Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Report: Wolf takes down in 2012-13

Hunters shoot 25 percent fewer than previous season

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Craters of the Moon This photo, dated Christmas Day 2012, is the first recorded sighting of a wolf at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Carey.

A new report on wolf harvest numbers for the 2012-13 season indicates that the number of wolves killed by hunters and trappers is down about 25 percent from last year.

A wolf management update released last week by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game details the wolf harvest, trapper education and monitoring efforts for the 2011-12 season as well as for the first half of the 2012-13 season.

Department spokesman Niels Nokkentved said the department would likely have numbers on the state’s current wolf population by the end of March.

The report states that as of Jan. 31, 2013, hunters and trappers had killed 202 wolves, down from the same date in 2012, when 270 wolves had been killed.

Hunters bought 43,246 tags during the 2011-12 season, but killed a total of 379 wolves, giving them a less than 1 percent success rate.

Trappers had a much higher rate of success. Of the 526 trapping tags sold in 2011-12, 124 of those were filled. The report states that trapped wolves made up 33 percent of the total wolf harvest and the majority of the harvest from December 2011 to March 2012.

Trappers also turned out in high numbers for wolf trapping courses. The report states that the department conducted 41 classes for 963 potential trappers during the 2011-12 season, but streamlined the program for the 2012-13 season due to reduced demand. Twenty-four classes were scheduled for this season, and about 440 students have been certified.

Since the report was compiled, the number of wolves killed this season has gone up. According to the department’s website, as of March 11, hunters had killed 180 wolves and trappers had killed 85, bringing the total wolf harvest numbers up to 265. 

The report states that wolf monitoring techniques will change in the upcoming year. At the end of 2012, there were 101 documented wolf packs in Idaho, and the department stated in the report that monitoring packs via radio telemetry has become increasingly difficult. The report states that funding for wolf monitoring has dropped by 50 percent over the last two years and will “cease completely” in two more years.

As a result, the department has stated that it will rely more heavily on hunter observations to estimate the number of packs in the states, and will focus intensive monitoring on a smaller number of selected packs. The report states that the packs will be chosen for long-term monitoring based on a lower probability of being removed due to livestock depredation, accessibility for monitoring and other factors.

Craters of the Moon releases wolf picture

Craters of the Moon National Monument announced March 6 that it captured the first photographic image of a gray wolf at the preserve in 88 years on Christmas Day, 2012.

John Apel, the monument’s chief of resource management, said the photograph is the first since the monument was established in 1924.

“We had been finding tracks off and on for probably the past three or four years,” he said. “There had been a few visual sightings, but nothing apart from the tracks that could really confirm [their presence].”

Apel said a remote camera was placed at the monument this winter and was part of a study of pronghorn antelope migration through the preserve.  Crews placed the camera at the beginning of the season and removed it in March, getting a surprise when they checked the images.

Apel said several more wolves were caught on film in January, but the wolf images petered out at the end of that month. He said the wolves are not likely living at the monument.

“We occasionally get transitory individuals or groups of wolves that pass through,” he said.

Apel said the cameras also caught images of moose, mountain lions, elk and mule deer, which he said is helpful to confirm some theories that resource managers suspected about wildlife activity in the area.

Kate Wutz:

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