The Assocated Press says that Idaho Fish and Game has released its recommendations for maximum allowed wolf mortality in 2008.

The proposal is a total mortality cap of 328 wolves in Idaho. That total includes wolves killed by hunters and state managers, and those killed in accidents or by natural causes. I assume illegal mortality then is part of the cap.

AP said “The total is in line with Idaho’s overall plan for managing the carnivores. The state plan approved in March calls for maintaining a population level between 500 and 700 wolves for the first five years after delisting.”

My speculation is that this cap will result in a population of about 500 wolves because the growth rate of wolves in Idaho is no longer 20% a year. Last year it had dropped to 8%.

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Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

17 Responses to Idaho proposes mortality cap for wolves in 2008

  1. avatar Nathan Hobbs says:

    How do you ‘cap’ kills when they can be killed for any reason ie bothering annoying livestock or domestic pets? If a kill takes place after the cap is it than considered illegal? Is it going to take into account federal management departments such as Wildlife Services?

  2. Well it seems to me that all these other kills will come out of the number of wolf tags allowed to be filled.

    That is, assuming they are serious about this.

  3. avatar JEFF E says:

    This is political horseshit the same as Montana’s about the bison. The “harassment law” is just that. the law of the land. It will supersede this balderdash and any one of such a mind can simply take their dog with them into the mountains, claim any of the laws parameters and kill wolves year round wherever they are found within the state at the same time using the dog as bait to lure them in.

  4. avatar Lynne Stone says:

    The Idaho Dept of Fish & Game’s wolf hunting season (which will occur in Fall 08 if delisting lawsuit does not succeed) could last from Sept 15 through March 31st — that’s six and a half months.

    There are four alternatives that IDFG has put forth and the decision will be made by mid-May. My bet would be IDFG will choose one with the season that lasts the longest and can kill the most wolves. Apparently, IDFG will do whatever it can to make certain that hunters are still killing wolves during the entire winter when wolves are the most visible, and up until the end of March, just before the alpha female dens.

    IDFG says there are about 700 wolves in Idaho and they intend to kill nearly half of them -328- in 2009, by one means or another. In the Lolo Hunting Units 10&12 alone, the “harvest” would allow for 50 wolves to be taken. Or nearly all the wolves there.

    Recently I had the chance to spend a day in the Lamar Valley and what a relief to be able to watch wolves and coyotes and not worry about someone driving up and starting to shoot at them. Imagine if nearly half of the Yellowstone wolves were going to be “harvested” starting in fall 2008.

    As I watched wolves this morning, I wondered how many more hours, days, weeks they have to live now that all protection for Idaho wolves has been stripped, thanks to the Idaho legislature and Law 36-1107, and the hunting season that IDFG can’t wait to launch. It’s unbelievable, a nightmare … most people in Idaho have never had the chance to see a wolf and most never will. And my bet would be that no one will ever be convicted of illegally killing a wolf again in Idaho, not as long as the state has control. Maybe Tim Sundles will move back.

  5. avatar JB says:

    Lynne,

    You placed an “8” next to a “)” which gives you a 8).

  6. avatar JB says:

    Okay, there goes that theory! 😉

  7. avatar Jon Way says:

    Lynn,
    nice post and I completely agree. This maximum utilitarian model is endemic in all state fish and game agencies. I feel the same way 5 months a year with my collared eastern coyotes in Massachusetts as the state and town will not protect my study subjects despite repeated requests.
    I am trying to circumvent them and go to the Dept of Tourism (Cape Cod Chamber of Congress). Check out this post from my site:
    http://easterncoyoteresearch.com/update2008-05-02.html
    I wonder if anybody from a state fish and game agency has every visited a national park dedicated to the wildlife (and us wildlife watchers)…

  8. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Jon,

    The Eastern Coyote is a new species, in that it has never been historically found East. In fact, coyotes are one of the main reasons that the Red Wolf re-introduction in the Great Smoky Mountains NP failed so miserably 5 years ago.

    I wish you luck with your study. By the way, what are you studying them for? I mean, what is the knowledge you hope to gain?

    Just curious. And is there any way to remove Coyotes from a rugged and wooded Park that would have minimal or no affect on other animal populations?

    I know in North Carolina they remove Coyotes from the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge to protect the only free surviving population of Red Wolves in the wild.

    I had hoped that GSMNP would be the second wild population. The Smokies should have removed the Coyotes first, and the red Wolves would have had a chance.

    Now they are gone forever. I was fortunate enough to observe red Wolves in the Smokies on several occasions when the program was still going. It was a tragedy.

  9. avatar bob jackson says:

    I don’t know anything about the Smokies but I listened to the guy in charge of the N.Carolina red wolf reintroduction and it was evident to me the reason the red wolf was breeding with the coyotes was lack of wolf infrastructure.

    In other words the FWS thought more in terms of numbers of animals rather than establishing a number of packs in territories seperate but close enough for the increase in Red Wolves to breed within the wolf population of the other territories. I asked the program manager after the speech how was coyotes and wolves (Gray or Red) didn’t interbreed before Whiteman and now it is a problem.

