An outspoken opponent of U.S. government efforts to reestablish the gray wolf in western states has pleaded guilty to trying to poison the federally protected species, a U.S. prosecutor said.
SALMON, Idaho An outspoken opponent of U.S. government efforts to reestablish the gray wolf in western states has pleaded guilty to trying to poison the federally protected species, a U.S. prosecutor said.
Tim Sundles, 48, planted meatballs laced with a poisonous pesticide in Idaho's remote Salmon-Challis National Forest in 2004 with the aim of killing wolves, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Fica.
The meatballs instead poisoned a coyote, fox, magpies and three pet dogs, according to court records. He signed a written plea ahead of a scheduled trial this week.
Sundles could face as much as six months behind bars and five years probation.
In the past Sundles, a maker of custom ammunition, has said he and his wife were attacked by a wolf while camping in the Idaho wilderness five years ago and he shot the animal dead.
"Wolves are the worst wildlife disaster in the history of managed wildlife," he said in an interview last month. "You have to kill the living daylights out of them."
Wolves have been the subject of fierce debate in western states since the federal government in 1995 released 66 into Idaho and Yellowstone National Park to try to reestablish a species hunted nearly to extinction.
Roughly 1,200 wolves now range over parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Sundles, who recently moved from Salmon, Idaho, to Montana, has been an outspoken national critic of wolves, which are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. He was the force behind a Web site with instructions on how to kill wolves with poisoned meatballs, according to legal documents.
In January, the U.S. Department of Interior gave Idaho and Montana more control over their wolf populations. That made it easier for ranchers to kill wolves harassing their livestock and allowed the states to kill off wolf packs making dents in big-game populations provided the U.S. government agreed.
Sundles' guilty plea comes as the federal government is planning to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming's wolves will remain under federal protections until the state resolves its legal differences with the U.S. government. All three states plan hunting seasons on wolves once they are in charge of managing them.