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Analyzing Fish and Game’s Wolf Proposal
Tuesday, February 28, 2023


The Idaho Fish & Game draft Gray Wolf Management Plan for 2023-2028 is now available for comment.

It proposes to kill 60% of the Idaho wolf population to bring the total number down to 500 wolves. The plan also proposes to increase the hunting of wolves and to increase trapping seasons, using a variety of equipment including leghold traps, snares and body gripping traps.

Under the new plan, the agency would continue emphasizing hunting and trapping as its primary management tool. It would also continue providing bounty funding and paying private contractors to kill wolves.

Comments are due by March 6, 2023, at 8:00 am MST. To view and comment on the plan, use this link:

Wolves were decimated in the 1900s because of the growth of agriculture. The wolf is the only species in America deliberately driven to the brink of eradication. They were reintroduced in Idaho in 1995 as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan under the Endangered Species Act to restore wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain states.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game proposed 5-year plan has the wolf community in Idaho and around the nation feeling anger and frustration.

“Their new proposed plan is a return to the eradication tactics employed in the early 1900s. They promote trapping, year-round killing without limits, and bounties for dead wolves including pups in the den,” said Suzanne Stone, executive director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network and co-founder of the local Wood River Wolf Project.

Yet, that’s not the mission of Idaho Fish & Game. It’s “to preserve, protect and perpetuate wildlife…” And now there is 25 years of scientific research available that says killing wolves is neither productive for the ecosystem or wise management.

As demonstrated by local filmmakers and founders of Living with Wolves Jim and Jamie Dutcher, wolves are highly intelligent, complex animals who are caring, playful and above all, devoted to family. They live and work as a family unit called a pack to raise and feed pups, hunt, and defend their territory. They also form emotional bonds between pack members, the foundation for cooperative living.

Since 1995 when wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park, scientists have been able to study wolves and the dramatic improvements in the ecosystem they have caused. They help balance and protect elk and deer populations by culling disease from herds, in turn allowing willows and aspen to return to the landscape. The end to overgrazing stabilized riverbanks and rivers recovered allowing fish and other aquatic life to thrive. Songbirds returned as did beavers, eagles, foxes, and badgers.

New research shows that when wolf packs lose key family members, the packs cannot perform their ecological role and often disband, which can increase conflicts with livestock as young animals become desperate in their effort to survive without their parents.

Another important study shows that there is no need to control wolf populations because as apex predators, wolves keep their own numbers in check. Wolves are highly social animals that live in well-organized family units called packs. Cooperative living gives wolf families several benefits, including limiting their own populations--for example, they control the numbers within their group by only letting certain members breed. By self-regulating – they also help keep their ecosystems in balance.

Suzanne Asha Stone, executive director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network, has spent most of her life working on wolves and wolf projects. She recently weighed in on the proposed Idaho Fish and Game plan.

“First,” she said, “There is no scientific basis or justification for limiting wolf numbers to only 500 statewide.  We have about 4,000 mountain lions, 20,000 black bears, 120,000 elk and nearly a quarter million deer in Idaho. The US Fish and Wildlife Service did not establish a cap for Idaho’s wolf population but only a minimum number. Idaho’s proposed 500 cap is politically driven and not scientifically justified.”

“Next,” she said, elk hunters’ success remains above the ten-year average. For eight years, elk harvest has been over 20,000, which is only the second time since the 1930s that elk hunting has reached this high mark. “Wolves are clearly not a threat to elk or hunter success,” Stone said.

Stone offered a few other observations:

  • Out of 2.5 million livestock, estimates for all three predators--wolves, bears and mountain lions--account for a few hundred sheep and cattle each year. “The State of Idaho is spending millions of dollars to kill wolves despite negligible gains in protecting livestock, which already falls well under 0.1 percent of livestock losses,” she said.
  • The bounties that the state is offering violate the basic tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which the Idaho Fish & Game endorses, she added.

“In contrast, the Wood River Wolf Project which uses nonlethal strategies, has 16 years of success limiting depredation of sheep to fewer than five sheep out of 20,000 annually in the Project Area. Yet there is no mention of trying this method of protecting both wolves and livestock anytime soon,” Stone said. “The State of Idaho could save hundreds of thousands-- potentially millions-- of dollars by adopting nonlethal strategies for coexistence.”

To learn more about the Wood River Wolf Project, visit

For more information, contact

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