Can Wyoming have it both ways with wolves?

The Wyoming Department of Tourism has been running frequent newspaper ads “Winter really is a Wonderland in Wyoming.” The top of the ad shows 2 howling wolves. Meanwhile, of course, Wyoming government is trying to get permission to kill as many wolves as possible with the intent of pretty much restricting them in a prison for nature at Yellowstone Park.

I couldn’t find wolf photos as a “come-on” at their official web site at, but the ad has been running in my hometown newspaper (Pocatello, ID) for a couple weeks.

Those who want to see wolves in the winter don’t need to drop a dime in Wyoming. Stay at Gardiner, Montana or Cooke City, Montana, and drive into wintertime Yellowstone National Park each day. Sightings are almost guaranteed when you find the hardy band of wolf watchers near the road. In the summer (maybe in the winter), you can rent a powerful wildlife spotting scope for about $20 a day at Cooke City (and maybe elsewhere by now). We rented one at Cooke City last summer.

I should add that if you want to take a snowmobile or snowcoach to the Park, you don’t have to give Wyoming a dime either. You can rent a snowmobile and guide at West Yellowstone or a snowcoach (becoming more and more popular). Expert snowcoach and other tours can also be set up in Livingston or Bozeman, Montana.



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I’ve made some discrete inquiries, and it appears that Wyoming is not yet making any plans to deal with a tourist boycott should the State be successful in killing off a lot of wolves post-delisting.

  2. Steve Braun Avatar
    Steve Braun

    My company spends about $300,000 per year in tourist dollars in Wyoming. It is time to use the power of money to penalize the state of Wyoming for its irrational behavior. I will switch as much spending as possible to Montana.

  3. Richard Pontius Avatar
    Richard Pontius

    I wonder if it might not be better to make a point of spending those tourist dollars in Wyoming, but making sure that people in the places they are spent know that observing wolves is the reason you are there. If no one spends $$ in Wyoming the value of wolves to the state drops radically. Just a thought.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think Richard’s point is the one that would work.

    Boycotts generally don’t work and often hurt the wrong people.

    Some organization needs to create a website and maybe publish a book listing wildlife-friendly places of business (and that means carnivores too, not the limited range of animals the Orwellian named Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife supports). A model might be found at the web site

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I agree with Ralph. Boycotts are a hammer when a scalpel would be better. For example, there are local outfitters, Taylor Outfitters, who have been featured on this site, who have worked natural history, including wolf viewing, into their outfitting business. I’ve helped out as wrangler on a number of their trips, including into YNP, and the quality of their trips and service is top notch. I would like to see an encouragement of their approach to wildlife adopted by other outfitters in the area. To tell you the truth, more outfitters than you’d think also benefit from having people on their trips who want to see wolves. However, it’s the Taylors who have been most up front and open about it.

    There are a number of other businesses in the Greater Yellowstone that have seen wolves as an economic asset, not a burden. Perhaps the Yellowstone Business Council could follow up on Ralph’s suggestion.

    Still, we should be careful when discussing wolves to rely too heavily on economic arguments. For me, ecological arguments were the primary force behind my support for wolf reintroduction, as is the case, I suspect, for most wolf supporters.

    Economics has a tendency to stab you in the back.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It’s true that economic arguments won’t carry the day because anti-wolf sentiment is not based on economics, but on cultural resentment.

    However, many people who come to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana with conservation in mind who want to spend their money wisely, end up eating, buying gear, or staying at places that have a horrible attitude. That is true of not just out-of-state visitors, but in-state too.

    I’m glad to see the Yellowstone Business Council (renamed the Yellowstone Business Partnership) moving forward.

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Thanks for the update on the Yellowstone Business Partnership’s new name. This group is a fine blend of conservation and business that deserves more attention.

    Having pushed dudes now for six years, I find that I have a good bit of influence when I have peoples’ full attention on the trail or in camp. When you have full command of the facts and the best teaching laboratory in North America–the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem(I can hear people from Idaho now gnashing their teeth at that!)–one can anchor in visitors a certain degree of respect for land and wildlife, especially wolves and bears. People are aware of the controversies over these species, but don’t understand them. Progressive outfitters can work people through the controversies and still express a point of view.

