Idaho wolf control board asks lawmakers to maintain budget, despite surplus

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BOISE, Idaho — Wildlife officials asked lawmakers Tuesday to maintain the operating budget of a committee tasked with killing wolves that attack livestock, even though the panel anticipates a $130,000 surplus.

The Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board has spent about a third of its $400,000 budget over the first half of the current fiscal year, board member Carl Rey told legislative budget writers.

During that time, 31 wolves were killed, all after attacking livestock, he said.

The projections "appear to be very successful from a depredation perspective" but it's "unlikely from an accounting perspective that we will be able to spend the entire funds available," Rey said.

The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee didn't make a decision on the funding request, but will provide a recommendation in the coming weeks after hearing from other departments and agencies.

Rey said the wolf control board — which was formed last year and consists of state officials and appointed representatives — will need the full funding because they expect to kill more wolves in the spring and summer, when wolves are more likely to go after cattle and sheep.

Also, he said, there were an abnormally low number of livestock attacks last year. "We have every reason to believe 2014 was an anomaly," he said, then added, "We think we're going to need every dime of that money before this is over."

Republican Rep. Steven Miller of Fairfield asked what the target number of wolves was, but Brad Compton of the Fish and Game Department said there was no such goal. Federal requirements mandate a minimum of 100 wolves in the state, and Idaho has more than 600, so the wolf control board could be far more active and still be within guidelines.

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