I recently had encounters with three state wildlife agency biologists. All of them were quite open with their criticisms of their agencies predator policies.  I can’t reveal their names and I will change a few details to hide their identities.

The first biologist told me there was no reason to kill predators. He said it only creates greater social chaos which in turn leads to more unnecessary killing.  He told me that increasing the kill of predators by hunters—whether cougars or wolves—seldom reduced conflicts. If it’s good habitat, the vacuum created by killing a cougar or a wolf pack will soon be filled by immigrants. So in the end livestock operators have to learn to discourage predation by practicing good animal husbandry.  Predator killing just doesn’t work.

Another reason predator control fails is that most hunters pursue animals that live on the larger blocks of public land, while most of the conflicts occur on the fringes of towns or on private ranch lands. In other words, the majority of cougars and wolves killed by hunters are animals that are not causing any conflicts.

He went on to say that hunting predators had no benefits. Period.

The second biologist told me that wolves were not harming elk and deer herds. Rather elk and deer populations have increased in the state since wolves were introduced. He pointed out that wolves were also not destroying the livestock industry though he did acknowledge that individual ranchers might be challenged by wolf depredations.

He also reiterated that hunting predators was indiscriminate. The specific predator killing a rancher’s livestock is often not the animal killed by hunters so arguing that killing predators will reduce conflicts is at best a half truth.

The third biologist told me that his agency missed the boat by not responding to the misinformation from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Toby Bridges of Lobo Watch. By not countering the distortions put forth by these organizations, fabrications and half-truths were widely distributed by the media.

He also acknowledged that wolves could not increase indefinitely. They expand their range into new territories but their densities are socially maintained.  In other words, you will not get more and more wolves living in the same basic area.  He said people have to learn to live with natural processes which include predation.

What these encounters demonstrate to me is that many biologists working for these state agencies are sympathetic to predator supporters.  They are muzzled by their agencies and unable to speak the truth. Still it is refreshing to know that supporters of predators have some friends within state agencies—biologists who are hoping that legal attempts to stop unnecessary and indiscriminate hunting and trapping will succeed.

This also means that citizens and those who support predators have to create the political space where these biologists can feel free to speak their minds. Keep up the pressure, there are some in these state wildlife agencies who know the score, and are as devoted to wildlife as anyone.

 
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About The Author

George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and former hunting guide with a degree in wildlife biology

119 Responses to Predator management by state wildlife agency biologists questioned.

  1. avatar Mike says:

    This is a relief, George. Thanks!

  2. avatar timz says:

    Oh, cmon george,what to these guys know in comparision to Toby Bridges. (did he even finish grade school, we can assume he never took a biology class)

    • avatar Pete Braun says:

      Well said, timz. Anyone with Bridges’ mental capacity wouldn’t know real science if it punched them in the face, broke their nose and gave them whiplash.

  3. avatar lonna421 says:

    Thank you George! For this article. It’s important to know that not all biologists working for state agencies are on some unspoken anti wolf/ anti predator quest.

  4. avatar Robert R says:

    George you are right, there are half truths on all sides, hunters, biologist,scientist etc, and they have there own beliefs and agendas that suits their beliefs of how wildlife and habitat should managed.

    • avatar Jon Way says:

      Yet Robert R, the state agencies are listening solely to the half truths of the hunters and ranchers that don’t like wolves. Therein lies the problem: “The half truths” (or opinions) of predator supporters are not even acknowledged in state wildlife mgmt plans.

        • avatar Robert R says:

          Jon this whole debate reminds me of the Obama administration, (the blame game) always redirecting the blame to push there agenda, right or wrong

          • avatar JB says:

            Funny that of all the politicians, you’d mention Obama. So many better examples of people who ignore facts to push an agenda (climate change, anyone?). Also, if you recall Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” to refer to the ‘feels-good’ (but factually inaccurate) arguments of the prior administration. ‘Round and ’round, I suppose…

        • avatar ZeeWolf says:

          Jon Way – thanks for the link. Although I am disappointed by the political management of wolves in the NRM and GLS I have felt that the delisting of wolves in those states was appropriate based upon the population numbers of wolves in those states. That being said, I can’t help but think that the further delisting of wolves is shortsighted and politically driven. Some reasonable compromise is needed. Delist wolves in areas where there is no habitat (Iowa comes to mind). But to delist wolves in Colorado, Utah, California, et al were there is potential habitat seems premature. I don’t believe the FWS should necesarrily push for a reintroduction in those areas, but wolves should remain listed in the meantime.

          • avatar sleepy says:

            Actually, the northeastern corner of Iowa has suitable wolf habitat–forested and hilly with little mass agriculture. It’s only 50 miles from an established wolfpack in Wisconsin. In fact, evidence of occasional wolf activity in that area of Iowa has been confirmed by state wildlife authorities.

            • avatar ZeeWolf says:

              Sleepy – Fair enough. I did not know this and will take your word for it. Nonetheless, I don’t think that it takes away from the point I was trying to make: that there are areas where the wolf is currently listed as endangered and will never be recovered (unless major landscape change is implemented); IMHO, those areas, wherever they may be, should be delisted and the limited funding available to endangered species in general spent where it will have more affect.

