April 15, 2024

Court Ruling Impacts Wolf Trapping Seasons in Idaho

Article Contact: Marie Neumiller,

Why It Matters: A recent court ruling has made wide scale changes to trapping seasons in the northern portions of Idaho, designated as grizzly bear habitat. Prior to this ruling, Idaho Senate Bill 1211, supported by the Idaho Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, had expanded wolf trapping seasons in areas with chronic livestock depredation and/or reduced elk herds to create “meaningful balance”. US Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s decision overrides previous legislation and bans trapping in grizzly bear habitat outside of denning season, sharply reducing the state’s options for predator management through sportsmen’s efforts.


  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been supportive of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s efforts to balance wolf ecological and cultural carrying capacity through their 2023-2028 Wolf Management Plan.
  • US Magistrate Judge, Candy Dale’s ruling will reduce public land trapping by six weeks, and private land trapping by nine months.
  • There have been no reports of incidental take of grizzly bears in lawful wolf trapping sets in Idaho.

On March 19, 2024, US Magistrate Judge Candy Dale issued a ruling in the lawsuit against Idaho State filed by 13 environmentalist groups. This injunction limits trapping during the “period when grizzly bears are reasonably certain to be out of their dens,” within grizzly bear recovery zones, thereby closing the Panhandle, Clearwater, Salmon, and Upper Snake regions from April 1, 2024, through November 15, 2024. At issue in the case was Senate Bill 1211, which went into effect on July 1, 2021, and established a year-round wolf trapping season on private property while expanding methods of take to include trapping. At the time of passage, Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s (IDFG) Director, Ed Schriver, had noted that both SB 1211 coupled with the IDFG Commission’s season setting efforts had created “meaningful balance,” providing hunters and trappers with the tools needed to address conflicts between wolves, livestock, and big game.

Environmentalist groups disagreed with IDFG’s efforts to utilize hunters and trappers to balance wolf and prey populations while expressing additional concerns about incidental take of grizzly bears by wolf trappers. Noted in the Judge’s ruling was a report of two grizzly bears that were killed in illegal wolf snares in Boundary County, Idaho. IDFG pointed out that both those sets were illegal as they lacked cable stops and breakaway devices required under IDFG trapping regulations.

In fact, trapping wolves in Idaho carries special rules including a wolf trapper education class. In addition, wolf traps and snares cannot have a jaw spread greater than nine inches to minimize incidental catch of animals like grizzly bears whose paws measure 5-11 inches wide with up to 4-inch claws. Having a smaller trap spread is designed to ensure that if a grizzly bear or black bear does encounter a wolf trap it will be unlikely to trip or, in the rare event that the trap does deploy, it will fail to hold the bear with a goal of preventing incidental take. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is supportive of Idaho’s wolf management plan and utilizing trapping efforts to maintain a healthy balance in predator and prey populations.

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