Preliminary wolf numbers are announced by Idaho Fish and Game-

Idaho Wolves: At A Glance IDFG new release.

The news release reports that there are 824 wolves, 88 packs of which 38 are considered breeding pairs. This is up from the 732 wolves and 83 packs but not in the way that you may think.

At first glance these numbers would indicate a 15% increase in wolf numbers but that doesn’t take into account many factors. Each year when the final reports are written there are packs that were counted which didn’t appear in the previous year’s numbers but have yearling or sub-adult wolves in them. These wolves are retroactively added as packs to the previous years population numbers. This means that, from information that I have learned, that the population of wolves in Idaho has grown only 7% statewide and that most of that growth has occurred north of I-90 where wolves receive full protection under the ESA. If you take those wolves out of the equation then the population growth rate drops to only 5% south of I-90.

Rate of growth is declining. In previous years the population growth estimate has been about 20% until last year when there was a 8% growth rate and this year with a 7% growth rate.

The media often cites the 20% number or uses the mid-year numbers of wolves to indicate the growth rate of the population but since wolves have pups only once per year in April and May that number is always an overestimate since there is great mortality between the mid-year estimate and the end-of-the year estimate.

As far as radio collared wolves there are 84 wolves in 50 packs which had radio collars in December 2008, a little over 10%.


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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

5 Responses to 2008 Idaho wolf count. Population up 7% statewide but only 5% south of I-90.

  1. william huard says:

    Ralph, I live in Massachusetts, and I know that I am an outsider to these environmental issues that you deal with in your region of the country. I had a conversation with steve, who is the wolf guy for the Idaho Dept of Fish and Game. Their management plan is based on a target number of 500 wolves or so- correct me if I am wrong. He said that 1/3 of the wolves in the state are constantly in trouble with livestock, and need to be managed more aggressively. I asked him how they plan on reaching that target number without having a free for all like Wyoming- where it would be open season on wolves. I don’t know if he was sincere or not- he said that everyone including Butch Otter wanted wolves in the state of Idaho. What are your thoughts as to how Idaho should proceed with wolf management.

  2. timz says:

    “I don’t know if he was sincere or not- he said that everyone including Butch Otter wanted wolves in the state of Idaho.”
    Ha Ha! -What a crock. Otter said in a speech he wanted to be first to shoot one.
    If you spoke with Steve Nadeau I wouldn’t believe a word he says.

  3. timz says:

    “He said that 1/3 of the wolves in the state are constantly in trouble with livestock, and need to be managed more aggressively”

    Nonesense — that would mean nearly 300 wolves marauding around killing livestock. That just isn’t happening in Idaho or anywhere else for that matter.

  4. william huard says:

    I know that Butch Otter only cares about his livestock constituency and has made this political just like Steve Pierce in New Mexico has.

  5. Timz,

    You are right, Timz, 300 head of livestock didn’t get killed by wolves in Idaho last year.

    Their goal is to use livestock as an excuse, not a real reason to kill wolves. Unfortunately, this maximizes social conflict and also results in more dead livestock because to some degree the livestock are bait. With every dead cow there is an excuse now to kill an entire pack.

    Of course the won’t say it.

    It looks like things will change. Please read the story I just posted on Obama and the Freedom of Information Act.


January 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey