Minimum of 1,700 Wolves in Northern Rockies
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
April 2, 2016
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has released its annual report for the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population – a population that has expanded to include at least 1,700 wolves in 282 packs in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. From this core population area, the wolf population has continued to expand in Oregon, Washington, and California, for a total wolf population of about 1,900 animals in 316 packs with 114 breeding pairs.
Wolves that occur in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and north central Utah are no longer under federal protection and are managed by state wildlife officials. Wolves in Wyoming remain under federal protection, even though biological recovery goals were reached more than a decade ago.
According to the new FWS report, the minimum wolf count by state is as follows:
Montana: 536 wolves in 126 packs with 32 breeding pairs; Idaho: 786 wolves in 108 packs with 33 breeding pairs; Wyoming: 382 wolves in 48 packs with 30 breeding pairs.Oregon: 110 wolves in 16 packs with 11 breeding pairs; and Washington: 90 wolves in 18 packs with 8 breeding pairs.
Agencies spent $6.4 million for wolf-related management and activities in 2015. Of the more than $500,000 paid in compensation for wolf depredation on livestock, Wyoming tallied the highest amount, spending more than $330,000 in 2015, even though wolves remain under federal – not state – management. Since Wyoming did not assist FWS with wolf management in the state, no other expenditures were reported by state officials.
There were 717 wolf mortalities in the tri-state region of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, with 684 of these mortalities human-caused (270 in Montana, 352 in Idaho, and 62 in Wyoming). Montana and Idaho have established wolf hunting and/or trapping seasons that resulted in the harvest of 461 wolves, while wolves remain under federal protection in Wyoming. Wolves removed in control actions tallied 168 animals, including 54 in Wyoming. Confirmed livestock depredations in this region included 148 cattle, 208 sheep, 3 dogs, and 3 horses. Wolves killed 10 cattle, 10 sheep, and 1 dog in Oregon and Washington. FWS notes: "Although confirmed depredations result in a comparatively small proportion of all livestock losses, wolf damage can be significant to some livestock producers." FWS estimated that 17 percent of known wolf packs throughout the region were involved in at least one confirmed livestock depredation.
Although FWS administers a competitive grant program for states and tribes to prevent depredation on livestock and to compensate for livestock losses to wolves, and $500,000 was provided to Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, Wyoming did not receive any of this funding.
Yellowstone National Park reported 99 wolves in 10 packs while the Wind River Indian Reservation had 19 wolves in two packs. The East Fork pack of 13 black wolves ranges on and off the Reservation, and the St. Lawrence pack consisting of 10 gray-colored adult wolves ranges solely within the boundary of the Reservation, from Willow Creek to Washakie Park.
To learn more, read the complete annual report linked below.