By Ralph Bartholdt
The Lolo elk zone has fewer wolves than last year.
According to Idaho Fish and Game 17 wolves were removed in February in the zone, which was once one of the state’s most populous elk zones.
Idaho Fish and Game said in a press release that wolf control actions last month resulted in the removal of 17 wolves in the Lolo elk zone north of Highway 12, and that similar actions have taken place in eight of the last nine years.
The intent is to reduce predation and improve elk survival in the Lolo herd that has for years been well below elk management objectives.
The department allows aerial shooting of wolves under the guidance of Fish and Game’s Elk Management Plan and Lolo Predation Management Plan if wolves are deemed a significant and known factor in deer and elk population declines. The Lolo elk population declined from about 16,000 elk 25 years ago to fewer than 1,000 elk in recent years, according to Fish and Game. Wolves were introduced to Idaho in 1993.
The control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Legislature. They are paid with funding from license and tag sales.
Wolf control in the Lolo zone began in 2011. An average of 14 wolves have been removed annually through aerial shooting while hunters and trappers in the remote zone are responsible for killing an average of 21 wolves annually.
Wolf population estimates from last summer showed 1,541 wolves in the Gem state when populations peaked because of new litters, according to Fish and Game.