Idaho posts new predator plan
by Idaho FIsh and Game press release
February 13, 2014
A predation management plan for the Middle Fork Salmon River area, largely within the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, is now posted on the Idaho Fish and Game website.
The plan outlines efforts Fish and Game is considering to restore the Middle Fork elk population, which declined 43 percent from 2002 to 2011 - due in large part to predation. Elk cows and calves in the area are vulnerable to predation, and the number of calves surviving is too low to replace the adults dying each year, causing a continuing decline in the herd.
Fish and Game has documented 6 to 8 wolf packs denning in the Middle Fork zone with additional packs moving in and out of the zone. Pack sizes tend to increase during summer months (9.2 members per pack in 2012), meaning there could be approximately 90-95 wolves in the Middle Fork zone during summer. Because of the vastness of the wilderness area, these are conservative population estimates.
Research indicates wolf removal rates of 30 percent or less typically do not cause any lasting reductions in overall wolf population numbers because wolves reproduce at a high rate and often disperse to new territories. Future management actions to support elk recovery will be designed to maintain approximately 35 to 40 wolves in the Middle Fork zone.
In addition to reducing wolf predation, Fish and Game offers extra tags and longer seasons for black bears and mountain lions - other predators affecting the Middle Fork elk population.
Fish and Game removed 9 wolves in the Middle Fork zone in December and January before ending the control action late last month because no wolves had been taken in the final two weeks of the operation.
Similar to other Idaho backcountry wolf management zones, a regulated trapping wolf season continues through March and the hunting season runs through June. Wolves taken during these seasons must be reported to Idaho Fish and Game so that biologists can track wolf activity and population trends.
More information about the decline of the Middle Fork elk population can be found on page 100 of Fish and Game's new 10-year Elk Management Plan.