Ending endangered species protection for wolves could give hunters a shot at predators by 2008

“Idahoans could be hunting wolves within 12 months, when Gov. Jim Risch and state wildlife officials take over managing the state’s wolves as federal officials proposed Tuesday.” This article is in the Idaho Statesman today. It’s by Rocky Barker and Roger Phillips.



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  1. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    The prospect of managing wolves puts F&G in an interesting position. Presumably if they issue tags for wolves, they will start creating an atmosphere that will breed a sense of entitlement in the hunting community that there should be enough wolves not just to prevent re-listing but to allow hunters to actually take one. What I am saying is that perhaps this will lead to an opportunity where wolf advocates and hunters (not necessarily the ones represented by Sportsman for Fish and Game) can find some common ground. There is certainly a desire to hunt them, but how successful will that hunt be of the state greatly reduces their numbers? Maybe the motivation for hunting wolves is different that that for hunting other predators – I don’t know. Maybe this will lead to an environment where the state realizes that it must maintain more than the minimum number of wolves (15 packs). I certainly hope so. I strongly believe that wolves should be delisted based on the criteria of the original reintroduction plan. I am worried about the state’s motivation, but if hunters and wolf advocates could come together on this one, it would be a powerful voice to maintain higher numbers of wolves than we might expect the State of Idaho to do at this time.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I hope you are right, Matt. Were this a state other than Idaho, I would bet you are right.

    One reason I have advocated a bison hunt outside Yellowstone is to build hunter support for allowing bison to live outside Yellowstone, but so far it is just a hunt, and this year not much of a hunt because few bison have left the Park.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Excuse the time mess up on these comments. I changed my time preferences from Central to Mountain time.

  4. Ginny Clerget Avatar
    Ginny Clerget

    I can hardly believe what I am reading. Last I heard a judge did not allow the wolves of the Clearwater region of Idaho to be slaughtered by request of some politicians and now I read the wolves in the entire state of Idaho will soon be able to be slaughtered. Not only Idaho, but the whole state of Montana, all of eastern Washington, all of eastern Utah, and some of northeastern Idaho, and we know all of Wyoming wants their wolves dead also. Then these sick legalized killers throw more “gasoline on the fire” with their callous, completely cruel and truely stupid remark that says “wolves that wander out of those areas will still fall under federal protection”. Don’t bet on that. Since I do not know how to stop this wolf hallocaust, I at least can say a prayer that all these trophy elk the state is trying to spare to make big bucks from hunters, I am going to pray that there will be so many ellk that they will eat all the ranchers crops, and eat all the grazing land, and when the elk start dropping dead from elk brucellosis or any disease, then the livestock will catch it all and fall dead too. I hope there will be a big price for the politicians to pay, for such rotten policies they call laws, when you so horribly disregard the laws of nature I hope the price to pay will be so great that the majority of people will demand impeachment of such unethical , ignorant extremely cruel all-for-themselves jerks.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well a bit to clarify, Ginny. What has happened is that, barring legal action and an injunction, wolves are going to be totally delisted in the Northern Rockies.

    That means that the State of Wyoming will almost certainly kill all but 7 packs outside of Yellowstone Park. There are now 23 packs of wolves outside Yellowstone.

    What Idaho and Montana do is perfectly up the states. They could do a great job managing wolves, but they will probably institute hunting seasons on wolves. Will the hunting season be long, with a large “take,” or will be more along the lines of the hunting season for elk, where the goal is not to reduce the elk population.

    I am just speculating that the season will be long in Idaho with a big reduction in wolves, but shorter in Montana. Montana is a more progressive state than Idaho. It always has been.

    I think Wyoming is nearly hopeless, not just for wolves, but for most the wildlife. The state is dominated by the energy industry and the livestock industry, Mad elk and mad deer disease is spreading into the northwest corner of the state. On top of that, the federal agency APHIS is trying to get control of Wyoming wildlife, supposedly to deal with the brucellosis that is perpetuated by the winter elk feedlots. To eliminate it, APHIS wants to kill a lot of elk and bison (even inside Yellowstone Park). APHIS, like to many other federal agencies, doesn’t seem to worry about mad elk disease (or mad cow disease which humans can get). Their political constituency is the livestock industry. Wyoming Game and Fish doesn’t seem to worry about this dread prionic disease either.

    Here is just the latest on wildlife in Wyoming. From 12-20, Jackson Hole News and Guide. “Feds want more wells even as deer decline. BLM eyes increase in drilling as study links Snow King deer to Sublette County habitat.” By Cory Hatch. Maybe Sportmen for Fish and Wildlife-WY can go scatter some hay among the drill pads. 😉

    I’d say visit Yellowstone Park this year or next for a last look and then write the state off if you are interested in wildlife of any kind.The mountains will remain scenic where the gas industry doesn’t get them, at least until they are covered by smog from all the energy development (this is a worst case scenario for Wyoming, but I don’t see any sanity or restraint in the state’s political leadership).

    Utah, which you mention, is not much affected by this.

  6. Howard Avatar

    This is a sad day for wildlife and conservationists are going to have to really start stepping up, on alot of issues. Thanks Ralph, for alerting us all to these developments…hopefully we can do something.

    I fully expect that the next great mantra of the anti-wolf folks, like the ” exotic Canadian wolf” line, is going to be that wolves are grossly overpopulated in Idaho. Since the recovery goal is fifteen packs, then if there are 650 + wolves in Idaho, anyone can see that the wolves are absurdly overpopulating! In reality of course, the numbers set forth for delisting represent a political threshold after which states can assume control, not a biological carrying capacity maximum. Idaho can support several hundred wolves, and it IS supporting several hundred wolves. Very soon though, the lines between delisting number and biological carrying capacity are going to be blurred, with the current state population being cited as how the evil feds allowed the wolves to multiply out of control, exponentially exceed sustainable levels, and terrorize the decent folk of Idaho. Once people start challenging the assertion that 100 wolves is the biological carrying capacity for Idaho, this argument will shift (though its proponents will always believe and insist on it, like the Canadian wolf business) to social carrying capacity, with the anti-wolfers claiming that if Idaho must have wolves, then the will of the people and the state is for the minimum population. Naturally, this social carrying capacity has been determined by people who hate wolves and pretty much ONLY by people who hate wolves. The most effective answer to this will be if pro-wolf and pro-wilderness citizens of Idaho demand their fair share of the pie to the state. I hope this can happen.

  7. TPageCO Avatar

    Curious to know who will be paying for the radio-collar program in order for the states to keep on top of the various packs. My thought is that without the collars, it’s going to be darn difficult and expensive to try to wipe out all the wolves in a given area, particularly in forested Idaho. How much money are state F&G officials willing to spend on helicopters, gunners, etc.? These departments are not swimming in $$. If they try to reduce numbers through a lengthy and liberal hunting season, rather than a coordinated program, don’t they run the risk of falling below the minimum levels?

