319 wolves in Wyoming, but as in ’08 only six breeding pairs in Yellowstone Park-

I think it’s clear that Wyoming’s anti-wolf legislature had hoped that the requirement of ten breeding wolf pairs in the state could be met by Yellowstone Park alone, but yesterday’s USFWS release of the 2009 wolf figures for the state show that to be a pipe dream.

The official estimate is 319 wolves in the state, including just 96 in Yellowstone. Several years ago there were over 170 wolves in Yellowstone. As the Yellowstone population has been shrinking the Wyoming wolf population outside the Park is growing. There are now 223 wolves outside the Park with 21 breeding pairs.

If we look at wolf packs (groups of wolves + groups of wolves with a breeding pair) there were 30 packs outside Yellowstone and 14 inside the Park. The average Wyoming pack size is about 7 wolves. The Park size is also about 7 wolves.

At the end of 2008 there were 178 wolves outside Yellowstone in Wyoming and 124 wolves inside Yellowstone for a total of 302. As in 2009, in 2008 there were only 6 breeding pairs in Yellowstone.

Because of the much greater observational accuracy of packs inside Yellowstone Park, I would judge the number of official breeding pairs there (six) to be more accurate than those outside the Park (officially 21).

If you look at the Wyoming wolf pack map, you will see that the NW corner of the state is pretty well saturated with wolves. Any significant future wolf population growth will depend on reduced  mortality in the numerous and usually transient small packs south of Jackson Hole which are continually disrupted by WS livestock control actions.

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About The Author

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.

53 Responses to Official Wyoming wolf numbers for '09 released

  1. Please post only comments about Wyoming wolves here. I let this get off onto Obama’s budget. I created a separate post for that.

  2. We should be getting Idaho and Montana wolf numbers for 2009 pretty soon.

  3. avatar Tim says:

    Ralph, Just wondering what you thought the numbers for Idaho and Montana would be this year? I personally think they will be up a little.

  4. Tim,

    My guess is about the same or a small increase. All I know so far is that 120 more wolves were killed in Idaho in 2009 than in 2008. 135 of the wolf deaths in Idaho came from the hunt, but other causes of death were down slightly according to the official figures.

    Idaho wolf figures are less reliable than those in Montana or Wyoming, however, due to the ruggedness of the country. I think Idaho Fish and Game might have an undercount of illegal mortality.

  5. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Ralph, is there a good wolf pack map available somewhere?

  6. http://robyninyellowstone.blogspot.com/ has a very sad photo of a yellowstone wolf with mange on her Jan. 23 post. If other Yellowstone wolves are infected this same way, it is no wonder that their numbers are down.

  7. Larry Thorngren,

    I posted a photo of a similar wolf, maybe the same one, last year on this blog.

    Here it is again: http://wolves.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/mange-wolf-near-blacktail-plateau-road-2.jpg

  8. avatar gline says:

    I wonder if someone could tell me, if wolf numbers go down to a certain extreme low point, below a “healthy” point, would we (govt) start treating the wolf for mange and other diseases? wolves would have to be re-listed again, which takes how long? Would this be a roller coaster of population declines and up again for the next 20-30 years?

    I wish this would have been thought out from the beginning. It just seems like a large experiment, at the wolf expense of course.

  9. avatar gline says:

    *at wolf expense

  10. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Quick Question – does mange have a cycle with the wolves? And how would it be treated? Capture involved?

  11. avatar Si'vet says:

    TWB, what I have witnessed, with regards to predators there is some type of cycle. not sure if it’s a certain coyote/predator per square mile, but in most cases as a predator hunter, when we I get a call from an individual and there having coyote issues, in almost every case, we kill coyotes in those areas who are suffering from mange. In about 18 months to 2 yrs. the numbers are way down and the harvest of mangey coyotes are nonexistant. As a predator hunter it takes about 6 yrs for the numbers to recover. Again not scientific, just boots on the ground

  12. ProWolf in WY asked:

    “Ralph, is there a good wolf pack map available somewhere?”

    Prowolf in WY, the 2009 report isn’t out yet, but there is a map for 2008 in the 2008 Wolf Report for Wyoming.
    http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt08/FINAL_2008_WY_Annual_Report_3-16-09.pdf

    It is on p. 12 of the report.

