The Idaho Department of Fish and Game reports 683 wolves in 117 packs at the end of 2012. That total is down from 746 wolves in 104 packs in 2011.
“It’s encouraging to see the trend going down, and we are certainly committed to managing wolves to reduce impacts with livestock and big game (animals), and that means we will continue to focus on increasing harvest, particularly in problem areas,” said Jon Rachael, big game manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Boise.
State wildlife officials attribute the downsizing to continued pressure through hunting, trapping and agency control methods. Humans killed 418 of the 425 wolves known to have died in the state last year.
Officials say wolves killed 73 cattle, 312 sheep and two dogs in 2012.
For now, it’s the official policy of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission to reduce the state’s wolf population. Last year, the commission increased bag limits, extended hunting seasons in some areas and allowed hunters to use electronic calls.
“Despite concerns expressed by some people that hunting and trapping would eliminate wolf packs, we haven’t found that to be the case,” said Rachael. “We documented more packs in the state than ever before in our normal monitoring through ground and aerial observations during the year, combined with remote cameras, hunter observations, public reports and (hunter-trapper) harvest information.”
He said that while the number of wolf packs in the state has increased, the average size of wolf packs has decreased.
“That is exactly what we would expect to see with wolves being harvested by hunters and trappers,” he said.
Idaho’s wolf conservation and management plan approved by state lawmakers in 2002, and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009 when wolves were removed from the endangered species list, is 150 wolves statewide.
Since the end of 2012, officials report that an additional 156 wolves have been killed by hunters and trappers. But officials said that number is expected to climb with pups born this month and in May.
“Simply removing them one time doesn’t mean they are gone,” Rachael said. “They will backfill suitable habitat fairly quickly. That is why you can have a pretty high harvest rate with wolves and you don’t see the population plummeting as some folks were predicting early on.”