Critter watch : Wolf report shows growth

SUNDAY, OCT. 14, 2007

Few critters in the Western wildlands are being watched more closely than wolves.

We have better numbers on wolves than we have on disabled veterans or immigrants, although we do know that all three groups are growing.

In Idaho, the midyear population estimate was for 788 wolves in 75 packs with 41 breeding pairs, which is up from 2006 with 673 wolves in 69 packs and 40 breeding pairs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses GPS technology and detailed reports and surveys to come up with these and other stats critical to the reintroduction of this native predator.

When wolves develop a taste for livestock, the consequences are not necessarily swift, but officials clearly do focus on removing problem wolves.

This year so far, 36 cows and 150 sheep have been confirmed as wolf kills. In return, 46 wolves have been killed. In 2006, 29 cows and 205 sheep were confirmed wolf kills while 45 wolves were killed.

Across the northern Rockies this year, the total estimated wolf population is 1,545 wolves in 179 packs with 105 breeding pairs. In 2006, the number was 1,300 wolves in 172 packs and with 86 breeding pairs.

Total losses in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming (at the most recent report) are 111 cows and 185 sheep while 134 wolves have been killed. In 2006 the numbers were 184 cows and 247 sheep confirmed as wolf kills with 142 wolves killed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers the wolf recovered in the northern Rocky Mountains and has started the process to remove the wolf from the federal endangered species list.

Weekly wolf reports as well as annual reports, can be viewed at http://western graywolf.fws.gov.

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