Big Game Survival Study Available

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In January 2005, Idaho Fish and Game biologists began the largest big game research project ever conducted in Idaho, and possibly the west.

Crews trapped and radio collared more than 900 deer, elk, and moose in 19 big game units in the Clearwater, Southwest, Salmon and Upper Snake River regions of Idaho. Since then biologists have been monitoring the survival and behavior of those animals by tracking the radio collars.

The study was designed to document various influences on survival of big game herds, primarily deer and elk. There has been much speculation on how reintroduced wolves are impacting those herds. Now the first solid data on that topic are available to Fish and Game, and the department is making it available to the public.

Big Game Manager Brad Compton says that, while the study evaluates the effect of wolves and other predators on deer and elk, this is more than a wolf study. "While it's critical to understand what impacts wolves are having, it's also critical to understand what affects weed invasion, fire, fire suppression, and other habitat changes are having" Compton said.

While it's easy to visualize the impacts of a wolf killing a prey animal, it's more difficult to determine what impacts changing habitats may be playing. The impacts of predation vary from year to year and tend to be short-term. Habitat changes happen gradually and impacts are long term.

To view the data go to the Fish and Game website at and look in the "featured pages" section. The information available on the web now is a starting point. The study will continue, and as new data are available the Big Game Survival section on the web will expand as the Department of Fish and Game continues to inform Idahoans about their wildlife resources. Those interested in receiving the latest information on this and other Fish and Game subjects are encouraged to click on the icon for Fish and Game e-mail updates found throughout the Fish and Game website.