Gray Wolf Numbers ‘Fluorishing’ Despite Many Being Shot

Some are pleased, others not so much, but gray wolf numbers are hanging steady in the northern Rocky Mountain region, remaining the same as last year’s gray wolf population despite efforts of some to keep their numbers down.

In fact, the gray wolf population, listed on federal and state endangered species lists, is far higher than the required minimums put into place to help their recovery, reports the Denver Post.

Among those pleased by the annual population report, released Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were, of course, wild life advocates. But while gray wolf numbers have stayed consistent, gray wolf supporters still feel they have a fight on their hands.

Gray Wolf Forest

Those not cheering the findings of the annual report on the gray wolf numbers include ranchers and hunters. Both groups would like to see the number of gray wolves dramatically decreased and, along with gunning the creatures down, also continue to apply their political clout.

According to the report, as of December 31st, there were at least 78 breeding pairs of gray wolves and 1,691 individual wolves roaming the mountains, forests and plains of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Oregon. The gray wolf was reintroduced to the region in 1994.

Federal Service Biologist and editor of the annual report, Mike Jimenez, believes gray wolf numbers have dramatically increased throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

“A lot of people would like wolves everywhere, a lot of people would like wolves nowhere,” Jimenez said. “So the idea is that we’ve secured them in areas where it’s appropriate.”

With the successful reintegration of the gray wolf, they were ultimately removed from the endangered species list in both Montana and Idaho in 2011. Then Wyoming removed the endangered designation from the gray wolf in 2012, according to Jimenez.

Perhaps a reason for the continued strong number of gray wolves is due to the fact that they are still listed on western Washington and Oregon’s federal endangered species list, and on the state endangered species lists of eastern Washington and Oregon. Along the same lines and not surprisingly, Washington and Oregon are also the only states where hunting the gray wolf is not allowed.

Meanwhile, in some other states of the region, it’s game on.

For example, the Associated Press reports government wildlife agents in Idaho, gunning down whole packs of gray wolves from helicopters, because big game herds had become the prey of the gray wolf packs.

Last year in Montana, wolf hunting and trapping quotas were removed, the gray wolf bag limit number went up to five per hunter and fees were lowered for out-of-state licenses.

wolf hunter

“Wolves are very tenacious, they’re very prolific,” said Jimenez. “The population is very secure, but it doesn’t remove the controversy.”

Jimenez thinks the gray wolf numbers will slowly decline but remain healthy overall. Idaho was the only state last year to see a large gray wolf decline, losing 63.

The Northern Rocky gray wolf population is also responsible for the killing of livestock, at least 143 cattle and 476 sheep in 2013, according to the Associated Press. This was better for ranchers than 2012, though, when their gray wolf neighbors killed 51 more head of cattle and six more sheep.

Wolf and Bison
Gray wolves and a bison consider their options.

Efforts to completely remove the gray wolf’s endangered status is ongoing, but hopefully this American treasure, the gray wolf, can coexist with people and gray wolf numbers can remain healthy in years to come.

Images via Google Images