Plan to control lots of Western Idaho wolf packs is greatly scaled back

Several days ago I posted “Wildlife Services plans major Western Idaho wolf removals.” A lot of people read it and 20 comments were posted. I have now closed that discussion thread.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of talking behind the scenes about this wolf control plan. Now the plan has been greatly scaled back.

I understand only the Danskin Pack, near Boise, will be wiped out. A few wolves will be removed from the other western Idaho wolf packs.

So good news!



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  1. Rob Edward Avatar

    The sad thing is, these “control” actions do nothing to reduce depredations (long-term) or reduce rancher hostility. The Fish & Wildlife Service should be focused on the stewardship of wolves, not the mollification of a small special interest that refuses to step-out of the 1870’s. There are reasonable ranchers out there who actually understand how to protect their livestock without killing predators, and those are the ones we should be dealing with.

    It’s time to stop sacrificing wolves on the altar of the Old West.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You are right. This is a victory only in a negative sense.

    Most wolf “controls” by the government are very much like retaliation — “3 sheep are dead, so some wolf has to die.” I much prefer that it be the livestock operator who kills the wolf while it is chasing the livstock.

    As you say, some operators lose no sheep or cattle while the operation adjacent loses a lot.

  3. Kate Tyler Avatar
    Kate Tyler

    Ralph –
    “Only the Danskin Pack … will be wiped out” ??? While I’m pleased to hear that the Wiildlife Services air force won’t get to wipe out as many wolves as previously stated, what about the Danskin wolves – what are they “guilty” of??
    By saying that only the Danskin wolves will be wiped out, well — that’s like a reporter saying that only two people died in a car wreck. To the family of those people two is two too many.
    The same with the Danskin pack. This is a family wolf pack with parents and pups and cousins and aunts and uncles. What did humans do that brought the proposed demise of this pack?
    Are their humans who need to be held accountable for their lack of responsibility is looking after sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys, dogs, whatever?
    What has the Danskin area wolves done to be given a death sentence “wiped out”? I hope you can provide the details.
    It would also be helpful to know where exactly Danskin is located … and what the uses are there. Whether the wolf “problems” (or were there “problem” ranchers instead) were on public or private land.

    Added on Sept. 24. You spoke of the Danskin wolves. Data is on in this pack. It consists of an adult female wolf and three pups. Ralph Maughan

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’m not going to defend Wildlife Services.

    I don’t know what the Danskin Pact did. I had never heard of them, but they are going to kill the pups too — five I think.

    I think the pack might have only 1 adult. Given the current weather, they won’t get them in the next couple days. They are uncollared and WS might not find them at all.

    What WS likes to do is get a collar in there, then load the boys up in a helicopter and track them high tech. Then they blow them away for their crimes.

    Pup-killing got started this year in Idaho, whereas in the past I think WS and other folks were afraid of the public outrage that might follow. Not much followed except from Defenders of Wildlife who did get on National Public Radio to tell what had happened.

  5. Kate Tyler Avatar
    Kate Tyler

    Maybe the agency Friday wolf report will reveal what terrible crime the Danskin Pack committed.

    All over America – wherever there are cattle – calves are now being yanked from mother cows and sent off to feedlots, to stand knee deep in cowshit until fattened enough to be sent to the slaughter house, made into steak and burger, so humans can eat them.

    There was a recent article put out by AP I think, that stated that wolves around cattle disturbed the bovines.

    Perhaps the reporter should go out now to cow pastures in the West and listen to the bawlling of the mother cows who have lost their calves to man and his appetite for beef.

    I was there tonight and I cried with the mother cows for their babies that were hauled off in semi-trucks today. The wolves might take a calf or two here or there, but ultimately man will take the entire crop of beef calves.

  6. Ronnie Hegemann Avatar
    Ronnie Hegemann

    I’m not sure what this pack is “guilty” of, but if they preyed on livestock, then the result should be removal as drawn up when the reintroduction began.. I hear many people who are upset when wolves are removed, if this is the case, you should have been upset from the beginning when plans were drawn up. From the beginning this was part of the plan and everyone involved in reintroduction knew this. We have to keep this end of the bargain, otherwise ranchers and hunters will lose even more faith in wolf management. Both of these parties as well as others support wildlife both financially and with maintaining open spaces. I am more upset with the folks who initially reintroduced these wolves, ripped them from their home and family in Canada.

