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.
Thank you for pinging, SJ!
Agreed that nature will find a balance its own way.
However, that way may not be best for humans. Direct impact is the sport and tourism money for elk hunts. And once the weaker elk are gone, or the elk population brought so low, then the wolves will either die, or start eating more sheep (and probably also die from a gun or poison).
I believe that at the Kabob they also did not allow hunting - so the deer without any predators (wolves or human) did suffer a huge loss and environmental devastation. But still - nature found it’s balance - enough deer finally died.
It is just that in nature the balance can swing too far in either direction to be good for what us humans need or want. (Should we not interfere with a natural wildfire in a residential area?).
What I am amazed at is the rapid population increase in the wolves. I was in central Idaho for awhile in 1994 and they had just introduced 2 pairs of wolves to the area (and I thought it was for the entire state?) Although I imagine they brought in many wolves over the years.
I’m agreeing with you that humans should not interfere with the balance of nature. It basically comes down to what is good for nature vs what is good for humans. If humans encroach on nature why should nature (in this case the wolves) be the one to suffer? Just saying.
Well, my recollection was off, it was 1995 and it looks like they introduced 15 wolves into Idaho. No significant populations of wolves prior to that. (An odd sighting here and there, no packs).
The following I found on the net. Only goes to 2004, with a wolf population of 454.
The point is, humans are in nature - so we aren’t “interfering” when we try to manage it. We can either try to take it over (like wiping out the wolves when we first settled), or living with it and trying to manage it to fit our needs. One “need” perhaps is to have native species in their former areas to fill perhaps a natural urge to have “wilderness” areas available - if not to actually enjoy, at least to know that they are there. (Yes - it makes me feel good to know that there are wolves and bears and cougars roaming in the woods a few hundred miles from where I live, even if I rarely get to them, and have yet to seen a wild wolf.)
I imagine that the wolves that were reintroduced could care less if they lived in Idaho or Canada. I don’t know if the wolves were brought in to manage elk or deer herds. I imagine that is more easily managed by issuing more licenses, increasing hunting limits, etc.
From the net:
Growth of the Wolf Population in the Central Idaho Wolf Recovery Area-
My best estimates for the growth of the Idaho wolf population follow.
1995- 15 wolves (including one “native” wolf not identified as such until 1997).
1996- 41 (including one “native” wolf).
1997- 74 (including one “native” wolf and two more likely “native” wolves)
1999- 176-180 (late spring 1999)
1999- 141 (official minimum est. end of 1999)
2000- 192 (official minimum est. end of 2000)
2001- 261 (official minimum est. end of 2001)
2002- 284 (official minimum est. end of 2002)
2003- 368 (official minimum est. end of 2003)
2004- 454 (official minimum est. end of 2004)
From the article:
“Biologists said the biggest problem was a long-term change in the habitat...”
I wonder if that change has anything to do with the downturn in the logging industry? Elk and deer do much better in areas with some trees for more protection, and some open areas for grazing. With no logging those pastures aren’t being created and the old ones the trees are only getting bigger.
Good for Idaho
The Canadian wolves introduced to Montana, and Idaho are decimating the elk, moose, and deer.
Now, after 15 years of living with Canadian wolves, the people are waking up to a nightmare.
NOW START THE SAME SHOOT IN THE IDAHO PANHANDLE!!
YES, I’M YELLING to the State and Fed’s.
“Well, yes and no. When areas are over populated theres not enough food. So that species will die out somewhat and what food they ate slowly recovers and then they come back.”
EXCEPT when livestock are introduced into the equation. Now, when the natural prey are decimated, wolves turn to livestock, pets and anything else they can kill and eat, including unwary humans. I’m aware that folks claim that wolves always avoid humans, but that’s only when they’re otherwise well-fed! Even well-fed wolves will aggressively kill domestic dogs, regardless of human presence.
Yeah, they just chased them into Montana. I have two competing packs in my valley.
Read the book “Wolves in Russia”. Enlightening and a bit frightening. Wolves kill just to kill. The gentle term for it is “surplus killing”.
Too many elk will be a good problem. They are eatable, wolves, no so much.
Well, government has made sure that *nature* cannot deal with overpopulation by making laws against things like hunting wolves. Don’t forget, humans are part of nature too. Of course, sometimes things get out of balance for various reasons and one population blooms and they die of starvation and disease. Sometimes they even become extinct even without man’s help (amazing that!). Natures way of dealing with over population is to simply let it get out of hand and let them die off when there aren’t enough resources to support them. She doesn’t wring her hands over it. She also doesn’t try to amass a power base and raise funds over it either.
I don’t get why they don’t do that. Makes a lot more sense. If they don’t have a lot of wolves to kill they can sell the licenses by lottery, it would probably be quite popular.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say predators in general do that. I’m not defending it, but it’s probably how they keep their skills sharp and teach the younger members of the pack to hunt. But watch cats, and heck, my dog loves to kill lizards. So it should come as no surprise. Predators kill things, and not just enough to eat.
Shooting animals from planes is lazy and unfair.
They should be hunted and shot from the ground.
Well, this kill wasn’t about fair or lazy, it was about bringing the wolf population down by the ID Fish & Game and the fed Wildlife Agency in very rough mountainous country.
Our forefathers did it in rough,mountainous country.
You’re correct, but they didn’t have helicpters or planes, I’ll bet they wish they had had them. ;-)
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