First Decline Since Reintroduction

In Testimony to the Senate Resource and Environment Committee on January 18th Jim Unsworth, Deputy Director of the Idaho Fish and Game, said that the Idaho wolf population is about 800 animals which is down from last year’s estimate of 846. This would be the first decline seen in the wolf population since they were re-introduced in 1995.

The population has seen lower growth rates in recent years even though it is commonly claimed that the population has grown by 20% each year. With this year’s hunt (135 in 2009 and 11 in 2010), control actions by Wildlife Services (87), known poaching (13), and other mortality (38) there have been 284 wolf mortalities which is the highest since the reintroduction occurred. Data from December 2009 Management Progress Report.

Here is the testimony:

Senator Stennett asked for a point of clarity regarding the number of wolves for the next hunting season and the number of tags. Mr. Unsworth said they haven’t done the estimates yet, but this year they had 95 packs (about 800 animals) and it is the Commission’s decision as to what the harvest will be for next year. Senator Stennett inquired about the study on elk in the Lolo area. Mr. Unsworth stated that he would provide her with that information.

January 18, 2010 – Minutes – Page 7

Other interesting information is also found in his testimony. “149 radio-marked wolves were monitored in Idaho during 2009” and “10 of 135 harvested wolves were wearing radio collars. Capturing and radio-collaring efforts will need to be increased to compensate for lost collars.”

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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.

67 Responses to Initial Estimates Indicate Idaho's Wolf Population DECLINED

  1. Virginia says:

    Is this a surprise to anyone? Populations decline when you try to wipe them out.

  2. jon says:

    Ralph, did you hear about this story yet?

    Maybe you should make a new post about it?

  3. Hi jon,

    Yes I have seen the story.

    I don’t approve posting the names of the hunters. Some of them have been harassed for doing something that is legal. Of course many people are highly opposed to the wolf hunt, but wolf hunting is a legal activity.

    I get harassed too, and I don’t want to do anything to artificially perpetuate the cycle of incivility.

  4. Talks with Bears says:

    Posting names of successful wolf hunters – another black eye for the pro-wolf movement. Do these people actually think that harassing people is the way to advance their cause – if they do, they are sadly mistaken.

  5. Nathan Hobbs says:

    I was especially disappointed when both the AP and a local news outlet in the area not only reported this story but posted the web link to the actual list. This is a issue of policy needing to change, taking it to the personal household level does nothing for us.

    Sounds like they are on target with what seems
    to maintain population at the bare minimum population required to avoid any further federal oversight. 🙁
    I hope this plan backfires on them and soon.

  6. Save bears says:

    I somehow thought 150 was the bare minimum? Please correct me if I am wrong.

    But it seems 800 is quite a bit higher than what the bare minimum is..

  7. Save Bears,

    Actually it is ten breeding pairs of wolves per state. What that number turns out to be depends on random events in “wolfworld.”

    It could be as few as 40 wolves! Judging from past wolf counts, however, I think it is likely to be more than 150.

  8. gline says:

    No Virginia, it isn’t a surprise to me. I don’t see why the issue has been questioned…at all.

  9. Save bears says:

    Hi Ralph,

    Thanks, for some reason 150 stuck in my mind..I know it is an arbitrary number based on the logistics of what happens in the world of wolves

    I was basically saying, I believe it is far less than 800, I am actually surprised the estimate came out this high based on the events of the last year..

  10. gline says:

    “Posting names of successful wolf hunters – another black eye for the pro-wolf movement. Do these people actually think that harassing people is the way to advance their cause – if they do, they are sadly mistaken.”

    How exactly is posting names of wolf hunters harrassment? That is a little dramatic. It is public record…

  11. gline says:

    Should it be a secret TWB? in the interest of security? Give me a break. The truth hurts sometimes.

    What the wolf killers do to the wolves is what needs to be examined not those of us who are speaking of it…

  12. Wilderness Muse says:


    The Genetic Diversity memo signed by ID, MT and FWS references the 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves per state.

    Mark Gamblin, in an earlier thread today says ID is managing for 518, the number from their 2005 Plan.

