The state of Idaho is one of only ten states in the United States that allows use of baiting to hunt bears. Now the state wants to become the only state to allow baiting wolves.
Baiting entails luring these animals in to feeding sites with food or other attractants-allowing them to become habituated-and then shooting them when they come back to eat. Not only is baiting inconsistent with the idea of fair chase, but it can create “nuisance” animals by encouraging unnatural habits.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission drafted this proposal in response to “sportsmen who would like to see this added hunting opportunity.” Yet with other species, Fish and Game has highlighted the importance of not giving hunters unfair advantages. Baiting of any kind is rightly prohibited for deer and elk across the state for this very reason. IDFG states that "this type of hunting clearly violates fair chase ethics because it takes advantage of an unnatural condition created by the hunter. Pursuing an animal in its natural environment and overcoming its senses is referred to as fair chase. This concept is the basis for many fish and game laws."
So why the inconsistency? Allowing the use of bait stations to habituate and shoot a wolf or a bear is no different than baiting elk, deer or any other animal in the state. Baiting does not constitute fair chase.
Commission Taking Public Comments on Wolf Baiting
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is taking public comment now through July 26 on its wolf baiting proposal and current bear baiting rules. Comments are being collected through an online form on IDFG’s website. Since protections were lifted for wolves in Idaho, the state has not only set seasons for wolf hunting and trapping but also established a Wolf Depredation Control Board that is allocated $400,000 a year of taxpayer money for the lethal control of wolves, often by aerial gunning. Adding yet another lethal (and controversial) tool such as baiting just doesn’t make any sense.
Take a couple of minutes right now to share your support of fair-chase regulations. Tell the Commission to reject this unethical wolf-baiting proposal and also amend its rules that currently allow for bear baiting.
Current Bear Baiting Regulations
Most states with bear hunting strive to maintain fair chase rules that give animals a reasonable advantage. But Idaho is notorious for having lax bear hunting regulations:
- Bear Baiting-Baiting black bears to lure them in and then shoot them is not a fair chase. The practice leads to bears associating food with the smells of humans and even livestock. Those who habituate to human foods become less shy and more unpredictable, changing their eating habits, home ranges and movement patterns in ways that are sometimes irreversible. This can easily result in conflicts with humans or bears traveling into areas where they should not be. The state also allows for use of hounds in bear hunting.
- Spring Black Bear Hunting-Although most states have banned spring hunts, Idaho still allows this practice. When bears emerge from hibernation in the spring, they are often groggy and malnourished. This makes them especially vulnerable targets. In addition, many females have just given birth. While Idaho prohibits killing female bears with young, it is often difficult to determine the reproductive status and gender of a bear if it is searching for food away from the den. Spring hunts orphan many cubs each year, leaving them to starve or be preyed on by other animals.
- Bear Identification and Safety Courses-Black bear tags in Idaho are inexpensive relative to other states. They can be purchased over the counter without an application process or safety and identification course. And while the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has developed identification materials online, no review of this material is required before someone can obtain hunting license. This lack of awareness is particularly concerning for the safety of those who are unaccustomed to traveling in bear country. It’s also concerning for hunters who may misidentify black bears and grizzly bears.
Take Action Now!
Tell the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to rethink its unethical wolf baiting proposal and current bear baiting regulations.