              I have heard quite a bit recently about wolves returning to Colorado. I am very eager to have wolves in colorado. That being said, I would easily concede (federally) delisting wolves east of Interstate 25 in Colorado. Why? Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t want elk out on the plains. I know that is ridiculus as elk are plains animals, but the plains of Colorado are heavily developed for agriculture and they don’t want the conflict between elk and monoculture. Likewise, I would be more than happy to keep NE Iowa listed if the habitat and prey base are there.

              • avatar sleepy says:

                Sorry, I wasn’t disagreeing with your main point at all. I certainly think the expansion of wolves in much of the west and certain areas of the Northeast should be encouraged.

                Iowa has a ruthless policy towards wildlife–bears (and there are a few here) can be shot on sight, anytime, anywhere. Same with the occasional mountain lion. Both are considered non-game animals with no more protection than a mosquito.

                Ag interests run this state and are concerned about predators breaking into a factory-farm hog lot I guess.

                Interestingly though, in Iowa wolves are considered furbearers and thus have some limited state protection–until and if there is an established pack here and then it will be all over, sadly.

            • avatar ZeeWolf says:

              sleepy – no need to apologize. I wish I knew everything but obviously don’t. I don’t mind being contradicted as long as its not accompanied by, for example, “you stupid dipsh*t dumba**”. Hell, I might even learn something from opposing or “off-center” viewpoints!

  5. avatar Jon Way says:

    Robert R, I would say it reminds me of politicians in general, both Dems and Rs…

  6. avatar jon says:

    It’s no surprise that these fish and game agencies cater to hunters and ranchers. Idaho and Montana want to kill as many predators as possible, so there are more elk and deer for hunters to kill. A lot of hunters in Montana and Idaho are anti-predator making them anti-wildlife. I’ve never seen any of these fish and game agencies publicly coming out and correcting hunters and their misinformed and ignorant views on wolves.

  7. avatar ZeeWolf says:

    George – The three examples you gave give me some hope that there are rational people working within the various state fish and game agencies. Just how prevelant are these views amongst the agency biologists? Are these three voices shouting into the void (of political stonewalling)? If these three are saying that predators are mismanaged, how many state biologists will respond that “all is well”?

    • avatar jon says:

      Biologists want to keep their jobs, so they keep their mouth shut. Predator killing is all politics. When the biologists retire, they finally open up to the public about how they really feel about the agency they once worked for.

      • avatar john philip says:

        Predator control is crap. Period.

        • avatar SaveBears says:

          John,

          Please elaborate, we have been regulating predators since the beginning of time, why do you think we have wars?

          • avatar john philip says:

            Homo sapiens notwithstanding, predator control to me seems ineffecive at best, perverse at worst. We’ve controlled most apex predators here in the east pretty effectively – they’re still gone. Our deer herd in the east has completely run amok – to the point of starvation in places – and there are not nearly enough hunters (or cars) to keep the population in check. I’m no biologist, but the seeming near universal rise of mesopredators where apex predators are removed can’t be without cost. Off the coast of the Carolinas the cownose ray is believed to be wiping out scallops and other bivalves. Why? Probably less large sharks. The list goes on and on. The wolf is emblematic, but it’s the tip of the iceburg.

        • avatar jon says:

          There’s no justifiable reason to kill predators unless one was attacking you.

  8. avatar Jerry Black says:

    George……thankyou for bringing this up. I’ve run into the same comments from some of these biologists who go to school at the U. of M. to learn about wildlife management based on science and then, to save their jobs,must turn their backs on all they learned in school to satisfy an agency that is driven by a political agenda. They seem willing to talk about this “off the record” and in a one on one conversation. A very frustrating situation for them… they’re “trapped” in their job.
    Same goes for those that do the research…they’d better come up with research their agency supports or they lose their funding as well as permits to trap and collar wildlife.
    I believe that’s where the term “biostitutes” originated, but in reality most are hard working honest people who are caught in a bad situation.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      Jerry,

      “Same goes for those that do the research…they’d better come up with research their agency supports or they lose their funding as well as permits to trap and collar wildlife.”

      Just happened up here in Ely where Lynn Rogers   Of the North American Bear Center
      http://www.bear.org/website/

       is loosing his permit as of July 31.

      http://www.bearstudy.org/website/updates/daily-updates/2037-permit-issues-june-28-2013-.html

      This is not meant as anti hunting, but it is becoming increasingly evident that game and fish departments are at least somewhat dependent upon the licenses of hunters and fisherman.  Any sentiment directed against this, that can jeopardize that font, can be dealt with harshly.

      Some of Lynn Rogers work is controversial, but it is all about understanding the nature of bears, and dispelling the myths.  Sound familiar?

      • avatar Jerry Black says:

        Immer….also happened to Dr. Creel at Montana State University when he published a controversial study on Yellowstone elk/wolves that was funded by Montana FWP. MFWP threatened to cancel further research and funding at MSU.

