Forest Service will cave to Idaho Fish and Game’s plan to grossly abuse the concept of Wilderness-

Even though 90% of the comments received were opposed to Idaho Fish Game’s plan to violate the Wilderness Act because they want a better count of the number of wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness, this week the Forest Service told interested parties they were approving the request.

In 2006 Idaho Fish and Game was fended off, but this year they were back again claiming they needed to use high tech methods to count wolves in Wilderness. Because they have promised to maintain a population of 500 wolves in Idaho, well above the 100 required by the wolf restoration plan, their plan for unnecessarily exact counting is hard to understand. It makes folks very suspicious about their motives.  Worse this is a threat to the entire American Wilderness System on behalf of a one-state interest.

The purpose of the Wilderness System is to maintain wildness. Having high tech monitoring of the individual animals located by flying low, darting, and landing in this supposedly forever protected land is an abomination.

The Forest Service is advancing this plan by means of an non-appealable “categorical exclusion.” That type of document  is for public land matters so unimportant that an environmental analysis is not needed. The only remedy is to go immediately to court. The whole thing is a fraud. If it is so unimportant why did they fly up from Ogden, Utah to tell people their intentions?

The radio collaring is expected to begin in March.

Update added late on 12-17. Will helicopters land in Church wilderness? State seeking Forest Service approval to help collar wolves. By Jon Duval. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

– – – –
Past stories on this.

Dec. 16. Scott Phillip’s LTE. No helicopters in wilderness. Idaho Mountain Express.

October, 2, 2009. Idaho again wants to land choppers in wilderness. By John Miller. AP
Sept. 18, 2009. Idaho Department of Fish & Game Moves to Collar Wolves in the Frank-Church Wilderness. By Brian Ertz
August 2006. Captive Wilderness. Discover Magazine.

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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.

180 Responses to Wolves to be tracked, darted, collared in Frank Church Wilderness

  1. avatar Salle says:

    I am very pissed off. This goes way too far. The state has a lot to answer for on this issue and I personally, and as a citizen who owns the wilderness with all other citizens, am not willing to allow this violation of a long standing federal law for a few good ol’ boys to satisfy their hatred and disrespect of wildlife and the public in general. I have no doubt that Dink Kempthorne has been coaching from the sidelines on this. It wreaks of his stench all over.

  2. avatar Davej says:

    I imagine the “stench” that Salle mentions smells something like this:
    1) Collar wolves this year
    2) Provide collar frequencies to WS for “official” purposes
    3) WS employee(s) leak freqeuncies to “3rd parties”
    4) Next year # of wolves killed during hunting season rises substantially during hunting season.
    5) Idaho F&G and WS are both happy. USFWS and USFS don’t really care either way — they lose nothing.

  3. avatar JimT says:

    This is outrageous. I wrote my reps, urging them to put pressure on the FS to rescind permission based on this categorical exclusion BS. It will have to come from outside Idaho, obviously.

    I really am beginning to wonder how any of you manage to live in that state with this kind of legal sham.

    Anyone, do you have the contact information for the Forest Service office who made this decision?

  4. JimT,

    The regional office of FS which is approving this is Region 4 in Ogden, Utah.

    If you want to contact the deciding official, that is regional forester Harv Forsgren. Forsgren flew to Hailey, Idaho with Region 4 Wilderness Manager Randy Welsh in tow. I understand Welch might have written the approval of CE and “Minimum Tool analysis,” but clearly was told what to do.

  5. avatar JimT says:

    I also want his name for Udall’s staff in DC so they know whom to put pressure on to rescind the decision. Thanks. I am hoping that people contact the members with oversight of the FS and the environment in general to stop this crap. We have some time…

  6. avatar Layton says:

    Or, might it just possibly be that Idaho F&G (the agency charged with managing wolves in Idaho) JUST MIGHT want to try and figure out how many wolves there are REALLY in the state.

    It’s a pretty well known fact that the 850 number that the greennecks cling to (from 2008) is NOT including the number of wolves in the “Frank”.

    By the way salle, my vote, from also being part of the folks that “own” the wilderness, will cancel yours. I think we need to know just how many there are.

  7. Layton,

    For me this is a Wilderness issue, not really a wolf issue. This will stir opponents who don’t really about wolves much, but do care about Wilderness.

    Hopefully, this will become an issue all over the West.

  8. avatar Salle says:

    Layton,

    I’m willing to bet a $ that I can contact more “owners” who are concerned and have more clout than either of us about this than you. Which makes my concern weigh more than yours.

    But I digress by casting pearls before…

  9. avatar JimT says:

    This GreenNeck agrees with Ralph. This is a Wilderness Act and NEPA act issue with wolves happening to be the subject matter of the illegal action.

    By the way, I heard another term today you can add to your list of offensive labels…Red-Throats …LOL…

    Just give up the name calling…your comments only look more foolish…

  10. avatar Layton says:

    “But I digress by casting pearls before”

    Before you think things through —– like normal.

    Ralph,

    I am a pretty big fan of the wilderness concept myself, but I fail to see how having a chopper dart a critter, land and put on a collar, weigh it, check it’s teeth and whatever else they do will do irreparable harm to the territory.

    There are exceptions all over the place with cabins, grand fathered roads, mines, etc., etc. that I see as doing more harm — this shouldn’t even leave a track.

    If we were to follow the “pure” wilderness concept far enough, no one would be able to go in there unless they were barefoot and naked — that would certainly reduce the traffic, but I really think it would reduce the value of the experience.

  11. avatar vielfrass says:

    Layton,

    I have to agree with Ralph. There is a difference between backpacking in and flying helicopters to dart animals. It’s pretty clear to me.

  12. avatar Salle says:

    Actually I meant “Pearls before swine…”

    I was trying to be polite.

  13. avatar Carl says:

    Ralph have you seen a copy of the decision by the USFS? I’m curious what category they selected to justify this being a CE rather than a EA or EIS.

    Carl, I am writing this in advance, so I don’t have a copy yet. Ralph Maughan

  14. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    More outrage at OUR various levels of government – seems to be a common theme these days. To our legal scholars on staff – would this be an example of arbitrary action.

  15. avatar Pronghorn says:

    The 1964 Wilderness Act says nothing about “pure” wilderness and certainly nothing about barefoot and naked. This is totally irrelevant. Inholdings and grandfathered exceptions are pre-existing uses already in place prior to designation, not precedent-setting new uses (see Tester’s bill S. 1470 for a legislative attempt to further weaken the National Wilderness Preservation System). Someone should tell the FS that the Feds trump the state when it comes to wildlife management decisions (actually, someone already has) on federal land and that any management action taken in wilderness can be with one intent only: to best manage the WILDERNESS, and with the minimum tool necessary. Helicopters? I think not.

  16. avatar Pronghorn says:

    While our collective wilderness knickers are in a twist, please visit http://testerloggingbilltruths.wordpress.com/ and check out the 50-some organizations who’ve signed on to oppose Tester’s S. 1470–everyone from the Dogwood Alliance of NC to the Center for Biological Diversity of AZ. The hearing is tomorrow; you have until the end of the month to submit your comment. This bill contains special precedent-setting provisions in to-be-named wildernesses–military helicopter landings, ATV use for sheep herding and more–and will weaken the Nat’l Wilderness Preservation System for future generations. Schweitzer has come out in support of it. Let’s defeat it.

  17. avatar JimT says:

    Layton,

    Read Stegner’s Wilderness Letter…the whole point of wilderness ISN”T to exist so we can go there…it is valued and has reason to exist simply because of its inherent nature. Why is it that what we do in terms of the environment has to be defined in how humans benefit….

  18. avatar JimT says:

    Tester’s bill is nothing more than an effort to secure re-election. Like most compromise efforts, it creates more problems than it solves. It should be defeated, and real wilderness bills should be submitted…Problem is..I think the DNC is counting the votes, and it will put pressure on the Congress to “give” Tester this bill so it can hope to put Montana in the blue column someday. Futile and naive, if you ask me.

  19. avatar JimT says:

    TWB,

    Without seeing the decision document, it is hard to say if it meets the APA’s threshold for arbitrary and capricious, or more importantly, the elements for a TRO. I suspect without Congressional intervention to have these Federal FS officials to back down, this will move forward.

    The more likely, if time allowed, approach would be to challenge the basis of the CE being issued in violation of NEPA and Wilderness Act provisions. Problem is…TIME. Judges in this part of the county seem very reluctant to stay Federal actions pending a hearing…they seem more inclined to let things progress, cover their rears, and look for after the fact damage.

    So, worst case, collars go on. Can they be permanently de-activated if a court case went in that direction, not being a collar techie, I don’t know.

  20. Lawyers will have to debate the merits of contesting this and losing and setting a bad precedent for Wilderness. The least risky tack is to make it a NEPA case rather than a Wilderness Act case.

    For Layton, the collars and the landings hardly deface the Wilderness, just like a radio collar on your leg from the police would not deface you. There is the matter of freedom, however.

  21. avatar kt says:

    Pronghorn, I agree with you.

    I think too that DaveJ has hit the nail on the head. Pass on those frequencies … And they want to be able to tell if a wolf sets one paw outside the Wilderness boundary so that it can blasted away for thinking of depredating … something.

    This is all part of the Butch Otter public lands ranching culture War on Wildlife and real Wilderness.

  22. avatar Eric T. says:

    Don’t want them darting and farting around in the Wilderness?

    Quit suing.

  23. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Uh huh,
    That will keep them from doing bad things Eric T.

  24. avatar kt says:

    I know this has likely been discussed here before, but I can not remember: Are there devices now that pick up ANY radio frequency in the area? So that “hunters”, not knowing a particular frequency, could still locate a collared wolf?

  25. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Jim T – thanks

  26. avatar nabeki says:

    We all saw this coming. Apparently there is nothing they won’t stoop to when it comes to wolves. I hope you’re right Ralph and this becomes a wilderness issue. In the meantime there is no place safe for a wolf.

    http://howlingforjustice.wordpress.com

  27. avatar Cobra says:

    Just curious, I wonder if it might be cost effective to snow shoe or ski in to the Frank and dart wolves. I’m sure at 800.00 an hour for a helicopter that you may be able to spend a lot of time on the ground and get some collars on. It would be nice to have an idea just how many wolves are there. I don’t know the range of the modern dart guns so it may not be feasible.

  28. avatar Percy says:

    This makes me want to scream. And I am sad that some of you seem to think that the only value of wilderness in your mind is how it benefits humans, like JimT said. I consider it a place where people can visit as “guests” of the year-round residents. But the primary purpose should be to minimize human disturbance. It SHOULD be difficult to access the interior. It sounds like they have their heads so far up their asses that they think the only problem people have is with the helicopter landings. No, the point is that we don’t want our wolves collared like domestic animals! I want to know there are truly wild wolves out there, not being harassed and chased and shot with darts. If they have so much money to waste, why don’t they make themselves useful and get busy restoring habitat for wildlife. I think it is disgusting.

  29. avatar Cobra says:

    Percy,
    I don’t know if you have ever been snow shoeing or cross country skiing before but it is far from being easy. Even if they didn’t collar any wolves they could still get some kind of idea what the population and health is. I do not believe this would require darting either. It would be no different than you or anyone elses trips into the wilderness. By the way waht have you done to restore habitat lately?

  30. Cobra,

    In the past, they have been able to get an estimate of the number of wolves in the Frank and have even collared some of them.

    It is done by packing in on a horse with a trapper. Even if it takes the person all summer, the cost and wages/salary is much less than using helicopters. it is Wilderness compatible, and is a classic example of the perpetuation of traditional outdoor skills. In fact, Wilderness or not, until recently, and maybe even now, most Idaho wolves have been trapped and radio collared, not darted from aircraft.

    I find this superior to high tech laziness. Wilderness areas were created to maintain the conservative and tradition — the primitive. Even the grandfathered grass airstrips in the Frank Church are maintained by horses. The trails are cleared by handsaw, not power saws. Materials to build structures for essential sanitation and bridges are packed to the site.

    The propose of the Act is set forth in section 2 (a) of the Act.

    “Sec. 2. (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as “wilderness areas”, and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as “wilderness areas” except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.” [The boldface is mine.]

  31. nabeki,

    This is not just an issue of wolves. If they are allowed to do it for wolves, they will want to do for other animals, and for all kind of scientific and agency surveys, investigations, and administrative conveniences.

    Wilderness areas are very to to establish, and often unpleasant compromises were made to do it. Therefore, Wilderness interests are not likely to just give up on this.

  32. avatar JEFF E says:

    We have had this discussion before and it is clear that the state gives a rats ass about anything less than keeping the population at the bare minimum and that number contained within those areas which have no livestock grazing. Once it is established which numbers exist within the wilderness areas (with a fudge factor of 10-15% to account for those ((missed))), then every other wolf outside of those areas will be “managed”.
    It also gives the state the opportunity to have crews trained by the feds to take up where the feds leave off as such a time that delisting is finalized at whatever point in time that happens.
    In addition it will set the precedent that if, at some time there are more than the bare minimum numbers, even within the wilderness areas, then going in an “managing” them will not cause any (legal) problems.
    After all if the states are just benignly counting and collaring then how could that possibly cause anyone to be concerned??
    Snake oil salesmen.

  33. avatar JB says:

    Layton:

    The problem is that federal agencies manage the wilderness to provide opportunities for “solitude”. The use of motor vehicles in the wilderness diminishes these opportunities and the experience for wilderness visitors. Imagine if you traveled half way across the country to go back country camping in the wilderness only to have a helicopter fly low over your campsite.

  34. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Nabeki – no disrespect intended however, have you been asleep for the past several years – the federal government in this country is out of control and getting worse – the powers that be will do or say anything – break any agreement to increase their power or control over wolves and we the people. Everyday we have to endure lies about the economy/taxes/climate/health care etc. For them, telling the American public that they have decided to fly around a wilderness area is a piece of cake. And by the way, it is for “science” after all………

  35. avatar JimT says:

    TWB,

    Let us all keep in mind that yes, the Feds are often the last link in a bad decision making chain, but there are industry pressures, state official pressures, federal politician pressures that are equally culpable for such decisions as these. I don’t trust corporate interests and their lobbying tools anymore than BLM….

    BTW, it occurred to me as I was waking up that a 60 day notice would have to filed prior to any lawsuit. And since this is scheduled to begin in March…I don’t recall any particular date being in the article…it means that any group who wishes to look at this from a litigation standpoint has to muster its resources during the holiday season, and make a decision about whether or not it is a good idea. Don’t tell me this wasn’t calculated timing..it has happened too many times to too many enviro lawyers in past cases; the Feds announce, and the non profits scramble.

    I am hoping, Ralph, there is an APA claim here, or NEPA; I am reluctant to trust Western judges to make a substantive decision on access to federal wilderness. I sent this information off to Wildlife/Earth Guardians; we will see what happens from there. I also encourage folks to write their local groups, organize campaigns to tell federal politicians and those people at USFS what a bad idea this is.

  36. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    JimT – I do not discount the influence of corporations etc. My point is the federal government has control over tax policy, sending you or your children to war and clearly many other “areas” of our lives. Off to work – you guys have a great day.

  37. avatar Salle says:

    Many of the questions asked by those who were not participating in this blog earlier when this was first addressed can be answered by exploring the links Ralph provided at the bottom of his comments. The information at those locations is educational and helps to illustrate how this issue has progressed to this point.

  38. avatar Ken Cole says:

    There have been 30 wolves captured 33 times the old fashioned way. There is no reason, other than convenience, to approve this. Also, a wolf has already been captured using a helicopter in wilderness without any approval to do so.

    It is a very bad precedent that would be set here. I usually don’t think the slippery slope argument applies with most issues but this is one that I do think it applies to. There is no reason that the State of Idaho, or others, wouldn’t use this for chipping away at more protections for wilderness.

