Montana's verified wolf population remained stable last year while livestock depredations by wolves continued to decline, dropping about 27 percent from 2012.
A total of 627 wolves were counted in Montana at the end of 2013, compared to 625 in the prior year, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' federally required annual wolf conservation and management report released yesterday. Montana's minimum wolf packs were counted at 152, compared to 147 in the prior year, but breeding pairs dropped to 28, compared to 37 counted last year.
Overall, Hagener said Montana's wolf population continues a stabilizing trend that's likely a combination of suitable habitats being filled, smaller pack sizes, routine livestock-related removals and hunter and trapper harvests.
Confirmed livestock depredations due to wolves included 50 cattle, 24 sheep, three horses and one goat in 2013, down 27 percent from 2012 loses of 67 cattle, 37 sheep, one dog, two horses and one llama. Cattle losses were the lowest recorded in the past seven years.
The decline in wolf depredations continues a general downward trend that began in 2009. "For FWP, and we hope for others, it reinforces the fact that we not only have more tools for managing wolf populations, but that we're applying them effectively," Hagener said. "One of our top priorities is to minimize livestock losses and we think we're continuing to make a positive impact there."
A total of 75 wolves were removed via lethal control, down from 108 that occurred in 2012. Of the 75 wolves removed last year for livestock depredations, eight were killed by private citizens with permits to take offending wolves or under Montana's defense of property laws.
The continuing decrease in livestock depredations over the past four years may be a result of several factors including targeted wolf depredation responses — and the effects of wolf harvest by hunters and trappers, which may also account for the drop in breeding pairs in the 2013 count.
The report also shows that 231 wolves were taken by hunters and trappers in the 2013 calendar year - or between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013 — compared to 175 taken in 2012.
The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record. In the mid 1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, USFWS released 66 wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. FWP began monitoring the wolf population, and managing livestock conflicts in 2004. After several court challenges wolves were successfully delisted in 2011.
The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules, and laws.
To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, and to view FWP's complete report, visit fwp.mt.gov.
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