  9. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Thanks for this, I was glad to read it. It’s why I feel so strongly about this.

    There’s always a support group for people and a voice for them – but wild places and animals have no one.

    How was the morel hunting, Jerry? Sounds like fun and a beautiful skill I would love to know.

    • avatar Jerry Black says:

      Ida…….morel hunting was good, but the commercial pickers have been real active and morels are getting harder to find. You probably know this..it’s the first year after a fire that spawns the morels and we had some big fires here in Wa end of last summer.
      They’re selling for $20 to $25/lb, so you can see why all the commercial activity.

  10. avatar BigSkyNative says:

    We have heard this too. My husband was in a meeting with some people who are friends with some of our states wildlife biologists who are against the way predators are being handled. Unfortunately these people are just “grunts” and are not in positions to make any decisions. I see it happen at my own job where the science gets pushed under because some manager wants to impress some big-wig company or lobbyist.

  11. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    George- I understand why you should keep the names of the state biologists anonymous, but it would be helpful to know which state(s) they were in.

    I think I can rule out Wyoming here .

  12. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    I just visited the Wyoming Game and Fish website to see what they are putting out for regular updates on wolf in Wyoming now that they are in charge.

    No…very…much.

    Their monthly report for May is about as vague and incomplete as could be. Apparently they will only be issuing concise info once per year, in April of the following calendar year.

    It is becoming an exercise in extreme frustration for the Public to know what exactly is going on with wolves across Wyoming day to day , week to week , month to month , or even same season.

    Vagueries aside, Wyo G&F claims that since January 1, a grand total of 13 domestic animals have been lost to confirmed wold depredation. Since January 1, at least 30 wolves have been either killed by hunters as predators, or eradicated for control.

    The Wyo Game and Fish publishes a 2-page brochure for the livestock producer on how to deal with wolves.

    NOWHERE in this brochure does it mention nonlethal control or offer suggestions for better animal husbandry techniques to limit wolf-livestock conflicts. The brochure defines the circumstances for killing wolves caught in the act of depredation , even in the Trophy Zone, and how to report wolf kills ( required in any circumstance but I doubt many kills are in fact being duly reported ). It also gives guidlines what to do after a suspected depredation and how to apply for compen$ation.

    Nut absolutely nothing on deterrence, coexistence, or nonlethal control options.

    Which is why I think George did not talk to any Wyo G&F biologists here.

    See for yourself:

    http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/Departments/Wildlife/pdfs/WOLF_LIVESTOCK_BROCHURE0003179.pdf

    • avatar Mike says:

      Stop eating beef, everyone. You can’t call yourself “pro wolf” and eat beef.

      • avatar Mark L says:

        What if your beef comes from south Texas, and the owner is coyote friendly (and has better cuts than a supermarket)…those coyotes may be the last ones to hold red wolf alleles. it’s not always black and white, Mike.

      • avatar JB says:

        Already stopped eating beef, though I have no desire to label myself “pro wolf”. “Pro wildlife” or “pro-native ecosystems” maybe, but “pro wolf” doesn’t begin to cover it.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          I’ve begun to see things that way also. It’s more pro-healthy ecosystem, with the wolf being a top indicator of that.

          I don’t eat beef or red meat, because I am against overconsumption, inhumane factory farming, and no thought to poor environmental stewardship by consumers. Producers are only giving the consumer what it wants. If we demanded differently, we’d get it. In today’s world, even eating nothing but grains and vegetables comes with it’s own set of problems.

        • avatar ZeeWolf says:

          JB – Wolves are what motivated me to become aware of the environment. I was fortunate to have been exposed to environmental education when young (I grew up in northern California) and have always felt human-caused extinction to be wrong. But it was the world of the wolf that caught my attention. In a sense, the wolf was a “gateway” to the larger world of nature. I call myself “pro-native ecosystems”. I would also call myself “pro-wolf” in the context that wolves belong on the landscape where applicable. In that vein, I am also “pro-elk”, “pro-black footed ferret”, “pro-mountain chickadee”, “pro-ponderosa pine”, “pro-native wildflowers”, etc…

          • avatar john philip says:

            I’m with you ZeeWolf. Here in the east, I’m pro-native brook trout. They don’t belong out west. Twenty random flowers in a field here all hail from Europe. Intellectually I understand that we are part of the landscape, but we’ve been screwing things up here for several hundred years with nary a thought to the consequences of our actions until 30 or 40 years ago.

            • avatar ZeeWolf says:

              john philip – Here in Colorado there are so many non-native species in our waterways that it makes my head spin. The Bureau of Reclamaition drowned 25 plus miles of the Gunnison River just before it enters the Black Canyon, a river that was considered to be some of the best trout fishing found anywhere. Besides the brooks, browns and rainbows that have decimated the native cut-throat, the artificial “lake” has its own kokonee salmon. Of course, there are also non-native lake trout.