    Pushing dudes can be quite frustrating but when it gives you the opportunity to teach, I suppose it’s worth it.

    As a whole, the outfitting industry has yet to acknowledge this potential; it has yet to acknowledge this great desire in people who don’t have the opportunity to live here to know what’s going on. Far too many outfitters are still in the business of providing a service to people on vacation, and ignore the myriad opportunities for teaching. However, enough are doing it, and being successful, that others are paying attention. Economics does have a place, I agree.

  8. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    I also agree with Ralph, if you boycott, you hurt only those who depend on the income.
    However, how are you going to assess the economical impact of one isolated aspect on the whole tourist industry? If a region gets x-thousand tourists over a year, how many of them come for the wolves only? Maybe only a handful! How many would have come anyway, wolves or not? Maybe the overwhelming majority! What is the true economical value, felt at the local hotels, shops, the restaurants, the gas stations, etc.? Do we really expect this to be a substantial portion of the whole cake? Another question is, how to “transport” the message: “Hey, we are here for the wolves and the bears and that’s why we are lodging here, and shop there”. If you do not transport the message, nobody will ever know and you become just part of the yearly tourist statistics.

  9. dora Avatar

    Where in Wyoming are folks going to watch wolves? Xanterra and Montana are the beneficaries of the Lamar crowd.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    In the days of the Teton Pack, and I think still today, the wolves were plenty visible in Grand Teton, Buffalo Valley and Mt. Leidy Highlands.

    I saw the Teton Pack many times and even surprised the alpha male at 10 feet (I was surprised too).

  11. kt Avatar

    Wait a minute. Isn’t it Martin Luther King Day? How does social change happen? Resistance.

    I recall SUWA in Utah using the threat of a boycott/pullout of sorts around three or four years ago very effectively to make a statement. I believe there was an Outdoor Retailers Convention scheduled for Salt Lake. One of the Energy and OHV friendly Utah Congressional Faux wilderness Bills was moving forward. And it looks like the allies they made inthat effort have stood them in good stead. The head of the Retailers Association is the person who testified against Bennett’s Washington County Bill in the Senate in late 2006.

    It seems to me that wolf people have to make a statement of some kind. Either getting some big event scheduled for Idaho or Wyoming Wolf Hate Lands pulled back, establishing a list, voluntary pledge, or something that results in some kind of certification process (like for timber) for wolf and wild lands friendly businesses in the Hate States, etc.

  12. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    For Peter–There have been attempts to quantify and isolate the attraction of the wolf to tourists out of the University of Montana, but I can’t right off the top of my head provide a link to that information. I’m sure Ralph can.

    In my own experience of pushing dudes over the last six years, acknowledging a small sample size, I have found that while wolves might not be the sole reason for people visiting here, it is an important reason that becomes more important when people actually see wolves, especially in the backcountry. Viewing in the Lamar, in my opinion, is a bit artificial.

    I try to put guests’ experience of wolves into an ecological framework, using the heuristic metaphor that they are an important spark in the flow of energy across and through the land. You can feel that energy palpably when you see a pack of wolves cross a meadow at dawn below your camp. That’s not a common experience, to be sure, but when it happens it is quite magical.

    Sometimes it’s even more interesting when that wolf pack crosses the meadow where your horses are grazing, and the wolves give them barely a glance–same with the horses. While I know of horses that have been killed by wolves, it is rare. Horses are rather large and ornery prey, and wolves are generally loathe to take them on. When you have mules, it gets exciting; a mule will charge wolves if they get too close. I recall a comment from the couple who are researching wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness, their names escape me for the moment, who said that the first thing that comes into a mule’s mind when it sees a wolf is, “do I stomp it or not?”

    It’s important to point out to guests that predation is a complicated business and involves very complex communication between predator and prey, as Barry Lopez noted in Of Wolves and Men. When you see that communication at work, as with wolves passing by a herd of horses grazing openly in a meadow at dawn, you can feel that communication, a form of mutual respect between predator and prey.

