Federal officials have confirmed this year’s first instance of wolves killing livestock in south-central Idaho.

But it appears that overall livestock deaths due to wolves are down, perhaps a product of last year’s public wolf hunt.

A group of at least three wolves killed one calf and severely injured another at the Cove Ranch in Bellevue on Saturday, according to Todd Grimm, western district supervisor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. The agency contracts with states to trap or kill problem predators.

Wildlife Services will begin actively trapping for the wolves in that area, Grimm said.

“That has been an active spot for livestock depredation cases,” Grimm said. “We’ve seen multiple cases in that area.”

While Wildlife Services confirms wolf depredation cases, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game partners with the federal agency to monitor wolf management.

Control and oversight of wolves returned to the state just this spring.

“Fish and Game help set the population goals while we are the ones on the ground floor making sure we meet those numbers,” Grimm said.

According to Jerome Hansen, Fish and Game’s Magic Valley regional supervisor, wolf attacks on livestock will most likely continue to increase with more calves and other young livestock around.

However, Idaho’s depredation cases are starting out much lower this year than in previous years.

Grimm and Hansen both attributed the decrease to Idaho’s first regulated wolf hunt that ran from late 2009 to mid-2010.

“We see last year’s wolf hunt as very successful,” Hansen said. “It put the fear of man back in the wolves, which is a good thing.”

This year, 11 cases of livestock kills have been confirmed so far throughout the state, said Fish and Game spokesman Mike Keckler. In 2009, 47 cases were confirmed by early June.

“It appears as a result of the hunting season, wolves equated humans with potential danger,” Keckler said. “As a result, I think the wolves were less willing to be bold, and we hope that trend continues during and after our hunting season so that there continues to be fewer and fewer cases of depredation.”

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