              Aldo Leopold said it best: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

              I understand that there have been five mass extinction events over the millinea, and now maybe us humans are the cause of the sixth. We are of this earth, does that mean that this sixth potential mass extinction event is a natural event? If so, should we let it occur? These types of questions keep me up at night.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                I would say that since we are aware of the mass extinction and have the capability to stop it, and it is basically manmade and not natural, then yes, we should stop it.

                We are of this earth, but it seems many of us are doing/have done our best to separate ourselves from it.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                And I wonder if we have succeeded in separating ourselves from nature. We are not natural anymore.

        • avatar Mike says:

          Not to mention how absolutely terrible red meat is for a person.

          • avatar Ida Lupine says:

            I’m not ‘against’ it – I’m against the current methods. Everything is based on making money, so the push to eat more of it is what is unhealthy. It is happening overseas in countries that are becoming more prosperous.

            An organic, ecologically sound raising of beef would be fine – but since I haven’t eaten it in years, I don’t know if I could go back to it. I never really loved it, and have lost what little taste I had for it. It’s one of those things that you a raised to eat, and sometimes you choose something else. I’m not a vegetarian, but I do try to use animal products only for what is absolutely necessary like food – clothes and shoes can be made from other materials, and certainly not use animal products for additives in other things.

          • avatar SaveBears says:

            Then don’t eat it, just leave us alone that do eat red meat.

      • avatar john philip says:

        I did …. in 1995. I eat everything else and there’s a bunch of stuff that’s questionable, but beef’s out ’cause of these clowns.

        • avatar Elk275 says:

          I ate a 16 oz. top sirloin last night. Excellent.

          • avatar Mike says:

            I’d love to see that edit button come back. For whatever reason, this light grey on white format lends itself to typing errors.

      • avatar Mal Adapted says:

        I eat quite a bit of beef, and I’d gladly pay more for it rather than let welfare ranching continue. Of course, cattle grazed on public lands account for only about 3% of the beef consumed in this country, so beef prices aren’t likely to be affected much if public-lands grazing is eliminated. By the same token, a lot of people would have to stop eating beef to have much impact on the economics of public-lands grazing.

        I’m aware, of course, of the environmental arguments against meat consumption. We all do what we can, and in my case that includes not having offspring, so that my ecological footprint shrinks to zero upon my death, while parents must compute theirs unto the seventh generation. It gets complicated…

      • avatar JEFF E says:

        “You can’t call yourself “pro wolf” and eat beef.”

        That is the all time most moronic statement ever made on this blog.

        • avatar ZeeWolf says:

          JEFF E. – I don’t think it is all that moronic, but rather depends on your set of values. At times ranchers have made me so mad that I have refused to touch thier product.

          Yet…. Working in the service industry, I often hear the adage “the customer is always right”. Burger not cooked properly? Make it right. Soda flat? Make it right. So, if I, as the beef purchasing customer, don’t like the way cattle are managed regarding predators, public lands, etc… then doesn’t it behoove the rancher to listen to my complaints? I do think that most ranchers would tell me to mind my own business and have to wonder if that isn’t yet another example of so-called rancher exceptionalism.

          • avatar JEFF E says:

            one can eat beef and not have anything to do with the commercial livestock industry, or be an informed, wise, consumer and patronize accordingly.

            It is the all or nothing statement(s) that is continously moronic.

  13. avatar KCY says:

    Thank you, George! As a former student in wildlife biology, I can vouch students are taught the benefits of predators, the ecosystems and the predator/prey relationships. However, within the teachings there comes a time when students are indoctrinated into the management agenda and one best not question or object to the omission of science in many of the management policies. The political drive is far reaching. Until the emphasis becomes healthy ecosystems, advocacy for all wildlife, the watchers and non-consumptive users having a say and likely an increased monetary piece of wildlife management it’s doubtful much will change.

  14. When I was a member of Otter’s BighornSheep/Domestic Sheep working group, the Idaho woolgrowers were represented by a paid lobbyist. One of their members (Siddoway)was state legislator who bypassed our woking group and pushed through a law requiring the IDFG to shoot Bighorns that come in contact with domestic sheep.

    When I show up at IDFG meetings to promote sensible wolf hunting regulations, the Idaho Outfitters show up in force with their hired lobbyist, who meets each of them at the door and hands out talking points so that they all support killing wolves. They outnumber pro-wolf folks at these meetings by a factor of 25 to 1.
    When I read this web site, I see a bunch of cowards huffing and puffing behind phoney names that are going to save wolves by boycotting Gardiner, Montana.

    The anti-wolf folks are winning the battle. They use their real names and they show up at state wildlife meetings to voice their opposition to wolves and pay someone to represent them. The pro-wolf, nameless, windbags vent to each other on this website and can’t seem to figure out why they are losing.

