For Wolves, a Recovery May Not Be the Blessing It Seems

The latest NYT article on the ironic delisting of wolves — “they’re recovered now we can reduce their numbers again as close to zero as we can get away with.”

For Wolves, a Recovery May Not Be the Blessing It Seems. New York Times.  By Jim Robbins.







  1. kt Avatar

    Did I read this right – this guy is the head of the Wyoming Game Department?

    “If wolves scatter them [elk on feeding grounds], Mr. Cleveland said, they end up in cattle herds and may spread the disease”.

    Is he angling for the first annual Molly Ivins-looks-back-from-the- grave: “He hasn’t got the sense God gave a duck” award (her memorable quote about Bush), or something???

    Why don’t they just build a fence around them thar’ feedin’ grounds, and offer up some canned Wyoming state-sanctioned hunts?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My experience with the feedgrounds is that some are at least partially fenced.

    Of course the high number of elk testing positive for brucellosis is due to the concentrated winter feeding, so in most cases wolves scattering the elk is nature’s way of reducing infection.

    Wyoming herds that don’t visit feedlots have dramatically lower infection rates.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    The last courageous act in which Terry Cleveland was involved was his work against John Dorrance III’s (Campbell Soup fortune) proposed exotic game ranch near Devil’s Tower. That was over a decade ago. Whatever wild wings he had a decade ago have now been fully clipped by Jim Magagna and the livestock industry. That’s the cost of rising to the top in a bureaucracy.

    One of the great benefits of having wolves in Wyoming is that they are disrupting the discredited feedground regime, the sole purpose of which is to shortstop elk migrations to traditional winter range, where forage is now “reserved” for cattle. I think the primary reason for the State of Wyoming’s demand for drastically reduced wolf populations is because ranchers in western Wyoming are frantic not only over livestock losses but the loss of grass if wolves chase elk off the feedgrounds, thus restoring the traditional migrations.

    There’s always more to a controversy than meets the public eye.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    We see the same thing in Idaho.

    The areas Idaho Fish and Game wants to kill wolves first (other than the Lolo area) are mostly places where there is livestock and wolves.

    In fact most are areas where there would be more elk if there were fewer livestock, Copper Basin being a prime example, which could be the premier elk and moose and antelope valley of Idaho without the thousands of cattle.

  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    True. If we had a more equitable allocation of AUMs to elk and other wildlife away from cattle, which means more expansive habitat for wildlife, we could support far more wildlife than is now allowed. We have the livestock industry to thank for the screws that G&F tries to keep on wildlife numbers.

  6. kt Avatar

    Never having had the urge to see people feeding in elk in winter, I’ve not seen this in action. You mean they have the elk quasi-fenced in, sort of like a livestock operation, or something?

    Also, I just spoke to someone who said the local NPR is reporting a Bill being introduced in the ID legislature to sell wolf tags for $9 or $9.50 now, instead of the $26.50 set by the Commission at their Wolf Pelt Tag Meeting where Cameron Wheeler whined about wolves not paying their way, like women’s sports. I called IDFG and they said yes, they understand such a bill has been introduced by a legislator from Burley …

    No matter how ridiculous you might think something is, the craven Idaho legislature can always be counted on to make it even worse ….

  7. Slow Elk Poacher Avatar
    Slow Elk Poacher

    Are there even wolves in Burley? I know there’s lot’s of MORmON’s, but has a wolve even stepped in that area in a hundred years?

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    In Wyoming, wolf tags are currently set at $5.00 in the trophy game zone. Of course, it’s free in the predatory animal zone. As usual, Wyoming is way out front–or way behind, depending upon your point of view.

    The elk feedgrounds are elk feedlots. You can’t tell the difference between an elk feedlot and a cattle feedlot when there are no animals present. The damage to the land is enormous.

    Some of the feedgrounds are fenced; the National Elk Refuge is fenced all along the north and west boundaries. Mainly, the elk are held in place by the presence of lots and lots of hay. The feedgrounds are what I call ghettos. They are dirty, unsanitary, and disease-ridden.

    This is called elk management in Wyoming.

  9. Rob-S Avatar

    I totally disagree with your assessment about their being more wildlife if not for the presence of livestock. On another thread, I stated I worked on a cattle ranch for 20 years. We saw more wildlife in, around livestock than before wolves. Now we see very few wildlife and many wolves. Hmmm! it appears the livestock thrived in the presence of cattle…..until wolves were introduced.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think you meant to write “elk thrived in the presence of cattle.”

    Cattle and elk both eat forbs and grass. On most public grazing allotments I have seen in Idaho the elk do mingle with cattle only as neccessary and move out if there is an alternative.

    Elk and cattle are competitors for the same food!

    Deer do better among cattle than elk do because what deer eat only overlaps what cows eat.

  11. kt Avatar

    Ah, but then we have Jarbidge BLM lands, and Elko BLM lands, where the cows are so desperate that they eat the sagebrush … and all of Owyhee County where any bitterbrush plant risks being cow-chomped into the shape of a glorified basketball by bovne browsing – and not to mention the near-universal breakage and structural alteration of sagebrush, by the lumbering clumsy bovines, so they conflict in multiple ways with deer. And then there is the plight of mountain mahogany in many places with cows …

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Most people just don’t get out into SW Idaho and Nevada to see the starving cattle and the cow-blasting landscape.

    Thanks for the post.


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