    We are in a situation which will continually get worse and unfortunately, wolves will be the ones that lose in the end, by loss of life. Too many wolves have picked up the learned behavior of hunting livestock making this a long-term problem we will be dealing with for decades to come.

    This problem is only compounded by the number of people in the west who are not educated about, or misinformed on wolf ecology. This, along with old dogmas which die hard in the west, sets up one of the most challenging management dilemmas we will ever come up against in our lifetime..

    – – – –

    I see no evidence that anything is getting worse. Wolf attacks per capita on livestock are not increasing. There are both random and seasonal fluctuations, with late summer and early autumn being a time of more wolf attacks on livestock because wolf packs are nutritionally stressed at the time, but plenty of nutrition is about to be desposited in Idaho as the elk and deer hunting seasons advance. Wolves almost always prefer elk to cattle, and a pack that does prefer cattle must be eliminated. None of the recent depredations in Idaho suggest to me that was the case. Ralph Maughan

  7. Erin Miller Avatar
    Erin Miller

    “…I am more upset with the folks who initially reintroduced these wolves, ripped them from their home and family in Canada. We are in a situation which will continually get worse and unfortunately, wolves will be the ones that lose in the end, by loss of life…” thats’ exactly it. Sadness for Idaho wolves should be because of that. They’ve been exploited, and are paying the price for what people did to them by bringing them into Idaho. The whole thing is sad, and there is no “victory” for these wolves. This all makes me wonder who’s really thinking of the best interest of these animals. I too wish “activists” would spend as much time protecting domestic animals from extreme lack of care as they spend keeping wolves and bears, etc.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think Kate (several posts) above was expressing concern about cattle as well as wolves.

    As for myself, my original post criticized the plan in part for its lack of cost effectiveness, that is, it doesn’t make any sense to spend $10,000 to kill some wolves that did $2000 damage. A cheap solution that protects wolves and livestock is what is needed, and that is often available by changes in herding practices.

    Now $10,000 for a wolf control is hardly the maximum, I heard from someone who ought to know that Wildlife Services spent over a hundred thousand going after the Phantom Pack in Montana a couple years ago. It costs so much because many of the Wildlife Service people (who used to be called “government trappers) don’t know how to trap. They go through money the way they do because they are less competent than those who came before them.

    The wolves that were “ripped from their homes in Canada” seemed to thrive here. Were they to be able to think that way, they probably thought they had died and gone to heaven when they were set loose in Yellowstone Park.

    It is likely that none of the original wolves are left. They have prospered here in Idaho especially. The wolf mortality rate from all causes seems to be relatively low in Idaho.

    I think your concern about wolves is false.

  9. Ronnie Hegemann Avatar
    Ronnie Hegemann

    I agree the wolves have prospered, at least those who are not shot. But I’ve witnessed time and time again as whole packs are wiped out in Wyoming when they depredate livestock. I agree with you, there are better ways to handle this, which should begin with better herding practices. Unfortunately, that won’t happen for a long time in Wyoming and all the while just about every wolf that ends up in the green river/daniel area ends up with a bullet in the head. Packs forming in the South Fork/Meteetsee area havealso been wiped out multiple times.

    I just feel that the wolves are paying the highest price for all of this, which is unfortunate. They will go on and thrive I am sure, and although I am not as familiar with statistics in Idaho, in Wyoming the mortality rate from Wildlife services alone is fairly high. I feel the reason this hasn’t gotten much attention is due partly to the fact that these wolves who are shot, are replaced by other wolves within the year due to high numbers of dispersing wolves from the Greater Yellowstone area.

    All that being said, I appreciate your website and all you are doing to support wildlife and wildlife habitat. Keep up the good work because we need more people like you!!!

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you. Given what you know about the area around South Fork/Meteetsee (WY), I can see how you might wonder if it is worth it.

    Wyoming wolves are controlled at a furious rate. US Fish and Widlife Service management there has resulted in a higher death rate of wolves than management by MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks or by Idaho Fish and Game.

    In WY as many as 40% a year have been killed. It’s far lower in Idaho.

  11. Sally Roberts Avatar
    Sally Roberts

    In one of the above comments, “a bullet to the head” is mentioned. If only this were the case. Wolves who are victims of aerial gunning end up full of bullet holes. Often they are gut shot and left to die. This is the proud work of our federally funded Wildlife Services employess.

  12. Ashley Weber Avatar
    Ashley Weber

    Ralph you are correct there is either 1 original female left or none at all. I wasn’t sure what the date of the report I read was.

    By no means am I an expert and I don’t claim to be, but I am a college student who has done many projects on the Yellowstone Wolves and I have done my reasearch. I still have not come across a concrete reason to why the reintroduction of wolves is a bad thing. If only everyone knew all sides of the story I think a lot more people would have much more respect for these awesome animals.

  13. Layton Avatar

    “I still have not come across a concrete reason to why the reintroduction of wolves is a bad thing”

    Really?? Then perhaps you could name me ONE reason that the INTRODUCTION (not re-intro, cuz this subspecies of old Canis Lupus was NEVER here in Idaho) was a GOOD thing.

    No, don’t try the old, hackneyed “bio diversity” thing, that’s tired and doesn’t work anyway.

    Seems like every time I ask a new summer employee of the USFS, be they biologist, botanist, or rangeland management students (they do “many projects too), they have the same answer ie; none. Is it a college thing??

    Oh, by the way – for bad things, try decimation of big game herds, loss of private property without compensation (livestock, dogs), loss of freedom to just enjoy the woods without an “apex” predator threatening your doing that, just a few.

  14. Jeff Empey Avatar
    Jeff Empey

    “for bad things, etc.” decimation of big game heards; patently false. loss of private property; these are animals on public land, for the most part and are sbject to any number of hazards such as lions, bears, falling trees drowning in rivers and lets not forget the biggest killer of everything everywhere, the automobile. as far as enjoy the woods why not go set up your tent where cows have been eating and s****** all summer long and tell us how that outing to the great out doors on PUBLIC land”read that my land” was enjoyed.

  15. Buffaloed Avatar

    Layton, your argument that the wolf that was present in the Northern Rockies was any different than those, that you say were “introduced”, doesn’t hold water.

    Can you show me any evidence to demonstrate that the wolves that are here now are any larger than those that were previously present?

    Can you show me any barrier to reproduction that would have prevented mixing of dispersing wolves from Canada, or Mexico, or Michigan, or Maine? The historical population was one contiguous population until the mass slaughter brought about by American settlers and the government. There may have been slight regional differences but that does not mean that those were influenced just by genetics. Differences can be caused by climate or food source along with many other factors.

    Can you show me any evidence that shows that the wolves that existed here were a different sub-species that hasn’t been shown to be anything other than speculation and early taxinomical “splitting” by an over-eager taxonimist that thought that every difference in measurement could be attributed as a new sub-species so that they could their name in a journal? What was the name of the sub-species you are referring to?

    I hear these claims made so often but none of them can be backed up by evidence. Historical records, with age and sex information attached, show that the wolves that lived in the northern Rockies are no different in size than those that are here now. Genetic samples from pelts and other samples have also shown that the wolves present now are essentially the same as those that were here. There has been a great loss of diversity, however, and that is a shame.

    I actually enjoy the woods and the wilderness more with the “apex” predator around. It’s not a playground out there Layton and nothing can take away all of the risks associated with the wilderness or wildlife. If you want that kind of life then stay indoors, where you still have risks.

  16. Ashley Weber Avatar
    Ashley Weber

    Loss of private property without compensation huh? You buy a house with some land and you decide to plant some grass. You go out and buy grass seed. You plant the grass seed and you pay to water it. So you wait for your grass to grow on your “private property.” You grass grows and it’s nice and green and lush, so when your grass dies because of a drought (which is natural by the way) do you expect the government to pay you because the sun fried your grass? Give me a break. Be realistic. Everytime a rabbit comes and eats carrots out of your garden are you going to call and demand reimbursement?

    If the “biodiversity thing” doesn’t work to convince you that wolves… know what it doesn’t matter because you sound too ignorant for me to even argue with. If you had half a brain about the environment you could plainly see what wolves mean to the ecosystem….unless you want moose and elk taking over your “private property” because they would soon be overpopulated.

    Have a nice day!

  17. Layton Avatar

    Ashley, Ashley, Ashley,

    If bio diversity is such a good thing why don’t we just re-intro (yes, re-intro because they WERE here first – unlike the wolves that have been brought here) some of the mastodon, giant sloth and giant camel critters that were found in the mud at Tolo Lake here in Idaho a few years back??

    Do you just stop with wolves because you think they are cool??

    Your analogy is waaaaaay full of holes, if I were a professor and you were presenting it in a thesis you would earn a good solid F.

    First of all, the sun is a NATURAL thing, wolves in this area, left unmolested as they have been since a half baked introduction in 1994 are NOT.