  15. avatar Roger Hewitt says:

    The wolf is politically managed in Montana-WY-ID –WI, USFWS and other states, not scientifically or compassionately by a set of minds that are wolf jihad minded, who intend to marginalize the wolf and other predators in the mistaken belief that nature needs to be controlled by man instead of lived with in a sharing attitude. It is being managed by a set of minds that go forward in their brutal management rationalizing it by claiming basically two false facts (myths): (Myth 1) that wolves are harming elk populations which are, to the contrary, up in the states mentioned and other states. Elk populations are up 37% in Montana, from 89,000 before wolf re-introduction to over 141,000 elk now, and elk populations are up in the Bitterroots contrary to popular beliefs (myths); and elk numbers have stabilized in Yellowstone at historic normal levels contrary to popular beliefs (myths). The stock depredation (Myth 2) by wolves in Montana is at 0.002%, 67 cattle in 2012, and has been 67-80’s range. Sheep depredation is 0 .1%. So, the elk and stock depredation arguments are myths. What FWP is doing is farming elk, which the agency claims is 55% above desirable population. But FWP and sportsmen and ranchers are of the same mindset, anti-predator and somewhat anti-wildlife unless it is a recreational killing opportunity. Predators are something to control-manage-dominate, not something to live with, not part of balanced ecology, which reflects our heritage, our prevalent mindsets that live against the environment not with it.

    http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/letter-from-wolf-scientists-to-sec-sally-jewell/

    http://exposingthebiggame.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/politics-dominated-wolf-de-listing-meetings/

  16. avatar Roger Hewitt says:

    State management of wolves is a political process and a license for a jihad on wolves driven by ancient fears, folklore, lies, myths of the groups that state and federal political leaders and wildlife agencies listen to because they are of the same mindset, the same ilk. The reasons for the jihad are based on a couple of lies that keep getting repeated by these groups and then at the state and federal wildlife agencies and state legislature levels about stock depredation and elk predation. There is no talk of the benefit of wolves to ecology, to the wilderness, to tourism dollars. Those myth perpetuating groups are sportsmen groups, ranchers, yokels, and conservative politicians. The wolf and all predators should stay protected indefinitely because of the bias of these groups and politicians toward minimizing and marginalizing them and essentially engaging in elk or other game farming, another unnecessary myth of these groups. Wildlife agencies are more tuned in to pleasing and sharing the beliefs of the mythologizers.

    • avatar topher says:

      Jihad?

      • avatar Robert R says:

        topher you must realize Roger is very radical.

        • avatar Mike says:

          But his analogy is not that far off.

          • avatar topher says:

            It’s nice not to read the crappy nazi comments anymore, but the jihad thing is just as worthless. If your going to go there with it, why bother?

            • avatar Louise Kane says:

              how might you characterize the way wolves and other predators like coyotes are persecuted and slaughtered? Harvested doesn’t do justice to the torture thats inflicted on these animals. You may not like the word but its certainly not out of context, Topher

            • avatar JB says:

              These analogies have always fallen flat with me for a wide variety of reasons. I won’t go through them again, as this argument has been hashed and re-hashed countless times on this blog. But I will ask a question: What is gained by making this comparison?

              Honestly, I see no value in comparing the politics of predator control to either mass murder of Jews or religious wars. These analogies are offensive to many and run the risk of alienating people who might otherwise sympathize with your cause.

              • avatar ZeeWolf says:

                It seems to me to be conflating one issue with another. At one point, while writing out a diatribe against the current state of wolf management, I had wanted to use the word “pogrom” to describe the situation vis a vis wolf hunting. I wasn’t sure about the correct usage of the word and my dictionary defined it as “an organized persecution or massacre, especially of Jews.” I am glad that I didn’t use the word.

              • avatar topher says:

                If anyone on this blog has a snowballs chance of changing opinions of predator management its JB. His comments are insightful, cool headed, and never off putting. We could all learn a thing or two from his “style”.

              • avatar Ida Lupine says:

                I don’t think it is the same (it’s obviously much worse and the very worst we as human beings are capable of), but there are similarities – the element of ‘otherizing’ and ‘dehumanizing’ aspects that make it easier to mistreat and kill another living thing.

              • avatar ZeeWolf says:

                Ida – I do agree that there are similarities. There doesn’t seem to be a good, proper word that adequately describes the situation so anyone who writes either takes an (offensive to some) shortcut using words like “jihad”, “pogrom” or “nazi”, or they must be burdened with a cumbersome string of two to four words. Had the definition of “pogrom” stopped at “an organized persucuttion or massacre” I would have used it, but now go for want of a better word to use.

              • avatar SEAK Mossback says:

                In thinking about JB’s comment, I actually do see some substantial analogies between many predator control programs and some of the types of military engagements in which this country has been “quagmired” in recent decades, however, the problem in discussing them is that so many people are eager to leap directly to moral comparisons about “war on predators”. The interesting comparisons have much more to do with how powerful, technologically advanced governments can misunderstand the “ecosystems” they are trying to control to the point where they throw resources (and yes blood) into an endeavor for years and decades without lasting positive result (by almost anyone’s measure). Did anyone with authority ask “What will happen to this ecosystem and our real interests after we remove the mother of all keystone predators?” Aside from exercising due diligence in verifying false rumors of yellow cake and WMD, it seems that somebody out there in academia who specialized on the Middle-east should have been able to tell Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld what was holding Iraq together and keeping our enemy out, if they had bothered to inquire. I remember years into it, hearing a journalist on the radio finally ask a common Iraqi “What would it take to hold this country together again?” The answer: “Another strong Sunni general”. Duh!

