Montana FWP oversees wiping out a pack of 27 wolves-

Wildlife Services has killed 19 members of the Hog Heaven Pack over a three day period. The news reports said the pack originally had 27 members. Now it is gone.

This is 8 per cent of Montana’s wolves for scattered killings over the year. I’ve seen no complete tally as to numbers, ages, whether the owners had attractants. It seems the dead livestock were cattle (mostly calves) and 3 llamas.

Montana has also killed off other large numbers of wolves this year, eliminating them from entire areas of the state.

This is doubly significant because Montana claims to have an enlightened wolf management plan, but even Wyoming doesn’t kill wolves at this rate.

According to a story in the Daily InterLake (Kalispell), “Over the last few months, the pack was involved in eight separate incidents of depredation on livestock. In the latest incident on Nov. 18, the pack killed a 2-year-old bull. Hog Heaven wolves also were believed to be responsible for killing three llamas on Aug. 6, a calf on Sept. 16, two breeding-stock heifers on Sept. 23, a calf on Sept. 25 and another calf on Oct. 8.”  Entire story (you can add your comments)

Here’s what you can do, go to change.gov and suggest that Wildlife Services is an agency that needs to be eliminated or changed so that it only engages in non-lethal actions with  domestic vertebrate wildlife. All lethal control should be redirected to foreign animals that do significant harm — invasive species like nutria and feral hogs.

In other words, they can kill non-native pests like starlings and English sparrows.

More specifically, ask them for reform by  1. Supporting committee report language in the FY 2010 Agriculture appropriations bill that reads: “the Committee expects that Wildlife Services will make use of the non-lethal methods developed by the National Wildlife Research Center, and will make non-lethal controls the near exlusive method of choice, and will resort to lethal means only as a last resort.” Ask them to nominate a person who is committed to this policy for the position of  USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.
2. Support passage of wolf/livestock legislation S. 2875 (Gray Wolf Livestock Loss Mitigation Act of 2008) with an amendment to make funding come from USDA not the Department of the Interior and pass companion House language.
3. Prohibit all aerial gunning of domestic wildlife.

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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.

31 Responses to Montana wolf news. Massacre by the Wildlife Services

  1. avatar JB says:

    I would add:

    3. Prohibit all aerial gunning of domestic wildlife, except in the case where human health or safety are concerned.

  2. avatar caleb says:

    In cases where human health and safety are concerned, aerial gunning is still not needed to do the job.

  3. avatar Salle says:

    Aerial gunning is very expensive, and unnecessary in any case.

    And this practice is employed for how many cows/sheep per incident?

    And how much does a cow/sheep cost vs each aerial gunning event?

    I’d like to see a cost/benefit analysis on each event, I’m sure the analyst will cost less than a cow.

  4. avatar jerry b says:

    I’ve requested alot of the information you mentioned, Ralph,but there appears to be a blackout when it comes to MFWP releasing it ever since we’ve had a new director. I know of numerous people that are furious over this and other recent slaughters. . They’ve written to the Governor, the director, and the “wolf manager” It appears anyone that questions their policy of continued killings is on “ignore”.
    No one has less respect for Wildlife Services than I do, but it’s the so called “wolf specialists” from FWP that call in the gunners.
    I’ve maintained all along that Montana chumped all those that believed that their management plan was superior to that of Wyoming and Idaho. It’s total BS.

  5. avatar Salle says:

    To quote from the letter.
    S.

    Economics of Predation Management

    The WS Western Region predation management program is one of the few government sponsored programs that is cost-shared, and this provides a significant benefit to both the producers and the government. Predation management, as conducted by the WS program, is cost effective and returns more money to the US treasury than it costs. An analysis of 1998 data shows that for every dollar spent for predation management, $3 worth of livestock was saved. In that same year the total investment in just the predation management program was $20 million ($9 million Federal and $11 million cooperative funds); therefore, the full impact of this investment was a $250 million net increase in economic activity. Using today’s values for livestock, every federal dollar spent on predation management results in $10.84 in livestock saved, conservatively, $97.5 million in livestock saved ($52.5 million in calves, $34 million in sheep and lambs, $11 million in goats). When cooperative funding is included with federal funds, the benefit cost ratio is $4.87:1.