    Who are we to believe? Seems the state has officially said it is greater than 10 breeding pairs.

  13. gline says:

    I get abusive and threatening letters/phonecalls from writing wolf advocacy letters to the newspaper.. is there any protection for me? Comes with the turf, and it is a 2 way street.

  14. Save bears says:

    Although I know it is public record, I would ask, what is the purpose of publishing the names of hunters involved in a legal activity, we don’t publish the names of successful elk, deer and bear hunters?

  15. jon says:

    I was not able to find any list. Maybe Rick took the list down because of the backlash? I know on, hunters posted his information, from his address to his work address and so on and so forth. I think it goes both ways really. Both sides get harassed I’m sure. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Rick post just their names?

  16. Save bears says:


    It may well be a 2 way street, but in both instances it is illegal, if your being harassed, you should be reporting it..

  17. nabeki says:

    I posted the Montana hunter’s names on my blog because it’s public record. If the hunters don’t like it then they shouldn’t be shooting wolves. I don’t care if wolf hunting is legal. it’s wrong in so many ways. I have received the most hateful comments but I can take it.

  18. Wilderness Muse,

    The states (Idaho and Montana) signed a memo committing to 15 breeding pairs in each state. Idaho Fish and Game Commission Department says their goal is the same wolf population as in 2005 — 518. That is probably a lot more than 15 breeding pairs, but not if the strict definition of a breeding pair is held to.

    They, Idaho Fish and Game Dept/Commission are currently under a lot of pressure in the legislature to go to 150 wolves, which the legislators incorrectly think is the minimum.

    As I said from the beginning, the legislature trumps the Fish and Game Commission/Department. Supervisor Gamblin can gave the Department’s official position as much as he wants, but the legislature and governor can erase all of that quickly.

  19. gline says:

    Like that would go anywhere SB.

  20. Save bears says:

    gline it worked for me a few years ago, they arrested the person who threatened to kill me, he was with Animal Liberation Front, he ended up in Jail for 5 years…

  21. gline says:

    The wolf hunt and WS are controversial, at this point ungulate hunting is not controversial SB.

  22. Save bears says:


    Just curious, what is the purpose of posting their names? And why don’t you post the names of Elk, Deer, Bear hunters?

  23. Save bears says:


    so how does it help alleviate the controversy by printing their names?

  24. nabeki says:

    “On another Web site for Montana, a list of hunters in that state who killed a wolf in 2009 has been set up.”

    Hmmm is this me or someone else has listed the names for Montana hunters?

    Again, public record.

  25. Talks with Bears says:

    Gline – what truth hurts??? The only truth is your PR skills suck. I have not found my name under the successful elk and deer rolls here in MT. The ONLY reason these names were published was to intimdate with the hope of harassment which you yourself agrees will happen by admitting that you have been harrassed yourself- and you state “comes with the turf”.

  26. Save bears says:

    I would say, all it will do is make the state legislators pass a law that makes it more difficult to get the information as many states have done with DMV records and other types of records..

  27. nabeki says:

    I posted it because I’m a wolf advocate and felt it was important. You may not agree with it, that’s your right. Anyone has access to this info. It’s not as if it’s a secret.

    Talk about harrassment, you should read some of the hateful comments I got on this issue but again public record.

  28. Si'vet says:

    Posting,peoples names on a public web, is the wrong approach, especially in this world of identity theft, and telemarketing, besides the possibility of harrasment. The people who followed the letter of the law, killed a wolf, legally tagged it, then transported it to the F&G for documentation, and recording isn’t the worst case. What this does is further the argument for the shoot,shovel and shut up crowd. The bigger this issue get’s the worse it will become. I believe everyone needs to rethink about, harrasing people who obey the law in this matter. Whether or not you agree with the activity.

  29. jon says:

    Save bears, just because something is legal, doesn’t make it alright or acceptable. Abortion is legal, but most find it disgusting and think that it should be illegal. I don’t think it should come as a shock to some that people who care about wolves don’t wanna see them gunned down by hunters who kill them for “sport”.

  30. Save bears says:


    I have read your blog and I don’t agree with those who post hateful statements to you anymore than I agree with those who post hateful statements about hunters..

