Associated Press Relocation may affect breeding
SALMON - The relocation of another pair of Idaho's endangered wolves has wolf managers hoping the pairs have enough pups this spring to keep efforts to take the wolves off the Endangered Species List moving forward.
"If for some reason we can't achieve the third consecutive year with 10 breeding pairs, we'll lose that momentum in talking about and preparing for delisting," said Curt Mack, Idaho's wolf recovery project leader.
In 1995 and 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 35 gray wolves as part of an experimental population. The endangered species are managed under special rules that allow managers to control the wolves either through relocation or lethal means, depending on the population's size and stability.
Recovery rules do not allow the wolves to be removed from the list until Idaho, northwestern Montana and the Yellowstone National Park recovery area each have 10 breeding pairs for three consecutive years.
To qualify as a breeding pair, the alpha male and female and two of their pups must survive through the summer and fall until Dec. 31.
Idaho has had 10 breeding pairs for the past two years, but Montana and Wyoming have fallen short so far.
Last weekend, the alpha male and female of the White Clouds pack near Clayton were relocated after they killed two calves. It was their second livestock depredation in a year.
In March, authorities relocated the alpha pair from the Twin Peaks pack after the wolves killed livestock on the Curt Hurless ranch, also near Clayton. If for some reason the two alpha pairs do not den and produce litters, Idaho's known pack count will drop to eight, Mack said.
Mack said if the Twin Peaks and White Clouds pairs do den and have pups, Idaho could have 14 packs this summer. There may also be one to three uncollared packs that have not yet been documented.