Loss of collared wolves has had a significant effect on research of wolves in Yellowstone National Park

According to a news article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the population of wolves in Yellowstone National Park has dropped by about 20-28% from the 2011 end-of-the-year estimate of 98 wolves.

Dan Stahler, a wildlife biologist with the Yellowstone Wolf Project, tells the Jackson Hole News and Guide “We’re looking at an estimate between 71 and 78 wolves right now. That’s in nine wolf packs. Out of those wolf packs, six will be considered a breeding pair for the coming year.”

Stahler also tells the News & Guide “There’s no doubt about it, the loss of those wolves to the hunt had a negative impact to our research.”

Y’stone wolves down 25%
Jackson Hole News & Guide

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Western Watershed Project’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Coordinator, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is also serves as a member of the board of directors for Buffalo Field Campaign and as a member of the Sierra Club Grazing Core Team.

122 Responses to Yellowstone wolf population declines by 25% partly due to hunting near YNP borders

  1. avatar Mike says:

    Thanks, hunters.

  2. avatar Rancher Bob says:

    Does anyone have any data or idea of the number of wolves killed by wolves in the park for any given year?

    • avatar Wendy says:

      According to the Yellowstone Wolf Report for 2011, 10 collared wolves were killed during 2011, including 6 by other packs (495M, 586M, 715F, 641M, 636M and 775M, one by legal hunt (642F) and one poached (692F), one hit by a car and another died of unknown, natural causes.
      Although the 2012 report is not out yet, I know of at least two Blacktail males and an uncollared Lamar Canyon pup that were killed by the Mollies (including Big Blaze 838M and 777M) and one collared Mollie female that was killed by the Lamar Canyon pack. The resident Yellowstone packs were in the process of naturally reducing their numbers, as a response to lowered prey numbers, which was entirely predictable from a scientific point of view. This is why having a no-quota or high-quota wolf hunt in any area adjacent to the Park is, to me, scientifically unsupportable. Self-regulation of wolf populations is a fact. I wonder if the states will recognize it before wolf numbers drop too far.

      • avatar Craig says:

        So how do they say 25% since the 2012 report isn’t out yet?

        • avatar Wendy says:

          Probably because they know how to count.
          But if you are seriously asking this question, Dan Stahler is a scientist and a member of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. I am not. I’m gonna bet he has access to information that I don’t.

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Rancher Bob

      this brings up a good question. if hunters are only partly to blame why is it that most want to lay all the blame on hunters and trappers ?
      Maybe not a high % but wolves can kill there own and other predators can kill wolves, then factor in horned ungulates killing some and road kills and last but not least disease.

      I know I will get the third degree for my comment but it seems hunters are always the scapegoat for the blame game.

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        Robert,

        No third degree. But a whole lot of data should be picked over in wolf hunting states prior to establishing quotas for next years hunts.

        I guess the terms additive or compensatory come into play. When wolf numbers are up, prey down, additive may be good. When wolf numbers are down, additive may not be good. When wolf numbers up, prey up a lot of the take could be compensatory. Guess its how one looks at wolf population dynamics.

        • avatar Lee Rockwell says:

          I’m not trying to be rude but I am having trouble understanding you. I think the general public will understand you a lot better when you stop using words like “additive” and “compensatory” in this context… Just sayin’…

          • avatar savebears says:

            Additive and compensatory are very important to the conversation Lee

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            Lee,

            No problem. Just ask for explanation.

            Additive implies, in this case, additional wolves killed (hunted/ trapped) than nature herself would have taken.

            Compensatory implies, in this case, wolves that were killed (hunted/trapped)would most likely have died from other natural causes besides hunting/trapping.

            The terms additive and compensatory are also used in conjunction with livestock. How many livestock die of natural causes: birthing; disease; poison ( eating wrong plants), etc. is wolf predation additive- adding to these numbers; or compensatory, removing a segment of the population that would have died any way.

            With predation of Elk and deer compensatory predation is removing deer/elk that would otherwise have starved or died from other causes. It’s a bit more complex, because wolves will kill some of these “weaker” targets, yet also kill some that would have survived otherwise.

            • avatar SEAK Mossback says:

              Immer –

              Good description of compensatory mortality, and too bad more people (including many experienced hunters) don’t have a better basic feel for it. Lacking such an understanding, even people who spend a lot of time in the woods carry some hard-held but hair-brained notions all their lives. A couple of examples:

              1. If we are protecting all female animals, we must be creating the maximum number of (deer, elk or you name it) that we can hunt.

              2. If we are killing (wolves, coyotes, you name it), we must be reducing conflicts for rural society and creating more (deer, elk, small game or you name it) that we can hunt.