    Type of Livestock
    Calves

    # protected

    2,500,000

    # saved from predators
    70,000

    Total value of livestock saved
    $52,500,000

    Adult Sheep protected
    2,000,000

    # saved from predators
    82,000

    Total value of livestock saved
    $8,200,000

    Lambs

    1,850,000

    214,600

    $25,752,000

    Goats

    292,000

    110,960

    $11,096,000

    The value of livestock saved is much greater in rural economies than any other type of economic development. Livestock dollars, that would have been lost without adequate predation management, generate an additional three fold increase in non-agricultural economic activity in rural America. The total economic activity (both agriculture and non-agricultural sectors) generated by predation management is $390.2 million.

    Emerging Issues

    Additional issues are emerging in the West that will challenge the Federal WS program.

    * Wolves. Recently a federal judge struck down the threatened species status for wolves in the Western Distinct Population area eliminating the ability of private land ranchers to deal with wolves, thus requiring additional government intervention.
    * Wildlife. The declines in predation management that have already occurred, and that will continue to occur without additional federal funding, have resulted in negative impacts on many native wildlife populations. Several western states currently need to fund predation management to prevent the listing of sage grouse as an endangered species or to recover mule deer herds.

    Without additional Federal funding to support existing western livestock protection programs, predation management expertise will be lost and livestock grazing in some areas will be jeopardized. Rural economies need this support, and the return for the investment exceeds the requested assistance.

    ASI urges the Subcommittee to provide USDA, APHIS, WS, Western Region an additional $8.3 million of Federal funds for livestock protection. At a nominal 16 percent tax rate on the economic activity generated by the investment would result in over $62 million to the Treasury.
    Total Livestock Protected Total Value of Livestock Saved (Using $10.84:1 Ratio) Value incl. Multiplier 16% Nominal Tax Rate

    6,642,000

    $97,548,000

    $390,192,000

    $62,430,720
    – – – – – – – – –

    Salle writes:

    (The tables didn’t transfer but the headings are the same for each individual item set.)

    these numbers are misleading in that they show how many are “saved” from predators, what the hack does that show? and how can one actually assess such numbers? How can you prove that they have been “saved” from predators?

    This isn’t rational. It would make more sense if there was an actual cost/benefit analysis of how many were confirmed “predations” and the cost of each lethal control action.

    And how come the faith-based organizations aren’t asked to help quell the costs of these welfare concerns? Makes about as much sense. Not to mention the public land grazing subsidies and the actual cost of one aerial lethal control action. And then, this is preceded by the lack of attention paid to the livestock when grazing.

    I still hold my opinion that there needs to be an actual cost/benefit analysis conducted and that it would cost less than one cow to get it done with clear results that show how nonsensical this logic, as presented above, is.

    It makes the public’s wildlife out to be some kind of obstacle to their operations when it is the industry that is an obstacle to the well-being of the environment and which only renders profit for them. No concept of “the commons” here.

    Pretzel logic and fuzzy math/science at work paid for with tax dollars.

    I endorse the recommendations in the document submitted to the Obama transition team and I have said so on the web site.

  6. avatar Barb says:

    This practice of lethal control is for political purposes, to appease livestock interests and serves NO scientific purpose whatsoever! It is beyond infuriating how politics has been trumping MORALS AND COMMON SENSE AND SCIENCE. I have expressed my feelings directly to W.S. and will continue to do so, including change.gov.

    I also have always found it interesting how the Hollywood elite will support causes that are non-controversial (with a few exceptions of course) but who has spoken out against this horrific practice of lethal “predator control?” Anyone?

