AR-News: Wolf population growth levels off

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Thu Dec 18 18:40:14 EST 2003

Wolf population growth levels off
Out & About

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. -- While more gray wolves are prowling the Northern Rockies, 
the population's overall rate of growth this year is the slowest it has been 
since reintroduction efforts were launched eight years ago, a federal wolf 
expert said.

But Ed Bangs, wolf recovery specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, said such a decline in the growth rate was expected.

"The big expansion of the wolf population is over," he said.

Preliminary estimates from the Fish and Wildlife Service put the growth so 
far this year in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho at 11 percent, compared with 15 
percent from 2001-02 and 23 percent from 2000-01.

Territory for the animals in the three states where reintroduction took 
place is limited, Bangs said. And as the population grows and disperses, 
more wolves moved closer to human populations, where fatal conflicts occur, 
he added.

Final counts for the wolf population in the three states won't be available 
for a few more weeks. But Bangs said officials currently believe there are 
747 wolves in the three states, compared with 663 last year.

Officials believe there are 161 wolves in Montana, 240 wolves in Wyoming and 
346 wolves in Idaho. Last year, there were 183 wolves in Montana, 217 in 
Wyoming and just 263 in Idaho.

Bangs attributed much of Idaho's gain to increased monitoring, and Joe 
Fontaine, the agency's assistant wolf recovery coordinator, said the Montana 
and Wyoming fluctuations were largely due to the normal rise and fall of 
wildlife populations.

The federal program to reintroduce wolves to their ancestral range began in 
1995 with about two dozen wolves transplanted from Canada. Although the 
reintroduction was opposed by many farm groups, federal wildlife officials 
say it has been a huge success.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, currently responsible for managing wolves, is 
moving toward removing the animals from special protections under the 
Endangered Species Act and allowing states to manage them.

But Montana, Idaho and Wyoming must first have in place plans that ensure 
the wolves' viability. A group of scientists and wildlife managers currently 
are reviewing the states' proposals to see if they meet that goal. The 
experts will provide comments to the Fish and Wildlife Service this fall and 
federal officials will review those comments before deciding whether to 
propose delisting, Bangs said.

Bangs said he expects the wolf population in the three states will probably 
never exceed 1,000 wolves.

"Bottom line, I think states will manage wolves through regulated harvest," 
he said. "I think the states will manage wolves so there will not be many 
more than there are now, though they'll still be viable."

Some environmental groups, including the Defenders of Wildlife, believe some 
level of federal protection for the animals needs to be maintained.

Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers 
Association, said he believes there will be more conflicts between 
landowners and wolves in the future.

"They're going to be encroaching on areas with lots of livestock, pets and 
homes," he said.


In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be 
cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the 
name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are 
at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.
-- Ruth Harrison, author of Animal Machines

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