By RACHEL COHEN
Last year, Fish and Game biologists placed more than 500 remotely-programmed cameras around the state, capturing upwards of 11 million pictures of wildlife so far. Since then, these photos were run through a mathematical model aiding the department in producing population counts.
Roger Phillips, who works for the department, said the new data can be used in a number of ways.
“It gives us another measure that we can use and get a better understanding of these populations, how these populations interact and how to do a better job of managing,” he said.
The method has produced the first population estimate of wolves in the state since 2015 — the last year the state’s management program was under federal oversight after wolves were delisted as an endangered species.
Fish and Game reported there were 1,541 wolves in Idaho last year. Five years ago, using different methodology, the department cited the population at around 780.
Yet Fish and Game cautions against comparing the two numbers directly, as the latest numbers were recorded in summer when the population peaks before hunting season and winter. By the end of last year, there were closer to 1,000 wolves in the state.
Going forward, Fish and Game will use the photos taken by the remote cameras to count other species, including deer and elk in northern Idaho where aerial counts by helicopter are more difficult because of tree cover.