U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes another 2006 wolf pop. estimate

This is the second wolf population estimate this year. The official final figures will be released about next March or April 2006.

The estimate is for wolves in the 3-state Northern Rockies “experimental, non-essential” wolf population area. That means Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park is mostly in Wyoming, but part is in Montana and a very small portion inside Idaho.

Here are statistics Ed Bangs, Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator for USFWS just released.

Data presented at our 2006 interagency annual meeting on Nov. 28/29 suggested that the wolf population, livestock loss, and lethal wolf control statistics were higher in 2006 than in 2005. We estimate the 2006 MT, ID, WY wolf population will be around 1,264 wolves in +163 groups of 2 or more animals, and +86 of those will probably be classified as breeding pairs [adult male and female raising at least 2 pups until Dec 31]. Livestock losses until late Nov. 2006 were 170 cattle, 344 sheep, 8 dogs, 1 horse, 1 mule, and 2 llamas. Lethal control removed 152 wolves.
No wolves were confirmed living in other NW US states.
Estimates for MT were 300 wolves in 59 packs, and 25 breeding pairs- 35 cattle, 133 sheep, 4 dogs [2 guard 2 pet], 2 llamas confirmed killed by wolves and 47 wolves removed.
In ID there are about 650 wolves in +70 packs, and + 36 breeding pairs- 24 cattle, 173 sheep, and 4 dogs [3 hounds, 1 guard] were confirmed killed and 61 wolves were removed.
In WY [including YNP at 140 wolves, 14 packs, 12 are breeding pairs] there are around 314 wolves in 34 packs and 25 of those will probably be breeding pairs- 111 cattle, 38 sheep, 1 horse and 1 mule were confirmed killed by wolves and as a result 44 wolves were killed in control actions.
More intensive radio-tracking flights, additional investigations and incidents, and analysis of data in December will improve the final estimates that will appear in the 2006 annual report.

Note that the boldfacing above is mine, not Bangs.

Notice that the cattle loss rate/per wolf is the lowest in Idaho and highest in Wyoming. The wolf “control” (killing) rate is lower in Idaho than Montana and Wyoming (the latter two being about the same). However, this is distorted by Yellowstone Park (no livestock, no control killing) which means that the actual wolf control rate and livestock depredation rate is higher in Wyoming than in Montana or Idaho.




  1. Jim Avatar

    152 wolves killed in control actions – ridiculus

  2. Andy T Avatar
    Andy T

    In most cases the wolves shot were not even directly linked to the dead livestock.

    There is one primary reason for this, US Wildlife Services has too much money, especially money for aerial gunning. They are under no constraints dollarwise whatsoever if any livestock have been killed.

    This is something the new Congress should be urged to take up–defunding Wildlife Services.

  3. Granite Igo Avatar
    Granite Igo

    I agree with Jim that the number of wolves killed is insane. And with Andy re. Wildlife Services. Perhaps a new Congress can be persuaded to cut or even kill Wildlife Services’ budget.

    Without Wildlife Services (what a misnomer – they used to be Animal Damage Control, which was more fitting), maybe ranchers would try a little harder to watch out for their livestock.

    A few do try. Most don’t. Why bother when Wildlife Services is only a phone call away? WS will respond in military fashion to gun down any pesky predator that dares to get within several miles of a holy cow or equally holy sheep.

    Once Wildlife Services gets their airforce in the air, the more wolves they can kill, the more they can justify their expensive wolf-killing budget.

    I’ve lived all my life in the West, and maybe someday, humans will finally learn to live with the wildlife here. Maybe not. Give me a pack of wolves, mountain lions or griz as neighbors anyday over most human.

