Wolf hunt is part of the package for Montana delisting. Opinion. Daily InterLake

Montana FWP is planning a wolf hunt after delisting, as the opinion happily indicates.

However, FWP has invited wolf conservation groups for their views along with other groups. That is very unlike Idaho.

I also get the impression that a first Montana wolf hunt may be quite experimental and limited in scope because the Commission understands there could be unanticipated side effects of a hunt, and ones not desireable from many points of view. So best to base plans on knowledge, not folk wisdom.

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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.

28 Responses to Wolf hunt is part of the package for Montana delisting

  1. avatar mikarooni says:

    The trophy wolves in any pack will be the mature “alphas” and maybe a “beta” on occasion. Removing these individuals from any particular larger pack will leave younger wolves who very likely have not completed their education in hunting wild game and will resort to easier kills (sheep, pigs, chickens, or northern European cattle) for survival. The probable result should be obvious.

  2. avatar be says:

    it is sort of interesting… the idaho and wyoming heat has been gearing up and there was relative silence (at least in the media) from montana in the past while.

    it will be interesting to see their plan.

    but no one should forget that their [wolves] impacts on wildlife and livestock are being shouldered by Montana citizens.

    hmmm…

  3. avatar catbestland says:

    What I admittedly don’t understand, is how the delisting and hunting of an endangered species (wolf) can occur, when that population is barely at sustainable levels and do not exist outside of thier reintroduction areas? How can this be the case when the presence of the wolf would benefit ecosystems in other states as has been the case in Yellowstone?

    Why is it not possible to remove those supposedly surplus wolves from the areas they are not wanted (by some) and placed where they are wanted and would be protected? I understand that each state has it’s “policies” and “guuidelines” but isn’t there some measure in place on some legal, political, state or federal level that would allow these animals to be relocated to areas that need them rather than have their tentative populations decimated by delisting and hunting? Are there any provisions in the ESA for this kind of situation? I just can’t believe that after all the effort gone into reintroduction, that it could all be reversed in such short order.

    Cathy

  4. avatar sal says:

    When the Commissioners held a work session with a portion dedicated to this topic they seemed, to me, to be unprepared to address the parameters of a hunt. It seemed, to me, that they were looking for information ~ any information ~ concerning wolves and how they are monitored, counted and whatever else they might not have thought of. They also seemed to be unenthused about the idea of trapping altogether.

    The legislature deemed it acceptable to begin thinking of and discussing a season on wolves, along with other management tools.

    There was a presentation on cougars after a hunt questionable season and count before the wolf oriented portion of the session. It was rather telling of their demeanor concerning predator hunts. I got the impression that this group of Comminssioners have their heads in a good space, if not in “the right place” for the most part concerning the wolf hunt issues.

    They were willing to rethink protocols that were not improving the status of the specie of interest. That, right there, shows a vast difference from anything I have ever witnessed at any event in Idaho or Wyoming at anytime.

    I hope this process continues with them and serves as a model for the other two states ~ and whichever states end up dealing with these concerns.

  5. avatar mikarooni says:

    If “the Commissioners” want to do anything even close to the “right” thing (besides leaving the wolves alone until and unless they pose a real problem, which would be a rare occurrence), they need to understand that, short of primates, wolves are about the most social animals in existence. I have great respect for the intelligence and social structure of herd animals; but, they do not come close to wolves. Wolves behave according to the directions provided by their pack leadership. Remove pack leadership and it’s just a crap shoot as far as how the rest of the pack will subsequently behave. In cases where wolves are preying on livestock, removing bad pack leadership may be necessary and might, might, might result in a reduced problem; but, there is always a chance that it could also make the problem worse. Removing the pack leadership from a pack that is not causing problems and simply because some immature prick with a rifle wants to kill the biggest wolf that he can see on a hillside is a bad idea and the result could easily be a subsequent need to remove the rest of the pack for no good reason. Every trailer park in the country is full of mentally deficient ne’er-do-wells, all with grimy closets that smell of unwashed laundry and hide a stack of guns, and that population will be the first to want to shoot a wolf. Licensing that trash to kill wolves for sport is not only pointless and unnecessary, but also bound to have unintended and wasteful consequences. I am not against wolf control when needed; but, it should be handled as a tightly controlled surgical process and not as a cracker free-for-all.

