An Idaho Senate bill that would allow ranchers to use live bait to lure marauding wolves to be trapped or shot could be all that wildlife advocates need to return wolves to federal protection, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said.
The bill, introduced by Terreton Republican Jeff Siddoway, was sent to the full Idaho Senate Wednesday by the Resources and Environment Committee on a 7-2 party-line vote.
The bill would allow anyone whose livestock or family pet was killed or harassed by wolves to shoot the animals from airplanes, use night scopes on rifles and even lure the wolves with live bait within 36 hours. After 36 hours, owners would have to get a 60-day permit from the state to kill the wolves.
Simpson, who authored the federal legislation that removed Idaho wolves from protection under the Endangered Species Act, said he worries the bill goes beyond the wolf plan approved by Idaho in 2002. That plan was the basis for the removal of wolves from the endangered species list.
Simpson said a wolf-advocate group would likely bring a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if Siddoway's bill is signed by Gov. Butch Otter and becomes law.
Then the issue would likely end up before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, the judge who repeatedly ruled against delisting the wolf before Congress stepped in.
"I think you have to give the state management plan time to work," Simpson told the Idaho Statesman.
The bill has attracted national attention since Siddoway, a sheep rancher himself, introduced it earlier this year. He said he has lost thousands of dollars in sheep to wolf kills, and the bill is necessary for him and other ranchers to protect their livestock.
Siddoway told the committee that the aerial hunting provision is the important aspect of the bill. But it's the live-bait section that has gotten the most attention.
Siddoway used his wife's dog Sophie as an example of how a dog might be used as bait to lure wolves in.
He said he would place Sophie on a 20- to 30-foot chain and then set up in a blind with a rifle some distance away. Then he would turn on an electronic wolf howl.
"You try to get Sophie to chime in with the wolves," Siddoway explained. "If they come down you just start shooting," he said.
Siddoway also said he would place sheep in a corral surrounded by traps in the mountainous area along the Wyoming border in the Targhee-Caribou National Forest where he grazes his sheep.
Siddoway said he does not understand why his critics have compassion for the live bait, but "no compassion for the guard dogs who are paying the full price for protecting our sheep," he said.
Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said she understands how Siddoway plans to use the powers allowed in the bill and doesn't doubt his intentions. But she said it sets no parameters for the use of live bait, and she worries that could lead to the "possibility of torture of these animals" used as bait.
She also expressed fears the bill would violate the state's agreement with Fish and Wildlife by permitting measures beyond what the state agreed to do to manage wolves.
Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, expressed similar concerns. But he said the rising number of wolves and the problems ranchers face are enough to get him to vote for the bill.
"When is enough, enough?" Tippets asked.
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