Aerial shooting of coyotes by government hunters along the South Fork of the Snake River has been approved by Targhee National Forest officials.
But the shooting will be limited to areas above the rim of the South Fork Canyon away from wildlife winter ranges and bald eagle nests. The decision was announced Friday by Ron Dickemore, Palisades District ranger."I don't think we've got any problem with that at all," said Mike Worthen, Idaho director of U.S. Animal Damage Control Service. "We very seldom hunted right on the river anyway."
Conservationists, who have criticized the entire predator control program, said they would appeal the decision.
"I think it is outrageous this activity is allowed, especially in a wild area like the South Fork of the Snake," said Jerry Jayne, an Idaho Environmental Council board member. "This whole predator control outlook is an archaic program by an agency that should have been done away with long ago."
Kim Marshall, a Targhee assistant district ranger who worked on the environmental assessment of the proposal, said the agency did not evaluate the entire predator control program. That was done in an environmental impact statement completed in 1979.
The helicopter hunters wanted to continue to fly below the rimrock. Dickemore said that placed them in the territory of bald eagles, as well as wintering elk, deer and moose.
The shooting will only be allowed in December and January.
Jayne said the controls placed on the program by the Forest Service are not enough.
"It's like cutting off one hand instead of two," said Jayne. "In the first place, who's going to enforce that?"
The proposal covers 38,600 acres. It does not affect predator control on private land.