Idaho Reports Stagnant Growth in Wolf Population

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Continuing Federal Monitoring Is Critical

VICTOR, Idaho— Idaho’s wolf population remained stagnant at 786 wolves in 2015,  only one more wolf than 2014, according to new state estimates released today. The number of breeding pairs was estimated to have increased from 26 pairs to 33 pairs.

But the state’s claim that the wolf population has remained relatively constant since federal safeguards were first stripped in 2009 was called into question by a recent study in the journal Science finding that federal and state officials have underestimated the impacts of the state’s aggressive hunting and trapping polices. Among other problems, Idaho continues to rely on a convoluted mathematical equation that researchers say is likely to overestimate the wolf population, making it difficult to accurately determine population trends. This year the state was only able to actually document 270 wolves on the ground, but nevertheless estimate there are 786 wolves. In explaining its population estimation technique, Idaho admits that no measure of precision is available for its population estimate.

“Idaho’s claim that the population remains stable is highly questionable in light of aggressive hunting and trapping, aerial gunning and the recent hiring of professional trappers to wipe out wolf packs,” said Andrea Santarsiere, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “For good reason, science is beginning to question Idaho’s monitoring methodologies.”

The new population estimates come on the heels of the Center’s petition and notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the federal monitoring period for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. The existing monitoring program, which is required by the Endangered Species Act after protections are removed for a species, is set to expire in May. Ongoing monitoring is crucial in the face of aggressive state-sanctioned hunting and trapping that researchers say is putting northern Rockies wolf populations at renewed risk.

Idaho has been especially aggressive in trying to reduce its wolf population. In 2014 the Idaho legislature created the Idaho Wolf Control Board, allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to killing wolves. Idaho has also contracted with the federal agency “Wildlife Services” to hunt, trap and aerially gun down wolves in the Lolo Zone and hired a professional trapper to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank-Church-River-of-No Return Wilderness last winter. The Idaho Fish and Game Department has also turned a blind eye to an annual “predator derby” contest, in which participants win cash and prizes for killing wolves and coyotes — despite an agency policy condemning predator hunting contests as unethical.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


6 thoughts on “Idaho Reports Stagnant Growth in Wolf Population

  1. “This year the state was only able to actually document 270 wolves on the ground, but nevertheless estimate there are 786 wolves. In explaining its population estimation technique, Idaho admits that no measure of precision is available for its population estimate.”

    This had me rolling my eyes. Idaho is the worst offender in killing off the country’s wolves. The great unknown is what they will do once Federal oversight (such as it is) ends. There will be nothing to stop them from increasing hunting or having hunting contests – aren’t they the ones that even now have 5 wolves per hunter? The free-for-all that they have been allowed by the Federal Gov’t needs to end. Idaho does not own wolves that inhabit their state.

    I’m praying for this Administration to end, and that gang in Congress to be broken up – so that funds can be restored to these departments to do their jobs properly. Welfare ranching and wildlife services funds need to be diverted to the proper wildlife preservation departments and national parks.