                Mustering political majority (let alone consensus) on the result we want to see in an ecosystem is maybe 4th of the overall question, but often becomes the end-all with the rest filled in by wishful thinking. We should understand the ecosystem, whether the desired result is achievable and for how long, what it will cost and what the side effects might be. Otherwise, we’ll have to face ever-mounting evidence that we’ve been acting as perpetual fools (with supporting roles by the Viet Cong, the Taliban and the coyote). At some point at the far end of the discussion, where blood and vast resources that might have been put to better use are repeatedly expended to little positive effect, I’m willing to move to “perpetually stupid = immoral, even criminal” (at which point WM would likely point out that legally there is nothing inherently criminal in “stupid”, or a lot of powerful people would be in jail). I find it more productive initially to bypass dueling moral values, and strive first for agreement that “perpetually stupid” (i.e. unable to learn, build institutional memory upon history, and effectively and broadly employ science) is “undesirable”. If you can’t find agreement there, better save your wind.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                SEAK,

                Interesting analogies. Would have been enlightening to observe your mood as you wrote. Humor, tongue in cheek, dead serious?

                Vietnam. I believe it was Ho Chi Minh who approached us and offered military and naval base if we just kept the French out. Ergo, all they wanted was their country back post WWII. Vietnam
                Was something that ever needed to happen! Why did “we” have to exterminate wolves, and declare war on coyotes, and other predators without at first understanding what the consequences might be. A lesson that Bush,Cheney, and Rumsfeld (Moe, Larry, and Curly) either forgot, or we’re too dense to remember.

  17. avatar Mark L says:

    -to no one in particular
    Ok, so several are defining themselves as against red meat. But deer, elk (wapiti) and bison are endemic to NA and red meat. Are these OK? Since javelina are currently fairly rare in NA, feral hogs have (artificially) assumed a similar ecological role. Do we eat them without ‘eco guilt’? Is this ‘kosher’ (hard to resist the pun) to pro-native ecosystem types?

    • avatar JB says:

      I can speak only for myself. I’m not against red meat at all. Until the power outage last summer, I had a freezer full of venison. But I don’t eat beef.

  18. avatar LM says:

    I’ve had conversations with BLM about local range issues where they have made comments like, “you (meaning “us” the public) have to do ssomething” It must be terribly frustrating to have studied and acquired a degree to work and perform a specific job, like wildlife mgmnt or range management, but then have to forsake it to adhere to a political agenda.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      LM,

      Unfortunately, I think that holds true for many areas of science other than wildlife management. Science is a tool, to explain and find answers. The process at times is faulty, but that’s the rationale for peer review, because science is also self correcting. All too often, answers that are found make some feel very uncomfortable, in particular if answers contradict political agendas and social mores.

      • avatar SaveBears says:

        Immer,

        You have just hit the nail on the head.

        • avatar Immer Treue says:

          SaveBears,

          Thanks.

          • avatar Robert R says:

            Immer what an awesome statement!!!

            • avatar Immer Treue says:

              Robert,

              Thank you. At times I can get, well a bit off track with humor, but I take this blog and subject matter seriously. We have to find a way to make things work for both people and wildlife.

              • avatar ZeeWolf says:

                Immer – I enjoy a good dose of humor every now and then. Too many people lead a joyless life, numb from the continual bad news or burdened with the depressing reality of everyday life. Besides, there is often much truth found in humor; truth that might not get expressed otherwise.

                One of my favorite rocknrollers says thus:

                “And if they’re normal…if they can see… they just reach out and change the channel on the TV”

                Finding the solutions to the people and wildlife conundrum is difficult enough, but IMO the real challenge is to get people to participate on some meaningful level.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                ZeeWolf,

                Agreed, but sometimes one (me) has to push the stop button. Having said that, I grow increasingly weary with the stale anti hunting comments. As I have said before, those who hunt and contribute to this blog are those who you want on your side. Why in the world attempt to alienate them?

                I’ve experienced what they have elsewhere as a pro-wolf individual, not against management of wolves at all, but run up against the same stakes upon which hunters on this site are impaled. I won’t participate in or visit those sites anymore. I can only hope that those who hunt and contribute to this blog will not fade away due to general statements that, well, to return to some humor, are garbage.

              • avatar JEFF E says:

                Immer,
                the problem here is that the little piss-ant that brought about your streak of humor shares absolutely none of your scruples or conscience and could care less about what you think.

              • avatar ZeeWolf says:

                Immer – I agree with your position regarding the anti-hunter tirades that I sometimes see here. Thus, I called Mike a “troll” when he called all hunters garbage.

                I do believe that there needs to be major reform in hunting, including the ability of non-hunters to have a say in big game managment. To be clear and open, I am not a hunter and really have no interest in pursuing hunting. Those are my values alone.

