Skip to comments.Aerial gunners kill 14 wolves in North Idaho
Posted on 02/23/2012 1:47:17 PM PST by jazusamo
Federal wildlife agents shot and killed 14 wolves from helicopters in Idahos remote Lolo Zone earlier this month.
The three-day operation, aimed at reducing the number of wolves roaming the backcountry area where elk herds are struggling, was carried out in a partnership between the federal Wildlife Services agency and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Wildlife managers hope a sustained reduction in wolf numbers will allow the Lolo elk herd, which has been severely depressed since the mid 1990s, to rebound.
Wed like to see one of Idahos premier elk populations recover as much as possible, said Jim Unsworth, deputy director of the department at Boise.
The department has long had a goal of reducing the number of wolves in the area along the upper Lochsa and North Fork Clearwater rivers, once renowned for its elk hunting.
The agency first sought permission in 2006 from federal wildlife managers to kill 40 to 50 wolves that at the time were still under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The state failed to win permission then and eventually gave up in favor of seeking the overall delisting of wolves.
Delisting occurred in 2009 and a wolf hunting season was authorized. Hunters killed 13 wolves in the zone that year, far fewer than wildlife managers hoped for.
Following the hunting season, wolves were briefly returned to federal management. They were delisted for a second time in the spring of 2011 and the department quickly approved a control action that resulted in six wolves being shot using helicopters.
Hunting resumed in the fall and trapping started in November. Through Wednesday, hunters and trappers had taken 22 wolves from the Lolo, bringing the total known wolf kills there to 42 and in line with the departments plan for the area.
Elk herds tanked in the Lolo Zone during the harsh winter of 1996-97. But numbers had been on the decline for many years prior.
Biologists said the biggest problem was a long-term change in the habitat, but they also blamed growing numbers of bears and mountain lions. Hunting seasons on those predators were liberalized and managers expected elk numbers to slowly climb. But the herds continued to shrink and blame was placed on the increasing number of wolves moving into the area.
According to recent studies by researchers from the department, wolves are the primary cause of death in female elk in the Lolo and of calves more than 6 months old. Researchers have said the habitat is capable of supporting far more than the 2,000 elk estimated to be in the area.
Through Wednesday, hunters and trappers had killed 318 wolves throughout the state. Most hunting and trapping seasons end March 31, but wolf hunting will be allowed in the Lolo and Selway zones through June. The department has a goal of reducing the number of wolves in the state, but has not set a target population or limit.
Unsworth said the state would manage wolves to ensure they remain under state authority. Wolves could revert to federal management and ESA protection if numbers dip below 150 animals. The last official population estimate, completed in spring of last year, said there were at least 739 wolves in the state. Unsworth said the state is confident the statewide population was in excess of 1,000 prior to the start of wolf hunting last summer.
Suzanne Stone, of the Defenders of Wildlife at Boise, said the state is being too aggressive in its attempt to reduce wolf numbers.
That is our concern and it has been all along, that Idaho is focused entirely on killing wolves rather than preserving the species, Stone said.
Idaho wolf Ping!
Just wondering how “mother nature” dealt with too many wolves before man wandered in to deal with the problem. What’s going to happen when the elk get too numerous and start chomping down on people’s veggie gardens and wandering around downtown? Answer? Bring in more wolves. It’s interesting how nature gets out of hand when humans starts messing around with it.
The only places I’m aware of that too many elk were causing problems before the reintroduction of wolves was National Parks. No hunting is allowed in them, the balance of the western states hunting is allowed and there didn’t seem to be a problem.
According to recent studies by researchers from the department, wolves are the primary cause of death in female elk in the Lolo and of calves more than 6 months old.
I think this is the first report I've read where the biologists are being HONEST about the declining elk numbers. To paraphrase our politicians: "It's the wolf, stupid!"
Glad to see some action being taken on this front.
Thanks for the ping, Jaz!
Elk herds have been decimated due to the re-introduction of these wolves. if the wolves are not hunted there won’t be any elk left. With the hunting of these wolves it will allow the elk herds to thrive. they will not overpopulate as they are also hunted. And the fact remains that if the wolves are not hunted they will overpopulate, drain their food sources eliminating the ungulate populations then they (the wolves) will starve and die. So it is better for humans to manage these animals as they are not capable of managing themselves. Wolves kill for sport and DO NOT find balance with the rest of nature around them.
Amen...Idaho was hit hard by elk depredation from wolves, glad to see them acting quickly.
I was just being curious. I’ve read where wolves were re-inserted in areas because the local wildlife was getting out of hand. I think they did it in the Olympics in WA and in Oregon someplace. My thoughts were, well how did nature take care of over population of one species. So perhaps looking at areas where there is no hunting, such as National Parks and see how the wolf/elk population is being handled on a natural level. If elk were being depleted by wolves one has to ask why? Introduce more elk? Still seems to me that nature had a way of dealing with over population.
Consideration for your ping list.
I mentioned to another poster was how did nature take care of over balance? It seems the problem was acerbated by the re-introduction of wolves. Why? Was the wolf population down and the elk population increasing? Will be interesting to see how this develops.
Well, yes and no. When areas are over populated there’s not enough food. So that species will die out somewhat and what food they ate slowly recovers and then they come back.
Nah, that wouldn’t be overkill. :-)
It’d get the job done fast and be an excellent training tool for the gunners.
I'm trying really hard to see what the problem is. My cousin summed this up very well: "We're now learning why our forefathers worked so hard to get rid of wolves."
No... Wolves are part of an ecosystem, nothing more, nothing less. They play a role, and a vital one pertaining to their natural prey. For an example of what happens when folks think they can extirpate predators and not suffer the consequences, refer to "Playing God in Yellowstone" by Alston Chase. Further proof can be found in what happened to the deer herds on the Kaibab Plateau in the 1920s. Once the predators were killed by man, the deer herds starved, with losses in the thousands.
Dumbass federales! What did that hunt cost the taxpayer? The profitable solution would have been to sell a limited number of licenses and offer a bounty on the wolves killed........
The same thing applies to the invasive species of snakes in Florida that the state doesn't know how to deal with. Allow open season hunting and offer a bounty.........sheesh!
These people are insane!
Thanks to jazusamo for the article. Good for the elk
You're most certainly right. If Idaho was really focused on killing wolves there would be no wolves left in Idaho.
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