  6. avatar elkhunter says:

    Mikarooni, I doubt the amount of tags they issue will be very high. It seems you feel that they are gonna issue hundreds of tags. Remember we manage every other animal in the ecosystem, so why let wolves do as they please? I would love to go on a wolf hunt, do I live in a trailer? No. Am I “trash”? No. I think we discussed this ASSumptions and stereotypes in another post, but I do feel that you are putting WAY to much into this wolf hunt. The tags would be issued in a small amount and I am sure success rates would be low also. But allowing people to hunt wolves would alleviate alot of the contention between both sides.
    Elkhunter

  7. avatar catbestland says:

    Elkhunter, how do you figure allowing people to hunt wolves would alleviate contention between both sides?

  8. avatar Dan Stebbins says:

    I have to agree with elkhunter here, a wolf hunt in MT I think might alleviate some of the contentions here. For sure it won’t alleviate all of them, but the idea is that you’re giving some of the perceived management power to opponents of wolves (right now I think that tolerance of the wolves should be the main goal).
    Also I think if there is a hunt I would guess (& hope) that there would be very few tags issued. You could also probably bet on a very low success rate. I do think that the alphas would be generally the most vulnerable though, which would obviously be a bad thing when it comes to the pack dynamics.
    Mikarooni, although I think there is a small portion of the hunting community that you’ve described fairly accurately, I don’t think I fit that description. I hunt for meat. I don’t like the idea of mounting anything. I hate the NRA, and personally I’m against the idea of hunting predators. This is because their reproductive rates are generally low, not to mention the fact that they are environmentally speaking an important part of the ecosystem. However if there are people want to hunt predators and it’s legal, then fine. I guess my point is that the name calling and talking down to people doesn’t really help get your point across.
    Now ultimately if/when a MT wolf tag comes available will I apply for one? You bet. Does this mean if I get it that I’m going to go out and try to use it? Not a chance. If I can save a wolf in that way then you can bet that I will.

  9. Well I think any first hunt should be experimental to see what the effects are.

    A general hunt might have a lot of negative side effects, and in a general hunt they might be hard to clearly separate, one from another.

    Of course, to some that doesn’t matter because they already think they know the answers.

  10. avatar catbestland says:

    Great idea Dan, I’ll apply for one too. We all should.

    Elkhunter, not being a hunter, I am curious, why would you want to hunt and kill a wolf. I can understand hunting for elk or deer if you eat meat, and I can understand (even though I don’t agree with it) a rancher wanting to kill a wolf. They are age old enimies. But why would YOU want to kill a wolf? Is it knowing how much the animal will suffer before it dies, or is it a thrill to watch the life go out of its eyes. I really am curious. I’m not trying to be condescending. I guess I’ve never talked to anyone who killed just for the fun of it. And it seems that would be the only reason to hunt and kill a wolf.

    Cathy

  11. avatar SAP says:

    Mikarooni – you raise some good points about upsetting pack social structure by removing the experienced “leadership” wolves.

    I don’t like to use the alpha-beta-omega &c. labels because really not that many packs have been so closely studied that we can pretend that we have uncovered some ironclad ecological laws about the org charts of Canis lupus. See useful discussion by Jane M. Packard in Chapter 2 of Mech & Boitani’s 2003 compendium, Wolves: Behavior, Ecology & Conservation.

    See especially page 53, where Packard states:

    “The linear dominance hierarchy concept has been adopted and perpetuated by popular educational materials about wolves . . . However, in most wolf packs, family dynamics are more complex . . . Several researchers who have observed larger wolf packs over several years in a wider range of contexts (e.g., competition over food and mates) have rejected the hypothesis that all wolf packs fit the model of a linear dominance hierarchy.”

    So, maybe it’s not so cut & dried that killing one particular wolf in a pack will lead to a downward spiral of stock-killing and other behaviors that humans won’t tolerate.

