This is the story about hunting district 310 that a lot of SW Montana hunters are upset about-

Big game animals scarce in once-popular hunting district along Gallatin River. By Brett French. Billings Gazette.

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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.

54 Responses to Big game animals scarce in once-popular hunting district along Gallatin River

  1. avatar mikepost says:

    If, as stated, the winter herd is now at 300 and the wolves are taking an estimated 107 per year, it does not take a rocket scientist or a biologist to tell you that the collapse of that elk population is imminent.

  2. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Ralph – thanks for posting.

  3. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Mike Post is right. Soon there will be no more elk or deer left anywhere on this continent. Oh the horror….

  4. avatar Mike says:

    If you are worried about the population of an animal, you might want to stop shooting them.

    Crazy talk, I know……

  5. avatar Ryan says:

    “If you are worried about the population of an animal, you might want to stop shooting them.

    Crazy talk, I know……”

    Mike,

    Hmmm, sounds like there going too, although it will be a case of to little to late. Wolves and weather will manage to do what the Hunters haven’t been able to do in the 60+ years.

  6. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Ryan,

    And before that, something wolves, weather, mountain lions, bears, disease…..etc. weren’t able to do.

    I think those elk moved to the friendly confines of unit 301. I heard that other elk were complaining about the arrival of 1200 “outsiders”

  7. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Mike is right, all the wildlife watchers will show up soon with their fund-raising to help fund studies and make improvements in habitat where it is needed.

  8. avatar Elk275 says:

    Mike

    ++If you are worried about the population of an animal, you might want to stop shooting them.++

    Over the years I have shot 3 elk in that area. Maybe, just maybe there are those who like to hunt and if we would not have introduced the wolf the elk would still number 1500 plus animals. At first I liked the idea of wolf introduction, now I see that it was a very short slighted idea that will affect our hunting opportunties for the rest of our lives.

    I have been hearding more and more SSS who knows if it truth or fiction. From now until mid May no one but locals and ranchers will be on 90% of the wolf range. I know that you spend 60 tent days in the west but how many tent days between the first of November and the first of May do you spend in the west?

    There is getting to be more and more people piss off about the wolves each year.

  9. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Josh is right. How stupid to be only a wildlife watcher. I mean, what’s the point of just watching wildlife when you can watch it and then “harvest” and/or “manage” it…..

  10. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Elk275,

    As I am sure that you and Josh could give a rat’s ass about whether or not “wildlife watchers” see wildlife, why should non-hunters/wildlife watcher’s give a rat’s ass if you fill your elk tag.

  11. avatar Layton says:

    “If you are worried about the population of an animal, you might want to stop shooting them.

    Crazy talk, I know……”

    Oooorrr,

    One might just start shooting what one believes is the cause of the problem —- of course we all read here how that won’t help.

  12. avatar Elk275 says:

    Jeff N

    ++As I am sure that you and Josh could give a rat’s ass about whether or not “wildlife watchers” see wildlife, why should non-hunters/wildlife watcher’s give a rat’s ass if you fill your elk tag.++

    How many wildlife watchers are out in Western Montana or Idaho between November 1st to May 1st. Yes, there are some in Yellowstone Park and I always stop when going down the Madison Valley to Salt Lake in the winter to see the large elk herds. To hell with wildwife there is some untracker power that always needs to be skiied or if finances allow it then there is Patigonia.

  13. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Elk – at the meeting last night the frustration was focused on the fact that the professional wildlife managers have identified a problem and they are not allowed to have/use the tools to solve or help the problem.

  14. avatar Ryan says:

    Jeff N.

    Who pissed in your cheerios this morning?

  15. avatar Mike says:

    ++One might just start shooting what one believes is the cause of the problem —- of course we all read here how that won’t help++

    You don’t make any sense at all, Layton. If you are *genuinely*concerned for the population of a species, why would you continue to shoot it?

    This is simply common sense. Unless of course, the population and well being of the local population isn’t your priority…..

  16. avatar Mike says:

    ++Mike is right, all the wildlife watchers will show up soon with their fund-raising to help fund studies and make improvements in habitat where it is needed.++

    If you are so concerned about the best habitat, why do you actively campaign against roadless protection?

  17. avatar Mike says:

    ++One might just start shooting what one believes is the cause of the problem++

    How many elk did Montana wolves take last year compared to hunters?

    If you followed your own logic, you would have to shoot yourself, Layton.

  18. avatar Elk275 says:

    I missed the meeting last night. I was talking with a writer from one of the “old big three” hunting and fishing maginzes who has spent the last 6 weeks investigating the wolf situation in Montana for a 8000 word article that will be published in March. It was a very interesting conversation.

    The hunters in the State of Montana have spend 100 years restoring the game herds that we have today. It is so sad to see people who do not live here and want to come out for there 2 to 3 weeks a year to try to dicate to us on wildlife management. I am a very liberal person but this is starting to push me to the middle.

  19. avatar Elk275 says:

    Mike

    ++If you are so concerned about the best habitat, why do you actively campaign against roadless protection++

    In the years past, I have given over $1000 a year for the protection of roadless lands and the restrictions on ATV’s. I have 4 or 5 letters asking me for year end donations. I am going to have to margin a part of my 401 to pay bills and hope for better days, but I will contribute money for roadless areas.

  20. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Ryan – I thought that was beer in my Cheerios

    Elk275 – not sure what you are talking about in paragraph 2 of your reply to my comment….could you translate into English please.

    Josh – Stop the B.S. that only hunters finance and volunteer for the improvement of wildlife habitat and the preservation of wildlife. Please refer to my example below:

    “The Nature Conservancy is a US charitable environmental organization working to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.[2]

    Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy works in more than 30 countries, including all 50 of the United States, with an increasingly global reach. The Conservancy has over one million members, and has protected more than 69,000 square kilometers (17 million acres) in the United States and more than 473,000 square kilometers (117 million acres[3]) internationally. The organization’s total support and revenue was $1.28 billion in fiscal year 2007 with assets totaling $5.42 billion.[4]”

  21. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Mike where have I ever been against roadless laws? Never… Stop jumping to conclusions. You are a unique dude thats for sure.

    Jeff N if there are no elk to “Watch” how in the hell are hunters gonna kill em??? Rocket Science.

  22. avatar Mike says:

    Sorry Elk, but everyone owns the Gallatin NF, Lolo NF, Glacier NP, etc. It’s not just yours. And quite honestly, there was a reason those lands were taken away from the locals and given federal status.

  23. avatar Elk275 says:

    Mike

    ++How many elk did Montana wolves take last year compared to hunters?++

    Hunter kill approximately 20,000 to 25,000 elk a year in the last 5 of 6 years. No one knows how many elk wolves killed. But I think that hunters come first, they are the ones who rebuilt the big game herds so wolves could have a prey base. Hey if you want wolves then bring your prey and let them eat your elk and deer.

  24. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Mike you should go research and Org called FNAWS. Sheep hunting used to be VERY small, and if we used your example we should of stopped shooting them. BUT they took a different approach, they auctioned off tags for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS that go towards everything associated with wild sheep. Now tags in areas that used to be very small, are being increased every year. All because of hunters…. Like I said maybe you and your wildlife watcher buddies can get together and pull something off similar to what FNAWS does… 🙂 What you say? Help out your grizz buddies.

  25. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Elk,Josh,Layton,WM,Ryan – the Montana FWP made it very clear last night that they want and need those of us that care about hunting and all wildlife to speak up – they are hoping that will help get the wolf management issue into the professional wildlife managers hands and away from lawyers and judges.

  26. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Jeff N I like the Nature Conservancy they put their money on the ground, not in Lawyers pocket books, other green orgs should follow suit.

  27. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Josh,

    Apparently your abilities to find/view elk are very limited. Viewing elk is certainly not rocket science. Stop it with the doomsday b.s.

    Wolves were specifically reintroduced to reduce and then keep elk numbers in check.

  28. avatar Elk275 says:

    Jeff N

    ++Wolves were specifically reintroduced to reduce and then keep elk numbers in check.++

    Hunters can do it to and have been doing it for years.

  29. avatar Rita K.Sharpe says:

    And this is where it all ends up as,polarization.

  30. avatar Ryan says:

    “If you are so concerned about the best habitat, why do you actively campaign against roadless protection?”

    Mike,
    Why do you come up with this bullshit straw man’s argument every time? Do you have a book of them somewhere?

  31. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Elk275 says:

    “Hunter kill approximately 20,000 to 25,000 elk a year in the last 5 of 6 years. No one knows how many elk wolves killed. But I think that hunters come first, they are the ones who rebuilt the big game herds so wolves could have a prey base. Hey if you want wolves then bring your prey and let them eat your elk and deer”

    Holy crap….where do I begin regarding this beauty.

    “I think hunters come first, they are the ones who rebuilt the big game herds”

    Why did big game herds have to be rebuilt? Wasn’t because of wolves. Where I come from hunters were responsible for wiping out the native subspecies of elk (Merriams) and the population had to be “rebuilt” by shipping in elk from Yellowstone.

    Sorry Elk275….you don’t own the elk. You have every right to buy your tag and fill it but for you to say they are your elk is stunning in its stupidity.

    “Hey if you want wolves then bring your prey and let them eat your elk and deer”

    – The utter lack of logic in your comment above is juvenille at best. How can I tell which elk are yours and which elk I am allowed to bring to the wolves. WTF.

    My 8 year old daughter has a better grasp on reality.

  32. avatar Jeff N. says:

    Regarding keeping elk numbers in check Elk27says:
    “Hunters can do it to and have been doing it for years.”

    Actually no they did not and they cannot. Christ, Elk275 at least attempt to make a logical argument.

  33. avatar Elk275 says:

    Jeff N

    ++Why did big game herds have to be rebuilt.++

    Because in the 1800’s and early 1900’s there were hungry setters who needed something to eat. They shot them off. Were they hunters or were they hungry.

    Did I ever say I owed the elk? The State of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming etc. has historical ownership and management of the resident wildlife population. There are court cases that support this.

    ++Regarding keeping elk numbers in check Elk27says:
    “Hunters can do it to and have been doing it for years.”

    Actually no they did not and they cannot. Christ, Elk275 at least attempt to make a logical argument.++

    You make the a logical argument that hunters can not kept the elk in check if the hunter has the access to the elk. Do you live here and are you out in the hills every weekend — I am.

    ++“Hey if you want wolves then bring your prey and let them eat your elk and deer”

    – The utter lack of logic in your comment above is juvenille at best. How can I tell which elk are yours and which elk I am allowed to bring to the wolves. WTF.

    My 8 year old daughter has a better grasp on reality.++

    Don’t you have a little humor. I bet that 8 year old daughter laughs better than you do. Take it easy buddy.

  34. avatar JB says:

    “…the Montana FWP made it very clear last night that they want and need those of us that care about hunting and all wildlife to speak up – they are hoping that will help get the wolf management issue into the professional wildlife managers hands and away from lawyers and judges.”

    Well I can’t say that is surprising. An underfunded state management agency with a vested interest in selling as many hunting licenses as possible is afraid of the big bad wolf. I’m sure big game are being decimated by your state’s, what is it now, 400 wolves?

    Give me a frigging break.

  35. avatar Carl says:

    Mike, suggest you do a little research on the National Forests. The majority of the lands that make up the western national forests came from Public domain. These lands were not taken away from anyone except the Indians, they were always federal lands. This is not true of eastern national forests that were mainly acquired through the Week’s Law signed by Taft in 1911.

  36. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Just curious. Anyone got thoughts about how easy it will be to see “other wildlife” when wolves get fully established, outside national parks or reserves?

    My own thinking is that deer and elk will be harder for wildlife viewers to find in the open meadows for most of the year – just like during hunting season. Maybe coyotes will be tougher to see in areas where wolves are present as well, since the research in some areas suggests they can reduce populations by 35-50%.