  7. avatar jerry b says:

    Barb…as I said before, I’m not defending the slime that works for WS, but they get their orders from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks who calls in the “air support”. And of course, MFWP gets its orders from the Department of Livestock, which actually runs this state including our “green” Governor.

    Should you be inclined, here’s emails for the Governor(Schweitzer) and the Director of FWP.
    “governor@mt.gov
    “jmaurier@mt.gov” Joe Maurier is the new director of FWP

  8. avatar Barb says:

    It’s the height of arrogance for man to assume he is the ‘best one” to “manage” prey populations. That’s why nature put wolves in the mix! Because they are smart and very efficiently and effectively keep nature in balance.

    Let the wolves do their jobs.

  9. avatar Barb says:

    I meant to add that I wrote to the MT officials too. I’m sure it’s falling on DUMB AND DEAF EARS though.

  10. avatar John d. says:

    Am I alone when I say these blokes from Wildlife Services probably got their credentials from the back of a cereal box?

  11. avatar IzabelaM says:

    I dont’ understand why they had to KILL (manage) 27 wolves. Ok..we have 2-3 guily ones. Lets eliminate them.
    Pack would learn not to hunt there.
    Within three days they killed 19 wolves.
    I bet they got compensated for the dead cows. And did the ranchers use any protection of the livestock? After early killings ranchers should have protected thier cows better.
    Just my little 2 cents.

  12. avatar Salle says:

    I’m with IzabelaM on this for the most part.

    It would appear that there is little to no interest in nonlethal management (except for lip service purposes) as well as little to no interest in the livestock producers doing anything proactive. It’s far more exciting to call for lethal control and get the press that seems to serve their interests so well, at the taxpayers’ expense of course.

    It plays into the script of the anti-wolf playbook that has also served them so well, at the taxpayers’ expense of course.

  13. avatar bob jackson says:

    Why should we ask that the ranchers do better in protecting their cows? Why not demand that all cows on govt. land be of the type that can take on all comers. Cattle did very well on their own, and expanded exceedingly for two hundred years after the Spaniards introduced and then abandoned them in the South East U.S.

    This is with all those horrible predators around…black panthers, jaguars, baby eating cougars and wolves unchecked by Whiteman. Todays “cows” are wimps and environmentalists, I feel, should make note of, and point out to cattlemen that if they are so proud of their cows they should give these animals their balls and horns so they again can make the rancher proud.

    Is this too much to ask when the public’s land is at stake? To require cows with their defenses intact is no different than we require back packers, horsemen, and hunters appropriate gear to venture onto certain lands.

    Everybody on this site is trying to get cattle off public lands. Why not adjust tactics and say they are ok on our lands but the public’s tax dollars shouldn’t have to be spent protecting wimps. Of course no rancher would be able to economically justify raising cattle such as what the Spaniards let loose …so in the end you achieve the same goal of no cattle on public lands.

    But at least give these fine Western cowboys the option. Rugged cows for rugged cowboys. Now that is the image of what the West is all about. I’d think you could get a number of wanta be cowboy John Wayne politicans to sway a bit.

  14. avatar Salle says:

    Here’s an interesting perspective that I just received from someone “in the know” about wolf management. I will leave this intact but anonymous to protect the identity of this person. This is what they had to say about the article this thread is about.

    They said:

    “Wow. This has got to be the record pack ‘kill’ for the Northern Rockies since I ever worked on the wolf program…… This is normally a whole winter of wolf collaring in one state using a helicopter in one year….. Who needs a hunting season with this kind of ‘take’………? Ahhh, aerial hunting. What would the West be like without it?”

    Very telling.

  15. avatar John d. says:

    I’ve got a good question, what happens to the carcasses after lethal control takes place?

  16. A pack with 27 wolves outside Yellowstone, all of them “gone bad.”

    This in area where there have been a number of smaller wolf packs.