    I pay taxes, the govt. (with the support of a whole bunch of well intentioned but uninformed folks like yourself) introduced a predator into ecosystem here that had never been here —– with my $$$!! Now that predator is tearing apart the big game herds that my $$$ also went to build. Could you please point out to me how that is natural??

    I know, it doesn’t bother you. After all your ideals are not even completely formed yet and you didn’t have any $$$ in EITHER pot. BUT, hang on to the ideals, when you get some real life experience they will help you form INFORMED opinions.

    Moose and elk “overpopulating” this area?? Give me a break, that idea is BEYOND ludicrous. We DO have means other than an introduced predator to control big game populations.


    Come on, do you really want to try and justify what you are saying here?

    Look back at the old records, the wolves that were killed here in Idaho in the early 1900s usually had a MAX weight of about 80 lbs. Several of the specimens that were introduced in the 90s weighed in at over 120!!

    Pack sizes of the native wolves ran in the 5 and 6 range, some of these new animals have been observed in packs upwards of 15.

    I’m not a taxonimist or even a degreed wildlife biologist, but I CAN read enough to know that there is more than one source that would say there is more than a little possibility that I’m right.

    No, I don’t have any definitive proof of “breeding” packs in this area in my lifetime, BUT, if my memory serves me correctly, there were 3 people fined and (I believe) a taxidermist from Ontario, Oregon jailed in the early 70s for killing several (3?) wolves in Bear Valley – about 75 miles North of Boise.

    I wouldn’t even know how to go about researching the news from then to confirm it for the doubters here, but I do remember it.


  18. Buffaloed Avatar

    I remember it too but there was very little evidence of reproduction at the time and there was very little to no evidence of reproduction when the REINTRODUCTION took place. I’ve heard many anecdotal evidence that there were wolves here prior to the reintroduction and I even think I heard one near Landmark, Idaho in 1992 but in all of my travels during that period I saw little or no evidence that there were more than just a few around. I’m not saying that there weren’t any, I’m saying that there were scant few of them.

    There is the likelyhood that those that were here came from southern Canada but I find it unlikely that they persisted in Idaho, at least, throughout the whole period without very severe genetic inbreading because of low population numbers. They also suffered from severe “lead poisoning” or other types of poisoning from people that decided they would take it in their own hands to keep them from making a comeback on their own.

    Just be thankful that the REINTRODUCTION occured the way it did because if it hadn’t we would have wolves anyway without any legal way to control them because they would have full protection under the endangered species act. You can thank Jim McClure for that foresight.

  19. Buffaloed Avatar

    What old records are you referring too?

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I don’t know if Layton saw my post about there being at least 3 lone male wolves in the state when reintroduction took place. That was known later because each started a pack when the new wolves came in.

    Whether there were 3 males or maybe even a pack isn’t relevant because you will never get recovery of any animal from such a small genetic base. Of course, no offspring at all from 3 male wolves.

    Idaho needed more wolves, and wolves with diverse genetics, and it sure did work!

  21. Jeff Empey Avatar
    Jeff Empey

    just curious Layton old bean, just exactly what sub-species of woof do you think was brought here to terrorize you and yours ?

  22. Layton Avatar

    Well Jeff Old Buddy,

    Not being a trained researcher, or even espousing to be or posturing as one, my reading would say that the “resident” wolves here were either Irremotus or Nubilus (Hall’s bets) ooorrr, of you want to go with Nowak (sp?) it would be Nubilus.

    It seems to be agreed that the new ones are Occidentalus. You wanna vote too??

    By the way, was the “woof” a typo or a bit of humor?? They don’t terrorize me by the way — I have a .45 caliber friend that gets to go walking with me these days.


    Just old newspaper and historical accounts from the Central Idaho area during the mining days. Warrens, Florence, Atlanta, etc.

    As far as the early ’70s stuff, I was referring (again I guess) to newspaper accounts.

    Now, am I confused here?? You say “Just be thankful that the REINTRODUCTION occured the way it did because if it hadn’t we would have wolves anyway without any legal way to control them ” and yet Ralph says “you will never get recovery of any animal from such a small genetic base” isn’t there a bit of disparity among the experts here??


    Nope, I didn’t see the post you refer to — you mean we actually agreed on something concerning wolves?? 8^)


  23. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well I think we agreed there were some wolves in Idaho prior to the reintroduction.

    I assume they were all derived from Canada even though they migrated down through Montana either directly, or more likely from the NW Montana Packs that began to form in the 1980s from migrants from Canada.

