How does the IFG count the wolf population? Do they use estimates based on mortality rates or actual visual counts?
Basically, we use radio-collared individuals, DNA surveys, and direct observations to document as many wolf packs as we can. Then, during mid-winter, we fly the radio-collared packs and directly observe the number of wovles in those packs. Multiplying the number of packs documented times the average number of wolves per pack gives us the number of wolves in documented packs. From prior research, we also know that there is an additional 10-15% of wovles that are not associated with a pack, so an additional 12.5% is added to give us the number of wolves in documented packs (only).
An important fact - this is not the same as an estimate of the number of wolves in Idaho (as is widely reported), because it does not include any methodology to account for packs that exist, but were not documented. Thus, it is useful for telling us if we are near or well-above the minimum recovery standard (150 wolves), but it is biased lower than the true population. Further, changes from year to year don't necessarily reflect changes to the wolf popualtion because the number is affected by how much effort is available to document the number of occupied packs.