Photo courtesy USFWS, William Campbell
BOISE — Idaho Wildlife Services is keeping its eyes on a pack of seven wolves that has been detected in the foothills north of Boise.
News that a pack of wolves has been detected in that area was not welcomed by the state’s cattle industry.
There have been lone wolf sightings in the Boise foothills over the years but this is believed to be the first time a pack has been confirmed in the area.
IWS State Director Todd Grimm said seven different sets of wolf tracks have been found near Avimor Subdivision, which is located in the foothills north of Boise, by far the state’s largest urban area.
Wildlife Services is a USDA agency that solves conflicts between humans and animals.
Grimm said there have been no reported livestock depredations associated with the pack, “but there are cattle in that vicinity, as well as pets, so the possibility is certainly there for a conflict.”
The wolves were detected in the spring but news that a wolf pack was even seen in the region was not welcomed by the state’s cattle industry.
Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Cameron Mulrony said he has not heard of any problems associated with the pack from cattlemen in the region but the news is certainly not welcomed by them.
Just having wolves in the area can cause cattle to put on less weight and reduce their breed-back percentage, both of which can cost ranchers a significant amount of money, he said.
“Any time there is an additional predator around that can cause a hit on a rancher’s bottom line, that’s not great news,” Mulrony said.
Jennifer Struthers, a regional wolf biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said there is typically one or two wolf sightings a year in the foothills area during the winter time, when elk and deer come down onto winter range.
Outside of those sporadic sightings, not much is known about the predators, she said.
“The wolves come down because the game come down,” Struthers said. “We get a few sightings most winters by the public or when we fly. Where they go in the spring and summer time, we really don’t know.”
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Broadcast Services Manager Jake Putnam said local sheepherders reported a couple wolf sightings in March but no depredations were associated with the animals.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise to Idaho Farm Bureau that wolves are that close to the city,” he said. “There have been sightings of wolves there in years past, but this is the first time a pack has been reported and this is a concern to us.”
According to Wildlife Services, there have been seven confirmed wolf livestock depredations in Ada County since the predators were re-introduced to Idaho in the mid-1990s.
Those depredations have occurred higher up in the mountain areas, said IDFG spokesman Mike Keckler.