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Wildlife wardens whack 23 wolves in aerial op

Idaho Fish and Game, in cooperation with the USDA Wildlife Services, has completed another wolf control action in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.

In February, Wildlife Services agents killed 23 wolves from a helicopter at a cost of $30,000, or about $1,300 per wolf removed. This is the sixth agency control action taken in Lolo zone during the last four years. 25 wolves were taken in the previous five actions.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 17 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2013-14 season — seven by hunting and 10 by trapping. The trapping season ends March 31 and the hunting season ends June 30.

Fish and Game estimates there were 75-100 wolves in the Lolo zone at the start of the 2013 hunting season with additional animals crossing back and forth between Idaho and Montana and from other Idaho elk zones. Fish and Game’s goal is to reduce that Lolo zone wolf population by 70 percent, which would leave 25-30 wolves in that area.

The Lolo elk population has declined drastically from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, when Fish and Game last surveyed the zone.

Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines.

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/?getPage=325.

Helicopter crews are now capturing and placing radio collars on elk, moose, and wolves in the Lolo zone in order to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

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