More moose on the loose in Kootenai County, Idaho

High moose density has developed in Idaho’s Panhandle area-

More moose on the loose in Kootenai County. Becky Kramer The Spokesman-Review.

It is good to point out stories like this one because they offset the much publicized stories that “all” the moose have been killed (by wolves) or whatever.  Truth is their distribution changes as well as the total population size.





  1. Kayla Avatar

    Now personally there has been some to quite a few Moose hanging out around Jackson this winter it seems also because of the snow. And last summer saw more Moose back in that Thorofare Absaroka country then I have seen in the last some previous years. I hope the Moose numbers are coming back up around here.

    But if their numbers are coming up, one thing that needs to happen wherever is to keep the hunting restrictions in place! How many fish and game agencies think once a small uptick in numbers, is to increase the hunting permits. This should not happen and they should let the Moose numbers just come back up for a good long while with continued Hunting Restrictions. In My Opinion!

  2. Mooseboy Avatar

    I guess All those moose we saw last summer near Palisades Reservoir (45 minutes from Jackson) where just oversized antlered cows ;).
    Granted Palisades is a few hundred miles south of the Panhandle but it is very encouraging knowing that moose populations in that part of the state are not in such dire straits as some people would have us believe.

  3. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I saw more moose this summer than I ever have. Most were bulls but I did see a cow and a calf. This has all been in the northwest part of Wyoming. Looks like some are escaping wolves.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you Kayla and ProWolf in WY for your recent observations.

    I thought it was settled, except among the anti-wolf militants, that the decline of moose in Yellowstone Park and adjacent areas in Wyoming was mostly due to the 1988 fires (and subsequent ones) plus a general drying of the area.

    Now that fires are over 20 years behind us and maybe there has been an abatement of the drought, perhaps moose are making a small comeback.

    I know that moose populations have varied enormously over time, The early explorations of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone Park found, I believe, almost no moose.

    Over my lifetime, I have seen Utah go from a place with no moose to a state with many. They migrated down from the Yellowstone area at the start.

  5. Salle Avatar

    I have noticed, over the last decade, that there are places where beaver have taken up dam building along US191 north of Black Butte and a couple places south of Fawn Pass. I have seen moose there in more recent years when I only saw them near the Greyling Creek area, about eleven miles north of West Yellowstone and along the upper Madison River where it leaves the park. Maybe beaver have a lot more to do with that than one might expect…?

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’d noticed moose newly in this area too, and I came face-to-face with one on the rather narrow trail up Black Butte Creek.

    1. Salle Avatar

      There are several up there. Also, the Taylor Fork area, especially up on Wapiti trail – I think it is – there is some significant beaver presence right alongside the road.

      There are quite a few along the south fork of the Madison on both sides of US20. Some are there because some local feeds them and some other wildlife they’ve habituated. Targhee Pass area has several. I don’t know where all that talk of the moose being gone because the wolves ate ’em all came from, seems that a change in behavior is what happened. If you can’t see ’em from the pick up truck on the road then I guess they don’t exist.

  7. Kayla Avatar

    Now also I would like to add this tidbit for whatever it is worth. I have soooo noticed a change in the behavior of the Elk, Moose, and Deer from some years ago when the wolf was not around in comparison to times of today. It used to be while I was back in the wilds that how often, the various ungulates would come out into the mountain meadows and just feed and feed. Why not for what did they have to fear with no wolf around. But once the wolf appeared, they have gradually became more skittish it seems and ever more watchful and on the lookout. Now last spring when I was at the Soda Fork Meadows in the Teton Wilderness watching all the ungulates as they were migrating back into the deep wilds from down in the lower elevations where they wintered. How little now do they actually spend just feeding and feeding out in the meadows, but is always watchful, looking around, and on the move. And then also how much are they back in the deep brush it seems anymore during the day. This is really true as for the moose anymore it seems. And as for anymore, if I do not see the Moose, am indeed seeing their tracks around when am hiking. The Elk and Moose might not be as dumb as some might think they are. Just what I have observed. For whatever it is worth.