    I looked at the 2007 Montana wolf report, and I see about 5 packs in this area. At the end of 2007, only 6 wolves were in the Hog Heaven Pack — now 27? It’s possible, but does anyone think perhaps they decided to kill a whole bunch of wolves in a lot of packs and feed us the line about a nasty superpack?

    It’s hard to trust the government in these several rural western states that retain a pre-modern (feudal) social structure.

  17. avatar jerry b says:

    This is a quote from “Sacred Cows at the Public Trough” that seems appropriate here and sheds light into the disconnect between ranchers and those concerned with endangered species.

    “The cattleman’s most prized possession, his cattle, must be viewed with cold, unemotional detachment-they ar destined to be slaughtered and replaced by others. Meanwhile, calves will be pulled at birth with a chain and tractor if necessary, each will be branded by burning a symbol into its living skin, young males will be castrated, horns cut off, notches cut in ears and wattles will be cut on the head and necks of many. The cattle will be lassoed, dragged, punched, prodded, beaten and driven. Any predators daring to approach will be dispatched.
    What is the impact of such violence and gore upon the impressionable children who are destined to become the next generation of ranchers? It seems a small wonder that cattlemen are unable to fathom the sentiments of environmentalists, or muster empathy for a rare and endangered species or concern themselves with the habitat needs of bighorn sheep or native trout. Dollars are real:life and nature are transitory-to be used, recycled, and manipulated-not made into objects of affection.”

  18. avatar John d. says:

    “It’s possible, but does anyone think perhaps they decided to kill a whole bunch of wolves in a lot of packs and feed us the line about a nasty superpack?”

    Entirely possible.

  19. avatar Salle says:

    “At the end of 2007, only 6 wolves were in the Hog Heaven Pack — now 27? It’s possible, but does anyone think perhaps they decided to kill a whole bunch of wolves in a lot of packs and feed us the line about a nasty superpack?”

    Sounds like the real story rather than a large pack that “suddenly appeared”. They claimed that in the Hog Heaven pack there were more than one litter of pups this year. I have never, in all the history following reintroduction, heard of more than two females in a pack breeding in the same year~and that is exceptionally rare and has only been recorded in Yellowstone NP when there were few packs and LOTS of elk in their range. The number of litters, to accomplish a pup count that large, would have to have been at least three with no pup mortality at all. Not very likely since wolves “self regulate” their pack size in accordance with available prey within their established range to the point that they will even go without producing pups at all if the prey base is not sound enough to support them.

    I think they are writing a script that endorses the playbook for the cattle industry and fearmongers. There’s no way that pack was that large! Especially after lethal takes already having been conducted earlier this year.

    BS to the highest degree.

    I guess they figure that most of us can’t add or think independently.

  20. avatar JimT says:

    I had the good fortune to be in Yellowstone this summer and was part of a meeting with a rancher whose name I cannot give out for fear of retribution by other ranchers in the area. There was a predation on the ranch; some sheep who had not been taken into a fenced area that night were killed. The rancher decided to let the Montana FWS come in to kill the offending wolves. Well, all the wolves in this small pack were killed. And it was done is a manner so heinous, so abusive, so cruel, that it reduced the rancher to tears when the dead wolf carcasses were viewed. That rancher has since sworn that Montana FWS folks, or any state or federal wildlife folks, will never come on the land to do “control” ever again in the rancher’s lifetime.

    I am sick to death of attitudes of the anti wolf crowds in the West. And it mostly comes from the cow and sheep folks who are sucking on the public land welfare teat for all they are worth, damaging the resource, getting essentially a free ride when compared to private ranchers, and they have been allowed their ways for too long. The cows need to go; if you are to have grazing on public lands, let it be bison and bison alone. Condemn the leases and buy them back at fair prices; public land ranchers only provide less than 3% of the beef in this country, and not all of the public land ranchers are this outrageous, so the economic impact would be negligible.

