EMMETT, Idaho — When wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s, no one really knew what would happen next.
Now 25 years later, Gov. Brad Little has signed into law a measure that could lead to killing 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves.
But there is more to the story as Idaho News 6 found out after spending an afternoon with Little on his ranch near Emmett.
As a cattle rancher, Little is very familiar with the state's wolf situation.
“I remember vividly when they first came in," Little said. "One of the first wolves in Idaho, we had a neighbor see a wolf jump on a calf, break its back and I called the officials and they said there are no wolves there.”
In that particular case, the wolf had a bad tracking collar so officials had no idea it was there. Wolves are smart, and as the packs grew and moved around, ranchers in remote areas of the state were the first to see what was about to happen.
“It’s very geographic specific," he said. "We got the Frank Church Wilderness, 3.2 million acres and if you’re right on the edge of that and you’ve had land that you’ve bought, or has been in your family for years, it’s really unfair because the wolves are there all the time.”
Just this past week, Idaho Fish and Game asked for public comments on their proposal to extend wolf hunting and trapping in Idaho. Lawmakers who sponsored the measure said they want the state’s wolf population reduced to the allowed minimum of 150 to reduce attacks on livestock.
“We got lots of habitat in Idaho," Little said. "All they’re asking is let's put the wolves where they’re going to fit into the environment the best."
Little said wolf packs dislocate a lot of wildlife herds and that in itself is a problem.
“Worst case scenario, kind of out by Fairfield, they’ve dislocated the elk and they come down and they might be on the freeway and somebody might get killed," he said. "Because the elk might be down there because they’ve been run out of the habitat we want them in.”
The bottom line — are wolves going to disappear?
“The issue of, 'We’re going to do away with 90% of wolves,' is absolutely impossible,” Little said.