Side-effects of policies are often the most interesting-

So the hunt is underway in part of Idaho. All of Idaho will be added in a month. Meanwhile Montana will begin a hunt. Most people will focus on whether somebody got a wolf, where, how?  There will be pleasure and outrage. Some basic statistics will be kept.

One of the most important and interesting things about new policies is what side-effects are there, including unanticipated ones?

So I am listing some possible side effects. Some are so obvious the various groups and governments are probably keeping track. Some entities might also not want them tracked. Some are not feasible to collect.

  • What happens to a disrupted wolf pack? Do they usually regroup or do they disperse? Will disrupted packs and orphaned wolves take more or less livestock per wolf, or in total, than before the hunt?
  • What percentage of wolves limp off wounded? And then, will wounded wolves resort to killing livestock?  Will wounded wolves be a danger to people?  Healthy wolves haven’t been.
  • How many coyotes will be shot? How many dogs?
  • Will the hunt serve to disperse wolves to new areas, including populated ones?
  • How fast will the wolves learn that they are now prey to humans?  If so or when, how will their behavior change?
  • Will disrupted packs kill fewer elk and deer or more?  We know that smaller packs and lone wolves lose more of their carcass to scavengers and so they might possibly hunt more often.
  • Will the hunt increase strife between wolves — more wolves killing each other?
  • Will it have effects on the genetic structure of the population of wolves in Idaho and Montana?
  • In the course of a year, or two and more if wolf hunts continue, what is observed degree of association between the percentage of wolves killed in an area and the deer and elk population? Actually this is a main effect — a stated intention of the hunt. So we expect Idaho Fish and Game to keep very good records if their rationale for the hunt is for real.
  • How much money is made (or lost) by the Departments on the hunts? This needs to also apply to the reestablishment of radio collars.
  • How many killed or wounded wolves were there in addition to those tagged?
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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.

60 Responses to Wolf hunt information and effects that need to be collected

  1. avatar Ken Cole says:

    These are very good and important question Ralph. I am most interested in how wolf hunting will affect livestock. I think this is the most important aspect of this whole issue. If disrupting a pack results in increased livestock conflict then it will surely result in greater WS killings.

  2. I feel the same way, Ken.

    If it wasn’t for the public land livestock influence in all of this, the wolf would be less of an issue, more like the Great Lakes.

  3. avatar Cris Waller says:

    In addition, we need to know if wolf population biology is similar to that of coyotes. It’s well-documented that hunted coyote populations respond by breeding at an earlier age and having bigger litters. Naturally, bigger litters=more prey consumed.

    It’s also well-documented for many territorial carnivores that killing animals who are *not* causing any problems with livestock leads to *more* depredation, as the newcomers moving into the vacant territory may not leave the sheep alone.

    In addition, there’s the issue of orphaned young wolves and whether they turn to easy prey.

    I am troubled by all of the articles I’ve read where hunters blithely assume that killing wolves=fewer problems. I think they are very, very wrong.

  4. Chris Waller,

    Absolutely. We need to know this.

    • Jeff E wrote on 2009/09/01 at 10:20pm

      http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2193/2006-305

      Great! This meta analysis addresses a lot of these questions such as the relative importance of one or two surviving alphas for reproductive success. I read it to indicate that killing one alpha actually increases the likelihood the pack will produce pups the next year. It looked to me like thinning a well established, “saturated” population of wolves tends to increase the reproduction rate in that area.

      Killing members of small packs, not surprisingly causes dissolution of the pack, and killing wolves in areas where they are just starting to recolonize harms recolonization. Practically speaking to the judge interested in genetic interconnectivity, he should be much more alarmed by wolf take in the corridor on the Idaho-Montana border between central Idaho and the Greater Yellowstone than elsewhere. Those wolves around Dillon are mighty important. It didn’t address whether production of lone wolves increases the likelihood of long range dispersal.

  5. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Chris, a lot of your points are also used in arguments about hunting lions in Africa. I’m not taking a stand on that or disagreeing, just noting similarities.

  6. avatar SEAK Mossback says:

    “In the course of a year, or two and more if wolf hunts continue, what is observed degree of association between the percentage of wolves killed in an area and the deer and elk population? Actually this is a main effect — a stated intention of the hunt. So we expect Idaho Fish and Game to keep very good records if their rationale for the hunt is for real.”

