The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is using a new definition for “breeding pair” that differs from the definition used in the USFWS delisting rule of 2009. This definition is important because it is the primary marker used to determine whether wolves should remain delisted from protections of the Endangered Species Act or not. The state of Idaho seems committed to only maintain the absolute minimum number of breeding pairs it can to keep them from being relisted but Idaho Department of Fish and Game is having a difficult time monitoring wolves and documenting the minimum required number of breeding pairs because there has been such high mortality among collared wolves. This high mortality has caused them to lose contact with many of the packs they are trying to intensively monitor, in turn, it has led to them loosen the criteria they use to determine what constitutes a breeding pair. With the increased effort exhibited by Governor Otter to reduce the population even further, it may become even more difficult for Idaho Department of Fish and Game to conclusively document the minimum required number of breeding pairs.
There is a legal definition for what a wolf “breeding pair” is that is very specific and this definition has undergone changes over the years to make it even more specific. When the reintroduction of wolves was being contemplated during the 1980′s, the USFWS determined that it needed to define what a wolf breeding pair was so that they could accurately define the recovery goals. The 1987 recovery plan “specified a recovery criterion of a minimum of 10 breeding pairs of wolves (defined as 2 wolves of opposite sex and adequate age, capable of producing offspring) for a minimum of 3 successive years in each of 3 distinct recovery areas…”