Idahoans on both sides of the wolf debate need to be patient as the state deals with the predictable snags in managing a wolf population that has grown to 732 animals since reintroduction.
The howls still emanating from both extremes of the debate are unreasonable.
Neither should wolves ever again be eradicated from Idaho's wild lands nor should they be allowed to decimate domestic livestock operations.
The middle ground lies in letting the Idaho Department of Fish and Game manage wolves in balance with the wild game that sustains them and control attacks on domestic animals.
The middle ground lies in people adjusting to the presence of wolves. For example, ranchers need to adopt defensive practices for livestock such as penning roving sheep bands at night, using more guard dogs, training herders, being aware of where wolf bands are living and trying to avoid them.
The middle ground lies in two-legged hunters understanding that four-legged hunters are entitled to some big game. The two-legged hunters will have to learn not to resent the loss of every elk or deer taken by a wolf.
The middle ground lies in understanding by people who hike in wild areas with pet dogs that in rare instances they may encounter wolves.
Idaho can look to Wyoming to see how wolf management should not be done. That state has classified wolves as predators that can be shot on sight in all but the northwest corner of the state. The carnage there began the day after delisting.
That said, Idaho's newly minted law may be just this side of allowing similar wholesale slaughter. While it reasonably allows a wolf to be killed without a permit if it is attacking domestic animals, it also allows a wolf to be destroyed if it is "molesting" livestock or domestic animals.
"Molesting" is defined as "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 definition is so broad that it could be argued that any wolf lying anywhere could be waiting for or "worrying" livestock or domestic animals.
It remains to be seen if this law can prevent wholesale slaughter. The prosecuting attorneys and judges who will do the legal legwork necessary to enforce the law will determine its effectiveness.
If the law's latitude makes it unenforceable, the Legislature should quickly go back and tighten it up.
That said, we predict Idaho can work out any snags in wolf management and that there will come a day when wolves occupy their rightful place in wild Idaho and passions surrounding them will cool.
This story first appeared in the Idaho Mountain Express April 18, 2008.