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Idaho Biologists Count Fewer Wolves But More Breeding Pairs

State biologists can confirm at least 22 breeding pairs of wolves in Idaho.

Idaho biologists say the number of wolves is likely declining, but their count of breeding pairs of wolves -- a key number used to measure the health of the state’s wolf population -- has actually gone up.

Initial estimates suggested the number of breeding pairs could be as low as 15. But Idaho Fish & Game biologist Jim Hayden said that they have been able to confirm at least 22 breeding pairs, up two from last year’s count.

Breeding pairs refer to wolves that successfully reproduce and whose offspring survive through the end of the year. Idaho has to maintain a minimum of 15 pairs, or the federal government could consider re-listing the wolf on the endangered species list.

Still, biologists say the overall wolf population has likely ticked down, mainly due to recreational hunting and trapping. The average number of wolves per pack is declining and there have been fewer depredations on livestock.

“A lot of different pieces of information (are) kind of pointing out the same thing -- that we’re seeing a modest drop,” Hayden said. “Not in all areas, but just overall.”

Biologists are still finalizing their count for 2014, but they estimate the tally to fall between 550 and 750 wolves. This represents the minimum number of wolves the state is able to confirm. It far exceeds the required minimum of 150 wolves.

In 2013 Idaho had a confirmed wolf population of 659.

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.