Idaho Commission Approves New Wolf Management Plan

Idaho wildlife agency’s plan involves management in balance with other big game, specifically elk, while minimizing livestock conflicts.

Idaho Commission Approves New Wolf Management Plan

Idaho plans to manage wolves in balance with other big-game species, particularly elk, and minimizing conflicts with livestock. Photo:

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission has unanimously approved a new wolf management plan, outlining goals and strategies to manage the population to fluctuate at about 500 wolves. The wolf plan drew roughly 2,500 comments during a 32-day public comment period, which will shape Idaho’s wolf management over the next six years. The plan was approved in the commission’s May 11 meeting.

The plan calls for managing wolves in balance with other big-game species, particularly elk, and minimizing conflicts with livestock. It incorporates knowledge gained from nearly three decades of wolf monitoring, management and understanding how wolves interact with other game animals and livestock and react to different levels and types of harvest.

Commissioner Don Ebert of Weippe, who recently took over as commission chair, said the board knows many people in Idaho don’t support killing wolves. But he also noted that wolves have recovered well beyond minimums outlined in the federal Endangered Species Act recovery plan. Also, current hunting, trapping and management actions have barely kept populations in check.

The goal is to gradually reduce the wolf population while carefully monitoring the progress. Adjustments will be made as needed while re-establishing balance with prey species and reducing wolf conflicts with livestock.

“We’re not going to eradicate wolves. It is not our intention, and I do not believe we would have that ability even if it was our intention,” Ebert said. “We preserve, protect and perpetuate species as a whole, and all species in tandem, so the question in my mind becomes about balance, and I believe things are out of balance with the wolf population.”

Fish and Game’s wolf population estimates are based on annual camera surveys and other methodology. It shows about 1,337 wolves statewide in the summer of 2022, which is about 13 percent fewer than in 2021. Population estimates are based on camera surveys that measure the population near its annual peak.

At the end of 2022, Idaho had met or exceeded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service minimum recovery goals for wolves for 25 consecutive years. The Federal delisting rule published when wolves were removed from federal protection in the northern Rocky Mountains in 2009 stated that the wolf population would be managed by the state in Idaho to average about 500 wolves. The delisting rule also stated that maintaining the wolf population at a higher level would reduce wild prey abundance and result in higher rates of livestock depredation.

Currently, Idaho has abundant and healthy elk populations statewide. However, herds are unevenly distributed, and eight of Fish and Game’s 28 elk management zones are below objectives. In five of those zones, Fish and Game biologists have determined that predation and other factors are limiting herd growth. 


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