Hunters and other interested parties have one more chance to comment on Idaho's proposed new elk management plan.
The state has spent the last several years working on a plan to replace the current version, which went into effect in 1999. Fish and Game's deer and elk program coordinator, Toby Boudreau, says the 15-year-old plan is now obsolete.
"One of the things that has changed is elk distribution," he says. "Over the past 15 years we've seen elk populations increase in places that we really didn't have elk in the mid to late 90s."
Other areas, though, have seen elk numbers decrease. Around the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Boudreau says the elk population has dropped by more than 40 percent since 2002. Fish and Game blames wolf predation. The state recently hired a wolf hunter to kill two wolf packs in the region because wolves have killed too many elk calves.
"[Wolves] have changed the landscape, so to speak, on elk populations statewide," Boudreau says.
But he says the new elk plan isn't a plan to manage wolves.
"[The elk plan] discusses the commission's policy on predation and it discusses predator management plans...but the elk plan isn't the wolf plan."
Boudreau, though, says management of the two animals is related.
"Management of wildlife is our job, and I think we'll continue to do that. And in places where we've seen declines in elk numbers, we will take actions to make things better for elk and find that balance."
The final comment session on the new 10-year plan takes place Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Washington Group Building in Boise. Fish and Game commissioners will meet Thursday in Boise to vote on adopting the plan. Boudreau says if it's adopted, the first changes would be implemented in March.
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