    1. WM Avatar


      Your observations regarding ungulate behavior, elk in particular, are consistent with the research of Dr. Scott Creel – elk looking out for wolves more, spending less time grazing, and more time in the dense brush out of view, and eating less nutritious browse. He hypothesized this “predation risk” resulted in lower fat reserves going into winter, and resulting in lower birth weight calves.

      That also translates into less critical fat reserve for survival during more harsh winters with deeper snow, as we are having now in parts of the NRM. On the Northern Yellowstone thread (where Ralph put a link to a MT NPR interview with YNP wolf scientist Doug Smith), Smith talks about deeper snow this year potentially affecting those elk. He did not discuss what it ultimately means, if this winter continues, to elk survival. He and other scienetists may be waiting for observed results after winter is over. If I recall he did talk about bulls being weaker going into winter, and if they have no fat reserves that would likely mean higher take by wolves or other winter mortality, which would be indirect consequences of presence of wolves, but nonetheless consequences. How much incremental increase in winter kill may be attributed to predation risk behavior, indirectly, due to wolves?

      I should add, and I reported here once before, that in 10 days of elk hunting in N Central ID I saw only 3 elk, where I would see 40 or 50 in prior years. The only difference was presence of wolves, apparently in larger numbers. Whether the elk are fewer or have just changed their behavior is the question of the hour. My conclusion is both, especially fewer calves, which really messes with the age structure of the populations going forward.

      1. JB Avatar

        WM: It may interest you to know that Dr. Creel has subsequently published an article that calls into question his finding that wolves significantly impact elk reproduction:

        “Across populations and years, fecal glucocorticoid concentrations were not related to predator-prey ratios, progesterone concentrations or calf-cow ratios. Overall, the effect of wolf presence on elk reproduction is better explained by changes in foraging patterns that carry nutritional costs than by changes in glucocorticoid concentrations. ”

        Creel, S. Winnie, J.A., & Christianson, D. 2009. Glucocorticoid stress hormones and the effect of predation risk on elk reproduction. PNAS 106(30)p.12388-93.

      2. WM Avatar


        I am aware of the study. I think my comment is consistent with his conclusions and expresses the effects of the lower birth weights (ie, nutritional costs) on survival. Not birth rates, which are reflective of the stress hormone studies.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Kayla and WM,

      From this discussion I might suggest what the optimum number of wolves is in an area that is also hunted by people if we still want the ecological benefits of wolves present. I mean an area where the size of the wolf population is to be managed, not Yellowstone N.P.

      The optimum would be enough wolves to keep elk wary, but not so many that the elk suffer nutritionally.

      – – – – –
      A side point. Dr. Creel’s research on this suggests that a smaller number of wolves is needed, so it is ironic that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks went after him in such a crude manner when some of his research did not say exactly what they had hoped.

    3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I should also add that Creel’s research needs to be replicated and extended. As JB notes above, Creel has now modified his conclusions, “fecal glucocorticoid concentrations were not related to predator-prey ratios, progesterone concentrations or calf-cow ratios.”

      I could be that elk populations adapt more efficiently to wolf predation after a generation or so. It might also be that they are getting adequate nutrition. Are elk starving to any greater degree now than before? Doug Smith says the Yellowstone elk are in good physical condition today.

