Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wolf population in MT, WY, ID is decreasing or 'static'

For the first time since reintroduction, the wolf population in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho is decreasing or at best is static, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The mid-year wolf population was estimated at 1,545 in 2007. This year the estimate is 1,455, which means a decrease of 90.

Since wolf re-introduction 10 years ago, the population has grown an average of 24 percent a year, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

This year 400 pups were expected to survive to adulthood, but that's not happening. In the greater Yellowstone area, pups are dying at a high rate, the FWS said. The cause of those deaths is suspected to be distemper contracted from domestic dogs.

The FWS said the new population estimates have nothing to do with this week's decision not to seek wolf delisting, but an attorney for groups who sued to stop the delisting claims it points to a problem.

"Where we have state laws that promote the eradication of wolves and that wolf population had not even met Fish and Wildlife's own recovery standards, that's not good enough. It may be good enough for government work, but it's not good enough for Yellowstone wolves," said Doug Honnold of the Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund.

Last year 186 wolves were killed in the three states. This year FWS estimates the number will be as many as 250.

FWS spokesperson Ed Bangs said it could be that wolf populations are leveling off or that this is simply a one year anomaly.

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