    I am somewhat doubtful that there will be a noticeable or measurable response in the big game populations. Wolves have been found to withstand fairly high exploitation rates of up to 40% or so, albeit at a reduced equilibrium density. However, the reduction in density of wolves in an area from removal by hunters will likely to be offset to some extent by higher per capita consumption of prey (several studies have shown an inverse relationship between pack size and per capita prey consumption, in some cases clear down to one or two wolves). Also, if the wolf kill is concentrated disproportionately among young, inexperienced animals as some suggest, might that further limit the effect of dispursed kills on predation?

    A segment of the hunting public will no doubt be assuaged by the legal ability to shoot a wolf, but I would imagine the incidental take in the fall by elk and deer hunters will have a negligible effect on actual elk and deer populations, especially those that are not really limited much by predation. There’s apparently a small contingent of predator hunters in the western states that have developed effective methods of attracting and shooting coyotes and perhaps they will do the same with wolves in areas with a winter season. Do the states have plans to allow trapping?

  7. avatar Ken Cole says:

    While I am uncomfortable with the hunt and don’t like the fact that wolf haters are killing just for the sake of killing, I feel that concentrating so much on the hunt is a distraction from one of the main issues affecting wildlife. Livestock.

    I think there should be a natural alliance between hunters and environmentalists because there are so many issues in common. The problem lies in the fact that there is so much disinformation that the two groups have turned into sworn enemies.

    In the big picture of politics and public perception I think the big groups have made a tactical error in challenging not so much the hunt but the hunters. I’m not saying that I support the hunt. I’m saying that the road of paying ranchers, even after it has been shown to have been a failure at securing acceptance by ranchers of wolves, has been a disastrous path for wolves. It has kept the real problem, livestock, on the land where they don’t belong and the wolves rather than the ranchers are taking the brunt of the pain.

  8. avatar JB says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Ken. These two unholy courtships (i.e. Hunters x livestock and environmentalists x animal rights) are not helping the situation. Both hunters and environmentalists could benefit from working with each other. Hunters need to ask themselves, which has the greater affect on wild ungulate populations, a few thousand predators or the hundreds of thousands of livestock that compete with wild ungulates for forage?

  9. avatar gline says:

    It does put more pressure on the “good” hunters to reign in the bad apples…

  10. avatar SR25Stoner says:

    “hundreds of thousands of livestock that compete with wild ungulates for forage?”

    I live in and hunt units 33-34-35 please direct me to this competition in those units you claim exists..even unit 36, excluding private property…

    And are there ” hundreds of thousands of livestock that compete with wild ungulates for forage? ” in the Lolo Zone?

    We used to run a few Black Angus years ago, on this little spread we have not done so for 25 years now, The elk were in our yard then and did not seem bothered by the cattle I raised…

    I suppose you could say the elk compete with my horses..They jump in the corral and feed with them in winter..

  11. SR25Stoner,
    You are right about some of the units you talk about . . . certainly right about the Lolo zone, the Selway zone and some others that have no cattle, but where to you live? You must come visit to see how many “slow elk” are on the range outside the deep forest and the Frank Church Wilderness. I am surprised that you mention unit 35 though because the removal of cattle from Bear Valley Creek has had an incredible effect improving the elk habitat (of course, there have been so many forest fires there things can be very complicated and changeable for elk hunting).

    The overlap in what elk eat and cattle elk on public lands is extremely high. It’s not a matter of pastured cattle bothering elk. It’s hard to estimate but I think many of the units could support twice as many elk as they do and many more moose.

    Most of Wyoming and Montana are more like southern Idaho. When you move out of the states with wolves and look at Utah, for example, yes there are big bulls and some hugely productive elk units, but what are there outside the plateaus of central Utah?

    Why does Nevada have only 11,000 elk?

  12. avatar JB says:

    Stoner:

    Please re-read my post: I didn’t claim that elk compete for livestock everywhere, rather that the combined effects of livestock on ungulates are likely greater than the effects of wolves on ungulates.

    FYI: I support the hunting of wolves where they are shown to be negatively impacting elk populations. But by the same token, I think it is foolish to hunt them in every management unit.

  13. avatar SR25Stoner says:

    Ralph,
    I’m eight miles east of Lowman on the old Archie Creek trail, that was the original trail from the pioneer times over Banner and into the Payette river drainage.

    Yep, Bear valley has been cattle free since 1994-5 if My memory is working today..

    JB,

    I can only share my perspective concerning these hunt units I spend real time in…The Sawtooth Zone wolf hunt is justified.. BUT, I do not believe any thing will change in my remaining life time as far as seeing balanced elk herds in these units again.. In the last eight years I might have had one clear shot on a wolf had so chosen to take it…

    And the bad economy has certainly left a lot of camping grounds open here during the last two elk seasons.. The hunters just are not around as much.. I kinda like it..

