Northern Rockies wolf numbers rise while livestock depredations falls

Ed Bangs has released the mid-year estimate of wolf numbers. The final estimate is made for Jan. 1, and, of course, it has to be lower because the pups are born each April or May..

The wolf population continues to grow, most strongly in per cent terms in Montana, although in absolute numbers in Idaho which has the largest base population of wolves. There are a number of newspaper stories about this now, and a major point of confusion is due to the fact that the 2006 figures Bangs cites below are year end and 2007 figures are mid-year. Therefore, a story in a newspaper on Sept. 22 that says the population growth rate is 19% is wrongly overstated growth because wolves will die between mid-2007 and the end of 2007. Comparisons of wolves killed and livestock killed are also hard to directly compare with 2006 because more will come.

I didn’t realize this either, thinking at first it was mid-2006 compared with mid-2007.

Below are the data and an analysis by Ed Bangs.

rough mid-year wolf population estimate for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains [NRM].
There are no known wolf packs in the NRM outside of Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. Our
official interagency estimates in our 2007 annual report will certainly be different and much
more accurate than these because of better wolf monitoring conditions in fall/winter and
increased levels of wolf mortality and dispersal later in the year. These figures do give some
insight into the likely trend of the wolf population, conflicts, and control relative to last year.
Overall, the NRM wolf population in 2007 will be higher, wolf control about the same, and
confirmed livestock depredations lower than that documented in 2006.


State    Year    # Wolves         Packs   B pairs     Cattle killed  Sheep    Dogs     Other    Wolves


MT      2006    316                      60          21                        32                        4            4            2          53

MT      2007    394                      71          37                        48                        19          1            1          50


ID       2006    673                      69          40                        29                        205        4            0          45

ID       2007    788                      75          41                        36                        150        7            0          40


WY     2006    311                      40          25                        123                      38          0            1          44

WY     2007    362                      33          27                        28                        16          2            0          45


Total   2006    1300                    172        86                        184                      247        8            3            142

            2007    1545                    179        105                      111                      185        10          1            134





  1. Dante Avatar

    Hmmm. Makes you wonder who is reporting the misleading information…..Ed Bangs or Matthew Brown!

    It is very possible that the number of livestock killed is down because more land and livestock owners are taking more of a proactive stance to protect their interests. It does seem that lately there have been many more livestock related incidents as reported on the FWS gray wolf homepage. However, wolves are not dumb animals so it could be that after a livestock owner or FWS shoot at wolves or use other non leathal means that the wolves seem to shy away from livestock. I believe this is the reason for less livestock mortality despite there being more wolves. If this is the case then kudos for FWS and livestock owners for taking a more proactive approach.

  2. Jay Avatar

    Or it could just be more intensive lethal removal of wolves in areas of consistent, chronic depredations.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Note: my corrections above in red font. I’ve made it clear just which dates are being compared. I had it wrong at first.

    It is evident that the year’s wolf population will be less than the 19% the Billings Gazette said today.

    It is also evident that they are killing wolves at a higher rate this year. The number of cattle killed will up at the end of the year, except Wyoming where it might show a big drop.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Every week, Bangs puts out articles about the latest wolf depredations. While it is usually a calf or two here and 1-10 sheep there, it gives the impression of great numbers of livestock being killed.

    Can you imagine if there was even a minor story every time a cow or sheep was poisoned, got some illness, was killed by coyotes, eagles, bears, cougars, or in the case of sheep, “tortoise-shelled?”

  5. Jim Avatar

    Ralph, based on the total 2007 numbers, 5 wolves will kill 1 head of livestock in a year, 1500 wolves total and 300 heads of livestock killed. Pretty paltry numbers.


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan