Idaho Statewide big game harvest figures, 1935-2005

Look at these amazing details.

Look and see if you can detect the effect of wolves. Remember wolves were reintroduced in 1995. At first there were just a few, and at the end of 2005 about 600 wolves, so the evidence of their effect should increase each years after 1995.

Link to the figures.



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  1. Dean Malencik Avatar
    Dean Malencik

    Excellent find. Do we have any animal populaion estmates over the recent time period? These two sets of data with the proper statistics should “put to bed” all of those wolf anecdotal stories.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t know. It was sent to me by a former Idaho Fish and Game employee, and I put it up as fast as I could convert it to HTML

    I’ll see if there is more. These data have been hard to come by.

  3. Layton Avatar

    Amazing that you can consider this one report as so enlightening.

    If you go to the Idaho Fish and Game site and look under the technical/research topic, I suspect you can find enough data to keep you busy for quite a while. This one is included.

    However, before you get to “warm and fuzzy” you might want to consider just a few things.

    What were hunter numbers in the affected periods? What were population numbers for the affected species in the specific time frames? Were the numbers in the report estimated or real?

    And, especially for this one — how many “special” hunt permits were included in these data? Since the intro. of Canis there have been MANY more special hunts, short range hunts, cow hunts, etc., here in Idaho. A lot of them because of where Mr. Lupus is forcing the remaining elk to concentrate to avoid him. When the elk are forced to move closer to people to survive, they cause depredation and there are permits issued to kill more animals because of the damage they cause (why don’t we do that with wolves?). Of course you folks don’t care about that — or is it that you crave it??

    By the way, just for grins, try to make the numbers on this report add up. My HP 12C can’t do it.

    Nope, anecdotal data mean nothing if they come from a source that isn’t 100% “wolf friendly”. But, just FYI, here’s one an article that references a 16 year study that points out what the “anecdotal” folks in the woods around here have been trying (usually in vain) to point out.

    I’ve included a pointer so it won’t be “hard to come by”.


  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I have read the Science Magazine article, not just the abstract.

    It’s very important, and I didn’t just put a link to it and charge on, because I am working up a longer post about it.

  5. Kim Avatar

    there were two articles in the billings gazette and the livingston paper in re a study on elk pregnancy and presence of wolves, yall may have the links to the paper and can attach to the link,, it was done by mt st univ..for those interested

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    We need the actual article, not the abstract or a discussion. It’s important to see what parameters the study had.

    It’s a shame that Science charges for access to full texts of articles.


  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Someone emailed the paper from Science Magazine to me. I’ll send it to you.

    Just got back from a day out near the Utah/Idaho/Nevada border (City of Rocks)

  8. Austin Avatar

    Wolves change Elk behavior, was that ever in doubt? Wolves and Elk have existed together for hundreds of years without a problem. That means the two populations if left alone will sustain themselves just fine. So I am not sure what Mr. Layton is trying to prove with his article? My point is that if this issue with Elk reproduction rates is going on, then it has been for as long as Wolves and Elk have been together. So what is the point Mr. Layton? That you don’t wolves at all in your state if it might cause the slightest inconvenience to anyone? I think the original statement was that has there been a significant decrease in the animal populations since reintroduction? This study seems to indicate that is not the case. Even if there was a huge increase in hunting through all of those years as you claim you should still see a decrease in the harvest as the populations drop.

    Also if you would like to try to discredit others conclusion about the study I suggest you provide evidence, instead of giving us your opinion that there have been a large increase in hunts and hunters. Perhaps the actual number of permits issued per year would be a good place to start.

  9. Layton Avatar


    What article are you reading – it sure isn’t the same one that I read.

    Just a small quote – this is from the Billings Gazette and it is talking about the Science Magazine article, the abstract of which I pointed to in an earlier post.

    “The ratio of calves to cows, considered an important gauge of an elk herd’s overall health, was lower in areas where wolves were busier.

    In the Gallatin Canyon herd, there were just eight calves per 100 cows.

    Generally, 30 calves per 100 cows is considered a solid ratio to sustain a herd.

