BIG GAME: The good news

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Tom Corbey, after reading your letter to the editor in The Press, it is apparent you are ill informed. I have hunted in Idaho for 47 years. During that time, elk populations across the state have increased substantially.

Granted, elk in the Clearwater Region have suffered declines recently, specifically the severe winter of 1996-97. The Clearwater, and to some degree, the Panhandle, elk populations prospered due to large, stand replacing wildfires, the last major ones 1910, 1919 and 1934. Ideal HABITAT resulting from those fires allowed remnant elk populations to flourish. As plant succession advances the quality and quantity of fire and logging created habitats decline. Due to federal and private habitat ownership the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has no control in the management of habitat. The Lolo Zone in the Clearwater is a prime example of poor habitat restricting an elk population.

Predation can, and does impact wildlife populations. However, when predator populations are managed, their impact is minimal. Managing wolves presents unique problems, however, over time; wolf predation will become less significant. Wolves were naturally recolonizing Idaho by the late 1980s and IDFG’s recommendation to meet wolf recovery goals was by natural recolonization. Tom, please know the IDFG did not recommend transplanting wolves into Idaho; it was mandated. That decision, like the one that prohibited the IDFG from being involved with any aspect of wolf management and/or research, was by political process. Former Idaho Senator James McClure sponsored legislation that funded the wolf transplant; legislators wanted wolves off ESA restrictions ASAP and jump-starting population growth was their solution.

The following statewide harvest information comparing harvest for the past 40 years does not suggest deer, elk, pronghorn and moose are depleted:

Year Deer Elk Pronghorn Moose

1976 25,427 4,135 1,380 94

2016 66,923 22,557 1,851 640

Tom, obviously it will come as a surprise, but the IDFG is nationally respected for its wildlife research and management, and Idaho’s wildlife resources have not been devastated.

MIKE SCHLEGEL

Grangeville

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