              There are of course not-too-distant analogies in other fields of human endeavor, like pest and disease control and counter-insurgent warfare (If we are killing NVA, Taliban, etc., we must be progressing toward our objective of control and lasting peace on our terms). Or fish hatcheries (If we are adding young salmon to the environment, we must be increasing the total number of adult salmon that return).

              There are occasional lasting game-changers like WWII, eliminating small-pox, and total wolf eradication from the west a century ago, and of course on-going species extinctions. I would hope everybody would wish for such a solution to Yellowstone Lake lake trout, for example. However, when an all-out nuclear option is off the table (as it usually is nowadays with species or populations or adversaries we want to control or eliminate), the rational thing to do is to really try to understand the consequences and cost-benefits of your options — and that includes the biological response. In many cases, the best response option may ultimately turn out to be little or nothing.

              Comprehending the compensatory response in populations seems inordinately challenging for intelligent society even as it continues to drain our wealth, energy and life. But being an optimistic can-do society, we tend not to dwell too long on failure (or learn from it) and, like G.W. Bush, often chose to “govern from the heart rather than the mind”. The problem is that not properly employing our mind (our best collective mind through science) can also be bad for our heart.

        • avatar Robert R says:

          Immer your correct.

          A whole lot of data should be picked over in wolf hunting states prior to establishing quotas for next years hunts.

        • avatar WM says:

          Immer,

          Good post. I think another dimension worth mentioning is the time lag measured from the date wolf reductions occur until there is a measureable difference in an expected increase in available prey base with fewer. It takes up to three, maybe even four years or so for that to happen, assuming no other variables, like weather, increase in other predators (think cougar, black bear), disease, hunter harvest etc., affect it.

          That has always been difficult concept to discuss with some wolf advocates who seem intent on advocating no take-off UNTIL it is shown that wolves are having a significant impact on, or reduction of the numbers of the prey (here I am thinking of the original 10j rule when wolves were ESA listed).

          It will, indeed, be interesting to see what the YNP wolf population will be two or three years from now, as well, assuming at least rudimentary protection for those who spend some time outside the Park during hunting seasons.

          By the way, does anyone know what happened at the hearing before newly elected Judge Gilbert, that was supposed to have taken place on January 14, regrarding the earlier judge’s ruling to temporarily enjoin MTFWP from having the no-hunt zone adjacent to the Park?

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            WM,

            Your comment is every statisticians dream/nightmare. Perhaps a good place to begin would be Isle Royale. One predator, one primary prey species. Different variables at play, but the lag time between moose decline and increase and the wolf population ups and downs follows that inverse sine wave pattern so indicative of dynamic equilibrium.

            One might predict the same thing happening in the NRM, but there are also other predators: two species of bear; cougars; and hunters. So many variables for the number crunchers.

            Rather like a male dogs first venture into the woods. So many trees, so little time.

            • avatar ma'iingan says:

              “…inverse sine wave pattern so indicative of dynamic equilibrium.”

              Not so fast Immer. :) Check out the Moose/ Wolf graph, covering 50 years of predator/ prey abundance on Isle Royale. There’s scant evidence of correlation between wolf and moose abundance – the big crash for wolves was parvovirus in the 80’s, and the major event for moose was a double whammy of weather and winter ticks.

              Obviously, there are stochastic events that are more significant than predation on the island. Rolf Peterson has remarked that he’s “unable to predict anything” based on the existing data.

              It’s dangerous to use IR data to describe predation effects on other landscapes, however. On a landscape with a more diverse predator guild, a winter kill coupled with abundant predators can suppress an ungulate population long-term.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                ma’iingan,

                I believe I said as much in my post. Had a student did a math regression
                On IR and those peaks and valleys smooth out nicely.

                That said, the variables, such as parvo hitting the wolves in the 80’s set the Stage for the dramatic moose increae , prior to their precipitous crash in the mid 90’s.

                I agree with you that one must use Great caution using IR as a model for other “ecosystems” but the data is there. Thus the statisticians dream/nightmare.

                I believe there is a “similar” inverse sine wave pattern for lynx and snow shoe hare somewhere in the records of the Hudson Bay fur trapping annals.

              • avatar ma'iingan says:

                “Had a student did a math regression on IR and those peaks and valleys smooth out nicely.”

                Hey Immer – absolutely, one can smooth out the oscillations – we tried some modeling with the assumption that parvo was never introduced. And of course, the wolf population declined sharply once the vulnerable biomass/ wolf value was reduced past a certain threshold.

                The point I was trying to make, maybe clumsily, was that the simple predator/prey ratio is very loosely coupled – and it can be swamped out by any number of variables; sometimes subtle, sometimes catastrophic.

                This is lost on a lot of wolf opponents who cannot be convinced that predator abundance is often not the regulator of prey abundance.