                Many friends of mine hunt and I am occaisionally the direct beneficiary of thier toil and persistance. I find myself often enough giving thanks to them and the animal. Oddly enough, I just got a call from an old friend who hunts asking about the hunting where I live. He is an ex-earthfirster and works prosecuting industrial polluters. I have no doubt as to his ethical standards when hunting. When I was working as a biological technician on the YNP wolf project, I often felt as if I were the oddball, as I was one of the very few who did not hunt elk. Again, I have no qualms or worries about the ethical standards my comrades used when hunting. Perhaps its the company one keeps?

                P.S. – I meant to say this in my early post above…. I do apologize to any and all who find my posts frivolous, and certainly, I can be long-winded and go off on tangents. But, what many might find frivolous in humor might be poignant for another. Besides, there is often much truth to be found in humor.

              • avatar Immer Treue says:

                ZeeWolf,

                I agree with all you said above. Though I don’t hunt at this time, I have assisted in the butchering process, allow a couple friends to hunt my land, and have enjoyed the meat given me. Man, but back straps are like meat ice cream.

                The whole North American Model of Conservation needs to change. The unwritten rule that the only good animals are the ones with antlers must change. We have had discussions on this blog for a process where nonconsumptive users of nature can contribute financially to the process. In this respect, DNR, FWS, etc are not threatened by nonconsumptive users, and we get more of a say. We need to keep pushing in that direction, and it has nothing to do with taking guns away from folks, or ending hunting.

      • avatar Mal Adapted says:

        Well said, Immer. “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself.” (Feynman). When science presents us with an inconvenient truth, far too many of us prefer to fool ourselves.

  19. avatar LM says:

    It’s funny, I live in an area that lives by the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” principle. I read this blog, write letters, donate money, sign every petition that comes across my email, go to rallies at the State Capitol and in Wash. DC, but as soon as I get home I can strap on my pistol and take matters into hand. It’s a crazy deal. This weekend I encountered the law of the land re: feral dogs. These are predator protection dogs that are raised by the local LS producers. They wander the countryside at will, with or without flock, they have to hunt to feed themselves (on guess what ? mostly wildlife or other peoples’ LS. They are not vaccinated against anything, nor are the owners required to do n.) A person whose behavior resembles a rapid, spinning object. These actions are often spastic  seems that no one is accountable or has to take legal responsibility for these dogs. BUT, heaven forbid that a mountain lion or pack of coyotes kill anything – the word on the street and all over
    the news is that they are the reason the big
    game numbers are down.
    game numbers are down.

    • avatar Mike says:

      ++ but as soon as I get home I can strap on my pistol and take matters into hand.++

      And this is the root of the problem. A culture of death, where guns are rampant and children are taught by pa at the dinner table that animals are only good fer’ shootin’.

  20. avatar LM says:

    Sorry you guys- that’s what I get for trying to edit on my IPhone

  21. avatar LM says:

    Mike, it’s not so much about guns as it is who decides what species get the resources and get to live. It seems like there is a double standard in the LS industry; feral dogs are no big deal, but coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions ARE ? Anyway, I don’t shoot animals, especially ones I can’t eat and in this case I made a report to the Sheriff and called the DOW. Both told me I could shoot the dogs (which I won’t) I feel the issue needs to be documented and on the books
    someplace. It not about guns, it’s about animal husbandry practices.

  22. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Not at all, Zee – you’re never frivolous and there is a lot of truth, and relief, in humor. I have to be less strident, your hunter friend sounds great.

  23. avatar rork says:

    “The second biologist told me that wolves were not harming elk and deer herds. Rather elk and deer populations have increased in the state since wolves were introduced.”

    “Harming” is fuzzy. Second sentence is anecdote. I think it depends on the details, and that in many places, having a full complement of wolves will mean less ungulates for humans to kill. How many less, and whether that is a good thing or not is a real question. See, I don’t want to give up the argument that predators can help control prey populations in some circumstances. Where I live (MI) I can’t argue that wolves (and coyotes, bears, cougars) will help control deer population densities (I want lower densities) after I just argued predators have no affect on ungulate numbers. I’ve noticed this trouble several times in my own debating. I do agree that in most cases where I know enough details it is true that for every death by predator, there is considerably less than one less ungulate for a human to consume (very few hunters get this), but I don’t try say it’s zero. I can even believe situations where predators, by keeping deer (say) well below carrying capacity for long periods of time, can increase the carrying capacity of the land for deer (cause land was previous degraded by too many deer), but humans can do that too if you have nearly a million hunters (like we do). I agree that wolves are probably better at killing the “right” deer than human hunters currently manage to do.
    But I’m guessing more wolves probably does mean less deer for human hunters most places.

    • avatar JB says:

      Rork:

      I appreciate the thoughtful response and generally agree with your assessment. However, I would take issue with the final statement–”more wolves probably does mean less deer for human hunters in most places.” My experience in the Midwest suggests the areas with the highest deer densities are agricultural and suburban areas with a lot of forest edge. I doubt very much that wolves will have much of an effect on deer in these areas because (a) human densities, including road densities, will mean higher wolf mortality, and (b) while the higher ungulate biomass would support substantial wolf populations, they will never reach the potential (mostly because of #a). Wolves have the *best* chance of limiting deer densities in areas where humans have little ability to limit wolf densities–i.e., wilderness or substantially ‘wild’ areas. It is these types of settings where wolves may actually limit hunting opportunity.

