A total of 19 wolves shot by wildlife officials in Idaho will ideally help the elk in the area.
Federal Wildlife Service agents shot 19 wolves from an aircraft last month in Idaho's Lolo region. Idaho Fish and Game requested the action as part of their ongoing effort to improve the survival rate of the area's declining elk population. Wolves are the elk's primary predator, although habitat changes also play a role in the decline.
Estimates in the area were made at less than 1,000 elk this year, less than half of the 2010 numbers of 2,100 elk and drastic change from 16,000 elk in 1989.
The Lolo region near the Idaho/Montana border is rugged steep terrain that is difficult to access, especially in winter. These conditions keep the preferred method of controlling wolf numbers through hunting and trapping from effective enough to keep numbers down. During the 2014-2015 hunting season, hunters and trappers took 11 wolves. Helicopter crews captured and collared elk and wolves to monitor if the predator management is working.
In Febuary 2014, 23 wolves were killed from helicopters costing an estimated $30,000. Fish and Game receives no state general tax dollars; the entire cost of the Wolf Depredation Control Board is funded through purchases of hunting licenses.