    If this is the case, unless the wildlife tourism is centered nearly exclusively around wolves which may be baited to certain viewing spots, there won’t be an economic improvement some wolf advocates seem to suggest.

  37. avatar mikepost says:

    Ralph was right…you guys have gone berserk in his absence.

  38. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Mike

    You never cease to amaze me with your misinformation.

  39. avatar Mike says:

    The National Forests were basically started by the Land Revision Act of 1891 and the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. This was done due to concern of heavy ranching and mining. While many of the lands were public domain, they were easily influenced by local industry, and thus the creation of the national forests with federal oversight. This was later bolstered by the Organic Act of 1897.

    The trend at the time was to trasnfer public domain land to private hands.

  40. avatar Mike says:

    ++Hunter kill approximately 20,000 to 25,000 elk a year in the last 5 of 6 years. No one knows how many elk wolves killed. ++

    Wolves kill no where near that number in Montana. I think you’ve found the problem – hunters kill too many elk. I guess it’s time to re-evaluate your activiities……

    ++
    But I think that hunters come first, they are the ones who rebuilt the big game herds so wolves could have a prey base. Hey if you want wolves then bring your prey and let them eat your elk and deer.++

    You are right…hunters are the ones who rebuilt the prey base by opposing the roadless initiative and almost any wilderness bills for decades. They carried baby elk into the wilderness, nursed them and brought them to life- hand raised by “on the ground common sense”. Conservation groups who fought for wild areas had nothing to do with it. Elk security has nothing to do with it. Lawyers fighting for wildlands had nothing to do with it. It was just a few guys working on some ranchers property, clearing up some brush and fencing off a few cows, lol.

    Wolves are a native animal to the rockies. If you don’t like their presence I suggest you try Florida.

  41. avatar Mike says:

    ++Just curious. Anyone got thoughts about how easy it will be to see “other wildlife” when wolves get fully established, outside national parks or reserves?++

    There has been studies on this and in one instance moose were more easily seen because they use the roaded areas as a secure zone.

    ++
    My own thinking is that deer and elk will be harder for wildlife viewers to find in the open meadows for most of the year – just like during hunting season. Maybe coyotes will be tougher to see in areas where wolves are present as well, since the research in some areas suggests they can reduce populations by 35-50%.
    ++

    This is so overblown it’s not even worth commenting on.

  42. avatar Elk275 says:

    Mike,

    I would be glad to spend $30 and send you a book called “Montana Wildlife Legacy Decimation to Restoration” by Harold D. Piction and Terry N. Lonner. ISBN 978-0-615-18849-2. Send me your address.

    There is an excellent 2 part, one hour movies called “Back from the Brink” that was made approximately 5 years ago. Read and watch these publications and you will learn something — I did.

    I am and have supported all the roadless initiatives and contributed money, probably more than you have, for the last 35 years. I have approximately 5 letters for year end donations from non profits protecting our wildlands and wildlife corridorrs. I am very low on money and will have to sell some stock next week, but you know there will be a little Christmas cheer in each envelope. There will be a check written to the American Wildlands, Montana Wilderness Association, Yellowstone to Yukon, Montana Wildlife federation and the National Wildlife federation.

    As far as moving to Florida, I have been here since I was born except the years that I lived in Alaska and the 2 years that I have traveled the world. Oh, I the several years that I taught skiing in Colorado. My boots have been on the ground in Montana for 58 years.

  43. avatar gline says:

    Mike: I admire your tenacity.

  44. avatar gline says:

    Just curious. Anyone got thoughts about how easy it will be to see “other wildlife” when wolves get fully established, outside national parks or reserves?

    WM: With your type of logic how did evolution ever progress? With wolves, how would their be diversity of animal species now? For that matter how did any species survive with wolves before the whites came over to North America???

  45. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Mike so a few dudes got together with some ranchers and repopulated the entire west’s elk populations? WOW… What kool-aid you drinking?

  46. avatar gline says:

    “They carried baby elk into the wilderness, nursed them and brought them to life- hand raised by “on the ground common sense”.

    I just had to print that again.. too funny.

