More wolf hunting and trapping tags are available in the Salmon region this winter than in the past, according to a press release from Idaho Fish and Game Public Information Specialist Brian Pearson.

The number of permits in each category was increased last month to 15, from 10, by action of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Pearson said the increase will not be reflected in the Idaho Big Game 2019-20 Seasons and Rules brochure, but has been updated online.

The commission released the recent count of wolves in Idaho, which was presented to Custer County commissioners last week.

Idaho Fish and Game workers tracked 1,541 wolves last year using 200 cameras taking six million photos, according to Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Tom Curet.

Curet said in a separate interview the commission’s findings show a slight rise in wolf numbers. The target population for wolves in Idaho is around 150. Curet said the rising number of wolves in conjunction with their “chronic depredation” of livestock is why the Fish and Game Commission chose to increase the number of available tags.

“I would say the population is relatively stable right now, but we’re also well above population objectives with wolves,” Curet said.

Custer County Commissioner Wayne Butts said he was happy to hear of increased efforts to control wolves, but that more changes at the policy level need to happen. Butts bemoaned the fact wolves can’t be trapped or hunted in areas designated as wilderness.

According to Curet, Fish and Game has no jurisdiction in wilderness areas. He told the commissioners they would have to talk Forest Service officials about allowing hunts in wilderness.

“Are your superiors working with the Forest Service on this?” asked Commissioner Steve Smith, who agreed with Butts.

“There’s a coordinated effort, yes,” said Curet.

When Butts and Smith asked about aerial hunting options, Curet said the air space above wilderness is also protected.

The two commissioners said despite the high number of wolves trapped and hunted in 2019, which was 200 trapped and 188 hunted, they think taxpayer money is still being wasted. They said because wolves only need to cross over into wilderness to escape capture, they will remain a nuisance for livestock owners.

Curet assured the commissioners “all hands are on deck” when it comes to maintaining the wolf population in Idaho. He said he will again update the commissioners in May.