    Got darn near the whole place to myself again.. I might take a wolf later on, but it will be when the hair stays on the hide, and then I can’t quite figure out how to get him to stand still and tolerate me weighing him first..

    I just want to see if that Alaskan record falls..176 pounds..?

  14. avatar BrianTT says:

    Someone help me understand how hunters, who I believe will kill very few wolves, could create these side effects but WS killing hundreds of wolves every year have not created any of these side effects?

  15. avatar gline says:

    WS has created those effects… so it will be increased bad effects now… hunt and kill per depredation. One bad move per human standards and your done…

  16. BrianTT

    Because of Wildlife Services many of the wolf packs are probably not naive. That’s what Carter Neimeyer told me, the guy who has probably trapped and collared more wolves than anyone else.

    He said the wolves really remember getting handled that way and are much harder the second time. He also thought that control kills had made a number of wolves wise.

    One of the reasons I have predicted some long range dispersals is because a number of them happened after Wildlife Services caused wolf packs to disintegrate. That information comes from back in the days when we got good information about individual wolf packs.

  17. It’s the pups and juvenile wolves that are naive, and most predictions are that they will be much easier to shoot than the 3 and 4 year olds.

  18. avatar JB says:

    “It’s the pups and juvenile wolves that are naive, and most predictions are that they will be much easier to shoot than the 3 and 4 year olds.”

    Yes. Just as the naive 1.5 year old deer are the first to go each hunting season.

  19. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Stoner,

    Please look at this previous post. I seriously doubt that there will ever be a 175+ pound wolf in Idaho. The biggest reported that I know of was 147 and it probably had 20 pounds of meat in its belly.

    http://wolves.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/answers-to-some-wolf-questions/

    I also compiled all of the wolf weight info of Idaho and Yellowstone wolves that has been made public and you can see it here:
    http://wolves.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/a-complete-table-of-yellowstone-wolves-1995-2008/

  20. avatar BrianTT says:

    Juveniles will be naive, I would agree with that but aren’t they following the lead of the rest of the adult pack? If the adults aren’t around where they can be killed then the pups won’t be either unless I’m missing something. 1.5 year old deer are typically on their own as deer don’t stay in packs. Will the pups leave the adults and the pack to come to a predator call?

  21. BrianTT

    Wolves are often not traveling as a pack. In fact, in Yellowstone my guess is that most observations of wolves are of just part of the pack out doing something. Most of the pack might be resting while junior is out exploring.

    Of course, some unknown number of veteran wolves are going to be taken in the hunt. It will be important to know the percentage.

  22. avatar Ryan says:

    “Why does Nevada have only 11,000 elk”

    Ranching interests and limited water. NV should have a population 5 times that size.

  23. avatar BrianTT says:

    I see. I hope the hunt is allowed to play out. I think it is going to be important to see what the effect is. I’m still of the belief that hunting will have little to no additional effect on top of the depredation killings by WS but the only way we will no for sure is to let it take place.

  24. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Nevada has alot more country that could have ALOT more elk. I have read on different hunting sites its the cattle industry that keeps the populations down. The same here in UT.

    Ralph,

    The south central, around Cedar City and towards the SE side of UT has alot of elk. Also, all the area W of Cedar to the NV border has alot of elk also. I dont know how wolves would do in the high desert, I am sure they would be fine.

  25. avatar JB says:

    Why are we hunting wolves in Idaho?

    We (as a society) hunt for animals that we value; the value we place in these animals is what makes it worth our time to “hunt” for them. If we don’t value a particular animal it isn’t a hunt, it is simply “killing” (i.e. we are getting rid of something we do not value). IDF&G’s own data (in the form of a recent survey) show that the vast majority hunters and livestock producers in the state valued wolves less than every other animal they were asked about, including coyotes and cougars. The results make it pretty clear that we’re not hunting wolves because they are valued.

    Another reason to hunt animals in a particular population is to reduce that population so that it is within the carrying capacity of its habitat. With maybe the exception of a couple of management units, there is no reason to think that wolf populations have exceeded the carrying capacity of their habitat within Idaho. Yet, IDF&G has decided that wolf hunting should take place in every management unit, regardless of whether wolves are abundant or extremely rare.

