Here Wolfy, Wolfy 

By most accounts, wolves are thriving in Idaho as the species is just a few weeks away from being removed from the federal Endangered Species List (BW, Feature, "Prodigal Son," Feb. 27, 2008).

The 2007 wolf recovery numbers were just released by the Idaho Fish and Game Department, and officials estimate the state is home to 732 wolves divided into 83 packs across the state.

The 2007 survey included 17 previously undocumented packs in the state, and an additional 13 packs in Montana and Wyoming whose territories straddle the Idaho border.

The survey also found that 59 packs produced pups, and 43 of those qualified as breeding pairs, meaning that at least two pups survived through the year. In all, officials estimate that at least 200 wolf pups were born in 2007.

That shows a solid population increase, considering only 78 wolves were confirmed to have died over the same period. The majority of the deaths (50) were due to legal state control measures and kills by landowners because of livestock depredation. An additional 18 wolves were killed by other human causes, eight died for unknown reasons and two were from natural causes.

Last year, Idaho ranchers lost 73 head of cattle, 185 sheep and 14 dogs to wolves.

Wolves are on the fast track to delisting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its final rule for delisting in Idaho, Washington and Wyoming, as well as parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah in the Federal Register in late February. If all goes as scheduled, wolves will officially be under state control beginning March 28.

In preparation, the Fish and Game Commission adopted a management plan earlier this month that will guide how the state will deal with the species. Among the more controversial aspects is the plan to allow limited hunting of wolves beginning as early as this fall. Commissioners are expected to hammer out the details of the hunting season at their meeting in May.

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