    This all seems at odds with the Idaho Wolf Management Plan too. The state plan basically says that monitoring efforts would be less intensive when the population is high. They complain constantly that there are too many wolves so why do they want to do this? The reason is clear, it is so they can document the minimum number of wolves in the wilderness and have free reign to “manage” wolves outside of the wilderness.

    It’s all about livestock. They have other means of monitoring wolves inside wilderness, specifically the howl boxes. This method is less invasive to wilderness values and will accomplish the same thing. But no, they have to violate the Wilderness Act instead.

    The IDFG has lost all credibility with me when it comes to managing wolves.

  39. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    Carl asks:

    have you seen a copy of the decision by the USFS? I’m curious what category they selected to justify this being a CE rather than a EA or EIS.

    we understand that the Forest is likely to claim that the Categorical Exclusion qualifies under 36 CFR 220.6(d)(8) ~ category 31.12, item 8 as “approval, modification, or continuation of minor, short-term (1 year or less) special uses of National Forest System Lands.” [36 CFR 220.6(d)(7)]

  40. avatar Salle says:

    I figured out that they had no credibility about a decade ago when I learned not to trust them for any reason. I was absolutely certain of it the first time I encountered Steve Nadeau, I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his manner of address that he was a liar and that the state intended to carry through the with eradication of wolves within the state and that the wilderness was nothing more than a thorn in their side. Dink Kempthorne was another tell-tale indicator along with the former Sen. widestance-Craig. Don’t forget, these clowns are now “advisors” that function under radar (or table-?) for the current regime.

    They are quite willing to bide their time and continue to chip away at any protections from rampant livestock/deforestation dominance and all public land designations, rules and management plans.

  41. avatar Layton says:

    JB,

    ” Imagine if you traveled half way across the country to go back country camping in the wilderness only to have a helicopter fly low over your campsite”

    SCORE!! I agree with your point 100%.

    So, is that maybe why they are doing this in March?? Or is it because the wolves are denning then and March is the best time to get the most data?

    Little old, naive me still thinks that it is the best idea to get more accurate data, with wolves or anything else. I guess it’s the engineer gene coming out.

    In March I don’t think that there will be even a handful of people in the whole multi million acre WA. If the effort continues into July or August then I would agree that it would be intrusive. I could also see observation flights happening the following Dec./Jan. to count pups, etc. They would have the collars and be able to observe WITHOUT landing.

    What’s the bottom line really?? Is it that the sanctity of the wilderness area is being disturbed?? Or is it just possible that the greenie side doesn’t WANT everyone to know how many wolves there really are.

  42. Layton,

    This isn’t a wolf issue. It’s a wilderness issue.

    I’d be interested in how many wolves there are, but it is just out of idle curiosity.

    We already know there are a fair number, and that’s good enough for wolf managers to make decisions.

    Helicopter darting in March is detrimental to wildlife and Wilderness because both the wolves and their prey are in the deep river canyons of the Wilderness. Helicopters chasing wolves all over the place are certainly harmful to elk, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. They will be sent running.

  43. I agree with Percy-
    I want wild wolves that are not treated as if they were domestic livestock. A wilderness area should not be violated by putting radio-collars on wolves whether they are installed by helicopter or by trapping. There is no real need to know exactly how many wolves there are in the Frank Church, unless those numbers are going to be used to justify shooting more wolves outside of the wilderness boundary.

  44. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Layton, this information can be obtained in other, less invasive ways that maintain the wilderness values spelled out in the Wilderness Act. The data can still be accurate without doing this. What is the NEED?

    Why do you think the “greenie side doesn’t WANT everyone to know how many wolves there really are”? We all know that the official count is a minimum number, it even says so in all of the documents. That’s a red herring.

    I think many have expressed their concerns about this and it has nothing to do with hiding information and it has everything to do with illegal incursions into the meaning of Wilderness. Those values are spelled out in law and this flies in the face of that.

    Wilderness is meant to be Wild not tamed and controlled. It’s not meant to be convenient. Just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

  45. avatar JB says:

    Layton:

    I have advocated many times for the continued study of wolves (including the use of radio and GPS collars); much to the consternation of some. I firmly believe that reliable population counts are the most basic information needed to set management policy.

    The processes used to estimate wildlife populations are almost always fraught with error. However, exact counts aren’t usually necessary; rather, biologists are interested in tracking population trends. The application of the same method year after year, ensures that any biases inherent in the method are at least applied equally to all estimates over time. Any time you change the method, you potentially introduce a new source of bias, which leaves you guessing: is the difference between estimate 1 and estimate 2 because of the change in methods or does it represent a “real” shift in the population? Thus, it is a pretty safe bet that IDF&G will seek to continue darting and collaring in the wilderness in future years (in order to keep the method consistent).

    FWS has been estimating wolf populations for 15 years without this kind of invasion of wilderness; why is it necessary now? More importantly, why would IDF&G–who loves to bitch about the cost of wolves–spend $800/hour on a helicopter to collar packs? Could it be that IDF&G is hoping their efforts will produce higher wolf estimates so they can justify killing more wolves? Could it be that they want the collars on packs so as to justify their removal via helicopter at a later date (for depredation, of course)?

    If the CE works for darting wolves in the wilderness, what is to prevent IDF&G from periodically using helicopters to kill wolves in the wilderness?

  46. avatar Layton says:

    Ken, You probably won’t believe it from me, but I have enjoyed a lot of time in the “Frank” and hope to enjoy more. However this “intrusion” doesn’t bother me.

    “what is the need” Well, I guess the need, to me at any rate, is an accurate counting of the wolves. I’m not usually one that wears a tinfoil hat and spouts conspiracy theories. But I can’t help but think that a lower total count of wolves in the state helps the “greenie” side of the wolf argument.

    It helps every org. that files another lawsuit over delisting. It aids in the argument about “genetic exchange” (talk about a red herring), and it helps when they start playing any kind of percentage games. It helps handpicked lawyers convince handpicked judges that there are not enough wolves right now and there can’t be without stopping any sort of control measures. I don’t believe that.

    You said:
    “I think many have expressed their concerns about this and it has nothing to do with hiding information and it has everything to do with illegal incursions into the meaning of Wilderness. Those values are spelled out in law and this flies in the face of that.”

    The law says:
    “Sec. 2. (a) In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as “wilderness areas”, and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as “wilderness areas” except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.”

    I don’t see how this proposed action will (referring to lands designated as wilderness) — “occupy or modify” or that it will somehow not “leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness”.

    I do see this as “gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use “.

    I really don’t see it as some sort of “illegal incursion into the meaning of Wilderness”, I see it as a quick, efficient means of gathering important information. It leaves no tracks, doesn’t harm any wilderness character — except for some noise for a few minutes — and is over and done with.

    Unless you really believe the OTHER tinfoil hat theory about the radio frequencies being passed out to every Tom, Dick and Harry with some sort of a warped desire to do damage to every wolf they can find. 8)

  47. avatar Salle says:

    I suspect that Layton is a troll, there to promote ridiculous arguments.

    Layton, your arguments are so uninformed. It seems that as long as a law represents your point of view, it has merit. If it doesn’t it’s either a conspiracy theory or hogwash. Pathetic.

  48. avatar Layton says:

    JB

    “Could it be that IDF&G is hoping their efforts will produce higher wolf estimates so they can justify killing more wolves? Could it be that they want the collars on packs so as to justify their removal via helicopter at a later date (for depredation, of course)?”

    I guess I could answer your question with one of my own. Could it be that IDF&G wants to know what the REAL numbers are so they can deal from a position of knowing rather than guessing??

    I really wish that we (me included) could just deal in FACTS. Fantasizing about this or that new (or old) deep, dark secret concerning wolves just wastes time and effort.

    Some of the folks that frequent this site wouldn’t believe anything F&G said if it came from behind a burning bush up on a mountain engraved in stone tablets.

    Conversely, I wouldn’t believe anything that comes from WWP or Defenders unless I could see it for myself, and even then I would doubt my vision.

    Hell of a dilemma.

  49. avatar Layton says:

    Morning salle,

    Sleep well?? 8)

  50. avatar Jay says:

    So is everyone also upset that IDFG surveys deer and elk back in the wilderness with a helicopter during winter? What about all the landing strips along the M. Fork Salmon? I can understand the sentiment, but whether folks like it or not, there’s plenty of machinery flying around back there throughout the year.

  51. avatar Ken Cole says:

    IDFG does not dart and collar deer and elk in this fashion. There is a big distinction between surveying and what is proposed here.

  52. avatar Jay says:

    No, they probably don’t, and probably don’t need to to survey population numbers. Wolves, on the other hand, don’t lend themselves to being surveyed by aerial survey methods…

  53. avatar Ken Cole says:

    But do they NEED to dart and collar wolves from a helicopter in the wilderness? I say NO because they have several other methods to monitor wolves in the wilderness that will give them the information that they do need.

  54. avatar kt says:

    Re: The CE – it sets precedent for a longer term “use”. Are the collars part of a study? Then the study will likely go on longer than a year, FG’s Wilderness-intrusion collaring program, will be never-ending.

    I wonder if this wasn’t something (a “red meat” issue) that Tidwell promised he would do to get Appointed. Promised the likes of Max Baucus and others …

    Like it sure looks like Bob Abbey at BLM promised he would do nothing about grazing or anything else, except aid and abet reckless RENEWABLES sprawl, large interstate gas pipelines like the Ruby gas line, etc.

  55. avatar JB says:

    “It helps every org. that files another lawsuit over delisting. It aids in the argument about “genetic exchange” (talk about a red herring), and it helps when they start playing any kind of percentage games.”

    Agreed. Were IDF&G were to suddenly “discover” that there were more wolves in the wilderness, it would hurt their position in these lawsuits. If genetic exchange is not occurring with 1,200 wolves (instead of 1,000), IDF&G’s plan to reduce the number of wolves to 500 is even more likely to reduce the possibility of future genetic exchange.

    Regardless, I agree with Ken. There is a huge difference between aerial (fly over) surveys of ungulates and darting and collaring any species. Personally, I don’t like the former either, but I understand its necessity. I see no necessity of darting and collaring wolves in the wilderness, especially when existing methods are cheaper and (at least for the past 15 years) have proven adequate.

    What has changed that makes this necessary?

  56. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    I can’t speak to the legal questions in this string, but I can provide Department perspective on wildlife managment in the FCW – or other wilderness areas. The state of Idaho, through the IDFG is the authority with responsibility for management of the public’s wildlife resources in the FCW. Monitoring the number and size of wolf packs in the FCW is one of the IDFG wildlife management responsibilities.

    Collaring wolves (or other wildlife species) is necessary to adequately understand the population status of that species – to meet our management objectives – whether inside or outside wilderness areas. Idaho wolf population management objectives inside the FCW are important for other wildlife management objectives – elk production/recruitment and elk hunting opportunity are several important management objectives.
    This string includes several comments to the effect that the IDFG may/must be looking to justify a higher reduction of wolf numbers outside the FCW, if it can show a high number of wolves inside the FCW. That is not one of the management objectives in the Idaho wolf management plan. The Department simply desires and needs the best population data we can get to make sound wildlife management decisions – adjusting wolf and elk hunting seasons and successfully conducting other wildlife management actions in our programs. Helicopters are an integral tool in our big game management programs – deer, elk, moose, wolves and others. Being able to dart and collar wolves in the course of our big game aerial censusing flights will yield better wolf population data that will allow us to make reliable wolf management decisions based on more accurate information. Wolf trapping alone is not adequate to give us the number of collars or distribution of collars to provide the accuracy and precision of wolf population data that is needed to accurately account for the number and size of wolf packs in the FCW. We know we have chronically underestimated wolf numbers in the state in part due to the inherent difficulties of collecting data in large back-country areas like the FCW. The use of helicopters in the FCW will result in better wolf population data for more reliable wolf management decisions.

  57. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    “Agreed. Were IDF&G were to suddenly “discover” that there were more wolves in the wilderness, it would hurt their position in these lawsuits. If genetic exchange is not occurring with 1,200 wolves (instead of 1,000), IDF&G’s plan to reduce the number of wolves to 500 is even more likely to reduce the possibility of future genetic exchange.”

    I’m not sure what your point is about genetic exchange. Genetic exchange has been verified for the wolf population (numbers) we had in the NRMR in 2008 – fewer wolves than we have today.

  58. avatar Dusty Roads says:

    Mark says

    “…to meet our management objectives– whether inside or outside wilderness areas.”

    “This string includes several comments to the effect that the IDFG may/must be looking to justify a higher reduction of wolf numbers outside the FCW, if it can show a high number of wolves inside the FCW. That is not one of the management objectives in the Idaho wolf management plan.”

    “The Department simply desires…”

    “The use of helicopters in the FCW will result in better wolf population data for more reliable wolf management decisions.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. You have no real need to violate the wilderness, period.

  59. avatar Save bears says:

    Dusty says:

    “Sorry, I don’t buy it”

    Now is THAT a surprise or what!

  60. avatar JB says:

    “I’m not sure what your point is about genetic exchange. Genetic exchange has been verified for the wolf population (numbers) we had in the NRMR in 2008 – fewer wolves than we have today.”

    Mark: Read the lawsuit. Oh, forget it, here:

    “Exacerbating FWS’s failure to recognize the significance of “unoccupied” habitat for wolf dispersals, FWS again cast aside concerns about the genetic future of northern Rockies wolves. Based on a handful of wolf dispersals, FWS speculated that genetic exchange among subpopulations will be adequate in the future. Genetic exchange is an essential component of FWS’s northern Rockies [17] gray wolf recovery goal, yet was lacking at the time of FWS’s first delisting effort just one year ago. See Defenders, 565 F. Supp. 2d. at 70-71. ‘[T]he chance of future genetic exchange is lessened considerably [by delisting] because more wolves will be killed under state management plans than under the ESA. It stands to reason that fewer wolves means less opportunity for dispersal and hence less chance for genetic exchange.’ Id. at 1171.”

    Spin on…

  61. avatar JB says:

    Sorry, forgot the citation:

    Defenders of Wildlife et al. v. Salazar. Case No. CV-09-77-M-DWM, August 20, 2009, District of Montana.

  62. avatar JB says:

    “We know we have chronically underestimated wolf numbers in the state in part due to the inherent difficulties of collecting data in large back-country areas like the FCW. The use of helicopters in the FCW will result in better wolf population data for more reliable wolf management decisions.”

    Okay: (a) IDF&G “knows” that they have “chronically underestimated wolf numbers”, and (b) they have stated that they want to manage the population for 500 wolves. Thus, if their assumption that there are more wolves in the FCW is true, you can damn well bet that the net result will be more wolves killed (sorry) “managed”.

    “This string includes several comments to the effect that the IDFG may/must be looking to justify a higher reduction of wolf numbers outside the FCW, if it can show a high number of wolves inside the FCW.”

    If I insinuated that wolf numbers outside of the FCW would be managed based upon estimates inside the FCW then I apologize. What I mean to suggest is that IDF&G has made it clear that 500 is the magic number. Thus, if IDF&G estimates a greater number of wolves in the FCW (Federal land that belongs to everyone), then I’m suggesting more wolves will be killed.

  63. avatar JEFF E says:

    Mark,
    If I may distill everything you said down to one “manageable” word;
    Bullshit

  64. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JB

    So would it be your position that everything alleged by plaintiffs in the Defenders suit cited above is true, without reading the Answer of the defendants?

  65. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JB

    And, would it also be your position that the “experts” called upon in the first suit, as well as this one – I am thinking of Dr. Mech, Bangs, Sime, Nadeau, D. Smith, and a few others who are federal agency representatives – are not telling the truth about genetic connectivity?

