If you are referring to fall Chinook, you will see a record run of fall Chinook in Idaho in 2014. Fall Chinook have recently arrived at Bonneville Dam in record numbers - but they are about two weeks later than expected. That same surge of fish are moving up the Columbia River and many are headed for the Snake and Clearwater River systems.
We are making headway with other runs of anadromous salmon. Improvements in bypass and collection facilities are resulting in higher survival of juvenile fish to the ocean and subsequent returns of adults. Yes, there is still room for improvement. We will continue working with all entities to have the best passage conditions possible for Idaho's salmon and steelhead runs.
Very good question and one our agency has explored in the past.
The sockeye that return to the Stanley Basinrun the longest distance inland of any sockeye population in the world. Back in the early 1980's, IDFG staff went to Babine Lake in northern British Columbia, Canada and took eggs from sockeye at that location. The fish were then reared and released in the Stanley Basin to begin their migration to the ocean. This was done for two consecutive years. Not a single adult sockeye returned to the Stanley Basin lakes from this experiment.
We surmise that something in the genetic makeup of these fish just didn't allow them to make the over 900 mile freshwater journey back to Idaho. We're not sure if they didn't have the capability to detect the tiny fraction of water from their release stream in the Columbia River or they just weren't capable of storing the fat reserves to give them energy to survive the long swim - bottom line was, they just never made it back to Idaho.
Idaho Statesman Outdoor Editor Roger Phillips recently published an interesting article relevant to your questions. Here's the article:
Outdoors Q&A: A long-winded answer to what were Idaho's 'native' wolves
By Roger Phillips
August 14, 2014
Q: I recently read an article about the native Idaho wolf. I had previously never heard of this wolf species, which is said to be 40 to 60 pounds smaller than the wolf we reintroduced into Idaho. Is there such a wolf, and is it endangered?
IRENE ANDERSON, Meridian
A: Get comfy, Irene, this may take a while.
The short version is there's no definitive answer to what Idaho's "native" wolf is for many reasons, but I will make an educated guess that the wolves we have now are similar to what we used to have.
Some people claim Idaho's "native" wolf was the "plains" wolf, which is a slightly smaller subspecies of the gray wolf, and those transplanted from Canada were larger "timber" wolves.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gray wolves once ranged from coast-to-coast and from Alaska to Mexico, and they were one of the most wide-ranging animals on the continent.
There were, and are, numerous subspecies, of which the "plains" wolf is one. Despite its name, it's also found in the Great Lakes.
If you could track down the DNA of an Idaho wolf from hundreds of years ago, it would likely show you it's a gray wolf, but not a particular subspecies.
If you look at the evidence, it points to Idaho's previous wolves being similar to those in Canada based on Idaho's geography, terrain and climate.
The ancestors of Idaho's current gray wolf population came from south central Alberta and British Columbia in 1995-96.
The fact that they're from Canada does not make them a subspecies, as some people claim.
The weight range of the transplanted wolves was 72 to 126 pounds, according to Idaho Fish and Game records.
F&G's recent harvest statistics show Idaho wolves killed by hunters average about 90 pounds for females and about 100 pounds for males.
That may skew a little small because young wolves are more likely to get shot than older wolves. The largest wolf killed in Idaho since reintroduction was about 135 pounds.
As to whether the wolves imported from Canada are a different subspecies, evidence based on geography and other species doesn't support it.
From North Idaho, there's only a few hundred miles from where the transplanted wolves originated, and the farthest distance from the current population's original home would probably be fewer than 1,000 miles.
According to Mark Drew, veterinarian at Fish and Game's Wildlife Health Laboratory, a thousand miles is not enough distance to trigger what's known as Bergmann's rule. That's a widely accepted zoological principle that individual animals of a certain species tend to be larger at higher latitudes and colder climates than those closer to the equator and in warmer climates.
White-tailed deer are a classic example. Whitetails in southern states are diminutive compared to whitetails in northern states and Canadian provinces.
Also, if you subtract the weight you mentioned (40 to 60 pounds lighter) from the average size of today's wolves, you'd have a wolf about the size of a coyote, which isn't likely.
But you could make an argument that wolves inhabiting Idaho a century or more ago were different than what we have now simply because Idaho was different.
Wolves, like all animals, are a product of their environment and highly adaptable. Their size relates to their habitat and prey.
Jon Rachael, F&G's state big game manager, said current wolf weights vary throughout the state. Packs adjacent to each other may have larger or smaller individuals, simply because one pack is healthier than the other.
But to more directly answer your question about what was Idaho's "native" wolf, Rachael forwarded me a copy of "An account of the Taxonomy of North American Wolves from a Morphological and Genetic Analysis."
It's a scientific paper that discusses many subspecies of wolves across North America, and here's your scientific smoking gun:
"Recognition of the northern timber wolf Canis lupus occidentalis and the plains wolf Canis lupus nubilus as subspecies is supported by morphological data and extensive studies of microsatellite DNA variation where both subspecies are in contact in Canada.
"There is scientific support for the taxa recognized here, but delineation of exact geographic boundaries presents challenges. Rather than sharp boundaries between taxa, boundaries should generally be thought of as intergrade zones of variable width."
If you understood all of that, you're probably smarter than I.
But here's my take: Because Idaho has both mountains and desert, it likely falls into the category of an "intergrade zone." It's possible a desert subspecies existed that was smaller than their northern cousins. But considering most of the state is mountainous and cold, most of Idaho's previous "native" wolves were probably similar to what we have now.
