When Idaho Fish and Game took over wolf management in 2011, the wolf population had grown unchecked for more than a decade after reaching federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves eleven years earlier. This was due to repeated lawsuits that stalled delisting and delayed transfer of wolves to state management.
As a result, wolf conflicts with livestock and elk populations were rampant in most parts of Idaho north of the Snake River and livestock producers and hunters grew increasingly frustrated.
After five years of state management of wolves in Idaho, we’re seeing positive results:
In 2010, the year before wolves were delisted, there were 109 confirmed wolf depredations on livestock in Idaho. Now livestock depredations by wolves are down by almost 50 percent (59 in 2015).
The most recent livestock attack by wolves occurred last October. We haven’t had a depredation-free stretch last this long since 2004.
I’m also pleased to report Idaho’s elk herds are rebounding too, but there are still some places in Idaho where predation impacts are unacceptable. Conflicts are decreasing because regulated wolf hunting and trapping seasons are helping us balance predator and prey populations.
As I write this, Fish and Game scientists are conducting the latest wolf population surveys. While these are not yet complete, it’s obvious we far exceed federal recovery levels of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs, and have met these levels for at least 16 years in a row.
The bottom line is Idaho has a healthy, sustainable wolf population that is over seven times higher than the federal recovery goal. Idaho Fish and Game has proven we can responsibly manage wolves, provide regulated hunting and trapping opportunity, and reduce conflict. That is good both for the people of Idaho and our wildlife, including wolves.
In a few short months, the federal 5-year post-delisting oversight window will close and Idaho will continue to sustainably manage its wolves.
A few advocacy groups are determined to keep federal oversight in place and their lawyers are already publishing articles making all sorts of claims that simply aren’t true. Professional wildlife scientists at Idaho Fish and Game monitor Idaho’s wolf population and all our monitoring reports are available on our website. The 2015 report will be available in early April.
We at Fish and Game are proud of our demonstrated ability to scientifically manage wolves and elk. We will continue to do so in a manner that upholds our mission to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage our wildlife.
By Virgil Moore, director, Idaho Fish and Game