    We haven’t seen their statements (affidavits or other written statements of factual proof) in this round yet, but with another two years of data under their belts and even more wolves in the NRM, it would seem reasonable that their opinions would likely not be more conservative. And then there are the misprepesented results of the VonHoldt/Wayne model that Defenders used in the first round – troubling, in my view, as it gets even more scrutiny, by a judge who has been educated a little better.

  66. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Genetic exchange has been verified for the wolf population (numbers) we had in the NRMR in 2008 – fewer wolves than we have today.

    When was this verified Mark?

  67. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    I should also ask where?

  68. JB wrote:

    “What I mean to suggest is that IDF&G has made it clear that 500 is the magic number. Thus, if IDF&G estimates a greater number of wolves in the FCW (Federal land that belongs to everyone), then I’m suggesting more wolves will be killed.”

    Granted I could be wrong, but that’s the most likely reason for the FCW radio collaring. I came to believe that a couple months ago when this was proposed.

    IDF & G does not have the funds to satisfy a mere curiousity about how many wolves exactly are inside the Frank Church Wilderness. They are hurting for money just like everyone else.

    There are so obviously more than 500 wolves in Idaho that the count does not have to be exact unless it is part of an effort to actively drop it to 500 or fewer.

    I’ll be arguing that.

  69. To all interested. Please note the news story update I have added to the main body of the post.

  70. avatar Nathan Hobbs says:

    Let me jump in here on something that has been really bugging me as I read threads here,

    Having someone from a government agency allowed to speak in a formal capacity and represent an agency in a online presence such as this is very very awesome.

    I am glad for Marks presence and his ability to deliver thoughts straight from the internal workings of the agency. I hope more agencies will join the discussion.

    While we may not agree with IDFG, I feel our responses directed towards Mark and the Idaho Fish and Game that he is representing could be much more diplomatic.

    Why chase a guest such as this out the door with obscenities and mean remarks? The remarks Mark gives are official positions and statements of a government and its policies. They are not going to concede or offer one bit of ground here to argument.

    Anyways I do not have any capacity here, but its just my thoughts on the matter as I have read many of the comments responding to whatever Mark (IDFG) posts.

  71. avatar JB says:

    Muse:

    These are the same experts that suggested that the estimated number of wolves is low. If this is the case (i.e. the FWS estimate is currently low) and genetic exchange is low to non existent with…say…1500? wolves (instead of the estimated ~850) what does this say about the potential for genetic exchange when the population is reduced to ~500?

    – – – – –

    Personally, I think the 500 number is likely adequate to sustain wolves (I’ve said this multiple times), but my opinion on the matter doesn’t really mean squat. It is all about how the court will view the FWS’ decision to delist. If they employ a method that allows them to count more wolves and the goal is 500, then they are going to kill more wolves. You can bet the judge will be asking how this will potentially affect genetic exchange, especially when they’ve had trouble showing that there is any.

  72. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JB

    I am a bit disappointed, but not surprised, you would not answer my direct questions, about allegations of a complaint and the positions of the “experts” who have been studying and monitoring the NRM wolves since before reintroduction in 1995. Especaillly after using a quote from the current lawsuit complaint to challenge Mark Gamblin.

    _______________

    Your follow-up statement:
    ++These are the same experts that suggested that the estimated number of wolves is low. If this is the case (i.e. the FWS estimate is currently low) and genetic exchange is low to non existent with…say…1500? wolves (instead of the estimated ~850) what does this say about the potential for genetic exchange when the population is reduced to ~500++

    Did any of those experts say that? Maybe your first sentence is a typo – estmated population is lower or higher. From what I have read the experts have consistently said they have UNDER-ESTIMATED the number of wolves. And, they have stated that they are virtually certain of genetic exchange based on several factors, but were unable to verify back in 2008 (using 2007 data) because in order to do so you need to do DNA testing which apparently requires locating, darting and doing blood tests on individual wolves. I do not know they have retreated from this position, and convention says they now have two more years of data in which to prove their assertion. In addition, the current proposal to use helicopters in the Frank Church is an effort to provide more opportunity to gather data in the future.
    __________________

    I am more inclined at this point, without the benefit of reading the Summary Judgement briefing, to believe Judge Molloy will rule on the basis of legal sufficiency of the definition of a DPS and FWS’ use of an NRM DPS to delist, and whether they can do so without delisting in WY (legal issues which he decides as a matter of law in his role of judge). He could dispose of the case on legal grounds alone, and it is possible he never reaches the issue of whether the number of wolves and genetic connectivity is sufficient for delisting ( a factual issue which he decides in his role as a finder of fact – instead of a jury).

  73. avatar JimT says:

    Mark of IDFG,

    Wilderness protections take precedence over the convenience to you to get “better numbers” to “effectively manage”…(kill?) the population of wolves in FCW through the forbidden use of helicopters. The words “slippery slope” come to mind here. One use here, another “justified elsewhere”, other states pointing to this case as precedence for their own use of motorized vehicles and helicopters….and please, all of us collectively here have had enough experience with state agencies, and interest groups, to see where this will go.

    I am hoping that all the contacts folks on this blog and others are making with decision makers and litigation groups will stop this CE nonsense in its tracks. Do your jobs within the constraints of the Wilderness Act. It was never meant to make life easy on folks who enjoy the beauty and solitude of these wild places. That includes the State of Idaho.

  74. avatar bob jackson says:

    I agree with Ralph. IG&F nor any other state G&F has enough money to justify “curiousity”. Marks call for “better management decisions” can only mean motives to look for behind the smoke screen he puts forth.

    Nathan,

    I hope you are not being influenced on your “thank my lucky stars the pope (MG and G&F) has spoken to me directly” as reason for putting MG and the rest of “govt.” on an elevated platform.

    Everyone evolutionary is drawn to structure and infrastructure. Its just that structure in natures world reacts faster to faulty non working elements than present days dysfunctional govt or corporate “families”. Competition, whether between territories of competing extended families or between species is always evolving…and those individuals belonging to these infrastructures can choose the path they want to follow. You, or no other modern day civilized world human being has the stability of evolutionaries blood related systems. Thus we all are more vulnerable to larger (ie govt.) infrastructures to emotionally cling on to.

    As long as we understand this we can be more objective in evaluating functionality of structure and infrastructure around us. Plus, we then can procede down this ladder of infrastructure to analyis all the players in these infrastructures. Finally we get to ourselves for outside the box introspection.

    Some of the people on this site, ie Salle (tell me if I am wrong, Salle), understand govt. structure is dysfunctional and should not be put on that pope stand. He understands how these individuals (ie MG) are formed and then are collectively poured into a vat of slurry….. That the contents of this vat are then sucked down and then out of a clockwise whirlpool (that is if you are in the N. Hemisphere) to be deposited at the desks of assorted dysfunctional regional G&F (Idaho in this case) and Yellowstone Park administrative offices (in my case).

    Yes, there are human infrastructures out there where there is functional “common cause” propelling them on. But one needs to assess each of them before falling into believing it is best to go with the ones with the largest infrastructure (ie govt and large corp.).

    To me the advantage of “listening” to someone such as Mark is to see the illogical statements and assessments he makes. He is so intrenched in a support system around him he can’t see the folly of what he is writing.

    Being around a dysfunctional govt. of Yellowstone for 30 years I’d have to say MG, as a $40/hr. regional employee, has his sights set on advancement to even “higher” aspirations.

    His “patience” with us is very acceptable to him because he either sees being head of public affairs (media spokesman) or more likely yet head of a state G&F department. As I said before everyone on this site is a guinea pig to the collective “him”.

    Yes, I am maybe a bit hard on the INDIVIDUAL but most are just androids. In Yellowstone administration the figurative sweep of the back of the hand to one meant they all tumbled down the stairwell. Saying it about one individual is saying it in reverse about the collective unit he is part of. By bringing in the “individual” hopefully it is easier for the message to sink home.

  75. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JimT

    You might want to know that helicopters are used in Wilderness more than you think – even Wilderness within national parks. I understand, they are used, sparingly, for fire suppression, routine communications maintenance (like radio repeater stations, etc.), emergency response and a host of other tasks. Somehow a two week window in March (very low use time for visitors) does not seem by any standard oppressive, or unreasonable. If it was in violation of the Wilderness Act, I am going to guess it would have been challenged, as Marvel threatens to do, long before now.

    And since the purpose for which IDFG plans to do it it is to assist in meeting an obligation of yet another Federal law, the ESA wolf delisting, it would seem all the more need for the Forest Service to work with its sister agency in Dept. of Interior, FWS and its contracting management partners , the state game/wildlife departments.

  76. avatar Maska says:

    It would be nice if the Forest Service were as quick to jump in and help its sister agency (USFWS) actually recover endangered species through its management policies (e.g. grazing management in the range of the Mexican gray wolf–see example below)* as it is to waive provisions of the Wilderness Act to allow mechanized tracking and collaring up north.

    *****************

    *Gila NF grazing allotment annual operating instructions for 2008 contained the following exhortation:

    “I encourage you to notify the District upon discovery of any livestock carcasses. If a carcass is within an area that is currently occupied by gray wolves, carcass removal or treatment may assist in mitigation of livestock/wolf interaction, and habituation to livestock as a food source.”

    In the 2009 operating instructions, even this mild suggestion for voluntary cooperation on the part of permittees no longer appears.

    Unfortunately, although I copied that statement directly from the 2008 instructions for the Canyon del Buey allotment, formerly posted on the Gila NF website, a recent search of the site revealed that only the 2009 instructions are now posted, thus I’m unable to provide a link to the old ones. The 2009 instructions for this particular allotment can be found here:

    http://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5085793.pdf

    The same wording appeared on 2008 operating instructions for other allotments in the Gila, and no longer appears in 2009.

  77. avatar jerryB says:

    Unless one spends countless days/weeks in wilderness areas, some that comment here are never going to understand what the term “wilderness” really means.
    It’s next to useless to try and defend something that the Joe Liebermans of the world are willing to have taken away from us.
    Hell, I can’t even ride a mountain bike in those areas and yes, if I was the only one within 100 miles in a wilderness area in March and the chopper “invaded my space”, I’d be pissed.
    Go, Jon Marvel….sue the bastards to protect what we have.
    Bob Jackson……you know what it’s like back there…thanks for your comments.

  78. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB – You quoted “the” lawsuit. I’m not clear on WHICH lawsuit you referenced, nontheless this particular quote is out of date and the strength of it’s logic borders on irrelevance.
    “…..FWS again cast aside concerns about the genetic future of northern Rockies wolves. Based on a handful of wolf dispersals, FWS speculated that genetic exchange among subpopulations will be adequate in the future. ”
    If this is the current legal challenge to the last USFWS delisting decision, the quote ignores crucial science the USFWS relied on to respond to the argument that genetic connectivity is jeapardized by state management of wolves. I refer you to the USFWS delisting decision document (Final Rule to Establish a Gray-Wolf-Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment and Remove from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Species, April 2, 2009) pg 229-231:
    “Genetic Considerations – Currently, genetic diversity throughout the NRM DPS is very high (Forbes and Boyd 1996, p. 1084; Forbes and Boyd 1997, p. 226; vonHoldt et. al. 2007, p. 19; vonHoldt et. al. 2008). Contemporary statistics for genetic diversity from 2002-2004 for central Idaho, northwestern Montana, and the GYA, respectively are; n= 85, 104, 210; allelic diversity = 9.5, 9.1, 10.3; heterozygosity = 0.723, 0.650, 0.708; expected heterzygosity = 0.767, 0.728, 0.738. (vonHoldt et. al. 2008). These measures have not diminished since 1995. The high allelic diversity (a measure of the richness of genetic material available for natural selection to act on) and the high heterozygosity (a measure of how gene forms are packaged in an individual, with high heterozygosity tending to lead to higher fitness) demonstrate all subpopulations withing the NRM wolf populations have high standing levels of genetic variability. In short, wolves in northwestern Montana and both the reintroduced populations are as genetically diverse as their vast, secure, healthy, contiguous, and connected populations in Canada; thus, inadequate genetic diversity is not a wolf conservation issue in the NRM at this time (Forbes and Boyd 1997, p. 1089; vonHoldt et. al. 2007, p. 19; vonHoldt et. al. 2008). This genetic helath is the result of deliberate management actions by the Service and it’s cooperators since 1995 (Bradley et. al. 2005).”
    “Genetic exchange at one effective migrant (i.e., a breeding migrant that passes on its genes) per generation is enough to ensure that genetic diversity will remain high (Mills 2007, p. 193).”
    “While vonHoldt et. al. (2007) found no evidence of gene flow int0o YNP, an expanded analysis by vonHoldt et al. (2008) has demonstrated gene flow by naturally dispersing wolves from other recovery areas into the GYA.”

    Wolf genetic diversity in the NRMR is high and has been since at least 1995. Wolves are remarkably prolific and very adaptive dispersers – individuals routinely moving hundreds of miles. No more than one breeding individual (usually dispersing females) per generation sharing its genes with a “foreign” population is required to maintain genetic diversity and prevent inbreeding depression in a wolf population. The likelyhood of NRM wolf populations failing to maintain genetic diversity under state management plans is extremely remote.

  79. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ralph –
    “IDF & G does not have the funds to satisfy a mere curiousity about how many wolves exactly are inside the Frank Church Wilderness. They are hurting for money just like everyone else.
    There are so obviously more than 500 wolves in Idaho that the count does not have to be exact unless it is part of an effort to actively drop it to 500 or fewer. ”

    Knowing with greater accuracy and precision the number of wolf packs and the size of wolf packs inside and outside the FCW is necessary to better understand the status of wolves in that geographic area, accurately adjust wolf hunting seasons to responsibly meet wolf population management objectives, better understand the interaction of wolves and prey (elk e.g.) – to name a few. The notion that it is not necessary to have an exact estimate of wolf numbers in the FCW unless the purpose is to reduce wolf numbers is partly correct. It is necessary to know the number of wolves in order to responsibly achieve the population management objective. Those data are also necessary to understand a variety of importnat ecological relationships among wolves and between wolves, other wildlife populations and their environment. I don’t want to believe that anyone in this blog community would sincerely argue against better scientific data for management of wildlife populations, including wolves – inside or outside a wilderness area.

  80. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    No apologies necessary. I understood your point to be that the/an ultimate objective is to achieve the state wolf management plan population objective of approximately 500 wolves. From a practical, pragmatic perspective I think it would be fair to say that the IDFG will be incouraged if we can simply cap the population growth of wolves and begin to reduce the number of wolves in key wolf management zones to achieve the balance between wolves, elk and other wildlife species and reduce wolf predation impacts on private property.

  81. avatar JW says:

    Mark Gamblin,
    you lose a lot of us when you say pop growth of wolves. While they may need to be reduced in certain areas (hopefully on private land and not using WS tax paying money) wolves are the only species where the number 800 (or whatever) really matters. Cougars might be hunted but there isn’t a panic when they reach 1K, 2K, 3K…
    Many of us feel helpless when the game (or better yet hunting) commission (in any state for that matter) make decisions based on pure numbers. Esp. with a territorial animal that more or less limits its own numbers anyway.
    And obviously the balance that you refer to is to shoot a lot of wolves so humans can shoot a lot more elk…

  82. avatar JW says:

    Sorry Mark…
    To summarize: I mean that you lose a lot of people when you want to cap their numbers (not their growth) – which I guess is one and the same.

  83. Mark Gamlin,

    Here is the trouble with your argument. They are the wrong species giving your resources, even if one grants the department has a benign intention.

    Idaho Fish and Game has an interest in proper management of all carnivores, so the appropriate season can be set and rules for hunting and other management rules promulgated. To do this it needs data on population size and distribution.

    However, the department has been satisfied with crude estimates of the number of cougar and bears, both of which are more difficult to detect and follow as individuals than wolves.