    Essentially, the guy thought one could just put a pack or couples in and they would expand out with purity. He didn’t understand the basics of life. If one ain’t getting it then they will settle for something less. It is the same with buffalo and cattle and the interbreeding taking place if there are no other choices.

    And more important, at that stage of raw beginnings establishment of infrastructure was more important than purity. It would have worked its way to “purity” over time.

    Again, I know nothing of the Smokies situation but unless it was poaching I’d say the folks in charge of establishing didn’t understand home, family, extended family and territory infrastructure needs of each for viable interchange of like kind species or sub species propogation success.

  10. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Bob,

    In the Smokies, it was a combination of factors that doomed the re-introduction program. Red Wolves are not much larger that coyotes, perhaps 20-25 pounds heavier. Unlike Gray Wolves, Reds hunt alone. So, an established and intact coyote pack may easily push the Red Wolves out of the habitat. In the Smokies, coyote packs are well-established and they are found through-out the Park in good numbers.

    Also, in the past, before the creation of the Smokies NP, the Smokies were industrially logged. Remnants of climax forest are still found in the Park, but today’s forests are quite different than the forests that existed pre-1880 or so.

    So, the prey base is different today. Also, the Smokies are rugged and steep, so although the Red Wolves historically were in the Smokies, it may have been temporary or seasonally. It is doubtful the Park was able to support a large population of Reds, anyway.

    A few wolves were found shot, and at least one died from drinking anti-freeze on the road. Poaching did occur, but not so often that it was a primary cause. The main problem was that the wolves continuously attempted to leave the Park. The wolves would not stay in the established recovery zone (which, very much like the Mexican Wolf recovery area, was inadequate for the species needs).

    Why did the wolves not remain in the Smokies NP? The coyotes have established populations and territory and the wolves were dropped into the middle of it; lack of suitable habitat of sufficient size in the recovery area; poaching and accidental poisoning occurred; and the released wolves were not staying together presumably because they weren’t intact family units being released (from what you wrote, that sounds familiar enough).

    It was heart-breaking to see the program to bring the Reds back to the Smokies crash and smolder. I was very hopeful then, particularly after the Gray Wolf success in the GYE. However, they are two very different animals, one habitat is essentially unchanged and other has been drastically altered.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if the ease of the gray Wolf re-introduction didn’t have a negative affect on the Reds re-introduction due to over-confidence and lack of planning on the part of those running the Reds program. The Grays made it seem so easy, gave the impression all you had to was drop the wolves off and they would take care of themselves.

    However, that is my personal speculation.

  11. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Bob,

    In the Smokies, it was a combination of factors that doomed the re-introduction program. Red Wolves are not much larger that coyotes, perhaps 20-25 pounds heavier. Unlike Gray Wolves, Reds hunt alone. So, an established and intact coyote pack may easily push the Red Wolves out of the habitat. In the Smokies, coyote packs are well-established and they are found through-out the Park in good numbers.

    Also, in the past, before the creation of the Smokies NP, the Smokies were industrially logged. Remnants of climax forest are still found in the Park, but today’s forests are quite different than the forests that existed pre-1880 or so.

    So, the prey base is different today. Also, the Smokies are rugged and steep, so although the Red Wolves historically were in the Smokies, it may have been temporary or seasonally. It is doubtful the Park was able to support a large population of Reds, anyway.

    A few wolves were found shot, and at least one died from drinking anti-freeze on the road. Poaching did occur, but not so often that it was a primary cause. The main problem was that the wolves continuously attempted to leave the Park. The wolves would not stay in the established recovery zone (which, very much like the Mexican Wolf recovery area, was inadequate for the species needs).

    Why did the wolves not remain in the Smokies NP? The coyotes have established populations and territory and the wolves were dropped into the middle of it; lack of suitable habitat of sufficient size in the recovery area; poaching and accidental poisoning occurred; and the released wolves were not staying together presumably because they weren’t intact family units being released (from what you wrote, that sounds familiar enough).

    It was heart-breaking to see the program to bring the Reds back to the Smokies crash and smolder. I was very hopeful then, particularly after the Gray Wolf success in the GYE. However, they are two very different animals, one habitat is essentially unchanged and other has been drastically altered.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if the ease of the gray Wolf re-introduction didn’t have a negative affect on the Reds re-introduction due to over-confidence and lack of planning on the part of those running the Reds program. The Grays made it seem so easy, gave the impression all you had to was drop the wolves off and they would take care of themselves.

    However, that is my personal speculatio

  12. avatar Jon Way says:

    Hi Smoky,
    I am studying eastern coyote ecology and behavior documenting such things as home range size, territorial dynamics, pack dynamics, movement and activity patterns, and denning ecology in a suburban/urbanized area. Please see http://www.easterncoyoteresearch.com if interested.
    What the feds have to realize is that coyotes and red wolves are very closely related, more than red wolves and gray wolves, believe it or not.
    Hybridization is a natural event and I don’t think (my personal opinion) that the red wolf program in North Carolina would have been as successful if coyotes lived there at the time of the initial reintroduction (I believe they colonized the area shortly after).
    Allowing red wolves and coyotes to hybridize has happened in New England/Southeastern Canada, and it has produced a very successful 30-40 lb canid. But I can understand how the Feds tried to limit hybridization in 1 area (Eastern NC). However, I don’t think it is a long-term option and I believe, like Bob J. said, that the wolves need to be able to behave like wolves and form fairly large packs to keep coyotes out of their “domains.”