    The results appear to mesh with an earlier study that looked at how elk calves died on Yellowstone’s Northern Range.

    The project was launched in 2003, after a drop in the number of elk counted during annual surveys in that area. Between 1994 and 2004, the elk count fell from 19,035 to 8,335. This winter’s count, conducted on Dec. 30, found 6,738 elk.

    Now, if that doesn’t point to a “significant decrease” in the elk population in one of the first areas where the wolves were introduced —- I’m not sure what does.

    Then you say “Even if there was a huge increase in hunting through all of those years as you claim you should still see a decrease in the harvest as the populations drop.”

    Does it take a complete collapse of the elk population to notify the wolf fanciers that there is a problem??

    There are MANY MORE permits issued now — the statistics point out that there is NOT a corresponding increase in the number of elk taken. Can you figure it out from there?

    By the way, there are indications now that the number of elk permits for the ’07 hunting season here in Idaho are being lowered — does that give you any clue?? Or, perhaps we have to wait until there has to be an elk re-introduction??

    Gosh, I hope we do it while there is enough left that we don’t have to bring some in from California — of course Tule elk are just a slightly different sub-species, we can still call it a RE-introduction, the precedent has be set already.


  10. Austin Avatar

    I believe that I agreed that Elk reproduction was affected where wolves where busier. My point, which you failed to grasp, was that this was not something new. As I said before Elk and wolves have done just fine by themselves for hundreds of years.

    Next you throw out a study showing a decrease in Elk numbers from 1994 to 2003 and you also claim there are many more permits issued. However once again you present no evidence to back up your claims, just your own opinion that means nothing to me as you are clearly biased towards wolves.

    However even still one cannot draw some simple conclusion from this supposed study with out considering such factors as other predators (Cougars & Bears), over browsing, disease, and weather. All which have contributing effects. Also in nature, populations of animals over time increase and decrease naturally. But hey if you have an article done by credible scientist that says wolves are directly causing this decline then please post it. I will post a link to an article in the Idaho Mountain Express which states that scientist agree that wolves are not decimating Elk herds. That does not mean there is a slight decrease from the introduction of wolves, naturally wolves do eat Elk just as I am sure you do also.

    Also if the species reintroduced from Canada are so different than the ones previously wiped out in Idaho please provide their scientific names.

  11. Layton Avatar


    I’m going to try one more time, I don’t think it will do much good, but I’m going to try.

    “Next you throw out a study showing a decrease in Elk numbers from 1994 to 2003 and you also claim there are many more permits issued. However once again you present no evidence to back up your claims, just your own opinion that means nothing to me as you are clearly biased towards wolves”

    READ THE ARTICLE!! It points to a 2/3 reduction in elk since the intro of the wolves in the area, it is a 16 year study and would seem to have some validity.

    Look on the Idaho F&G site for the numbers of special and controlled hunt permits for elk the last few years — see what conclusions you come to.

    While you are on the site, look for the proposed reductions in permits for 2007, does it give you a clue??

    Peek and Atkensen have been hired by Susan Stone and the DOW so many times that they should be claimed as dependants — Atkensoen’s own words would seem to shoot her down, while she points out that mule deer populations “skyrocketed” after the improvements in habitat caused by large fires, she admits that elk populations are still down — 17%, WHY?

    Oh, there is that little bit about

    “some of this decline is undoubtedly due to wolf predation” but that other factors, such as overbrowsing and declining elk calf recruitment, are the more weighty culprits.”

    Declining calf recruitment??? — Could that POSSIBLY mesh with the study mentioned above??

    C’mon Austin, surely you can do better than that.

    “Also if the species reintroduced from Canada are so different than the ones previously wiped out in Idaho please provide their scientific names.”

    Already did that, look on this blog on the posts about the wolves killing the dogs in Avery.