    I think of these ranchers as akin to the auto execs. There has never been one health or environmental advancement in the past 40 years that the auto industry did voluntarily; all were done through onerous, long, costly litigation by public interest groups. Finally, the country is telling them and the Congress enough is enough; let them fail, and move on to making the kinds of cars we need and want.

    We need to tell the public welfare ranchers the same thing. Enough is enough. No more bargains, no more “consensus” or “collaborations”; they only perpetuate the unacceptable status quo. They have had enough time to comply with the law and current science, and they have deliberately, and brazenly chosen not to do so. It is well past time they were held fully accountable by the American taxpayer who owns these lands, and the pubic agencies who do the bidding of these citizens, not just the industries with deep pockets at election time

    Sorry for the rant, but really, if we don’t stop this stuff, where is the line, folks?

  21. avatar Salle says:

    I think that a lot of this quagmire over special interests and public lands grazing welfare, for example, equate to the ugly-demon-nightmare-stepchild-from-hell born out of Supreme Court decisions which ruled that corporations are to be considered the same rights as individual citizens and that money=free speech.

    I think those rulings need to be overturned, for starters.

    Such restructuring of the public’s voice would do a lot to help correct some of these insane conditions we (all living beings in the biosphere) now suffer. And maybe even restore some of the public’s trust in government.

  22. I just heard from someone who knows the area.

    Regarding the full-grown cow bulls this alleged superpack killed, these bulls were sick. There’s always an explanation for an unusual attack.

  23. avatar TC says:

    jerry b. quotes “What is the impact of such violence and gore upon the impressionable children who are destined to become the next generation of ranchers? It seems a small wonder that cattlemen are unable to fathom the sentiments of environmentalists, or muster empathy for a rare and endangered species or concern themselves with the habitat needs of bighorn sheep or native trout.”

    I know this thread was about the very troublesome killing of a large number of wolves in Montana, but I can’t let this stand without some attempt at rebuttal. Yet another broad generalization about something it appears you’ve never experienced (either raising or working cattle, or dealing with ranching families). And you wonder why some ranchers (and no, it’s not all) don’t like or trust “environmentalists”. Including some ranchers that never use public lands for grazing their stock. I’m with save bears on this one (posted elsewhere) – you cannnt and will not make any inroads into the ranching or agricultural communities if this is how you continue to think and more importantly SPEAK about these folks, if you continue to call them all (in essence) ignorant backwoods bastards, if you continue to lump them all together into one bad apple barrel, and if you cannot even muster the basic idea of how many of them live and work and think and feel. And I fear without making inroads into this community, all of your ranting and raving and name-calling and hopes for a new administration and improved natural resource policies will be for naught. I can name 20 ranchers in the state of Wyoming alone currently working on or collaborating with conservation and habitat restoration projects, fighting rampant and unchecked energy development, cooperating on endangered species restoration, and/or contributing their time and resources to wildlife management and conservation studies, and their children are learning valuable lessons through these projects. Can you say that you, personally, are making the same contribution??? Their children also are being raised to be good hard-working people that learn how natural systems work and how to contribute to society – they see biology from the ground up, not through a telescope from some office. What’s a shame is that many of these bright forward thinking children are going to leave agriculture and get off the ranch (and out of the state if you’re talking Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana), and yet more ranches end up being developed for more hobby “environmentalists” to get their 5 or 40 acres to watch “the pretty wild animals” and write self-righteous posts to blog sites (not saying there are not brilliant posts written here, there are, sandwiched between the I love this fuzzy warm charismatic species and screw them and let’s get those evil monsters posts). It’s no wonder there is a huge (and growing) divide between many rural folks and many slightly wacky urbanites and suburbanites in this country regarding wildlife conservation and natural resource policy. I suppose it’s good to have the lunatic fringe on both sides, helps to balance things out in the long run, but I’ve rarely seen the lunatic fringe on either side have much impact on what really happens on the ground. And no, before you even start, I’m not anti-wolf (I’m actually pro-wolf and supportive of all predators, there are ways for ranchers and others to live with them and some know how – teach the rest) and I’m not against more control of how public lands are grazed by livestock (I’m actually for it, and hope the new administration will re-evaluate a lot of current practices and be able to implement some long overdue changes and facilitate more NGO cooperative efforts to buy out leases on critical range, etc.). Many of you are missing the forest for the trees – if you think ranching and grazing on public lands are the biggest threats facing wildlife conservation in the West (with the very possible exceptions of some wolf conservation efforts and some specific localized range and watershed issues) – you’ve bought a bill of goods. Energy development and habitat fragmentation and loss are significantly bigger problems that rarely are addressed here in any logical, cool, and thoughtful way, but somehow I’m digressing and getting off track, so I’ll quit. My slightly peeved 2 cents worth.

