The gray wolf was removed from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana in 2011.

Idaho’s Rangeland Resources Commission says wolf attacks on livestock in Idaho hit a record over the past year, and they’re anticipating more this summer.

From January to June of 2018, state and federal authorities documented 61 confirmed wolf-livestock kills, the commission said Tuesday, and responded to a record 113 different Idaho cattle or sheep ranches to investigate livestock killings. That was followed by three incidents in July in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in which wolves killed a total of seven sheep.

“This is going to be a busy summer,” said Todd Grimm, Idaho state director of federal Wildlife Services, which contracts with the state to kill problem wolves.

The July incidents, in which three wolves were trapped and shot, drew heavy criticism from an environmental group, the Western Watersheds Project, which contended that the wolf killings near Stanley were inappropriate in the national recreation area.

“These conflicts show that grazing in this remarkable area is not compatible with conserving native wildlife,” said Kristin Ruether, staff attorney with the group, “and the Forest Service’s refusal to acknowledge this is a slap in the face to those who love the SNRA and its wildlife.”

The U.S. Forest Service told the Associated Press last week that a 2008 analysis determined that sheep grazing would not substantially impair wildlife conservation in the SNRA, making sheep grazing an allowable use of the area.

John Peavey, a Carey rancher and member of the state rangeland commission, praised the kills.

“We appreciate that Wildlife Services was able to respond quickly to a situation where wolves were repeatedly killing sheep over a multi-day period,” Peavey said in a statement. “It’s been federal and state policy since Day 1 to control wolves when they prey on livestock. Idaho Fish & Game signed off on the control actions, as it does for all of those situations.”

The Idaho Legislature has approved $400,000 a year for the past six years from the state general fund for the wolf-killing operations, for which the state Wolf Control Depredation Board contracts with Wildlife Services. Ranchers and sportsmen also contribute to the fund.

The rangeland commission said wolves have killed more than 700 cattle and 550 sheep in Idaho since 2009, impacting 412 ranchers around the state.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.