There are a lot of wildlife related stories.

Washington Post and Wildlife Services-

There have been many efforts to raise public perception of the depredations of the misnamed federal agency “Wildlife Services,” which might have been named that so that folks will confuse it with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or a state fish and wildlife department. However Wildlife Services services wildlife, according to many, the same way the Air Forces services a target.  The Sacramento Bee and a few other newspapers have been doing exposes on them, but today the jackpot – The Washington Post.  Petition targets Rouge Killings by Wildlife Services.

“Coyote & Wolf Derby” in Salmon, Idaho announced-

A “coyote and wolf [killing] derby” is scheduled for the weekend of December 28-29 in the central Idaho town of Salmon, Idaho.  This announcement has sparked outrage from many. Children and adults will get prizes for the most dead female coyotes and the biggest wolf. It is not obvious whether this is a real event or more of an effort to show the resentment to outsiders the town is noted for.

For generations, Salmon City, which is actually a town, has had a reputation for hostility to conservation and those seen as outsiders.  This author was driving near Salmon in 2010 when an old pickup truck pulled out with a bumper sticker that read “Welcome Environmentalists: We ain’t had a good hanging since ’54.”  It bothered me. Then I remembered my semi-automatic pistol was loaded and right next to me.

Public outrage in more urban places is a likely reason for this announcement and the possible event.

Anti-federal government sentiment runs high among many town residents, although ironically the major sources of income have been the federal government land management agencies (though expenditures there are declining), tourism, and transfer payments from retirement, and money earned elsewhere.  Culturally many residents see themselves are miners, loggers and ranchers, though mining a very sporadic, logging about gone due to forest fires and insect infestations and mill closing, and ranching. It is a stable, but smaller generator of income. Reuters news story.
Competitive hunting of wolves, coyotes in Idaho sparks outcry. BY Laura Zuckerman. Reuters.

Non-residents often see Salmon as the Gateway to the River of No Return Wilderness and the famed Salmon River for floating, steelhead fishing, and scenery.

Coyote pack kills and starts to eat a coyote-chasing hound near Tahoe-

Coyote behavior near Tahoe (Stateline, NV) was apparently normal when it was suddenly chased by a whippet hound.  This incident went on for several minutes until the pack apparently cornered the hound. The coyotes were reported to be eating the dog when its owners caught up to the scene. Some of the experts consulted thought maybe the pack needed the protein because coyotes usually don’t eat the dogs they kill.
Coyote pack kills dog in South Lake Tahoe. Tahoe Truckee Outdoors.  

Administration starts giving wind farms 30-year permits for the incidental take of eagles-

Many conservationists are unhappy with the Administration’s new willingness to give wind farms up to 30 year permits to kill eagles incidentally. Eagles are no longer on the endangered species list, but are given special federal protection. It is not known how many are killed by wind farms and isolated wind turbines or groups of them. The New York Times says estimates range from 10,000 to more than 500,000 birds a year in total. Eagles would be a small fraction of this range of numbers, but the number of farms is growing. As one conservationist said, a 30-year permit is like forever.

The permits are issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As an aside, in the Times story linked to below, notice how common journalistic shorthand usage of the agency name makes it sound almost like Wildlife Services, thus going back to our first story above. See: A Struggle to Balance Wind Energy With Wildlife. By Dan Frosch. New York Times. 

 

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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.

39 Responses to News shorts: WaPo, big story on Wildlife Services; coyote pack kills dog at Tahoe . . .

  1. avatar Garry Rogers says:

    Again and again, government agencies represent special interests rather than the resource or the general public. We must be committed to relentless comment, opinion, and advice for our public servants.

  2. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Allowing wind energy companies to move ahead with no accountability to the American public for *three decades* about eagles kills (Yeah, I know they say they’re workin’ on it. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence coming from a former BP Manager of Environmental Affairs! That went well, didn’t it.) And F&W says they’ll review every five years. That gives me no confidence either.

  3. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Salmon: Rural living near a small town has its benefits, but one wonders about the mind addling parochialism that is present in such places. Spoken to more than a few folks, who once they begin to peel back the layers of this if you’re not born here, you’re a foreigner mentality make them question this us versus them philosophy. One of the unfortunate consequences is a death spiral for small rural towns. I believe that it is not an inability to adapt to a changing world, but an unwillingness, a clutching to old ways that are never more. Thus, “tournaments” such as the aforementioned Salmon wolf/coyote killing tournaments that feed small mindedness, and reciprocates by preventing the influx of progressive ideas.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman has written a thorough article on a proposal that is floating around to create a large? national monument in East Central Idaho, which could include Salmon, though proably not. Salmon would benefit from it economically, though not so much as the dying towns of Challis and Mackay.

