Committee passes rules affecting hunting, trapping

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Members of the House Resources and Environment Committee passed rules allowing the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to limit the sale of hunting tags under certain circumstances Monday.

One rule will allow Fish and Game to limit the number of nonresident tags issued in a specific zone to no more than 10 percent of that zone’s average total participation. Paul Kline, deputy director of the Department of Fish and Game, told the committee hunters had asked for this limit in response to a decline in hunt quality caused by hunter overcrowding.

“In some of these more popular units, we’re seeing 35, 40, even 50 percent nonresident hunters,” Kline said.

Kline said this move will allow the commission to address overcrowding while leaving the number of resident tags offered in these zones unchanged. The rule’s approval does not mean Fish and Game will immediately implement limits but leaves the option open if they deem it necessary to address overcrowding in certain zones.

Another rule aimed at addressing crowding offers Fish and Game the option to impose five-day waiting periods on hunters applying for more than one permit under certain circumstances. Hunters would have to wait five days after buying a general hunt tag to buy a tag for the same species in a zone with limited tags available – for example, the popular Sawtooth Zone.

Since tags in these limited zones are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, instead of the lottery system used in general hunt applications, the waiting period would essentially keep hunters who already bought a general tag out of the running, according to Kline.

“(Hunters) would have to decide, do I want to put in for this draw, whatever the odds may be, or do I want to stand in line for this limited tag that’s going to sell very quickly?” Kline said.

The committee also passed a rule overturning requirements for wolf trappers to use equipment that minimizes the risk of trapping non-target species. Previously, Idaho rules required trappers to use a diverter device when trapping wolves in order to deter other animals such as deer and elk.

The requirement was largely opposed by trapping and agricultural groups. In a letter to the committee, the Idaho Trappers Association expressed support for the new rule’s passage, saying diverters were more effective in deterring wolves than non-target species.

“(The new rule) will help give trappers another valuable tool to manage wolf populations,” the letter, which included a statement of support from the Idaho Farm Bureau and Idaho Cattlemen’s Association among other groups, read. “Wolves are crippling livestock producers and 2018 was the highest ever recorded depredation in Idaho.”

Rep. Rob Mason (D-Boise) expressed concern that unintentional trapping, or bycatch, would increase without the use of diverters, asking if Fish and Game had plans to monitor numbers in the wake of the rule’s passage.

Toby Boudreau, wildlife chief for Fish and Game, told the committee trappers are already required to report bycatch in their reports to be considered for license renewal, allowing the agency to keep an eye on numbers.

The new rule includes a provision allowing Fish and Game to reinstate the diverter requirement on a limited regional basis if bycatch numbers spike, Boudreau said, and trappers are still welcome to use diverters if they want to do so.

Other rules approved by the committee included a measure to stop issuing permits allowing non-domestic cervids, including wild-origin elk and whitetail and mule deer, to be imported into Idaho. The rule aims to reduce potential vectors of chronic wasting disease in the state.

•••

Riley Haun is an intern with the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research and the UI JAMM News Service.

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