Despite the resumption of hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service today announced that the overall wolf population in the Northern Rockies increased last year by roughly 3 percent over 2010, and is also above 2009′s count.
The federal agency says there were 1,774 wolves as well as 109 breeding pairs in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and a sliver of north-central Utah.
That compares to 1,651 and 111 at the end of 2010 and 1,733 and 115 as of Dec. 31, 2009.
Including wolves in Washington’s Cascades — outside what’s known as the Northern Rockies Distinct Population Segment — the 2011 figure bumps up slightly to 1,783 and 110.
The year-end estimate for Oregon is also higher than ODFW’s previous estimate, made at the end of November. Two more wolves were added to the Walla Walla pack, one to Wenaha and two more are considered dispersers, for a total of 29. That was not unexpected as a spokeswoman thought it was possible.
The Service’s annual survey again noted that the region’s wolves are biologically recovered, and has met minimum population goals for over a decade. Due to litigation, however, it was only last spring that day to day management was finally handed over to the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, though the feds still oversee packs in the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon and whichever state OR7 happens to be in at the moment.
Just under $310,000 was paid out by state and private groups last year for wolf depredations across the region. Six fewer cows were killed in 2011 vs 2010, 193 to 199, while sheep kills also dropped, from 245 to 162.
A total of 166 problem wolves were taken out, including two in Oregon, while Montana hunters took 121 and Idaho hunters killed 200 through the end of 2011.
“Hunters have played a key role for decades in helping to manage and sustain dozens of game populations in North America, and they can do the same for wolves. Combined with efforts to remove wolves found to be predating on livestock, they can help reduce conflicts with humans,” said Steve Guertin, USFWS Regional Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region in a press release. “The reduction of these conflicts is another crucial element in our ability to sustain the wolf’s recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains.”
USFWS spent $3.65 million on wolf management.
Pack figures for Washington and Oregon wolves are:
Snake River: 5
Umatilla River: 2
Walla Walla: 8
Miscellaneous/lone wolves: 4
For maps, numbers, charts, figures, and reports for each state — Washington’s is thin but informative — see the Service’s gray wolf page.