said the hunting of wolves has been an "absolute blood bath" that will only be stopped if people call legislators and rally friends to call for wolves to be returned to federal protection.

"I'm here to tell you that the current management model that's being put on by the Idaho Fish and Game Department is unsustainable," Haverstick said.

A few hunters and supporters of Idaho's wolf management plan staged a rally of their own nearby.

Wayne Hammond of Rathdrum said he was born and raised in Idaho and has hunted his entire life.

"I rely on that meat for my sustenance," he said.

He said wolves must be managed, just like the rest of Idaho's wildlife.

"We understand they're going to be here. They just have to be managed. And that's what they're totally against, and I just don't buy it," he said.

Wolves once thrived across North America but were exterminated across most of the continental U.S. by the 1930s, through government sponsored poisoning and bounty programs, according to an Associated Press report.

They were put on the endangered list in 1974. Over the last two decades, state and federal agencies have spent more than $100 million on wolf restoration programs across the country.

It's estimated the Northern Rockies were earlier this year home to more than 1,700 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and expanding populations in portions of eastern Oregon and Washington.

Edith Bishop of Hayden attended the rally. She said she used to live in Minnesota, where she raised cattle.

Wolves were around, but weren't a major problem.

"We lived in harmony with them. They didn't go after the cattle. They went after small rodents and rabbits and stuff like that. I was never afraid of them. People I was afraid of, but never the wolves.

"I don't know why we can live in harmony with them. If you have a problem wolf, you take care of him," Bishop said. "You don't just go out and kill them all."

Many were particularly upset by trapping, which was described as a "cruel way to kill animals."

Organizers called on people to oppose a resolution passed by the Idaho Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would guarantee the right of Idahoans to hunt, fish and trap.

It was reported that 40,000 animals die in Idaho by traps every year, and animals can suffer for days to free themselves.

Kathy Stewart of Worley, a wolf advocate who attended the rally, would like to see trapping banned.

"I know it can't be, but it needs to be," she said.

Feher-Elston called the wolf an icon of American wilderness and said it does not need a management plan. She said wolves evolve along with deer and elk, and are "natural balancers."

Hammond disagreed.

"The mountain lion and the bear were doing a superb job doing what they needed to do. When they brought the wolves in, it tipped the scale," he said. "Now, we're seeing what we're seeing."

He said there are too many wolves in Idaho and it's taking a heavy toll on deer, elk, and moose. And that, he said, is a very threat to his livelihood.

"That's what I feed my family with every year," he said.

"That's what I'm here to protect."

The frustrating part, Hammond said, was that "it was shoved down our throat by the federal government, and it's our money that's being eaten out there."

Wayne Hammond, of Rathdrum, emphatically argues his view in favor wolf management to wolf supporter Marty Stitsel, of Sandpoint, in a parking area nearby the wolf rally.

 

Bella, a husky that lost one of its hind legs in a snare meant for wolves, was a featured to help illustrate the argument of wolf supporters.

 

A crowd of about 70 wolf supporters were in attendance during the rally in Coeur d'Alene.

 

Dr. Catherine Feher-Elston, with Predator Defense in Eugene, Oregon, speaks about the concern of the current state of wolf management by government agencies.

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