Idaho Fish and Game estimates that last month's wolf control action in the Lolo elk zone cost approximately $30,000. The entire cost will be paid using license dollars paid by sportsmen and women. Fish and Game receives no state general tax dollars.
Fish and Game announced late last week that the agency, working in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, had completed another wolf control action in northern Idaho's Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.
In February, Wildlife Services agents killed 23 wolves from a helicopter. The action is consistent with Idaho's predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives.
The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/?getPage=325.
This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years. 25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.
Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines. Such control actions are consistent with Idaho's 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.
Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals. The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.
In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season - 7 by hunting and 10 by trapping. The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30.
Fish and Game estimates there were 75 -100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones. Fish and Game's goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent.
The Lolo elk population has declined drastically from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone. Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat. The short-term goals in Fish and Game's 2014 Elk Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.
Here's a link the new Elk Plan: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/?getpage=324.
Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.