    Also, I’m skeptical that it’s so easy to
    a) find wolves within rifle range;
    b) readily distinguish under field conditions that one adult wolf is substantially larger than another, especially when it’s a rarity to find them all hanging out close to each other; c) successfully shoot any wolf within rifle range under field conditions.

    Remember, Wildlife Services has ALL the toys — choppers, night vision, traps, radio collars — so don’t be misled by their terrible efficiency into thinking it’s easy to kill wolves.

    FWP is using the term “trophy,” but that doesn’t mean they’re going to constrain hunters to shooting great big wolves, nor encourage them to do so. They’re just going to be “trophy big game” as a species. That’s to distinguish them from “predator” or “varmint” categories. And, good news, the trophy designation also means higher monetary fines for poaching!

    From what I understand, FWP is not yet clear on how the wolf hunts will be structured. Catbestland, to answer your query (though I know Elkster can answer for himself 😉 ), wolf hunting could be used as a tool to actively discourage wolves from moving into high-conflict areas (such as private land areas with lots of livestock). Hunters would get to hunt wolves, wolf proponents would know that hunting was serving a larger management objective, landowners/ranchers would ideally experience fewer conflicts.

    Using hunting in this way would be a proactive way of minimizing conflicts, while directing hunting pressure AWAY from places where “we” (whoever that may end up being?) decide that wolf packs can live with an acceptable level of conflict.

    To accomplish this, wolf hunting units would need to be set up based on historic pack activity, and would need to be scaled to wolf pack home range sizes.

    Another way to do it would be similar to the old grizzly hunts up around Choteau (shut down in 1991): hunters drew a tag, and — as I understand it — waited until there was a “problem” bear that was doomed to management removal anyhow, and then the hunter was set afield to hunt where he was likely to encounter the target animal.

    It wouldn’t be that hard to carry out a similar hunt for wolves, although the inefficiency would likely be displeasing to some who prefer Judas collars and aerial gunning..

    Elkhunter – what would you think of such a hunt?

    PS: Mikarooni – let’s not drift back into the ugly namecalling, please. That’s not why I come here, and I think it gets people on the fight, rather than feeling like they can honestly share their thoughts.

  12. I think an experimental hunt should not just be in livestock problem area or areas. There needs to be a hunt in an area with no livestock (as well as the control no hunt areas).

    We don’t know that a hunt in area with wolf livestock problems will help or hurt because most of the pack will be alive still after the hunt. The time of the year makes a big difference too because cattle are more likely to be attacked at certain times of the year.

    We don’t know what a hunt will do in relatively pristine area from the standpoint of no cattle or sheep. Will the pack splinter or be overwhelmed by other packs? Will it continue on, much as usual?

  13. avatar catbestland says:

    Sap, just for clarification, if the objective is control, wouldn’t that best be handled by proffessionals, the Dept. of Agriculture’s Gestapo, Wildlife Services? So then I guess the attraction for the individual hunter is a trophy? I just don’t comprehend that logic. I suppose the world if made up of two different kinds of people. Killers and nonkillers. And I’m seriously not name calling here, just making an observation.

  14. avatar SAP says:

    Cat – briefly, YES, it’s way more efficient and maybe more humane, IF the idea is REACTIVE removals.

    Of course, note that Montana is supposedly 12,000 elk above objective right now, and FWP is sweating over dealing with the legislature if they can’t do something. Why not just send their own highly skilled marksmen out in the winter to kill a few dozen cow elk for several days in the winter? I have suggested they do so, because they’d do a better job than most hunters, and they would also be able to finally get some good reliable brucellosis blood samples. That idea is a non-starter with them. They want to give “sportsmen” “opportunities.” They’ll want to do the same with wolves.

    If the hunt is used PROACTIVELY to simply discourage or prevent wolves from occupying certain conflict prone areas, then hunters may actually be the best “tool.”

    But, Cat, your point is correct, and I think most ranchers would agree with you.

    Well, killer / non-killer is certainly one way to divide up the world. Myself, I don’t want to hunt a wolf. I do like to have a freezer full of elk meat, and am willing to do the dirty work myself.

    I am totally put off by what I call “hunting porn” videos and other glorifications of the kill. It pains me to see the backslapping and huge grins that result from the death of a beautiful animal. I always feel sadness and regret after a kill, and I try to honor the animal in every way I can — from making a good clean shot, to carefully handling and processing all the meat, to reflecting on gratitude and humility at every meal.

  15. avatar catbestland says:

    Well said SAP, and why let Wildlife Servises handle it when there is money to made from hunters?

  16. avatar mikarooni says:

    In his response to a discussion complaining about the lack of elk hunting access to private lands in MT, a fellow MT rancher stated his case well and I believe that his comments also apply to this wolf hunt issue…

    “A lot of the hunting access problem comes from hunter behavior. We keep our gate locked because 1) we don’t like hauling away trash left by people…; 2) people… shoot before they figure out where the houses, livestock and people are; and 3) people… are lousy or careless shots and are likely to wound an animal rather than ethically harvesting it. I hear a lot of rapid fire shooting during hunting season and I don’t think it is because the guy (or gal) has 7 elk tags to fill.”

    Now, the rancher who wrote those comments and I both agree that not all hunters are bad news; but, there are too many that are. I think his last sentence in the quote above is particularly both accurate and galling to me. I hear guys talk and talk and talk about sportsmanship and then pull a semi-auto assault rifle out of their super-dually never-hauled-anything-but-toys pick-up and head out for elk. If you don’t already understand how that might turn my stomach, then I don’t have enough time left to even begin to rehabilitate you.

    One last thing, I started with nothing and have worked like a dog my whole life, worked my way through several universities, educated myself, developed my professional reputation, and gained the ability to make extremely large sums of money, not from inheritance or unearned income, but from my own work. When others were out clowning around and having fun, I was working on the future. Throughout that whole process, I scrimped and saved and spent next to nothing on toys or amusements. When the next guy would spend $80K on a big luxury car or sports car or truck he never used for anything beyond childish satisfaction, I bought a 4X4 mini pickup with just enough space to haul what I needed. When my colleagues were buying $12K snowmobiles, $15K bass boat rigs, $20K Harleys and big TVs; I bought a pair of $150 snowshoes, a fly rod, and stayed fit enough to walk. When my competitors would arrive for a meeting in their Italian suits, I wore Levi’s and still got the contracts, because I was better prepared in the content. When my peers went on expensive overseas vacations to reinforce the natives’ perceptions of ugly Americans, I bought burned out ranches with the money I had saved from all of the above and stayed home to spend my time working on the clean-up, restoration, and rebuilding of the properties. Now, the guys that wasted all their money on toys and cheap thrills leave their little hovels, get into their oversized vehicles, climb over my gates, hike up to my cabins, carrying their brand-new never-even-properly-sighted-in assault rifles and demand to use the lands that I spent my life nurturing back to health as their personal amusement parks. In the greater scheme of things, I’m just an ant; but, I still don’t have any obligation to support, or even respect, grasshoppers.

  17. avatar jerry black says:

    mikarooni…Thankyou for sharing that. I sincerely wish we had more people on this planet that shared your values.

  18. avatar catbestland says:

    Yea Mikarooni!!!! buy some more ranches and keep more hunters out.

  19. avatar catbestland says:

    Jerry, Mikarooni, I have a plan to counter the wolf hunt that will potentially make everyone happy. (except maybe the hunters.) This is aside from the beef boycott. It should not be discussed in an open blog because when it comes to wolves their is unfortunately but definitely an US and THEM. No monkey wrenching, (not that I’m apposed to a little monkey wrenching) only working within the somewhat obscure parameters of the law. If your interested, Jerry I think you have my email, if not maybe Ralph will give it to both of you. Please contact me and we’ll discuss it.

  20. avatar elkhunter says:

    Cat, as for the wolf hunt, I would not really mind hunting wolves. It would not really change how I feel about myself. I hunt coyotes alot during the winter, I dont do it to satisfy some need to kill and to stomp the life out of a coyote and watch their spirit leave their body. I do it for alot of reasons. I could list them if you would like. As someone who is active in conservation you should also realize that hunters as a whole, not the ones that give evryone a bad name, have done alot for wildlife. Google FNAWS, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and many more organizations that are committed to protecting and conserving habitat so that we even have elk/deer/ducks/sheep to hunt. Oh, and I do hunt with a semi-automatic rifle. Mikarooni you should go on a hunt, a real hunt, then maybe you would see what hunting is really about.
    Elkhunter

  21. avatar TallTrent says:

    I think having a wolf hunt in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem so soon after the reintroduction of wolves is a mistake. Wolf recovery is important to the Rocky Mountains region ecologically and economically and it needs to be done carefully and with great consideration.