      Here it is. http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/12/15/2928481/monument-idea-makes-custer-county.html

      I should probably write a story on this monument proposal because some Idaho conservation organizations are promoting it.

      • avatar Jon Way says:

        Ralph,
        That same small-mindedness is affecting Maine. Roxanne Quimby has made an offer to not only donate 70,000 of her personal acreage to help create Maine Woods National Park by Baxter State Park in ME, but she has also offered to create a trust to fund the running of the NP. Of course the locals say they are against it – that is against a national park being created when it is with someone’s personal capital and land. Worse than this small minded viewpoint (and many would say hypocritical as they are essentially telling her what to do with her own land), is the fact that the Obama Admin hasn’t had the vision to look at the long term benefits of this park – and accept the gift on behalf of the American ppl.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          It’s the logging crowd too, isn’t it Jon? The fear of losing phantom ‘jobs’ and really the fear of change. Development is still going on with some big housing/resort sprawl. Where are the hunters when you need them?

          http://www.nrcm.org/issue_northwoods.asp

          • avatar WM says:

            Interesting twist, Ida,

            Creation of national parks (or even national monuments) would seem to have few critics, until you drill down on what it really means to creae a new one. It permanently locks into federal reserve status the timber resources, mineral resources and the rights to mine them, permanently stops hunting there, and importantly can result in even HIGHER concentrations of urban type services at the access points and fringe, just outside the park/monument (some of those especially at higher elevations create air pollution problems).

            Importantly, labeling an area a national park or national monument paints a national target on the spot, so that even more people visit, resulting in higher impacts (dirt trails sometimes become paved ones with increased runoff), but of a different sort. But, maybe that is a good thing for some, since it also provides certain folks with new economic opportunities in providing goods and services, as well as EVEN MORE housing development at the fringes (ever hear of Jackson Hole, Estes Park, West Yellowstone, West Glacier/Whitefish). Some big chain motels, and the big corporate NP meal and hospitality folks at ARAMark and Xanterra just love this stuff.

            There is an argument to be made that some candidate places like this ought not to be made national reserves, but rather state reserves. How about this lady just consider enlarging Baxter State Park? Maybe Plum Creek Timber, a Real Estate Income Trust, the largest private corporate landowner in the country, with HQ offices in Seattle, has some land adjacent it wants to sell off for profit. Or, better yet, maybe they will have some development land for housing and high end resort projects, since they are in that business too (ever hear of Suncadia in WA or Yellowstone Club in MT?)

            And, I beg to differ with Jon in this statement, “…(and many would say hypocritical as they are essentially telling her what to do with her own land…). Well, sort of, creation of a national park carries with it all those warts, complexities and economic exploitations mentioned above, and -good or bad- it seems to affect locals more than the folks who come from out of state maybe a couple times in their lifetimes to visit a particular national park.

            • avatar Jon Way says:

              WM,
              I hear what you are saying but as any capitalist knows, ppl must adjust to changing economic and social times. Logging companies are selling land left and right (or are willing to) and a national park to me sounds a hell of a lot better than high end subdivisions but potentially no tourism growth for locals. There will still be plenty of land for logging and hunting around these areas. I still think that decision makers need to look beyond the biased locals and what a long lasting benefit permanent protection of some of its lands will do for that area.

  4. avatar mikepost says:

    I love it…every living condor has about %250,000 of our tax dollars invested in it and they can chop them up too in the big wind turbines.

  5. avatar JB says:

    “I can understand a reasonable hunting season on wolves, they are considered a game animal in Idaho,” said Isaac Babcock, of McCall. “But when Fish and Game hires a bounty hunter to go live in designated wilderness in a Forest Service cabin with the goal of eliminating entire wolf packs — something seems terribly wrong with that.”

    http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/12/17/2931287/fish-and-game-turns-to-hired-hunterpetition.html

    • avatar WM says:

      JB,

      Babcock’s statement is inconsistent with the context of the IDFG stated purpose in sending in the paid hunter. The following statements from the article set the context, and apparent justification:

      ++Sport hunters have a hard time getting into the area, Gould said. They hired hunter-trapper Gus Thoreson, of Salmon, to see if he can be a cost-effective method of population control.