    What is sad, is some kook, no matter what side is eventually

    going to kill or hurt someone..

    Remember Ron G. has already attacked Lynn Stone!

  31. nabeki,

    I think it was just plain stupid to publish these names even through they are public record. I had the names and thought about it for a long time — would this bit of “news” promote any kind of rational discussion, convey any useful information, work toward solving any problem?

    I couldn’t think of any.

    What purpose does it serve except pour gasoline on the flames? !!

  32. Save bears says:


    First of all abortion has no place in this conversation, but if you are right, that most disagree, then it would be illegal..

    As far as posting names, all it is going to do is drive the spike deeper and make the divide wider..

    As I said, someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed before this is over..

  33. jon,

    The names of those who get abortions or the names of doctors who perform them should not be published either. People who are engaged in legal activities, even those you hate, should not be singled out for potential informal retribution.

  34. timz says:

    Just like the paper should’t post pictures of the the hunters with their shit-eatin grins, their big guns and their dead wolf.

  35. jon says:

    I just brought abortion up because it is legal, but most people I imagine would want it be made illegal. You are right, it doesn’t really solve anything. Some pro wolfers are really disgusted by what is going on. I don’t think both sides of the issue will ever see eye to eye on the wolf issue.

  36. Save bears says:


    I agree, I don’t think the newspapers should publish those types of photos..

  37. jon says:

    I agree with you Ralph. I just brought up abortion because even though it is legal, it doesn’t make it ok in some people’s eyes. Some people see it as disgusting and barbaric. Violence never solves problems!

  38. Si'vet says:

    Timz, your absolutely correct. I contacted the local outdoor writer here and told him I don’t think he should post any pictures of that nature. I’m not sure if it will work, you may want to write to your local paper and suggest the same.

  39. Thanks Si’vet. It wasn’t helping the Idaho State Journal’s outdoor page.

  40. Layton says:

    Here’s another idea for the “wolfies” out there that get a perverse thrill out of publishing people’s names.

    Over 26.000 people in Idaho showed (what you consider) bad intentions toward wolves by buying a tag to hunt them. Why don’t you see if you can get that list and publish the names?? That should really make a splash!!

    Cowards! Cowards to publish the information and cowards to harass the people whose names were published.

  41. Talks with Bears says:

    Nabeki/Gline – here is a tip for you, if you do not like the legal hunt then choose a positive way to address it – the legal hunt. Attacking the private citizens involved in this legal activity (whom by the way, fullfilled their duty by reporting the kill and providing their names and addresses) is ridiculous. Can either of you see the damage you are doing to your “cause”?

  42. Save bears says:

    I kind of equate it to the damage The Save Elk has done to their cause by publishing pictures of wolf kills and names of advocates for wolves…neither side is doing themselves any favors

  43. jon says:

    Layton, somehow I doubt that “wolfies” are getting a perverse thrill out of posting hunter’s information. If anything, they are just disgusted by what is going on.

  44. Ken Cole says:

    It doesn’t help wolves to post the names of successful hunters. It think it was not a well though out decision and the consequences are likely going to manifest themselves as changes in the public records law.

    It doesn’t help wolves or advance the debate one whit.

  45. jon says:

    Whether it is legal or not, the end result is always the same to a pro wolfer.

  46. I hope everyone will look at the post I just made about the future of this blog.

    Ralph Maughan, webmaster

  47. nabeki says:

    Ralph, et al….
    I’m sorry that you disagree with my decision to post the wolf hunter’s names but we are going to have to agree to disagree. Wolf advocates have had to sit though one of the worst years since wolves were reintroduced. Watching helplessly as wolves were killed in record numbers. Watching as IDFG extended the hunt until March 31, 2010. Watching as wolf hunters posted their disgusting pictures of dead wolves on the internet.

    Posting names doesn’t even come close to what wolf haters have done. Not even close.

    The information is public record. Anyone that wants it can get it.

  48. JB says:

    Folks should definitely look at Ralph’s post before continuing this conversation. They might also recognize that both behaviors in question (a) wolf hunting and (b) posting the wolf hunters names, are legal. The difference you all have as that one group considers the others’ behavior to be immoral.

