HOWL Colorado

More than one in seven Idaho wolves killed so far; State’s numbers don’t add up

[large thumbnail url=”montana-extends-public-comment-phase-regarding-wolf-hunts” filename=”news” year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”16″] [thumbnail icon url=”more-than-one-in-seven-idaho-wolves-killed-so-far-states-numbers-dont-add-up” filename=”news” year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”16″] With 3 months left in the Idaho wolf hunts, stretching in to wolf mating season, a brief examination of the numbers reveal gaping holes in Idaho’s math and highlight a true desire by the state to drive wolf numbers down significantly.

All numbers stated in this report are sourced and the citations linked at the bottom of the article.

In December of 2008, there was an estimated 846 wolves in Idaho. There are thought to be 39 packs with breeding pairs exist. 1 

As of December 16, 2009, 127 wolves have been killed in Idaho’s wolf hunt. 2 Which figures out to be about 14% of all the wolves in the state or, approximately, one in every seven wolves.

According to a study in to wolf-pup survival 3  in Yellowstone National Park packs, which suffered much higher mortality rates in 2008 due to distemper, survival rates of 37% for wolf pups is relatively typical for average years. This appears remarkably consistent with Montana’s numbers over the last 7 years of data. And yet oddly inconsistent with the numbers reported for Idaho.

Wolves in Montana over the last 7 years have had mortality rates ranging from 24-41% with an average of 32%. In 2008, Idaho claimed a mortality rate for wolves of 16%. 4

The average litter size for a wolf is 4-6. 5 For the purposes of calculations regarding numbers of wolves in Idaho, we will assume all wolves had a litter size of five in 2009 (the actual numbers indicate a slightly lower number).

39 x 5 = estimated 195 wolf pups born in 2009 in the state of Idaho.

Extrapolating 2008 numbers in to 2009 for the average wolf mortality rate, using Idaho’s remarkably low number:

846 + 195 – 16% = 875 wolves (rounding up)

The quota for the state of Idaho for this year’s hunt is 220. Which is, based on these numbers 25% of the total of wolves in the entire state.

As you can see, even with no other source of wolf death, that is more than the number of wolves born (if the average holds true). Add to this the natural mortality rate for wolves, and the additional human “control” measures seen in previous years (which added up to 16% according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service reports for 2008), you see that the wolves’ population is will be seriously stressed by the measures taken by Idaho this year.

The numbers don’t work. Even with basic math using reliable sources of data which the state of Idaho can’t refute, the wolf population in Idaho appears as if it will drop to below 700 wolves total for the state. In fact, ignoring potential variables (natural variables like disease can always change numbers), wolves will see an estimated drop of 22.6% from where they are now.

There is something wrong here. And it may be encapsulated in a statement made by the governor of Idaho, “Butch” Otter.

In an anti-wolf rally held January 12, 2007, “Butch” (this is not an snyde attack against Idaho’s governor, he really refers to himself by the nickname) stated that his plan was to kill all but 100 wolves in the state, reducing them to 10 packs, which would leave the species hovering above the federally mandated minimum which would put wolves back on the Endangered Species List.

He went on to say: “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.”

It seems that there no false promises in this political statement as this does, in fact, appear to be a systematic destruction of the Idaho wolf population – the math appears to support that.

1  http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/living/persp5_09.pdf

2  http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/wolf/quota.cfm

3  http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0007042

4  http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualreports.htm

5  http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/justkids/kids_facts.asp

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