  4. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Don’t forget that at least in some instances (admittedly I don’t know the exact circumstances behind each predation incident) the livestock was grazing on public land through a permit issued at far-below-market rate fees. So, the taxpayer subsidies the livestock grazing and then subsidies the killing of the public’s wildlife (the predators) through Wildlife Services. The only benefit goes to the livestock producer.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Do not underestimate the political power of the Ag lobby, nor should you overestimate the willingness of the Democrats in Congress to stand up to the Ag lobby. An awful lot of sustained pressure would have to be brought to bear to kill off Wildlife Services. Western Democrats certainly won’t go for it.

    I would like to see Wildlife Services eliminated as much as anyone. But it’s going to have to be a concerted effort, beginning with the grass roots. Endless pressure, endlessly applied.

  6. Jerry Black Avatar
    Jerry Black

    Robert….do you think the larger non profits would be advocates for “endless pressure, endlessly applied? Or, would they be worried about their funding?

  7. Brad Bond Avatar
    Brad Bond

    Are you guys nuts? Do you honestly think that the ranchers just sit back and watch wolves kill their livestock? Do you realy think they don’t look after them? If they were to interfere they would have to pay a hugh fine. They’re not going to risk that.
    No Wildlife Service? Then who would manage the wildlife. I’m sure Granite would, he’d leave his high-rise apartment in Oregon, stop eating his granola so he can spend time outside studying wildlife. Maybe then he’d see why the elk population in yellowstone has been reduced by more than half since wolves were introduced into the park. Or he could actually watch as a wolf disembowls an animal and feast upon it’s flesh while animal is still alive. Then Granite or any of you guys would want wolves as neighbors for sure.

    Except in Wyoming, ranchers now have complete authority to shoot any wolves bothering their livestock. For the last 2 years, the wolves don’t have to be attacking the livestock.

    I think that is the way it should be. Ranchers kill problem wolves. They should not be able to call in a federal agency to do it. The feds at Wildlife Services will spend $20,000 or so flying around in helicopters to take care of a $1000 problem wolf. Perhaps you didn’t know this based on the first sentence in your post above. Ralph Maughan

  8. Mike S. Avatar
    Mike S.

    “152 wolves killed in control actions – ridiculus”
    I agree!!! It should be more like 600.

  9. Rob Avatar

    This is only part of the picture. One report by researchers that ralph posted states that for every known cattle killed by wolves there are at least 5 and upwards to 9 cattle killed that go undetected. That is a staggering ration 5 to 1 upwards of 9 to 1. So as Mike states ther should be more like 600! For all you wolf advocates, wolves do not belong any more on public land than cattle do.

    You didn’t quite quote me correctly. At any rate, I think this needs to be revisited. I remain doubtful the ratio of total killed to verified killed is even 2:1 Ralph Maughan

  10. Rob Avatar

    But the research says otherwise. When it comes to wolf restoration you do not doubt the researchers when it is in favor of the wolf but when it comes to possibly more wolves being killed because of these staggering ratios then you are in doubt. Hmmm?

  11. Barb Avatar


    Are YOU nuts? Why should MY taxes protect YOUR business and livelihood? Buy your own friggin’ security!

    Leaving animals unattended for months on end is like INVITING predators to come and get it!

    It’s just like leaving a store open all night WITH NO EMPLOYEES with tons of great merchandise inside.

    When the people come in and start taking things, federal agents using tax money SHOOT THEM on behalf of the store owners.

    Like — what?!

    Yes, that is exactly what is going on! And it’s time to put an end to this madness!

    To those who agree W.S. should be de-funded:
    Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to expect the D.C. power people to support ‘defunding Wildlife Services.” It won’t work — they have certain programs that aren’t involved in killing, to make themselves “look good.”

    De-funding Wildlife Services lethal and other “predator control” plans must be done in small steps.

    Our reps REALLY are ignorant of this situation. They see LETHAL predator control as the ONLY WAY to protect livestock owners.

    They need to be SERIOUSLY EDUCATED!

    And so does the population at large — especially the South, Southeast, North and Northeast of the U.S. as this issue doesn’t affect them as much and many are not even aware of it!


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