The Curse and Blessing of Wildlife

We are blessed in Idaho with an abundance of wildlife. Herds of deer and elk are often found wintering at lower elevations. Moose wander down from the mountains into the valleys looking for food. Ducks and geese land in grain fields looking for an easy meal. Bears, lions, coyotoes and wolves are always looking for an easy meal.

All of this wildlife can be a headache for farmers and ranchers. Wildlife knows no boundaries, and moves easily from public to private property. Farmers and ranchers can face finanical ruin if big game animals eat all the hay that a farmer worked so hard to bale and stack, or if predators kill livestock.

With a few exceptions it is illegal for farmers and ranchers to shoot or harass wildlife that has entered upon private property. A farmer or rancher can shoot an elk or a deer that is on his property if he has a license and a tag and is otherwise harvesting an animal during a lawful hunting season. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game also conducts special depredation hunts to relieve big game damage problems in agricultural areas. These hunts are typically held on short notice, and in small areas, to relieve a farmer or rancher from a problem.

In addition, farmers and ranchers can legally shoot without a permit a predator, like a black bear, mountain lion, coyote, or a wolf, that is molesting or attacking livestock. In regard to wolves, “molesting” specfically includes the actions of a wolf that are annoying, disturbing, or persecuting, especially with hostile intent or injurious effect, or chasing, driving, flushing, worrying, following after, or on the trail of, or stalking or lying in wait for, livestock or domestic animals. The law requires that farmers and ranchers notify Fish and Game of lions and wolves that are taken while molesting or attacking wildlife.

Farmers and ranchers may also obtain relief from critters like beavers and muskrats that are interfering with water rights or damaging ditches.

Wildlife is yet another variable that can affect farmers and ranchers. Know the law and protect your property.