    Wolves reproduce pretty fast, cover lots of ground, and seem adaptable from what I’ve read (never studied them in the field). Those that survive the first onslaught are going to get real wary, real quick. How much tolerance will the public give these guys for spending lots of $$ to eliminate all the wolves from a given area? At some point it’s just not worth it for the F&G guys. They’re more interested in producing as many elk as possible to try and lure the non-resident hunter $$ which funds their whole program.

    They are getting lots of “wolf management” dollars from the federal government.

    The less they plan their wolf hunt, the better it will work for the wolves because they will lose the radio collars and by shooting random wolves out of random packs they will disperse wolves into Oregon, Washington and Utah.

  8. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Since when has wolf recovery ever really been about biology? I say that tongue in cheek. And since when has wildlife ever been managed to the carrying capacity of the land? I think F&G says that they do that, and they will perhaps attempt to address habitat issues that limit ungulate populations, but this is all political, imo. I think we as wolf advocates should be asking ourselves how best we can generate the political will in this state that will support our demand that wolf populations be maximized, not minimized. I believe that means partnering will willing hunters, who are a vocal and influential within the F&G community. The more we talk about biology and carrying capacity, the more we alienate the people that we really need to influence. I’m not saying that the biology and carrying capacity issues are wrong or should be ignored, but it I don’t think that it is the language that has the most credibility with the people that make decisions. Don’t you think if there’s a demand for wolf tags (for whatever reason) that there will be some degree of pressure on F&G to manage them so that they are huntable? Furthermore, allowing hunters to participate in the “management” of wolves, much like allowing ranchers to shoot on site wolves that attack their cattle, will let the hunting community feel some degree of ownership in being able to solve their perceived problem (too many wolves). In talking with several people that have actually stalked wolves in this state, I am told that hunting them will not be easy. This may build a healthy amount of respect…

  9. Howard Avatar

    I agree with you about not alienating potential allies. My point was not that we should shove scientific papers in everyone’s face, but that the anti-wolf folks are going to use these numbers as “scientific proof” that wolves are biologically overpopulated and in need of a massive reduction. I absolute agree that our approach should not be spouting population dynamics equations, however, I do think the issue of turning the minimum delisting population into maximum carrying capacity is a tactic that may be used. It serves several purposes. First, ( especially considering that the wolf kill may be massive if conducted by the state) it makes an outrageous population reduction look like the state is curbing an unatural plague back to normal. Second, by misusing science, they can then accuse the feds of “bad science”… i.e., the wolf was recovered at 100 animals, but the feds just let them explode to unsustainable numbers. Like the “Canadian wolf” stuff, it’s a way to make irrational behavior seem logical and even scientific. To be clear, I agree with Matt Bullard completely that we shouldn’t come out of our corner talking “carrying capacity”, but we should be ready if the anti-wolfers begin talking about it.
    Like most on this forum, I would infinitely prefer wolf management in the form of fair chase hunting than state agents shooting whole packs from helicopters. I agree that it would greatly strengthen long term conservation in the states if hunters view wolves as big game rather than vermin. It would be a vital link in assimilating the wolf back into the notion of native wildlife, rather than foreign invader. However, I do think there are a few points to consider:

    1. I am curious if hunters who truly want to hunt the wolf as a trophy animal (rather than to legally kill wolves to lower the population and keep it low) are powerful and/or vocal enough to influence the hunting community and the state. I’m not saying they’re not…I really don’t know. Any thoughts?

    2. I do not think that trophy hunting should be the one and only good reason given not to slaughter the wolf across Idaho. People who value wildlife for other reasons, people who use the woods for other purposes, should make it clear that they too are a constituency that demands attention… there will always be some compromise, but if Idaho can even consider reducing 650+ wolves to fifteen packs (again, for several raesons this may never happen, but worse case scenario), it demonstrates a complete disregard for non-consumptive wildlife “users”, and indeed, denies that such people even exist in any numbers. Please don’t get me wrong…I am 100% in favor of the ancient institution of hunting, and there are certainly many hunters who like the wolf…but I do not think a specific subset of hunters who oppose predators and want to grow ungulates should always be the first, last, and only word in wildlife management.

    3. The idea of wolves be managed as “abundant wildlife” is appealing, however, I am curious how Idaho currently manages other carnivores as game. Cougars are indeed trophy animals in Idaho, but are they managed for high numbers for hunters, low numbers to protect elk, or Other? I really don’t know…does anyone have any input on how Idaho’s other top predator–with trophy status– is managed?

  10. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Howard – very well said! I would love to know the answers to your questions. As to #3, I can only assume that even though F&G manages cougars and bears as trophy game, they seem to get the short end of the stick when ungulate populations decrease – F&G issues more tags so as to depress their numbers in the hopes that the ungulate populations will recover. This is really the same justification used to reduce the number of wolves in the Clearwater, however scientifically unsound that plan was…

  11. Layton Avatar

    Interesting —– on several points.

    But as neat as the common feeling of love for the wolf is here — don’t you folks have even a shred of honesty??

    Where did this “15 packs” recovery goal for Idaho (alone) come from??

    As I recall the original terms of the recovery criteria for “canis lupus the beloved” were 30 breeding pairs, for 4 years in the WHOLE 3 STATE AREA!!!

    How come now, with a little bit of rational thinking (control) threatened, the goal for Idaho ALONE has become 15 packs??

    Then, to read that some folks here think that sport hunters – given whatever limits and restrictions – will EVER be able to establish anys sort of control of the numbers of this critter is an absolute hoot!! It took poison, traps, aerial gunning and everything else to get the numbers down to the level where they were when the new introduction took place, and even at that there were resident populations present in several different places.

    Just curious,


  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The wolf plan Idaho adopted, and which was approved by the USFWS, promised that the state will retain at least 15 packs of wolves. Actually it may have promised only ten.

    It’s in the Idaho State wolf management plan.

    It’s easy for the government kill off wolves today because of radio collaring and aircraft. One wolf biologist told me that probably just one good shooter in an airplane could kill 90% of the wolves in Idaho within a year.

  13. stan jones Avatar
    stan jones

    Grow up, Ginny. Bet you are a vegetarian who doesn’t own anything leather. You liberal idiots base everything on your pitiful emotions, and nothing on facts. How many miles have you traversed on foot in the rockies (a trail in Yellowstone doesn’t count, baby!). Why don’t you tell us where you live and we will ship some of our poor wolves to your neighborhood so you can feed them your pets. Good luck keeping track of them.

