Efforts to prop up struggling elk herds in a remote region of Idaho were dealt a setback when environmentalists disclosed the secret operation.

Federal wildlife services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game are killing wolves in the remote country drained by the Lochsa and North Fork of the Clearwater rivers, where elk herds have struggled for nearly twenty years. This is the third year of such operations.

The effort has been kept under wraps to protect the safety of the government employees involved, but this week an environmentalist group went to the news media in an effort to disrupt the operation.

Quoted in the Lewiston Tribune, Todd Grimm, director of Wildlife Services’ Idaho operations, said people’s emotions surrounding wolves can spur strong and even violent reactions. He said he received an impassioned and angry phone call about the wolves shortly after the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife issued a news release.

“We have already had one extremely violent phone call from somebody in Florida because of this,” he said. “People have very passionate views about wolves, and sometimes that drives them to make the wrong decision.”

While the federal agency did confirm the operation, the Idaho Fish and Game Department refused to do so, saying that its policy was not to release information until the effort was complete due to safety concerns.

Secrecy has been so tight that on Tuesday members of the state board charged with the responsibility of managing wolves refused to answer a state senator’s questions during a budget hearing about how many wolves were being killed and at what cost. 

Wolves are common in Idaho and are legally hunted. High passions and threats of violence are nothing new. After a public hunting season was established in 2010, the first hunter to kill a wolf was forced to send his family away temporarily after environmentalists published his home address on the internet and death threats were made against his small children.

Photo credit: Dreamstime