  12. Austin Avatar

    Ya I don’t think me replying to you will do much good either. I read the article AND it says that it is believed that wolves have an affect on Elk pregnancy rates. I believe that I have told you I agree with that twice now. It also clearly says that Bears are the number one killer of young Elk not wolves. I have said this twice and I will say it again, this affect on pregnancy rates is not something new. If wolves where truly going to wipe out the Elk population then they would have done so long before you or your relatives every got to Idaho and decided that these populations needed to be ‘controlled’. You seem to want to pick and chose what evidence you want to believe is credible to meet your own anti-wolf views. As far as I am concerned all evidence that I have seen posted is credible, you are the only one that seems to have a problem with that. Oh and by the way wolves also eat mule deer just as they eat elk, so the fact the Mule Deer population skyrocketed proves to me the wolves have nothing to do with the Elk decline.

    I also ask you to show me where you got your information for permits. I have no intention of trying to figure out whatever vague conclusion you are coming to from these permits. It make no sense that permits and special hunts would increase ever year as the wolf population increased from 93 then all of a sudden in 07 it decreases? Permit number go up and down in my state also and we don’t have a single predator. Post its location and prove a correlation or stop stating it as fact.

    I also found the blog you refer to and I would like to point you to a map from an encyclopedia, which hopefully even your dense mind finds credible. It shows both subspecies lived in Idaho and the US before humans came and eradicated them. So the whole BS about this being some different non-native subspecies does not fly with me. Also do you really think that the subspecies did not cross the boarder and breed with each other? Or perhaps that the ranges would not overlap?

    Let me explain something to you Layton, as long as you come onto a pro-wolf website and post your negative anti-wolf views I will be here to dispute them with clear evidence and the evidence of science. Not my own conclusions about articles but what they actually say.

  13. Austin Avatar

    Layton, here is another article, which explains the drop in Elk numbers in Yellowstone from 95-05 are not directly caused by wolves. But I am sure you will find some excuse as to why it is not credible either.

  14. Layton Avatar

    OK Austin,

    I’ve got it figured out — you point out a source or a study — and it’s gospel!!!

    I point out a source or a study and it’s either — not reliable — not pertinent — or you can’t find it!!

    I’ve got it!! I’ve got it!!

    Oh, then there’s the other thing — Never mind, have it your way, sing to the choir.

    By the way, did you bother to read some of the other articles that your Science Daily pointed to?? Like the one that said the genetics of the intro’d wolves were different?

    “Professor Robert Wayne, one of the researchers on the project based at UCLA concludes: “Our results imply that current restoration goals of a few hundred wolves in the American West are grossly inadequate and reflect political and economic concerns rather than past biological reality”.

    No, I’ll bet you didn’t.


  15. Austin Avatar

    Layton, I sure did read that article. Also I believe that I have agreed with every article you have posted, just not your conclusions. Of course the genetics are going to be different the original population was exterminated. You and my genetics are different as are yours and the Native Americans that once resided there. That does not mean it is a different species or subspecies of animal.

    You are absolutely correct a few hundred wolves are grossly inadequate it would require thousands of wolves restored to the original range to create the genetic diversity that once existed. You do know what the word inadequate means right?

  16. Layton Avatar

    Yep, I do believe I know the meaning of the word.

    A really good illustration of that word in action would be to look at a discussion on the internet and see which party must resort to personal attacks when their cockamamy theories won’t stand up to scrutiny — does that ring any bells Austin?

    The fact of the matter is that the “worship the wolf” crowd will NEVER be happy if even one of their pets is knocked out of the ecosysem – never!

    Here’s one more pointer that my “dense mind” found interesting. I know it will be difficult for you to find the pertinent info, but just click down a couple of times and you should find it.

    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree here —

    See ya’


  17. Austin Avatar

    Layton, sorry about that I probably could have put that differently. But it is not as if you did not start with a condescending attitude to begin with. Cockamamie? I don’t believe I said anything that was not common knowledge or listed on one of the articles posted.

    The fact of the matter is that the anti-wolf crowd will never accept anything that contradicts their narrow views – never!

    Yes, I do like and work with wolves and do not want to see them exterminated again. I also don’t like it when people spread false paranoia and fear; they already have enough going against them.

    I saw the map thank you for posting it, I also see where it indicates that both subspecies where not in the Idaho region. I am still not sure why you could not recognize anything I posted as being legitimate but whatever.

