Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Idaho recently killed eight young wolves in an ongoing effort to manage the predator numbers in the state. The culled pups were part of the Timberline Pack—a wolf group unofficially “adopted” by students at Timberline High School in Boise who’ve studied them since 2003.
According to The Guardian, biologists tracking the pack found an empty wolf den while surveying the Boise National Forest this past spring. After obtaining a “mortality list” from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, they learned Wildlife Service agents from the USDA were responsible for the cull.
The USDA responded to environmentalist groups and students and defended their actions in a public letter: “Since the beginning of 2021, WS’ depredation investigations found that wolves killed 108 livestock.” The letter explained that, unfortunately, nonlethal methods proved ineffective in this area of chronic livestock depredation.
“WS determined that removing juvenile wolves would encourage adult wolves to relocate, thereby reducing the total number of wolves requiring removal. Since these control actions, there have been no further livestock depredations in those locations,” the letter concluded.
Idaho has recently escalated efforts to control numbers. Last May, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a measure eliminating limits on wolf harvest throughout most of the state while increasing funding for wolf management from $100,000 to $300,000.
Some environmental groups fear these new measures will result in an over-correction, bringing the wolf population to dangerously low levels. The current wolf population is estimated to be about 1,500 wolves across the state, and some wildlife organizations speculate that number could plummet by as much as 90% at the current rate of take.
Proponents of the aggressive wolf-mitigation effort include cattle and sheep ranchers experiencing considerable losses of livestock. Hunters have also voiced support for the wolf countermeasures, pointing to a downward trend in the quality of big game hunting opportunities.
In a most recent turn of Gem State wolf-management events, yesterday Idaho reached a deal to reimburse hunters who harvest wolves in specific areas where elk and deer are struggling to meet management objective numbers. The state set $200,000 aside to fund the effort.