Wolf populations are growing in states like Idaho, Minnesota, and Wyoming, and sightings of wolf packs are on the rise. Some are glad to see the native predators’ numbers on the growing. On the other hand, some are concerned about the implications of the growing population.
Some scientists say that the wolf population is an important part of the ecosystem. There is some evidence that wolf packs can help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease. Others note their positive impact on the flora of Yellowstone National Park. Conversely, wolves prey on livestock. Chase Whittaker, an Idaho rancher, told “The Idaho Mountain Express” that his ranch lost 40 calves to wolves in 2015. About this, he said, “Basically, that was $40,000 lost all in one bunch. It was unreal like someone stole from us.”
From that position, it is hard to see wolves as a beneficial species.
How Wolf Packs Affect Hunters
It isn’t just ranchers who are feeling the effects of a growing wolf population. Hunters are feeling it, too. Wolves’ natural prey is deer and elk. With more wolves hunting them, elk and deer are learning to be more alert. They are also fleeing their habitats to lower elevation or steeper timber to get away from wolves. This migration has made it hard on Idaho elk hunters.
According to Whittaker, game animals have fled the area to escape their local wolf population. There are no elk in the places he and his friends have hunted in the past. The animals that are still in the area have been “taught by wolves that they are not safe,” says the rancher.
Hunters may be seeing less game but the Idaho Department of Fish and Game stated that elk populations were meeting or exceeding their population goals in most areas. So, the wolves aren’t killing all of the game, they are merely displacing them. According to the agency, elk hunting is in a new golden age in Idaho.
Wolf Hunting and Trapping
While many people believe that wolves should be protected, some states are allowing hunting and trapping of wolves.
Last year, Idaho expanded its wolf hunting and trapping in two major ways. It raised the bag limit on the animals to fifteen from five. The state also decided to instate a year-round wolf hunting season in several areas. This will go a long way in keeping wolf packs from overwhelming their prey’s population. Montana and Wyoming also offer wolf hunting as a way to keep the predator population in check.