Idaho Fish and Game reported Monday that it's ending its current efforts to reduce the wolf population in the Middle Fork Salmon area of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness after a hired hunter killed 9 wolves.
The hunter started in December and no wolves were taken in the past two weeks, F&G officials said. Killing wolves in an area where few, if any, sport hunters were willing to go was a strategy to help elk recovery in the backcountry. Elk cows and calves in the area have been vulnerable to predation, and the Middle Fork herd has declined 43 percent since 2002, according to F&G. Biologists said the number of elk calves surviving is too low to replace the adults dying each year, and the herd is continuing to decline. F&G also offered extra tags for black bears and mountain lions to curb the predator population in the area.
We remain committed to working with Idahoans to ensure that both wolves and healthy elk populations remain part of the wilderness, Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said. This action was an important step toward achieving our goal of stabilizing the Middle Fork elk population.
Hiring a hunter to kill wolves in a designated wilderness generated controversy from all sides of the wolf debate and brought national attention to Idaho. The timing also coincided with a so-called "wolf derby" in Salmon in December. No wolves were killed during the derby.
In February, F&G will release its predation management plan that outlines future efforts to restore the Middle Fork elk population.