    You need to pull your head out. There are plenty of predators to go around. If you don’t believe it, check with the Park Service to see how the size of the northern Yellowstone elk herd has reduced by 80% in the last few years, and it isn’t because of 2-legged hunters. Quit your whining, you spineless left-winger.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Stan Jones above gives a good example of what the wolf controversy is largely about — cultural resentment.It’s not wolves eating cattle, nor really wolves eating too many elk. Jones’ stereotypy is almost classic.

    Check out his other post.

  15. arcwlf Avatar

    Just my ” first blush response” , Idaho does not consider the cougar or bear as trophy animals. We can just go down and buy a tag, or are included in the sportsman package. The only animals that Idaho calls Trophy {whatever that means} are the Moose, Mountain Goat, and Big Horn Sheep.(see Idaho hunting Regs). As far as hunting wolf; It was going to happen sooner or later, only question is; is it too soon? Fact is that nothing short of goose down lines a winter coat better than a wolf pelt. ( a wolf I kept around would find some shade to lay in when it was 20 below). Please don’t confuse what I’m getting at. I’ve been a wolf fan for 30+ years, and probably know as much as any amature on the planet about them, and a avid(more or less) hunter for close to a half century. BUT they are just an animal just like any other and only serve the purpose that God intended that they serve,niether good or evil; just fill the niche that they were intended to fill. By the way Layton old bean,(or is it VoiceBugler) , It’s good to see you still get half the facts straight half the time.

  16. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I would like to address the issue, raised by Alan above, of whether there could ever be a constituency for wolves among hunters to the degree that sustainable harvest of wolves would be possible. The short answer is no, at least for as far as I look into the future.

    I speak as a hunter, a naturalist who has studied wolves in Canada and in the Greater Yellowstone, and a wolf advocate for ecological reasons. Also, unlike most wolf advocates, I live in a very rural area, surrounded by cattle ranches, and I know most of the ranchers in the area. I also know quite a few hunters. I have worked on a cattle ranch and also own horses. I have worked for several outfitters, not as a guide, but as a wrangler, since I prefer horses to people. I consider myself a subsistance hunter. I spend a good bit of my time in the woods, primarily in the southern Absaroka mountains north of the small town of Dubois Wyoming, in the Upper Country of the Wind River, ranging northwest to Yellowstone National Park and northeast to the Greybull Country west of the small town of Meeteetse.

    If I were to characterize the emotions that the majority of hunters feel for grizzly bears and wolves, I would say that hunters fear bears, but hate wolves. I find the same emotions in the majority of ranchers I know. It is the fundamentally irrational nature of these emotions that drive the politics of bear and wolf management in Wyoming, and I would assume the same to be true of Montana and Idaho. But I can speak knowledgeably only about Wyoming.

    In both cases, the management response to these irrational responses to bears and wolves in Wyoming are essentially the same– since it has proven impossible to keep them out of Wyoming, people are determined to keep them “locked up” in as tight an area around Yellowstone National Park as is possible. I call this the “fence in Yellowstone” strategy, after the bumper stickers I see frequently around here using those words. In the case of bears and wolves, the fence would be a ring of fire, as it were. The same strategy applies also to bison and elk, although for the latter two species, their mismanagement is driven by the livestock industry rather than hunters, who have ignorantly acquiesced in this mismanagement for a variety of reasons that are too complicated to get into here.

    There is considerable illegal killing of wolves in Wyoming, more so than is reported in the press. That’s in addition to the legal killing by the feds in control actions. Were wolves to be delisted, under the terms either of the current Wyoming plan, or the slightly expanded boundaries of this recent FWS proposal, both of which are highly restrictive of wolf movement, the hatred that is felt for wolves could very well be expressed as the hatred for coyotes now is expressed–shooting wolves on sight wherever and wherever they are seen. While such impulse killing of coyotes hasn’t had an effect on coyote numbers, the opposite would be the case with wolves.

    Trophy game status–which technically means that “regulated take” would be the norm, really won’t make a difference, and I doubt the commitment of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to enforce the game laws where wolves are concerned. Even if illegal killing of trophy game wolves were prosecuted, convictions would be of little deterrence, since the penalties are so minor. That’s assuming convictions could be secured. These won’t be prosecutions in federal court, as is now the case, but in state court. And, as we know, there are even now very few prosecutions for the illegal killing of wolves. This would be the norm in Wyoming post-delisting.

    I predict that upon delisting, illegal/excessive killing in the trophy game zone, and legal killing in the predatory animal zone, will have the impact of driving wolves back toward extinction in Wyoming.

    In short, having lived, hunted, and been an active conservationist in Wyoming for a decade and a half, I’m not sure that any management plan would serve to conserve wolves in either NW Wyoming, no matter how you tweak the plan and make it look good on paper. It’s what happens on the ground that counts. The emotions are too strong against wolves, and they would be treated by many hunters as predatory animals even within the so-called trophy game zone.

    Aside from the emotional aspect of wolves, it is also true that the current Wyoming plan–not to mention any plan that would derive from the FWS proposal-is so operationally cumbersome and financially expensive that it will prove impossible to implement on the ground. The key problem is that it will prove impossible to keep track of wolf packs in Wyoming outside the Parks. That in itself will make it easier to take out wolves.

    The only chance wolves have for survival in Wyoming would be if they were classified as trophy game throughout the state, thus giving some minor protection to wolves as they distribute themselves throughout the state to lessen the impact of mortality in any one area. Trophy game status throughout the state would also make it easier for wolves to get into Colorado, for example, where there would be greater tolerance for them than in Wyoming.

    In conclusion, it is vitally important that wolves not be delisted in Wyoming unless State law is changed to grant wolves trophy game status throughout the State.

  17. John Avatar

    You can’t be real Stan! Are you NRA, or Clan? What the hell! I love the West, I really do, but these people, and there ways are beyond belief. O’Boy wolves are bad, damn they are from the devil. Kill them all! Go to church, or some other man made gathering place, and pray for your souls. Left winger, Right Winger, mindless idiots. Who gives a s**t. Humans are the most despicable, mindless compassionate killers this earth has ever seen, and will ever see. Wolves, as well as, every other major predator in this day and age have been killed off (mass slaughtered) so much they are anything but a threat to humans, in less you are mindless and don’t respect the animal & it’s environment. If you hike, or do anything in the wilds of the West, you live by there rules, just like jumping into the ocean, you live by the oceans rules. If a Great White shark takes you out, so be it. You made the decision to swim in a realm not made for humans, so it should be for the last few wilds of the main land. You get taken out by a predator, so be it! If I make a mistake while hiking, and I’m taken out by a predator, at least I will go back to the earth in a honorable way, not killed in a car, or by some wast of skin human animal.

  18. Mike Wolf Avatar

    As a resident of Idaho, and one who has witnessed the enthusiasm of Idaho Fish and Game for hunting wolves firsthand, as well as have witnessed their “ability” to manage game populations, I have very serious concerns about Idaho managing wolves. I think its fortunate that a democratic president will likely be in office by the time Idaho decides to hunt wolves, as we’ll stand a better chance of stopping this.

