Wolf News Roundup 3/17/2020
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
March 17, 2020
Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) reports that a group of wolves has again been verified in Moffat County. It is likely that the latest sighting is the same pack previously seen in that area.
A member of the public spotted the wolves on Tuesday, March 3, providing a credible sighting report of seven wolves. District wildlife managers were able to investigate and visually verify six wolves in the reported area on Wednesday, March 4. The location of this sighting was several miles south of the January sighting location. Over the past few weeks, wildlife managers have heard from area residents about howling, carcasses, and tracks but actual sightings remain rare. Wolves travel over large distances, especially when establishing new home ranges, so the movement and new sightings are not surprising.
As a federally endangered species, wolves in Colorado remain under the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Colorado Parks and Wildlife works closely with federal partners to monitor wolf presence in Colorado. The wolves migrating into Colorado are likely from larger populations in Wyoming, but could be from populations in Idaho and Montana.
CPW reminds members of the public that killing a wolf in Colorado can result in federal charges, including a $100,000 fine and a year in prison, per offense. Instead, the agency requests that the public give wolves space, and report any sightings to CPW as soon as possible.
Idaho wolf cull
Idaho Fish and Game has concluded wolf control actions done during February that removed 17 wolves in the Lolo elk zone north of Highway 12. Similar control actions have taken place in eight of the last nine years to reduce predation and improve elk survival in this herd that is well below elk management objectives.
The operation was conducted under the guidance of Fish and Game’s Elk Management Plan and Lolo Predation Management Plan. Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant, measured factor in deer and elk population declines. Such control actions are consistent with Idaho's 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.
The recent control operation was paid for with funding generated from Fish and Game license and tag sales and transferred to the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board.
Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers, and only authorizes control actions where regulated harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals. The Lolo elk zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.
Since wolf control in the Lolo elk zone began in 2011, an average of 14 wolves have been removed annually through control actions, and an average of 21 wolves have been taken annually by hunters and trappers. In 2019, hunters and trappers reported 24 wolves taken in the Lolo zone. The current trapping season ends March 31 and the hunting season runs through June 30.
The Lolo elk population declined drastically from its peak of about 16,000 elk 25 years ago to fewer than 1,000 elk in recent years. Fish and Game biologists estimated 2,000 elk in the zone when it was last surveyed in 2017. Short-term goals for the Lolo elk population outlined in the 2014 Elk Management Plan include stabilizing the population and helping it grow.
Fish and Game has worked with the U.S. Forest Service for over 40 years to improve habitat for elk in the Lolo zone and will continue to do so. Hunting in the zone has been extremely restricted since the late 1990s. Rifle hunting for bull elk was reduced by half and all cow hunts have been eliminated.
Fish and Game has also incrementally increased opportunities for hunters to harvest black bears and mountain lions. Restoring the Lolo elk population will require continued harvest of black bears, mountain lions, and wolves along with wolf control actions. The overall objective is not to eliminate wolves, but to maintain a smaller, but self-sustaining, wolf population in the Lolo zone to allow the elk population to recover.
The Washington Times takes on the issue of how removing gray wolves from the list of federally protected species has sparked debate about the Endangered Species Act. While wildlife managers assert that wolves are biologically recovered, wolf advocates voice their opposition to reduced protection because the animals will be subjected to hunting and trapping, and how wolf populations should once again roam across historic range.
Writer Dennis Anderson reports in Minnesota’s Star-Tribune about the same controversy in that state, where wolves are still under federal protection but now number more than 2,700 animals. The same anti-delisting arguments are being made, often by the same out-of-state people, regardless of the facts on the ground.
Montana writer Ben Long writes about wolf management in Outdoor Life, noting that values and opinions differ, but said we should all agree on set of facts. Well worth the read.
Check out the links below for details on these stories.