    Knowledge gained from radio collaring these animals seems much more important than wolves because far less is currently known and their number is said to be greater than wolves.

    In addition the effects of cougar and bears on elk and deer is probably much greater than wolves because their numbers are higher, although that is hard to say because we really don’t know their numbers.

    So if animals in Wilderness are to be monitored in the same way criminals under house arrest are — radio collars — the department plans to collar the wrong kind of animals.

  84. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JW

    Seems to me they are not really one and the same. There are several factors – numbers, rate of growth, distribution and ability affect change through management (which in some cases means hunting thru harvest, or eliminating problem wolves) in conjunction with other wildlife objectives.

    Then you could overlay on the wolf numbers, age distribution, genetic connectivity, and issues of pack structure which seems to be important to learning to co-exist with humans and domestic animals, conflict free, in an ever more crowded environment.

    ……but yeah, you’re right it practically boils down to numbers.

  85. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Nathan, and others –
    I do appreciate the patience and civility of most in this community with my often unwelcome clarifications and explanations. Again, my intent is indeed to represent the IDFG and Commission to help understand Commission and Department wildlife management policy, programs and decisions – and to correct mischaracterizations and misconceptions that cloud effective dialog on these very imortant public interest topics.

  86. avatar kt says:

    Mark Gamblin: The “cloud” is in the political interference and tampering from Butch Otter’s Farm Bureau and SFW-run state gov’t/oligarchy.

  87. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    kt

    The interesting thing about democracy is that votes determine who is in office in the administrative and legislative branches of state government. Those who feel disenfranchised, as we all seem to from time to time, need to understand governments typically reflect the public will at the time.

  88. avatar JB says:

    “I am a bit disappointed, but not surprised, you would not answer my direct questions, about allegations of a complaint and the positions of the “experts” who have been studying and monitoring the NRM wolves since before reintroduction in 1995…”

    WM: I’m sorry if you are disappointed. My intent isn’t to be evasive but to avoid criticizing people whom I respect because we have a difference of opinion. I’ll leave it at that.

    “Did any of those experts say that? Maybe your first sentence is a typo – estmated population is lower or higher. From what I have read the experts have consistently said they have UNDER-ESTIMATED the number of wolves.”

    I think we’re saying the same thing (i.e. population estimates are low/populations have been underestimated).

    “And, they have stated that they are virtually certain of genetic exchange based on several factors, but were unable to verify back in 2008 (using 2007 data) because in order to do so you need to do DNA testing which apparently requires locating, darting and doing blood tests on individual wolves.”

    Yes they did; but just because Dave Mech says it, doesn’t make it so.

    “… the current proposal to use helicopters in the Frank Church is an effort to provide more opportunity to gather data in the future.”

    Certainly! But the questions I’m asking are: (A) to what purpose will this data be put?; and (B) what necessitates its collection? Wolves in the NRs are among the most intensively studied and monitored wildlife populations anywhere in the world. IDF&G would have us believe that current efforts are not sufficient. Why? What is their motive?

    “I am more inclined …to believe Judge Molloy will rule on the basis of legal sufficiency of the definition of a DPS and FWS’ use of an NRM DPS to delist…”

    Agreed. I think he has made it clear that this will likely be the deciding factor. However, that does not render IDF&G’s efforts irrelavant.

  89. avatar JEFF E says:

    WM,
    the fish and game commission of Idaho is not elected, rather is appointed by Clem, who has a view of wolves that probably all knows or should.
    To say that this body makes unbiased decisions in respect to wolves is at best laughable.
    I would ask Brian to again post the video where the commissars mention that they believe there is a way to circumvent the wilderness act and use helicopters but should not discuss that in public.
    (so as not have to answer to the public)

  90. avatar JB says:

    “I’m not clear on WHICH lawsuit you referenced, nontheless this particular quote…”

    Mark: I provided the citation in the post immediately following the quote.

    “The likelyhood of NRM wolf populations failing to maintain genetic diversity under state management plans is extremely remote.”

    Perhaps; that all depends upon how aggressively you all manage wolves. My point is that if the exchange of genetic material is low with a lot of wolves (how many do you think there really are?), what is the potential for exchange when both Montana and Idaho significantly reduce wolf populations, especially given the near collapse of wolf populations in YNP?

    Regardless, since you asserted that population monitoring in the FCW will be used to set wolf population management objectives, it would be great if you could elaborate on exactly what this means. Specifically, if IDF&G finds that it is overestimating the number of wolves in the FCW will they reduce harvest in that area? Also, I’d like to know specifically how IDF&G will respond should a resident pack of the FCW kill livestock. Can you guarantee that radio-collars will not be used by WS to track and kill wolves within the boundaries of the FWC? Can you guarantee that helicopters will not be used to kill wolves within the boundaries of the wilderness?

  91. avatar JB says:

    “Those who feel disenfranchised, as we all seem to from time to time, need to understand governments typically reflect the public will at the time.”

    This is a great observation. However, the validity of your statement turns on how you define “public”. Under the NA Model, state management agencies only need respond to state citizens (one definition of “the public”). However, Federal lands belong to everyone (i.e. all U.S. residents; another definition of “the public”). I submit that much of the consternation of folks that support wolves (myself included) stems from our systematic disenfranchisement in decisions regarding the uses of federal public lands, especially as they relate to wildlife, which are made almost entirely by states for SOME state citizens.

    Jeff’s comment is also valid. The legislature may be democratically elected, but the commission certainly isn’t. In a state like Idaho (where there is an extreme skew to political affiliation), the minority view is effectively disenfranchised.

  92. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ralph –
    The impact of cougars and bears on elk and other ungulate prey species is much less than that of wolves. Wolves are highly productive, are socially organized to amplify reproductive fitness, predatory effectiveness and inertia and they have a near obligate focus on individual prey species such as elk, deer or moose – depending on the diversity and abundance of each of those species. Those ecological attributes make wolves hugely more important as a predatory limitation to the abundance and vigor of wolf prey species than are cougars or bears.
    That reality is precisely why a greater emphasis on wolf population monitoring and estimation, than for cougars or bears, is necessary. The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth. That myth has very important implications for the successful accommodation and management of the inevitable social controversy that arises from those conflicts.

  93. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    Yep, I missed the citation. I should have paid closer attention to your next post.
    To be clear, the exchange of genetic material within the NRM wolf population is not low. It is high with wolf numbers that varied from pre-1995 levels to the present. This is a continuing misconception that “clouds” informed dialog for this topic.

  94. avatar JB says:

    Mark: Only a short time ago you chastised me for speculating on how IDF&G’s planned reduction in wolf numbers would impact other species. Specifically, you said:

    “If you believe that you or anyone else knows what the ecological impact of wolves will be on the landscape at any density, I will welcome your assessment.”

    Now you claim:

    “The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

    Are you now suggesting that you know how wolves will impact the ecology of elk and other prey species? Do you have some information on how wolves impact “elk and other prey species” that you are not sharing? The reason I ask is that the scientific literature I have seen suggest the relationship between wolves and their prey is extremely complex and will vary based upon a host of factors. Yet your quote dismissed this evidence and (seemingly) implies that wolves will always “profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species”.

    On what evidence is your claim based?

  95. avatar JW says:

    “The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

    Interesting comment considering that wolves and elk/prey coexisted for 1000s of years before white men and rifle came along. Also, what about the studies that show grizzlies taking over 5 times more elk calves than wolves in Yellowstone – without grizzlies in ID (thanks to Kempthorne) I agree with JB’s post above – where is the evidence.

  96. avatar Elk275 says:

    ++Jeff’s comment is also valid. The legislature may be democratically elected, but the commission certainly isn’t. In a state like Idaho (where there is an extreme skew to political affiliation), the minority view is effectively disenfranchised.++

    In Montana only the public utility and state lands commission is elected. The state lands commission is made up of the heads of the 5 highest elected state offices. The Board of Regents, Highway Commission, and all other commissions are appointed by the governor. I have never heard about the need or desire to elect commissioners for each and every commission.

    This is the first time that I have ever heard that we should elect the fish and game commission. If they elected the fish and game commissioners based on districts are those in the minority going to get elected — I doubt it. I have for sometime thought that this might be a good idea. There are seven fish and game districts in Montana and each district could elect a commissioner for a 4 year term.

  97. avatar Cutthroat says:

    Ralph says:

    “If you want to contact the deciding official, that is regional forester Harv Forsgren”

    Not sure if contact info has been provided to date on this post…Scott Phillips provides in his comments to Mtn. Express article as hforsgren@fs.fed.us.

  98. avatar Jay says:

    Mark, to say wolves are more detrimental than bears, and specifically cougars, is outright bull. Do a little literature review, and you’ll find that cougars and wolves have very similar kill rates on a per/animal basis. So if the state estimates are correct in there being roughly 2500 lions and 1000 wolves, than who is eating more elk and deer? And this “near obligate focus” on deer, elk, and moose by wolves? Are you implying lions turn to grass, roots, and leaves from time to time? If anything, lions are undoubtedly more tied to “large” prey, although both predators will eat small game. One other thing you fail to mention, wolf predation is more compensatory than lion predation, so again, you want to say it’s all the wolves fault? I’m not trying to demonize lions here, they are awesome critters, but your wolf bias is showing in that statement.

  99. Mark Gamlin wrote-

    ++The impact of cougars and bears on elk and other ungulate prey species is much less than that of wolves. Wolves are highly productive, are socially organized to amplify reproductive fitness, predatory effectiveness and inertia and they have a near obligate focus on individual prey species such as elk, deer or moose – depending on the diversity and abundance of each of those species. Those ecological attributes make wolves hugely more important as a predatory limitation to the abundance and vigor of wolf prey species than are cougars or bears.

    Mark, This statement doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, of course, wolves have a near obligate focus on elk, deer, or moose, but so do cougar. Cougar don’t eat mice or berries. In fact some research shows that each cougar takes slightly more deer and elk than the individual wolf eats. After all they are slightly larger than wolves.

    Wolves do have a social organization that makes them effective predators. Cougar don’t need that. As a result, wolves are more likely to improve the herd by culling out the defective animals. For cougar it is more a matter of optimum ambush position than a weak ungulate.

    But regardless, Idaho Fish and Game doesn’t have nearly the information on cougar numbers and distribution that it has on wolves. If you do have it, if I am wrong, please post it because it would be valuable information for the web. Therefore, this kind of research (radio collaring) should be going to the more secretive cougar.

    Black bears are, of course, omnivorous. As a result, they can withstand scarcity of deer and elk calves, but, nevertheless, they can and do take many calves. There needs to be research as to their population size and distribution because, like cougar, they are more difficult to count than wolves.

    Regarding the importance of bears are as predators of elk calves, please read “Elk Calf Survival and Mortality Following Wolf Restoration to Yellowstone National Park” (2008) Barber-Meyer; Mech; White. Journal of Wildlife Mangement

  100. avatar Jay says:

    Ralph–lions may be bigger (on average), but I’ll bet you a 6-pack they don’t have the same energetics that a wolf does, meaning they’re probably more efficient, food-wise.

  101. Jay,

    What you say makes good sense. Nevertheless, I read otherwise. I’m trying to find the article, but need to go for my afternoon outdoors fix now til dark.

  102. avatar JB says:

    Jay, Ralph:

    Danz (1999) claims that males “often weigh more than 145 pounds” while some exceed 200, and females are about 20% smaller. Also, I recall reading that cougars are fond of “fresh” kills and are much less likely to scavenge carcasses than wolves or bears. The fact that they are ambush predators also means that their kills should be relatively non-selective relative to the health of individual prey (as opposed to wolves which tend to prey on sick, weak, or otherwise vulnerable animals).

    I don’t claim to have any special expertise in this area, but I find it hard to believe that 1,000 wolves outkill 2,000 cougars. Especially given that packs should be able to more efficiently consume prey than solitary individuals. Perhaps Mark can elaborate on his logic. (Sorry to bombard you with questions, Mark).

  103. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ralph, JB, Jay –
    It may help to frame the context of my response to Ralph’s comment:
    “In addition the effects of cougar and bears on elk and deer is probably much greater than wolves because their numbers are higher, although that is hard to say because we really don’t know their numbers.”
    Interpretion of the phrase “the effects of cougar and bears on elk and deer….” is important. I referred to the effect of wolf predation on elk numbers (for this discussion) in YNP or Idaho outside of the park, compared to the impact of cougars and bears. Frankly, I don’t have the data to back up my broad statement, so for now – I agree with Ralph, JB and Jay: I don’t have a basis for the statement. The cummulative effect of cougar, bear and wolf predation on elk (or deer) populations is not a 1+1+1=3 relationship. I’ll think more about this and discuss with my professional advisors.
    In the broader context – I see the question being:
    Is there a need or justification for better wolf population data in the FCW for the purpose of wolf and other wildlife population management? Wolves in YNP and in the Lolo and Sawtooth wolf management zones in Idaho are know to have caused a substantial decline in elk numbers. Reducing the additive mortality of wolf predation on elk in the FCW is one wolf management objective that will benefit from more accurate wolf population estimates.

  104. avatar JB says:

    Mark: Can we infer from your comment– “reducing the additive mortality of wolf predation on elk in the FCW is one wolf management objective that will benefit from more accurate wolf population estimates” –that the intent of IDF&G’s new wilderness population monitoring efforts is indeed to reduce wolf populations?

    And I need to ask this question again: Will IDF&G allow WS to use radio collars to track and kill wolves in the FCW?

  105. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Jeff E

    Your comment:
    ++WM,
    the fish and game commission of Idaho is not elected, rather is appointed by Clem, who has a view of wolves that probably all knows or should.
    To say that this body makes unbiased decisions in respect to wolves is at best laughable.++

    I probably should have continued with the detail that elected officials in the administrative branch of government, in consultation with the legislature (usually high level appointments in a state require vetting of some sort sometimes including senate confirmation). So, in effect if you win the election you get to choose how your administration runs things. And, of course we have seen at the national level over the last eight years how devestating that can be.

    However, if I recall correctly in most states including ID, Game Commission appointments have staggered and overalapping terms, which allows carryover and continuity to some extentfrom one administration to another. Again, back to kt’s disappointment. The fact is the winner(s) get to choose, and those of us in the minority position are left with the consequences and the feeling of disinfranchisement. But it is still democracy however ugly the view for some of us.

  106. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JB, Jeff

    I think we are in general agreement that there is tension in “who is the public” in the state and national contexts. We are not as regards how to resolve it. At the risk of going too far off topic, we should still remember we are a unity of states – The United States (emphasis on individual states). This, of course, gets us into the whose land is it, anyway, and who has the responsiblity to manage the wildlife on it, and who, in the end gets to decide? Difficult areas for sure. I am not inclined to believe state – federal relationships are going to get better anytime soon.

  107. avatar Salle says:

    This seems to be a situation where the federal agency that is responsible for (administratively) a parcel of public land(s) relinquishes management of the wildilfe on national public land to a state agency…

    Kind of like the Montana’s Dept. of Livestock managing bison in the national forest. The big difference is, Idaho wants to violate the Wilderness Act because they think they have to control the wildlife in the wilderness. It’s a control-freak thing. You just can’t have wild animals running wild in the wilderness you know…

  108. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    To the extent that acquiring the best wolf population data we can to achieve all wolf management objectives in the FCW and where those objectives include wolf population objectives below existing numbers – yes.
    I am not aware of any planned role for WS in state wolf population management – inside or outside the FCW.

