This is a run-of-the-mill story about wolf control in the Big Hole Valley of Montana. About 90% of the incidents like this get no media attention. The interesting question is why do some get a news story, especially now 12 years after wolf reintroduction, when there is little news in such news?

Generic wolf control story from Montana. Associated Press.

Related update. Here is a similar story, but one that is a lot more troublesome. “Idaho wolf conflicts rise.Casper Star Tribune.

The essence is this story is that about 3 weeks ago a wolf was harassing cattle near Picabo, Idaho (the town is not mentioned in story). As is accorded by law, a rancher shot the wolf. Later, 2 more wolves harassed his cattle and on March 27 a calf was found dead (calves are very small this time of year, and Defenders of Wildlife will pay the fall value of the calf — a big profit for him). Now Wildlife Services is trying to find and kill the 2 other wolves.

There is no information in the story at all that wolf conflicts are rising in Idaho. This is one farm. How can you generalize from one farm to a statewide trend? You can’t.

This sloppy headline writer, is the kind of person who creates misinformation in the public about wolves and misinformation about many other subjects when headline doesn’t match the story.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

6 Responses to Feds eliminate wolves that killed cattle

  1. avatar Alan Gregory says:

    Different editor on duty at the time, perhaps. Or somebody who knows the reporter personally called the tip in. Could be a “slow” news day, although there really is no such thing. It’s the same with dog bites or eagle shootings. Some make headlines, others don’t. I call it the shark bite syndrome.

  2. avatar Joe S. says:

    Headline sounds accurate to me….there was a wolf conflict…makes one more than before the conflict….the way i do the math that is a RISE…….

  3. avatar Michael Wolf says:

    Ralph is correct about the headline. It was written to sell papers. When in doubt, follow the money.

    Few reporters write their own headlines by the way.

    And Joe: the headline was written for people like you. A “rise” refers to an increase in RATE, not amount. So one more incident does not constitute a rise. The headline was written to sell papers by making people think that something ghastly is happening with wolves; which is exactly what wolf haters want to hear; this despite the fact that rates are very low and decreasing and the fact that the impact of wolves on livestock operations is probably the most insignificant effect on them short of meteorites.

    But don’t believe me, compare statistics of causes of livestock mortality. Poisonous plants far and away exceed losses caused by wolves. As I said, just about everything exceeds losses caused by wolves. Oh, and then there are the benefits to sheep ranchers realized in reduced overall losses due to wolves killing coyotes.

  4. avatar Joe S. says:

    And Joe: the headline was written for people like you.

    Can’t argue with you there Michael….

    The headline was not written for people who ASSume “Wolf conflicts rise” has something to do with rate and not actual numbers……

    One thing you wolf lovers have mastered is spinning text to fit your agenda….

    GREAT WORK!!!

  5. Excellent math Joe. In fact the percentage increase from zero to 1 is infinity.

    Maybe the headline such be “Wolf Attacks in Idaho go up by an infinite” amount.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Joe, have you experienced any personal losses from wolves or predators? Just curious as to where you get your opinions/views from. Is it from experience or folklore?

    I live out west, my X wife grew up in Utah, and in the 6 years spending time in Utah, not once did I hear the people in that small town talking about a coyote getting a calf or a sheep, etc. Her grandfather ran about 100 head of cattle. And these people HATE predators. Now dont get me wrong, I know wolves and coyotes kill, thats what predators do. Its just that my experience in a small western town, is that predators dont kill livestock anywhere near what the predators haters would like to think.

    So if anyone is “spinning text to fit agenda”…its YOU.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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