Estimates put wolf numbers up overall in Northern Rockies |

Estimates put wolf numbers up overall in Northern Rockies

BILLINGS, Mont. ” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the number of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies has increased since last year, to 912 animals, largely because of continued growth in Idaho’s wolf population.

The number in Montana is up from the 2004 year-end estimate, but below levels in 2003; it is down in Wyoming, where disease and competition for food and territory in Yellowstone National Park have hit the population hard, according to the agency’s mid-year estimate.

Overall, the population is doing well and is actually up from last December, when an estimated 835 wolves roamed the three-state region of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Ed Bangs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s wolf recovery coordinator in Helena, said Tuesday.

“But people who think wolves are just going to keep going, that’s not true,” Bangs said of the population. “We’re probably approaching as many wolves as we can handle in these conditions and times.”

According to the mid-year estimates, used by wildlife officials to gauge where monitoring efforts need to be focused, there were 166 wolves in Montana, 221 in Wyoming and 525 in Idaho, which Bangs said offers, by far, the most and best wolf habitat in the region.

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Steve Nadeau, statewide large carnivore program coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said parts of that state still have areas where wolves could expand, including forest lands in the west.

The central part of the state “seems to be pretty saturated,” he said.

Bangs said he doubts there will be 1,000 wolves in the region when an official count is taken at year’s end ” September tends to be a big month for run-ins between livestock and wolves which can lead to problem wolves being killed, and there also tends to be a spike in illegal wolf kills during fall and hunting season, he said.

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