  47. avatar Cobra says:

    Actually most of the elk today are here because of sportsmens dollars and Yellowstone National Park. From as early as 1892 YNP and the Jackson Hole refuges has transported elk all over the U.S. and as far away as New Zealand. As early as 1912 220 head of elk were sent to Glacier National Park and 186 head to Washigton State, in 1913 25 went to Estes Park Colo.and another 121 to Washington state. In 1915 Idaho recieved their first shipment of 50 head, Colorado another 50, New Mexico 50 and Utah 25. Yellowstone outfitted the entire country with the herds we have today. Even Canada recieved shipments of 298 elk for Rocky Mountain Park. The first shipment to North Idaho was in 1926 for 60 head and was recieved by the Shoshone Rod and Gun club. Not all were with purchased with sportsmens dollars I’m sure, however a good many of them were and sportsmens dollars have been a big part in the success of elk deer and all animals today. Even the wolves success has been partly because of sportsmen dollars.
    The data mentioned is from a book I had in college on Elk ecology and management by Jack Ward Thomas and Dale E. Toweill, pretty interesting reading if you ask me.

  48. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Chicago Mike

    “There has been studies on this and in one instance moose were more easily seen because they use the roaded areas as a secure zone.”
    I asked a serious question. If this is your serious response, do you have cites for the studies that you could share with the rest of us?

    ———————————-
    And, Mike, as to my point about Coyotes, here is the result in Yellowstone: Before wolf reintroduction, coyote population density on the northern range was about 0.45 per km2, organized as packs with well-established borders (Crabtree and Sheldon 1999). Wolves began to kill coyotes soon after they were released in YNP. During 1996-1998 wolf aggression toward coyotes resulted in a 50 percent decline in coyote density (up to 90% decline in core areas occupied by wolf packs) and reduced coyote pack size on the northern range (Crabtree and Sheldon 1999). In the Lamar Valley of the northern range the coyote population declined from 80 to 36 animals from 1995 to 1998, and average pack size dropped from 6 to 3.8 animals (Crabtree and Shelton 1999). With lower coyote density, litter size increased, but the increased production of pups has been insufficient to offset the effects of wolves. (From: April 23, 2003 issue of Bioscience as quoted on the International Wolf Organization website. Authors: Douglas W. Smith, Rolf O. Peterson, and Douglas B. Houston

    link: http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/intermed/inter_mgmt/yellowstone.pdf

  49. Wilderness Muse (above) posted an article everyone should read. It is easy to read, and goes far beyond the effect of wolves on coyotes in YNP.

    However, the conclusions only reflect data gathered between 1995 and 2002. Almost seven more years of data have been collected since the article.

    The article says that the effects of the restoration of wolves on Yellowstone will take years to fully discern. It might take many decades.

  50. avatar Rita K.Sharpe says:

    Thank you, Wilderness Muse.It was a good read.

  51. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Ralph,

    Indeed, the Doug Smith, et al. article cited above shows only the effects of wolf reintroduction, from 1995 thru 2002. I cited it for the purpose of illustrating the dramatic decrease in coyote population as a result of wolves – 50 to 90 percent reduction in coyotes in some areas.

    The data from that study period on wolf effects on elk population and age dynamics, and does not reflect the increased numbers of mature bulls that have been shown to be a part of winter wolf diet in the last few years as the wolf population has increased in density in YNP, as well as the outmigrating wolves to areas outside YNP. It seems to suggest the weak, old and injured have been culled, and now there is greater reliance on calves and bulls. They are now eating more healthy elk.

    For example the story for this thread calling out the decrease in elk in Montana hungint Unit 310 may reflect the more recent trends resulting from wolf and griz population increases. I previously cited a 2006 publication by Stahler and Doug Smith (same author of the study first referenced) which show greater impacts to mature bulls than previously believed from 2002 to 2004, a period of just two years! [“Foraging and Feeding Ecology of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus): Lessons from Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA,” which recently appeared in the Journal of Nutrition. website: http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/136/7/1923S ]

    Certainly, the story continues.

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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."

~ Edward Abbey

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