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Wolves killed in Idaho to help elk population


Idaho Wolves
Photo credit: Thinkstock Photos 

There are ten fewer wolves in northern Idaho after the state approved their removal. Over the past two months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) has killed ten wolves in what’s known as the Lolo zone at the request of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). Why? To help dwindling elk herds that roam that portion of the state, The Spokesman-Review reports.

“At the request of Idaho, we did remove wolves in that region,” said USDA-WS spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa.

In late February and early March, USDA-WS workers used a helicopter to remove the ten wolves in the Clearwater National Forest. Over the past 25 years, elk herds that live within the Lolo zone in northern Idaho have experienced drastic population drops, going from roughly 16,000 to only about 2,000 animals. While IDFG says that wolves, black bears, and mountain lions are primarily responsible, habitat loss also plays a role. Regardless, eliminating hard-to-hunt wolves in the area is one step towards sustainable elk numbers. According to The Spokesman-Review, IDFG has “liberal harvest rules for bears and mountain lions, but wolves are more challenging to hunt,” hence why the agency uses other methods to keep wolves under control.

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“We’ve made an obligation to try to manage this elk herd at levels at maybe not peak levels, but at least bring it back to levels that we’ve seen in the past that were adequate for hunting,” Jim Hayden, an IDFG biologist, told The Spokesman-Review.

IDFG does rely upon elk hunting license sales as a source of revenue and did use funds from its operating budget to pay for the wolf removal. Of course, the decision to manage wolves in this way has angered animal rights groups who say that IDFG purposely waited until the wolf removal was complete before the agency told the public.

“Now more than ever, Wildlife Services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game need to be upfront with the public about their plans to kill wolves,” said Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Idaho stopped monitoring wolves last year and stopped releasing annual reports revealing how many wolves remain in Idaho. It’s troubling to see this ever-increasing veil of secrecy fall over the management of Idaho’s wolves.”

IDFG says there are more than 90 wolf packs that roam the state and, within the Lolo zone, there are at least 11 packs. This means that there are “roughly 65 to 100 wolves in the Lolo zone,” according to The Spokesman-Review. The state is required to maintain a minimum of 15 packs to retain management of the wolves.

Idaho officials say that, if necessary, they may remove more.

Stay tuned to goHUNT for further information.


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Don U. - posted 4 months ago on 11-05-2018 11:39:26 am

There are more wolves in Idaho than what we are hearing about. Wolves and Elk really do have the ability to remain unseen. You can be 100 yards from elk and actually smell them, but never even see them. The scary thing about wolves is not being able to see, hear or smell them. I'm not a wildlife expert, but I am pretty sure that the elk are being killed off by wolves when they are being born. The reason is because you don't really see many full sized elk remains laying around. I once walked up on a fresh killed big bull elk, with a mountain lion sleeping less than 5 feet from it. Anyway, all areas will have elk and wolves. Elk hunting is just way harder than it was 20-30 years ago. The big wolves we have in Idaho really don't belong here, and they pretty much scare everything away. Hopefully something wipes out all of those giant Canadian wolves that were introduced in 1996. I don't even have the heart to hunt anything anymore. But, I always have a current wolf tag. I do wish any hunter luck on whatever they choose to bag. Just expect a serious amount of hard work getting out your kill.

Monte G. - posted 1 year ago on 03-24-2018 11:32:59 am
Gig Harbor, Wa

I am going to be hunting this area for the first time this coming September, since there is such large population of wolves, do the bulls repond to bugling or will I just be calling in wolves? Any info from experienced Lolo Elk hunters would be appreciated and yes I did buy a wolf tag.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 05:50:28 pm

Wolves attack people,dogs, livestock, and kill all the elk. I've seen the numbers. Ive seen the numbers on dead wolves by what means and why. People are rarely attacked, dogs have killed wolves too. yes wolves kill cows sheep and elk sometimes out of hunger sometimes sport. They are animals. They do not know right from wrong. Truth. I love wolves. Crazy about them. I was reading about them and ended up on here. But if your only answer is to kill wolves then do it. I knew nothing about Idahos war. I wanted to know why one park killed 10 wolves when another park needs wolves. We pay for these. Why are resources being wasted? I don't agree with either side. Think how you want. You do have a problem. Most of the wolves do need culled now. Although That doesn't seem to be getting done. I'm cool on hunting Idaho. I'll stay east were coyotes and an occasional bobcat kill deer rabbits and turkey and sometimes a cat or dog maybe a baby cow. No one acts like they are 10 on a playground calling ppl bunny lovers. There's nothing to hunt out there anyway.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 03:14:24 pm

The wolves kill idahos pet dogs. Ok. The solution is to kill the growing population of Wolves. The wolf population has been stable at around 750+ for several years. 400,000+ residents held a hunting license I think last year. I don't know how many wolf tags were sold but hunters haven't filled tags for past few seasons. They are not even killing the wolves they want dead. Elk hunts were up 10% last season. I'm understanding a hunter can take a total of ten wolves by hunting and trapping right now. Are they all meeting that? Hunters want them kllled then get it done. They are meeting elk quota why not the wolves?