  24. avatar Jay Barr says:

    What’s so hard to believe that there existed a pack of 27 wolves here? A few years ago a Yellowstone National Park pack was up to ~37. The counts that the respective wolf projects in each state obtain during the winter are minimums at best, so if there were 6 seen on the day that count occurred, that’s the tally reported; the other 2, 3, 4, 5, or 10 animals were hunting elsewhere and went unreported. Wolf science, though we’d all like it to be, is not exact. Multiple litters, considered rare in most of the wolf world, are/were fairly common in Yellowstone, so again, what’s so hard to believe that it happened in the Hog Heaven pack?

  25. The average number of wolves per pack has been determined every year, Jay.

    Outside of Yellowstone, they are always smaller except for a few deep wilderness areas, and that’s because of the presence of people who won’t tolerate such large packs.

  26. avatar Jay Barr says:

    I realize each state comes up with an “average” pack size, but wolf pack sizes are very likely distributed in the so-called “bell curve;” most are truly average [~ 7-10 members], but others fall on the ends of the curves, and some extremely so (Druid pack a few years ago). Understandably, pack sizes are influenced by human intervention, but I believe this is the first “management” conducted on Hog Heaven, so this pack may be considered a defacto Wilderness (ie. un-managed) pack until this year.

  27. Jay Barr,

    My experience in this part of Montana is that the prey is whitetailed deer. I was there in early October. The area is low mountains; often thick, second growth forest and meadow, much of it private. There are a growing number of second homes in much of the area. Some far back in the woods. If you want to find deer, visit these vacation homes in the fall when the residents are gone.

    The number of deer I saw was amazing near Murphy Lake, Eureka, and further south.

    In the past the wolf packs in the area have been fairly numerous, but small. Given any variability in size, mathematically there are outliers; but for a truly large pack to emerge here seems less likely than in most other places in Montana.

    Hog Heaven was listed as 6 wolves at the end of last year. It’s possible they had a very successful double or triple litter, but with only 6 wolves so many litters seem unlikely. Anyway, if they did, that might lead to livestock depredations to feed the pups, but you and I both know that the number of dead calves, cows and llamas in this case is not large.

    Since no details have been released, such as the exact location of the pack, or the circumstances surrounding the loss of livestock, I think distrust is a reasonable attitude.

    In addition, Montana did something very similar in the area around Phillipsburg earlier this year.

  28. avatar Jay Barr says:

    Ralph,

    Looks like just you and me, so this will be my final post.

    Counting wolves accurately is tough business; you can almost never be sure you’ve seen them all during any one monitoring flight, so if multiple counts weren’t obtained MTFWP has to go with what they know. All the annual reports should make it clear that counts are minimums. A pack this large probably doesn’t travel all together very often, and with multiple litters they may have been split up for the most part of the summer, thus complicating censusing. Being large doesn’t necessarily predispose a pack to livestock depredation: you noted the huge numbers of deer present, so maybe during a period of unsuccessful deer hunting the pack strayed into cattle to tie them over for a short while (thus the relatively few losses). Because this pack hasn’t been “managed” in the past, maybe they “behaved” as if they were a wilderness group and got to be as large as they did. A dose of healthy skepticism is alway in order.

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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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