    The FWS has asserted that state management and hunting will increase residents tolerance for wolves. However, I can think of no reason why the people who are currently intolerant of 824 wolves (and were intolerant when there were less than 200) would be any more tolerant of 500 wolves after a hunt takes place?

    Lets be honest: wolves are not being hunted to increase public tolerance, they are not being hunted because hunters value them (though a few clearly do), and they are not being hunted to keep their populations in line with the carrying capacity of their environment; rather, wolves are being hunted to placate the same people that opposed their reintroduction in the first place.

    – – – –
    Current estimated wolf population: ~850
    Idaho (square miles):~87,500

    That’s 1 wolf per 103 sq. miles. FYI: I understand that there are more wolves in some areas than in others. Fine, kill them where they are negatively impacting ungulate populations. But all of this talk about how wolves “need” to be managed is horse sh|t.

  26. avatar ID_Paul says:

    I have seen a lot of concerns voiced about the alpha wolves being killed by hunters and disrupting pack structure. The context these concerns are usually stated in seem to indicate an opinion that this would be some new occurrence that wolves haven’t dealt with previously.

    It is of interest to me to read the observations of Alaskan wolf biologists who state that the alpha wolves are the most likely to be killed in wolf vs. wolf fatalities. “More often than not, it’s the alpha males or females that are killed “because they’re the ones out front doing the fighting,” Meier said.”

    The biologist stated that “at least 60%” of wolf fatalities in Denali are caused by other wolves, and is probably higher but “by the time we get to the carcass, there’s not enough left to figure out how they died.”

    If in an area that has had a large wolf population for years, the alpha wolves are the most likely to die, then surely there has been opportunity to study the effect on a pack when one or both of its alpha pair is killed.

    The above comments that younger wolves will be more likely to be shot by hunters are probably correct. Therefore, it seems to me that the chance of a pack going rogue and killing more due to lack of leadership is not a significant concern.

    I didn’t see anything in the article about dispersal of a pack after an alpha death. If I come across anything on the topic I’ll post a link.

    see http://www.wolfsongnews.org/news/Alaska_current_events_3015.html

  27. avatar Smitty says:

    “Current estimated wolf population: ~850
    Idaho (square miles):~87,500

    That’s 1 wolf per 103 sq. miles. FYI: I understand that there are more wolves in some areas than in others. Fine, kill them where they are negatively impacting ungulate populations. But all of this talk about how wolves “need” to be managed is horse sh|t.”

    How much of Idaho’s 87,500 square miles is actual wolf habitat?

  28. avatar JB says:

    “How much of Idaho’s 87,500 square miles is actual wolf habitat?”

    Essentially, any place where you have ungulates (wild or otherwise) and relatively low human population densities is wolf habitat. In Idaho, just about everywhere (outside of the mountain tops and cities) can support some wolves.

  29. avatar josh sutherland says:

    JB,

    I hunted antelope in Unit 41 and 42 last year. That was a HUGE space. Wolves would starve to death out there. I mean the whole SW corner of the state is nothing but sagebrush, rocks and antelope. I seriously doubt wolves would flourish out there. You will have to find some common ground somewhere, but I get the feeling with some that there will never be to many wolves and I feel you fall into that category.

    Josh

  30. JB,

    You wrote an fine argument and concluded: Lets be honest: “wolves are not being hunted to increase public tolerance, they are not being hunted because hunters value them (though a few clearly do), and they are not being hunted to keep their populations in line with the carrying capacity of their environment; rather, wolves are being hunted to placate the same people that opposed their reintroduction in the first place.”

    You said it well, JB. This is the beginning of the struggle to eliminate wolves again in Idaho and Montana. It only begins with the hunt. Next Wildlife Services kills as many as possible after real or staged “livestock incidents.”

    The only thing I would add is that it is designed to show that the livestock industry’s values rule. Wolves are being killed for the same reason Montana won’t let bison out of Yellowstone. They do have a hunt for bison in Montana for bison that leave the Park, and that’s because the politicians put no value on bison.

    When the elected politicians grandstand on this issue, they are reaffirming that our landed nobility rules the state.

    If you go to Minnesota, you find 3000 wolves and many more cows than Idaho, and many more deer and moose; but there is not the big political issue because no one is trying to push the rest of the population around.

    This is also the way some small state politicians say, “look at me.” Consider Rex Rammell’s comment about hunting our President. People of his race, like wolves, used to be put in their place or they were killed. That is the hidden message.

  31. avatar ID_Paul says:

    Confused. I didn’t post anything about wolves eating each other, just killing each other and that alphas are most likely to die in those fights.

    However, there is a section in the article about wolf cannibalism.

    QUOTE:======
    “Cannibalism among wolves is not uncommon, either.

    While Meier has never seen wolves kill members of their own packs, he has seen wolves cannibalize pack mates after they are killed by other wolves or die for other reasons. He recalled an incident several years ago in which 6-month-old pups ate their parents after the older wolves were killed in a fight.
    =====

    I’m not a biologist, haven’t been to Alaska, haven’t seen it, can’t say anything other than “here’s an article that discusses it.” Link to article is in my comment above.

    Sorry ID_Paul. I guess I misread what you said. Ralph Maughan

  32. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Ralph,

    I have heard of wolves killing and eating dogs, do they few domestic dogs as different?

  33. Josh,

    I’ve heard that wolves sometimes eat dogs, but I’m a bit skeptical. The photos from up near Grangeville where the man was holding up his supposedly eaten dog were discredited. Wolves are always interested in dogs, sometimes will mate with them, but usually kill them. I think they see them as rival wolves or as competitors like coyotes.

  34. ID-Paul,

    I deleted my incorrect comment about your comment.

  35. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    In addition, we need to know if wolf population biology is similar to that of coyotes. It’s well-documented that hunted coyote populations respond by breeding at an earlier age and having bigger litters. Naturally, bigger litters=more prey consumed.

    Cris, do you know if that phenomenon was ever noted with wolves before they were eradicated? I am familiar with coyotes doing that but it seems that if wolves did it they should not have been eradicated.

  36. avatar JEFF E says:

    JB,
    I could not have said it better, even if I tried.
    What I would like is that because Mark Gamblin has obviously tried to engage you; is this Mark give a detailed response to JB’s post, try to avoid your penchant of platitudes, and above all because you are in essence representing the state of Idaho in an official capacity on this web site be truthful.

    After that Mark please explain why, as you say, wolves are/will be a “valued big game animal” yet it is okay to shoot a pregnant female within day’s of delivery?

  37. avatar DB says:

    JB and Ralph,

    I think you must concede the only reason many of us hunt is for sport. That’s why hunters and fishers are termed sportsmen, that’s why our activites are called field sports.

    There has been a lot of discussion on this blog recently about how trophy hunting just doesn’t seem right, about pot hunting being the only justifiable reason to hunt, and now we’re talking about managing harvestable surplus as a reason to hunt.

    Well I think trophy hunting is a completely valid activity. As Ralph pointed out many conservation practices were pushed by conservationists/sportsmen who hunted for trophies and sport. Of course there are unethical trophy hunters as there are meat hunters who break laws.

    But most of us who hunt and fish do so with an understanding of the custom and culture these activities represent. I would no more shoot a ruffed grouse on a tree limb as I would a sparrow at the feeder. I no longer hunt deer but when I did I set up a camp for a week and hunted out of it every day on foot. If I picked a bad area and saw no game well that’s the luck of the game, that’s part of the sport. So much of the enjoyment we get from hunting and fishing is following the traditional customs of the sport.

    I’ve never been a predator hunter (as I’ve never been a trophy hunter), but it seems that some kinds of predator hunting may have methods and traditions that would qualify it as legitimate sport. Or is all predator hunting unethical? I realize that chasing fox with hounds and horses is now considered unethical, but it was certainly a sport for centuries. What about calling fox or coyote, what about hanging an owl decay and calling crows? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem all that easy or cruel. There’s some chance and skill involved in some kinds of predator hunting, thus, if practiced under strict management guidelines it is sport and a legitmate reason for hunting.

    Perhaps not many of our wolf hunters are looking at it this way (as most here seem to suggest), but I do think that some hunters might be and that they value the wolf as a trophy and intend to kill one in a sporting manner, and that is their only motive.

  38. DB,

    I think you are pretty much correct in your well laid out argument, but I think the intensity behind the push for hunt (I should probably let some of the comments through) is hatred of certain classes of people and wolves.

  39. avatar JB says:

    “…I get the feeling with some that there will never be to[o] many wolves and I feel you fall into that category.”

    Josh: My opinion about how wolves should be managed is considerably more nuanced than that for which you’ve given me credit.

