LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — Idaho officials say 19 wolves have been killed in northern Idaho in an effort to reduce wolf numbers and increase the elk population.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Monday announced the killings carried out last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in the Lolo Hunting Zone.

Jerome Hansen of Fish and Game tells the Lewiston Tribune in Lewiston that elk numbers in the region have dropped dramatically over the past 26 years.

Fish and Game says the area had an estimated 16,000 elk in 1989 but that the agency now believes the population could be as low as 1,000.

Experts say a changing habitat to denser forests less suitable for elk is the primary factor but wolves are preventing elk from rebounding.

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