  13. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Jon,

    Thanks for the response. I will be visiting that site very soon.

    I agree with 100% with the statement that Bob J. said regarding wolves requiring social structure and numbers to keep the coyotes out of their territory. That must have been one of the major failings of the Smokies re-introduction (along with inadequate recovery area size).

    Coyotes have always fascinated me, and I have enjoyed watching some of their exploits in the Smokies and elsewhere. Their adaptability is nothing short of incredible. They have been severely persecuted and have shown amazing resiliency, as well.

    I agree with your supposition that if coyote populations had been established prior to the reds being re-introduced in E. NC, then the Red Wolf would have not have successfully colonized that area. This is a very interesting dynamic between coyote and red wolves; one that is at the same time intriguing, yet also tragic because of the consequences.

    Good talking with you, Jon.

  14. avatar Justin says:

    Interesting conversation and sorry to continuing to get away from the original thread. Just to clear up a few things:

    Red wolves have a similar social structure to gray wolves and hunt in packs. Like gray wolves, a pack can remain stable and they can competitively exclude coyotes. In eastern NC, the FWS has documented red wolves displacing and even killing coyotes and hybrids but never the other way around (i.e. coyotes displacing wolves). Illegal gunshot mortality still occurs and frequently breaks apart breeding pairs, encouraging hybridization.

    Jon, there were actually isolated pops of coyotes in eastern NC when red wolves were reintroduced: they got there through importation for fox pen hunting. Eventually through natural colonization they covered the whole state by the mid-90s.

    I’m not as familiar w/ the Smokies project, but as far as I know the major reason for the abandonment of the project was low pup survival due to contraction of diseases from domestic dogs. The pop in eastern NC functions like any other reintroduced wolf pop: if they disperse beyond the designated experimental population area, they are no longer protected (although the FWS will go and get them if they find out). The state of NC does not list them as a species of conservation need.

    For a really current update, I’d recommend reading the FWS 5-year review on the red wolf recovery program (http://www.fws.gov/southeast/5yearReviews/5yearreviews/RedWolf-5YrR.pdf). It could clear up a lot of myths and confusions surrounding the red wolf.

  15. avatar Jon Way says:

    Thanks Justin for your comments.
    I sometimes wonder where states get their official viewpoints. The only self-sustaining population of red wolves in the world (excluding the thought that wolves in SE Canada/Algonquin Park may also be red wolves) are in NC and they say they aren’t in conservation need.
    That is exactly why there need to be federal laws supporting conservation b.c the states sure won’t do it.
    Furthermore, NC allows unlimited shooting of coyotes even near where red wolves live. That is pathetic, both morally/ethically (like most other states) and of course legally…

  16. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Justin, thanks for the post.

    I lived on the border of the GSMNP for 7 years. I talked with, and knew, many employees of the Park. I never heard that pup mortality due to disease was a problem with the Reds.

    I was informed that some pups were not surviving due to their parents moving out of the recovery area. I was told that some Reds with pups were released in the hope that the pups would keep the parents in the recovery area. This didn’t work as planned.

    As I have mentioned, I was aware of few wolves that stayed long-term in the recovery area. Almost all the wolves attempted to leave the Park. Since they lost protection upon leaving the Park, and wolves were drinking anti-freeze, being shot, and being run over by automobiles outside the recovery area, they simply couldn’t survive outside the park.

    I was also informed by Park personnel that the presence of large and intact coyote populations were making it much more difficult for the Reds to stay in the Park. Reds hunt alone, and I was told this makes them vulnerable to a coyote pack that is healthy and large.

    Thanks for that link on the Reds, I will read it soon. You made excellent points, and you may be 100% right about the disease aspect. I am perplexed as to why that was never told to me before, though, by anyone that I knew or spoke with. I also never read it, either.

    As I have mentioned, I am positive that no single factor is to blame. In most cases, in complex ecological systems, many factors contribute to a failure like this. I have already touched on them, so I will wrap it up by saying I have enjoyed this discussion.

    Thanks for all the replies.

  17. avatar SmokyMtMan says:

    Some links for those interested. One mentions disease as a cause, and another mentions that one of the 2 family groups of reds completely left the recovery area and were seen commonly at the edges of residential areas. Another mentions a poor prey base as motivation for the Reds leaving the recover area.

    No doubt it was a combination of many factors. Sad that it didn’t work out successfully.

    http://www.npca.org/wildlife_protection/wildlife_facts/redwolf.html

    http://www.fws.gov/species/species_accounts/bio_rwol.html

    http://www.all-creatures.org/hope/DOE/3%20-%20Red%20Wolf%20Reintroduction%20in%20North%20Carlina.htm

    Some good news: they removed that cattle operation in the Smokies years ago. Of course, they removed them after the Reds were gone.

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