The number of wolves in Idaho will show a slight drop or no change from last year’s count of 846, according Jim Unsworth, deputy director of Idaho Department of Fish and Game. He told lawmakers Monday that Idaho’s first wolf hunt likely won’t be its last, because fish and game commissioners want to lower Idaho’s wolf population to 500.
“My guess is the population estimate will be similar to last year or slightly lower,” Unsworth said. “It’s a good start to management.” Unsworth said that the number of packs in Idaho has gone up from 88 at the end of 2008 to 95 at the end of 2009. A final head count of wolves at the end of 2009 should be ready by the end of the month.
Hunters have killed 142 wolves since the hunting season started in September. USDA Wildlife Services workers killed an additional 87 wolves in 2009 that attacked or killed livestock. Unsworth said there’s been aggressive protection of livestock, but one lawmaker said more should be done to protect cattle, sheep, and other animals.
“We have some chronic depredating packs in this state,” said Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth. “I would encourage you to get more aggressive than you are.”
If a second wolf hunt starts next fall, Unsworth said it’s likely that the harvest limit of 220 will increase, especially in areas that have already reached their limit in this hunt. The five closed wolf hunt zones are in central Idaho on the state’s western and eastern borders.
Fish and game’s plan for future wolf hunts could be derailed by a federal trial set to begin next month in Montana. The district judge in that trial, Don Molloy, could reverse the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take wolves off the endangered species list.
Last week, Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, told IdahoReporter that the wolf population was closer to 1,000.
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