Idaho lawmakers pass bill to kill most of state’s wolf population

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BOISE, Idaho (Reuters) — Idaho lawmakers have approved a bill authorizing the state to kill up to 90% of its wolf population, a measure championed by farmers and cattle ranchers that will become law if signed by the governor in the coming days.

Gov. Brad Little has not indicated whether or not he supports the legislation and a spokeswoman said the office did not comment on bills awaiting his signature. The first-term Republican has six days to sign or veto the measure, which becomes law if he takes no action in that time.

The Idaho House of Representatives this week voted 58-11 to approve the fast-tracked legislation, which passed the state senate last week with backing from the agricultural sector, who say the wolves are killing or scaring off sheep, cattle and other farm animals.

“They’re destroying ranchers; they’re destroying wildlife,” Idaho State Senator Mark Harris told his colleagues in support of the bill last week, according to the New York Times.

Idaho Fish and Wildlife in 2002 established a Wolf Conservation and Management plan that calls for the state to maintain a population of at least 150 wolves. Harris said that number had grown to ten times that number, or more than 1,500, at last count.

Wildlife conservation groups have called on Little to veto the legislation.

“The bill will waste millions of dollars of public funds on killing wolves, and threatens to ultimately return the species to the endangered species list and federal management,” the Western Watersheds Project said in a statement on behalf of three conservation groups.

Gray wolves were delisted from the Endangered Species Act last year by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which said the population had sufficiently recovered to no longer warrant protection.

If Little signs the legislation, the state would be permitted to hire contractors to kill the wolves and hunters would have no limits on the number they could target.

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