  2. I have a file for ID called Bat Sh– Crazy. Since wolves were politically sneakily delisted in that state and Montana on a rider to a Defense Appropriation Bill (Senator Tester of MT and Rep. Simpson of ID April 2011), ID has killed over 2000 wolves by hunting, trapping, and culling, a lot on the argument of artificially increasing elk herd numbers. Wolves are not decimating elk anywhere. That is a hunter myth. The wolf reintroduced was the gray wolf and is native to the northwest and midwest. Wolves are part of a healthy wilderness ecology good for the whole of it. Farming elk by killing predators is not sound science or ecology. It probably violates the public trust, hunter ethics, the the Wilderness Act. National forests supervisor’s should not allow it. Wolves were reintroduced in ID and Yellowstone but had already started reintroducing themselves via Glacier. A wilderness area or national forest or public land should not be an area where hunters should be allowed to manipulate wilderness ecology for game herds. Elk numbers wax and wane mostly due to forage, weather, natural migration, over hunting. Hunters scapegoat wolves and perpetuate their mythology. If an area, such as Lolo is failing to support elk year after year then give it up and let nature decide on the population levels. Even though wolves of course prey on elk, they’re part of the wildlife ecological system and should have first choice. Hunting (aka recreational killing) should have second choice or last on the food chain. It is actually the hunters and trappers who are not good for wilderness ecology. Wolves generally do not need to be “managed” at all, and the population should not be driven down for “sportsmen”. Wolves will manage themselves relative to wolf pack elbow room and prey. Hunters and trappers do need management. Sport killing is additive, often damaging to the health of the targeted animals and the ecology as a whole. Man is no longer a subsistence hunter or trapper, now just a bloodsport killer and fur harvester and the wilderness ecology cannot sustain this, especially since since hunters are so prone to upsetting the balance of natural ecology and distorting it. Wildlife agencies should be fired and/or revamped to help the interest of wildlife, balanced wildlife ecology, wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors, the general public’s values and wishes, not farming targets for hunters and selling licences. Wildlife Services of USDA should be congressional reviewed, revamped or fired and not in liaisons with hunters and fishermen and state wildlife agencies.
    Wolf “management” should not be at the state level in ID, MT, WY and the midwest. These are wolf jihad states with ID the worst. Wolves should stay in protected status indefinitely.

  3. I have missed your wonderful comments lately, Roger! Glad to see them again!
    I am not surprised that the Idaho wolf populations are “stagnant,” with all the ignorant, red-neck killers out after them. There will be no peace or justice for them–or other wildlife–until we make our public lands FREE from hunting, trapping and livestock grazing. These special interest groups are turning public lands into Domestic Feed Lots. These lands belong to the wild.

  4. Gifford Pinchot’s ghost haunts fish and wildlife services in their quest to manage and regulate wilderness and its inhabitants as a resource for human use. When the management involves monitoring animals for hunting, fostering high numbers of some, such as elk and deer, and the destruction of predators, such as wolves, the management may operate on a cycle shorter than that of natural ecology, which would normally balance out the ebb and flow of species and their relationship over time. Thus more and more “management” is needed to satisfy human demands.

    When a species, such as wolves, is delisted, the decision turns management back to the states, which may act differently in its decisions from each other. Wolf populations are usually determined by several methods. Numbers may be determined from observation, that is, by counting by the actual wolves through radio collars, nonlethal trapping, and aerial observation. However, that can be expensive and time consuming. So some states have a “patch occupancy model” that has depended on hunter sightings to estimate numbers. One could reasonably ask if the hunters might tend to overestimate the numbers in a desire for future wolf hunting. Numbers may also be inaccurate if normal migration patterns are not taken into account.

    Wolf biologist Gordon Haber notes that much harm is done in killing individual wolves without taking the importance and function of the family into account. Since the family, or “pack,” has a complex social structure with each animal playing its own part, breaking it up has unfortunate results of the future of the remaining wolves. Sometimes only one member of the family is left after the rest are killed. That one, if near human-occupied areas or public grazing lands, may survive by hunting alone and preying on animals that are small enough or slow enough for a single wolf to kill. That will leave the animal open to charges of predation and eventually result in his/her death also. Loss of the alpha pair may also lead to the mating of other members of the family who would ordinarily not have offspring and thus result in a higher wolf population than before (who will need to be “managed.”)

    “Managing” the forest and wildlife for human convenience also brings politics into play. Big organizations and interest groups, such as the NRA, numerous hunting organizations, as well as gun and hunting equipment manufacturers and retailers obviously support hunting. They are the ones who contribute to political campaigns and have the attention of the legislature bodies whose laws, in turn, satisfy the hunters and doom the wolves.

    The whole philosophy of management needs to be revamped, focusing on the value of the wilderness and the animals themselves and on the web of life they represent rather than viewing them as mere human resources to be sold to the highest-paying interest groups. This is the philosophy more of the deep ecologists in the manner of Arne Naess and John Muir. Our wild lands should not be ravaged by loggers and extractors and turned into a killing fields for its inhabitants. The problem is how to do it. Administrations change but the philosophy of the elected officials and the heads of bureaucracies, along with the demands of wealthy interest groups lobbying legislators, remain the same. Until we can change that, the wilderness and its inhabitants will continued to suffer.

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