    Am I against the hunting of wolves? Hell yes. Why? Scientific reasons, as well as ethical and moral ones. Scientifically, I believe that hunting wolves will cause a good deal of harm. It is my opinion that hunters will be more likely to take one or both alphas, as they typically take first crack and investigating things. By taking alpha wolves, you deprive the wolf pack of its natural ability to continue to increase their knowledge, to become better survivors. Additionally, I believe that by taking alphas, we are likely to actually INCREASE livestock kills by wolves.

    Morally and ethically, I believe that it is wrong to hunt predators. This is an unfair elimination of the competition for prey species. No offense to hunters out there, but hunters don’t exactly help the prey species…they don’t target the weaker, sicker animals and help strengthen the gene pool. Hunters tend to go after the prized animals, the ones who would otherwise strengthen the gene pool.

    I offered up, through a friend, an alternative to hunting in Idaho. I hope that the enthusiasm for it can be fostered and turn it into an actual policy. If ID F&G were to have a lottery, and instead of allowing open hunting, allow hunters to take out animals targeted for management; we would prevent the above scenario, and strengthen wolves, rather than weakening them.

    Also, my argument against delisting is that in no way has Fish and Wildlife addressed the primary issue threatening wolves: habitat loss. Wolves will forever be in danger of extinction – hunting will just hurry that along…again.

  19. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think you hit onto an important topic. One reason why some people hate wolves, and certain other wildlife, is explained by the good old psychological concept of projection — these folks project their unacceptable emotions (that is, emotions and thoughts they can’t admit to themselves) onto animals.

    For some personalities, wolves seem out of control because they have a hard time controlling themselves. Wolves are incredibly vicious because they, themselves, harbor vicious thoughts. Usually this kind of person displaces these things onto other people or groups, but in some cases, I think wolves, bears, etc.

    It’s like the old story of the guy whose boss chews him out, but the guy who is chewed out doesn’t have anyone he can safely displace his anger onto, so he kicks his dog.

  20. Rich McCrea Avatar
    Rich McCrea

    The State of Idaho does get federal dollars for wolf management activities. Keep one thing in mind….all appropriations bills originate in the US House of Representatives and funds for wolf management (killing) can be cut. I don’t think the Democrat controlled House is just going to roll over on the anti environmental agenda of GWB and Dirk Kempthorne.

  21. Alan Gregory Avatar

    In nearly all states (an understatement?), the revenue from the sale of fishing/hunting licenses and tags is the financial fuel for their fish and wildlife agencies. That explains, for example, the bucket-biologist fisheries. In Pennsylvania, the state Fish and Boat Commission drops more than half of its budget into operating hatcheries and trucking the hatchery mongrels around the state, where they are then dumped into waters that cannot support reproducing fish populations or on top of wild brook trout. Look at how the Idaho F & G gets its operating funds.The situation is much the same. Only in Missouri, where every citizen, whether they hunt, fish or do neither, is conservation funded with general tax revenue. In Missouri, the Department of Conservation gets one-eighth of every cent paid in sales tax. That’s about $80M a year, or two-thirds of the agency’s budget. This funding mechanism puts nongame at the same management table as the hunters’. Now, hunters will rightly proclaim that they are the true conservationists, having financed wildlife management for decades through the Pittman-Robertson Act. But it’s past time to move beyond that. Too much is being lost across the country. It’s time for new funding sources that allow all citizens to participate in paying for fish and wildlife conservation.

  22. Jim Thurber Avatar
    Jim Thurber

    I suspect there will be legal challenges galore, especially by DOW, so I am hoping that a court will issue an injunction pending litigation results. I also hope pressure is brought locally in these states by the majority of voters who see a place for wolves in the ecosystem on a permanent basis, not a trophy hunt who will be extirpated once again in the lower 48.

    As far as hunting and fishing license revenue being up, this is not correct in the northeast states where one would think lthere would be a large hunting and fishing contingent. In these states, revenues are on a downward trend, reflecting the transition of the population and its values, activities and traditions. NH has a strange system; their FWS is self-funded; no general fund taxes for them. So, they are casting about for new revenue sources, including a new tag fee for those who use canoes and kayaks. Needless to say, it is causing quite a stir. So far, the environmental community is very much in support of a change to a general fund biased approach where everyone contributes to the activities of the agency.

    So, here at least, the hunting and fishing community is losing its prominence, and there is more focus on a widespread interest in enhancing and preserving wildlife and habitat. Perhaps, with the changing demographics of the West with recreation users as the dominant force, there will be a shift to a more predator friendly atmosphere. The question is..will it come in time to keep wolves healthy?

  23. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Alan’s comment above about the need for broader funding of wildlife agencies is on target, but efforts to expand that funding have to date failed. Some years back, an idea called Teaming for wildlife was pursued in Congress. It would have expanded the Pittman-Robertson concept, which for the non-hunters out there, took federal excise taxes on the sale of sporting arms and ammunition and sent those funds to the states for habitat restoration and protection. Pittman-Robertson was passed in 1937, and since then millions of dollars have gone to the states for the benefit of wildlife habitat. For example, all of the acreage purchased by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department over the years throughout the state has gone to winter range protection. I live downriver from the crown jewel of G&F winter ranges, the East Fork Wildlife Habitat Management Area, which is twice the size of the National Elk Refuge.

    Teaming for Wildlife would have placed an excise tax on the sale of outdoor gear and equipment. However, the outdoor equipment industry strongly opposed Teaming for Wildlife, and it failed. REI also opposed it, which is why I haven’t bought anything, not even a pair of socks, from REI since.

    While I would agree that fish hatcheries aren’t the best investment of license fees, along with bird farms, we have to understand the historical context of game management; until the creation of state wildlife agencies, and the creation of funding mechanisms to support game management, there was essentially nothing exept game laws that were quite spottily enforced. Game wardens in the old days had to supply their own horses, their own weapons, and their own gear. Also, most importantly, license fees went into general funds and were spent by legislatures for all sorts of things unrelated to wildlife. It was not a good situation.

    In the 1920s, there was a huge push from people like Aldo Leopold to formalize conservation through the creation of independent state wildlife agencies with independent budgets. They were successful and for several decades, wildlife conservation was successful. That state wildlife agencies are not functioning now to conserve anything is no criticism of what they accomplished in the past.

    I highly recommend a perusal of Aldo Leopold’s book Game Management (1933) for those interested in understanding the historical context of how wildlife agencies came to be and what they were expected to accomplish.

    That isn’t to mean that broader funding, such as we see in Missouri–and that constitutional provision for dedicated sales taxes for conservation goes back to the 1930s–isn’t needed. It most certainly is. However, the general public hasn’t seen fit to tax itself for wildlife and habitat they way hunters and anglers have taken for granted for decades.

