Idaho plans for wolf management
Concern for elk numbers expressed
by Idaho Fish and Game Department
February 7, 2009
Idaho Fish and Game wildlife managers are making plans for managing wolves, including a possible hunting season, should they be removed from the endangered species list as proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Fish and Game biologists are updating data, reviewing conflict levels, population status and harvest objectives for a fall 2009 wolf hunting season should the animals be delisted, Deputy Director Jim Unsworth told Idaho Fish and Game Commissioners during their annual meeting in Boise January 27-29.
In March wildlife managers will recommend 2009 wolf hunting season length and estimated mortality limits. They expect to recommend harvest quotas by July or August.
Managers also are working on plans to make use of all options to control wolves available under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act should wolves remain listed. The section covers the reintroduced wolves in Idaho south of Interstate 90, and it was amended last year to increase management flexibility in dealing with wolves causing problems with domestic animals and big game herds.
Fish and Game biologists are particularly concerned about elk numbers in the upper Clearwater drainage, where in recent years, hunter opportunities have been reduced by 90 percent and where wolf predation is the primary cause of poor calf survival and a 13 percent average annual decline in the number of adult female elk, which is key to population stability.
Biologists have submitted a wolf control proposal for the area, known as the Lolo elk management zone, for peer reviews. Following that, the proposal would be released for public review and comment. Once the reviews and comments have been incorporated, Fish and Game would submit the proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March.
Communication is critical, Commissioner Gary Power of Salmon said. "We can't influence the extremes, but we can influence the people in the middle," he said.
The tentative minimum estimate of Idaho's wolf population at the end of 2008 is 824 wolves in 88 packs and 38 breeding pairs. Most of the growth in 2008 was in northern Idaho, north of Interstate 90. Confirmed wolf depredations in 2008 were 104 cattle, 215 sheep and 14 dogs.