    Your right, I guess we will have to agree to disagree-

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Best wishes,


  18. Layton Avatar


    I just gotta make one small, little clarification here. Then I PROMISE I’ll quit – this thread anyway. ;^)

    “Yes, I do like and work with wolves and do not want to see them exterminated again”

    Who said that? I really hope you’re not pinning that on me. I’ve NEVER said that — it’s the uncontrolled, unplanned “let the puppies breed forever” philosophy that I can’t abide by.


  19. Austin Avatar


    Just to clarify my comment then I promise I am done also.

    I know you never advocated extermination. What I meant by my previous comment was I hear people like the politicians saying they want to reduce the wolf population from 650 by 85% or to whatever the federal minimum is. That to me goes well beyond realistic population control to the point of extermination or slaughter. Like I said this is just my opinion and you may not agree with it.


  20. Michelle Avatar

    I realize that I am coming on these comments a little late, but I looked at the numbers, then took a look at a couple of other sites as well.

    Having grown up in Idaho, and watching the explosive growth of new homes and communities, especially in Southern Idaho, it would seem the increase of human population, with the corresponding decrease in available browsing habitat, would be a significant factor in elk and other wild game challenges.

    Here’s a few numbers:
    Idaho’s poplulation increased from 667,191 in 1960 to 1,293,953 in 2000 according to the census bureau. And, between 2000 and 2005, over 68,000 new homes were built. This is a significant increase in homes and decrease in habitat.

    One articale stated that there is an estimated 600 wolves in Idaho. Husseman and Power (1999) estimated that there is 12.4 kills per wolf per year (deer and elk). Using this estimate, the number of large game wolves would account for would be just under 7000 per year. Far below the 67,500 taken by hunters in 2005. Also, many hunters look for the biggest and healthest, taking some of the best breeding stock out of the herds. Wolves help strengthen the herds by taking primarily weak, sick and old.

  21. elkhunter Avatar

    You honestly believe that a wolf kills once a month. Once a month. Cougars need to kill once a week to survive. And they are smaller than a wolf. So a 150-200 lb. wolf needs only to kill once a month? I find that very hard to belive, and I talked to a wolf biologist in AK, he said they will make multiple kills a week. Thats is during the winter of course. I could be wrong though. But that is what he told me.


  22. Jay Avatar

    Do the math elkhunter…the numbers are expressed on a per/wolf basis, but wolves kill in packs. Yes, a pack will kill 2-3 times per week, but there are on average 8-10 wolves/pack. So if a pack of 10 wolves kills 160 elk per/year, that works out to 16 elk/wolf. In Yellowstone, the kill rate (expressed as kills/wolf/day) ranges from .061-.068 from early to late winter. That works out to about 22-24 elk per wolf over the course of a year. The numbers Michelle mentions are admittedly low by the authors (I’ve read it) because they didn’t find all wolf kills, but they’re still in the ballpark. What the kill rate is for wolves in Idaho is in all likelihood somewhere between the 12.4 mentioned above and what they’re finding in Y-stone (kill rates are higher in Y-stone where game density is higher than in central Idaho). Also, you find me a 150-200 lb. wolf in Idaho and I’ll eat a pile of wolf droppings…you’ve been reading too much of Ron Gilett’s “literature”.

  23. Michelle Avatar

    Hello elkhunter,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I was talking about an average per wolf per year, not what a pack of wolves take down. A wild wolf needs to comsume an average of 9lbs of meet a day. A pack of wolves kills a deer/elk on average every 2-4 days. This from the Idaho Fish and Game report:

    The report actually cited a study that showed wolves taking down a deer/elk every 3.4 days during a year of study. By figuring the amount of wolves that make up a pack, the average per wolf per year was 12.4 (same report).

    Please do not misunderstand, I am not against hunting. Especially from those who respect and utilize the game they harvest. What I believe to be the more important issue here, is to look at the facts, not the emotional component. Wolves and other wild predators have proven to be an important and necessary element in maintaining the strength of prey populations, and in fact account for a very small proportion of the total elk and deer deaths per year.

  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The average Idaho male wolf is about 100 pounds and female 90 pounds, and wolves are slightly smaller than cougars.

