this photo is a glimpse into the mentality of those behind the anti-wolf campaign.
There is, apparently, a cohort of people who view the destruction of wild nature as
something to be celebrated, something quintessentially America.
something to be celebrated, something quintessentially America.
They are play acting at both patriotism and rebellion.
And, in their play-acting, they reveal a great deal about the paranoid fantasies
that have gripped some people in the age of Obama.
The white hoods, with their echoes of Jim Crow-era terrorism,
were actually celebrated by some commenters.
“Redneck KKK” wrote Austin T. a way of
“Trying to make a statement!...Frontier Justice! ”
John P. concurred,
“Yeehaw...looks like modern day rangers taking care of business!!!!!”
Some commentators suggested that the wolf hunters wore hoods to protect themselves from government persecution. One supporter of masked men posted, “I fully understand the masks…Keep on killing guys.”
It would seem that wolf hunting is the wildlife version of George Zimmerman's vigilantism –
self appointed keepers of order waging a battle against an imaginary enemy.
Maybe it's worse, and the wolf hunters with their KKK masks
are more like shades of Timothy McVeigh.
The cammo gear, the rifles – it’s as if the wolf hunters were fighting a guerrilla war against Washington.
As if they were worried that at any moment a US Fish and Wildlife Service black helicopter would swoop down and a SWAT team emerge, assault rifles blazing.
But it's a phony rebellion against a phantom menace.
The wolves aren't actually any danger to people or much of a threat to ranchers' livestock.
And the US government permits them to be killed. There's no real transgression here requiring a mask.
It's all theater meant to self-impress.
Add to that careful quotas and you have a place that produces outstanding bulls.
Located in the Hell’s Canyon area, this outfitter has one of the largest land holdings in the state of Idaho.
They have been managing their wolf populations from the get go,
we haven’t seen a drop off in bull quality at all.
The elk are in large herds this time of the year, so often, there are multiple trophy bulls within sight at once. They are still bugling at this time of year so we use that to our advantage for locating the herd bull. It’s very common to see 100+ elk a day during this hunt.”
Though a statewide 10-year elk management plan approved by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission earlier this month includes more aggressive predator management, the emphasis in the Wood River Valley area is on reducing elk damage to agriculture.
According to the plan, that damage is the most important factor limiting elk numbers in the two elk management zones—the Pioneer and the Smoky-Bennett Hills zones—that flank the valley.
“The elk population could be higher if we could
mitigate the damage elk do to crops and fencing,”
Craig White, the department’s former elk plan coordinator, said in an interview.
According to a story in the Twin Falls Times-News, the department stated
that over harvest by hunters is the prime cause of the decreases.
White said elk numbers have generally decreased in the north and central parts of the state, while they have increased in southern and western areas.
Randy Smith, Magic Valley Region wildlife manager, said in an interview that the Pioneer Zone, to the east and north of the Wood River Valley, is one of the zones that are exceeding goals. He said the elk population increased by about 60 percent between 2008 and 2013, when aerial surveys were conducted. He said the increase was primarily due to the department’s ending a hunt on yearling “spike” bull elk in the zone.
The department’s website shows a population of 9,738 elk in the zone, up from 5,459 in 2008.
Smith said the Smoky-Bennett Zone, to the west and south of the Wood River Valley, is included among those zones where the elk population is below target numbers. However, he said, that conclusion is based on a 2009 aerial survey, and more recent anecdotal evidence indicates that elk are doing better there. He said a survey scheduled for next winter will provide more concrete data.
He said an antlerless hunt in the Smoky-Bennett Zone has been eliminated.
Smith said the department had four winter elk feeding sites in that zone, in the South Fork of the Boise River drainage, but about five years ago noticed that the elk were not staying at the sites but were migrating south out of the mountains. He said the department is happy that the animals have adopted a more natural migration pattern, but the change has resulted in more agricultural damage. In Blaine County, the damage is concentrated in the Bellevue Triangle.
Brad Lowe, the department’s Magic Valley Region wildlife biologist, said alfalfa seems to be the elk’s favorite crop, though the animals also eat wheat, barley and oats when the plants are still green. He said crop damage occurs primarily from July into November, when many of the herds migrate farther south. He said elk in the northern part of the triangle continue doing damage into the winter by eating stacked hay and livestock feed.
The department’s 10-year elk management plan states that hunting will be used as the primary tool to reduce depredation levels in the Pioneer and Smoky-Bennett zones. However, the plan proposes several other strategies to address those impacts:
- Hire seasonal employees to work with landowners to fix fences, haze problem animals and issue kill permits.
- Provide fencing to protect hay stacks.
- Draft agreements with landowners to provide winter habitat.
- Collaborate with federal land managers to assure that range conditions on public land provide adequate forage for elk, including by reducing invasive plants.
- Allow early-season “green field” hunts to reduce elk numbers on private property.
Under Idaho law, farmers and ranchers can be compensated by the Department of Fish and Game for crop damage done by wildlife. However, they are required to try to prevent damage through fencing or by hazing or killing problem animals. In some situations, the department provides scare-away devices, including propane cannons, firecrackers and 12-gauge shotgun shells called cracker shells.
Landowners must also have allowed reasonable public access for hunting on their property during the preceding hunting season.
Department regulations allow for special “landowner-permission” hunts, in which the landowner chooses hunters to whom tags can be sold to hunt on their property. Lowe said two such hunts were conducted on 15 properties in the Bellevue Triangle last year—one from Aug. 1-Oct. 31 and a second from Nov. 1-Dec. 31.
He said 102 tags were sold for the two hunts. He said the 65 hunters who have so far reported, which they must do by the end of March, have indicated close to a 50 percent success ratio, with 34 elk killed.
In 2013, the only Blaine County landowner to receive compensation for crop damage was south-county farmer Larry Schoen, who is also a county commissioner. According to department records, Schoen was paid $29,535.75.
“Hundreds of elk are spending a lot of time on his property,” Smith said.
Lowe said hunters on Schoen’s property, where neighboring homes are not far away, were initially using short-range weapons such as muzzle-loaders, shotguns and bows, but last year the department paid for and erected two 12-foot-high elevated blinds so hunters can shoot at a downward angle.
“That allowed people to far more safely use rifles on the property,” he said.
Statewide in 2013, only one other landowner was paid compensation—$63,865 for damage done on a property near Hill City, west of Fairfield. So far in 2014, the department has paid $5,625, to a property owner near Bellevue.