Letters From the West

Idaho reports 659 wolves lived in the state at the end of 2013

An Idaho wolf

An Idaho wolf

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game released Friday its 2013 Idaho Wolf Monitoring Progress Report.

Its biologists documented 107 wolf packs in Idaho at the end of 2013 – fewer than the 117 documented at the end of 2012, but still the second-highest since reintroduction. Seven additional packs were added to the 2012 total based on evidence collected during 2013, bringing that total to 124 packs.

An estimated 659 wolves were associated with documented packs of wolves in Idaho at the end of 2013.

Another 120 have been killed since as breeding season starts, so the documented total is down more than 30 percent from its peak of 846 in 2008.

In addition, 28 documented border packs were counted in Montana, Wyoming and Washington that established territories overlapping the Idaho state border and spent some time in Idaho.

Of packs investigated for evidence of reproduction, 49 were known to have reproduced. Of those, 20 qualified as breeding pairs at the end of the year.

Compare that with the 15 packs the state has set as its goal and the 10 that would be the lowest above relisting levels.

Fish and Game went to lengths to show that wolves continue to expand their range in the state. The report said wolf packs ranged from the Canadian border south to the Snake River Plain, and from the Washington and Oregon borders east to the Montana and Wyoming borders.

Dispersing wolves were occasionally reported in previously unoccupied areas.

Harvest by hunters and trappers accounted for 356 wolves killed. Another 94 wolves were killed legally by federal agents or landowners.

Mean pack size was 5.4 at the end of 2013, approximately 33 percent smaller than the 8.1 wolves per pack average during the three years before hunting seasons were established in 2009.

Sixteen additional wolf deaths were attributed to other human causes. The causes of seven wolf deaths could not be determined and were listed as unknown.

Officials confirmed wolves killed 39 cattle, 404 sheep, four dogs and one horse. Another seven cattle, nine sheep and one dog were listed as probable wolf kills.

Regionally, authorities estimate at least 1,700 wolves roam the six states of the Northern Rockies.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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