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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Wolf Numbers across the Northern Rocky Mountains Hold Steady

In 2011 and 2012, we concluded that gray wolves were no longer in danger of extinction in the Northern Rocky Mountains and removed them from the Endangered Species List. At that point we handed the management reins over to the states, and both we and they have taken a lot of heat ever since. That is why I was so happy to see that in 2013 the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population held steady.

Gray wolf. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

As of December 31, there were at least 78 breeding pairs and 1,691 wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountain area. That is a modest decline in pairs from 2012 and a very slight decline in total numbers, but when you consider the margin of error in trying to survey all wolves across this vast area, the wolf population hasn’t really changed a bit. The numbers are news to celebrate, especially with minimum management targets at the much-lower 45 breeding pairs and 450 wolves. 

The numbers come out of our annual monitoring program that we undertake with the Rocky Mountain states, tribes and other partners to ensure that the total wolf population does not fall to dangerous levels. If that were to happen, we could re-list the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act and re-assume responsibility for wolf management. I am confident that won’t be needed. It is in the best interest of the states, communities, stakeholders and the Service to maintain a recovered wolf population.   

More information on the wolf recovery

Wolf management is, I can tell you, a tough job. Sometimes, there seems little chance of finding common ground between those who want to protect every wolf at all costs and those who have never supported any form of recovery effort. Management is almost guaranteed to annoy someone. 

But our partners persevered. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have sought that very fine line between conservation of wolves and protection of human needs. They approved actions that often seemed unpopular with one group or another. And the numbers suggest they knew – and continue to know – exactly what they are doing. 

Our now-retired wolf recovery coordinator, Ed Bangs, told me shortly after the 1995 reintroduction, “Dan, these animals are hard-wired to breed. As long as we don’t start persecuting them again, they’ll do remarkably well.” 

With the latest numbers, we see that wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountains are doing, as Ed forecast: “remarkably well.” I hope, the numbers also make clear that the states are managing, not “persecuting,” wolves. 

While we will never please everyone where wolves are concerned, we can continue to ensure, with the professional management of our state partners, that a viable wolf population endures in the Rocky Mountains.


Are you kidding me????? Have you even visited Idaho? Spend a day with a hunter. He will tell you how to kill a wolf and make it bleed a slow death by a gut shot. The hunter believes he is doing the right thing to save ‘his’ Elk. Have you even gone to one of their IDFG hearings? Guess what, they have opened up Trapping to most of the state. Even after there were more Wolf proponents speaking at the hearing. Their voice was not heard…AGAIN. Now, one hunter can get 5 tags to trap and most of these traps are not checked every 24 hours which is criminal in itself. Other animals are illegally harvested as well because of the shear amount of the traps being placed in the wilderness. You only need 8 hours of training to become a trapper… ya right!!! Ya there is controversy on both sides. But taking this lame ass middle of the ground attitude is all but useless. Controlled hunts are expected, but not hunts that last 8 to 9 months of the year or more in most sections and where limits are not listed in any zone. There are no links for the harvest total of Wolves on any of the fish and game sites. It’s just a free for all until the Wolf is all but extinct. Idaho is also illegally hunting Wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness, and you are not even stepping up to stop that. Idaho plans to keep its Wolves at 150 total when states like Minnesota have over 2500. But now Minnesota is opening up hunts like Idaho, because they see that it can be done and nobody is doing a thing about it. You and your department have allowed fear and misguided not scientific measures to manage a species that has every right to part of the Natures balance. Our wildlife is not only for hunting and hunters, it is for all of us. Where the hell is your back bone? Hiding behind your soft management is as gutless as shooting a wolf in his. By the time is all said and done, the people will make the changes they need to see because our government cannot do its job.
# Posted By Kimberley Boester | 4/7/14 4:27 PM

Dear Mr. Daniel Ashe, I just wanted to say "Thank You!" I disagree with Kimberley Boester and her comments. Science is behind the hunting and trapping of one our nations predators. Please continue to uphold the removal of the wolves from the federal Endangered Species List. Allow the hunter's and trapper's to help manage these predators under US Fish and Wildlife Service directions. Tools that have proven it self here in Montana. We are sustaining a healthy wolf population, and yet conflict between livestock and wolves are decreasing. An effective tool is being used to manage these animals. Please continue to support Hunting and Trapping - wildlife management tools.
# Posted By Tressa Schutter | 5/7/14 2:00 AM

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