Latest Wyoming (federal) wolf update- Jan. 7, 2011

Federal wolf update is only official wolf news out there now-

Here is the latest update from Ed Bangs office, the only government folks in the West who seem to be regularly producing data now.  It says it’s for Wyoming, but it also gives Yellowstone Park news, Oregon news and other wolf news. There is a link to Montana FWP and they do have an Oct. 2010 update.  Interesting it shows the estimated wolf population in Montana for 2010 to be only 400 wolves, compared to the final 2009 count of 524 wolves. The number of 400 will probably go up a bit before the final report is issued, but preliminary data absolutely and flat out fails to show any explosion in wolf population even though the 2010 wolf hunt was canceled.

wyoming news-Jan7-2011. pdf file

Wolf population growth in ID/MT/WY halted in 2009

Increased mortality has stopped the wolf population growth says USFWS-

Tally shows wolves holding steady in region after Montana, Idaho hunting seasons. By Matthew Brown. AP

The 3 state wolf population growth has stopped. Wyoming’s population, where there was no wolf hunt, grew slightly. Montana’s population dropped slightly. Idaho figures are not in, but said to be comparable to last year. Although the article above attributes the halt to the hunt, it should be noted that wolf population growth had been dropping on its own for several years.

The article says “The number of breeding packs increased slightly, from 95 to 111.” [emphasis added]. This could be because increased mortality, especially with hunting might be expected to result in more pack, but smaller packs. However, the delisting plan requires each state to count its breeding pairs, not breed packs. They are not the same. A breeding pack is a group of wolves with some pups at the end of the year. The definition of a breeding pair is different. It has to be two or more wolves with 2 pups at the end of the year and the individual wolves that produced the pups have to also be alive too at the end of the year.

Here is an opposing view from the NRDC. Big Problem: Wolf Population Declining [see note] in Northern Rockies. By Matt Skoglund. Opposing Views. Note that this headline is wrong because NRDC doesn’t say in the article that the wolf population is declining. Skoglund had originally entitled it “The Northern Rockies Wolf Population Has Stopped Growing.” It was changed when Opposing Views picked it up.

Official Wyoming wolf numbers for ’09 released

319 wolves in Wyoming, but as in ’08 only six breeding pairs in Yellowstone Park-

I think it’s clear that Wyoming’s anti-wolf legislature had hoped that the requirement of ten breeding wolf pairs in the state could be met by Yellowstone Park alone, but yesterday’s USFWS release of the 2009 wolf figures for the state show that to be a pipe dream.

The official estimate is 319 wolves in the state, including just 96 in Yellowstone. Several years ago there were over 170 wolves in Yellowstone. As the Yellowstone population has been shrinking the Wyoming wolf population outside the Park is growing. There are now 223 wolves outside the Park with 21 breeding pairs.

If we look at wolf packs (groups of wolves + groups of wolves with a breeding pair) there were 30 packs outside Yellowstone and 14 inside the Park. The average Wyoming pack size is about 7 wolves. The Park size is also about 7 wolves.

At the end of 2008 there were 178 wolves outside Yellowstone in Wyoming and 124 wolves inside Yellowstone for a total of 302. As in 2009, in 2008 there were only 6 breeding pairs in Yellowstone.

Because of the much greater observational accuracy of packs inside Yellowstone Park, I would judge the number of official breeding pairs there (six) to be more accurate than those outside the Park (officially 21).

If you look at the Wyoming wolf pack map, you will see that the NW corner of the state is pretty well saturated with wolves. Any significant future wolf population growth will depend on reduced  mortality in the numerous and usually transient small packs south of Jackson Hole which are continually disrupted by WS livestock control actions.

Wisconsin wolf population shows unexpected growth

Folks thought it was reaching a natural carrying capacity-

Wisconsin wolf population surges. By Lee Bergquist and Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel

I thought it was leveling off, but then population growth or decline of relatively small populations of any animal are subject to random events like favorable weather.

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Minnesota’s wolf population has stopped growing in size and range

Gray wolf range, population similar in Minn. Associated Press.

It has pretty much peaked out in Wisconsin too.

This casts a lot of doubt on the statements in recent years by Dr. Dave Mech who has been alarmed for quite a while at the growth rate of wolves in Minnesota, and took the side of the Bush Administration in his court statement about the much smaller number of wolves in the Northern Rockies.

There is no evidence the wolves are cannibalizing each other in any state either, as the wolf doom sayers say they will the do after they have eaten all the wildlife.