      “The whole goal is to alleviate some of the impacts wolves are having on the elk herds,” Gould said….”If you’re looking for cost benefits you remove an entire pack,” Gould said….It’s going to have a longer-term benefit than removing members of the pack….We’re trying to stabilize the trend here with the long-term goal of (elk) recovery,” he said.++

      We can disagree whether this specific action is warranted, but the idea of area-specific management of a particular population of wolves to aid in meeting other wildlife management objectives (stabilizing elk populations by increasing calf recruitment and deemed to be wolf related) would seem to have at least a veil of legitimacy.

      • avatar JB says:

        I agree about the veil of legitimacy. However, the two premises used to justify the action seem to be in conflict. What is the point in increasing elk recruitment in areas “sport hunters have a hard time getting into”? It isn’t like elk populations are hurting statewide.

        In any case, I think that Babcock’s statement speaks to a judgment about what is appropriate wildlife management action in a wilderness area. Is it appropriate to use federal dollars to manipulate wildlife populations in a wilderness area in order to benefit local sport (elk) hunters? Of course, Idaho thinks it is (and it serves the purpose of further stoking the wolf conflict, which makes the power-brokers smile).

        • avatar WM says:

          I don’t think it is so much sport hunters as it is outfitters who rely on the sport hunters from out of state, and thus it has political AND economic ramifications. And, bear in mind, this wilderness area has some built in exceptions (airstrips for general visitor/hunter access for one, and I bet Babcock and wife probably have themselves used them) that most designated wilderness areas do not.

          If the elk are harder to get, the success rate goes down, and hunters maybe harder to book or pay less. Not so many hunters around to actually shoot the wolves during elk season – entirely different tactics – and few hunters are going to want to go deep into the heart of the Frank exclusively for a wolf. So, enter the paid bounty hunter to control the wolf population to meet other wildlife objectives of IDFW. I don’t think he is being paid with federal dollars; it is my understanding it is only IDFG who pays him.

          • avatar JB says:

            Outfitters. Yes, of course. So a handful of “affected” people can dictate how wildlife are managed in the federally-designated wilderness? And I thought the whole point of having wildernesses was to avoid the multiple-use conflicts that occur on U.S. Forest Service or BLM public lands? [sarc.]

            —-

            The idea that he was paid from federal dollars came from the article–my reading of the following statement: “…why federal resources are employed to promote predator control in the wilderness…”

            I assume this refers to P-R funds used to pay this fellow to ‘manipulate elk habitat’?

            • avatar WM says:

              JB,

              I think the term “federal resources” meant use of the FS cabin and the air strip, though I could be wrong. As for P-R funds, we all know where those funds come from, an exise tax on firearms and ammunition, and where it is expected they could be returned, back to conservation purposes to enhance the resources that generates the tax revenues. We have also heard there are some hostilities over using P-R for other purposes like expanding wolf populations (as was Jim Beers’ argument), to the disadvantage of improving wildlife habitat, for ungulates. Just sayin’.

        • avatar rork says:

          “and it serves the purpose of further stoking the wolf conflict, which makes the power-brokers smile”
          I wondered how much of that was motivating. I take you to be hinting that molesting wolves in the Frank Church is a display of Idaho’s power over the federal land.
          It’ll also make local folks dependent on the elk money happy. I do think that is inappropriate in Wilderness, just as some of the fluffy fish stocking was. I doubt the elk genes are in any danger.

      • avatar Joe says:

        Is there any proof these two packs of wolves are having any demonstrable impact on this particular herd of elk? There’s no proof of that presented anywhere. It’s just IDFG saying “we say wolves are eating too many elk calves, so it’s so.” Fits the pattern of lazy claims about wolves coming from the state wildlife agencies.

        One also wonders why IDFG is sending this hunter-trapper into the mountains when you’d think that this time of year both elk and wolves would be out of the mountains down on winter range.

        It’s been demonstrated both in Alaska and the Yukon that “area-specific management of a particular population of wolves to aid in meeting wildlife management objectives (ungulate recovery)” as WM puts it, doesn’t work unless the area involved covers hundreds of square miles and 70-80% of the wolves in the area are taken out. The area has to be sufficiently large so that immigrant wolves don’t immediately impact ungulate recovery. But when you take out that many wolves in such a large area, you create numerous ecological and political problems such that wolf control simply isn’t cost effective. (Indeed,it is never cost effective). Readers of this blog won’t have any difficulty coming up with what those problems are, so I won’t bother to make this post longer than it needs to be.

        This project makes zero wildlife management sense. Taking out a couple of packs of wolves for the purposes stated actually reflects a veil of stupidity, not legitimacy. Maybe the hunter trapper has good friends in IDFG who’re willing to use state money to stake the guy for the winter. What a deal. I’d love to have a winter in the mountains paid for.

