Boise National Forest officials are asking hunters and guides venturing into the wilderness to help determine the number of northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Idaho.

The Idaho Nature Conservancy, under contract with the Forest Service, has mailed a wolf survey to 5,000 hunters with special elk permits, as well as to 110 outfitters and guides. It shows how to recognize wolves and asks outdoorsmen to report all sightings immediately."We feel that the combined efforts of the outfitter-guides and the hunters will be very helpful to improve our understanding of wolves in central Idaho," said John Erickson, Boise National Forest biologist. "The more eyes out there helping us, the better."

The Nature Conservancy also is conducting a telephone survey of elk and deer hunters.

The wolf has been on the federal endangered species list since 1973. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a recovery plan to establish 10 breeding pairs of wolves in three areas of the West, including central Idaho.

Although the number of reported wolf sightings has increased in recent years, it is estimated there are no more than 15 wolves in Idaho.

The survey marks the first time the Forest Service has actively sought wolf sightings from the public. Erickson said the goal is to determine how many animals can be found in central Idaho, where they are located and whether they are traveling in packs or as lone wolves.