The Idaho Department of Fish and Game estimates 1,543 wolves roamed the state of Idaho in August of 2021. That number is in line with estimates with the previous two years. However, looking at the bigger picture, the latest estimated total is 443 animals larger than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2009 delisting rule that called for 1,100 wolves across the entire Northern Rockies, meaning Idaho’s population alone would meet objectives for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming combined.
In 2009, the USFWS stated more than 1,500 across the Northern Rocky Mountain recovery area would “slowly reduce wild prey abundance in suitable wolf habitat” and “high rates of livestock depredation in these and surrounding areas would follow.”
Prior to wolf introduction in the mid-1990s, Idaho and Montana both committed to maintain at least 150 wolves. The latest figure puts Idaho’s wolf population more than 900 percent above minimum recovery levels. At last word, Montana estimated its 2020 wolf population at 1,177 animals or nearly 700 percent above minimum recovery levels. Montana recently reported its wolf harvest is on par with the past two seasons. In 2021, Wyoming estimated its wolf population at 327 animals or roughly 230 percent above its minimum recovery goal of 100.
Idaho intends to manage for a smaller wolf population to reduce wolf and livestock conflicts while maintaining a sustainable wolf population and also help elk herds in areas not meeting management goals. Montana has similar goals.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains that state wildlife agencies should continue to manage wolf populations just as they manage bears, elk, mountain lions, deer, pronghorn antelope and other species.
(Photo credit: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)