  109. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Salle –
    “This seems to be a situation where the federal agency that is responsible for (administratively) a parcel of public land(s) relinquishes management of the wildilfe on national public land to a state agency…”

    The continuing misunderstanding – the federal agency that is resonsible for public lands (the U.S.F.S. in this case) did not relinquish management of wildlife on that national public land to a state agency. It never held management responsibility for wildlife. That responsibility has always and will continue to rest with each respective state. This is acknowledged and ebedded in the enabling language of the Wilderness Act and the enabling language of the Central Idaho Wilderness Act.

  110. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Bob I think what Nathan Hobbs was talking about is something called “decency”. Its usually present in “families” or “extended family” groups. Usually it is taught by elders in “family units” to talk with some sort of professionalism or even some vauge sort respect to another human being.

    One question, do you really believe all that stuff you really write? It gets deep when you start typing Bob. Wanted to invite you down to UT this coming up year and drive you around and show you some elk, and I want you to point out to me these “families” you talk about. Bear in mind we have an average of 35 bulls to 100 cows and an average age of bulls anywhere from 4-8 years old on almost all units. And I have yet to see anything you have ever talked about. Let me know if your interested.

  111. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    “Are you now suggesting that you know how wolves will impact the ecology of elk and other prey species? Do you have some information on how wolves impact “elk and other prey species” that you are not sharing?”
    I am saying that wolves are known to profoundly impact prey densities in YNP (the recent experience of substantial reductions in elk numbers that have been discussed at length in this blog) and the Idaho experience of wolf predation reducing elk densities significantly below what habitat and previous levels of hunting were capable of sustaining. In that context – yes, I am saying that we can predict that wolves will have profound affects on prey populations – in different ways under different conditions.

  112. avatar bob jackson says:

    Ralph, JB and Jay,

    I hope you all understand what techniques MG is using in his attempt to sway those of “us” who are “misinformed and have misperceptions”. His “techniques” are the very same as taught every investigative officer in Yell. Maybe you do and are just being “respectful”….or unlike me too polite to call others on it.

    Those who believe in these supposed mind persuading training sessions end up with swelled heads and are the last ones I ever wanted around me when it came to interrogating poachers. Maybe they have success out of the starting blocks, but their soon to be superior attitude means they slip up on some of the most obvious “evidence” coming out of the ‘criminals” mouth.

    MG put out a obvious statement he could not back up…supposedly how wolves kill more game than bears or cougars. It was out of character for him to make these claims.

    It should have been the first clue. To do what Mark did is what interrogators are taught. Put something the person “interviewed” can come back on and relish the importance of his value. Then the interrogator comes back with the mea culpa, I can’t back it up” or something to that affect. The idea is to gain bonding, same level of humanity and someone who shares with the one investigated. The purpose is to get the client to let his guard down.

    The problem with my fellow officers brain washing is they then thought they could sway everyone they were with…their girl friends, wives, peers and the general public. I say, To use is to abuse …. and as we all have been taught, the abuser always blames the one(s) they abuse. My peers came out as lesser individuals because of this.

    In my poacher patrol, as I noted sometime ago, all those guides, clients and outfitters I caught all cried when they realized the gig was up. This crying only happened after some heavy and emotional time one on one with them.

    It was all in the backcountry and the elements were tough on both of us. But in the end the confession and bawling came because one had to have more internal strength than the other. To me if Mark wants to show environmentalists how they “errored in their ways” come out and show what he is made of as a person.

    The only reason I see as tolerances for him is what josh talks of “showing professional respect”. Well in my way of thinking coming from his system does not gain my respect.

    I repeat in paraphrase fashion: as long as folks want to be guinea pigs or believe in dysfunctional systems then maintain status quo. Spar back and forth and accomplish little except pats on your own back. Otherwise look to motives of those in these systems and you will know how to defend and then go on the attack.

    In my salting – griz mortality issue of 2002-2003 it really was pretty easy to take on the political machine….especially when they promoted something as illogical as Mark and his dysfunctional cohorts extoll as reasons for landing helicopters in wilderness ares. I say they are hypocrites to their G&F origins. Would they promote this right out of college when ethics and goals were lofty? No!! Thus they have lost their way.

    No Josh, I don’t think the govt. androids who speak such dribble and use such abusive techniques to persuade deserve my respect.

  113. avatar bob jackson says:

    Mark,

    It was noted earlier in this thread how lots of elk and lots of predators (wolves for one) coexisted without boom and bust in early recorded history. Until you and your supporting symptom blinded pseudo applied scientists find out why, then you have no ground to make any claims today.

    And just remember those Northern Yellowstone elk are mostly Montana hunt influenced elk. Why don’t you try looking into something a little more functional for substantiation…such as the 12 month per year resident SE arm of Yellowstone Lake Delta elk herd. I never saw any variance in numbers of this herd before or after the wolves were reintroduced (300).

    Maybe, just maybe these elk more closely resembled pre whiteman herds in infrastructure…and that is why predators and prey could both flourish at the same time.

  114. avatar JEFF E says:

    WM says,
    “…..Game Commission appointments have staggered and over lapping terms, which allows carryover and continuity to some extent from one administration to another…..”
    All what you say is, of course, correct, but to focus on just this statement you do realize the previous Gov was Dick Kempthorne…….
    And I really don’t know if there are any carryovers from that miss-administration.
    Bad is bad.

  115. avatar bob jackson says:

    josh,

    As far as recognizing functional family units and its component functional roles I ask you to look no further than this countries not so distant past. Look to the slavery on plantations for comparisons to your supposed vital elk herds.

    You would, of course, see even “better” ratios of males to females and more varying ages to make up the composite of this “herd”. Looks kosher from afar but you and I know it wasn’t.

    Even the plantations that “allowed” shanty communities, and culture was beginning, practised the same logic of hunts as state G&F. Lets say a trophy bull (leader) of shanty town gets picked off (sold on the auction block for one of those governors hunts …. prize from one of his state owned slaves assigned to the governors mansion). What happens in shanty town? Nashing of teeth and worse…disruption of all in the town.

    Or lets say a fine daughter of a slave has a crush on another fine son of a slave on the next plantation. But of course the owners have other plans. Bring in the Mandingo to produce those offspring. Think of what it does to all her extended family to have to raise offspring not wanted in this manner.

    And as for the young strapping fella…do you think this doesn’t have long lasting impact? Does he forever have to crawl in a hole knowing he can do nothing about anything? Isn’t this the same as one of your 4-8 yr. old 35% males in the male to female ratios?…. where this fella can do nothing but run in fear or lay low when wolves (hunters) come around.

    Yes, josh, your stats are a shallow representation of what herds are made up of. There is no way your herd can carry out normal roles.

    Now functionality on the other hand, is very easy to see. We moved our herd of buffalo yesterday to a pasture full of graze…and a land of milk and honey the herd had been chomping at the bit to go to for over a week. All ran across but then one cow came back immediately and slowly walked back a half mile to stand in one spot. When she started back two bulls (4 and 6 years old) immediately peeled out of the supposed mass of 500 head herd of running confusion and ran back to the old pasture. No, they didn’t run back with her. They just ran ahead to stop on the other side of the gate. She continued on and they stayed there.

    The reason for her leaving the food on the new pastures table was to go stand over a dead calf. She stayed there an hour and the two bulls didn’t even go across that gateway to get a quick bite. They just stood broad side. Then the cow slowly walked back. One of the two bulls walked back a hundred yards to meet her. Then all three walked across …. and the rest is history….at least history of yesterday.

    No josh I don’t think your elk herd is allowed the roles my herd…and all natures herds, were allowed pre European exploitive impact.

    Of course with your thoughts of “dominion over all” you just might talk yourself into thinking of others of your species as sub humans. Then it is just a short step to being that slave master isn’t it? I suggest you run with your prejudices and take all that superiority to the highest level possible. Take it even further than your beliefs. Only then will you see how your elk “herd” might not have the social development of my bison herd.

  116. avatar JB says:

    “…yes, I am saying that we can predict that wolves will have profound affects on prey populations – in different ways under different conditions…”

    Mark:

    Correlation, as you well know, is not causation; there are likely a host of factors (e.g. predators, rainfall, available forage, competition with other ungulates, etc.) that affect elk densities at any given place and time. You lectured me earlier about assuming the trophic cascade witnessed in Lamar is possible in Idaho, specifically noting that wolf densities in Lamar were much higher than densities in Idaho. Yet now you’re comfortable making the same assumptions concerning the wolf-elk relationship? This, in my opinion, reveals the extent of your bias.

    “…the Idaho experience of wolf predation reducing elk densities significantly below what habitat and previous levels of hunting were capable of sustaining.”

    Yes, you have EVIDENCE that wolves are impacting elk densities in TWO management units. Apparently, in the view of IDF&G, this gives you carte blanche to minimize wolf populations everywhere? Your quote suggests that you are managing elk for the maximum sustained yield (as long as the yield goes to hunters). Silly me, I thought we had moved past the wildlife management as agricultural production model?

  117. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    We’re discussing two different, stepwise effects of wolf predation on the landscape. I thought we agreed that wolves do impact prey populations by reducing numbers and affecting behavior. I believe we disagree that the cascading effects of the prey population changes can be described qualitatively or quantitatively, apriori. If you subscribe to the theory that the return of wolves to ecosystems they were removed from over 70 years ago now impart an ecological benefit to the landscape, I assume (incorrectly?) that you also agree that wolves are changing the population dynamics of their prey base.
    If you are seriously suggesting that we don’t know that wolves have dramatically reduced densities of elk herds inhabiting YNP, then we have another fascinating topic for discussion.
    I doubt that we disagree much about the potential of wolf predation to strongly affect prey population dynamics, including prey densities. My point that leads us to this discussion, is that yes – knowing that in some parts of Idaho wolf predation, separate from other environmental variables, has reduced elk densities to the extent that human benefits of that elk resource (elk hunting) are also significantly reduced.
    This is also a good opportunity to discuss shared concepts of historical and contemporary wildlife management with agricultural production management. Here’s my thoughts, first thing in the morning:
    The science and nomenclature of wildlife and fisheries management does in fact use concepts, terms and theories that widely overlap with agriculture – for understandable reasons. Wildlife management is founded on the principle of wildlife as a human resource. How we define the benefits of those resources to human society is, I think, the question. Traditionally and currently, consumptive and increasingly non-consumptive use/benefits of wildlife populations are valued by our society. I’ll suggest that non-consumptive uses include viewing, appreciating tangible and intangible ecological benefits of diverse wildlife populations and the fundamental reassurance that wild places and wildlife exist and can be relied on to exist. That last benefit is important to many (most?) Americans including many who likely will never set foot in a wilderness area or visit a National Park or use Forest Service or BLM public lands. In each example, wildlife constitute a resource to human society. The challenge for wildlife managers then becomes how to meet our responsibilities as stewards of the public wildlife resource and to accomodate the desires of the greatest portion of the public users of the resource in a balanced manner?
    I interpret your appelation of “agricultural production model” to be a harsh criticism of traditional wildlife management. further assume that is because you and others believe that a managing wildlife with principles of yield, harvest, population objectives, etc. is counter-productive to the public interest for the best management of our shared wildlife resources. Your turn. Let me know if I’m off base in my interpretations and assumptions. If not, tell me how traditional and contemporary wildlife management principles need to change and why. This can and should be an important discussion.

  118. avatar Linda Hunter says:

    Mark, Bob and all . . this is a fascinating discussion and for me at least informative. Mark, I could never do your job just because for me the basic premise of wildlife management you state: “Wildlife management is founded on the principle of wildlife as a human resource. ” is one I profoundly disagree with. This idea of all things on earth are for man’s pleasure and disposition will be the end of us all eventually. I hope I don’t live to see it as we have proven to be a most unwise animal in the last two hundred years. Cheers and Merry Christmas.

  119. avatar JB says:

    “I thought we agreed that wolves do impact prey populations by reducing numbers and affecting behavior.”

    We agree (I think) that wolves SOMETIMES impact SOME prey populations and SOMETIMES affect SOME of those species’ behavior. But you made the blanket assertion:

    “The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

    This statement grossly oversimplifies predator prey dynamics. It implies that wolves ALWAYS “profoundly” reduce (that is what you mean by affect, isn’t it?) elk and “other prey species” populations and anything to the contrary is a “myth”. I’d like to know which peer-reviewed scientific publications are guiding this assessment?

    “If you are seriously suggesting that we don’t know that wolves have dramatically reduced densities of elk herds inhabiting YNP, then we have another fascinating topic for discussion.”

    I am seriously suggesting that a host of factors contribute to elk population densities. Your continued efforts to attribute herd reductions in Yellowstone and elsewhere solely to the presence of wolves is oversimplification in the extreme, and reveals a substantial bias.

    The fact is that you don’t know how much herd reductions are a result of wolves, and how much they are a result of interactions with other factors (e.g. cougar or bear densities). More importantly, IDF&G’s decision to reduce wolf populations statewide to extremely low densities will not allow you to ascertain this information.

    I’ll tackle the wildlife management question in a bit, when I have more time.

  120. avatar josh sutherland says:

    Well Bob I dont compare slave families and elk families to be one in the same. You always go back to herds of buffalo when you refer to elk. Buffalo are totally different animals. Apples and oranges.

  121. avatar josh sutherland says:

    There is now way our elk herds can carry out normal roles? What roles are you referring to? Family home evening? Dinner with friends? Bob I think you are taking this animal thing WAY to far. The roles are obviously being met, if not then the elk would cease to exist. Mature bulls are breeding cows, hence we have young calves. Cows are giving birth to calves cause I seem them each year. No if you are referring to your made up roles of elk acting as sentries 10 miles away in a different canyon, then ya we will have to agree to disagree. So I guess what you want to see happen is what you read in some book that some indian dude wrote, “pre-whiteman” as you say. Easy enough, remove all current “whitemen” and Bob then you can see if your little game plan would work.

    One quick question Bob, if elk have such strong bonding and hang out in “families” etc. There was a bull, a VERY big bull, a 400 class bull, that was being watched by a few different hunters on a particular unit and had rutted on this unit the year before. The funny thing is, he was killed that year on a totally different unit, many many miles away rutting on a different unit… and that stuff happens all the time. What about the bulls Bob that constantly are moving back and forth chasing many different groups of cows? If your “family” theory holds any water then why would it be neccessary for bulls to fight over cows? Why would one bull want to steal another bulls cows that are not in his “family”. Wait a minute, I think I know, its because they are ANIMALS. They act on instinct. Same reason a cow wants to breed to the baddest ass bull on the mountain to ensure her calves will have the best chance of survival. Not because he is part of the “family”.

  122. avatar JEFF E says:

    JB,
    Mark has taken to speaking to the wider audience in hope that here is less specific knowledge, so the official sounding essay type post will impress, plus the ongoing attempts at consensus building. Remember that several thousand people read this blog from around the world visit here daily.

  123. avatar Si'vet says:

    Mark using YNP as an example to differentiate between, wolf depredation, in comparison to bear and lion depredation is much better than guessing or generated modeling. As with many of us who live close to YNP we had watched the elk herds continue to grow, even to the point of concern, with regards to habitat impact, knowing that eventually one winter would even the score. The lion and bear populations increased as well, yet the elk populations continued to increase. We have had, what a 60% decline in YNP elk herd, and we are yet to have that devastating winter. Bears real impact on elk herders only last for several weeks in early June and July, lions impact may last a little longer , elk calves not so much but adult elk are always very challenging to lions, but not impossible. The reproduction rate in lions and bears even protected in the park are slow at best, maybe affording prey species and such time to make a few adjustments. Wolves on the other hand have proven they can reproduce quite rapidly, and reduce prey in an area just as rapid, as you point out the LOLO area, in which I have spent a significant amount of time . The wolf sign went from scat here and there, to scat continually on every trail, gain elevation and you can hear them start to howl at 6:20 pm then start back up at 6:00 am and these are large groups. Having the ability to monitor growth and numbers through collaring so you can maximize the quality of the data and spend as little of my hard earned tax dollars collecting it makes sense, especially on a species that has shown to have such a profound impact, with rapid reproduction capabilities.

