Keith Ridler| Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A hunting derby with $1,000 each for whoever kills the most wolves and coyotes is scheduled to start at sunrise Friday in east-central Idaho.
Idaho for Wildlife’s three-day Predator Hunting Contest and Fur Rendezvous is planned on private ranch land and U.S. Forest Service land around Salmon.
“I think we’re going to have a good turnout,” said Steve Alder, organizer of the contest. He didn’t have an estimate on the number of hunters though due to the remoteness of the area.
The group earlier this year received permission to include land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management but the agency withdrew the permit in November following two lawsuits by environmental groups.
Losing the 3.1 million acres of BLM land cut the area for the derby in half, and also eliminated lower elevation areas likely to have more coyotes and wolves. A coalition of environmental groups, as well as Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, tried but failed to get the Forest Service to revoke the permit it issued.
“The world is looking at this with a lot of dismay,” said Amy Atwood, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re not going to go away and we’re going to keep fighting.”
She said the group has a litigation strategy to prevent another derby but declined to go into details.
The derby last year drew 230 people, about 100 of them hunters, who killed 21 coyotes but no wolves. Alder said the BLM’s revoking the group’s permit might have persuaded more hunters to take part this year. He said 40 hunters from outside Idaho have committed.
He said ranchers have also been contacted in advance so hunters can use that land. Also, he noted, possible wolf sightings are being tracked.
“We’ve heard some reports and we’re trying to pinpoint where those are so we can put in hunters,” he said.
Besides the $1,000 prizes, Alder said, fur buyers will also be available with the potential pay for a black wolf pelt up to $600.
“People love the black ones,” Alder said. “And the pure white. If you can find a big white pelt, that’s beautiful. That’s worth quite a bit.”
The region where the derby is planned is considered a key area for wolves that could grow in number, with some pack members dispersing to surrounding states. At least one Oregon environmental group that would like to see more wolves in that state is involved in the lawsuits against the derby for that reason.
“As we learn more about these animals, the more we’ve come to revere them,” said Atwood. “When you remove them from the landscape it upends the order of things.”