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Estimates Show Wolf Pairs In Idaho Nearing Minimum Requirement

Denali National Park and Preserve
FIle photo. Idaho biologists estimates there are between 15 and 25 breeding pairs of wolves in the state.

Editor's note: find the latest information on this story here.

Idaho biologists say the state’s wolf population likely continued its decline in 2014 -- and that may be because few of them are breeding.

Wolves are notoriously elusive and hard to count. But state biologists put the number of breeding pairs in Idaho between 15 and 25. If the state goes below 15 pairs for three consecutive years, it could trigger a federal review -- and possible re-listing of the wolf on the endangered species list.

Andrea Santarsiere is an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. She said Idaho officials have allowed hunters and trappers to kill too many wolves.

“They told the Fish & Wildlife Service for years that they were capable of maintaining minimum population and breeding pair numbers,” Santarsiere said. “I think this shows that their plan is not adequate to do that.”

But on another key number, Idaho’s wolf estimates far exceed the required minimum. The state must maintain a total population of 150 wolves. And biologists estimate Idaho’s wolf population is as least 550.

Biologists say the population could be anywhere from 550 to 750 -- though it’s likely on the lower end, based on hunting rates, decreased pack sizes and a drop in livestock depredation.

In 2013 Idaho had an estimated total wolf population of 659 and 20 breeding pairs.

Wolves remain on the state endangered species lists in Washington and Oregon. Washington is trying to get 15 successful pairs distributed throughout the state for at least three consecutive years. Oregon’s goal is four breeding pairs of wolves in eastern Oregon for three consecutive years.

Idaho biologists are presenting their wolf estimates to the state’s Fish and Game Commission Thursday afternoon.