    Some additional information that may be of interest: large packs loose less of their kill to scavengers than small packs because small packs have to return multiple times to consume an elk. Meanwhile, ravens, magpies, eagles, and coyotes are at work.

  25. elkhunter Avatar


    Ravens, magpies, eagles and coyotes. It would take those creatures literally forever to consume an elk. The amounts they take would be insignificant. I know a coyote consumes 2-3 lbs a day. Even a yearling cow will wiegh upwards of 300 lbs. That coyote and ravens would need a long time to effect a wolfs kill that bad. And the average cougar is also around 100 lbs. So I have a hard time believing that a wolf eats one elk/deer a month. And of course considering the fact that a majority of the areas they live in is wilderness, how can anyone really say they kill 12 elk a year. Are those elk calves? Or yearlings? Or mature bulls? They can vary greatly on size. Mature bull upwards of 1,000 lbs. Cows and calves a third of that wieght. So if a wolf pack kills 10 calves in the spring. Is that equal to one bull? OR 2 cows? How is the math done? If you would Ralph along with the info you have on those harvest dates, could you also get me the season dates for each of those hunts, also the number of tags issued, and what areas had the highest success. Ralph I have hunted for a very long time and harvest rates can say alot, and nothing at all. If you hold an elk hunt in November. The harvest rates will be lower than if you held it in September. Why, because the elk are easier to hunt and to find because of the Rut. In Nov. the bulls are preparing for winter and are now solitary animals, so alot harder to find. As for deer, if those hunts are in Nov. then harvest rates will be higher because deer are in the low country and also in the rut. So your numbers give us some info, but if you could get me that info then we could make alot better conclusion. Thanks.
    – – – – –

    See my post below, but in Yellowstone Park, after the rut, the bulls are not solitary. They lick their wounds, so to speak, in all male groups from a couple to maybe a dozen. Their hormone level, now down, they must feel like “What came over me? I’m hurt and sore and the damn cow elk are so ugly, I can’t imagine what I was doing.” However, the wolves hit these recuperating bull elk pretty hard some winters and other winters not. Ralph

  26. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    There are good studies on how many elk wolves kill, and how much of the kill goes to the scavengers. It is from the Yellowstone Park winter studies. These are on-line and published. Scavengers get a lot!

    If you go the the Park’s northern range in mid-winter, you are very likely to see young folks (often biology graduate students and others) with spotting equipment and lots of gear to stay warm, documenting the kills, recording how long the carcass lasts, recording what kind of scavengers are present, recording the number of scavengers by type and time of day, collecting wolf scat for analysis.

    Studies of coyotes and elk are also taking place.

    Twenty ravens an equal number of magpies and an eagle or two consume a lot in a short time. I think there are more of these in Yellowstone than outside (just impressionistic data)

    The Park winter data is very good data! On the other hand, not so much is known about the summer because it is much harder to find a kill, but it is known that wolves kill fewer elk in the summer, and a lot more mule deer because the deer migrate into the Park. It is also known that the total amount of meat available to wolves is less during the summer. The wolves lose weight during the summer and early fall.

    Therefore, standardized wolf kill rates based on Yellowstone Park data overestimate annual kill rates because summer is not factored in.

    There is also no good late spring data or autumn rut kill data, but in Yellowstone at least, the bull elk tend to get hit by the wolves after the rut. All of the bull elk that compete tend to be depleted after the rut.

    It is too bad there isn’t data for Idaho. You already know what I believe about the benefits of the fall hunts for the wolves. It has been observed that wolf packs that range outside of Yellowstone, but nearby, sometimes almost stop killing entirely during the late elk hunt, due to the availability of gut piles.

    It is now known from studies in Yellowstone, Montana and Idaho that wolves are not heavy predators on young elk calves (under 2 weeks). The energy cost of finding them versus their size isn’t worth it to wolves. It is worth it to bears. I have seen grizzly bears walk back and forth in the sagebrush until they find one, and WHAMM.

    Elk calves and deer fawn are not of much appeal to wolves until they have put on some weight. Late calves, of course, are at the greatest disadvantage, so anything that disrupts an efficient rut is likely to produce more late calves and have negative consequences for the herd’s recruitment rate.

