AP

Early data indicates Idaho wolf population is holding steady

Oct 6, 2022, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho’s wolf population appears to be holding steady despite recent changes by lawmakers that allow expanded methods and seasons for killing wolves, the state’s top wildlife official said Thursday.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever told lawmakers on the Natural Resources Interim Committee that preliminary data on human-caused and natural wolf mortality looks similar to three previous years.

He also said the agency is using changes in wolf hunting laws that could lead to killing more wolves in areas with livestock conflicts or where elk herds are below population goals, potentially through a wolf-killing reimbursement program for skilled trappers and hunters.

“I think the best way to describe Idaho’s population right now is that it’s fairly stable, and it’s fluctuating around 1,250,” he told lawmakers. “Part of the year it’s below that; part of the year it’s above that. But the population is fluctuating around 1,250.”

Schriever, in a graph presented to lawmakers, showed the state’s wolf population from 2019 to 2021 fluctuating with a high of more than 1,600 in May when wolf pups are born down to a low of about 800 in April as wolves die through natural mortality, hunting or trapping.

Schriever said that the same pattern with potentially similar numbers could be repeated this year. But the agency won’t have a solid estimate for the 2022 wolf population until January when it analyzes additional information and millions of photos taken by remote cameras.

The agency in previous years picked August as the date to set the wolf population, putting it at about 1,500. The 1,250 estimate is a snapshot of the wolf population in November, at about the midpoint of the annual population fluctuation.

Idaho lawmakers in 2021 approved a law backed by ranchers that greatly expanded wolf killing in what some lawmakers stated could reduce the wolf population by 90%. Backers said it would reduce the wolf population and attacks on livestock while also boosting deer and elk herds.

Idaho wildlife officials also last year announced the state would make available $200,000 to be divided into payments to hunters and trappers who kill wolves in the state.

However, there has been concern the new rules could overshoot the mark because if the state’s wolf population were to fall below 150, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could take over management of wolves from the state.

“If you go below that (150), that’s bad news,” Schriever told lawmakers.

Schriever cited a 2009 Fish and Wildlife Service rule delisting northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves. The rule was blocked by a federal court but took effect when approved by Congress in 2011. Schriever noted the rule has a wolf population for Idaho fluctuating around 500, with a potential high of about 650 and a low of about 350.

“I think there are a whole bunch of us that would be happy if we could get to what’s described in the federal delisting rule as a population fluctuating around 500,” Schriever said.

Getting there could be challenging because wolves, Schriever noted, get wary when hunted.

He gave a breakdown of 389 wolves killed last year by some 50,000 hunters and trappers, noting only 72 hunters and trappers killed more than one wolf, accounting for 236 wolves in all that year.

“Those people are very important in the concept of managing the wolf population,” Schriever said, suggesting the reimbursement program could be a key component to target wolves in specific areas of the state.

“The reimbursement program may, in fact, be very important in keeping some of these highly skilled people engaged in this for a longer period of time,” he said.

Besides setting up the reimbursement program, the law passed in 2021 also expanded wolf killing methods to include trapping and snaring wolves on a single hunting tag, no restriction on hunting hours, using night-vision equipment with a permit, using bait and dogs and allowing hunting from motor vehicles. It also authorized year-round wolf trapping on private property.

Montana lawmakers also changed their laws to expand wolf killing. That prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service late last year, at the request of environmental groups, to announce a yearlong review to see if wolves in the western U.S. should be relisted and again receive federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Such a move would take away Idaho’s management of the species.

On another front, a U.S. District Court judge in August rejected a request by conservation groups to temporarily block Idaho’s expanded wolf trapping and snaring rules. Environmental groups said Idaho’s expanded wolf-killing regulations violate the Endangered Species Act because they will lead to the illegal killing of federally protected grizzly bears and Canada lynx. Schriever said Thursday that no grizzlies have so far been caught in a wolf trap.

It’s not clear when the court will make a ruling on the merits in that case.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

15 hours ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

1 day ago

Former President Donald Trump, center, appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023...

Associated Press

Manhattan court searching for jurors to hear first-ever criminal case against a former president

Jury selection is set to start Monday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case — the first trial of the presumptive nominee.

1 day ago

Emergency personnel arrive on the scene after a  an 18-wheeler crashed into the Texas Department of...

Associated Press

1 dead and 13 injured in semitrailer crash at a Texas public safety office, with the driver jailed

A driver rammed an 18-wheeler though the front of a building where his renewal for a commercial driver’s license had been rejected.

1 day ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote rally ...

Associated Press

Trump pushes Arizona lawmakers to ‘remedy’ state abortion ruling that he says ‘went too far’

Donald Trump urged Arizona lawmakers on Friday to swiftly “remedy” the state court ruling allowing prosecutors to enforce an abortion ban.

1 day ago

Biden to require more gun dealers to run background checks....

Associated Press

Biden administration will require thousands more gun dealers to run background checks on buyers

New Biden rule to require thousands more firearms dealers across the United States will have to run background checks on buyers.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Early data indicates Idaho wolf population is holding steady