                On the flip side, too many wolf advocates claim that Isle Royale illustrates “balance” – and ignore the fact that balance often consists of a series of wild oscillations, delimited by disease, starvation, and social stress.

                You’ve probably seen the Fortunate Wilderness DVD – but if you haven’t, get your hands on a copy.

                http://www.fortunatewilderness.com/

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                ma’iingan,

                I am in complete with your posting

                I believe I’ve seen Fortunate Wilderness at least in parts. I’m going to a country ski meet tomorrow. If time allows I’ll stop by the IWC and seen if they still have a copy.

                First real cold weather up here coming tomorrow night. Good time to “watch”. That or read some Robert Service.

              • avatar Harley says:

                That cold wave is gonna be cruising through here tomorrow. I’ll be stocking up on good reading material and movies lol!

              • avatar ma'iingan says:

                “I’ll be stocking up on good reading material and movies lol!”

                I’ve got an even better plan – I’ll be out counting wolves. :)

            • avatar Immer Treue says:

              ma,

              Depending when and where, I’m available to help.

              • avatar ma'iingan says:

                We’re in the midst of the WI winter carnivore survey – we got our first tracking snow in three weeks last night so it’s all hands on deck.

              • avatar Harley says:

                In sub zero weather?!? You are a brave brave soul! I could …. count coyotes I guess…. Nope! I think I’ll stay in!
                :-D

        • avatar Kristi says:

          This would be all good and true BUT have ANY of the wolf-hunting states paid attention to science one tiny bit? No, they haven’t. The state biologists are not the ones that design the wolf hunts, politicians are doing it. They look at quotas, like MFWP did from 2011-2012 season…welp, we didn’t hit 220 dead wolves even after extending the season for 6 more weeks so for the 2012-2013 season, we better add trapping, forget about quotas and kick it up to 3 dead wolves/hunter and trapper. There, that’s the science in wolf management. ID’s science is, let’s use skinned wolves for bait to attract other wolves. WY’s science…see ‘em, shoot ‘em. I realize that Wildlife/Game depts. are at the mercy of politicians (and the groups that support them) but they are educated people, have experience, know that wolf management done the way the pols want them to is BS. If they don’t give the politicians what they want, they can be removed. I can’t imagine how bad it would be in MT if Bob Ream and Ron Moody are not re-appointed. Oh wait, yes I can…it could be another Idaho. Or WY—unless any or all of those 3 lawsuits are successful. I would LOVE to see the formulations, info, date, history, whatever they use regarding elk hunting vs that of wolf “hunting”. I am guessing it would be a blank computer monitor or a blank piece of paper.

          • avatar Rancher Bob says:

            Kristi
            In Montana from the very first wolf introduction meeting people were told at some point wolves will be hunted and trapped with leg holds and snares if need be to control wolf populations. Montana started with hunting two years and the population increased. Montana added leg hold trapping to hunting and I would bet our wolf population will grow this year. Yes there’s a good chance snares will be added in 2013 season the season longer. Here’s some science for you you can kill up to 30% of a wolf population and it will still increase. Sorry Kristi but Montana’s wolf population is still growing.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              Rancher Bob
              why is there a good chance snares will be added, what do you know the rest of us don’t? I know at least one of the commissioners, if not two, worked very hard to keep snares out. Who is advocating for those highly disturbing, insanely cruel, nightmare devices? Here is some news for you, killing 30% of a rather small population of wolves to feed a hatred of them, is outright bullshit.

              • avatar SaveBears says:

                Louise,

                I think you will see those two commissioners gone in the very near future. Scuttle butt has it, that they are not toeing the line.

                And Please don’t take that as I am baiting anything, it is just what I am hearing.

      • avatar Mike says:

        ++I know I will get the third degree for my comment but it seems hunters are always the scapegoat for the blame game.++

        Wait a second…you mean to tell me that hunters and trappers are “taking the blame” for hunting and trapping Yellowstone wolves?

        That’s crazy!

  3. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    Now, how do we go about getting Non-Yellowstone Wyoming wolf numbers ? And when ? That information channel went away…

    I’m very concerned about the lack of reliable wolf data in Wyoming

    • avatar Leslie says:

      Cody, what do you mean? Besides G&F webpage?

      • avatar Kristi says:

        WY is not very transparent in their wolf “hunt” info. Their website doesn’t contain very much specific info regarding wolf killing, er I mean hunting. I haven’t even found maps for hunting districts on their site.

      • avatar CodyCoyote says:

        Leslie- I read the Wyo G&F monthly reports regularly. They are mighty ” thin” on information. For instance, they state that in the last two months of 2012 there were only two wolves collared and released. Anecdotally the number of wolves collared in NW Wyoming is many times higher. A hunter both you and I know had a long conversation in the field with a WS agent during his cow elk hunt. The guy had trapped and collared more than two wolves just that week.