  22. elkhunter—–In the Nov. issue of Nat’l Geographic there is a story that you and everyone here would be interested in. I highly recommend reading this story.

    And a big thank you to mikerooni !!! After reading your story, I don’t feel as discouraged about the issues discussed on this blog.

  23. avatar elkhunter says:

    D. bailey hill, I read the story I think, is it the one about hunters and conservation? I read one that talked about that.

  24. elkhunter— yes that’s the one. Do you think there are less hunters because of less wildlife, or do you think it is now becoming less traditional in families? I wonder as more people become wildlife watchers to reconnect with the natural world, if the number of hunters will increase. With folks wanting to “get back to nature” and thinking more about what they are eating and where it has come from, do you think it will be a natural transition for some of the watchers to become intersested in hunting/harvesting their own? I am really curious about where this is going. Main stream grocers are adding organic sections in both meat and veg, and people are paying more for the organic. Maybe they will be willing to pay the higher fees to hunt. With more hunting areas becoming private land, it may be more attractive to a new group of people.
    It seems like a natural progression, but I might be a bit biased because I grew up learning about nature, and hunting. I started target practising at age 5, and my dad was an avid gun collector.
    I am just full of questions this morning…. but please don’t feel obligated to share your thoughts if you would rather not.

  25. avatar Linda Hunter says:

    I just finished reading Dr. Jon Way’s Suburban Coyote and he made some very interesting observations on canine density. It seems when you remove a pack leader or a whole pack you can end up with more coyotes. Without outside killing the packs seem to stabilize and fill any territory that can support them. . and when they are removed people suddenly are overrun with rats and mice. I believe some of his research could apply to wolves. But certainly made me appreciate having coyote packs near my home. Outside of that I have one other question . . do anyone know if there has been a study on the effect of hunting wolf populations. It sounds like the officials expect they will react like other predators and learn to stay out of an area. . what if that doesn’t happen and something else happens.

  26. avatar elkhunter says:

    DBH, I think it is a combination of both. Not only less game, which is because of loss of habitat, but it is falling out of tradition in families. People get busy and other priorities etc. I know in my Dad’s situation he does not hunt anymore because of the crowds. It seems that the game is confined to certain areas, so thats where all the hunters go, so there is alot of competition and pressure on deer/elk etc. And alot of people are just giving up on it because it has become more of a circus. I bowhunt, so there is usually alot less pressure, but its not near as popular because its more difficult. Private land is a big issue and does preven some access but alot of states are teaming up with private land owners and trying to work out access problems during the hunting seasons. I do hope that hunting grows a little more, and maybe people becoming more active in nature will help, I took a couple of friends from work this year hunting elk, we did not get one, but they said it was one of the most enjoyable things they have ever done.
    Elkhunter

  27. Elkhunter—Thank you. I am guessing that there is probably
    a lot less people who hunt with black-powder rifles. I really like the Lyman Deer Stalker 50 cal., that is much shorter. Extremely accurate!!! If I get the opportunity to go hunting again, {it has been a looong time}, I would go with the black powder. It has also been a long time since I had a freezer full of game. That’s one of the reasons I buy beef, lamb, etc from farms that use all natural/organic means of growing their animals. { and also are sustainable.}
    Thanks again!
    d.B.Hill

  28. avatar Ice says:

    SAP and Mikarooni; you guys are right on. Elkhunter, I commend you for bowhunting but not predator hunting. SAP one thing that you have to remember is that these wolves have never been hunted and I think the first hunt will be an easy one (for the hunters). Getting one into rifle range should be like shooting ducks in a barrel. I agree that the first hunt should be experimental and heavily monitored. I hunt for meat.

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