  124. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    OK, unintended communication is happening again. I didn’t say and don’t mean to say that wolves ALWAYS have any specific effect on prey populations. There are a myriad of variables that affect predator-prey interactions and each situation will have dlifferent factors interacting in different permutations. We can easily agree on that. What I said was – the frequent statement that wolves don’t affect/regulate/reduce/control prey populations is a myth. That statement is a fact. Here’s the bottom line: Wolves do in many, not all, circumstances limit prey productivity and recruitment sufficiently to reduce prey abundance/densities below the capacity of habitat to support greater numbers of that/those prey species. Idaho has documented this phenomena and very recently Montana has reported the same finding for an important elk management area. I’m not aware of disagreement in the professional wildlife management/research community that since wolf reintroduction, wolf predation is a/the direct cause of the dramatic reductions in elk numbers inhabiting YNP. Ditto for coyote numbers. We should be able to agree on this basic observation AND agree that ecological interactions (such as trophic cascade) are complex, not universal and difficult to predict. The effect of wolf predation on elk herds is not subtle nor difficult to measure with certainty.

    I don’t have peer reviewed literature citations for wolf predation impacts on prey populations at hand now, but I’ll be happy to get back to you with documentation if you are sincerly skeptical.

    ” The fact is that you don’t know how much herd reductions are a result of wolves, and how much they are a result of interactions with other factors (e.g. cougar or bear densities).”

    Well, JB, yes we do for the several study areas in Idaho. The ongoing IDFG investigation of wolf predation effects on elk across Idaho that I’ve cited before clearly documents that wolf predation in at least two wolf management zones is suppressing elk production and recruitment below levels that habitat and former levels of hunter harvest were capable of sustaining. The early reports I’m seeing from Montana suggest that they may be documenting the same impacts.
    “….IDF&G’s decision to reduce wolf populations statewide to extremely low densities will not allow you to ascertain this information.”
    The research methods (experimental design) we are using in the wolf-elk predation research project are not affected by hunting or other sources of wolf mortality. Following the fate of each radio-collared cow and calf elk allows us to determine precisely the cause of death for each collared elk that dies. There are sources of uncertainty in this design: We assume that the behavior and fate of collared elk describes the behavior and fate of all elk in the study area. With adequate sample sizes, the design is very robust and is the gold standard for this type of investigation.
    To summarize: We do know with a high level of certainty how wolf predation is affecting elk populations across much of Idaho. Wolves are not having the same effect on elk populations in all wolf management zones. In some zones wolves are having much less impact that in the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones. Having the best wolf population data we can obtain only strengthens our ability to make informed, appropriate wolf management decisions based on how well we are meeting our wolf management objectives. Those objectives are based on public desires for wolves and balancing the impact of wolves on other wildlife resources and private property.

  125. avatar JB says:

    Jeff E:

    Thanks for the reminder, I promise to keep the exchange cordial. I’m happy to let readers judge for themselves which arguments they find most compelling.

    – – – –

    Mark said:

    “Wildlife management is founded on the principle of wildlife as a human resource. How we define the benefits of those resources to human society is, I think, the question.”

    I agree 100%.

    “I interpret your appelation of “agricultural production model” to be a harsh criticism of traditional wildlife management. further assume that is because you and others believe that a managing wildlife with principles of yield, harvest, population objectives, etc. is counter-productive to the public interest…”

    Actually, the principles of yield, harvest, and the establishment of population objectives need not be counter productive to the public interest. It isn’t the application of agricultural terms and concepts that I object to, but IDF&G’s management of elk for the MAXIMUM sustained yield (i.e. maximizing hunting opportunities). I believe this single species focus sends the wrong message: Elk (and the people who hunt them) are more valuable than other types of resources.

    “The challenge for wildlife managers then becomes how to meet our responsibilities as stewards of the public wildlife resource and to accomodate the desires of the greatest portion of the public users of the resource in a balanced manner?”

    I agree. In past correspondence you have claimed that IDF&G’s plan for wolves meets the “needs and desires” of a broad group of interest groups. Yet, your quote (a derivation of Bentham’s “greatest happiness principle”) suggests this isn’t good enough. Your challenge is to maximize utility–to provide for the “greatest good for the greatest number of people”. I’d be curious to see the data that suggest your approach maximizes any other interest than big game hunters?

  126. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    Actually I think Jeff E’s last post was for my benefit. You are emphatic at times, but cordial and civil in all of our conversations.
    I see some common ground in our last couple of post’s as well. I think we agree that responsible wildlife management is much more than single species management, or maximum benefits from one species at the expense of balanced social/ecological benefits from other species. I do believe that our current wolf management plan provides some, not all desired benefits of wolves and other wildlife for non-hunters and wolf advocates. Emphasis on some and not all.

  127. avatar cobra says:

    Many of you on this thread has implied that the wolves will not put an end to hunting and that you are not against hunting, however when the wolves impact the prey base to numbers that they have in certain areas either some of the wolves have to go or the hunting needs to be stopped or lessened or a little bit of both needs to happen. Many of you seem to think that one wolf shot is to many no matter what the circumstances, others give a little more on the numbers. To manage a forest one needs a sharp ax and a heart of stone, I can’t remember who said this, but I think it has merit.
    The numbers of elk, deer and moose before were with predators like bears, coyotes, lions, hunters etc. Now with a predator like wolves added something somewhere will have to give. Do we try to kill more bears, lions, stop hunting or put limitations on all the predators and try to keep the prey base at numbers that can sustain them all. That’s going to have to be one hell of a balancing act, especially when you add things like bad winters, habitat loss, wildfires etc. etc. If I have to choose between elk and wolves I choose the elk everytime. We can have elk without wolves, we did for many years, but, how many wolves can we have without elk? I’d really like to have both but I think that some will never be able to stomach what needs to be done for management purposes, to many emotions.

  128. avatar JW says:

    Cobra, I think the realistic thing to expect is that elk #s never may be at the high point of the past decade with a multitude of predators in the Rocky Mts now.
    For state fish and game agencies to acknowledge that and adjust human hunting seasons accordingly makes much more sense to many on this blog than to dramatically reduce wolf numbers. It doesn’t have to end human hunting but in some areas not allowing cow/calf hunting would be one solution, among many.

  129. This is kind of coming at things from another direction, but don’t we have any duck hunters, upland bird hunters, or people who fish on this blog?

    Why no comments such as “cheatgrass and chukur?”

  130. avatar Cobra says:

    Ralph,
    I love to fish, probably as much or more than hunting. I fish bass tournaments as much as possible. In Colorado I fly fished in the Lakes on Grand Mesa and the Black Canyon of the gunnison river.
    We started hiking the bobcat trail down into the Black Canyon when we were around 12-13 years old in the summers after bucking hay. You would not believe the fishing we had. Rainbows and Browns averaged 16-22 inches and in good numbers. We would spend the entire week in there and not see a soul, had it all to ourselves until a guy from a magazine spiiled the beans, now it’s gold medal wates and has guide trips through it. I actually picked up the fly rod again this summer, couldn’t afford to tournament fish this year. Besides the CDA river is only about 200 yards from the house. It gets tons of pressure but at least it’s fishing. I forgot how relaxing fly fishing can be in the right water and in the right area.

  131. avatar JB says:

    Mark said: “…the frequent statement that wolves don’t affect/regulate/reduce/control prey populations is a myth. That statement is a fact.”

    Mark: Even this statement should be couched differently. Not every area of Idaho or Montana is responding to wolves like the Lolo or Lamar. Nor can you assume that wolves will affect/regulate/reduce control populations in every situation. Populations of both predators and prey will respond to a myriad of variables, which will change over time. Your statement (especially your original statement) does not account for these complexities; it implies that wolves will always (under every condition) act as a limiting factor. That is NOT true (take a look at 50 years of data from the Isle Royal project).

    Mark said: “Here’s the bottom line: Wolves do in many, not all, circumstances limit prey productivity and recruitment sufficiently to reduce prey abundance/densities below the capacity of habitat to support greater numbers of that/those prey species.”

    Had you said that to begin with, I would not have reacted the way I did.

    Mark said: “I’m not aware of disagreement in the professional wildlife management/research community that since wolf reintroduction, wolf predation is a/the direct cause of the dramatic reductions in elk numbers inhabiting YNP. Ditto for coyote numbers.”

    Again, it is an oversimplification to call wolf reintroduction/predation the “direct cause” of elk declines in YNP. Take a look at: Vucetich, J.A., Smith, D.W. & Stahler, D.R. (2005). Influence of harvest, climate and wolf predation on Yellowstone elk, 1961-2004.

    They conclude: “Some managers and segments of the general public express concern over a strong belief that northern Yellowstone elk have been declining (from 1995 to 2004) and that the decline is importantly attributable to wolf predation. Our analysis (Fig. 3, 5) indicates that there is greater justification for believing that harvest rate and severe climate, together, account for at least much of the decline.”

    And:

    “This more direct examination also fails to show that wolf predation had been an important influence on elk population dynamics.”

    Mark said: “The research methods (experimental design) we are using in the wolf-elk predation research project are not affected by hunting or other sources of wolf mortality. Following the fate of each radio-collared cow and calf elk allows us to determine precisely the cause of death for each collared elk that dies….the design is very robust and is the gold standard for this type of investigation.”

    Mark: This is NOT an experimental design. The design you are employing is appropriately characterized as an observational study. Experimentation requires a control group and the manipulation of proposed variables.

    There is an important distinction in what your study design tells you and the conclusions you are drawing from that study. Your design tells you the proximate cause of death for individual elk within the study unit. From these data you are extrapolating that elk POPULATION declines are due to wolves. Your data do NOT address this hypothesis, though they certainly provide strong evidence. To appropriately address the hypothesis that wolf populations affect elk populations, you would need to manipulate your proposed cause (wolf population) and measure the response (elk population) while controlling for covariates. Your study design will not let you ascertain the extent to which wolf predation is compensatory or additive (because you can not determine how many elk would have died were wolves absent).

  132. avatar Jay says:

    There’s a nice figure in the Mech-Boitani book that sums all this discussion up, and that is for each additional predator added to the system, prey densities decline to a lower level. In my opinion, the biggest strike against wolves is that they are the last to the dinner trough, so they get the blame for any declines observed in prey densities. It doesn’t matter that humans get 15-18% of the elk population every year (undoubtedly more if it was possible to factor in wounding loss), or that there are lions, black bears (and a few grizzlies here and there) and coyotes all taking their share–wolves are the johnny-come-lately additional predator in the system, so they’re the ones getting scrutinized.

  133. Jay,

    I think your statement sums it up well as a major reason why wolves get so much scrutiny.

    In this thread I have asked Mark why not gather more information about bears and the cougar population for which they have just crude estimates. Although he responded indirectly, I don’t have any real information why so much effort on wolves in comparison.

    As a result, I draw my own conclusions about the motives of the Department/Commission.

  134. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    You are correct that the Idaho study is fundamentally observational in the method we use to collect wolf imposed elk mortality data.
    My following comments take liberties with my cursory understanding of this long term research project. If I am wrong, I will follow up with corrections ASAP. To the best of my understanding – this study design does not rely on the traditional treatment/control “experiment’s you describe because we are able to directly measure wolf predation effects on elk abundance. We are able to parse habitat effects because habitat is essentially unchanged over the brief interval of pre and post wolf reintroduction. We have the advantage of good data for elk production and recruitment on both sides of wolf reintroduction. It IS an experimental design by virtue of our pre – post elk data and of our ability to compare wolf predation effects on elk production and recruitment across a range of wolf and elk densities that are affected by hunting and other environmental variables. This study is being conducted across much of Idaho in multiple wolf management zones. In this respect the study design is an experimental design that does account for co-variates. Fundamentally, science is unable to “prove” a hypothesis. There is always residual doubt for even the strongest conclusions derived from the strongest experimental design. The wolf predation study is no different. However, by current standards of scientific inquiry, these conclusions are very solid, that wolf imposed elk mortality in the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones is additive for those populations. Again, if I will follow up with our principle investigator for this study to clarify any misconceptions I may have about the study.

  135. avatar Salle says:

    I agree with Jay on the “why” part though I think that is only a portion of the issue. There is a very negative cultural attitude about wolves that is hard to kill, that would be the other part of the reasoning. Appeasing that attitude rather than gaining an educated perspective, is the greatest priority for the agency. I doubt that IDF&G is up to that task of gathering information based on biospheric health because their stated purpose maintains the status quo in the cultural attitude department, which keeps certain parties ~ who perpetuate this attitude for political gain ~ in office. Job security of a sort, at the expense of the environment, wildlife populations and taxpayers alike. Notice these are many of the same folks who claim that the climate distress in this last century is a fallacy.

    I’ve said this for many years now and I truly believe it’s so; Idaho is proud of its ignorance and ignorants.

  136. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Mark Gamblin:
    “wolf imposed elk mortality in the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones is additive for those populations”

    Why? Aren’t there other things going on here? This is the problem I have with the IDFG, you say that elk populations are down because of wolves but what is it about these areas that make it so much different than other areas? Could it be that habitat conditions are not optimal for elk and that the populations are declining anyway? Doesn’t geography and vegetation (forest) play a big role in forage production and ability to evade predation? Can the Lolo, in particular, be classified as optimal elk habitat? And if it can’t, wouldn’t it be a logical conclusion that elk in suboptimal habitat are less able evade predation and less able to persist?

    I also think that in places like the Northern Range of Yellowstone, and the Lolo, the elk populations were far above what they would normally be without wolves, and in the case of the Lolo, the habitat was in decline. Why wouldn’t wolves have impacts in these situations? And if they are having impacts wouldn’t you expect that wolves, in particular would decrease in population once some kind of balance is achieved? We’re already seeing that in the Northern Range and presumably the wolf population would find that balance in other areas too.

    I find it distasteful that IDFG is trying, in vain in my opinion, to avoid the reality of the situation. The Lolo, in particular, will never again, support the elk populations it once held and I haven’t heard the IDFG say that it will.

    The wolves and the elk are telling us something about their nature and ecology but IDFG doesn’t want to listen. They would rather kill wolves to mollify their critics rather than see how these things play out on their own. Gawd forbid we let the wildlife and wilderness be wild.

  137. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Ken

    You said:
    “The wolves and the elk are telling us something about their nature and ecology but IDFG doesn’t want to listen. They would rather kill wolves to mollify their critics rather than see how these things play out on their own. Gawd forbid we let the wildlife and wilderness be wild.”

    Let me be candid, here. Why would a state wildlife management agency be compelled, for any reason whatsoever, to let “wildlife and wilderness be wild” in an environment with increasing demands by various user groups, and where long established expectations from hunters would not be met? (Just being practical with this comment.)

    And, also let me offer, based on my own field experience, hunting in the same game management units over 20 years, that we have seen DRAMATIC changes in elk population in just the last three years, the only years in which wolves have been present? All other variables have been relatively constant, except wolves. I continue to be amazed at how creative some posters on this blog can get to avoid direct confrontation with the fact that wolves eat alot of elk, even healthy ones.

    The scientific community seems to say over and over that it a wolf will eat about 8 to 23 elk between November and April. Even when you see this being played out in the most studied ecosystem in the world – Yellowstone NP, and study after study comes out showing this, there is this unwarranted skepticism by those who simply will not believe the math and the nutritional truths that seem unrebuttable.