Mike M. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 02:06:38 pm
martinez, calif.

even if you use some form of reproduction control methods, they are still hungry and bred to survive by killing any animal, including humans they will live for a lot of years ahead, that's a lot of dead animals for just one wolf, they are very big, dense-boned 80# to 140#, very mean wolves,
question; do you walk your dog around knowing there are big mean dogs loose in your neighborhood or parks-- I presume not, reproduction control is still not going to keep those big mean loose dogs from trying to eat your dog, let alone you, you knowing that might guess is you would call animal control of some sort before you walked around with your dog, what do you think happens to those, loose big, mean dogs, they (animal control), more than likely puts those dogs down.
these wolves are multiplying faster than the government, state, or U.S. Wildlife acknowledges,
We need conservation to manage wildlife, otherwise you won't be able to get out of your car or truck at trailheads you will be over run by the wolves, smoke a few out, of the pack a day
Come to Idaho it's a beautiful place
I would like to control where my tax dollars go, but that's not realistic, good luck

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 10:13:08 am

You all are wrong about me. I dont need to ask anything about hunting or farming from you all. I understand exactly what has to be done to have good hunting areas. I was asking about how do you manage your wildlife since your only solution is to kill wolves. I got the same answer. I could argue what activists say and what you say all day if you wanted to. No I have never been there or walked and hunted there but I see the picture. I know that I definitely won't hunt or walk there now. I know one thing that I will support though. I don't want tax dollars to go to any wildlife or recreation in idaho. I have my answer to why your animals are declining. No wildlife management from government state or population on either side of the fence.

Mike M. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 09:39:50 am
martinez, calif.

Ive been hunting Idaho for 32 years now hunting in the sawtooth mountains, and challis area, I spend 3 weeks archery or rifle hunting, have not seen a bear or mountain lion chase or kill deer or any elk, obviously there is a problem with the wolf population, I've seen a lot more wolves, than mountain lions, or bears,
The deer n elk population is way below what it used to be, I've personally seen wolves chase and kill cows, calves, n bulls, they are sport killers, kill a lot eat very little
Ask the ranchers what there problem is losing cattle or sheep, or even their own pets, they will tell ya " WOLVES are the problem, they know, they see it also, they live there
So to have a strong point or strong opinion about what is the truth, and big reason for the decline of the deer and elk herds, and not even been to Idaho, let alone walked the forests or wilderness , or talk to people that live within the area of wolves, elk, deer, know the truth about your opinion
Knowledge and truth is priceless,
Just having an opinion not knowing the truth or first hand knowledge , is useless!
Which makes your opinion baseless

matthew a. - posted 1 year ago on 03-22-2018 06:28:18 am
Tampa, FL

Apparently we have ANTI-Hunters on gohunt; self identified from comments below. To all those who are also ANTI-Hunters on this website, please ask questions and seek understanding. Don`t be close minded, understand that hunting is a way of life and you are ignorant of this. If you take an honest effort to understand, you will gain respect of others on this website. If you blindly voice your opinion without seeking insight, then your stupid and will remain irrelevant.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:58:17 pm

What I do in my time isn't the forum here. I could actually care less if you all have elk to hunt. We don't have shortage of game or fish here. You have fun with it now ya hear.

Travis S. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:40:14 pm

Do you ppl even hunt or fish or anything outdoors cause if you don't I personally think that you all should just shut the hell up these wolves are like termites we brought them in for the good but they are a menice to everything

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:35:22 pm


Travis S. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:32:20 pm

I think they should start shooting bunny's to you bunny lovers

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:37:02 pm

Michelle M. I think your right. Idaho doesn't need any animals.

