By Eric Barker

Lewiston Tribune

The hunters behind the little-known Foundation For Wildlife Management know three things about trapping wolves.

First, it is a much more effective wolf-management tool than hunting. Wolf hunters have a success rate of less than 1 percent, while trappers enjoy a success rate near 25 percent.

Second, wolf trapping is time consuming and expensive. Traps need to be checked at least once every three days, and that can involve driving hundreds of miles.

“It costs me $48 a day on an average day, and I have to go every 72 hours,” said Jack Hammack, of Sandpoint, Idaho, a founding member of the group. “It’s typically between a 10- and a 13-hour day.”

It takes so much time and money to be a serious wolf trapper that group members feared many hunters, even those like themselves who desperately want to see wolf populations thinned, would either not take up trapping or not stick with it. So they formed the foundation, a sort of wolf-trapping cooperative that essentially pays regular- joe trappers to kill wolves.

People can join the group for $35. Those who join and then successfully trap a wolf can submit their expenses and be reimbursed up to $500 per wolf.

Hammack said it has increased the number of active trappers in the Panhandle Region, and the idea is ripe for export to other areas of the state and perhaps even to Montana.

That leads to the third thing they know about wolf trapping and wolves in general: It is an extremely controversial and emotional issue.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of publicity to this point. We have avoided it and been able to be successful without it,” Hammack said. “It’s so easy to get unwanted publicity. All we are trying to do is help the department reach its objectives.”

They saw what happened in Salmon recently when the group Idaho For Wildlife held a wolf and coyote hunting derby. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the derby, which eventually resulted in 21 dead coyotes and no dead wolves.

They no doubt recall the uproar two years ago when a trapper near Elk City paused and posed for a photograph in front of a trapped wolf before dispatching the animal. They are aware an Idaho Fish and Game program that is paying a trapper to kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area has drawn attention from environmental groups. They also know some will label their program a bounty.

But as they look to expand their reach, they know publicity is coming and probably necessary. The group will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at the department’s Clearwater regional headquarters in Lewiston. The group is also scheduled to give a report Jan. 16 at the Idaho Fish and Game Commission meeting in Boise.