  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think the public in many states would tax itself to support increased wildlife funding. Most people love wildlife, but don’t have a clue how its management is funded.

    The opposition to broader funding comes at the political leadership level. Well placed interest groups hate the concept of more, and especially more varied wildlife.

    When broad diffuse political support for something meets narrow concentrated opposition, the narrow view almost always prevails.

    The best way to better wildlife funding probably would have to come from ballot initiatives.

  25. Layton Avatar


    “The wolf plan Idaho adopted, and which was approved by the USFWS, promised that the state will retain at least 15 packs of wolves”

    I think you are correct here — 15 packs WAS in the “approved” state plan. BUT, why? Was it because the state wanted it that way? Or was it because that was the only way the feds would go along with it??

    The fact is that the ORIGINAL federal plan called for the 30 pairs.


    “Just my ” first blush response” , Idaho does not consider the cougar or bear as trophy animals. We can just go down and buy a tag, or are included in the sportsman package. The only animals that Idaho calls Trophy {whatever that means} are the Moose, Mountain Goat, and Big Horn Sheep”

    The reason that Moose, Mtn. Goat, and BH Sheep are called “trophy” species is that there is NOT a regular season for them here in Idaho. They can only be hunted by a person that has been successful in drawing a tag in a lottery system.

    AND, I don’t hide under a “handle” my name is Layton Kite. I live in Boise, Idaho. I spend a lot of time in the mountains and I only comment on here when the “BS” gets a little thick. Usually I just correspond with Ralph via Email. I’m not Voice Bugler, never have been.


    You seem to be a lot like Stan, just on the other side.

    ” If you hike, or do anything in the wilds of the West, you live by there rules, just like jumping into the ocean, you live by the oceans rules. If a Great White shark takes you out, so be it. ”

    Give me a break! You are talking apples and oranges here. When did Uncle Sam ARTIFICALLY introduce a new population of sharks in what part of the ocean and tell folks that they had to let them eat whatever they wanted cuz’ “they were there first”?


    “As a resident of Idaho, and one who has witnessed the enthusiasm of Idaho Fish and Game for hunting wolves firsthand,”

    When was the last time you “witnessed” this?? Until recently King Dirk had a muzzle on F&G and wouldn’t even let them TALK about wolves, let alone control them. USFW does the controls in Idaho.


  26. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The Idaho wolf plan was constructed behind closed doors. The only participants were the people around Kempthorne and the livestock industry. No wolf supporters participated and as far as I know, no one representing hunting. I think the plan went though 14 drafts. I could be off by one or two.

  27. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Re funding, I’d say the public has not a clue of how anything is funded, much less conservation and wildlife management. I do recommend that people study Aldo Leopold’s early writings to get an understanding of how and why the management system we now have in place came to be, because Leopold was right in the thick of the fight to create the present system.

    I wonder about the possibility of funding ballot initiatives to improve funding for conservation. In some states, like Wyoming, that wouldn’t fly, as constitutionally only the Legislature can initiate revenue proposals.

    For peoples’ information, how hunted animals are classified legally varies from state to state, sometimes widely. In Wyoming, big game animals are the ungulates: elk, deer, moose, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. The meat from big game animals must be used. Trophy game animals are currently black bear, mountain lion, and grizzly bear, although the latter hasn’t been hunted since it was listed through the ESA. It is not necessary to recover the carcass of a trophy game animal, although many people eat bear, and I have learned that lion meat is pretty good. Usually though, people just take the skulls and pelts of trophy game, which must be presented to G&F for the recovery of biological information. Wolves are currently classified as predatory animals, as are coyotes, and that is at the heart of the conflict over wolves and delisting.

  28. Monte Avatar

    Interesting discussion. I am a hunter/rancher in Montana who supported wolf reintroduction. I also support sport hunting of wolves as a means of population/geographical control. I am a member of the RMEF and the Mule Deer Foundation and have seen first hand the power of hunter conservationists and the dollars they raise. As an aside, I think we should give private landowners plenty of liberty to kill or otherwise control wolves on private land. I have a lot less sympathy for those who lose cattle on cheap, often abused, public land leases. I do think that we can reach a balance using hunters to shape, to some extent, wolf range and wolf population. It is difficult to explain a hunter’s love and respect for the animal he or she pursues to people who do not hunt, but if you consider what hunters do for elk and deer populations in the west you see the results of that love and respect. I think this same force could be harnessed for the good of wolves as well, and agree that hunting also gives people a direct stake in wolf management. Mr. Maughan, thank you for providing these interesting forums.

  29. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for the pat on the back.

    I can hardly stress enough that strong elk and deer populations are what support wolves, and one of the best ways to get more elk, especially, is improved grazing livestock grazing practices on public land.

  30. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    Monte your comments have earned you my respect. You sound like someone who could truly be called a hunter and sportsman, someone who actually gets it.

  31. JEFF EMPEY Avatar

    My apoligies for the wrong ID. Just a lot of simalarites in syntax. But to carry the trophy animal discusion a step or two further; the biggest reason that moose, goats and BHS are classified as trophy has nothing to do with the animal itself but rather too the low population numbers overall. I’m sure you have read Lewis and Clark’s journals of thier expidition where the sheer number of these spieces were noted time and again, along with the number of predators. So if there were a extremly large population of all spieces at that time, both prey and pedators, what other factors over the years could have decimated all populations. (hint:bipedel). P.S. My handle is determined by which computer I’m logged on. :>}

  32. dave moore Avatar
    dave moore

    Who are you people? Do all of you live in Los Angeles? Have you ever even been to Wyoming, Montana or Idaho? Is there any space left in your arrogant minds for honest debate?
    Ginny is so full of hate she can only “pray” for the destruction of ranchers, farmers and politicians.
    Howard is a man of many unsubstansiated facts who can accurately predict the future!
    Robert is too full of himself and would rather talk about Robert than put forth any intelligent debate.
    Matt lumps all hunters together as mindless killers who are too stupid to be involved in any decision making.
    John’s a psychotic madman who needs help.
    But Ralph! good old Ralph. His arrogance knows no bounds. He has an answer for everyone and can even offer psychological healing to the ignorant majority who actually live and work among wolves and see first hand the destruction caused by a population unchecked.
    Open your eyes! it’s a huge issue because “no management” isn’t working! If it was there would be no issue! Yet you all think more wolves is the answer? Your minds aren’t open, you can’t see reality. all of you fret over the “politics” involved! Grow up, you’re never going to get away from politics. So quit bellyaching, join the political process and get something done.
    You actually think federal control is the answer? You have so little faith in the people of these states to govern themselves? I think the people from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are the backbone of the country and are better qualified to make these desisions than anyone else on the planet. But that’s just me.
    Take off your blinders, both/all sides have good points, remember the word “compromise”? I didn’t think so…

  33. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Dave it’s my blog. If folks don’t like they it, they don’t have to come here, but you are here and even posting. My blog currently ranks number 89 in visitors from the many thousand of blogs hosted by WordPress. So quite a few folks seem to be interested.