        Finally, I hope the horses and mules have adequate range. It’s going to be slim pickings where they’re going.

        • avatar WM says:

          Joe,

          ++It’s been demonstrated both in Alaska and the Yukon that “area-specific management of a particular population of wolves to aid in meeting wildlife management objectives (ungulate recovery)” as WM puts it, doesn’t work unless the area involved covers hundreds of square miles and 70-80% of the wolves in the area are taken out.++

          Maybe that is the case in AK or YT, but I would submit the geographical influence in ID is a whole bunch smaller because the wolf density is lower. And, I suspect IDFG has two objectives in mind – reduce the reproduction potential of the wolves there, as well as reduce the present direct effects on ungulate numbers and behavior.

          • avatar Joe says:

            Wrong. The same ecological principles apply across scales.

            Also, the key question is still begged: what evidence exists to show that these two packs are having a deleterious effect on this elk herd? I submit there is none.

            IDFG objectives for wolves have no scientific basis. It’s all politics.

            • avatar WM says:

              Joe,

              ++Wrong. The same ecological principles apply across scales….its all politics. ++

              So, is this wrong just because you say it is, or can you point to some authority on point for the ecological impacts?

              The IDFG assertion, according to their Draft Elk Management Plan from this past summer is that predation (including wolves) is a “highly limiting” factor for both the Middle Fork Zone and the Salmon Zone, which includes the Frank Church. And, they intend to take extra effort to remove wolves from the 6 individual units that comprise the area. Targeting 2 packs as currently proposed seems a relatively modest effort in that regard. They are also considering aerial removal, aggressive trapping/hunting, according to the Draft.

              And, even if much of the Frank is Moderate elk habitat (their term, not mine) it does seem to hold several thousand elk, and that sum could probably be tallied by adding up the unit numbers.

              https://fishandgame.idaho.gov/content/webform/2013-draft-elk-plan

              And, a wolf eats between 12-23 elk/deer from November thru April, some/many of them calves, according to the research. So, it would seem there is something to the math and wolf nutritional requirements.

              • avatar Joe says:

                Once again, you’re saying it’s so because IDFG says it’s so. Just how are wolves a limiting factor? Were other limiting factors assessed? How were the data collected? Are the data reliable?

                Those are of course rhetorical questions.

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          I don’t think it makes sense either. The number of elk in the Frank Church is much more affected by fires. Oh, and by the way, the relationship between elk and fires is not a simple — linear — positive or negative one either.

          I believe there is a possibility there could be an outfitter with political connections who is the intended beneficiary.

  6. avatar Immer Treue says:

    Here’s what I don’t understand.

    “Sport hunters have a hard time getting into the area, Gould said.”

    First, if they are “sport hunters” isn’t that part of the challenge.
    Second, if its tough getting into and out of the area, I would hazard a guess its going to be tougher going out with 4-5 hundred pounds of elk, rather than 100 pounds of wolf. OK 250 pounds of Canadian wolf.

    • avatar WM says:

      Immer,

      The Frank Church Wilderness is huge, and not easily accessible, as in no road access – hence the guy’s words “hard getting into.” That is why there are airstrips at remote locations, and how many people access the Fran. Some are FS, State of ID and others are private – yes private. No new ones and no new roads ever. It is expensive to fly in, and to fly out, even more after a successful elk hunt and the extra weight.

      Just my thoughts, but I wouldn’t expect most elk hunters going into The Frank to want to hunt wolves. They are after an elk or deer, many with the help of an outfitter. For some it is THE hunt of a lifetime, and pretty expensive. And, not many locals make the extra effort or even want to take the time to get in there for an express purpose of hunting wolves. The success rate is so low, too, apparently.

      The logic of going into the Frank with a professional hunter to thin out some wolves is entirely consistent with the IDFG objective to trim the wolf numbers state wide, and to manage game units geographically for specific objectives.

      So, if IDFG manages the number of outfitters and where they operate, as well as hunter permit numbers, and importantly numerical elk, deer, bear and lion harvests, why should they not also manage wolf numbers and range (with professional help because they are elusive and not easily found by the few hunters who don’t target them there anyway)?

      • avatar rork says:

        First, I told you someone else could say it better (below). Thanks WM.

        Second, to answer the last question, knocking down wolves by pros is not the same as permitting recreational exploitation by citizens. Perhaps that just part of my fantasy of managing wilderness to be wilderness, rather that for greatest economic return. This word “manage” can lead to mystification about what is really being said. ( Someone else can likely do better than me on this score too.)

        • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

          Rork, Immer, and WM,

          We meet at Dr. Walt Blackadar’s house in Salmon in 1974 and drew up proposed boundaries for what became the River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. It later had the name “Frank Church” tacked on it.

          The major point for most of us was not that it was an elk range, but it was supposed to be (and became in law) a huge, roadless (by law) Wilderness area. It was the biggest in the lower 48 at the time, and it was supposed to be. We were proud that it was difficult access. It wasn’t supposed to be a place for “candy asses” (to use what is now likely a politically incorrect term). We understood it that the Middle Fork of the Salmon, and the Main Fork too, would support lazy folks as well as the adventurous. Nevertheless, you could get killed on these rivers, and a number have been.

          Away from the river, there would be places that would not see people for years, and they would have to struggle to get there. It would be hard and it would be dangerous. I had hoped that the large carnivores would return, and the mountain lions were already there and have expanded their numbers. I still hope for grizzlies. Wilderness travellers should have the right to get mauled. That this “right” is not honored shows what a weak state Idaho (and some others) has become.

          We promoted adventure and elk hunting, steelhead, salmon and high mountain lake fishing, but most people didn’t realize, and they still don’t realize, that the Frank contains numerous elk only because it is hard to get into. The bedrock is granite and related intrusive igneous rocks that produce inherently low fertility soil. If you want to grow elk, concentrating on the mountains outside of the center of central Idaho is a much better place because there is more fertility.

          We got Congress (with the immense help of Idaho Senator Frank Church and congressman John Sieberling, and Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus from Idaho (no candy ass) to adopt our boundaries.

          I don’t know what has happened in Idaho, but I can only hope this professional hunter faces many dangerous and painful conditions, like many of us have done. That is the way it is supposed to be, and I hope his rifle jams.

          • avatar Ida Lupine says:

            Wilderness travellers should have the right to get mauled.

            I so agree! :) I get tired of endless modern-day PC-ness also. At least, the odds are a little better in this case.

            I remember watching the PBS special about ‘the Church’. What a wonderful thing, it was stunning.

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              Ida Lupine,

              My wife and I talked about this after I wrote it. She is of the opinion that candyass is proper. She said it was Marine term for someone who was fearful, weak, didn’t measure up.

          • avatar rork says:

            Thanks for that.
            I’d like access to be even more difficult though, and no inholdings (or used only by scientists or emergency people). The area that is more than a day from vehicles could be much bigger – might feel twice as big even though no acres were added.
            I like the right to get mauled or killed – people are a renewable over-abundant resource. Not that I sleep with the food pack.

            • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

              I would have liked the airfields gone too, but it was not political feasible even in those more favorable days of political climate.

              I thought if you went to the Chamberlain Basin, it should be a feat — ride your horse or walk ten miles in or perhaps swim the Salmon River, and then climb 5000 feet.

          • avatar Immer Treue says:

            Ralph,

            Do you really think a rifle will be this individuals main tool?

          • avatar Joe says:

            Well, Ralph brings up one of the ecological reasons this “targeted” wolf control project makes no sense. Habitat. If the habitat is already poor, and it is, then taking out predators that prey on the elk that do live there can have no impact on the herd’s reproductive capability. there’s really nothing to “release” the herd into.

            In other words, any wolf predation on the herd is compensatory.

            As I’ve said elsewhere, in any case I’ve seen no scientific proof wolves are having a negative impact on these elk. If anything, wolves can be having only a positive impact.

          • avatar topher says:

            Ralph,
            I was not aware that you were involved in helping create the Frank Church Wilderness. THANK YOU.

      • avatar Immer Treue says:

        WM,
        Then lets not have them regarded as sportsmen.

    • avatar rork says:

      Other people can probably say this better.
      Some hunters might spend or pay large sums to get there to hunt elk and experience that place, where I’m thinking of using pack animals and being a day from the road. (Ordinary folks can hunt the edges.) It’d be an awesome vacation for many.
      That may not be true for people trying to hunt wolves.

      PS: The reason I’ve gone to the Church several times, and choose similar places for my wanderings, is that there are areas so difficult that people with horses don’t go there. If that weren’t true I wouldn’t go there.

  7. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    I wondered when we’d get the awful news:

    DNR Reports 13 Wolves Killed By Hunters Using Dogs

  8. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Incidentally, I happened to see Jon Tester on CNN the other night and I was surprised at how well-rested he looks, considering his nefarious doings.

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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."

~ Edward Abbey