Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wolf deaths up as management changes, numbers increase

BILLINGS, Mont. - The number of wolves shot this year by government agents and livestock producers in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho has surpassed 150, about 50 more than were killed last year, federal officials say.

Wolf managers are taking a more aggressive approach with problem wolves, largely because the overall population in the three states has surpassed recovery efforts, officials say.

"We've got a recovered population so we're pretty hard on them if they get into trouble," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Since their reintroduction more than a decade ago, gray wolves have flourished, with wildlife officials now estimating the population in the three states at more than 1,200. The Fish and Wildlife Service has declared wolf recovery a success in the northern Rockies and has turned over most management duties in Montana and Idaho to state wildlife officials. The federal agency has yet to approve Wyoming's management plan, which remains the center of a legal battle.

The vast majority of the wolves killed were shot by federal wildlife agents. A small percentage were killed by private landowners in Montana and Idaho, who can shoot the animals under specific circumstances.

So far this year in the three states, wolves have been blamed for killing 170 cows, 344 sheep, eight dogs, a horse, a mule and two llamas, FWS said.

In recent years, 6 percent to 7 percent of the wolf population has been killed after preying on livestock. This year, the rate is around 12 percent overall, the agency said.

"It's still just a small percentage of wolves involved but when a pack gets into chronic trouble, we get rid of 'em," Bangs said.

  • Helena Independent Record

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