Anti-wolf sentiment seems high in Montana, judging from the media, but mostly from the Republican Party. However, the chairman of Montana FWP Commission, Dr. Robert Ream, once a wolf researcher himself, told Bitterroot Valley residents that the extremely low elk cow/calf ratio in the West Fork of Bitterroot (HD250) was probably a “perfect storm,” and that the ratio was improving.
Dr. Ream is also a well known Democrat in a state where the Republican Party and its splinter groups are marching more and more to what can perhaps best be described as a neo-Confederate themes. Like northern Idaho, Montana has for the last 25 years struggled against militias, neo-Nazis, theocrats, “freemen,” and secessionists, but it has more often than not withstood the call of far right reactionaryism. This former political fringe is now using the wolf as a vehicle to move an otherwise unpopular agenda. They have largely seized the state Republican Party, now bolstered by the the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Montana’s law prohibiting corporate contributions in its election campaigns.
Despite the healthy elk numbers, Montana FWP Commission does want to further reduce wolf numbers. Ream made that clear.
The West Fork of Bitterroot, like the Yellowstone northern range elk herd, has been a cause celeb for anti-wolf activists, and these areas have been unwittingly taken by much of the media as representative of the entire state when in reality elk numbers grown well beyond objectives. Places where elk are abundant and more so do not get much media publicity, though ranchers are often among the first to signal there are “too many elk.”
My experience in the West Fork also tells me that it is relatively infertile land, and high elk numbers probably not the prehistoric norm. I think the elk numbers were also high there because of the area’s remoteness. Once a combination of factors brought it down, it didn’t rebound in a couple years.
Ream’s history and comments were covered in the Bitterroot Star. ‘The perfect storm’ for elk decline in HD 250. By Michael Howell