    Nature doesn’t “care” if there are more wolves than a particular ungulate herd can withstand. Eventually, the wolf population will crash (or disperse), the forage will improve, and the ungulates will recover. This is how nature “worked” long before people came onto the picture. Judgments about whether there are too few, too many, or just the right amount of wolves depend upon what you want the lands to produce. If you’re interested in the production of livestock then 10 wolves will be 10 wolves too many; if you’re interested in the production of wolves then, as you have stated, there will never be enough. I am interested in the production of wilderness–that is producing wild places where wild things reside. I agree with hunters on 95% of issues, but I believe they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes (pun intended) on the issue of wolves (and predators in general, for that matter). The goals of most hunters and most environmentalists should be aligned on this issue.

    To be clear: I absolutely don’t oppose the hunting of wolves. But if Idaho is going to kill ’em back to 518, then they should have the courage to say why. There is no biological, ecological or economic reason to reduce the wolf population. It is being done because those that wear the pants in the state never wanted wolves to begin with and will make any excuse they can to get rid of them.

  40. avatar JEFF E says:

    “I think you are pretty much correct in your well laid out argument, but I think the intensity behind the push for hunt (I should probably let some of the comments through) is hatred of certain classes of people and wolves.” Say’s Ralph
    how about a dedicated thread to just showcase that mentality. Maybe for a day or two.

  41. avatar JB says:

    Ralph, Jeff E: It has taken me a long time to come to see the issue in these terms. Thanks for being patient with me.

    DB: Although I wouldn’t trophy hunt, I don’t have any ethical problem with the practice. I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I did. I do [still] have an issue with a state agency condoning hate or retribution killing, which (I think) is some of what is going on. I don’t claim to know anything about the motives of the two people who have harvested a wolf thus far; that’s why I have refrained from making any comments about them.

  42. avatar JEFF E says:

    DB,
    Make that three

  43. avatar Cris Waller says:

    “Cris, do you know if that phenomenon was ever noted with wolves before they were eradicated? ”

    There is some data,

    Mecha and Boitani do give some evidence for increased litter sizes in heavily exploited populations (http://books.google.com/books?id=_mXHuSSbiGgC&pg=PA176&lpg=PA176&dq=increased+litter+size+in+wolves&source=bl&ots=cNe15rt-ia&sig=7OXskt-7wU4DPE89IEqNvvgpxnY&hl=en&ei=sBGfSoCtNeXgnQe5ht2IDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=increased%20litter%20size%20in%20wolves&f=false)

    A study in Belarus found that litter size was directly related to hunting pressure and that hunted populations produced more female pups. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/nrc/cjz/2007/00000085/00000002/art00017?crawler=true

  44. avatar Cris Waller says:

    My apologies if this posts twice; it didn’t seem to go through the first time.

    “Cris, do you know if that phenomenon was ever noted with wolves before they were eradicated? ”

    There is some data,

    Mecha and Boitani do give some evidence for increased litter sizes in heavily exploited populations (Link)

    A study in Belarus found that litter size was directly related to hunting pressure and that hunted populations produced more female pups. (Link)

  45. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JeffE – “…..give a detailed response to JB’s post, try to avoid your penchant of platitudes, and above all because you are in essence representing the state of Idaho in an official capacity on this web site be truthful.
    After that Mark please explain why, as you say, wolves are/will be a “valued big game animal” yet it is okay to shoot a pregnant female within day’s of delivery?”

    OK, first JB

    JB:
    Your answers to your own query: “Why are we hunting wolves in Idaho?” prompt my comments.