  27. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Because there are so many factors related to wolf prey relationships it is very hard to arrive at cut and dried statistics. but here is some data from a paper by L. David Mech and Rolf O.Peterson.

    “Actual numbers of individual prey killed per year cannot accurately be determined because of the lack of kill rate data from non-winter periods……. Nevertheless, attempts have been made to determine annual kill rates of individual prey, but remain estimates. For deer, they ranged from 15 to 19 adult-sized deer (or their equivalents) per wolf per year, assuming that other prey constitute another 20% of the diet such as beaver, hares, and other small animals, or scavenging.(Mech 1971; Kolenosky 1972; Fuller 1989b). For moose on Isle Royale, where the only other significant prey are beaver, taken only during warm periods, the annual estimate was 3.6 adult moose and 5.3 calves per wolf (Mech 1966b). In south- central Alaska, the year-round estimated kill rate, adjusted for prey type (adult and calf moose and caribou), averaged one kill per 8.3 days for a pack of six wolves (Ballard et al. 1987), or about 7.3 kills per wolf per year. For the Western Arctic caribou herd, where an estimated 55% of wolves’ prey was caribou, some 1,740 wolves were estimated to be killing the equivalent of 28,000 adult cows annually, or 16 per wolf per year.”

  28. elkhunter Avatar

    I have a hard time sometimes believing these studies, cause on one hand I have pro-wolf individuals telling me how elusive wolves are, and how they keep to themselves. And that they are very hard to even locate sometimes without the help of collars. Then on the other hand, pro-wolf people come up with all this impressive data on how many kills a wolf makes a week. Its not just 12 elk. Its 12.8 elk. And I have hunted country similar to ID. Wilderness, no roads. Miles on miles of mountains. Yet someone can come out and say that this pack killed X amount of elk. Like I have said before. This is the only thing that really bugs me is the attitude that predators do not effect big-game. That even if elk populations are down anywhere, there is no way that the wolves could be responsible. Yellowstone herd down to almost 7,000 animals this winter. No way could the wolves have a small part to do with that. Tags for an elk hunt in ID lowered from 2800 ten years ago to 100 this year. No way could wolves have anything to do with that. That attitude is the only thing that really bugs me.

  29. Jay Avatar

    That’s the great thing about wildlife research: vast amounts of time, effort, and money to come up with the best information available for people like you not to believe. Maybe you should spend the next 5-10 years of your life marking animals, following them day in, day out, documenting kills, and spending countless hours in front of a computer doing statistical analyses and writing of manuscripts. Or, you could just continue to base your opinion on hearsay and articles in Outdoor Life (the pillar of wildlife science journalism!).

  30. Michelle Avatar

    Of course predators effect big game populations. That’s their job, and it’s been their job since long before modern man starting ‘managing’ wildlife. It’s a balance that had worked for untold centuries. No one is saying that wolves, bear, coyote, or big cats do not kill and eat prey. Where the contention is, is how much? How many?

    Hunters I know (and love, even though we often loudly disagree) want to stick the wolf and other preditors with the decline of ‘their’ ability to go out and kill ‘their’ elk or deer. These same hunters are involved with some great societies trying to preserve elk habit, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and also are opposed to such measures as drilling in the Arctic.

    Instead of looking only at wild predators, who to my knowledge have never hunted a species to extinction, let us look truly at what really is affecting prey populations. We do not have to look much further than the mirror. I’m not saying that hunters are mostly responsible, because I do not believe that, but people are. Poaching, habitat destruction, climate changes, “domestic” (farm) diseased elk getting out, hunting, and yes, even wild predators kill big game. However, the best scientific studies we have show that wild predators contribute to a very small percentage. I believe that killing the wolves will only accomplish that: killing the wolves. And in killing the wolves, we will also weaken the prey populations (wolves naturally cull the herd of old, weak and ill). There will not be an appreciable and long-lasting increase big game populations. It seems the more we try to ‘manage’ what has taken nature a millenium to perfect, the worse it gets.


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Ralph Maughan