        I am still fulminating that the Wyoming wolf management plan as enacted all but forbids accurate and timely information about wolf kills and wolf hunts and wolf controls to be made public.

        • avatar Leslie says:

          Cody, All hush hush except for all the bragging rights that come with getting a wolf. WG&F might be required by law to protect hunters, but they don’t seem to feel a need.

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    How awful. I don’t know if this is worse than I expected, or what I expected because I figured it would be bad. I am again reminded of all the assurances we had that wolves weren’t easy to hunt, are so elusive, need to be managed, the plan was appropriate and wouldn’t be abused, etc. etc.

    And let’s not get mean now! Mike can have his say, can’t he?

    • avatar savebears says:

      Not if I can help it Ida, Mike has no reasoning skills, he wants everyone to believe as he does, which is not the real world.

    • avatar Mike says:

      Ida –

      If SB had his way, there’d be no wolverines or grizzlies on the endangered species list because “Canada has them”.

      • avatar savebears says:

        I never said that Mike, you are being a jerk, and lying. I guess it come down to at least my goal is honest, even if I have to lye.

        • avatar Craig says:

          Look at last year compared to this year! Wolves will figure it out, Coyotes have and thrive!

          http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/hunt/?getPage=121

          • avatar Ken Cole says:

            Are you saying that because fewer wolves have been killed that wolves have figured out how to avoid being killed?

            It doesn’t look like that at all to me. I’ve been looking at the information and it looks more like the reason that there have been fewer wolves killed has more to do with a drastic population decline. It appears that the same proportion of the population is being killed off as last year, maybe an even greater proportion of the population is being killed.

            We’ll see what the final estimated number looks like for the year sometime in March but I’m willing to bet that it is somewhere within the range of 470-525 or so as compared to 732 last year at the end of the year. That’s 64%-72% of last year’s estimate if I’m correct.

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              I think both things are probably true, but after killing a lot of wolves Idaho and Montana doubled down for 2012-13. In other words, they went into extermination mode and called it a reduction mode.

              All three states might have a hard time proving they have the required number of breeding pairs to prevent relisting the wolf.

              No doubt they will try to tell us that any two wolves seen together are a breeding pair. Large pups with a single adult will called breeding pairs, and so forth.

              The official wolf count for Idaho and Montana at the end of 2011 was overstated and deceptive too because it came in the middle of wolf hunting season, yet they used the end of year figures to justify their 2012-13 hunts. They have no idea how much the hunt affected breeding success or the survival of the wolf pups. Idaho seems to have little knowledge or interest in the number of poaching incidents as well.

              Folks need to demand proof.

            • avatar Craig says:

              Well why are the Coyotes doing fine? They have no limits year round as to hunting! I see lots of Coyotes on all my hunting and fishing trips. Maybe it’s because Wolves expand,deminish game numbers, then deminish themselves! Coyotes eat small game and do fluctiate but not like Wolves, they are more diverse in the prey they seek.

            • avatar Craig says:

              No, Ken they get smart and learn to avoid people or areas where they get killed. They are smart and learn, the ones who don’t die.
              Maybe if Wolves didn’t kill each other it might help out too! That would help out a little, a % or 2! I have a lot of clients, friends who would love to Kill a Wolf and haven’t even seen one. I’ve seen at least 7 while hunting, but I don’t kill unless I eat it!

              • avatar Mark L says:

                Craig says,
                “Maybe if Wolves didn’t kill each other it might help out too! That would help out a little, a % or 2!”

                I’m not following….are you saying that they should change their biology to suit our goals?

  5. avatar Louise Kane says:

    The loss of these wolves was not only a loss to researchers, the negative impact also extends to the American public and all the world travelers that come to see intact ecosystems complete with natural predators on the landscape. A wise man told me once that this fight might be better won by illustrating that the war on wolves is “unamerican”. Nothing demonstrates the truth of that statement as clearly as losing 25+ % of a much beloved population of wolves in the park. Wise man I heard you.

  6. avatar Joseph C. Allen says:

    Albeit under the influence of several Patron Silvers (no salt added), would someone help me with wrapping my brain around the killing a wolf? With all due respect and no provocation intended (and not as a matter of depredation), how does one justify killing a wolf, mountain lion or grizzly? As a trained biolologist, wildlife conservation biologist, professor, hunter and fisherman and certifiable animal lover, I cannot fathom how this is rationally justified? Help, please—-sorry about the drunken redundance.

    • avatar Louise Kane says:

      LOL Joseph,
      a trained wildlife biologist, professor, hunter etc speaking out against killing wolves – we need more of you – even with patron under your belt.

    • avatar Elk275 says:

      Switch to Mescal eat the worm and your brain will be wrapped.

      • avatar Joseph C. Allen says:

        Elk275, Never been a fan of consuming invertebrates except in sushi

      • avatar WM says:

        Joseph C.,

        Elk275 has given you good advice, nonetheless. Have a couple more Patrons. The question you ask today will still be there tomorrow, and there will be no answer that everyone can universally accept – probably ever.

        On the other hand a little Monte Alban mezcal will make things momentarily clear, and you need not eat the worm for that to happen. LOL

        • avatar Joseph C. Allen says:

          I know about that crazy elixir Monte Alban…I think I remember something about Puerto Penasco, grilled grouper, senoritas… uh, I don’t recall….but my question remains, remember? Wolves? Painters? Griz? Hell, never mind. I’ll dream about them while the rest of the world pontificates about their value to ecosystems (biological) or maybe just their intrinsic value……

    • avatar Joseph C. Allen says:

      To All: Sorry for the misspellings; that Patron clears the head like nothing else…..

  7. avatar Craig says:

    Ken what would you consider a viable population for Yellowstone? It has varied greatly over the years, and I’ve not seen any estimates.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      Viable and sustainable are two different things. A viable wolf population is one that can maintain genetic diversity over the long term. A sustainable wolf population has more to do with the amount of food, disease, and mortality. The YNP population of wolves was at a high of 174 in 2003 but has stabilized, until this year, at around 100.

      There is a graph of the population here: http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm

      YNP is not able to sustain a viable population of wolves on its own so it needs to have dispersals into and out of the Park to maintain genetic diversity.

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        considering the threats they face as soon as they leave the safety of the park as well as the issues facing them in the park do you think the wolves in this region as well as in the park require federal protection to remain viable.

  8. avatar Craig says:

    So after 18 years no one can come up with an estimate of what would be a VIABLE (I understand the differnce) population?
    Ynp has more food for wolves than surrounding areas, except for the Elk decline. But still hunting is not a major factor on the population.
    If the population was 2,ooo and they shot the same amount out of the park it would be insignificant! Just because the population is lower(not hunter caused) the numbers or % would not be higher! That’s false, because they are not factoring in many other factors.

    You show me all factors besides hunting to prove this as a fact! Every documented Wolf Death ect. They are just saying Hunters took said amount, against gussed population and putting a % on it, + or – what? I trust data as much as the FWP,Fg ect.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      From Wikipedia about minimum viable population:
      An MVP of 500 to 1,000 has often been given as an average for terrestrial vertebrates when inbreeding or genetic variability is ignored. When inbreeding effects are included, estimates of MVP for many species are in the 1,000s. Based on a meta-analysis of reported values in the literature for many species, Traill et al. reported a median MVP of 4,169 individuals.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_viable_population

      Traill et al. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320707002534

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      “You show me all factors besides hunting to prove this as a fact! Every documented Wolf Death ect. They are just saying Hunters took said amount, against gussed population and putting a % on it, + or – what? I trust data as much as the FWP,Fg ect.”

      It’s a big conspiracy, I know. Maybe you should do some research on your own. Read a report or something. There is this thing called the Internet with a huge amount of information on it. There is also a handy tool called Google that allows you to type in words like “Yellowstone National Park wolf report” that magically returns results like this: http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm

      Sorry to be snarky, but I’m not going to do all of your research.

      • avatar Mark L says:

        Ken Cole says,
        “There is this thing called the Internet with a huge amount of information on it.”

        Really? Where exactly is it? Wait…let me guess….

        “There is also a handy tool called Google”

        Is it the one with the wooden handle one or the plastic one?

        (snarky AND facetious)

      • avatar Craig says:

        I have and most reports seem to favor one side or the other! True non biased data is hard to find!

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Craig brings up a good point.
      They have studied these wolves to death (18 years) for two generations of wolves and its going to take longer and they need more data.
      Talk about job security !!!

  9. avatar Leslie says:

    “Under the plan, the national park is expected to have a minimum of 50 wolves and five breeding pairs.”

    This is the crux of the matter. Those plans were never revised since the initial reintroduction because they didn’t know if it would be successful or how successful. Wyoming’s quota of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs is ridiculously low. They were fairly stable at around the 230 range before the hunt.

  10. avatar Craig says:

    I don’t disagree with what the breeding popoulation or number of packs should be! But someone should know what the” Viable” population should be plain and simple! 18 years of reaseach should have an estimate? As Ken stated Viable means more than sustainable, because sustainable has way more factors involved.

  11. avatar Lee Rockwell says:

    Is any one else having a problem with getting back a message stating,”It looks like you’ve already posted this before.”??? I KNOW I didn’t post this last one. How could I have when it was in response to a current post??? Frustrated in Forest Knolls…

  12. avatar Robert R says:

    Someone do the math for the 25 percent of lost wolves because the numbers are not adding up.

  13. avatar Robert R says:

    JB
    That’s what I like to see. The true numbers + or – I think are only an estimate in my opinion so the percentage could be higher or lower depending on who is reporting.

    • avatar WM says:

      ++…the percentage could be higher or lower depending on who is reporting.++

      And, the accuracy of those numbers, whatever they are, are going to be increasingly suspect because there are fewer collared research wolves to track, and learn more about the dynamics of the population under various stress scenarios. As time goes on, the margin of error +/- may increase, though the historical estimation techniques tend to err on the side of undercounting the number of wolves actually on the landscape (Dr. Mech).

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        WM,

        I think Dr. Mech’s conclusion on counting might be time bound — valid for then, but not for now.

        The reason is that the techniques used to count wolves no longer work due to the lack of radio collars. Heavy hunting and keeping radio collars do not go together well.

        In their absence, most of the states have every political reason to overestimate the number of wolves and no incentive to underestimate.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          Heavy hunting and keeping radio collars do not go together well.

          In their absence, most of the states have every political reason to overestimate the number of wolves and no incentive to underestimate.

          I wonder how this will impact the coming year’s hunt.

          • avatar Craig says:

            That is also a big factor! That’s why I was asking for a unbiased estimate! If that’s even possible in this scenario.

        • avatar WM says:

          Ralph,

          I expect estimation “truth and veracity” might vary by state, and the ethics of the agency staff involved.

          MN, for example, has not ever relied very heavily on collars (it is largely visual/sign estimate), in fact the only ones were a few Dr. Mech had in the northern part of the state in a NF, if I recall correctly. MN, in a heart beat, reduced its population estimate a few years back, which made the population go down something like 400 or so, just by reducing average pack size by a couple tenths.

          I would tend to believe if any state started “over-estimating” it would eventually catch up to them, and that would be one more PR and regulatory nightmare they would try to avoid. And, then there are those dispersers that cross state boundaries, adding to the overall population, as in the NRM – WA and OR being the examples (where most of us suspect there is signficant undercounting).

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            As MN is now doing their count, it will be interesting to observe results after the known removal of 700 wolves in 2012.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              yes Immer very ineteresting, I wonder if it will be like Montana’s numbers last year showing wolves as having increased…enough so to warrant more aggressive hunting seasons and to implement trapping.

        • avatar Louise Kane says:

          Ralph thank you! I think there is little danger of the states, in their current mode anti wolf mode, to underestimate the number of wolves in the state. Seems they are more likely to grossly overestimate.

    • avatar JB says:

      Robert, WM-

      Nearly all the numbers you’ll see thrown around in wildlife management are estimates. The alternative to estimates are censunses, which are extremely uncommon due to cost and logistics.

      • avatar WM says:

        JB,

        In deed, “estimates,” but the enduring problem is that estimates have inherent issues of precision and accuracy (two different concepts), which are compounded along the way. The estimates become the basis for regulatory decisions by both the states and the federal government.

        I never cease to be amazed how estimates, become hard numbers that then get entrenched as they move through the oversight or regulatory processes, and republished over time. So, for example the YNP number was labeled “98” at some point rather than “about 100″ which was probably a more accurate estimate (due to problematic undercounting), which gives a greater sense of uncertainty.

        • avatar JB says:

          WM:

          I agree with you. I’ve argued that estimates should always be given as a range. The problem with wolf numbers, as I understand it, is that the method used to derive the estimate doesn’t have an associated, quantified estimate of error.

          • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

            JB,

            Nor can the estimate ever be quantified. We can’t even agree in which direction it might be a biased sample.

  14. Stahler also tells the News & Guide “There’s no doubt about it, the loss of those wolves to the hunt had a negative impact to our research.”
    Stahler is typically more concerned with his “research” than he is with the wolves.
    Look for Stahler and Doug Smith to fire up their helicopters and put collars on half of the remaining wolves so that they can have some job security.

    It is time to stop this insanity of treating Yellowstone wolves like lab rats. 18 years of wolf harassment by Doug and Dan is enough!!!

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Larry Thorngren,

      Despite your many qualities, I really dislike your continual tirade against wolf research in the Park.

      The wolves there tell us much more than the badly shot up packs in the surrounding states. There needs to places where wolves can be studied in unmodified surroundings where they are not subject to more than rare human caused mortality. It is hard enough nowadays to be a federal or state employee. That too leads me to support these folks.

