Killing wolves from a helicopter as a means of population control in north-central Idaho proved too costly and inefficient, so the program has been postponed indefinitely.
The Associated Press is reporting that the aerial hunt claimed at least five wolves before the suspension of an effort designed to remove as many as 60 predators from the region, leaving between 20-30.
Wolves pose a threat to struggling elk herds in what's called the Lolo elk-management zone. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, through its management strategies, hopes to alleviate predation on elk calves and adult cows.
Aerial hunting was being conducted by agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services. Because many wolves wear radio collars, packs were easy enough to locate. But the wary animals, while they may be in the proximity of elk herds browsing in meadows, tend to remain in dense timber and are difficult targets from the air.
"We can find the packs, but you can't find the wolves to do anything from a control standpoint," Jim Unsworth, deputy director of the Idaho DFG, told the Lewiston Tribune. "Some folks think you just show up and take whatever you want when using a helicopter, and that's just not the case."
The reduction in wolf numbers might still be achieved because sport hunters and guides in the Lolo zone have been authorized to kill wolves during the spring bear-hunting season. A fall wolf hunt also is expected to be approved.
Idaho resumed wolf management earlier this month after the animals were removed from protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act.
Statewide, there were an estimated 705 wolves before the spring pupping season, which might have boosted the population to 1,000-plus.
-- Wolf image is courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service