Travis S. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:25:29 pm

I'm in the woods almost everyday for work and for fun and I don't care what anyone says if you think that the bears and lions are killing the calves and cows then you have no idea what your talking about cause I've seen multiple wolve kills that are cows that were pregnant and all's the only thing the damn wolf ate was that ass and the baby out of the stomach bears mainly eat berrys and grass and yes they do kill elk to but wolves are our main elk killer

Michele M. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 07:06:01 pm

Perhaps all the wildlife should just be removed from all these areas, no one can complain then. Looking at this from an outside view it’s basically saying bring wildlife here so we can them kill them, and then we can have more of this type of wildlife so then we can kill’s ridiculous

Joseph M. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 06:31:02 pm

I've bow hunted elk north of Wallace from Lolo to st Joe's .....the elk herds are down to almost nonexistent unless you're right in town where wolves don't go. Since 2006 the herds have dropped dramatically and the wolvessel increased . Wolves kill for fun while other predators only kill for food . The public DIY hunts I water my whole life for are over .....thanks to the liberal jack asses that decided to release Alaskan greys in Idaho ....brilliant.

roberto w. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 02:21:53 pm

10 only? Idaho needs to remove 10 packs every year for the next 10 years.

Michael C. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 01:03:09 pm

these wolves was initially stocked to control the game populations that was over populated with hopes to control the game populations to end hunting everywhere in the west on public land

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 10:34:50 am

Shellie R. I know how you feel. Only it's not wolves here it's coyotes. Idaho spends over a million yearly on this issue. If talks could have been had 10 lives and an island may have been managed.

Shellie R. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 10:24:21 am

I archery hunt and I love the outdoors. As a lone Hunter the majority of my hunts, I'm very leary and always carry my sidearm. My biggest fear is when I'm working my kill. The smell of blood will bring them in as quick as an elk call.
When I have a partner it is usually my daughter,she started calling elk for me when she was 12. The caller is usually 50-100 yards behind the shooter. The day she called the pack of wolves to 5 yards in from behind her is the day every thing changed for us. Thank God the wolves were only curious and not hungry that early September morning.
Now I never go even berry picking without a gun. The days of just going up in the mountains for a fun day without packing are over. Even when we go to get wood we pack.
If anyone wants to transplant wolves I'm good with it, but I'd insist they take our over abundance here in Idaho and start by placing the first minimum 15 packs in the woods around Washington DC. Maybe if those know what's best political pundits had to deal with them in their backyard their opinions might change. Oh and have fun with that in your gun free zone.
If there are other states or organizations that condem Idaho fish and Game for doing their job, I'm sure we can tranquilize 15 packs of those cute cuddly wolves and put them in your capital city or back yard too. Seems like we have room for 5 such relocation efforts. I'm positive Idaho sportsmen would gladly pay double fees to make that happen.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 10:04:14 am

Richard W. I agree with your idea that we could be next. Not from wolves though. We lost the last male rhino on Monday. Creatures great and small are disappearing at a rapid pace. My original question was why were these wolves not put on the island that moose are stripping of trees and vegetation. As you said a little just a little too late. How many animals will go extinct there before action? I'm not an activist. I just love life. All life. Unfortunately we will all have that same ending all too soon.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:33:23 am

Sterilization may work but in a pack only the alfa female gets to breed right? So if she killed then all her female pups get to have a litter the next year. But the states wolf population is fairly stable year to year. There are too many other factors declining the elk. Its a shame that it's happening but it seems no one wants to address or regulate the other issues.

Richard w. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:20:35 am

In such a short time frame,the elk numbers have dropped from 16,000 to 2000 !! And you have all the prediters that exist with the numbers of wolves that you have in the area,...I truly hate to say this ,but in my opinion way to little done ,way to late !! Your elk herd is gone . 5 years you won't have any elk left . Then all you will have is prediters ,what then ?! The seats club will be begging for answers because at that point humans will be on the food chain list. Just my opinion.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:16:38 am

I believe the wolf population has been kept state wide at 750 give or take for several years too. This article is about the Lolo area though. Elk has dropped from 16000 to 1000 in 25 years. Why? It's more than just a wolf issue.

Ernie A. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:14:04 am

This is only going to get worse for our elk populations if the wolves aren't managed efficiently. Each species including humans need enough acreage to sustain themselves. Unfortunately our forests in the west have dwindled down by development, oil, and etc. The acreage is not there to support the wolf... If we don't stop there won't be enough acreage to support health big game populations. I agree with hunting and preservation but we have to be smart about this and think the western forests will never be as it was in the 1800's or early 1900's. When they felt the need to reintroduce the wolf they should of limited them as they will take over as the wolf populations grow. Maybe we needed a sterilization program to limit their growth because they do not have the space to sustain them in the 2018 ecosystems. Our big game herd face very hard times as it is.

Steve C. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 09:07:49 am

Idahoans since 2011 have been able to hunt and trap the predators in seasons that are liberal and long. Hunters and trappers have killed 200 to 250 wolves annually over the last several years.

Hunters have also killed more than 20,000 elk a year since 2014. Last year may have been their best season yet.

