Idaho Fish and Game and Wildlife Services investigated and responded to a report of two wolves responsible for a “pile-up” that killed 143 sheep in the Boise Foothills in mid-May. According to reports from the sheep herder, wolves caused the sheep to flee in panic and then crush or suffocate each other in an effort to escape the wolves.
Wildlife Services staff investigated and found two sets of wolf tracks in the location of the incident, and confirmed that the pile-up was caused by wolves.
Fish and Game issued a request to Wildlife Services to remove the wolves in the area if they could be located, and they were not. The sheep have since moved away from the area where the incident occurred.
“This sadly exemplifies why wolf management in Idaho can be so challenging,” Fish and Game Director Ed Schriever said. “People cherish the Foothills for its diversity of wildlife, along with the opportunities for grazing, recreation and other activities. In this instance, a pair of wolves caused a significant loss of sheep for a rancher, and despite our efforts as a department to reduce or prevent this, it can still occur, and we regret that rancher Frank Shirts and his herders had to deal with this loss.”
Sheep have grazed the Boise Foothills for more than a century, and it’s also an area frequented by wolves, which has led to recurring incidents of wolves preying on livestock, or otherwise contributing to livestock deaths.
Wildlife Services typically removes five to 14 wolves annually from the Foothills in response to livestock depredation. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission and the Idaho Legislature in recent years have liberalized wolf hunting and trapping seasons in an effort to reduce conflicts in areas where chronic livestock depredations occur.
While the Foothills are in close proximity to Idaho’s largest metropolitan area, the area is home to an abundant variety of wildlife including deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, along with large predators such as bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes.
Fish and Game estimates that there’s about 1,600 wolves in Idaho after pups are born in the spring, then the population typically dips below 900 during late winter due to hunting, trapping seasons and other causes of wolf mortality.
Since January 1, Idaho hunters have taken 49 wolves statewide, trappers 81 and Wildlife Services and others have taken another 31 wolves involved in wildlife livestock depredations.
In 2021, Idaho hunters and trappers harvested 437 wolves, and an additional 43 wolves were killed in response to wolf depredations on livestock. Under Fish and Game authorization in the last 5 years (2017-2021) 324 wolves have been removed statewide in response to confirmed depredation on livestock.