BILLINGS – A record 186 wolves were killed in the Northern Rockies last year in response to livestock depredations, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Government agents and ranchers legally killed about 12 percent of the population, but the FWS estimates that at least 1,513 wolves lived in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming at the end of 2007 — up from 1,300 at the end of 2006.
The number of wolves in the three-state area has increased every year since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 and 1996.
In Montana, the population increased 34 percent to 422 wolves in 2007, said Carolyn Sime, leader of the wolf program for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. During the same time, 75 cows and 27 sheep in the state were confirmed to be killed by wolves.
In Wyoming last year, 55 cows were killed by wolves — down from a high of 123 in 2006. Sixteen sheep also were killed. In response, 63 wolves were taken out, leaving 359 in the state including those living in Yellowstone.
Idaho saw at least 53 cows and 170 sheep killed by wolves. Fifty wolves were removed and 732 were estimated to be living in that state at the end of the year.
A federal proposal to remove wolves from the endangered species list is scheduled to go into effect March 28. Several environmental groups are expected to sue.
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