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Wolf numbers up in region, down in Idaho

The wolf population in the Northern Rockies rose in 2011 despite the removal of federal protections and hunts being held in Montana and Idaho.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that the region’s population was 1,774 wolves, an increase of more than 7 percent from 2010 numbers.

FWS Regional Director Steve Guertin says the population estimates show that Montana and Idaho have done a good job in their first year of managing the species since Congress removed federal protections.

Montana had aimed to cut its population by 25 percent. But the hunt fell short of the quota and the state’s wolf population actually rose 15 percent in 2011.

In Idaho, wolf numbers are down for the second consecutive year. At the end of 2011, the state’s population was estimated at 746 wolves, down from a high of 856 at the end of 2009.

“Thanks to Idaho’s hunters and trappers, we’ve made good progress in getting the wolf population under control and into better balance with prey species, such as elk, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” said Jim Unsworth, Idaho Fish and Game deputy director.

Spokesman-Review writer Becky Kramer contributed to this report