    Wildlife ecology is exciting when you see it at work. It sure as hell grabs the naive tourist when he or she sees it, and that experience will never be forgotten.

    It’s these epiphanies of wildlife ecology on the ground that are our best hope in conservation.

    As Robert suggested, here is a link to a story I did about the Univ. of Montana study showing a $70-million positive impact of wolves. There is also a letter written by Dr. Jim Halfpenny of Gardiner about the economic impact of wolves and the decline of elk in the northern range herd of Yellowstone Park (note that the northern range extends northward well beyond the Park). Ralph Maughan

  13. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Could you submit your last post to the IDAHO STATESMEN and IDAHO STATE Journal, maybe others. I don’t believe IT could be better said.
    Regards, Jeff

  14. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Yes, I could do that; however, I’d like to bring to your attention a project that a new friend of mine, Eli Parker from down in Utah, is working up to collect essays and photographs from people who have positive experiences with wolves. The purpose of the project is to put peoples’ experiences with wolves into perspective, given all the bad publicity out there.

    The idea for this project came up on this website, and Eli’s decided to run with it. What I wrote in post 12 above will be part of an essay I am writing for that project.

    Thanks for the compliment. I don’t get many.


  15. Layton Avatar

    Jeff E

    I don’t want to bust in on this thread so I’ll keep it short.

    I’m not sure how to (or if I can) communicate with an individual on one of these blogs.

    You asked a question, I have some answers, how can I get them to you? The thread where you asked me is closed.


  16. Chris Mortensen Avatar

    Today you suggested renting snowmobiles (in Montana)to view wildlife in Yellowstone. Yes, they’re cleaner, quieter, guided, and limited in number, but have you actually acknowledged that some people (OK, they must be criminals, industrialists, or Republicans)would responsibly enjoy such a heinous activity? Remember last year, when you suggested that Gale Norton “get drunk and chase elk to enjoy the true snowmobile experience”? Pretty offensive comment, even to non-Republicans, and non-snowmobilers. Good thing St. Patrick’s Day is coming up. Your green must be fading. Seriously though, I enjoy reading about wolves and wolf issues on your website and blog. I love to watch wolves and photograph wolves. I don’t always agree with you, but I admire your dedication to environmental issues. Keep up the good work, but please try to be more fair and less condescending to those who disagree with you.

    Chris Mortensen

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I think Yellowstone winter use is balancing out. It’s obvious to me, maybe not everybody, that the variety of ways of enjoying the Park in the wintertime has grown, and with that we can move onto other things.

    Thanks for the memories 😉

  18. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Thanks Robert and Ralph for the valuable info. The reason why I was asking is, here in Germany there are also discussions about the economic impact of the wolf tourism in the area near our border with Poland, where a small wolf population has established itself since 2001. Of course, we are talking about wolf tourism on a much smaller scale over here. The region is far from being as breathtaking as the Rocky Mountains and …you cannot see the wolves! You just know, they are out there, somewhere. For me and many others it´s enough just to know: “I´m hiking in wolf country”! But the “ordinary” tourist would end up quite disappointed.

  19. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E


  20. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I would like to hear, if possible, a precis of what’s going on with wolves on the border with Poland and how local people are dealing with the presence of wolves. I was stationed in Bad Toelz south of Muenchen for four years, 1986-1990, and spent much time in the mountains above Toelz, which were, of course, wolfless and bearless.

    It’s a little difficult for me to imagine now a return of these carnivores to western Europe, and even more difficult to imagine wolf tourism, although I remember the hunger for wildness that many Europeans feel. I know wolves and bears were never absent from eastern Europe and Russia–are they moving westward now in any significant way?

    Forests do make it difficult to see wolves, but of course forests do not prevent from hearing wolves. I have found that the effect of hearing wolves when you cannot see them can be just as strong as seeing them.

    I wonder especially what hunters think now about wolves, given the intensively managed herds of ungulates one finds in Europe and given the minority that hunters are in Europe.

    Glad to hear your comments from across the Atlantic.