      1. Dave Avatar

        About the only way to determine their fat reserves is too skin them. The elk aren’t starving, YET. it is early winter and yes they go into winter looking very healthy. However, it is well documented and a long time practice to discourage spooking or stressing animals in late winter by sightseeing, dogs etc as they need every bit of energy to survive to green up. With wolves present, they are hunted and stressed year around. A National Geographic documentary studying the Yellowstone ecosystem commented about this “as winter progresses, the elk grow weaker, while wolves grow stronger”. The stress of being chased by wolves in late winter, especially with deep snow will have a dramatic effect on their survival in tough winters, like this year. This has to have some effect on birth rates and weights too. Now that the Yellowstone population is greatly reduced already, calf survival will have an even more dramatic effect on the herd. Bulls already go into winter heavily stressed due to their breeding season/behavior. They typically go off by themselves, someplece where they won’t be disturbed to recuperate, which also puts them at risk, since they can easily isolated and surrounded. Early in the reintroduction, before the bulls had experience with wolves, they just ignored them and kept feeding, those bulls didn’t last very long. With yellowstone as a highly visible litmus test is going to be interesting to watch the changing population trends and behavior changes in all the prey/predator populations. If the grizzlies spring diet consists of a number of calves, how will they react without elk and calves? Then what? What management controls will created to get elk populations back up? Or will populations be expected adjust naturally?

      2. WM Avatar

        ++Are elk starving to any greater degree now than before?++

        Excellent question. As we know, ungulates go into winter with substantial fat reserves, some of which may or may not be needed for survival in a given year. Most fat will be used up, but some reserve may remain, as long as nutritional needs continue to be partially satisfied by continual daily intake.

        ++Doug Smith says the Yellowstone elk are in good physical condition today.++

        I thought that a curious statement in the NPR interview. The word “today” is the operative term. We have several months of winter to go yet, and he commented about heavier snow, so far this year. If the winter is not so severe, that is great. If it becomes more severe with lower temperatures and deeper snow, and/or extends longer in time, requiring more caloric expenditure which exceeds an individual animal’s nutritional reserves and what they are able to find to eat, then they may starve, or come into Spring weaker. This can be especially critical for pregnant cows, that also supply the nutrition for their unborn calves. If the cow dies, they both die. The cow gives, birth but the weight is lower and the cow cannot supply sufficient nutrition from milk, calf survival may be in question.

        Some might ask for answers to questions like: How valuable is the fat reserve? Does the presence of wolves and the attendant effects of predation risk reduce fat reserves causing greater risk of starvation? Do lower birth weight calves in spring affecting significantly affect their vitality and viability? Does lower birth weight mean predators who take calves in spring (bears mostly) must eat more individual calves to satisfy their nutritional needs, because weight per calf is lower? I am sure there are more.

        Incidentally, my hunting companions and I observed over the last four years that our harvested elk had substantially less fat after the wolves moved into this part of N. Central ID that we have hunted for over twenty years. Mid-October, less than a month before winter begins to set in. Fat, when present, is most visible along the top of the rump at the tail, running to the small of the back. Another area is in the brisket. A third is within the body cavity just inside and along the diaphragm muscles, and on either side of the loin. Other hunters had similar observations.

  8. NotafanofWW2 Avatar

    Didn’t Scott Rockholm say there are no moose left in north Idaho?

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Yes he did, of course he is wrong, but I can say, the numbers are down from a few years ago, I spend a lot of time in N. Idaho and Moose sightings have become the exception and not the norm anymore…

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Save Bears,

      That’s not what the article says. It says the population is up and is dense.

      1. Save bears Avatar

        Dense is a subjective opinion Ralph, I am simply stating what I have observed, not an argument, just an observation from a lot of time on the ground in N. Idaho. I am simply not seeing what they are saying in the article, of course now, I am not saying they are gone, I am simply saying, I am not observing what is being reported.

    3. cobra Avatar

      I agree s.b. I’m not seeing the moose numbers I have seen in previous years, elk or deer numbers either. We spend a lot of time hiking around our home in north Idaho and populations and the way they all act have changed.

      1. Dave Avatar

        The article clearly states that the moose are increasing where the WOLF IS NOT PRESENT, close to human presence. Moose populations are depressed where the wolf is present. Idaho is increasing permits in some areas (no wolves) dropping them in others (wolves).

      2. Save bears Avatar

        Well I can say, it makes for a great human interest story, but I would have to see some hard data to agree..


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