    I know a lot of the folks who post here regularly. A lot of the regulars are from Idaho, and they are very experienced in the outdoors. A number are hunters.

    The federal government is not inherently any better than the state government. The Bush regime has made that abundantly clear.

    Folks need to take it issue by issue as to which level of government is best, and that’s exactly what the powerful business, trade associations, labor, and voluntary organizations do.

    Remember, I’m a political scientist, not a biologist. It’s the politics of these things that interest me the most.

    Despite being kind of disagreeable, I think your post is worthwhile.

  34. Alan Gregory Avatar
    Alan Gregory

    Robert is onto something regarding the public’s cluelessness regarding how things are paid for and who does the bill-paying. Take highways, for example. In Pennsylvania, where I sit, the state DOT gets dollars galore from the gasoline tax. But how many motorists even know they’re paying a state tax when they refuel their chunks of steel and plastic? One in a hundred? Assuming they know that much, does it follow that they also know that they’re subsidizing the paving over of nature? And how about the killing of native predators by the USDA’s Wildlife Services? Or the below-market-cost fees paid by public lands livestock producers? Or mines operated under the 1872 mining law? Or other the hidden costs (to taxpayers) of the National Flood Insurance Program? Or beach replenishment projects carried out by the Corps of Engineers on the Eastern Seaboard? The list, as they say, is endless. Yes, citizens, in some states, have the power of referendum. In any case, as the pool of hunters shrinks, license revenue dries up.

  35. Bobolou Avatar

    of course emotion plays a role, and I for one think that is a good thing, until it gets out of hand. Which is why wildlife decisions have to be left to wildlife agencies and their biologists to manage. When the ignorant public (ignorant meaning a large percentage of the U.S. population knows very little about the biology of wolves in the ecosystem) is left to decide on how wildlife should be managed, mismanagement WILL occur.

    With that said, let your emotions fly, good or bad, that is what a discussion blog is for.

    Now a little realism for the pro-wolf people. there will be no wolf holocaust. If the states are allowed to manage wolves, they will probably start with depredation permits for ranchers, landowners, and the general public on a CASE-BY-CASE basis. For those of you who do not hunt, please just believe me when I tell you that open season on wolves will not impact the wolf population to a severity of reinlistment, and an again endangered species. I know you are scared that all the work you have done will be wasted, but wolf enthusiasts who believed that they would always be protected truly were nieve. It the biologists believe it is time to delist the wolves, then we should support it, and embrace the positives that elk, deer, humans, and even wolves will gain.

    My emotions: Not only do I make my living in the outdoor industry, I truly fear that my kids will not get to partake in a hunting and fishing heritage that lasts to the beginning of our great country.

    For those of you who wish to see others suffer, just because they wish to kill an animal, put your feelings aside long enough to be grateful we live in this country, and even are allowed to partake in a debate among how wolves should be managed.

    just like the anti-hunter, not all hunters are mental-midgets, we just let our emotions get in the way with the thought of our heritage being stripped from us, thus we say things that dont make us appear to be all that smart. lets keep that in mind next time we are quick to judge–hell, there’s even a chance that ginny is a halfway decent person!

  36. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for the post. It’s thoughtful.

    I don’t like it much when people get into hunter and anti-hunter arguments. It’s all heat and no light, and yes I’d like to see some unity because who want to cart the land, forests, and wildlife away for some industrial development or privatization scheme love to conquer by dividing people on secondary issues.

    I think about half the people who post here are hunters and about half not.

  37. Layton Avatar

    “I’m sure you have read Lewis and Clark’s journals of thier expidition where the sheer number of these spieces were noted time and again, along with the number of predators. So if there were a extremly large population of all spieces at that time, both prey and pedators, what other factors over the years could have decimated all populations.”


    What books have you been reading??

    The Lewis and Clark literature that I read is full of accounts of the whole expedition damn near starving to death when they got to the Northwest!!

    Sure, the plains were full of elk, buffalo, etc. but when they got to Montana, Idaho and Washington it was a different story.

    Some of the names of the camps — Greensward, Bear’s oil and roots, etc. would indicate to even a casual reader that they were starving.

    They ate their horses, they ate coyotes, they ate bears, and they even ate their own saddles and moccasins!! Elk and deer were almost non-existant. Could it possibly be that this could, in fact, have been caused by the predators that seem to be so beloved here???

    When they got to the “other side” of the divide and down to the prairies there were fish and a few more critters, but it was a near thing.

    C’mon partner, get real!


  38. Howard Avatar

    Bobolou– Thank you so much for posting this. We may, or may not, disagree on some things, but I truly appreciate that you acknowledged our concern about wolf recovery being undone. Thanks for understanding that many of us “pro-wolfers” really are worried about the future of wolf conservation and do not have nefarious ulterior motives. Similarly, many hunters and folks who make their living off the outdoors are legitimately concerned about their livelihood and culture, and not motivated out of spite for “environmentalists”. I want to acknowledge your concerns as well, and remember to consider your desires and rights along with my own. They’re actually not very different, and are probably very rarely if ever mutually exclusive.

    Interestingly, I think if you separated people who don’t trust states management, and those who want to delist the wolf immediately into two groups, and asked them what they think of the other side, you’d get identical answers: the other side are bullies, control freaks, out of touch with reality, dishonest, conniving, and morally suspect. And both sides would sincerely feel this. I think this happens largely as a response to extremists on both sides. In our concept of “the other side”, the people who most outrage us become the norm instead of fringe characters. When we really feel strongly and define ourselves by things—be it hunting, wolves/wilderness, or whatever– that we think may be suddenly ripped away from us, we dig in and get ready to fight, sometimes unnecessarily making enemies in the process and sabotaging our own efforts.

    The terms “pro-wolf” and “anti-wolf” are loaded and simplistic. I realize that I use these terms frequently for lack of better qualifiers, and I’m coming to realize that what I mean by pro and anti wolf may not be clear. People aren’t mind readers, and it’s easy to give a totally different impression than intended. I can only speak for myself, but when I say “pro-wolfer” I mean people who want/accept a healthy, sustained wolf population in habitats that can support them. When I say I’m pro-wolf, this is what I mean…I do not mean that I don’t believe any wolf should ever be killed for any reason, that people don’t have the right to protect their property, that wolves shouldn’t be managed, or that I care only about wolves to the exclusion or detriment of other species. As Ralph has said numerous times, if you’re “pro-wolf”, you must also be pro-elk… we can’t have that aforementioned healthy, sustained wolf population without an abundant and thriving ungulate population to support it. No wolf lover in his/her right mind can be unconcerned with maintaining large elk numbers. I do like wolves, but I also like elk, moose, and deer. It goes beyond just focusing on the wolf, as I appreciate the results of an intact ecosystem with top predators. When I say “anti-wolfer”, I admit, I’m generally referring to the extreme… people who hate wolves, hate “environmentalists”, use the wolf issue to gain power, and disregard the rights and desires of folks like me. When I’ve spoken disparagingly of anti-wolf people, this was the image in my mind… I do not regard anyone who disagrees with me about wolf management or has legitimate concerns about wolves (or wolf politics) in such a polarized way, and if I’ve given that impression, please believe it was not my intent.

    The purpose of this post is not to get all warm and fuzzy and just have an “I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s just forget all our differences” therapy session. But I think it’s vital for reasonable people to try to understand each other’s positions. I do think that if decent, honest folks on both sides can consider each other’s position and rights, the outcome will be much better for more people.

    Here on the “wolf lover” side, there’s many disparate views, as there are among hunters, or any group.

    The state management as envisioned by Babolou—more liberty in allowing citizens to deal with depredating wolves and opening a hunting season— sounds perfectly fine to me. I personally don’t like the idea of hunting wolves, but this is just my opinion and I won’t force it on hunters. From a conservation standpoint, and that really is the only standpoint I’m interested in advancing, a wolf hunt will not threaten the population. Nor will allowing people to kill wolves that attack livestock on their property, nor will state agency control of individual problem wolves or, if really necessary, problem wolf packs or wolves that that are colonizing localities in which their presence is logistically unnacceptable (such as very heavily agricultured areas with little real open land or wild prey). If the science backing it up is sound, I wouldn’t fight temporarily reducing a local wolf population if a true ‘predator pit’ had formed under a prey species (predators greatly suppressing an already reduced ungulate population DOES happen, but it’s not very common; when it does occur, temporarily lowering predator populations can help the prey rebound, but only if the initial factor(s) that caused the decline are no longer present).

    I am not worried about wolf hunts, problem wolf removals, designating truly innappropriate habitat as no wolf areas, or even a slight overall reduction of the total wolf population if doing so proves or ever does prove necessary.

    I am very worried about systematic slaughter conducted by state agencies with the goal of permanently lowering wolf numbers to the minimum possible number allowable under the ESA. I am very worried about the state completely dismissing stake holders who support wolf recovery. I very am worried about policies that will genetically isolate wolf populations and prevent wolves from recolonizing suitable wilderness. I am very worried about factions with extreme hostility to wolves, for one reason or another, monopolizing the decision making process. And I am very worried about systematic wolf (and other predator) control using poison and motorized vehicles to kill predators in wilderness and roadless areas (as per a recent NFS proposal), a policy that if enacted, threatens not only wolves and other carnivore species, but the whole concept of designated wilderness.

    Wolves are no longer endangered in Idaho. It has been a great success story. I don’t want this to be a never ending battle or a hot button issue that never goes away. I’d like reasonable people on all sides of this to be reasonably satisfied at the end of the day.

    Bobolou, and everyone like him, I don’t have any desire to strip your outdoor heritage from you, I believe your concerns are sincere (whether it stems from wolves, other factors, or both), and the continuation of your livelihood and culture are as legitimate as concerns come. Please believe my sincerity too…I am very worried that Idaho may enact radical wolf control that eliminates the vast majority of wolves from most of the state, with no concern given to citizens who oppose such an extreme management policy. This may indeed never happen for several reasons ( some of which have nothing at all to do with wolf advocates mitigating it and may boil down to money and logistics), but it certainly could happen, and listening to the extreme anti-wolf rhetoric of several powerful Idaho politicians, it appears to be the course we’re heading for.

    In response to a previous posting, I am very willing to compromise and I realize Idaho’s wolf management policy should be made with many stakeholders in mind and will not conform to my ideal program. I hope others are also willing to compromise, and recognize that many, I believe most, wolf and wilderness advocates are sincere in their passions, heritages, and concerns.

    To conclude, I’m not sure how Bobolou and other similar minded folks feel about wolves, but we have a common fight in many things at any rate…the same things that threaten hunting and fishing threaten all other nature-related pursuits… habitat degredation and loss, development sprawl, disease, lack of wildlife funding, threats to public land, and declining interest in the outdoors by many younger people. Like many wolfers, I fish and I am taking up hunting, and like most hunters, I’m sure you derive great pleasure from the outdoors in ways additional to hunting. Alot of us may actually have more in common than not, and if hunting, fishing, wilderness hiking, wolf spotting, bird watching and a host of other nature pursuits are to persist and thrive, it really behooves all of us who love the outdoors to band together on the issues on which we agree, and remain fair and reasonable to each other on issues in which we differ.

  39. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I’d like to nominate Howard’s response above as post of the year. It is soo thoughtful and well written and it sums up how I feel about as completely as can be. Well said!

  40. Layton Avatar

    While we would, I’m sure, disagree on just what number a “recovered” population of wolves would be —– I have to go along with most of what Howard says too.

    Believe it or not, some of us that don’t like wolves the way things are now are NOT complete morons and DO realize that totally wiping out that population probably isn’t necessary.



  41. Mike S. Avatar
    Mike S.

    Howard, That’s a well thought out reply and although I don’t agree with your statement that says “I am very worried about systematic slaughter conducted by state agencies with the goal of permanently lowering wolf numbers to the minimum possible number allowable under the ESA”
    Let’s all be honest with ourselves here.

    Just how many Wolves do you ProWolfers find acceptable?
    Wolves should be removed from the endangered list. They are fully recoverd per the numbers agreed upon by the USFWS and the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
    You , we , they all made a deal that were are going to have X number of Wolves.
    We have now EXCEDED these numbers and by all accounts this Wolf Introduction has been a great success.

    We can only have so many Wolves in the wild because our game animals can only take so much predation from all the predators we now have including Man. Balance is what we need not an out of control Wolf population.

    Hunters are the reason these Wolves have Elk and deer to survive on and without our great management programs these Wolves could have never been introduced.

    So I ask again, Why are you people complaining about culling, Hunting( whatever you want to call it)Wolves down to the numbers that were previously agreed upon?

    A deal is a deal isn’t it? or are your alterior motives going to drive this issue forever?

  42. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    If we could agree that the critical issue is habitat, not numbers of animals, we could get somewhere in this seemingly intractible conflict over wolves and find some common ground on which to work.

    If we kept our eyes on the habitat, we could say that a recovered population of wolves is one that functions within the limits of its prey populations, which in turn functions within the limits of their habitat. After all, that’s the approach that wildlife management is supposed to take. We cannot dictate animal numbers, as much as we’d like to. That’s the agricultural approach to wildlife management–you do that, and what you end up with is game ranches and farms. And I hope we can all agree right now that we don’t like those.

