Compared to last year, USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho has seen fewer wolf-caused depredations of livestock in recent months, the state director said.
Todd Grimm on Dec. 4 told the Idaho Wolf Depredation Control Board that between July 1 and Nov. 15 Wildlife Services conducted 161 depredation investigations in the state. That's down 18% from the same period a year ago.
The agency confirmed 75 of the reported depredations as wolf-caused, down 48%. The agency lethally removed 30 wolves and radio-collared one, compared to killing 35 and collaring two during the same period in 2018.
He said the agency in the recent period conducted investigations for 18 producers in 14 counties. Depredations included 22 adult cattle, 28 calves, 42 sheep, two llamas, two dogs, a horse and a goat.
Grimm attributed at least part of the reduction in depredations to the agency's previous work.
“We were successful in getting a bunch of depredating wolves in late May and early June,” Grimm said. These wolves likely would have contributed to more depredation investigations and losses later in the summer and into fall, he said.
Some producers also may not have reported a livestock loss from July to mid-November to Wildlife Services, another possible factor in lower recent numbers, he said.
Year-earlier totals were also higher than normal. Wildlife Services confirmed a record-high 175 wolf-caused depredations for the fiscal year that ended June 30, up 25% over the previous year. Investigations prompted by wolf-related complaints totaled 264, up from 217.
Grimm, who has been in his current job since 2003, would not predict depredation activity for the rest of 2019 and next year.
“The one thing I am certain of is that in late July and August, depredations — both reported and confirmed — will peak,” he said.
“Ever since I have been doing this, August is always the worst month,” Grimm said. August is when the most livestock are exposed to the most wolves, including maturing pups.
Directors of the state Department of Agriculture and Department of Fish and Game co-chair the wolf board, which the legislature created for a five-year period in 2014 and made permanent this year.
Fish and game license and tag purchases, the livestock industry and the state General Fund pay for it.
The board pays Wildlife Services, with Fish and Game authorization. Wildlife Services reports findings of its investigations to IDFG, which can initiate a control action authorizing Wildlife Services to kill offending wolves up to 60 days after the depredation.
Cascade rancher Phil Davis urged the board to support development of a protocol for diagnosing myopathy — muscle deterioration and failure due to lack of oxygen — and to pay for pathology testing that could cost $200 to $300 per animal.
Some cattle die from myopathy after a wolf chases them, he said, and a clinical diagnosis would help determine a cause of death when there is limited evidence of direct trauma from a wolf.