BOISE, Idaho (CBS2) — Game cameras took 11 million photos to help Idaho Department Fish and Game researchers count wolves.
IDFG has a new estimate of the statewide wolf population through its new survey method using game cameras and mathematical modeling, which will be repeated annually and fine-tuned during the next few years.
At the IDFG commission meeting on Wednesday in Boise, staff reported there were an estimated 1,541 wolves in the state during summer 2019. The estimate represents the peak population shortly after pups were born.
IDFG biologists haven't estimated the statewide wolf population in Idaho in 5 years.
From 2006 to 2015, Fish and Game’s wolf monitoring program remained under federal oversight. During that time, the department maintained enough radio-collared wolves to show there were more than 15 breeding pairs in the state and more than 150 total wolves. Those surveys were intended to show the wolf population exceeded targets needed to remove them from federal protection and oversight.
Biologists cautioned that comparing the 2015 estimate of 786 (reported in early 2016) to the current estimate would be misleading because previous estimates were based on different methods and represented winter counts when the population was closer to its lowest point of the year.
Annual wolf mortality ramps up during late summer, fall, and into winter with hunting and trapping seasons, along with management actions to remove wolves that prey on livestock. Natural mortality is also a factor.
After completion of the camera survey, there were 327 wolves known to have been killed through hunting, trapping, management actions, and other human causes. Researchers were also able to estimate that an additional 208 wolves died of natural causes based on previous research. These mortalities were not reflected in the 1,541 population estimate.
How the population estimate was generated: