Pop. estimate says 625 wolves, down 4%-

Montana wildlife officials plan to reduce the size of the state’s recovered wolf population was successful in 2012. The “count” is public, and the estimate is a minimum of 625 wolves arranged into 147 wolf packs. Among the packs were  37 breeding pairs as of the end of 2012.  This is the first time the wolf population has declined since it was delisted in Montana.

The actual number of wolves is less today, March 24, than it was Dec. 31, 2012 because 95 wolves were killed the state’s wolf/trapping season between then and March 1.  An additional unknown number of wolves died of natural causes. Others were “controlled” or poached since the end of 2012. Wolf pups, however, will be born next month (April 2013) bringing the population back up to an unknown figure, but more than 625.

While the number of wolves was down a bit, the number of packs increased, meaning they were smaller packs on the average.  Hunted and “controlled” (shot for “bad” behavior) wolf populations are well known to run smaller than protected populations such as in Yellowstone Park.  Smaller wolf packs lose more food to scavengers such as raven, magpies, coyotes, eagles, etc. than larger packs because small packs cannot eat their entire kill at one meal.  Therefore, 600 wolves in small packs will need to kill more wildlife, or whatever, than 600  wolves in larger packs.

The Ravelli Republic newspaper reports that the number of packs in Bitterroot area (extreme SW Montana) grew from 11 to 13.  Nevertheless, the actual number of individual wolves in the Bitterroot dropped by nine from 68 in 2011 to 59 in 2012.  Livestock losses to wolves also declined. Whether there is a causal relationship is only speculation because the declining Idaho wolf population killed more livestock rather than less.

The majority of the state’s wolves lived not in the state’s southwest, but its northwest — about 400 wolves.  The “northwest” is defined as that area north of U.S. Highway 12 from the Idaho border to Canada and east to I-15 along the Rocky Mountain Front then south to Interstate 90.

Stories in Montana newspapers:

Wolf population decreases by more than 4 percent in 2012. Great Falls Tribune. By the Tribune staff.
Wildlife officials document 13 wolf packs in Bitterroot Valley. Ravelli Republic. By Perry Backus.

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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.

84 Responses to Montana Fish, Wildlife, Parks says number of wolves in Montana down slightly

  1. avatar Rancher Bob says:

    I like the line 600 wolves in small packs eat more than 600 wolves in large packs. The real questions is do 600 wolves in small packs eat more than 850 (600+225) wolves in large packs?
    With 35 visits and not a single comment I couldn’t resist.
    Enjoy your beautiful Sunday and be glad your not a coyote or fox in my country the snow is hard a concrete and at least 10 inches thick, which make mouse hunting very hard. Been watching them the last month try to bust through and they just bounce off the surface.

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      hard a concrete and at least 10 inches thick

      Like the skulls of the Idahoans and Utahans, I’d say. Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;)

      • avatar savebears says:

        I would say Ida, in some circles the same could be said of you and others on here.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          That’s probably true. We’re sick of the federal gov’t interfereing here too where I am. :)

    • avatar Rancher Bob says:

      Appears Calving season = lack of sleep = Bob gets F in math and typing. Add the wolf numbers any way you want to, my 850 was 625 minimum count + 225 killed during the hunting/trapping season.

    • avatar JB says:

      “…the snow is hard a concrete and at least 10 inches thick, which make mouse hunting very hard. Been watching them the last month try to bust through and they just bounce off the surface.”

      Should make for a good spring for those who survive. :)

    • avatar Norm Mackey says:

      And your answer is “Maybe they do”. Those 800-850 wolves were in about the same number of packs as before, and those packs will likely have the same number of litters of pups as before. At more of a disadvantage in time and numbers to keep other packs of wolves reduced and excluded from territory. Say a pack of 10 loses 2 members, a pair forms a new breeding pack in the freed territory. In the same area as before you not only have wolves from the original pack breeding at a rate of 1 litter per 8 wolves instead of one litter per 10 wolves – 20% faster – with the new pair things go to 1 litter per 5 “minimum” wolves instead of 1 litter per 10. You’ve managed to double the wolf reproduction rate. If the wolves keep up with the hunting pressure, or nearly, it is going to drive the biomass of food the wolves need up immensely, in bursts that start just when young wolves, young game animals, and young livestock are all born. Those trophy wolves are going to cost a lot in game and possibly depredation to replace.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Norm Mackey,

        The experience in Yellowstone Park, where wolves were not hunted and packs allowed to grow and die without much human caused mortality, is that new pairs of wolves usually do not add to the total wolf take of “game” (in my mind ungulates, not game). New pairs of wolves in an area of established large wolf packs are very likely to be killed by the existing packs and/or the new pairs disperse some distance to areas where there are few packs.

        • avatar Norm Mackey says:

          Hi Ralph. That is sort of my point. Wolf packs add additional non breeding members and kill off those new packs. Humans shooting wolves at random runs natural wolf population controls exactly backwards. What stops the process from proceeding until most of the “packs” are pairs, or too small to risk seriously attacking pairs?

    • avatar SAP says:

      “. .. 600 wolves in small packs eat more than 600 wolves in large packs.”

      I think that ought to be “kill more” rather than “eat more.” Because the smaller packs lose more to scavengers/competitors, they have to kill more to get the same amount of calories total, netting fewer calories per kill.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        SAP,

        Your point is obviously correct, and so I changed the wording of the story slightly to “kill” rather than to “eat.”

  2. avatar Rancher Bob says:

    That should read 800 ( 625 minimum count + 225 killed in hunting season).

  3. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    So now what?

  4. avatar Nancy says:

    “Wolf pups, however, will be born next month (April 2013) bringing the population back up to an unknown figure, but more than 625″

    And then, in areas of this country, wilderness areas, areas still able to support predators, who play an important role in the ecosystem, the “killing” game – hunts/trapping/control starts all over again for the coming year, trying to appease a small minority of whiners (humans)

    • avatar Ida Lupine says:

      I don’t understand what will from biologist to hunter to dumbass. I don’t understand what will happen to these young pups. It has been said, from biologist to hunter, etc. that they are ‘naive,’ and I’m sure it must take awhile for them to grow up and learn the ropes. I’m sure they’re just not ready to be shot and trapped by three months old or whenever the next hunting seasons starts. It won’t be long.

      • avatar savebears says:

        Ida,

        As long as the numbers are maintained above the re-listing requirements for the required period of time, the hunting season will continue to go on. These are approved plans and unless the numbers dramatically drop, the hunting seasons will continue.

        • avatar Louise Kane says:

          that magical relisting objective – setting the bar as low as is possible. Always an admirable thing to do in any context. 150 wild wolves in the 4th largest state in the country now that’s some heavy duty progress. what a short-sighted ignorant, politically corrupt thing to do to a population of naturally occurring wild animals. dark days in America for wolves and humans to allow this to happen.

          • avatar savebears says:

            Louise,

            The numbers were set a long time ago and were actually lower than what they are now, might want to start bitching at those who set them, not those that are adhering to them. The Federal Government is the bad guy in this mess.

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              am so tired of hearing that “the numbers were set a long time ago”….the wolf recovery plan is a disastrous, this plan was put into place with a great deal of political compromise that neither of the two conservation groups presiding agreed with. It was badly flawed then, and now it is apparent just how badly flawed it still is. The numbers and plan need revision. Cougars, bears or other carnivore population objectives are not set nearly as low as wolves. wolves are treated as vermin, and they seem to cause the least damage of any predator. Until the ignorance and hate can be squashed, wolves need their federal protections reinstated, possibly for several generations so this same massacre is not repeated. I don’t understand why you always seem to cling to the argument that the numbers were set…so therefore thats that.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                Dear Senator,

                I am concerned about the safety of pets, children, and the elderly in rural areas where rapidly increasing wolf packs are now causing an impact.

                It really is apalling; it’s still Little Red Riding Hood and her Granny vs. the Big, Bad Wolf – even in the 21st Century!

              • avatar savebears says:

                No Louise it is Not that’s that, you will never seen them back on the list.

                If they ever ended up on the list, the amount of killing that goes on now, will look like a Sunday afternoon stroll.

                What you are tired of hearing, really has no bearing on what is going on, With what some of the guys in the USFWS have said the last couple of weeks, people like you are not even a blip on the screen.

                Weather we like it or not, there are somethings going on, that shows USFWS never really took the wolf re-introduction serious, I have had two in the agency tell me, they don’t understand why we brought them back.

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                so SB you think when something is wrong that we should all accept that is the way its set up and nothing we do counts? I don’t agree. Its damn frustrating but the only way to change it is indeed to shout loudly and often

              • avatar SaveBears says:

                Loiuse,

                This conversation is from clear back in March. No, I don’t believe that sitting back and accepting things is the way to go, but your shout out campaign is not working. As I said, way back in March, they are not looking or listening, the louder you are the more they ignore you.

          • avatar Louise Kane says:

            and the state…? the good guys

            • avatar savebears says:

              Good Guys, Bad Guys, does not matter, they are following the game the way it was set up.

          • avatar KnoxAnn Armijo says:

            I agree, it is dark days in America for many things wild. The human race is working fast and furiously to allow ignorance to rule the day — wolves are coming into California where they have a better chance than Montana that is too small to accommodate wildlife.

    • avatar Rancher Bob says:

      Nancy
      So what would your wolf management plan look like? There are several plans in action:

      Montana’s plan uses population management. Result fairly stable population.

      Yellowstone’s park plan uses no population management. Result population peaking in 2003 and since then population declining around 50%.

      So what would you propose in your plan?

      • avatar Nancy says:

        RB – as we all know “management” of coyotes has not worked and they are trapped and hunted year round.

        My proposal would be to put the time and effort ($) in to working with ranchers that are affected by wolves (good fencing, guard animals, carcass removal etc.) Predation by wolves over the years is pathetically low, given all the livestock out there.

        You only have to look at the history of the Ninemile pack to realize wolves can & do live around livestock until their delicate balance is upset by the taking out of the alphas.

        • avatar Rancher Bob says:

          Nancy
          Just because coyotes are still here doesn’t mean coyote management doesn’t work. How can you justify coyote management doesn’t work? There has never been a coyote eradication plan in Montana that I know. Management of animal populations isn’t about total removal unless total removal is the goal. Management is about population sizes compared to other animal population sizes.
          So back to your plan.
          Who’s paying the bills and putting in the time and effort?

          As for a the Ninemile pack being the basis for some blanket management plan have you ever been up the Ninemile?

          • avatar Nancy says:

            How can you justify coyote management doesn’t work?

            How bout the fact that WS (and any yahoo with a gun out here in the west) kill literally thousands upon thousands of coyotes every year RB, with little impact nor regard, to how this species reacts to their losses?

            “Attempts to reduce coyote populations — the main emphasis of WS’s predator control program (more than 90,000 coyotes were killed by the agency in 2007) — have failed because coyote populations exhibit strong compensatory responses to lethal control. While lethal control may result in short-term reductions in the number of coyotes in a specific area, the vacuum is soon filled by coyotes emigrating from surrounding areas and by shifts in neighboring packs. Lethal control disrupts the social hierarchy of coyote packs, causing pack members to disperse and allowing more females to breed. Females in exploited populations tend to have larger litters because competition for food is reduced and more unoccupied habitat is available. Lethal control also selects for coyotes that are more successful, wary, nocturnal, and resilient — what some biologists call a “super coyote”

            http://www.projectcoyote.org/newsreleases/news_predatorinperil.html

            And, has there really been a time (since the the late 1800’s, early 1900’s) that predators have actually been allowed to exist, along side our species, where they are able to establish territories, defend them, raise families, imprint valuable knowledge on their young WITHOUT being constantly harrassed, hunted, trapped or worse?

            Who really needs a “time out” here RB?

            And re: the who would pay the bills?

            How bout for starters, the livestock owners/industry, who scream the loudest and have done everything in their power to keep WS alive (not to mention the neighbors/community/ SSS crowd) sympathetic to their cause even though depredations are minute compared to the other glaring reasons for livestock losses.

            • avatar Rancher Bob says:

              Nancy
              Nice plan, I see it’s not really different than things are presently, you get a free ride, producers bear all the cost. Oh and all the predators get to live full and happy lives, just like those yellowstone predators.
              As for the “time out” your the one that’s all worked up, I just wanted to know if you had a original thought.

              • avatar Nancy says:

                Hey RB – Not worked up, just comparing & sharing notes :)

                Too original for ya?

              • avatar Rancher Bob says:

                Nancy
                Carcass pick-up a good idea ours started before wolves and was for the problems we’re having with grizzlies. Figure the cost about 100 dollars per dead animal to pick-up and compost.
                Guard animals, well I think the jury is still out there, are you willing to sacrifice a guard animal to save livestock.
                Fencing cost is bid in dollars per foot and to fence this ranch it would take 2 calf crops to pay for the fence. If all ranchers fenced our land do we fence the other animals in or out? MT FWP will tell you 75% of Montana’s wildlife live on private land. We would reduce the amount of habitat reducing the amount of animals. Which wasn’t the point.

            • avatar Ida Lupine says:

              It’s not about controlling them, I think most people realize that it is a necessary evil and a sad reality that wildlife comes in dead last in importance to any human activity, no matter how trivial. To me it’s that every vile, violent method is encouraged and approved, such as contests. It just isn’t civilized. It’s the 21st century!

  5. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    All wildlife population numbers are projections; statistical abstractions ; educated guesses ; foofawraw.

    Not that precise numbers matter in the context of populations , except when both are alarmingly low , e.g. near extinction numbers.

    What matters is the viability of the population , and that viability is qualitative, not quantitative.

    We need only look at the spectrum of agricultural reporting statistics to grasp how ” fluid” animal numbers can be. In the case of reported kills of livestock by wolves, pick a state and get the numbers, and Lo! the agency in charge of the species itself will report X number of VERIFIED kills of cattle and sheep by wolves, but the state agriculture reporting service reports 25 times that number based on phone-in reports and anecdotes. So who you gonna believe ?

    The Interagency Grizzly Bear brigade has a long history of overstating the numbers of grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone becuase it suits their research-recovery and therefore funding motives, besides being politically useful. My State of Wyoming game and fish department takes that conflation even further, by w-a-a-a-y overstating the presumed numbers of grizzlies- in their own agency interests and political expectations, not in the interests of the species honest viability.

    This gets even more audacious when theyt ry to tell you how many COugars are out there and where they might be at any given instance. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle applies just as much to moving wildlife as it does to reckoning quantum subatomic particles in real time. The very act of attempting that alters the measurement and math.

    I personally don’t believe that either the states or feds have a serious lock on wolf numbers in WY-ID-MT , no matter how diligent their collaring and aerial counting. They only know what they know – they don’t know what they don’t know. Only the wolves know all that.

    • avatar Wolfy says:

      Wildlife populations used as political footballs? Feds, States and NGO’s fudging the numbers for their own gain? Whodathunkit?!? Sorry, couldn’t resist the sarcasm.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Cody Coyote,

      On April 12 more information on Montana (and I suppose Idaho) wolf population counts and changes will be released. I didn’t critique their methods of counting in the post above because I don’t know how they did it, but we do need to know. Perhaps we will learn. I might be wrong, but my guess is that a lot of this count is based on “reasonable” projections from a relatively small (and declining) number of radio collared wolves. It is hard to keep an adequate number of radio collars in a heavily hunted population where the collared wolves are always being shot or trapped along with the rest.

      • avatar CodyCoyote says:

        The Wyoming wolf reports are due in early to mid-April, too. Both state and whatever is left of federal recovery reporting.

        I’m contemplating some FOIA’s for getting under the surface of the appearance of management reports. I beleive the public is entitled to a lot more data than we’re getting, but realize the legislation was purposely drafted to sequester* a whole lot of wolf activity information.

        *Yes, that’s the proper application of the word sequester , which basically means ‘ to hide ‘. The other definitions are more along the lines of a legal means to confiscate something. What we are calling the federal budget sequester…isn’t.

      • avatar WM says:

        While we await the official count in MT for 2012, here is the 2011 MT Annual Report from the MTFWP website. Click on the PDF file for the report then go to page 5, which explains their methodology.

        http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/management/wolf/default.html

        FWS and the states consistently believe the actual number on the ground is about 20% greater than the “official” counts.

        Witness recent estimates in OR and WA as developing scenarios where that is the case.

        While skepticism is a healthy attribute in these discussions, I wonder where Cody comes up with his conclusions, without any verifiable research/estimates which can be replicated by others. I am particurly intrigued by the comments that WY is over-estimating grizzlies.
        ———-

        Cody,

        Care to comment on the how and the why (guess you already addressed the why to some extent) grizzlies are overcounted, including links to any authoritative sources in that regard? It certainly seems, that the expansion of range to new areas and the increasing number of grizzlies getting into trouble are suggestive of some increase in numbers, even if there is a redistribution attributed to whitebark pine die-off. It seems implausible that the Grizzly Interagency committee would outright lie, as you seem to suggest. I think there are too many scientists “watching” for that to happen.

        • avatar WM says:

          Cody,

          Further to my inquiry to you regarding your apparently as yet unsubstantiated belief of overcounting of grizzlies in WY, this article appeared today. The methodology, if approved could result in another 100-150 grizzlies being added to the total. Interesting:

          http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/feds-propose-new-method-for-counting-yellowstone-grizzlies/article_0cbc2f17-28df-5734-b933-837441d811e1.html?comment_form=true

          • avatar CodyCoyote says:

            I think you can answer your own question if you would parse that Billings Gazette story.

            Servheen’s methodology has always been algorithm-based …computer models if you will, using mathematicians instead of field census. Not since 1972 when I started going into the backcountry wilderness on both sides of the Yellowstone boundary have I ever once believed the researchers knew a damn thing about grizzly numbers and distribution, even when the population was at its nadir. In the past four decades my skepticism has grown. Servheen has on several occasions changed his method of ” actuarial + algorithm alchemy ” to prognosticate a grizzly population. We gave up on him and his team a long time ago, frankly . A pretty good snapshot of the middle period of Grizz recovery can be found in Todd Wilkinson’s seminal book ” Science under siege ” which actually fit the situation on the ground and the anecdotal , but was very skeptical in a negative way of Servheens spreadsheet approach. It rightly painted IGBC bear study results as ” product” towards a political goal. That has not changed. When WYo G&F took over active management of grizzlies, and the feds reduced their presence to an abstraction, it only got worse.

            We do not know where grizzlies are or why they are there or where they are going at any given instant. Servheen’s team completely missed the Army Cutworm Moth grizzly banquets being held in the Absaroka alpine cirques, for instance, which turned out to be crucial to the bears, so they had to play catchup. The Yellowstone Lake tributarial cutthroat crash never got their algorithmic actuarial attention either even though it was playing out right before their eyes. The Whitebark pine crash is a work in progress but that too was factored in late , not early. What the sum total f all this came to was the researchers were way behind the curve of learning about grizzly behavior and putting their resources into producing a census instead of a qualitative ecological model. The smoking gun was when Servheen and Wyo G&F et al decreed as though it were written on stone tablets brought down by a bearded prophet from Mt. Washburn that the reason bears were showing up further afield where they hadn’t been seen in anyone’s lifetime was due exclusively to there being more bears, when in fact the Yellowstone Park core population was hollowing out from a severe lack of a sustainable food regimen. Remember, before 1972 bears were hiunted and exterminated outright. Now having protection and a little more room to roam , they roamed. The bears were not alone in this.

            It’s complicated. The matrix of grizzly research is not symmetric. I beleive the IGBC is only looking at what it wants to in the expectation of finding what they expect. The bears are a lot more diverse and intriguing than we realize. And unpredictable. It’s a Brave New World for bears as they recover. We should not be relying on mathematicians.

            I rely on two folks wh actually know the bear situation very well. One I will name is Louisa Willcox, who just recently retired as the bear specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council and has long been the grizzly’s greatest advocate in the GYE , applying pressure to both the research and the politics for most of the lifespan of the ESA bear recovery effort. We should thank Louisa for her decades of advocacy in advancing grizzly recovery by attempting the Sysyphian-impossible chore of trying to keep the gubbamint researchers and politicos honest.

            My other best source is my neighbor, a retired agency ecologist and scientist whose passion is the Great Bear. I need only walk out my door to the corner, and got here doors up, and I can converse with the man who knows bears best of all of them , and reads the landscape well. Not being one for relying entirely on sole source attribution , I take what I get from him and run it thru the gauntlet here in Cody near Grizzly Ground Zero where the sentiment about grizzlies isn’t just political , but conservative Manifest Destiny political. It holds up well, but the so-called ” science” being used to make Wyoming
            ‘s case for delisting grizzlies and explaining their population actuality is absolutely no better than their Grey Wolf crapaganda ( a word I made up just to describe the current spin on wildlife issues in Wyoming, but have since applied to almost everything. Crap-o-ganda is propaganda disguised as science…junk science… political science being an oxymoron after all and subject to a lot of abuse.

            Hope that answer somewhat satisfies your barbed query.

            • avatar WM says:

              Cody,

              Barbed query or not, thank you for the thoughtful and detailed reply.

              I think it is fair to query the objectivity of Louisa Willcox as well as your empassioned neighbor, both grizzly advocates by your admission.

              The real question, in my mind is just how objective is the work of Servheen’s group/IGBC, in light of the court challenge currently in play, and folks looking over his shoulder constantly.

              The work of the IGBC is hardly behind closed doors and it seems there are alot of folks involved from various stakeholder/interests, as this membership picture shows:

              http://www.igbconline.org/index.php/who-we-are/igbc-membership/executive-committee

              So, like are they all wrong and you and your advocacy friends right? I guess this new estimation/modeling technique will get its critical review, and maybe even by some science folks who know what they are doing.

              I will also say I have a good friend who spends alot of time in the Winds, Salt River Range, Upper Hoback and the Absorokas, I mean for months at a time. He, and his wife who often accompanies him, seem to think there are more grizzlies around in the last ten year (he has been going into these places consistently for over thirty years). I don’t think he has an agenda to pursue, so I trust his assessment, though anecdotal.

  6. When you have numbers, even if their accuracy is in question, it is better to work with them than to simply guess. Therefore, 625 wolves in Montana and 147 packs work out to a little over four wolves/pack. Also, 37 breeding pairs give an average of one breeding pair for every four packs.

    Ralph, I know how Idaho F&G derives its numbers. It is certainly not like a census. They do not go around to every pack and ask Mrs. Wolf how many wolves there are in the pack.

    Instead they use an algorithm that takes into account how many wolves they eyeball from airplanes in January/February. They then estimate the number of packs from the number of groups they have spotted. They then assume that the average pack consists of so many individuals (10 I believe is the number they use, so that would exaggerate the number of individuals if used in Montana’s counts). Then they assume so many wandering or lone wolves per pack and an average of one breeding pair per pack. (note that Montana officials said that there were far less breeding pairs per pack than this).

    They then assume that there are an average of six pups per litter. However, they include all pups born in their final count. My information, gained from several sources is that consistently only 40 % of those pups survive one year after whelping.

    Out of this comes a number, and this is what is used to base management decisions on.

    Looking at the Montana numbers, only one breeding pair per four packs is very low as is the average of four wolves per pack. Obviously, if these numbers are anywhere near the truth, it shows that the wolf pack structure in Montana, and therefore also their social structure, has been severely damaged.

    The point that smaller packs kill more prey, is not surprising. It is yet another example of unintended consequences brought about by thinking we can “manage” wildlife.

    • avatar WM says:

      Ken Fischman,

      Your statement: ++They {IFG} then assume that the average pack consists of so many individuals (10 I believe is the number they use, so that would exaggerate the number of individuals if used in Montana’s counts). ++

      Not sure yours is an accurate statement.

      I don’t pretend to know how ID does their estimates currently, but your statement seems to go counter to their 2011 progress report ( http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/docs/wolves/reportAnnual11.pdf ), which seems to account for MUCH smaller observed pack size, in some cases 2 to 4, or no estimate at all, acknowledging that harvest or new pack formation can account temporarily for smaller sizes in some instances. I came by this conclusion, doing a text search on the words “pack” and “pack size” and it became apparent to me their estimates of pack size had a fairly large range, but lots in the 4 range.

      It would be interesting to know what they are using the same model and data inputs this year, or if it deviates from past modeling techniques (and monitoring because of fewer collared wolves, I think). For the 2011 estimate, I believe they use Median pack size of 6.5, as stated in Appendix A, at page 92 of the referenced 2011 report. Could be even smaller this year. And, maybe they will disclose their technique again.

      I believe pack size in the NRM has generally been larger historically, but think most of the modeling in the WGL, in at least MN, uses pack size of about 5 – 5.5, if I am not mistaken.

      • WM. Thanks for your research and correction. I see that the average pack size being used in IDF&G estimates has shrunk considerably since wolf hunts started. This may mean that pack size is being negatively effected by hunting and trapping pressure.

    • avatar ma'iingan says:

      “The point that smaller packs kill more prey, is not surprising.”

      This statement over-simplifies the relationship between pack size and kill rate. Smaller packs kill more per animal than larger packs. A pack of three wolves does not kill more total prey than a pack of seven wolves.

      For instance, a single wolf may have to kill 1.5 moose per month to get enough to eat – due to scavenging loss. But a pack of four wolves may only need 2.2 moose per month for the entire pack, because they can consume the carcass faster and their numbers discourage scavengers.

      The efficiency gains of having more wolves in the pack flatten out at about four animals, at least in a moose economy.

      • avatar JB says:

        Likewise, it is important to understand that kill rate is an insufficient explanation of prey growth rates. Complexity rules in ecology, politics on the other hand, favors simple solutions.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21569029

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        ma’iingan,

        I don’t know if you were referring to my original story or someone’s comment, but I wrote: ‘Smaller wolf packs lose more food to scavengers such as raven, magpies, coyotes, eagles, etc. than larger packs because small packs cannot eat their entire kill at one meal.  Therefore, 600 wolves in small packs will need to kill more wildlife, or whatever, than 600 wolves in larger packs.’

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Ken Fischman,

      I think (from rumors) that Idaho might be desperate about the lack of collared wolves from which they can make population projections.

      Also, Jay Mallonee is working over (analyzing) the Montana wolf numbers (as he did a last year) and there are some big discrepancies that FWP needs to explain.

      • avatar savebears says:

        Explain to who Ralph?

          • avatar savebears says:

            Wrong Louise, you should know better, right now they only partially explain to the Federal agency that started this whole thing, as you said, they didn’t say anything last year, what makes you think they will this year?

            The public means nothing to these agencies

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              savebears,

              I think Louise Kane is correct, but more specifically Idaho Fish and Game needs to be able to explain to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, especially if there is a formal challenge to accuracy of the population estimate.

              • avatar savebears says:

                You might Ralph, after working with many of these agencies, I don’t believe they will give any more information that a court requires them to. We have no seen full disclosure since this started, what makes anyone think we will now?

                One of the biggest problems is, that USFWS really wants to wash their hands of this and let the states do what they do. As long as the “reported” numbers are where they need to be, they are not going to make a fuss.

              • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

                Savebears,

                Well I agree that USFWS wants to rid itself of the wolf issue, but many groups do not. Some of these groups will likely sue if they think they can make a legal case that the actual wolf numbers are less than about 150 regardless what the state(s) say the figures are. A judge might then order USFWS to do something regardless what the agency feels like doing.

        • avatar Elk275 says:

          The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has their own biologist with the same education or better than Jay has obtained. Why does Jay know better? Does Jay have access to years and years of wildlife data the FWP has obtained. Jay has an agenda to promote and protect wolves regardless of there affects on elk and deer.

          The new elk, deer and antelope regulations just came out the several days ago. I have only glance at them but there seems to be a large reducion in elk B tags in Western Montana. Doesn’t a wolf kill approximately 20 elk every year, yes I know that mountain lions kill the about same bio mass of animals each year. Five wolves will kill 100 elk each year that could be a reduction of up to 100 elk “B” tags. Whether people like it or not it is the residents hunters of Montana that control the FWP’s.

          Both Mountain Lion and wolves need to be very well managed and control.

          • avatar savebears says:

            Better watch out Elk, there is a whole bunch of people that think us resident hunters have no say on what goes on.

            They don’t like us managing our game animals, they all have a better idea on how it can be done.

          • avatar WM says:

            My recollection was that Montana wildlife biologists authoritatively refuted Mallonee’s so-called analysis, and maybe even published it (could have even been peer reviewed). Wonder if Mallonee will offer the same on his next re-work of the numbers. Does he even have any recent peer reviewed biological work, or is it all “independent research” that gets published on some on-line journal that ask the author to pay to publish?

          • avatar JB says:

            “Whether people like it or not it is the residents hunters of Montana that control the FWP’s.”

            And that, fundamentally, is the problem.
            Hunters make up a small and decreasing proportion of the population. Reliance upon them for funding is both unfair and unstable. Likewise, when a small group of people “control” (your word) a public resource–whether it’s a waterbody, public land, or wildlife–the democratic principles upon which this country was founded are challenged. I’m fully supportive of hunting–but I disagree vehemently with the notion that any single group should “control” wildlife management.

            “Both Mountain Lion and wolves need to be very well managed and control.”

            I suspect many agree with this statement, myself included. However, I also suspect we disagree about what constitutes appropriate management.

          • In Yellowstone the average number of elk killed per adult wolf has been 16/ year.

            This has been true for a number of years.
            Do you have valid information on Montana wolves that conflicts with that?

            • avatar WM says:

              Ken,

              To be technically accurate that average would be ONLY from the period Nov 1 thru April, which is the standard research year. Wolves undoubtedly eat/kill more ungulates from May thru October, but may rely more on small mammals, during that time period.

              • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

                WM,

                Not so, winter is the time of great success and weight gain for wolves. As summer comes and drags into autumn, hardship grows for wolves because their prey is fit, fast, and not hindered by snow or malnutrition. Moreover, in August, September and October, wolves with pups have to feed their ever larger non-hunting members of the pack.

                One of the findings of GPS collared wolves in Yellowstone was that the wolves killed fewer pounds of ungulates in the summer. The migration of deer into the Park confounds it a bit, however, because wolves can generally kill deer even when the deer are fit.

                Outside Yellowstone Park wolf consumption of meat has always been complicated by the hunting season for deer and elk which leave lots of dead meat (gut piles) for wolves and nearly dead (wounded)game that are easy to take down.

              • avatar WM says:

                Ralph,

                Either I didn’t make my point clearly or you misinterpreted it. Wolves still kill ungulates from May thru October (not that they kill more than the other time period). These are not added to the known average during the research period which is commonly used, from my understanding. They kill young of the year – fawns, elk calves, the occasional moose calf, and where pronghorn are present their fawns, but as summer comes on their individual caloric needs are lower because of warmer air temperatures, and the young of the year become stronger and more difficult to take. They do need to feed the pups, however.

                The actual number of ungulates killed from May thru October is, as you know, more difficult to determine because it is harder for researchers to find the remains without the aid of snow to identify kill or feeding sites.

                I think there are more recent studies, but this one authored by Stahler and Smith “Foraging and Feeding Ecology of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus): Lessons from Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA” in 2006 seems to be a good starting place.

                http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/7/1923S.full

            • avatar Elk275 says:

              I have read that an average wolf eats 20 elk or 10,000 pounds of bio mass per wolf or mountain lion. Each personresearcher has different figures. Instead of 5 wolves killing 100 elk, 5 wolves will kill 80 elk a 20% reduction. A possible reduction of 80 elk “B” tags; I have seen a elk “B” reduced in Western Montana in the last 5 years.

              Wolves and Mountain Lions are part of the landscape but……………..

              • avatar Robert R says:

                Elk this is part of the math equation most do not understand.
                By that I mean that ungulates cannot be hunted without predators being managed.
                If you throw in your 5 wolves and times that by the number of packs and then add in bears,lions,coyotes and eagles ungulates are taking a big hit from both ends, (hunters and predators)
                Louise don’t understand and never will..

              • avatar Louise Kane says:

                Robert R, so just say we use Elk’s “average wolf eats 20 elk per year” figure. At the time of delisting there were approximately 700 wolves in Montana. if we use Elk’s arguably inflated # then those resident wolves ate 14,000 elk per year. I don;t have this year’s figures but I read that Montana’s elk herd is estimated to be in the range of 130,000 to 160,000. What riles me up big time is that you , Robert R, argue that folks like me don’t get it. I guess that’s what you mean when you said ” Louise don’t understand and never will”. But I get it quite well, Robert. Montana deems it perfectly acceptable to issue 17,000 non-resident licenses to kill elk as well as an unlimited # of licenses to residents but it can’t share a disproportionately small number (even if you estimate on the high side) of necessary meals for its resident wolves… or if you will, other native Montanan species. I think Ralph once argued that wolf populations in the RM were probably nearing stabilization as they had in MN. If any stakeholder needed to be cut out of the elk killing equation, why not the non native non resident license holder who is not needing to eat elk but coming in for a trophy kill? I get it unfortunately, I don’t think you do.

              • avatar savebears says:

                Well truth be told, it is up to Montana how they plan and manage our hunting seasons. As far as the 20 elk per year number, this is the number that has been published many times by many different biologists.

              • avatar Robert R says:

                Louise you need to calm down before you have a heart attack!!
                If you read I included (ALL PREDATORS)
                not wolves by themselves.
                Montana issues a lot of hunting licenses but not all are successfull just like any predator hmmm not 100%.
                The only thing your right about is nonresident trophy animals because the majority of residents are happy just to get an elk and most apply for a cow elk tag.
                Not all nonresidents eat the meat but most donate to food banks or the organization hunters helping the hungry.
                Louise do you understand why some elk numbers are up. You cannot manage what cannot be hunted on private land and some of the private land owners will not tolerate wolves and some are working cattle ranches.

              • avatar Elk275 says:

                Louise

                You do not get it period. The 17,000 non resident hunters pay $959 for a combination deer/elk license that equals $16,303,000 which is a large percentage of the MTFWP budget. Non resident hunters do not kill 17,000 elk only a faction of that number. Without non resident license income all western fish and game departments would either have to raise the price of resident licenses, which I am for, or curtail a number of fish and wildlife programs which benefit both the hunter and wildlife watcher. I have read that non resident fishermen/women are also contribute large percentage to the FWP budget. I personally feel that the resident hunter/fisher should be paying more, but I can afford it.

                No one knows exactly how many elk and deer are killed by predators so whether my numbers are inflated or underestimated no one will every know.

                Montana sells an unlimited number on elk licenses to resident hunters. Montana residents enjoy a 5 week gun season and for some who cost of killing an elk is less than purchasing meat. What you do not understand is that residents and non residents that enjoy hunting deer and elk every year and want to continue hunting deer and elk every year, as I said I am starting to see a decline in the number of “B” issued this year. Every year I am seeing a decline in the number of elk seem and elk tracks. I do not think that Montana’s elk population has reached its population high, it has reached its population high with landowners and ranchers.

                If a non resident can afford a trip west and a non resident hunting license they are not hunting to put food on the table. Resident and Non Resident hunters enjoy hunting. Something that you will never understand “the joys of hunting”. It does not make any difference to me whether they hunt for meat, a trophy to hang on the wall or just the enjoyment of hunting.

                ++ but it can’t share a disproportionately small number (even if you estimate on the high side) of necessary meals for its resident wolves… or if you will, other native Montanan species. ++ It is not a disproportionate small number, it is starting to effect the number and type of licenses issued and opportunity. Under the current state and national laws it is up to the State of Montana to decide how they want to manage wolves, mountain lions, black bears and coyotes.

                Last Sunday I had business in the Madison Valley, then lunch and a quick trip to my favorite gun store, Shedhorn Sports. On the way home I stop at a wildlife viewing area overlooking Ennis Lake. They were over a thousand Tundra Swans on open water talking swam talk. I spent an hour watching the swans. There are not many times one can see that number of swans in confined area. Where are these wildlife watchers that spend millions of dollars, I did not see any and I doubt if there are many.

              • avatar JB says:

                Who doesn’t “get it”, Elk? How much text is written here without even the mention of compensatory mortality? Wolves are coursing predators that disproportionately target vulnerable animals (i.e., sick, weak, old, young). Many of the animals they kill in the winter are in poor health and would have died AND THEREFORE BEEN UNAVAILABLE FOR HUMAN HUNTERS anyway. We’ve discussed this countless times, and yet you continue to haul out the same, tired argument. You are no less stubborn than Louise.

                —-

                Robert says, “…ungulates cannot be hunted without predators being managed.”

                40 years of not hunting wolves in Minneosta concurrent with consistent deer hunting suggests otherwise.

                Good grief.

              • avatar Robert R says:

                JB I included all predators not wolves alone.
                I did not mention Minnesota or compare it to what is going on in Montana, we are talking about the same animal but in a larger landscape.
                JB I guess living in and around wildlife year around has no Merritt with you and unless you have visited Montana and spent more than a couple weeks observing what is happening..
                I have spent my whole life in the country and the mountains and sometimes it’s like your calling me a liar.

              • avatar JB says:

                “JB I included all predators not wolves alone.”

                That only makes your original statement more ridiculous. As I said, 40 years of human hunting of deer in Minnesota without wolf hunting disproves your statement. Likewise, I could provide numerous other examples where a large carnivore is protected from hunting (management) and yet deer are still hunted–bears here in Ohio comes to mind, as do cougars in California.

                “JB I guess living in and around wildlife year around has no Merritt with you and unless you have visited Montana and spent more than a couple weeks observing what is happening..”

                Robert: You made a factual claim that is easily falsified. The fact that you reside in Montana has no impact on the accuracy of your claim. Wrong is wrong, no matter where you live.

                “I have spent my whole life in the country and the mountains and sometimes it’s like your calling me a liar.”

                That’s great. I envy you. But if you don’t like being called out on an inaccurate claim, then please take the time to ensure your claims are accurate. These claims distract from the larger discussion.

              • avatar Robert R says:

                JB first off I don’t lie and further more I would not make a comment if I have not seen it or experienced it.
                If you wish to say I don’t know what I’m talking about I can take it.
                Let me ask is an inaccurate claim because its not referenced to a biologist or someone’s study or your own research.

              • avatar JB says:

                Robert:

                You said, “that ungulates cannot be hunted without predators being managed.”

                Because of the way you phrased your claim–specifically, your use of the word “cannot”–I do not need a scientific study to falsify it, all I need is a counter example. Perhaps an illustration outside of the politically charged wolf issue is in order? So if you claimed that a human being cannot run a sub-4 minute mile, I don’t need a study to reject this claim, I just need an example that shows the statement is false (it is, though for a long time before it happened, people made this claim).

                Returning to the issue at hand, you made a claim (i.e., ungulates cannot be hunted) premised upon a condition (without management of predators). I have provided three examples to the contrary; that is, three examples of cases where ungulates were hunted alongside protected populations of large carnivores– and I’m quite sure there are many more. These examples disprove your statement. That doesn’t make you a liar (and I never called you one), it just means the statement you made is not correct/factually inaccurate/wrong.

              • avatar Robert R says:

                JB
                Weather you agree with my statement ungulates cannot be hunted without predators being managed that is yours or anyone’s opinion, done with that.
                Seems you avoided my question. Let me ask is an inaccurate claim because its not referenced to a biologist,Dr with a Phd or someone’s study or your own research?
                I just cant figure it out. I watch around 3000 wintering elk in different herds and count bulls,cows and calves and I don’t understand why?

              • avatar JB says:

                “Weather you agree with my statement ungulates cannot be hunted without predators being managed that is yours or anyone’s opinion, done with that.”

                Actually, it is not a matter of opinion. Whether or not you think a species SHOULD be hunted…that’s a matter of opinion. You made a factual claim, and one that is easily disproved.

                “Seems you avoided my question. Let me ask is an inaccurate claim because its not referenced to a biologist,Dr with a Phd or someone’s study or your own research?”

                I didn’t avoid your question at all. I wrote: “Because of the way you phrased your claim–specifically, your use of the word “cannot”–I do not need a scientific study to falsify it, all I need is a counter example.” Your statement is incorrect because it can be falsified. No science, biologist, or PhD is needed.

                “I just cant figure it out. I watch around 3000 wintering elk in different herds and count bulls,cows and calves and I don’t understand why?”

                I’m sorry, Robert, but I don’t understand what you are asking here?

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        Lets see if FWP bother to answer any of the questions Jay raises this year, I don’t think FWP answered any of the questions he asked last time when he analyzed the population estimates or how FWP came to the conclusions they did.

        • avatar savebears says:

          And they won’t this year.

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          I hope they (MT FWP) are made to answer these questions if they do not voluntarily.

          • avatar savebears says:

            How are you going to make them do anything Ralph? As long as population numbers are maintained in the USFWS eyes, there would be no cause to force anything. As was mentioned yesterday, FWP has a wolf biologist that is just as qualified and trained as Jay.

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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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