Wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho

The number of wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming continues to grow, with at least 1,300 in the three states at the end of 2006, federal officials say.

“I keep thinking we’re at the top end of the bubble,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “I can’t see that there’s room for any more, but we’ll see.”

The wolf population has, on average, grown by about 26 percent a year for the past decade. The reports of livestock being killed by wolves have also increased, as has the number of wolves killed after livestock attacks.

There are at least 316 wolves in Montana, 311 in Wyoming and 673 in Idaho, according to the 2006 federal report.

Bangs said the wolf population will eventually level off, and will likely decrease once state agencies take over management of the predators and are able to control the population through hunting.

Click here to jump to the full article in the Helena Independent Record.

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15 responses to “Wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho

  1. Yes, it makes sense if you consider the whole picture, not jsut the wolves. This area is the only place in the lower 48 that supports all 5 major predators. Bears take a big chunk of calf prey when they are newborns, plus wolves and coyote get a few. Then cats get them when ever they get a chance. During the winter elk calves are the main prey of wolves, with cats getting a few.
    Prior to the white man and the fixer uppers trying to improve one way or another, lions and bears seem to have been the dominant large predators, and I would speculate that wolves just couldn’t compete with those two already so established.
    If you read some of the journals of the very early explorers you can see that they heard lions very very often. President T Roosevelt even reports seeing them eating their kill.
    I cannot tell you why it was that way, I can only tell you what I have read in the early journals. In 1903 the President even mentioned that coyotes were the only canine in any numbers. Why they put a bounty on wolves 11 years later, I have no idea.
    The journals kept during the Washburn expedition are so complete that they even describe the parasites that the trout in Yellowstone Lake had. It doesn’t seem likely that they would have forgotten to mention wolves.

  2. From what I read it was over an 11 year period. 1914-1926. Why do you think an area the size of yellowstone with as much good wolf habitat as it has would only support a couple of wolf packs? It just doesn’t make sense. Without aerial gunning/ counting, it would have been very difficult for accurate wolf counts to have been made before the present day, so the actual number of wolves over that period in the park was most likely markedly larger, due to animals dying without being found and due to animals being driven out by such continuous human pressure.

    Aren’t we playing god with our “management” of every species????? How is feeding elk in Wyoming, setting arbitrary population targets for big game species, and hazing bison in Montana not playing god?

  3. Actually interestingly enough the last number was 136, the same as the total take over 40+ years. According to Chase’s book, the army killed 14 wolves during their 32 years in the park, and NPS killed the other 122, which included 80 pups during the next 12 years, which was 42 adults or just under 4 animals per year. The wolves probably kill that many of each other now days. I don’t see where you get the idea that there were as many wolves as now, since that 136 “extirpated” them in 44 years.
    I suspect the number of wolves known to be in the park at the time they “reintroduced” the Canadian wolves, were about the same as historical numbers, but that wasn’t enough for those who wanted to “play God in Yellowstone”.

  4. I am a little confused on something Marion. Are you saying that there were only a handful of wolves in yellowstone historically? According to the book “A Society of Wolves” by Rick McIntyre, between 1914 and 1926, “136 wolves (pups inclusive) were shot trapped and poisoned”. The wolf eradication program was cancelled in 1926 due to the fact that all of the wolves within the park were killed. As of 2006 there are 118 wolves (including pups) within the park. Seems if the control measures were killing 30-40 percent of the wolves in the park per year and the remaining wolves were still reproducing, the historical population size was very similar to what it is today. In case anyone was wondering, the NPS and the Army also killed 121 mountian lions and 4352 coyotes in the same period. Looks like 75 years ago the government was just as good at blowing money as they are today!!!

  5. “Montana spent $178,000 on wolf eradication in 1914 alone, according to the book “War Against the Wolves” by Yellowstone ranger Rick McIntye.

    With such costs mounting, ranchers and Western politicians demanded that the federal government take over the fight. Congress agreed in 1915, ordering the U.S. Biological Survey (now Wildlife Services) into the fray.

    At the peak of the battle, the agency had about 500 paid hunters who killed nearly 70,000 wolves, along with other predators. There is no accurate count of wolves killed by the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service or the states (all of which would be in addition to these numbers).”

    Must have been a few around; and I doubt that they stopped at the border to Yellowstone any more than the “Canadian” wolves stopped at the border with the US.

  6. What records would there be from 1860 until 1871 when the Washburn Expedition took place? The American Indians weren’t counting wolves, and they called Jim Bridger a liar, plus he didn’t mention wolves, only the geological features.
    But read “Playing God in Yellowstone” by Alston Chase, he lists the numbers, I dont’ know of an online link to them. He also mentions that it is his belief that the wolfs spotted and photographed in 1967 were planted. It appears to me that wolves jsut wandered thru from time to time until they were actually aclimated and bonded to the place.
    By the way do you have a refrence for any numbers other than those I have provided. Chase says the US army killed 14 wolves during the years they were in charge. When the Park service took over, they put a bounty on them, and that is when they started getting pups too. I can find no record of them using anything but guns and taking pups from the dens. Please remember every proof of kill meant money to the ranger, and they were going to get theat proof as much as possible, As for the pups, I suspect that more than a few of them were coyote pups, and maybe even german shepherds, but that is personal opinion, no proof
    You are right, I have not had any of my animals killed, but just like the state of Michigan suffers when they lose jobs from the auto industry, having a lot of cattle destroyed by wolves affects the taxes and general overall economy of our state. Plus I must admit to caring about people.
    Can you show me actual money that eviro groups have spent obn wolves other than the little dab that DOW pays? The entire burden of managing to wolves to the feds and eviros satisfaction will fall entirely on the states. The money that goes to enviro groups is to file lawsuits to take away other people’s rights to use their own land.
    I have pointed out a number of times that I do not hate wolves, I do hate what they do, I don’t hate crooks either, but I hate what they do. What is do hate is for other people to insist they have the right to force us to turn over our property for their use. If I want a pen of bum lambs I should not have to sleep in the pen with them to try to keep them safe.
    By the way what ever happened to the wolves and other wildlife that one lived where you do? Surely you don’t blame western ranchers for their loss do you?