    Best wishes,
    Robert Hoskins

  21. Layton Avatar




  22. Layton Avatar


    Somehow that got screwed up — anyway, I tried to send you an email and got a delivery failure saying you are “over quota”


  23. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    I would be more than happy to share all the information about wolves and bears here in Germany and Europe with everybody interested. I think that wildlife -especially carnivore -conservation is a global issue. And the problems seem to be the same everywhere.
    To give you a (very) short overview in order not to go to far in the frame of this thread: We have currently two wolf packs here in Germany. Both are in an area in the far southeast part of the former German Democratic Republic, near the border with Poland. In fact, it all began in 2001, after the Iron Curtain fell, with dispersers from Poland.
    In 2006 the packs consisted of 2 adults each, 1 to 3 yearlings each and 6 respectively 7 pups.
    There are recent reports of one or two “new” loners, again from Poland (most welcome for the genetic diversity). And, yes, there are the usual conflicts with hunters, sheep growers and the general public. But, they are definitely moving westbound – and northbound. Recently a wolf,later identified by genetic tests to come from the healthy Italian wolf population, moved north through Austria and Switzerland, only to be hit by a car not far from the “Bad Toelz” area”, you mentioned. There seems to be a lot of illegal cross border traffic anyway 🙂 because in 2005 a total of 13 yearlings from the east German packs disappeared without a trace. Most probably they went back to Poland. Besides Italy, other healthy wolf populations in western Europe can be found throughout Spain, in northern Portugal and in the French alpine regions. About the beginning wolf tourism in Germany, the local communities try to convince the public that the presence of wolves is encouraging tourists to this sparsely populated area with a high rate of unemployment. And the bears? They are also moving rapidly north from Slovenia and Italy to Austria and I know, that the drama about bear JJ1, alias “Bruno”, shot under dubious circumstances here in Germany (also in the general Bad Toelz area), was even covered by some US media. Unfortunately, most of the books, publications and sometimes even the websites about wolf and bear conservation here in Europe are not available in English language. The language barrier makes it even difficult for the many oranisations in the different countries to cooperate and combining strength. There is nothing here, coming close to such large and powerful organisations like Defenders of Wildlife. Nevertheless, don´t hesitate to contact me via e-mail for more details on wolves and bears in western Europe which might be a bit out of scope under the Wyoming headline.
    Peter Kiermeier

  24. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Not sure whats going on with that account, sorry. This one should work:

  25. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    or 14 hr days will do that to ya. :*}

  26. Layton Avatar


    You really don’t want answers — do you!!

    here’s the latest;

    The following addresses had delivery problems:

    Permanent Failure: Other address status
    Delivery last attempted at Thu, 18 Jan 2007 05:03:08 -0000

    Ralph’s post about the yellowstone herd makes things kind of moot anyway.


  27. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    use a small i on idaho. I really would like to see this information

  28. Joe James Avatar
    Joe James

    My wife and I made our first trip to Yellowstone in 2005 to celebrate my return from the Middle East and kick of our New Year’s resolutions to take a two week trip every summer. We are returning this coming summer for our third consecutive season and two animals are the reason…wolves and grizzly bears. Last summer we got to watch the Hayden pack work an elk herd almost the entire length of the valley.

    The thermal features and scenery are great but aren’t the reason we’ve made it three years in a row. The wolves and bears are.

    Incidentally, most of the folks we’ve talked to who return year in and year out, do so because of wolves and bears. I certainly wouldn’t go every summer to look at elk and bison.

    Next year, we will be going in the winter and it will be mostly devoted to wolf watching. I know this is just one person’s experience but I wonder how many others there are out there.

  29. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Welcome back from the Middle East Joe; thank you for your service. And I hope that your days in Yellowstone watching wolves and bears continue to be exciting for you and your family. We’re doing what we can to keep wolves and bears around.

  30. Richard Goodsell Avatar
    Richard Goodsell

    I had thought of visiting Yellowstone for years, but I always found a excuse not to. Once the wolves were establised I have been there 3 years in a row. The wolves are what got me there. The wolves and the bears both black and grizzly are what keep me coming back.
    Thanks for information you prvide.
    Richard Goodsell


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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Ralph Maughan