    There are multiple answers, some obvious, some not. Managing, manipulating, controlling, regulating, culling wolf numbers – all describe the same objective. That is one objective for this hunt. I’ve state that in earlier threads. In some parts of the state, wolves are now reducing elk production and recruitment below levels that can be sustained by habitat in those areas and with levels of hunting that were allowed prior to wolves becoming established in those areas. Reducing wolf numbers in those areas is intended to improve elk production and recruitment to allow more public hunting for elk than can be allowed with current levels of wolf predation of elk.
    Another objective of the hunt is simply to allow those who desire to hunt wolves the opportunity to hunt wolves, because wolf hunting is now sustainable, with no risk to the viability and biological integrity of Idaho wolf populations. Wolf hunting is also compatible with a variety of other public uses and benefits of wolves as an Idaho public wildlife resource. Wolves will continue to be viewed, heard and their presence will continue to be experienced by those who desire that experience and some who do not. Wolves evoke negative and positive passion across Idaho. OF COURSE wolves are valued by many Idahoans, including many who will choose to hunt wolves. My perspective: No, this hunt was not proposed and adopted because there is a strong consensus in Idaho of value for wolves specifically as a big game species. Repeating – it is intended to manage (reduce) wolves in geographical areas to achieve desired benefits for elk and other big game species.
    Hunting wolves right now – today – is more complex that “killing wolves simply to get rid of something we do not value”. If there is a misconception in this state that wolves could be eradicated, either practically or within the legal system of our country, it isn’t held by the State of Idaho or the Department of Fish and Game. Wolves are now a permanent part of our landscape. The Department has said that hunting wolves will lead to greater acceptance and value for wolves than exists now. That is significantly different than “wolves are being hunted because they are valued”.
    Would tolerance for wolves be greater with reduced predation of elk, other big game resources or livestock and other private property? I suggest that it’s obvious that tolerance and acceptance of wolves would be greater if the loss of other resource values caused by wolves were reduced.
    Every natural population of animals has a carrying capacity but that relationship between population desinsity and habitat productivity is very difficult to measure or identify. Being able to manage a hunted wildlife population to meet some carrying capacity (K) objective with an acceptable level of certainty is even rarer. In North America, within the North American Model, animal populations are hunted because hunting is an important, traditional benefit of the public wildlife resource and because hunting (the American hunting public and the wildlife management programs funded by hunting and fishing) has been the single most important force for wildlife conservation in the history of this country.
    If the most realistic estimate of Idaho wolf numbers is desired or important – the preponderance of evidence supports an estimate of over 1,000 wolves in Idaho today.

    JeffE: “please explain why, as you say, wolves are/will be a “valued big game animal” yet it is okay to shoot a pregnant female within day’s of delivery?”

    Hunting wolves when females are pregnant is no different that hunting most big game species in Idaho. Female elk, deer, moose are all hunted at some time of the year after the rut. Those pregnant animals are hunted at the same time they are preyed on by other top predators – humans being the most prominent top predator on this planet. The stage of their term of pregnancy during open wolf hunting seasons is important to some people, I believe you included, but is not relevant biologically or for the general considerations of wildlife conservation or population management. In those hunts that extend to March, some hunters will likely choose not to hunt wolves late in the month because of their personal values. There will be other hunters who do not share similar values. Those areas that have wolf hunting into March are the areas where wolf predation of elk has reduced elk hunting opportunity and reducing wolf numbers is especially desired. Practical population management objectives for wolves and elk is the basis for hunting wolves into March.

  46. avatar jerryB says:

    Mark Gamblin IDFG
    Mark…your opinion please on the future of the” Public Trust Doctrine” in wildlife management.

  47. avatar Cris Waller says:

    “Cris, do you know if that phenomenon was ever noted with wolves before they were eradicated? ”

    I tried to post with some links to this, but I think some scanner software is blocking the post, possibly as potential spam., Hopefully Ralph can let it through! But yes, there is evidence of this phenomenon in hunted wolf populations.

    Yes. Cris. That’s what happened. Your links are now on-line about 3 comments above. Ralph Maughan

  48. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    jerryB – if this thread is still running next Tuesday, I’ll offer my thoughts then. I have to attend to other responsibilites now, but the Public Trust Doctrine is critical to North American wildlife management.

  49. avatar Dawn says:

    Great questions but I do love the one about the money being made on this . Gotta tell ya I feel it all comes down to money and politics and control, typical human fashion

  50. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    the problem with the public trust doctrine is that it’s vague – which in a court of law means that agency gets deference and they can pretty much do what they want.

    it doesn’t mean it’s not right – but it needs to be developed (by way of legislation or favorable judicial interpretation) if it’s to be enforceable.

  51. avatar Wolverine Dreams says:

    Getting back to ID_Paul’s comments above, would a pack react differently to the death of a member killed by hunting vs a wolf dying by other means? Why should a pack react to an alpha’s death by bullet differently than an alpha’s death by elk hoof? There are numerous reasons to oppose wolf hunting. Might numerous packs being destabilized in the short period of time of a hunt be a meaningful difference to the impact of natural mortality?

  52. Wolverine Dreams,

    I expect a big difference as long the other pack members see the cause of death.
    They say wolves are smart. If this is wrong, they wouldn’t notice.

    Wolves do choose their prey carefully. They test it.

    They are notably skittish about things that are new, including people. Once people have been around for a while and given them no reason to fear, people are ignored. Killing their pack members will get their attention fast. It’s a matter of how fast they make the connection. Folks have been arguing over this matter, but now we will probably see.

  53. avatar JB says:

    “Would tolerance for wolves be greater with reduced predation of elk, other big game resources or livestock and other private property? I suggest that it’s obvious that tolerance and acceptance of wolves would be greater if the loss of other resource values caused by wolves were reduced.”