  13. avatar Gerry Miner says:

    Treating mange would definitely require capture and then either holding for a period of time or recapture and recapture and recapture again. It takes more than one treatment to get rid of it. However, it is a natural thing, so why would we want to treat it? If wolves are healthy, they can often get rid of it, otherwise they die. Pups are highly susceptible and usually don’t make it. It has been said in the past that it is not a threat to the survival of the wolf population–wildlife gets diseases all the time, and this is just another disease.

  14. avatar timz says:

    I could make the same case for cancer in humans.

  15. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Thanks Gerry – I have been told and scolded on this site about the evils of human intervention into the lives of wolves – now some of those same people are squalling about we humans must DO SOMETHING to alleviate the wolves natural suffering. Live long enough and you will see it all.

  16. avatar BrianTT says:

    Speaking of diseases. I’ve heard no mention on this blog regarding the Hydatid Disease that has been found to be carried by the Idaho, Wyoming, Montana wolves. Anybody read about it? At first I was sceptical about the stories I had read but I’ve been told that IDF&G is preparing a News Release on this subject.

  17. avatar timz says:

    “alleviate the wolves natural suffering.”

    “In 1909, wolves experimentally infected with sarcoptic mange were released in Montana as a wolf-control measure”

    Hardly anything “natural” about this.

  18. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Timz – are you attempting to communicate to the group that either form of mange is human introduced and not naturally occuring.

  19. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    To the group – could the mange, tapeworm and other prevalent disease/parasite situations which are arising be a sign of TOO MANY wolves?

  20. avatar timz says:

    Mange was not a native disease in North America, it was introduced by humans specifically to control wolf populations.

  21. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Timz – where did you find that tidbit of knowledge?

  22. avatar timz says:

    Besides rembering it from college studies there this thing called the internet and a tool called google where you can actully find out those little tidbits.

  23. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Timz – not so sure your account is correct.

  24. avatar timz says:

    It’s not my account, it’s the account of papers and articles I’ve read. Ralph has even posted on this site several times, that it was introduced. Here’s a quote from last year, hopefully Ralph doesn’t mind me using it.

    “Perhaps most important, however, is that the non-native parasitic mange infestation has finally spread from either Wyoming, or more likely Montana into the Park.”

  25. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Timz – trying to work with you but, I am having a hard time out there on the WWW finding a concensus on this non native mange issue. Ralph is up on wolves but, you know he is a political scientist and not a miteologist?

  26. avatar timz says:

    Maybe you’ll believe Doug Smith. I’ll say no more on the subject, do your own homework.

    “Mange would be around in a messy kind of way every year,” Smith said. “This is an exotic, introduced disease we want to eradicate – but it may be impractical to do so.”

  27. avatar timz says:

    I know it may be hard to admit that only humans would be capable of intentionally inflecting this sort of suffering on another living creature.

  28. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Timz – appears the scientific community is not in agreement on this topic – some say yeh and some ney with no way to prove. More importantly, are you going to help relieve “this sort of suffering”?

  29. avatar timz says:

    It doesn’t appear as no such thing. I’ve never seen any scientist say mange was not brought here most believe on livestock. And no one is denying it was intentionally introduced to the Northwest by inflecting it on wolves who were turned loose to infect other wolves. And if I were policy maker yes, I would absolutely dedicate resources to fix the problem we caused.

  30. avatar Si'vet says:

    Ralph, you talked about mange being introduced, my understanding it was introduced as well, after a couple of follow up links, I see where TWB has questions. I am starting to interpret, mange was in the environment, but coyotes and wolves were caught infected, then “reintroduced” back into there ranges, almost as if it was present here, just not prevalent. Is there a link or site that could clarify or nail down it origins, for my edification.

  31. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    gline – after asking a simple question I received conflicting information – Gerry and Timz. So, I have taken it upon myself to look into mites and such. It turns out mites have been around burrowing into humans and pretty much all other critters for quite some time. In the early 1900’s there certainly was an effort to use mange as a control method. What is not certain is whether that has any impact on the mange of today and there was mange clearly before then. So, how about you help out with some knowledge you may have instead of being ridiculous.