    Let me also offer that much of North Central Idaho is working forest – private land owned by Potlatch, interspersed with National Forest lands. These lands are still being logged, adding new ungulate habitat all the time, which matures over time and goes back to forest with less graze, but seems to be replaced with new habitat as other lands are logged. So, there is habitat in a constant state of rotation. Again, the only variable is the wolves. And, if you offer another diversional argument – it must be the cats and bears, about which we know little – my answer is the areas we hunt are not filled with migratory animals. The elk are local, and remain in the area, as do their predators, year after year (sure they go to lower elevation winter habitat for awhile). And there is no significant additional sign of bears or cats – poop or tracks. Plain and simple. What is being seen is ALOT OF WOLF SIGN (and wolves) not there before, and many fewer elk (more carcasses remnants are encountered, usually calf). Habitat is not the dominant constraint to elk population. Everyone we speak with who hunts these areas has the same observations.

    Some people simply do not want to acknowlege what is going on in various parts of ID, MT and WY.

  138. avatar Salle says:

    In addition to what Ken said;

    It appears that given the NEW 10j conditions, the IDF&G are acting, voraciously, to show that wolves have SOME impact on the elk population and, therefore, find cause to kill them.

  139. avatar Salle says:

    “Let me also offer that much of North Central Idaho is working forest – private land owned by Potlatch, interspersed with National Forest lands. These lands are still being logged, adding new ungulate habitat all the time, which matures over time and goes back to forest with less graze, but seems to be replaced with new habitat as other lands are logged. So, there is habitat in a constant state of rotation. Again, the only variable is the wolves.”

    Hmmm…. what’s wrong with that statement?

    So logging and other use, like ORV use and lack of graze aren’t variables that have a constant “rotation” ~ meaning that they are not constant… Doesn’t make a lot of sense there.

    ” Habitat is not the dominant constraint to elk population. Everyone we speak with who hunts these areas has the same observations.

    Some people simply do not want to acknowlege what is going on in various parts of ID, MT and WY.”

    You said it WM, but you are contradicting your own statements, though I can see that you actually admit it in the end. The only problem with it is that you attribute what you practice to others with the intent of discrediting them.

  140. avatar JEFF E says:

    “We are able to parse habitat effects because habitat is essentially unchanged over the brief interval of pre and post wolf reintroduction. We have the advantage of good data for elk production and recruitment on both sides of wolf reintroduction.”
    As can be seen by this statement it is the states position that wolves, unlike cougars or bears, are somehow extraneous to the habitat.
    Until this basic lack of understanding is corrected then it will serve to make the states position on wolf management untenable at best.

    For clarification;
    Word Origin & History

    habitat
    1762, as a technical term in Latin texts on Eng. flora and fauna, lit. “it inhabits,” third pers. sing. pres. indic. of habitare “to live, dwell,”…

    Notice that the basic components are flora and FAUNA.

  141. avatar Jay says:

    WM–in my last 4-5 hikes over the last 4 weeks, I’ve seen lion tracks, but no wolf tracks. From that I suppose I should interpret that there are no wolves, and only lions are eating deer and elk. Of course I don’t, but that seems to be the logic you are using. You say “some people do not want to acknowledge what is going on…”, but I’d say you fit in that same category, for the reason I mentioned several posts above.

  142. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Salle, the 10j is no longer in effect since wolves are now delisted.

  143. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Salle

    You said: “You said it WM, but you are contradicting your own statements, though I can see that you actually admit it in the end. The only problem with it is that you attribute what you practice to others with the intent of discrediting them.”

    I am afraid I don’t understand where the contradiction is. What is it you are trying to say?
    __________

    Jay,

    I certainly would not draw the exculsive conclusion from your hike, as you suggest. You really should be a more careful reader. What I said, and I believe I did so very clearly – there were certain observations made by myself, and OTHERS, that showed wolves were present where they were not before (I also said, “And there is no significant additional sign of bears or cats – poop or tracks.”). Elk were fewer, and there had been no change in other variables.

    By the way, I hunted with three other very experienced hunters for 8 days in this area we know very well. One of our group has hunted it for thirty years. We reached the same conclusion. This was also the conclusion of others with whom we spoke – wolves were the cause for fewer elk. Funny, that seems to be what IDGF is also saying for certain areas. This area is adjacent to the Lolo.

    I guess that must means we are wrong, for the sole reason that you refuse to believe it.

  144. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Salle

    Got it. I now now understand your concern – the habitat rotation is the variable. Yes?

    This is a non-factor as the area has been in this state of constant renewal for probably 70 years. Areas get logged in probably 40 acre increments. They revegetate, with ungulate favorable species, then they mature as the reprod conifers get thick. The reason this is not a variable is that there are logging units that are in various states of ecological succession in about the same proportions in the immediate area. No explanation for such drastic change in elk numbers and behavior EXCEPT wolves. Hope that clarifies and deals with the perceived contradiction.

  145. avatar Jay says:

    WM, seems you could take your own advice…go up to my original post and re-read (if you haven’t already). I mentioned that the addition of more predators to a system often results in prey density decline. Nowhere have I said wolves don’t have impacts. However, if you want to play the anecdote game, I hunt in wolf country, and I generally get an elk. So there are no issues, right? That is exactly the logic you are using. And furthermore, because you didn’t see wolf sign (or cougar sign, bear sign, etc.), that is conclusive proof they aren’t there?

  146. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Jeff E –
    Without further research into the etiology of the word, I’ll suggest that the conventional interpretation of “habitat” by wildlife scientists is the physical terrain, including flora that wildlife inhabit. You have articulated an alternate definition, which I think has merit in different contexts. To be clear, when I (and others) use the term, I am referring to the physical habitat and it’s productivity to support those lifeforms we refer to as “wildlife”. We frequently refer to habitat productivity – meaning all the physical attributes of the geographic region (climate, productive capacity of the soil, native vegetation, etc.) that determine the amount of biomass that terrain is capable of producing. That productive capacity is the primary limiting factor that determines the potential of that region to support the vegetation that supports the herbivors that support the wolves.

  147. avatar Ken Cole says:

    WM: “Let me be candid, here. Why would a state wildlife management agency be compelled, for any reason whatsoever, to let “wildlife and wilderness be wild” in an environment with increasing demands by various user groups, and where long established expectations from hunters would not be met? (Just being practical with this comment.)”

    They obviously are not compelled to let wildlife and wilderness be wild but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t. It is my opinion that they should, to a much larger extent than they are, especially in wilderness areas of the state. That’s the point of wilderness is it not?

    I guess it doesn’t hurt my feelings that wolves are reducing elk in these circumstances, what chaps my ass is that people feel the NEED to manage everything when no NEED exists and to represent it as a NEED rather than a WANT is dishonest.

  148. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Jay,

    I had extensive conversations with Steve Nadeau (the IDGF wolf coordinator at the time) three years ago, when we first started seeing wolf sign. He told me they had no information of wolves being present in the area. What do you know, the following year the telemetry data showed they were there in large numbers, and are now reflected on the annual report maps, with overlaps of several packs.

    By the way, I have read your earlier posts carefully -wolves last to the dinner table, additive effect with resulting decline, and all.

    And, I will submit that the anecdotal observations from our experiences are numerous, and seem consistent with other observations. Enough datapoints and andectotal evidence can show statistically signficant trends in a time series analysis.

    I would only ask if others in the area you hunt were similarly successful to you? I also suspect there is a fair amount of variability (afterall there is a certain amount of luck in hunting, no matter how skilled the hunter), and there may be telling answers in the aggregate post -season elk hunter harvest reports for certain units.

    I am also going to guess IDGF, knowing that wolf populations are expanding, wants to get ahead of the trend, a bit, rather than having to react to a ticked-off hunter constituency. Call it planning and forecasting, but those are tasks of the wildlife management discipline.

  149. avatar Salle says:

    Ken,

    Sorry I neglected to clarify my comment on the 10j rule. I had too many thoughts going on while I was typing.

    The comment about the rule was meant to point out a facet of “management that didn’t phase out with delisting. That little ditty about finding cause to kill wolves by showing even the remotest possibility that wolves impact elk populations is still in their minds as just and workable. It, in my opinion, shows that no minor detail will be overlooked when scrounging for “reasons” to kill of wolves.

    I do agree with what you, Ken have pointed out.

    The only NEED they have is that of what could be considered the control freak factor, these humans see themselves as a component of the divine and find that they need to control wildlife because it satisfies some sense of superiority over all other species. That would be the NEED they have. And possibly the NEED to show those who think otherwise who has control over all other species. It’s a scary thing but I feel that this is one of the institutions of the culture we live in, domination over all others ~ including species of the nonhuman type. And they’ll be damned if they don’t enforce it.

  150. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Ken,

    I tend to agree with your philosophical view in a perfect world with fewer people. The problem is, as you well know and are extensively involved in, allocation of scarce resources to an increasing number of people/user groups with ever higher expectations, entrenched views and vested interests. I thought these tensions were high twenty to thirty years ago. The tensions have magnified many times over to today’s levels, and it will be several fold over looking ten years into the future. I look at expectations that should have been met under FLPMA and wonder why things have not changed – recall the fourth and fifth words of this act are “Planning and Management.” And you folks at Western Watersheds are still ramping up to deal with matters that we thought the act would correct shortly after it was passed.

    The cold hard truth is that WANTS usually trump NEEDS (if they are not congruent) in the economic and political systems that determine how issues are sorted out.

  151. avatar JEFF E says:

    Mark,
    “…..You have articulated an alternate definition, which I think has merit in different contexts. …….”
    Actually I am defining the mainstream definition of Habitat, supported by a vast majority of material such as encyclopedias, dictionary’s and professional references in the biological sphere, which almost universally start the respective definitions with the one which I posted earlier, which \is/ the etymology.
    Au contraire, it is you that is attempting to establish an alternate, much narrower meaning, so that the “science” will fit the argument.
    Shades of Bush-Kempthorne.
    To cut to the chase, habitat, the mainstream definition, is a condition of all components present, both flora and fauna.

  152. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ken –
    I’ll respond to your good questions about additive mortality after I consult with our research team. Density dependence/independence, additive vs compensatory mortality are important, basic ecological concepts but easy to miscommunicate. I want to be sure I get it right.
    The question of need vs want is equally important. It goes to the core of this controversy – i.e. this is much more about individual and collective values and wildlife management philosophies than the conservation status and risks for wolves in the NRMR. From the state’s perspective, wolves are here to stay. Wolves have value as a native wildlife species. Wolves affect other valuable resources, private and public. It is possible to manage wolves to achieve a balance of wolf, other wildlife and private resource benefits that is sustainable for the whole, and achieves some balance for the diverse desires of Idahoans for private and public resource benefits. Balance of social desires means that not everyone get’s everything they want. Hunters get less hunting oppportunity than they want, ranchers get more livestock predation losses than they want, and wolf advocates get a wolf management plan that is more restrictive for wolf numbers and distribution than they want. I have to keep saying this: wolf advocates are experiencing the same dissapointment, disagreement and displeasure with IDFG/Commission management policies, programs and management actions that hunters and anglers have experienced for decades. For the same reasons. Wildlife management desires and diverse. Most cannot be satisfied simultaneously and some cannot be satisfied responsibly at all.
    In the context of managing the public wildlife resource for the benefit of the society that owns that resource, The difference between want and need is nearly indistinguishable. Does our society “need” opportunities to hunt or to watch wolves? Some would argue no. What would happen if those wildlife benefits dissapeared tomorrow? There are societies, today, that have little of none of those opportunities but still plug along with no sign of collapse. Is “want” for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, or other more subtle aesthic benefits a valid desire that benefits society as a whole as well as we members of our society. Of course it is. I suggest this is the issue: the controversy and debate is founded almost entirely on competing value systems and very little on sincere, legitimate concern for the long term conservation status of wolves in the NRMR.

  153. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ken –
    ” I find it distasteful that IDFG is trying, in vain in my opinion, to avoid the reality of the situation. The Lolo, in particular, will never again, support the elk populations it once held and I haven’t heard the IDFG say that it will.
    The wolves and the elk are telling us something about their nature and ecology but IDFG doesn’t want to listen. They would rather kill wolves to mollify their critics rather than see how these things play out on their own. Gawd forbid we let the wildlife and wilderness be wild.”

    The IDFG would not presume that we could return the Lolo Zone to a 1950’s or 1070’s level of elk productivity. Elk management objectives are based on the current capacity of habitat to produce elk. Wolf predation is suppressing elk production, recruitment and therefor elk densities below the levels that existing habitat is capable of sustaining. This has required reductions in elk hunting opportunity (social elk resource benefit) below levels habitat is capable of sustaining. Our wolf managment objectives are designed to recover some of the elk hunting opportunity that is “lost” to wolf production. In this sense, we have integrated elk and wolf management objectives for the Lolo Zone that do not manage for the maximum of either species.

  154. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Mark

    When you consult your research people about additive mortality in response to Ken’s questions, would you be kind enough to ask them about effects of wolf presence on herd age distribution, calf recruitment and stress induced condition of elk?

    In May of this year Scott Creel at Montana State University published a paper concluding that fear of predation and resulting stress affected weight, fat reserves and successful calf recruitment, were as much a concern and maybe greater than actually being eaten. Vigilance to wolves, according to the paper, results in elk spending more time in less nutritious browse habitat than than higher nutrition grazing, they also spend less time feeding (avoiding and/or looking out for wolves) resulting in less nutrition uptake. Weight loss thru winter affects pregnancy rates, and results in lower birth weight calves, and ultimately recruitment. (The paper does not discuss this, but would it be possible lions and bears are also getting more elk because of the effect wolves are having on the nutritional requirements of elk?)

    The cite is: Creel S, Winnie JA & Christianson D 2009. Glucocorticoid stress hormones and the effect of predation risk on elk reproduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(30):12388–12393

  155. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Jeff E –
    OK, now I’ve forgotten your original point about habitat. What was it again?

  156. avatar JB says:

    WM/Mark:

    We’re losing the forest through the trees in this discussion. I don’t disagree that (a) wolves affect elk populations and (b) wolves affect elk behavior under certain conditions (e.g. high wolf densities). What I objected to, and still object to is the certainty with which Mark expressed his belief that wolves impact elk and other prey species:

    “The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

    Yet, here (again) is what a recent peer-reviewed paper concludes:

    “Some managers and segments of the general public express concern over a strong belief that northern Yellowstone elk have been declining (from 1995 to 2004) and that the decline is importantly attributable to wolf predation. Our analysis (Fig. 3, 5) indicates that there is greater justification for believing that harvest rate and severe climate, together, account for at least much of the decline…This more direct examination also fails to show that wolf predation had been an important influence on elk population dynamics.”

    The certainty with which Mark expresses his belief that wolves will negatively influence elk populations in the face of substantial scientific uncertainty is what is at question. It reveals a strong bias against wolves.

    I also find fault with the second idea embedded in this statement:

    “The myth that wolves will not … cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

    Again, I do not disagree that wolves sometimes cause private property damage. But this statement implies that (a) wolves will always cause private property damage, and (b) preventing damage will require management of wolf “numbers” (i.e. killing wolves). I would also argue that Mark’s use of the phrase “wolf numbers” suggests population regulation (i.e. hunting) as opposed to individual control actions.

    Yet, how much damage do wolves do to private property within Wilderness Areas? How much damage do they do to private property within the National Parks? If population regulation is a necessity, how come wolves have been protected from hunting in Minnesota for more than three decades, despite having greater wolf densities, greater human densities, and less public land?

    All of the assertions embedded in Mark’s original statement are true under certain conditions, but rather than couch his assertions appropriately (i.e. conditionally), he made a blanket assertion about wolves that no scientist would be comfortable making. More importantly, and not surprisingly, Mark’s statement casts wolves in the most negative light.

  157. avatar Ken Cole says:

    WM,

    One of the things that was mentioned in the recent story about wolves declining in YNP was the health of the elk, or the reduced health of the wolves was finally limiting their effectiveness in taking elk. In other words, most of the old and weak had been culled from the system so the wolves were having to take greater risk to attack the now healthier elk.

