Wolf Mortality

Fish and Game estimates Idaho’s wolf population by analyzing millions of game camera images.

Human-caused mortality of gray wolves in Idaho rose 53% between August 2019 and August 2020, from 382 to 583 wolves killed, according to a statement last Tuesday from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Factoring in natural wolf mortality, Fish and Game estimated Idaho’s minimum wolf population size at 900 animals. The minimum population occurs before pups are born in March and April, the department said.

Idaho is federally required to maintain a population of at least 150 wolves, according to Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever.

“The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is responsible for managing the state’s wolf population, and it has established an objective to manage for a smaller wolf population to reduce conflicts with livestock and managing the state’s wildlife to keep a healthy balance between predators and prey,” Schriever stated last week.

Despite higher human-caused wolf mortality, Fish and Game said Idaho’s wolf populations remained stable throughout 2020. Around 1,556 wolves were living in Idaho last August, the department estimated, just 10 fewer than the 1,566 wolves estimated in August 2019. Both estimates were conducted using millions of photos from over 500 game cameras.

“Estimating wildlife populations using remote cameras is a new innovation and uses mathematical modeling to refine and improve annual estimates and compare populations from year to year,” Fish and Game stated. “The estimate includes all of the habitat occupied by wolves in Idaho.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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