    Why don’t you agree to disagree (on the immorality issue) and move on.

  49. Wilderness Muse says:


    You might want to consider the practical fact that republishing public information or publishing personal/private information (with or without inciting somebody to do something legal/illegal with the informations) leading to some kind of perceived harmless harassment, or even more serious criminal or civil bad conduct can cause you headaches. It might even hit your personal pocketbook pretty hard.

    For example, use of such information obtained legally (or illegally) and re-published, could get you named in a lawsuit. You may ultimately not be held liable, but the transactions costs of hiring a lawyer to defend, even specious claims, can be expensive. I can see some creative plaintiff lawyer doing exactly that- and the tactic would work equally as well with the pro and anti wolf crowd. If the judges are tolerant, and citizens on juries in ID/MT are as stupid and anti-wolf as some here claim, you could really be taking a chance.

    A smarter advocate, regardless of which side you are on, would stay away from this kind of crap, and avoid the potential $$$$ involved in separating yourself from a suit of this type.

    Nabeki, what possible use is there in re-publishing such information other than to provide it for the purpose of harassment and inciting others to act on that information?

    You dishonor yourself and discredit your cause, possibly doing more damage than good.

  50. cc says:

    Do you provide your own full name and city and state of residence on your website as you did for the wolf hunters?

  51. Wilderness Muse says:

    Those who would advocate that commentors use their real name, may wish to think about it a bit more. The internet is not a benevolent forum, and never will be. What is put on the internet has a near – forever life. I recently attended an all day professional continuing education forum put on by former FBI and IRS agents, and computer forensics experts on that exact topic. Mining the Internet.

    In fact, after reading this some of you named commentors may wish to become more anonymous.

    For those who have personal views which differ from their current or perspective employers, there is risk without reward. For those with names that are uncommon it gives less anonymity, if your state or town is known. The world is getting ever smaller. For those who ever expect to run for public office, or even those whose views change over time, perhaps as a result of idea exchange on this or other forums, it can be troubling, as written words can be taken out of context, and often are..

    The electronic age has also enabled the linking of ever more information, not all of it accurate. And there is often no way to change it. If you doubt this, just plug your own name and state into, and you will be amazed at how much is known about you personally, and individuals associated with you, maybe in places you have not lived for decades – again not all of it accurate. Pay the access fee for a detailed profile and you get even more, right down to email address, street address, telephone numbers, criminal records, property ownership, mortgage information, court filings and whether you pay your bills on time. And, of course, this information, once found, can then be republished by someone else, since it was all legally obtained. Talk about invasion of privacy, once the cat gets out of the bag.

    There is also a sense of safety for some who might not otherwise comment if their real names were known. I sense there may be some who monitor this site, but who do not actively participate, who might be compelled to retaliate against those with differing viewpoints. We saw a sampling of this potential abuse earlier today on another thread.

  52. ProWolf in WY says:

    I have to agree with Virginia. Is this a surprise?

  53. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ken –
    Point of clarification: There is no estimate yet, so we don’t know if the population is slightly down, the same or slightly up. We do know that there are 7 more wolf packs than last year (increase from 88 to 95). Jim Unsworth explained that the total number of wolves in Idaho will be close to last year’s total – without knowing what the final estimate is yet.

  54. Ken Cole says:

    Mark, is the IDFG going to use the same protocol for determining populations this year as last year? You should understand my skepticism in this regard.

    It may be too early to tell but I’m guessing there will be a whole lot of new pack formation in response to this hunt. I’m also guessing that there will be a whole lot more livestock conflict as well.

    It appears as if the hunt may have tapered off and that if there aren’t a lot of wolves killed between now and the end of the hunt there will be likely be a whole bunch of new packs with a lot of breeding pairs because of the disruption of this hunt to social structure. I hope, if this is the case, that people would acknowledge as much.

    Essentially this hunt may have left a whole lot of adolescent wolves out there that don’t have much experience at keeping out of trouble. I hope the IDFG is watching.

  55. Wilderness Muse says:


    Ken raises good questions about the harvest wolves and potential disruption of the packs.

