Wyoming G&F chief: Wolves threaten hunting (for sure, or well maybe not right now)

The article is in today’s Jackson Hole Star-Tribune.

The Game and Fish Commission had a big meeting in Sundance, Wyoming, Thursday and they commanded all the wolf biologists to attend.

Read the first three paragraphs of the story about the meeting. In them “G&F Chief” Terry Cleveland contradicts himself three times.

P1. He says so far things are well. “Wolves have a taste for elk in the greater Yellowstone region, which has worked out well for both species — for the time being.”

P2. If Wyoming Game and Fish doesn’t get it away, things might not turn out well. “However, if there’s no resolution to the state’s dispute with the federal government over removing the animal from protection under the Endangered Species Act, the wolf’s taste for elk may diminish hunting opportunities, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland.”

P3. If WY doesn’t get its way things definitely will not turn out well. “Let there be no doubt: If we don’t get wolves delisted, the elk hunting opportunity in this state is going to decline,” Cleveland said.”



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  1. Carl Avatar

    I’ve hunted deer in Minnesota since 1976. When deer numbers are down many people blame it all on the wolves, When they’re up you never hear a word. With recent winters being mild, deer numbers are at all time highs in wolf country. We currently are having the most liberal seasons I’ve ever seen.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    One of the “unknown unknowns” (to quote our soon to be former illustrious national Secretary of Defense) of Wyoming’s stance toward wolves is that a lot of people don’t understand the peculiar politics that is unique to Wyoming. The fact is, most of the politicians and bureaucrats in Wyoming are perfectly happy to maintain the status quo with wolves. That is, there actually isn’t much interest in actually delisting the wolf among those who are publicly calling for delisting the wolf under Wyoming’s “dual status” terms. It’s all politics.

    G&F doesn’t want the wolf delisted because it would have to assume the costs of wolf management, and trying to maintain wolf packs at the very precise levels called for in Wyoming’s existing plan would be very expensive and practically impossible to implement, which would add up to even greater political headaches. It’s better that the FWS have the headaches. Further, the Department is so strapped for cash now as it is that it has fallen way behind on existing management programs. The Department is but a shadow of its former self, thanks to events that put the Stockgrowers in charge of G&F in the early 90s, events which are too complicated to explain right now.

    Wyoming’s ersatz Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal knows that the State’s legal challenge to the rejection of its dual status plan has no merit; after all, he was formerly the United States Attorney in Cheyenne and knows the law. He certainly knows that the Final Rule under which wolves were introduced specifically states that wolves cannot be delisted as long as Wyoming law classifies wolves as “predatory animals.” (It is this provision that has put the FWS in a hole, since the FWS really really wants to get wolves off its hands, but as long as the Wyoming plan calls for killing wolves on sight in 80% of the State, the feds can’t delist wolves and sustain the decision in the courts). Freudenthal’s states rights, anti-wolf stance is pure politics, and it helped him garner 70% of the vote in very Republican Wyoming during the recent election. Continuing his anti-wolf stance will help him gain the U. S. Senate, which is clearly his next target after finishing his second term as governor.

    The Stockgrowers have actually shown no interest in delisting the wolf under any terms either. As it now is, livestock producers have federally funded and implemented wolf control, that is, they have free wolf control, whereas wolf control by the State might actually cost producers something. But most of all, the status quo allows the Stockgrowers to attack the feds, which always plays well in Wyoming. So the goals of the Stockgrowers and the Governor are the same.

    The irony, of course, is that pursuing these political goals does have the practical effect of allowing wolf numbers to increase and their populations to spread; eventually, we’ll have wolves in every mountain range in Wyoming. Further, Wyoming will be the conduit of wolf expansion into Colorado; it has already happened–sooner or later, a breeding pair will establish itself in Colorado.

    However, people shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that the Stockrowers don’t realize this. They are perfectly willing to allow wolves to spread for the political benefits that will accrue to them from the occasional damage that wolves do to livestock. We should understand that the livestock industry is a classic oligarchy. It is also an oligarchy in decline, and it is doing everythiing possible to maintain its political power. The presence of wolves gives the Stockgrowers a perfect enemy at the gates to keep the political fires stoked.

    The greatest irony is that for the people of Wyoming who really don’t like wolves, and who aren’t politically aware, they don’t realize that they are being cynically manipulated by the powers that be.

    It’s our version of the Roman “bread and circuses.” Politics. Who needs it?

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    One thing I forgot to mention in the last post is the sheer hypocrisy of G&F Director Terry Cleveland’s complaint about wolves killing elk in Wyoming. In fact, the threat of chronic wasting disease getting onto the State’s elk feedgrounds is far greater for western Wyoming’s elk herds than is wolf predation While this threat is undeniable–CWD is moving inexorably toward the feedgrounds–G&F absolutely refuses to close the feedgrounds. An epidemic is assured because of the irrational and unnatural high densities of elk on the feedgrounds. Because CWD is fatal, and because infection rates are predicted to range as high as 50%, thousands of elk will get the disease, and die from it. And, it will of course move on to Idaho and Montana.

  4. Wolfy Avatar

    Good posts, Robert. I’d like to add the WY county commissioners to your list of politicians using wolves as chess pieces. I approached one commissioner in Fremont County just after they passed their famous “undesirable” species” ordinances, and he admitted that it was “just for show”. They know that the anti-wolf and grisly ordinances are unenforceable, but the crowd of 150 ranchers (who are dumber than their cows) were sure impressed how the county stood up to the big, bad government. They also have to keep hunters “up in arms” over predators to keep them from knowing the real reasons for the declines in elk. Namely, diseases and overgrazing due to livestock.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, the controversy over wolves and hunting is a diversionary tactic, “red herring,” switch-the-topic-device, whatever you want to call it. It’s a way of dividing hunters from other conservationists.
    Wolves have long been a scapegoat. If there are no wolves, bears or cougars will used instead to accomplish the same objective–to keep hunters from uniting with other kinds of conservationists.
    In Idaho, finding himself unexpectedly tied in the governor’s race, the Republican candidate, Butch Otter, who was under heavy fire for earlier wanting to sell of 15% of the public lands nationally to pay for Hurricane Katrina, tried to use the wolf issue to show he really cared about hunters. He pulled out of the tie and won. Did Otter’s wolfbaiting save him?

    Note: This thread is now closed to further postings.


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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