      • avatar Sam Parks says:

        Ralph Maughan,
        I am no fan of the radio-collaring either. It’s a simple ethical question in my view. Is it worth it to chase a wolf from a helicopter in deep snow until it is too exhausted to run away, shoot it with a tranquilizer, and slap an intrusive radio collar around it’s neck that it now has to live with for the rest of it’s life. And all of this for what? To satisfy our curiosity about their lives? I absolutely don’t think it’s worth it. I value science, but I don’t value science more than I value the rights of wolves to live out their lives without being needlessly terrorized. In my opinion, the only time the collaring of any animal can be justified is if it is to preserve the species. For instance, collaring animals in a non-protected area so that we can site developments to minimize impacts to that species (i.e. sage grouse). Collaring Yellowstone’s wolves has absolutely nothing to do with preserving the species. Yes, science has proved the ecological benefits of wolves. However, none of this science comes from radio collars. To document the benefits of wolf restoration to red fox, pronghorn, beaver, aspen, willow, cottonwood, etc., one needs to observe those species. Frankly, I have yet to hear an argument that could justify this continual harassment of Yellowstone’s wolves, given that the science obtained from radio collars is purely human-serving and does nothing whatsoever to help wolves. It is a huge disservice to the YNP wolves that were killed in the hunt to mourn their deaths only in the sense of one fewer research subject. My two cents.

        • avatar SaveBears says:

          Oh Come on Sam, There is a Justification, Just ask the head of the wolf project, if they don’t have to study them any longer, then someones job is going to dry up and he won’t let get to fly around in his nice little Yellow airplane any longer.

        • avatar JB says:

          “the science obtained from radio collars is purely human-serving and does nothing whatsoever to help wolves.”

          Hogwash! The data obtained through radio and GPS collars tells us about the size of pack territories, what types of habitat wolves are using and how frequently, and provides researchers who use less invasive, observational methods a reliable way of finding wolves. These data are critical for understanding what constitutes good habitat for wolves in this region and what is needed for their continued persistence. I would also point to a recent National Geographic article that clearly shows pack territories in the NRMs occur disproportionately on federal public land, which serves to undermine claims that wolves are ubiquitous on the landscape and that they are a substantial threat to people. Where do these estimates of pack territories come from? Telemetry and GPS data.

          And that’s just a tiny sample of how the scientific information gathered in these studies informs conservation efforts.

          • avatar Louise Kane says:

            “I would also point to a recent National Geographic article that clearly shows pack territories in the NRMs occur disproportionately on federal public land, which serves to undermine claims that wolves are ubiquitous on the landscape and that they are a substantial threat to people.”

            I had not seen that JB do you have a link, and thanks

          • avatar Sam Parks says:

            JB, really? We need telemetry and GPS from radio collars to tell us what is good habitat for wolves? Talk about hogwash. Wolf habitat is the habitat of their prey. It’s that simple.

            Anybody could have told you wolves would occur disproportionately on federal public land (i.e. national forests, parks, and wilderness areas). Honestly, that is just common sense.

            How does information about estimates of pack territories help wolves?

            And furthermore, as I stated several times, I am talking about Yellowstone’s wolves who live in a protected area. Their habitat is and will forever be protected (provided the government doesn’t sell Yellowstone). So I will ask again, how does collaring Yellowstone’s wolves help them?

            I’m in YNP currently for a month. The last couple days I have seen the helicopter going up, presumably looking for wolves to collar. It is hard not to think about the terror these wolves must feel through this process. Honestly, just put yourself in that position. Frankly, I hope Doug Smith comes up empty and as Larry put it, stops treating these magnificent creatures like lab rats.

            I have had this debate hundreds of times and I have yet to hear an argument that could justify the constant collaring of YNP’s wolves.

            • avatar JB says:

              Sam:

              I could site a dozen studies coming out of the NRMs that are helping to refine and challenge what we think we know about wolves. But what would be the point. Seems you’ve already made up your mind.

              While your pondering the “terror these wolves must feel” while they’re being chased by a helicopter. Consider that these wolves have to learn to cope with bison, moose, cougar, grizzly, and other wolves–all of which pose real threats. Wolves make their living chasing and stay alive by running away. What’s one more “game” of chase in a life like that?

              • avatar Sam Parks says:

                JB, you still haven’t told me how collaring YNP wolves is beneficial to them. I will agree that in the grand scale of a wolf’s life, a collaring would probably rank pretty low on it’s list of traumatic experiences, but that is irrelevant. It is certainly not a pleasant experience for them and I don’t think it helps wolves at all and I think it should stop. You probably think my mind is made up, but I am willing to listen to other arguments. I just don’t happen to buy yours.

                I’m not going to spend any more time on this, as I think it is a waste of time and probably counterproductive to concentrate on these petty differences between wolf advocates, especially given the much more serious threats wolves are facing.

              • avatar JB says:

                Sam:

                Collaring wolves is not beneficial to the individual animals collared.
                However, if that was the standard (those involved must benefit) we would not do research with human subjects either. No More drug trials; no more experimental procedures. All research involves some risk to the individuals involved, but we do it because the collective knowledge that comes from such efforts outweighs the risks. In the case of wolves, our collective understanding, shaped largely by science, played an essential role in de-bunking many of the myths that have plagued wolves. And as Ma’ notes (see comment below), such information is still being used to debunk the arguments of wolf opponents today.

                Wolves in Yellowstone are different. There are no livestock present in the park, and they are not hunted in the park. Moreover, they predator guild in the park and accompanying ungulate population makes Yellowstone a unique laboratory for this type of testing.

        • avatar JB says:

          A few days ago there was a debate on this blog about the accuracy of wolf population estimates in the NRMs. Ralph noted (rightly) that the accuracy of these estimates relies, in part, upon managers’ ability to reliably locate packs. This ability is greatly enhanced by the use of radio and GPS collars.
          Without collars the reliability of population estimates would suffer. Moreover, the increased ambiguity would doubtless lead wolf proponents to claim that populations were being greatly underestimated while opponents claim the exact opposite (i.e., it would increase social conflict). But how would that benefit wolves? You can answer that question by asking yourself which of these two sides is more effectively lobbying states? Got an answer? So when ambiguity about wolf population increases and the opponents scream that they’re being overrun by wolves, how do you think the states will respond?

          • avatar Sam Parks says:

            As I stated, I am talking about YNP’s wolves, not NRM wolves in general. The states have no management authority over YNP wildlife. In Yellowstone, it isn’t that hard to find wolves given the openness of the terrain. Currently, the Junction Butte Pack has no radio collars and we know how many there. If we stopped radio collaring YNP wolves today, we would have no trouble knowing coming up with a reliable population estimate. Again, I am talking about YNP, not the Northern Rockies in general.

            • avatar JB says:

              “The states have no management authority over YNP wildlife.”

              –Seems a lot of YNP wolves are dying from policy derived from states who lack mgmt. authority.

              “If we stopped radio collaring YNP wolves today, we would have no trouble knowing coming up with a reliable population estimate.”

              –Really? You would lose the ability to simultaneously locate packs. You would also lose the ability to estimate death (via mortality signal) as opposed to wolves that simply disperse. Oh I think the visible packs would be well accounted for. But the dispersers and those animals making a living in less trafficked areas would be hard to get a handle on.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                I have to admit as much as I hate the collars on the wolves, I am glad for the data provided. Having said that I think its despicable they are tracked to kill using the collars. not sure how to resolve that

              • avatar savebears says:

                Louise,

                If you are talking about hunters, there is no evidence that the collar information is being used to track them by hunters.

            • avatar savebears says:

              “The states have no management authority over YNP wildlife.”

              They do when the wildlife leaves Yellowstone.

              • avatar Sam Parks says:

                You’re right Dave. But when they leave the park they are no longer “YNP Wildlife.” That was simply a way to say wildlife in Yellowstone.

              • avatar savebears says:

                Sam,

                As I have stated before, my Name is Donald J. I have relayed this information to Ralph.

                What is with you people?

                Despite that, I actually agree with you on the collaring issue, I don’t believe we need to do any more collaring, despite what a few here are saying.

              • avatar Sam Parks says:

                Donald, That’s my mistake. For some reason, I thought your name was Dave. For the life of me, I don’t understand why people don’t just use their real name??? Must not want to actually take responsibility for the things they are saying.

              • avatar savebears says:

                Sam,

                There are many reasons that people use an alias, I have explained my reasons many times over the last couple of years, it include ongoing litigation, others have had threats of violence, etc.

                There are many reasons in this day and age to use an alias.

              • avatar Robert R says:

                The more I hear this wildlife is YNP’S wildlife the more I believe my statement of raching for wildlife.
                Maybe the wildlife of YNP should be branded so people know where they came from.
                It seems people are trying to make the rules up to satisfie wildlife watchers.
                It’s talked about wildlife services putting a dollar amount on trophies, what about tourism (wildlife watchers)

              • avatar Mark L says:

                Robert R,
                ‘monetizing everything’ might seem like a good idea right now, but there could be drawbacks to that philosophy down the road. If it’s just a question of how much anything is worth, then everything can be bought…us included.

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Larry I have to agree. they have had two generations of wolves to study.

      How much more do they need to study. 1995 TO 2013 is not enough time and years with no hunting. Or is it that the impact of hunting needs studied now.

  15. avatar ma'iingan says:

    “So when ambiguity about wolf population increases and the opponents scream that they’re being overrun by wolves, how do you think the states will respond?”

    To add to JB’s comment, wolf opponents have long claimed that wolves are the primary cause of poor recruitment, and declining populations of ungulates.

    There’s current research going on in Michigan’s upper peninsula that is beginning to dispel that myth, and it’s relying on GPS/radio-collaring predators as well as prey. It’s even (gasp) funded by SCI.

    http://www.fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/predatorprey/index.asp

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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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