Most of the elk reside in the southern portion of the Unit, from Grouse Peak to the southern boundary of the unit. This area is mostly public land, topographically diverse and high elevation. You are likely to find elk in any drainage, particularly those with perennial creeks.There is good motorized access to much of this area with the opportunity to hike into remote areas as well. Consult the Forest Service and BLM travel plan maps.
Along the north end of the unit adjacent the Salmon River,elk can be found in the dry foothills during the day. They move to fields along the Salmon River at night. Access is more restrictive here and landowner contacts would be helpful in this area.
The Pahsimeroi River lies within the eastern boundary of the unit. The riparian zone is quite extensive and elk arecommon. Access to private property is requiredhere to hunt the private lands.
Steelhead do run to thePahsimerio/Challis/Salmon area in the late fall. Typically, we start to receive reports of steelhead being caught in the upper Salmon in late October/early November. Most people fish the lower Salmon River in the fall (October in Riggins is my favorite fishing time) and the upper Salmon in the spring.
River conditions do play a large part on when they arrive in the upper Salmon country. If the water cools in the Snake River early in the year, then the fish will move up the Snake and Salmon and arrive in October. If the water remains warm into September, the fish will not enter the Snake River and their migration is delayed.
Currently there are classes scheduled in Ahsahka, Lewiston, Salmon and Idaho Falls. We are working on scheduling more classes in different parts of Idaho including the Treasure Valley. Please check the website for upcoming classes. You can also call the Regional office and let them know you are interested in a class in their Region.
Broodstock goals for the adipose-clipped portion of the production (the fish that sport anglers can harvest when they return) sometimes change from one year to the next because of other changes in rearing space at the hatcheries or other rearing programs thatalsoare occurring. At Pahsimeroi Hatchery more rearing space is needed this year for a program to supplement and rebuild the natural population that spawns above the weir. Over all the programs, the same number of adults are required for spawning because the hatchery can only rear a total of one million smolts. As smolt production in one program increases more adults are need for brood in that program, but brood need decreases in the other program since the total number of smolts that can be produced stays the same. At Sawtooth Hatchery, the increase in the brood need from 2012 to 2013 was a result of bringing another pump on line to provide more water to the hatchery. The additional water resulted in an increase in rearing capacity at the hatchery and the ability to rear more smolts resulted in the need for more adults for brood. The reduction from 900 in 2013 to 800 (800 is the correct brood number for 2014 at Sawtooth) was because of the need for more space for the supplementation and natural stock rebuilding program there.
For fish that return to a hatchery weir, most natural origin fish are passed upstream to spawn naturally. If the sport and tribal fisheries downstream of the weirs are successful at catching the hatchery fish they are targeting, there are very few fish that are excess to brood needs at the weirs. Putting eyed eggs in the streams has proven unsuccessful in the past. The returning adult hatchery fish are most valuable to everyone if they are harvested in a fishery or used as brood for fish reared to smolts in the hatchery so they can be released to support future fisheries. Each year, after brood needs at the hatcheries are determined, the sport and tribal fisheries are managed to catch the returning hatchery fish that aren't need for brood.
You've done a great job of tracking the hatchery return component of the Chinook run. Here are other items that need to be considered in doing a run reconstruction:
Mortality between Lower Granite Dam and the hatcheries - there is mortality due to environmental reasons, predators, diseases, injuries, hard angler releases, etc. We don't know what percentage are actually lost once fish pass Lower Granite but some biologists speculate it could be ~10%.
Straying of returning adults. There is not 100% fidelity in returning adult fish. Straying rates vary for the different stocks of fish. Studies showit could befrom 5 - 15%. Hence, these fish are unaccounted for at the hatchery trapping sites.
Fish returning to Oregon tributaries above Lower Granite Dam - there are a couple of significant streams in Oregon that contribute to Chinook returns passing Lower Granite Dam.
Wild Chinook - your accounting doesn't show a total for wild or natural production that occurs in the Clearwater or Salmon basins.
Tribal harvest of the sport fishery - we don't currently have harvest information for the Nez Perce or Shoshone Bannock tribes. They are not required to provide us their harvest information, so it's not posted on our managed data sites.
Late arriving hatchery fish - Chinook, although the numbers are lower, will continue returning to our traps up until they spawn. There will still be late arriving fish. There are also Chinook at several of our facilities that never actually enter our traps and will spawn just downstream.
As you can probably see, accounting for fish in the wild - and when you have no control over the different variables affecting survival, is extremely difficult. There is an element of making educated "guesses" when it comes to accounting for all the fish. We often error on the side of being conservative in our harvest estimates so we can assure enough brood stock to provide fishing in future years.
Your information is correct. We once hassignificant runs of coho returning to Idaho and spawning in the Clearwater, lower Salmon River, and Snake Basin. As dams were built, populations were lost and it was believed they were extinct in Idaho for several years.
The Nez Perce tribal fisheries program is responsible for re-establishing a coho population in the Clearwater drainage. Numbers of coho have been steadily increasing and we have begun looking at potential sport fishing opportunities on returning hatchery fish. Stay tuned, it could happen in the next few years - it numbers of fish continue to increase.
They are listed as "introduced" because they were re-established in Idaho from watersheds in Washington and Oregon.