Great Falls Tribune: Fish & Wildlife chief praises state wolf management

What a difference a year makes. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year removed wolves in Montana and Idaho from the Endangered Species List, some predicted the wholesale slaughter of wolves in these states. We had faith in the state wildlife professionals who would manage wolves and in the commitment of the states’ leadership to sustain the wolf’s amazing recovery.

Newly released population estimates validate that faith. They indicate that state assumption of full management responsibility for wolves — including regulated hunting and trapping seasons — will continue to ensure a healthy and robust wolf population for many years to come.

The minimum population estimate in our 2011 report shows that the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population contains more than 1,774 adult wolves and more than 109 breeding pairs.

Most of the suitable habitat is now occupied and likely at or above long-term carrying capacity.

This population has exceeded recovery goals for 10 consecutive years.

Although population decreases are expected in Montana and Idaho in the long-term as states pursue their population management objectives, we expect that these reductions will be measured and carefully managed to ensure populations are maintained well above recovery levels.

This first year demonstrates the credible and professional job the states have done and the careful decision-making that has gone into their management strategies.

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