  32. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Talks with Bears, Si’vet, and timz, here is a quote about mange that supports what timz said:
    In 1909, wolves were experimentally infected with sarcoptic mange were released in Montana as a wolf-control measure. It is thought by some researchers that mange was introduced to the Canadian prairies through this draconian route.”
    The is from The Wolf Almanac: A Celebration of Wolves and their World by Robert H. Busch. Native or not, the disease was intentionally released. I would doubt in 1909 overpopulation was a problem.

  33. avatar timz says:

    Prowolf, thanks for posting that, I could post links to at least 3 sites with detailed info on that program, but folks like TWB would rather sit and blame it on the native americans, so I figured the hell with it, let them do their own research.

    S’vet
    yawn again

  34. avatar Si'vet says:

    Pro, thanks, that’s was my question, was it native and rare, but intentionally introduced. Thanks for the lead on Wolf Alamanac.

  35. avatar Save bears says:

    Prowolf, it is a known fact that mange was introduced by legislative action in Montana, there has never been a question about that..the actions of our ancestors is well known, but it has little bearing on the management choices faced now..

  36. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Save bears, I didn’t figure it had much bearing on management now, I only posted it so people could look it up if they wanted.

  37. avatar Save bears says:

    Really anybody that questions the actions of the government in Montana, which is in fact, well documented, is a waste of time. The legislature, directed the state vet to introduce the mite as a measure to get rid of wolves, that is fact. All you have to do, is read the historical record and legislative records..

  38. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    The question I have about the mange being released on the wolves, was why didn’t coyotes have a massive die-off. Are they more resistant?

  39. avatar timz says:

    Yes, you discuss issues. The wolf population infected by man introduced mange certainly doesn’t qualify as an important issue.

  40. avatar timz says:

    “The question I have about the mange being released on the wolves, was why didn’t coyotes have a massive die-off. Are they more resistant?”

    Interesting question. Maybe because they don’t pack up as much. Jon Way could answer that maybe.

  41. avatar Save bears says:

    Prowolf,

    There are several areas in Montana that coyotes have been infested with mange and die offs have occurred, in reality, it is not uncommon to see a coyote with mange, I have seen many, but coyotes are not on the radar like wolves, hence less press and attention are given to coyotes..for the most part, no many care if a coyote dies and it will never make main stream press when it happens..

  42. avatar Save bears says:

    if your pissed at TWB, then why are you and I arguing? Your on the name calling binge…disagree that is fine, but you seem to have a difficult time sticking to issues and not calling names, do you work this way in person as well?

  43. avatar Si'vet says:

    Prowolf, I’ve also seen a lot of mange. Could it be that coyotes break up in pairs to have pups instead of staying in packs, that might possible diminish it’s impact. My other thought as we’ve discussed, as competition is reduced coyotes usually have larger litters. I was in north central Idaho last spring, female coyote road kill on the side of the road, amatuer necropsy revealed 13 pups. Maybe there lies part of the answer.

  44. I just reopened this thread because I think it is an important topic.

    I wasn’t following it most of the day, and a name calling fest developed. I closed last night and now I have cleared out most of irrelevant trash.

    So I hope folks will stick to the topic or topics that develop.

  45. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I was looking at the map and can see that the area around Yellowstone (the old “trophy zone”) looks pretty saturated. I hope it’s only a matter of time before they start migrating south (along with grizz). Ralph, have you heard much about the wolves that were in the Casper area? Are they still there? Did they produce pups?

  46. Prowolf in WY,

    I heard nothing more.

    Wyoming wolves drift south and southeastward and disappear, or are at least lost to human tracking. It’s is clear, because it has been documented that two have made it to Colorado because their carcasses were found in that state with their collars on. Others very likely made it, and are dead. Hopefully some are alive and will find each other.

  47. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Ralph, I always wonder how many wolves do make it to places like Utah and Colorado but fall victim to SSS. The problem with southern Wyoming is that there aren’t a whole lot of places to hide and people instinctively shoot coyotes on the BLM land.

  48. timz,

    This looks like it should become a post. Thank you.

  49. avatar wyowind says:

    Looks like this discussion is closed. No negative or perceived negative comments allowed, constructive or not…. JT

  50. avatar wyowind says:

    So far have not seen any of my comments posted. Apparently moderator doesn’t like what I say or my computer is broken…

  51. wyowind,

    I have been out of town and without a laptop since early Feb. 1

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