    Apparently I missed this comment. A few points:

    (1) You are assuming that tolerance is based upon rational, self-interest. There is ample evidence to suggest the most vehement opposition to wolves comes from people with a blind hatred of the species (i.e. judgments based upon emotion and opposing values). I would argue that reducing the wolf population will do nothing to increase their tolerance for the species.

    (2) I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that many (if not most) of the people who oppose wolves now opposed their reintroduction in the first place. That is, not only do they oppose 824/1000 wolves, they opposed the two dozen or so that were originally reintroduced. If they opposed wolves when there were a few dozen, do you honestly believe they will oppose them less when there are 518? Put another way, is there a reason to suspect that tolerance and populations are linearly related?

    On the subject of value….

    (1) Idaho’s own wolf management survey shows that hunters in Idaho value wolves less than any other species, including the coyote.

    (2) In response to the question, “If wolf populations were managed by numbers of wolves rather than conflicts or other objectives, what number do you think would be appropriate to sustain in Idaho,” just 2% of Idaho hunters chose 500 or higher (though 18% said IDF&G should decide and 15% said just reduce conflicts); 58% wanted the wolf population managed for 200 animals or less.

    (3) Only 22% of hunters agreed with the statement “I support wolf recovery and sustaining a viable wolf population in Idaho.”

    Not a ringing endorsement of how Idaho’s hunters value wolves.

  54. avatar JB says:

    Why are we managing wolves in Idaho?

    Mark: “Managing, manipulating, controlling, regulating, culling wolf numbers – all describe the same objective. That is one objective for this hunt…Reducing wolf numbers in those areas [where wolves are affecting elk production] is intended to improve elk production and recruitment to allow more public hunting for elk than can be allowed with current levels of wolf predation of elk.”

    — Okay, this objective clearly meets with the desires of most hunters and, to a lesser extent, livestock producers.

    Mark: “Another objective of the hunt is simply to allow those who desire to hunt wolves the opportunity to hunt wolves, because wolf hunting is now sustainable, with no risk to the viability and biological integrity of Idaho wolf populations.”

    — Again, this objective caters to hunters.

    Mark: “Wolves will continue to be viewed, heard and their presence will continue to be experienced by those who desire that experience and some who do not.”

    — If Idaho’s hunt and WS’ nuisance control knock wolves back to 518 (as has been suggested), that will be 518 wolves over 87,500 sq. miles. Not sure about you, but if I’m a tourist those aren’t the kind of odds I’m looking for.

    Mark: My perspective: “[T]his hunt…is intended to manage (reduce) wolves in geographical areas to achieve desired benefits for elk and other big game species.”

    — I agree 100%. Can you tell me why non-consumptive interest groups should support this plan?

  55. I agree with JB completely on this, although fewer wolves might assuage the general public. However, the general public doesn’t really consider this much of an issue.

    If the number of wolves made a difference to anti-wolf activists, we expect more support for wolves in both Wyoming and Montana than we see because they have fewer wolves than Idaho. Moreover, the wolf population is not increasing in Wyoming.

  56. avatar JB says:

    “If the number of wolves made a difference to anti-wolf activists, we expect more support for wolves in both Wyoming and Montana than we see because they have fewer wolves than Idaho. Moreover, the wolf population is not increasing in Wyoming.”

    Exactly. If they [those who oppose wolves] want 0 wolves and you reduce them from 1000 to 500, have you increased tolerance or just killed a lot of wolves? At best, I would say you might decrease opposition among some of the more rational folks.

    On the other hand, if IDF&G believes that wolves are affecting elk hunting opportunities, then they have a vested interest (i.e. license sales) in knocking back the wolf population to a point where they are incapable of affecting elk recruitment and elk populations overall.

  57. avatar John d. says:

    Mark,

    You demonstrate very little understanding of predator prey relations – in fact you completely ignore the basics of predator ecology.

    I can tell you that hunting a vilified predator won’t increase the tolerance for it – ever. Society’s issues with wildlife, i.e. education or rather lack thereof, don’t get solved just by pointing a gun at it. A fine example of this is the treatment of coyotes.
    And advocating killing for killing’s sake? Do you ever wonder why the reputation of hunters and hunting is so often dragged through the mud?

  58. avatar JB says:

    This is a few years old, but it should serve as a warning for Idaho to tread lightly were large carnivores are concerned: http://ktuu.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/letter%20to%20alaska%20governor%20sarah%20palin.pdf

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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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