  7. Elk are also a source of brucellosis. Why arent elk hazed into yellowstone? Why are elk allowed to mingle with cattle anywhere and everywhere? If you really cared about the spread of brucellosis you would be crusading against feed lots in wyoming. Those are a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.
    You know as well as I do that records from 1860-1900 are incomplete at best. How many wolves were poisoned and crawled off to die never to be found? How many pups died in the den after their pack was killed? Are you saying that there were only 2-3 wolves plus pups per year in yellowstone historically? Your numbers here seem very fishy. Please send me a link as to where you found them.
    And there are a lot more people paying for wolves than you like to believe. How much have you paid? You hate wolves so much, what is your financial stake in this? Maybe it is time for you to write out a check to defenders of wildlife (who you conveniently never give credit to for helping out with some wolf losses).

  8. Obviously you need to read up on the brucellosis situation Steve. First of all, please understand that the laws about brucellosis are FEDERAL, not state. If you don’t believe me, ask any politician in your state to allow the import of infected buffalo.
    It wouldn’t matter if only 2 cows became infected if they were in two different locations quarantines would apply to every single cow in the state of Montana. The markets for cattle from a quarantined state are limited, and it would cost the entire state millions. Whether you like to beleive it or not agriculture is a significant part of the industry in our state. I don’t know where you live, but it would be all over the news if one of the major industries in your state had to take a significant hit in income.
    Enviros were able to haul wolves that we didn’t want into our states, we cannot manage them, and obviously the feds don’t know what they are doing, the law is written that the wolves cannot be modified in any way for any other wildlife. In 1982 the ESA had to ammended to allow them to put the wolves outside of their present territory.
    There are less people in our whole state than in most of the cities where you guys live, yet the whole wolf thing is too expensive for the whole country to pay for so the half million people in our state will have to assume the whole cost….and be responsible to see to it that they are cared for the way you want them to be.
    Wyoming is required to maintain 8 packs in Yellowstone for instance, yet there si no historical record fo there ever being that many wolves in there at one time, in fact they trucked in more wolves than ever were recorded at one time. The only wolf howl heard on the Washburn expedition was by Evarts who got lost for 30 days and nearly starved. President Theodore Roosevelt stated in 1903 that coyotes were the only canine in the park. Chittenden said the same in 1889. The total extirpation of wolves from Yellowstone consisted of 56 adults over 42 years, plus 80 pups from dens. Since they received a bounty, it is not likely they hid any they killed.
    Don’t believe me, look it up.

  9. Environmentalists don’t have all the control, Marion. Ranchers, big business and bought politicians have FAR MORE say over what happens on our public lands than enviros. Ask the Yellowstone bison if you don’t believe me. Millions blown every year hazing bison to protect a couple hundred cattle.

  10. There is a bounty on wolves in Alaska, and I think in Canada. Trapping and aerial hunting are not keeping them in check. And there are no idiots insisting that they raise them, still they are really impacting the moose…..just like they have in Yellowstone.
    I realize that we will never agree. The way the whole thing is set up guarantees that. Wolf lovers have all of the control, all of the say about everything, and absolutely no responsibility for anything, including a bad result. We have all of the cost, all of the problems, and all of the responsibility for maintaining the wolves, even at the expense of other wildlife.
    The only way to have avoided all of this would have been to give the wolves to those who wanted them so bad, along with the bill for raising them and the responsibility for what they do and repairing problems.

  11. Wolves existed there in the past. They exist in alaska and canada in far greater numbers. Minnesota would be an example of an area with few wolves where protection brought them back in large numbers. Have deer populations crashed there? None of your doomsday scenarios are ocurring in places where wolves already exist, and in the midwest where recovery as a result of government intervention has ocurred. A decade or so of protection was needed because gun toting maniacs who will shoot anything that moves would have blown all of them away within a month of reintroduction. Talking to you is like beating my head against a brick wall.

  12. Obviously there is no history to refer to because no one was dumb enough to pull a stunt like this and introduce dozens of carnivore predators into an area to be protected.
    What are we going to do use the expert opinions of the wolf biologists and computer models that have all been wrong so far? That would be helpful. If you know of a similar experiment anywhere like this I’d be interested in the results.

  13. If you have read anything on population dynamics you would know that populations stabilize then fluctuate. This has already ocurred in yellowstone itself with the wolf population reaching a max and then decreasing before increasing again this past year. The huge areas of Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana will experience this in the years to come as well (we are probably almost there). If you do not think this will happen by all means please point me to a historical report or an article that tells of a population of carnivores (besides humans) that increased without bound and ate itself out of prey…

  14. Well since Mr. Bangs has trouble keeping his elk counts straight, it isn’t surprising that he didn’t know this would happen. He might have tried listening at the beginning for one thing.