Montana to rely on hunter data for wolf counts

A pair of wolves stand in Montana, where state biologists plan to use data collected by hunters to improve wolf population estimates. ©JasonBechtel

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say they plan to change the way they estimate the state’s wolf (Canis lupus) populations, switching to a model that relies on data gathered by hunters.

Biologists say their current wolf counts are expensive and don’t provide an accurate estimate of the wolves’ numbers.

“Back in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, we could count every wolf in the state,” wildlife biologist Bob Inman told the Associated Press. “As populations increased into the 700 to 1,000 range, we physically can’t do that anymore.”

The model is expected to be rolled out within three years. Biologists say it will provide a more accurate count, and has provided higher numbers than current estimates. It will also be less expensive. Wolf advocates fear hunters have an anti-wolf bias that will throw off the estimates.

Read about the plan in the Washington Post.