    Ultimately, wildlife conservation and management depends upon we do with and to habitat. We have to take the ecological approach if we’re going to have any wildlife to hunt and wildlands on which to hunt.

    If I have learned anything from my study of wolves and their prey over the years, it’s that what we do TO habitat has the most impact on ungulate numbers, from the hunters’ standpoint of having abundant wildlife. Put a mining road into unfragmented caribou habitat up North and see what happens to caribou numbers. You make it easier for all predators, human and four-legged, to get into that habitat and start reducing caribou numbers. You also have the immediate and cumulative impact of exploration and then exploitation activities by miners, etc. Then hunters start complaining about too few caribou, even though they have had a crucial part in reducing the numbers of caribou through overhunting, a consequence of too easy access for too many people. (This is especially true in the hunt areas between Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska). Government isn’t inclined to restrict mining or overly restrict hunters, so it turns to wolf control to temporarily “release” caribou from wolf predation so that numbers will increase. But the damage is done to habitat, mostly permanent, and all wolf control does is put off the ultimate consequences of habitat destruction.

    In every case of ungulate problems in the North, whether Alaska or Canada, whether for sport hunting or subsistance hunting, preservation and protection of unfragmented habitat is at the bottom of the problem.

    That, for what it’s worth, is the conclusion of a three year study of wolf control.

    Down in the lower 48, we’ve already seen extraordinary fragmentation of wildlife habitat and disruptions of animal populations over the last century and a half, even here in our beloved West.

    Among the lovers of the West, those of us who support wolves, and grizzly bears, and open migration of elk and bison for that matter, are also supporters of wilderness and roadless areas. You can’t separate the predators from the wildlands if you truly want WILD lands.

    Furthermore, if you’re an elk hunter, you know in your heart, even if you won’t admit it, that elk are where the roads aren’t and truly are only where the horses or your own two feet can take you. Big game outfitters throughout the West rely on this intuition for their livelihood. They’re admitting it publicly here in Wyoming and down in Colorado as gas drilling invades wild lands. Suddenly, a light is going on in the minds of some outfitters–industrialization is the real threat to their businesses and their way of life.

    Wolves can’t hold a candle in destructive power to thousands upon thousands of gas wells.

    One of the arguments I heard in the Yukon for wolf control is what I call the “animated landscape” argument. That is, people won’t support the protection of wildlands unless there are abundant wildlife–in this case, moose and caribou–on that landscape, “animating” that landscape, as it were. So far, so good. The true spirit of the land is the wildlife upon it. In my view, that includes predators as well as their prey. But then the argument continues that when wolves reduce ungulate numbers for hunting, people (hunters) are less inclinced to support wildlands protection. So to protect wildlands, we have to kill wolves to increase caribou numbers to sustain support for landscape conservation.

    The reason the animated landscape argument as used in the Yukon falls apart at the end is factual; even with wolf control, and temporarily increased moose or caribou numbers from wolf control, government does nothing to restrict or prohibit industrial development of wildlands. In other words, as a practical matter, wolf control is nothing more than a short-term mitigation for the impacts of human industrial activity on the land. And guess what–the industrial activity is going to escalate. With wolf control, all we’re doing is spinning our wheels, having our attention diverted from the real prolems.

    We are seeing this already in a major way in the gargantuan gasfields of southwestern Wyoming, as mule deer numbers have declined drastically from displacement from their winter range. Wolves, by the way, haven’t reached these areas yet. Ralph has a link to the most recent story on these declines, so I won’t go into the details.

    It seems to me that we need to keep our eyes on the real issue. It isn’t wolves–it’s industrialization of the landscape and the destruction of habitat that is the true threat to our hunting and fishing, and to wildlife.

    What I would ask of all hunters is to recognize where the major threats are and put aside their differences over wolves (and bears). I understand that there are many people out there who don’t care for wolves and opposed their reintroduction and oppose their recovery. I’ve taken a different position; I see the recovery of wolves as contributing to the “animated landscape” that we all cherish, not taking away from it. Having predators interacting with prey is what makes the animated landscape that is worth preserving.

    I’ve also had the opportunit, from my time up North, to see what happens when large areas of unfragmented habitat, true wilderness under any definition, is split up by roads and industrial activity for the first time. It is truly ugly. That is the true threat to our hunting and our fishing–industrialization of the landscape. Not to mention everything else that we care for.

    If we can just agree on this, and agree to disagree about wolves, then perhaps we can get somewhere.

  43. Layton Avatar

    Lemme see here —- pre 1993 all seems to be well with the ungulate (specifically elk) populations in most of Idaho. There is lots of wilderness area. There are a lot of areas that the “shut everything down” crowd says are roadless but that folks have been driving into for generations. Some studies going on about Black Bear predation on elk calves.

    Now comes the gray wolf. At the same time we have some really big fires in central Idaho — hmmm those fires should build some super habitat for the ungulates. In the rest of the state things kind of go along with the status quo — except for an uncontrolled, growing population of Canis whatever.

    A few years go by — where did the elk go?? The habitat is THERE, it’s all kinds of improved — no more roads, the feds have stopped that — the populations should be improving. Hmmmmmmm, lots of wolf sightings. Gosh the habitat must be to blame for the decreased numbers of elk. Studies (official ones) show that calf survival is down significantly and that the average age of the elk herd is going up.

    Now we get to 2006, nobody that spends any time at all in the woods sees the elk they used to —- hmmmmm — must be the habitat. But aren’t the wolves doing well. More confirmed packs every week, lots of “unconfirmed” ones — no radio collar, no count. Oh yea, by the way no control either. The food sources for the elk where the fires were seem to be growing well. No increased range allotments.

    Guess we should ALL agree at this point that it’s a habitat problem.

    Makes sense to me!!

    Just as an after thought, the habitat in Yellowstone seems to be doing a lot better, but somehow the elk herds are down by better than half — what’s the excuse there??


  44. John Avatar

    No, I’m not a madman! Well, maybe not all the time 😉 I’ve been a daily visitor to Ralph’s web pages for years & years (but never post anything, I’m a much better reader) and love the man for all he has done for our beloved West. I may have gotten just a bit fired up in my last post, but at least I’m passionate. I just love nature so much (that includes land, sea and all living life forms on, or in, them) and I just can’t stand how the only little bits of nature that are allow to survive are the few places & (living things) that there persecutors have overlooked. I just think this whole topic represents a very dangerous, and slippery slope, to head down. First the Wolf, then what? As for the Great White Shark, damn, the way we are destroying the oceans and all the life forms in them, it’s sad to say, but in the not to distant future, we may have to introduce fish back in to the great blue realm. I really don’t know if this would be possible, and humankind will probably be on our way out by then, because we can not live without a functioning ocean system.


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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