Colville Wildlife Program
A black wolf on the Colville Reservation.

Colville Tribes Receive Grant for Innovative Wolf-Monitoring Program

Jack McNeel

“There is a policy decision currently to reduce the number of wolves in Montana,” Pauley said. “We’re accomplishing that with hunter harvest.”

Montana is doing DNA analysis from every wolf that authorities can get their hands on and has a joint understanding with Idaho and Wyoming for similar work in those states.

“Wolves disperse phenomenal distances,” Pauley said. “You might see genetic signatures from all over heck.”

Wyoming has had a wolf hunt the past two years. Their season is structured somewhat differently than Idaho and Montana. Most wolves in Wyoming are located adjacent to Yellowstone N.P. The area is divided into managed units and wolves are treated like any other trophy animal. When the allotment of wolves is taken in any managed unit, hunting ceases in that unit. In 2012 the quota for those units was 50 wolves and in 2013 that quota was reduced to 27 wolves.

In about 85% of Wyoming wolves are considered a predator with no closed season and no wolf license required, but the wolf population is very low and no kills have been reported.

Idaho also has a big population of wolves. At the end of 2012, 117 packs had been documented, a decline of 11 percent from the prior year. The Nez Perce Tribe also works with the state in monitoring wolves. In addition there are 23 so-called border packs in Montana, Wyoming and Washington whose ranges overlap into Idaho.

Hunting and trapping are allowed in Idaho during specified seasons. The agreement that states have had with the federal government since the wolf was taken off the endangered list includes numbers of breeding pairs of wolves each year. Idaho’s Panhandle Region borders northeastern Washington, putting the Colville Reservation well within the range a wolf might cover. Some of Colville’s wolf population likely came from Idaho as well as migrating south from British Columbia in Canada.

DNA analysis is also being done in the Panhandle, which may help answer that question. Analysis is being conducted by experts such as wolf biologist Lacy Robinson, who plans to visit four to six wolf dens this spring to document pup survival, place collars on the pups and obtain DNA material from fecal matter. Timing is key, she said with a chuckle.

“I try to get them when they’re old enough to wear a collar but not big enough to run away,” said Robinson, who is based in northern Idaho.


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