    Is enough data collected from hunter supplied information (like where in the zone/gmu the animal was taken, possibly other animals that were with it at the time) and the physical inspection of the individual harvested wolf remains & collar (if present), to determine age, suspected pack from which it came, as well as social position within the pack?

    Will the information from this hunting season eventually be compiled and included in reports to UFSFWS? And will the information be available to the public, without having to make a specific request for it?

  56. Richie, Giallanzo,NJ says:

    Can anybody tell me if their is a wolf killing contest, I know about the coyote contest but wolf? Cabela’s sports warehouse is a sponsor ? I got a e-mail from greater -good network ? Is this true ? Can anyone help with this Ralph,gline, sb, Jb,wm anybody?

  57. JB says:

    Very interesting that you have more packs; I wonder about the cause? Lower elk densities in some areas would seemingly make large packs in those areas less likely. Alternatively, perhaps the hunt caused some packs to break up? Presumably, large packs would be more visible to hunters and thus traveling in large packs could be maladaptive in the face of human hunting pressure?

  58. Layton says:

    One of the first thing I learned when I started visiting this blog is ” you better have your ducks in a row when you make comments cuz’ they’ll crucify you if you don’t”.

    I was told (many times) that “anecdotal data are worthless and unless you have empirical data that is cited and peer reviewed it isn’t much better” or words to that effect.

    Now I’m seeing more and more postings – coincidentally from some of the folks that were blasting anecdotal data the most – that say “I’m guessing”, and “there will likely be”, and “I hope”, etc.

    Why don’t these sorts of posts get challenged?? Has the standard dropped?

  59. Jeremy B. says:


    Looking back through the most recent posts, I don’t see anything that qualifies as an anecdote, just a lot of questions.

    an-ec-dote: -noun- a short account of a particular incident or event of an interesting or amusing nature, often biographical.

  60. Layton says:


    An anecdotal observation is “A brief account of what occurred – a snapshot. Short and focused on a specific incident “

  61. Jeremy B. says:

    Yes, Layton. That’s nearly identical to the definition I provided. An anecdote describes a “specific” incident; they are of limited use from a scientific perspective because specific incidents may not be representative of the whole (i.e. they do not always generalize well).

    As I said, I don’t see any anecdotes in the previous posts. Just people asking questions or making wild guesses about what might have occurred–in general. Regardless the language used seems to qualify them appropriately… But, speaking to your specific question; if you have better information or can answer one of the questions posed, please go right ahead!

  62. Ryan says:


    There is not going to be a wolf killing contest any time soon. They were mentioned in some predator derbies as having points associated with them, but not as a specific target animal.

  63. ProWolf in WY says:

    Richie, about the only state to have enough population to get away with a wolf killing contest would be Alaska.

  64. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ken, WM –
    The methods – protocol – used to estimate wolf numbers are the same whether inside a wilderness area or outside. Radio telemetry is used to mark individual packs. Through monitoring of pack size and other infomation gained through management observations, we make the best estimate we can with all of the information at our disposal. Tracking the number and size of wolf packs is the key component of this protocol.
    The legitimate questions about effects of wolf hunting and wolf control actions on wolf pack structure will not likely be answered to everyone’s satisfaction in the near term. We collect as much information as we can for each wolf kill: sex, age, physical condititon, geographic area taken from, which pack to animal came from and other observations. For some wolves, we can get all of those data – for others only some. The infomation is seldom complete and often it is ambiguous.
    The question of pack fragmentation and potential implications for complicating wolf depredation will not be answered in the near future.

  65. Mark Gamblin,

    Montana put out a summary of the results of their wolf hunt and a fair number of details soon after their hunt ended. They could do more, but I hope Idaho Fish and Game will do at least as well and soon enough to influence the regulations for the next hunting season, if there is one.

  66. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ralph –
    A year-end wolf management report, similar to the Montana report, is being prepared. I don’t know what the release date will likely be.

  67. Cliff says:


    Let the flames burn. As Ralph said, you added gas to a flaming fire. With individuals as young as 14 on your list, your liability extends for some time. What good comes from having school mates and teachers ride a 14 year old?


February 2010


‎"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