    I think the reintroduced wolves were c. l. Occidentalis, whereas the “original” wolves (150 years ago) may have been a mix of Occidentalis and Canis lupus nubilis

    Those old weight records are probably unreliable and too small a sample to draw any conclusions about wolf weight.

    When it comes to chasing elk, the biggest wolf is often not the best hunter (maybe just the best eater). Oftentimes it is a smaller, swift female who leads the hunt. Peak wolf hunting ability is at about age 2-3. Age matters too.

    I think if there are differences in predatory behavior between today’s Idaho wolves and those of long ago, it must be subtle. As Buffaloed indicated, proponents of the “Canadian wolf” idea need to explain why wolves back in 1700-1800, from what was to become Canada could not make it to what was to become Idaho

  24. Buffaloed Avatar

    You know the best way to tell an original Idaho wolf from a introduced Canadian wolf don’t you?

    The Canadian wolves howl differently.

    Owooooooooooooooooooo aye.

  25. Jeff Empey Avatar
    Jeff Empey

    well my vote is that there are really only three sub-species of wolf in north america. Those three are c. l. baileyi , c. l. nubilis, and c.l lycaon with possibly a strong argument of c. l. arctos as a fourth sub- species. To quote Robert K. Wayne and Carles Vila in their essay ” Molecular Genetic Studies of Wolves”, “the division of wolves into discrete sub-species and genetic units may be somewhat arbitrary and overly typological” and ” because most wolf populations in North America are not strongly differentiated genetically and the gene flow is high among populations, reintroduction need not include only the nearest extant populations as source material.” and then ” Nowak suggested that there are five sub-species , however the rates of gene flow among North American wolf populations are high and in this sense typological species concepts may be inappropriate because geographic variation in the wolf is distributed along a continuum rather than being partitioned into discrete geographic areasdelineated by fixed bounaries.” If anyone is interested in the whole essay it can be found in the book “WOLVES BEHAVIOR, ECOLOGY, and CONSERVATION” edited by David Mec and Luigi Boitani.

  26. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff, what you write seems as reasonable to me as what I wrote above.

    Yes gene flow is high and there is little reason suppose that in the Interior Western U.S. the flow is only up and down the Rocky Mountains from BC and Alberta to Idaho, Montana, etc. and vice versa.

    I story I posted earlier was that a gray wolf had been found dead on the highway east of Sturgis, S. D. This was probably a Montana wolf moving east, although it might have been a Minnesota wolf moving west. It does show that lateral gene flow can take place from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, and this may have been considerable 200 years ago

    The important point, as I said earlier in response to Layton, is whether the reintroduced wolf in Idaho and Wyoming plays the same functional role as whatever preceded it did. I have no reason to doubt it is the same sub-species of wolf now as 200 years ago, but regardless its rapid recovery tells me that the reintroduced wolves are functionally the same as those earlier.

  27. JEFF EMPEY Avatar

    EXACTLY. Also after I posted the above I came across a couple of interesting web pages out of Canada. The first from Alberta where an universty is undertaking a study on resident wolf populations. What caught my eye in the syllabus was the statement that the northern rocky mountains of canada, (where our source aniamals came from I believe), are actually a genetic sink rather than a source. This would, I believe, support an argument against a seperate sub-spieces in the interior rocky Mountains. Then out of Onterio comes the news that the resident wolves after being geneticly typed are actually considered to be geneticly the same as canus rufus. This should be interesting going forward as there is some body of thought that says canus rufus and c. l. Lycaon are the same aniamal.

  28. Ashley Avatar

    If you were my professor I would’ve dropped the class because I can tell how narrow minded you are….that is very hard to learn from and it would be a waste of my money and time.

    Who says I don’t have money in those pots? Are you a mindreader now? I own a house and pay taxes just like everyone else posting on this page.

    So say these “new” wolves are bigger, if they wern’t I can almost bet that you would still be bitching about them wouldn’t you? Why don’t you complain to the government about all the money they are pissing away on wars and drilling all around the freaking country.

    Packs in upwards of 15?!?!?! Please tell me where they are exactly and the names of the packs. I’m interested to see where you get your info. Yes there may be a FEW in all the U.S. but you make it sound like all the packs are that big, that would be a rarity. Most of the packs are in the range of 4-6.

  29. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    There have been some real interesting comments on this thread.

    It may be getting so long, however, that some posters are getting confused, or is it me?

    I’m am closing this thread to posts now.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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