  24. avatar Wolfy says:

    The tide is changing quickly in the wildlife biologist world. As evidenced by the turn-out at the national The Wildlife Society meeting in Portland, many up-and-coming wildlife people are young, females who do not have a connection to hunting or ranching. If fact, many support a new wildlife ethic that addresses (contests?) the current state of wildlife welfare and the management ethic. Look out, things are going to change quickly. And the good old boy system is going to be on its ear.

    • avatar Immer Treue says:

      Ah, but what did the illustrious Jim
      Beers have to say?

      “Once they started hiring women and minorities, the service went from managing the land and wildlife to saving all the animals and habitats.”

      • avatar SAP says:

        And that just sews it all up in a neat bundle, doesn’t it, Immer? It all fuses together as a colossal “meta grievance” with the aging white males who dominate the anti-wolf vanguard.

        Crazy ol’ liberals started affirmative action, which led to “unqualified” women & ethnic minorities getting “preferential” (nevermind that being white & male still gets us all kinds of preferential treatment – if we do ever think about it, we regard it as the God-given natural order of things) treatment in hiring.

        “They” don’t hunt and fish, so how could they possibly know anything about biology? “They” have proven their unworthiness & incompetence by allowing wolves and other large carnivores to flourish. And how does this prove their incompetence? Ah, here we unfurl a litany of woes inflicted by large carnivores . . . never you mind that these woes are anecdotal at best, wholly fictitious in most cases: we’re aging white males who hunt and fish! We just know these things. If you weren’t hippies, weirdos, women, gays, or minorities, then you, too, would just know as well. But you don’t. That’s why we need to keep you out.

        In the end, is it really about elk, or even about money? Or are those just units of measure for what’s really at stake: power, control, and fear of sharing the world with those who are not like you.

        • avatar JB says:

          Fear and power, indeed. And with those two themes, I can’t help but quote the Bene Gesserit mother from Dune: “Fear is the mind killer.” I’m not sure if it’s responsible for “killing” the minds of the anti crowd…too much spice mélange, perhaps?

        • avatar Immer Treue says:

          SAP,

          Could be a case wherein mood of statement is not translated electronically. But, Beer’s statement above was meant with a GREAT amount of sarcasm.

          • avatar SAP says:

            For sure Immer — I took it in that spirit, and ran off to Rant City with it! It just kind of hit me that his sentiment probably isn’t all that rare.

            • avatar Immer Treue says:

              SAP,

              I don’t believe his sentiment is rare at all either. Hopefully Wolfy’s comment is a scratch in the sky.

              • avatar Wolfy says:

                I can’t claim to be a prophet, but it really seems to me that there is a major shift happening beneath our feet in the way we, as a society, view our natural world. I also seems that the old guard is not aware of this and is due for a rude wake-up call. Scratch in the sky? Maybe more like a thousand pin-pricks in the dam.

  25. avatar Snaildarter says:

    There is an old saying “a fish stinks from the head down,” that means the Governors Office in which ever State these biologist work. All we can do is keep plugging at the press and anyone who will listen and show the wolf haters for the lairs that they are and hope the public cares enough to demand a sustainable predator policy.

    • avatar Robert R says:

      Snaildarter the sad thing is lies have been propagated on both sides so to use the blame game of wolf haters is loosing momentum and neither side has a bullet proof predator policy.
      The only predators policy is the one that suits the needs and wants of their own agenda.

  26. avatar C Taylor says:

    I learned long ago that the state agencies are working on behalf of the hunters/fisher’men’ so, by allowing animal species to over populate, they can make them happy. Just watch and see – if any changes are proposed to the bag limit, shortening the length of hunting/fishing days, they act like it’s the end of the world. Go to some of their ‘shows’ of all the latest crap of theirs available and it’ll make you ill. For about $25,000, there is now a ‘smart’ gun available that guarantees the shooter will NOT miss their ‘mark’. It is revolting. Google it for more info. Saw it on the morning news (nat’l)-was surprised to see them report on it, actually.

    Keep on sabbing!
    I support the right to arm bears!(p.s. Ebay carries various urine scents, guaranteed to tip off the hunted!!!)

    • avatar SaveBears says:

      And using them in certain states will get you a healthy fine and could land your but in jail as many states have laws on the books about interfering with a legal and lawful hunt.

      And of course the state agencies work on the behalf of the hunter and fisher person, because the hunter and fisher persons are the ones paying the bills!

    • avatar Elk275 says:

      CTaylor

      I am knowledgeable about firearms and I have never seen or heard about a $25,000 “smart gun” that guarantees the shooter will NOT miss. I am interested.

      If I was to pay $25,000 for a rifle it certainly would not be a “smart gun”. I would love to be able to purchase an H & H, Prudy or Westley Richards double rifle. I have always wanted a traditional English big bore double.

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Quote

‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey