A group of hunters and trappers concerned about high predator numbers and low elk populations in northern Idaho have created a grassroots program that reimburses recreational wolf trappers for a portion of their incurred expenses.

A story from the Billings Gazette says wolf trapping success hovers around 25 percent, and few trappers, even those who want wolf populations thinned, stick with the pursuit because of the time and financial commitment.

To encourage predator trapping, Jack Hammack of Sandpoint, Idaho formed the Foundation for Wildlife Management as a cooperative to help trappers defray some of their costs. Anyone can join the group for $35 but members who trap wolves can apply for reimbursement up to $500. Last year, 22 members received $500 each for their wolf-trapping efforts.

Some are criticizing Hammack for incentivizing an already highly debated activity, but Idaho Fish & Game Panhandle Region Supervisor Chip Corsi says there’s no legal issue with the group’s approach.

“The state doesn’t have any rules that say you can’t do that,” Corsi said. “It is not license dollars, it’s not tax dollars. It’s private dollars, and it’s not an exchange, it’s not a sale of wildlife.”

Tony McDermott, a former IDFG commissioner who helped create the department’s wolf-reduction policy, is one of the foundation’s board members.

“I think for $35 a year I can afford to pay a trapper to go and trap wolves for my benefit,” McDermott said. “It’s an expense fee. It’s an enticement to get hunters and trappers out there, and it’s working.”