Letters from the West

Wolf numbers rise in 2014 but livestock attacks drop

Idaho had 770 wolves in the state at the end of 2014, an estimate released Friday by the Department of Fish and Game showed.

That’s up from 2013’s estimate of 659 but cattle and sheep depredations by wolves dropped.

The annual wolf monitoring report showed wolf numbers remain well above the 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs required to keep gray wolves off the endangered species list under the 2009 de-listing rule Congress used when it removed the wolves in 2011.

Biologists documented 104 wolf packs in Idaho at the end of 2014. Another 23 packs were counted by Montana, Wyoming, and Washington that had established territories overlapping the Idaho state boundary.

Determination of breeding pair status was made for 43 packs. Of these, 26 packs met breeding pair criteria at the end of 2014, and 17 packs did not. No determination of breeding pair status was made for the remaining 61 packs, the agency said.

Hunters and trappers harvested 256 wolves in 2014, 100 fewer than in 2013. Fewer total wolves were killed in response to depredations on livestock and predation on big game populations in 2014, with 67 wolves taken, 27 wolves less than during 2013.

Average pack size was 6.5 wolves at the end of 2014, higher than the 5.4 wolves in 2013, but smaller than the 8.1 wolves per pack average during the three years prior to the establishment of hunting and trapping seasons in 2009.

Nineteen wolf deaths were attributed to other human causes, and two to natural causes. The causes of 16 wolf mortalities could not be determined and were listed as unknown.

The number of cattle and sheep lost to wolf depredation was below the average of the last 10 years, as was the number of wolves killed in response to depredations. During 2014, 43 cattle, 103 sheep, three dogs and one horse were confirmed as wolf kills. Ten cattle, 7 sheep, and 1 dog were classified as probable wolf depredations.