According to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, population estimates suggest there are approximately 900 wolves in Montana. This marks the 13th consecutive year that Montana has far exceeded wolf recovery goals.
FWP now estimates wolf numbers using a method called POM, or Patch Occupancy Modeling. The old way of trying to count wolves from an airplane became a less and less accurate picture of wolf numbers as the wolf population grew beyond anyone’s ability to count it. Additionally, the old method was expensive and took up a lot of staff time.
FWP has used POM estimates along with the old minimum counts for several years. POM uses wolf sightings reported to FWP during annual deer hunter surveys, known wolf locations, habitat variables and research-based wolf territory and pack sizes to estimate wolf distribution and population size across the state. The most recent POM estimates were 961 wolves in 2015 and 851 in 2016. Data has been gathered for 2017 estimates and analysis will take place during summer 2018.
Moving forward, all wolf reports will be put out in late summer so that current POM estimates can be included.
Montana’s wolf population has remained relatively stable with an annual wolf harvest that averages about 225 animals per year. During the 2017-2018 wolf season, 255 wolves were harvested: 65 percent hunting, 35 percent trapping. Approximately, $380,000 was generated for wolf conservation and management by wolf license sales.
Livestock depredation by wolves during 2017 was approximately 25 percent of what it was in 2009, when it was at a peak. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed 80 livestock losses to wolves in 2017, which included 49 cattle, 12 sheep, and 19 goats during 2017. One dog was also killed by wolves. This total was up compared to 53 livestock losses during 2016. During 2017 the Montana Livestock Loss Board paid $64,133 for livestock Wildlife Services confirmed as probable or certain wolf kills.
To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click Montana Wolves. This 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report is available at: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/management/wolf/.