BOISE Idaho's wolf numbers are out for 2013 and it appears that the numbers haven't changed much - at least in terms of population. But what does that mean for the state's wolf management plan?
The 2013 annual summary of wolf monitoring in Idaho comes with a mixed bag. The number of wolf packs are declining, but they're still the second highest on record.
Managing wolves is a delicate and sensitive topic, and that's how Idaho Department of Fish and Game approaches it.
Under the direction of the Legislature and the governor, Fish and Game needs to keep the wolf population in a certain range, keeping them from being put back on the endangered species list, and preventing them from growing so large that it creates problems for farmers and ranchers.
We have a healthy population that's in a steady decline, said Jim Hayden, a biologist for Idaho Fish and Game in northern Idaho.
He says while the population is healthy, the state is not satisfied with the wolf numbers and wants them down even lower.
We're seeing a decrease in the number of wolves kind of on a consistent basis. We weren't sure this was going to happen when we went into the hunting and trapping seasons, but it appears to be the case now, said Hayden.
According to the report, there's an estimated 659 wolves in Idaho at the end of 2013. That's significantly higher than the 150 wolves required to keep them off the endangered species list.
Last year hunters and trappers killed 356 wolves, while landowners killed another 94 wolves. Those landowners were protecting their property as wolves killed 39 cattle, 404 sheep, a dog and a horse.
Hayden says balancing the population and keeping farmers and ranchers happy is a priority.
I think it's an obligation to try and minimize that as much as practical. I think that's an important part of our heritage in Idaho and as are wolves themselves actually. I think we need to focus on making life a little bit easier, said Hayden.
The report also found that the average size of the pack decreased from 8.1 in 2009, when the management plan went into effect, to 5.4 at the end of 2013.
Fish and Game plans to do more monitoring in the future to figure out exactly what that means for the wolf population.
The report also pointed out that the number of wolves killed by hunters and trappers is also down compared to previous years, but that appears to be expected based on what other states are experiencing.