    We know that wolves can impact naive elk populations when they first show up in an area, is it not reasonable to think that elk would adjust over time and learn where the nutritious forage and safer places might be.

    Has it occurred to anyone that, even though wolves have been in most places for 12 years or so, maybe it may take a while for elk to adjust? Maybe, once they do adjust, they may be healthier and more vigorous?

    Dr. Peek made some statements to the effect that if wolves were allowed to kill more of the older, non-reproducing elk in the Frank Church Wilderness then it would free up resources for the reproductively capable elk and their calves would be healthier.

    The way I see it, and I may be way off here, is that this process takes a long period of time and by killing wolves in large numbers might disrupt this in a way that makes the herds less productive. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if killing lots of wolves might increase the overall health of the remaining wolves and keep this system out of balance allowing wolves to kill more of the healthier elk as well.

    I imagine the equation goes something like this:
    fewer elk = healthier elk = weaker wolves = more strife within wolves.

    That seems to be what we are finally seeing in Yellowstone.

    If you keep this system out of balance perpetually then you are perpetually trying to “manage” it.

  158. Ken,

    . . . and I think Dr. Peek was right about the Frank Church, at least Big Creek where the studies were done.

    A poorly reproductive elk herd consisting of a disproportionate number of old elk cows was, though wolf predation (and forest fire) rejuvenated into a very productive herd of younger cows.

    I should also add that these studies showed the wolves forced the cougar in the drainage into less desirable habitat, thus reducing the the kill by cougars (and no doubt their numbers too). This is one reason why adding an additional predator into the mix may not result in additive prey mortality.

  159. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    JB

    I notice your quote failed to identify the source, and will presume it to be an oversight, as you are usually exceptionally good at giving proper credit. I believe that statement is from a paper by John Vucetich (second generation Isle Royale scientist at Michigan Tech), Doug Smith and Dan Stahler (both Yellowstone NP scientists). I believe it was taken from this 2005 paper: Vucetich, J. A., Smith, D. W. and Stahler, D. R. 2005. Influence of harvest, climate and wolf predation on Yellowstone elk, 1961-2004. / Oikos 111: 259/270.

    The study focuses on the period 1995-04 regarding wolf reintroduction, and up to then current and prior years regarding climate effects on the decline of the northern Yellowstone herd, using their forecasting models. Seems their conclusion is harvest and weather were the big factors in the decline up to reintroduction. Just wanted to point that out.

    I am afraid I have not spent much time looking at the study, but do intend to do so now.

    ______

    Ken

    I do not disagree that it takes awhile for things to shake out. But I am troubled by your comment that wolves have somehow “been in most places for 12 years.” I would say in many places they have only been present 3-5 years or less. The population has just now, in my opinion, reached critical mass that allows for higher levels of density, while range expansion continues. Those higher densities, possibly temporary before some shake out -more wolves killing wolves, etc. over territory and food-, still result in alot of elk old, weak, and many healthy first year calves being culled out.

    And, if you have not dpne so yet, do read the previously referenced Creel study. It is insightful for the purpose of saying that wolf harassment makes elk weaker over the winter, possibly causing llower body weight and higher winter kills, and that has secondary reprocussions for the next year’s calf crop.

    Can you give me a cite to access Dr. Peek’s comments? I would like to read. Thanks.

  160. avatar JB says:

    WM:

    Sorry, I provided the same quote and citation (above), but it was ignored. I provided the quote to show both the level of scientific uncertainty regarding how (under what conditions) wolves impact various prey species as well as a potential weakness of the methods employed in Idaho’s study.

    The point Ralph made also seems to be lost. There is much greater uncertainty regarding cougar populations. With greater numbers, more uncertainty, and similar caloric requirements, one would think IDF&G would be radio-collaring cougars in the wilderness. Why the focus on wolves?

    To add to Ralph’s general point, the level of uncertainty regarding cougar populations makes it much harder to evaluate whether any hypothesized effects on elk populations are attributable to wolves, cougars, or wolf x cougar interactions.

  161. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    “The certainty with which Mark expresses his belief that wolves will negatively influence elk populations in the face of substantial scientific uncertainty is what is at question. It reveals a strong bias against wolves.”

    You offer a relevant citation as evidence that my certainty of wolf predation impacts on prey species may not be certain. But, you mistakenly attribute my certainly to a value motive. First, my certainty is that those who insist that wolves do not profoundly affect their prey populations are not supported by science. It is not a statement that wolves always do anything. Wolves do, under certain circumstances have profound affects on the population dynamics of their prey. Your citations raise responsible questions about the role of wolf predation in specific examples of dramatic elk population declines. We seem to be in the conundrum I’ve commented on several times – the failure or inability to separate science/facts from presonal or collective value systems. No, this is not evidence of a bias against wolves. It IS an example of my bias against the same problem you incorrectly attribute to my position. My comment was that the frequent statements by wolf advocates in this blog community that wolf predation does not limit prey abundance, regulate prey populations, or in other phrasiology significantly affect prey populations is an incorrect BLANKET statement. In a frustrating sense, we seem to be arguing the same fundamental point.

    “But this statement implies that (a) wolves will always cause private property damage, and (b) preventing damage will require management of wolf “numbers” (i.e. killing wolves). I would also argue that Mark’s use of the phrase “wolf numbers” suggests population regulation (i.e. hunting) as opposed to individual control actions.”

    Nothing in what I said should reasonabley construed to say “always”. Your interpretation infers an assumption that referencing problems/challenges for wildlife management associated with wolf predation or depredation – implies a bias towards wolves. We need to distinguish science and values in these discussions.
    Wolf population regulation is not the only tool for mediating wolf depredation problems, it is one of several. Reducing wolf numbers (not eliminating wolves) in areas such as the Lolo Zone or Sawtooth Zone will be necessary to increase elk production and recruitment to some level closer to habitat potential.

    “All of the assertions embedded in Mark’s original statement are true under certain conditions, but rather than couch his assertions appropriately (i.e. conditionally), he made a blanket assertion about wolves that no scientist would be comfortable making. More importantly, and not surprisingly, Mark’s statement casts wolves in the most negative light.”

    We’re so close but so far away. No, I didn’t make a blanket statement that wolves do anything ALWAYS. I stated that wolves profoundly affect their prey populations.
    Nothing in my comments should assign any value to wolves. The fact that wolf predation affects prey population dynamics in many circumstances does not imply value (positive or negative) for wolves. It is simply a fact to consider. The value judements are left to each of us as individuals and as a society.

  162. avatar Ken Cole says:

    I guess I should say that wolves have been present in many places for 12 years and that you are right in saying that there are several places where they have been there for much less time.

    Dr. Peek gave his presentation at the 2007 wolf conference in Chico, MT. I don’t know the actual reference.

  163. avatar bob jackson says:

    josh,

    I have been travelling for the last couple days for a combined meat run and holidays in NYC. Thus not much detailed response to your questions.

    Yes, bison and elk look different but have basically the same means of evolutionary development…the same as all other herd animals specifically…and in general with the human population. It has to be that way. It is the only effecient means of species to develop other than random happenings.

  164. avatar JEFF E says:

    ……all of the past six posts tie in with what I have been trying to get across with apparently limited success. so once again;

    1. Habitat is a component of all factors present, both flora and fauna, and to an exante those factors such as weather, altitude, etc., and how that would effect the flora and fauna.

    2. The habitat did not stay the same pre to post wolf introduction ((((because)))) we now have another (((factor))) which will to some extent affect all other flora and fauna components that constitute the overall habitat.

    3. Because of the shift in factors all other hypotheses concerning the subject habitat have to be adjusted to take into account that new dichotomy.

    3. the state is apparently limiting the definition of habitat to exclude at least one component; wolves, however is not, at least that I can discern attempting to exclude other fauna components such as cougar and bear.

    4. Instead of “internalizing” the the new (and improved) landscape with wolves, we are treated to lip service about how wolves will be manged just as cougar and bear, that all consumptive uses are given equal and unbiased consideration, yadda, yadda, yadda.
    The fact is that from the 15+ rejected wolf management plans, the MOU’s in the legislative branch to remove all wolves by any means necessary which are still on the books, the continuous use of WS gunships at a cost far in excess (thousands, tens of thousands??) of what the depredation is in dollar amounts, blatant attempts to circumvent laws such as the wilderness act, ad nauseum, wolves are treated as something extraneous and viewed by the state as best unpleasant and akin to a illness or disease.
    Yet those of us that can appreciate the idea of, and sometimes a, complete functioning habitat are vilified for standing up and taking a stand even including legal recourse; we are just being emotional.

    If we would just listen to Big Brother everything would be just fine.

  165. avatar JEFF E says:

    okay a couple of you snuck in and posted while I was typing, so more than six.

  166. avatar Jay says:

    WM–a couple points from MT FWP’s final report on wolf/elk interactions that address a couple of your questions above:

    1. Most data that have directly measured elk pregnancy rates since wolf restoration began indicate that elk pregnancy rates are unaffected by wolves, in contrast to some indirect evidence from average hormone concentrations in elk feces. Indirect evidence from hunter-collected samples also indicates that elk pregnancy rates have been unaffected by wolves.

    2. Most data collected during winter indicate that wolves have small-scale effects on elk distribution (displacement of up to approximately 1 km upon contact) and movement rates (increased movement rates of approximately 1.23 km per every 4 hours). Wolves may also affect elk habitat selection and group sizes, but the magnitude and direction of these effects is widely variable among wintering areas and even among habitats in the same wintering area. Where the impacts of hunting, hunter access, and wolves have been studied simultaneously, the impacts of hunting and hunter access on elk distribution, movements, group sizes, and habitat selection have been larger than the effects of wolves.

    You brought up the question of pregnancy rates, and despite Creel’s statement that pregnancy rates are lower (based on measuring hormones in elk poop), studies where pregnancy rates are actually measured (blood tests from captured elk), indicate there aren’t any changes pre- and post-wolf.

    Secondly, this doesn’t really address one of your questions to Mark, but I’d point out the 2nd paragraph as a perfect example of how hunters tend to blame predators for negative impacts, while being completely oblivious to their own impacts (or other sources…i.e., our converation about their being other sources of elk mortality outside of wolves).

  167. Ken Cole,

    My statements about Big Creek were based on Dr. Peek’s talk at the 2007 conference and the multi-year research done by Jim and Holly Akenson who lived at Taylor Ranch Field Station in Big Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness to do the research.

  168. avatar JB says:

    “You offer a relevant citation as evidence that my certainty of wolf predation impacts on prey species may not be certain. But, you mistakenly attribute my certainly to a value motive.”

    Mark: Yes; I attributed a value judgment on your part concerning wolves. However, your attribution of value is tangential to the point I was making (or trying to make). Your original statement is one that no scientist would make without a LOT of qualification. Lacking that qualification, you IMPLY that the effects wolves have on prey species are always–or at the very least, near always–profound. It is this certainty and lack of qualification that bothers me. It suggests that you already know all the answers and the data you are collecting is merely formality. The fact is that there is substantially more uncertainty regarding how and under what conditions wolves impact ungulate populations (and of course these impacts will vary by species).

    “My comment was that the frequent statements by wolf advocates in this blog community that wolf predation does not limit prey abundance, regulate prey populations, or in other phrasiology significantly affect prey populations…”

    Great; I agree. This statement is problematic for the same reason I object to your statement: it lacks qualification. From my perspective, an appropriate response–for someone acting as a representative for a state wildlife management agency–would’ve been to use the scientific literature to refute this statement. Tell us why this statement is incorrect. Under what conditions have wolves been shown to affect ungulate densities? Under what conditions is there little or no discernible effect?

    You said that it is important that we “distinguish science and values in these discussions”. I agree. Can you show me the science in the statement that follows? Cause all I can see are more value judgments.

    “The myth that wolves will not profoundly affect the abundance of elk or other prey species or cause legitimate private property damage (that makes management of wolf numbers necessary) is just that – a myth.”

  169. avatar Wilderness Muse says:

    Thanks Jay,

    I have the full report, and have read the executive summary, and parts of the report. Three comments:

    1. A source at MTGFP, in candid but guarded conversation, expressed they were less than satisfied with the quality of Hamlin’s “brain dump” (their term), and the analysis of the data. This was rushed to completion before his retirement. You will note on page ii – Acknowledgements, a disclaimer showing the report was not peer reviewed. Also, note Creel is heavily cited in the document (as well as the Acknowledgement), and his study Creel’s stress study cited above, came out after the release of Hamlin’s report. How it would affect any conclusions of the report, I am not qualified to say.

    2. Elk Vital Rates – Pregnancy (page 11). The first two paragraphs outline that there is some disagreement between Creel and Hamblin on this point – whether wolves affect pregnancy rates and to what extent.. The section then goes about justifying the model he (Hamblin) selected, and the results it produced. This was only for the GYA, an area plagued with mystery about the huge elk population declines and a range of explanations for the variable involved.

    3. I constantly have to remind myself that results of scientific studies done in Yellowstone and the GYA may or may not be representative of other areas of the West. Even though the wolves have been there longest and studied most, there are many opportunities to misunderstand, misconstrue or failure to acknowledge limitations on study design, lack of data, or conclusions made in these studies, by everyone.

    On your last point about hunter vs. wolves moving elk. I read that conclusion back in May when I received the report. It is anecdotal, I know, but our hunting experiences suggest otherwise, regarding the conclusion. But that was ID, not MT. Maybe the elk act differently, Hah.

  170. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    So we don’t get bogged down in semantics, let me clarify. I said that the thesis frequently invoked by members of this blog community is a myth. I elaborated that in many circumstances, not all, wolf predation does limit prey production, recruitment and abundance. I did not say or imply that wolves universally, always have the same effect on their prey populations. From this point forward, when I refer to wolf predation effects on prey populations, please understand that I am referring to the documented effect of wolf predation on prey populations in certain circumstances.
    The ongoing Idaho wolf predation study substantiates that wolves regulate prey (elk) populations and that wolf predation mortality for those elk populations in the Lolo and Sawtooth Wolf Management Zones exceeds the predation mortality of bears or lions. The IDFG research is among the best being conducted on the question of wolf mediated effects on a prey species. My earlier responses to Ralph’s question about the relative predation effects of bears, lions and wolves should have referenced the findings of the IDFG study. I am NOT suggesting that those findings for the large geographic areas represented by the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones are applicable to all wolf-prey interactions, but these findings are compelling substantiation that wolves do indeed have profound impacts on a targeted prey species, within current habitat conditions.

  171. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    JB –
    Sorry – trying to get out the door for an appointment. Should proof my posts better.
    First sentence should read: “the thesis frequently invoked by members of this blog community….that wolf predation does not regulate prey populations…. is a myth.

  172. Mark Gamlin

    Because you refer many times to the on-going IDFG study, we need to see some data from it.

  173. avatar timz says:

    Ralph, I’m sure we’ll get to see it after they finish fabricating it.

  174. avatar Salle says:

    Yeah, and they’re probably taking notes from this blog to make sure they “cover” points we’ve made concerning our suspicions about their practices.

  175. avatar gline says:

    Why so much money and time spent on manipulating the gray wolf (including sterilization of the alpha female)? Why not more money and time spent on regulation of livestock on federal lands?

  176. avatar Brian Ertz says:

    gline says :

    Why not more money and time spent on regulation of livestock on federal lands?

    ~ Livestock is the Untouchable ~

  177. avatar gline says:

    Just thought I would bring up the obvious again…

  178. avatar gline says:

    Wolves are the scapegoat…. WAY too much attention given to changing them. We need to change our utilitarian perspective and lifestyles…

  179. avatar gline says:

    gee, wonder if that means another lawsuit? How many times can we say “sue”?

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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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