Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wolf population drops in state

10 packs documented in southern Idaho mountains

Express Staff Writer

Graphic courtesy of Idaho Department of Fish and Game This map shows wolf packs and activity across the state in 2012. There are 10 documented packs in the Southern Mountains Zone that encompasses Ketchum.

The number of wolves in Idaho continued to drop in 2013, even as the number of packs in the state increased.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game released its annual wolf monitoring report Tuesday. The report states not only the estimated population of wolves in Idaho but the number of packs and the estimated number of pups that were born this year and survived.

The report states that the Idaho wolf population fell 11 percent between December 2011 and December 2012. The report states that a decline in pack sizes is likely due to wolf harvest and depredation control (wolves killed by wildlife officials for killing livestock).

The agency estimated that there were about 683 wolves in Idaho at the end of 2012; down from 768 in 2011 and 777 in 2010. The population rose steadily between reintroduction in 1995 and 1996, when populations were 14 wolves and 42 wolves, respectively. Numbers climbed to a peak of 856 in 2009, then fell sharply with the first state-allowed wolf hunt in 2009-10.  

The report states that despite the dropping populations, the number of packs has steadily increased. There were 117 wolf packs in Idaho in 2012, up from about 100 in 2011. The agency stated that of those packs, 66 produced litters and 35 more were defined as breeding pairs, or simply two adult wolves that produced pups.

Median pack size fell from 6.5 wolves per pack to five in 2012.

The report says that at least 187 pups were produced in 2012, for an average of 4.6 pups per litter. However, 37 of those pups died of various causes.

At least 425 wolves died throughout the state in 2012; two were documented natural deaths, while 329 were killed by hunters and trappers and 73 were taken by wildlife officials or landowners as part of control actions. Three were hit by vehicles.   

According to the report, wolves killed at least 73 cattle and 312 sheep across the state this year, mostly in central Idaho—the McCall-Weiser, Sawtooth and Southern Mountains zones. Wolves also killed two dogs in the state, both in the Southern Mountains Zone, which encompasses the Wood River Valley.

The report shows 10 wolf packs in the Southern Mountains Zone, the region that encompasses the Wood River Valley, Little Wood River Valley, Mackay, Arco and Salmon. Three of those packs are in the western portion of the zone, which encompasses Fairfield and Soldier township, and three are reported near Mackay, Antelope Creek and Lemhi.

The wolf activity map shows three major packs in the Wood River Valley.

The first, the Red Warrior pack, is shown to be in the area of Warm Springs. This pack is suspected to be the original pack of Boise, the wolf cub found by campers on Memorial Day 2012 that is now living in Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. The report states that this pack produced at least two pups.

The second, called the Hyndman Pack, seems to be the pack that the Wood River Wolf Project field crews christened the Lake Creek pack this summer. This pack appears to be active on the east side of state Highway 75, into Elkhorn and Sun Valley. The report states that this pack likely contains at least four wolves and four pups, as one of the five produced by the pack died sometime over the past year.

The third, known as the Little Wood River pack, is in the Bellevue-Picabo area. The report states that the number of wolves in this pack is unknown, and that it is unknown how many pups, if any, were produced in 2012.

The map shows that multiple wolves were spotted in 2012 near Sun Valley and east of Ketchum, while a single wolf was spotted mid-valley near Greenhorn Gulch last year. 

Kate Wutz:

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