Also, wolves are not the primary killers of (elk) cows and calves, that would be mountain lions and black bears.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 08:25:21 am

If an alfa is killed in a pack of 10 then they become 5 packs. The elk have been in decline for almost 30 years. Before the wolf. It's bad wildlife management. Not wolves. It's human error.

Fay F. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 08:07:41 am

I agree, more predators need removed to manage the deer, elk and moose populations, unfortunately it's always too late to correct predator populations. It's the same problem in northeast Washington, over the past 3 years I have personally watched the decline in deer specifically. I use to have hundreds of deeer run across the roads every night and morning in my path, now I am lucky to see 1 or 2. I also put up game cameras about 3 each year in very different areas and I now have more predators on my camera than deer or moose. I am talking cougar and wolves, I had over 6 sightings of predators to 1 deer. This alone should tell our were to do something now because it is already late in the game. I'm telling you hunters will not want to spend money on licensing when predators are the only thing coming to calls.

Arnold N. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 07:47:59 am

Should humans be picked up by helicopters & relocated as well? Who is more overpopulated & dangerous to elk Herds?

Dave K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-21-2018 07:24:41 am

So they supposedly removed 10 wolves by helicopte, I don't see any proof... Then they say elk numbers will boost because of this wolf removal? First off it takes time for herds to build because of habitat loss and also the other natural predation that already exsists in Idaho's wild country, that being said by the time the first elk calf actually hits the ground, other wolves have already moved in and have taken over. The Lolo elk along with the rest of deer family are in grave danger and the Lolo game will continue to drop there will be no change in elk numbers wolves will continue to destroy and the deer, elk and moose will be the ones that are destroyed day and night. Wolves have blown up with aggression yet we watch and watch and take pictures or are too afraid to,pull the trigger when 4+ wolves come into our elk calls while we archery hunt and we have a side arm. Time to stand up and pound this predator back. You could kill 90% of the entire wolf population and they will still be a threat because of their nature. They are APEX they will rise to the top every time, every situation. They simply dominate we need to control this predator for once!!! Within 10 days the area that thewolves that were removed from will be reinhabited by bee wolves with the same ambition. Our woodlands are being taken hostage by this terrorist, I thought America was against terrorism? Nothing is,going to, our natural wildlife unless we do!!!! C'mon boys let's do our very best to pound this nightmare back... Its up to us, let's help the animals we love to see and listen to.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 11:55:23 pm

Wildlife management should be supported but that doesn't give right to be deceitful to the "public".

matthew a. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 11:25:57 pm
Tampa, FL

Great article,
This is heated debate that will likely continue for decades to come. As a hunter who lost a nice bull to wolves in the frank last year, I understand the frustration. We (the hunting community) really need to support IDFG decision`s to manage the wolf population. I understand why they are not making the information known to the public (wolf removal) prior to taking action; they have learned to mitigate the bigger problem, anti-hunter activists and pro-wolf groups. I am waiting for the news article that reads "child killed by wolves", yes its sick and twisted but its a matter of time.

Todd S. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 06:18:21 pm

I hunted 2 years for elk in Elk city Idaho. We delt with wolves each day and night. I will never hunt Idaho again. Wasted over $5,000.00 for our group of 3 hunters. Harvested a nice white tail buck one evening and my hunting buddy had a 9 mil aimed at the woods as the Wolves tried to get my buck. Way to many wolves. New scat every morning outside my tent.

Missawah K. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 03:43:08 pm
I understand that we need wildlife management but couldn't they have relocated them since culling the moose is unquestionable?

Adam H. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 03:22:07 pm

Hey lets. Go smoke a pack a day for all i can say these wolfs need to all be shot killing my cattel and now the states wild heards i say killem all

Scott S. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 11:03:39 am

my question is, if Idaho only needs to maintain 15 packs, why don't they take out 75 more packs? As an Idaho Archery hunter, when we are out calling elk, and we hear that rush of wind coming up the valley until we start hearing the individual howls, we know that the hunt is over. The elk are still there, but they all go silent. 10 wolves are no where near enough.

Gary H. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 10:00:48 am

I just want to know how I reserve a seat on the chopper with my shotgun with 00 buckshot next time....

Sean B. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 08:11:16 am

This looks like good news. It will be interesting to see how many more elk will survive and how the herd will grow in the next 2-3 years because of this. It seems like 10 wolves isn't a lot though.

Orion H. - posted 1 year ago on 03-20-2018 07:52:15 am

This action is way over due. Many of the Northwest states need to remove a large portion of the wolf population. The predator population is too high, which decreases the supply of game for the hunters. The reality is humans and predators are vying for the same resource. Hopefully the state will continue to reduce the predator population, so that the elk, deer, and moose can grow, so that hunters have more opportunity.