Western moose populations expanded dramatically between 1950 and 2000 spreading throughout Idaho, westward into Washington and Oregon, and south along the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. As populations expanded, so did hunting opportunities. Drawing odds are presently about as good as they have ever been. Hunter success rates are high: in Idaho, for example, seasons are long and 75 percent of moose hunters score.
However, all that appears to be changing, though the change is not yet obvious. In certain areas, moose populations are declining and with the decline will come disappearing hunting opportunities.
Most hunters and an increasing number of wildlife managers blame this decline largely on wolves. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995, and wolf numbers have been expanding ever since. As wolf populations have expanded, moose populations have declined. While wolves are not the only problem (a decline in timber harvest on public lands creating less prime moose habitat, and vulnerability to parasites and diseases as population levels increase have also been identified as possible contributing factors), the greatest moose declines occur where wolf numbers have increased most. Why this impact on moose? As a general observation, wolves seem to prefer moose to other potential prey species. There are many good reasons why this might be so: moose are large and almost always solitary. Wolves likely have a somewhat easier time getting close to a single moose than a herd of watchful elk. Moose tend to live in limited habitat, often along waterways. These are perfect travel and hunting/ambush areas for wolves. In winter, wolves can travel on top of crusted snow that the heavier moose have to struggle to negotiate. As an added plus, a moose yields far more food for the pack than even an elk can provide.
Unfortunately for moose, wolves can also switch among many........(continued)