Friday, January 30, 2015
Idaho wolf population remains well above federal recovery levels; livestock depredations down
During their scheduled meeting in Boise on Jan. 21, the Fish and Game Commission was updated on the status of Idaho’s wolf population. Staff Biologist Jim Hayden’s report offered three key messages: Idaho’s wolf population is well above all standards for a recovered population; wolf monitoring was intensified and expanded in 2014; needs and expectations for predation management vary widely across the state.
To better monitor wolf populations, Fish and Game hired additional trappers and technicians in the summer of 2014, intensified winter collaring efforts for 2015 and hired an expert wolf tracking pilot from Alaska to help locate uncollared packs. GPS collars are now being used in place of radio collars. This will provide more detailed real-time data. Personnel deployed 40 remote cameras to locate and document pack size, and field personnel collected more than 1200 DNA samples to compare with that from harvested wolves.
Monitoring efforts in 2013 documented 659 wolves in 107 packs, and no dramatic changes are expected for the 2014 report. These numbers and supporting data suggest the wolf population has decreased and the number of wolves in documented packs has decreased. Wolf-related depredations have also decreased resulting in the lowest number recorded since 2008. Data on breeding pairs continue to be collected but so far, 22 breeding pair have been documented in the 30 packs that have been examined. (More comprehensive data will be included in the annual report due March 31).
Predation management needs and expectations vary across Idaho, with highly variable base productivity of ungulates across game management units. Different GMUs provide various combinations of food sources for predators. In addition to elk, predators seek out white-tailed deer, moose, sheep, beaver, and in the case of bears; forbs and berries. Combinations of predator species also vary across the state among wolves, bears and lions, affecting deer and elk in different ways. Predation limitations were identified as high in four zones, moderate in seven zones and low in 18 zones.
To learn more about wolf management in Idaho, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/predationMgmtBrochure.pdf.