Wolf population growing in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

On Sept. 22, Ed Bangs sent out email giving the mid-year population esimates for wolves in the 3 state experimental wolf recovery area. The news media are now picking up the story.

Most of the media are taking an unreflective straight approach, saying the wolf population is up by 20%. Yesterday, however, the Idaho State Journal called me, and I give some perspective. Read Idaho State Journal article.

Two wolf population estimates are made each year. One is at mid-year (now). The most important one is at year end (and usually released about March). Mid-year estimates are very preliminary. Year end estimates should be compared to year-end estimates. What most of the media is doing is comparing this year’s mid-year estimate to the end of 2005 estimate. This is wrong because a number of wolves will die between now and the end of the year. It might be just a couple per cent. It might be ten per cent or more. On the other hand, they will discover more wolves between now and the end of the year.

The mid-year count is really an underestimate. Last year they counted 912 wolves at mid-year and 1020 wolves at the end of the year! Because all wolves are born in April and May, the additional 108 wolves were all new discoveries.

It should be noted that Bangs hardly helped clarify the data. He simply wrote:

These estimates indicate the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population continues to grow in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and all known wolf packs reside in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Preliminary mid-year estimates indicate a total of about 1,229 wolves, in 158 packs, with at least 87 potential breeding pairs. This represents an overall wolf population growth rate of over 20% since last year’s interagency official December 31, 2005 mid-winter wolf population estimate of 1,020 wolves in 132 packs and 71 breeding pairs qualifying as breeding pairs.

He did give detailed pack data, however, and I will try to present that in readable form.

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Sept. 29. Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette has been covering issues like this for quite a while, and has the knowledge to do a good job. Article.



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  1. Jim Avatar


    There will NEVER be enough wolves in the world

  2. Aaron Avatar

    We need to be able to take at least 50 to 60 wolves a year in montana cause there killing thousands of dallor worth of cattle and sheep

  3. caleb Avatar

    they were growing in 2006, not anymore in 2008. That many wolves were taken in Montana already. Those thousands of dollars are paid back to the ranchers so they don’t lose anything. The wolves have brought much more money to the state and more of its residents than those cattle and sheep would have.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan