Hearing in Helena, MT mostly supports wolf delisting

Only 18 people spoke. 12 favored delisting. Those opposing delisting took that position not so much because of what would happen in Montana, but because of the negative stance of Idaho and Wyoming toward wolf management.

Story on delisting in the Great Falls Tribune

Story in the Helena Independent Record.

Here is an example why these folks might be concerned about the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting proposal for Wyoming. Under the delisting rules proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, outside of a portion of NW Wyoming, this kind of Cowboy State wolf management (tearing a wolf apart) would be perfectly legal. Wolves would be classified as “predators” to be killed at will by any method desired. Of course this wouldn’t happen (think ATVs).

It is of Wyoming wolf management in 1887. Photograph by John C. H. Grabill. From the Grabill Collection. Library of Congress

Update: Here is the story from the Bozeman Chronicle. Wolf delisting sparks controversy at Helena meeting.
[link has expired] By Scott McMillion. The crowd was larger than I thought, although just 18 spoke. As a result I changed the headline to this post.







  1. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    If you think such photos are beyond any imagination (Yes, they are) and from times long gone: I´ve seen a sequence of similar pictures, quite recently originating in Turkey – in color of course and not faked. Times are changing?

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    It saddens me that coyotes (the wolf’s closely related smaller cousin) is still a predator and can be killed by whatever method desired. While it doesn’t effect their populations like it might wolves, does not make it acceptable. We have animal cruelty laws for domestic animals yet we let dog-like wild creatures (throughout the country) still get treated like it was 1850.

  3. Jon Way Avatar

    It saddens me that coyotes (the wolf’s closely related smaller cousin) are still classified as a predator and can be killed by whatever method desired – as proposed for wolves in Wyoming. While this senseless killing doesn’t effect their populations like it might wolves, does that make it acceptable? We have animal cruelty laws for domestic animals yet we allow dog-like wild creatures (throughout the country) to get treated like it was still 1850.

  4. Alan Gregory Avatar

    We’ve come a long ways in wildlife management. Or have we really?

  5. Pronghorn Avatar

    Coyote advocates, click here:
    The newsletter (accessed from link provided) features an article on Yellowstone coyotes.

  6. Layton Avatar

    Now there is really honest outpouring of outrage!!

    Bruce, do you realize that you are about 120 years to late? Of cours you do.


  7. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    The picture is 120 years old, the mind set is exactly the same today though. Don’t believe me. Just read some of the posts in the Montana, or Wyoming newspapers or Web sites such as Bowsite. com.

  8. Wolfen Avatar

    I have followed with interest the wolf issues posted on Ralph’s website. A blog should be a place where those for and/or against the wolf introduction can post their comments to various threads. After all, that is what makes a blog. However, I have also noticed that after a while Ralph intentionally removes those who are not for wolf restoration because of their comments. I have read with interests Laird, Rob S.,Mike S. and others being removed. Its too bad because this makes it interesting. And I am surprised that Layton has not been removed yet. At any rate I have attached a link that shows a graphic video of a wolf eating a deer alive. Click on the gallery above the picture to see the thumbnail pictures. To me that is no more graphic that the picture of these cowboys with the wolf roped.

    Although I naively thought what you suggest was possible, I became apparent to me that a blog on this subject could work only with some moderation, if only for the reason of deleting the posting of libelous statements.

    If you watch nature in the raw you will see graphic things. I have no objection. I don’t think animals feel any empathy toward their food. Humans, on the other hand aspire to being more than animals.

    What are we to make of a house cat that “tortures” its prey?

    What are we to make of a kidnapper who tortures his (or her) captive? Maybe you can see the difference. I hope so. Webmaster

    – – – – –

    One further note, I have changed this site so that anyone who has not posted here before must be approved by the webmaster first. Therefore if you are new, there will be delay between your post and its appearance
    . Webmaster

  9. Bruce Boxall Avatar
    Bruce Boxall

    Wolfen, there is no comparison between the 2 photos. One is natural (wolves don’t have McDonalds to rely on), and one is human ignorance

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One other point, the purpose of the photo is not to cause outrage about what happened in the 1880s, but about what will happen in Wyoming very soon if the USFWS delisting proposal is completed.

  11. Moose Avatar

    I’ve seen the wolf/ doe photos as well. They are quite graphic. Both photos are powerful in their own right. You should especially note the article that accompanied the wolf/deer photos – written by Michael Veine, an outdoor writer for a local Mich. newspaper. He came upon the scene while grouse hunting last fall.

  12. kt Avatar

    The photo embodies what will happen in Idaho, too. If you live in any of these states, and spend time out doors, driving back roads, observing what senseless things humans do to nature, reading the local papers about “coyote killing contests”, etc. – the savagery is still there. AND it is being fostered by the anti-predator message of several of the current “Sporstmen” groups. Elk Good. Wolf Bad. Kill Wolf.

    AND it embodies the mentality that still allows the public lands livestock industry to carry out a war on predators in the West with the shadowy federal agency of wildlife killers, “Wildlife Services”.

  13. Moose Avatar


    What is your stance on the delisting in the Great Lakes?

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I am not as familiar with the Great Lakes as wish I could be. I spent 4 years in Madison, but all I learned about the outdoors there was fishing perch and pike (very worthwhile).

    In none of these states: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Michigan is the number of wolves problematic. It is all about future state management.

    I will only speak to Idaho and Wyoming — the regulatory mechanisms to protect the recovered population are poor in Idaho, and in Wyoming there are none at all.

    It is clear to me that high numbers of deer and wolves and lots of hunting can coexist, e.g., Minnesota, Wisconsin.

  15. Wolfen Avatar

    I have no objection to the wolves killing prey but in the manner they do it. They do not go for the throwt for an instant kill like a mountain lion, or a cat as you say. Cats do not torture their prey alive. Even bears kill their prey instantly before eating them alive. At least humans, with a few exceptions, do not torture their prey however, all wolves do torture their prey and eat them alive. I, like the individual who took this picture, felt like putting the animal out of its misery so it did not have to suffer any more. So really, is their any difference between this wolf eating the deer alive and a landowner shooting a wolf yet the wolf was only injured, ran off, and was succumbed to its fate by a bear, cougar, or other wolves because of the smell of blood. No difference

  16. J. Alan Hendricks Avatar

    Wow, Ralph..a powerful image. 120 years old but still draws up strong feelings.

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I think you’re right, the “carrying capacity” of wolves is based on human perceptions more than anything biological.

    I lived all of my life in Utah and Idaho, except in grad school at Madison.

    Folks in Wisconsin are certainly different from these two Western states, and vice versa

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I don’t think any animal tortures its prey in the sense that humans do.

    Many animals eat their prey while it is still alive. The only ones that seem to bother us are those that are large enough to attract our attention.

    Look around you and you can see this everywhere with the smaller predators and prey. In human terms the backyard should be considered as much as killing field as it is an esthetic item.

    So cougars are nice killers and wolves bad ones? Personally I like the photos with blood on wolves’ faces as much as “the noble pose.”

    Come on . . . grow up!

  19. Howard Avatar

    Predatory animals kill in whatever manner their natural biology permits. Wolves sometimes do begin feeding from still living prey. It is natural for anyone to feel sorrow for the prey animal’s suffering and some folks have a bad visceral reaction to gore, but to regard the wolf’s actions as consciously ammoral or sadistic is prescribing human morality to an animal. Wolves are not “evil” for the messy manner in which they dispatch prey… being the subjective creatures that humans are, I guess I can understand someone not liking wolves because of it, but I do hope most people realize that wolves are not “cruel” in the same way that a human sociopath is cruel. When wolves hunt, they seek to obtain food and while doing so, attempt to avoid injury. Sometimes, this results in a prey animal that has been incapacitated but not killed. Once meat is available for eating, the wolves do not wait for the deer to breathe its last or initiate a coup de gras. Just in the name of understanding wolf behavior and not getting into morality issues of non-human animals, I also don’t think it’s true that wolves always eat prey alive. As I said, I think it depends on how the attack unfolds. When wolves eviscerate prey, I would think that sometimes the animal dies before feeding begins. I’m also pretty sure that wolves do in fact initiate a throat bite when the opportunity presents itself…I believe I have seen footage of wolves taking down moose and elk with a throat bite (interestingly, it seemed to be the case when a single wolf, or a pair, was attacking a big animal).
    A few other notes about predators that “torture” prey. Wolves are categorically NOT the only animal that cause suffering to prey animals. I think that in some circles, this idea is promulgated to make wolves seem singularly horrific or “evil”. House cats certainly “toy” with small prey before its dead. Hyenas and African painted dogs kill by evisceration and frequently eat prey alive. Incidentally, there is an opinion among some biologists who have seen wolves, painted dogs, and hyenas work that the prey is often too deeply in shock to feel pain as its being consumed. This is just an interesting, and perhaps comforting, idea…whatever the prey animal feels, any non-human predator cannot be considered immoral for the killing method it is evolutionarily suited for. Furthermore, bears rip the skins off still living salmon (and some of the relatively rare human victims of bear attacks have had parts of their anatomy torn off or even eaten while still alive). In addition to a house cat batting around a live mouse, anyone who thinks that cats always kill “clean” should observe a few lion kills. African lions FREQUENTLY eat subdued prey alive. Even though lions frequently employ the throat bite, this is often a prolonged affair with large prey. It sometimes takes prey over 30 minutes to suffocate. When lion prides attack large animals like buffalo, the attack may last hours, with the victim being clawed and bitten until it is finally subdued. I have seen footage of lions killing baby elephants and baby hippos in the Okavango Delta of Botswana…slow, horrible stuff…but again, while its unpleasant, it does not mean that the lions are evil sadists. What’s interesting though is that this is side of lions we rarely think of…for millenia, lions have been the symbols of courage and royalty. I have also seen footage of female cheetahs bringing live gazelle fawns and leopards bringing warthog piglets for their cubs to practice killing.
    Interestingly, most of the animals that frequently eat prey alive are group hunters that often feed on prey animals larger than themselves. Solitary hunters like cougars and leopards kill their prey before feeding because it is impractical and dangerous to begin feeding on a still struggling animal. Group hunters like wolves and lions can rely on the group to incapacitate and hold prey. Carnivorous animals begin feeding as soon as it becomes possible to do so… whether the prey must be dead first varies between circumstances and species.

    Howard, thank you taking the time to point out all these facts. Webmaster.

  20. Moose Avatar

    “It is clear to me that high numbers of deer and wolves and lots of hunting can coexist, e.g., Minnesota, Wisconsin”

    I would agree that they appear to be coexisting in those states at this time. (The UP winter is the major variable in their deer pop.)

    I think how many wolves is acceptable will be the biggest bone of contention.


  21. Wolfen Avatar

    Where have you been lately Ralph. I do not know of humans who torture the deer or the elk they hunt. Yes, sometimes they may get a bad shot and the animal not die instantly but most hunters do kill their animals relatively quickly unlike the many pictures of wolves eating their prey alive. Maybe you ought to grow up and see reality as it is. I feel no more sorrowful for the wolf that is injured by a landowner or wildlife services that escapes death yet succumbs to death by other animals because of its injuries than you do towards the deer that is eaten alive. I grew up on a farm and know of no other animal domestic animal that eats its prey alive. Perhaps you can enlighten me on that one.

    This is a straw man argument. I think Howard disposed of this and similar postings. Webmaster.

  22. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Geez Wolfen, Watch National Geographic on T.V. You ever see footage of a shark attack? N.G. used to run footage of a coyote in Yellowstone feeding on a bull elk that was still walking around. And yes this was before the wolves were back. Howard has it exactly right.

  23. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Was just watching the National Geographic show Planet Carnivore today and I’ll be darned but they have footage of hyenas feeding on a water buffalo that was not only still alive but was still standing. Imagine that.

  24. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    You cannot compare the great lakes with the west. You are talking about two totally different prey species. White-tailed deer and elk and mule deer. If you hunt and actually know what your talking about then that is okay. ID does not have near the deer populations that the great lakes area has. Plus they also have less predators. No cougars. And cougars kill alot. About a deer a week. How many cougars in ID? They estimate around 2000. You can do the math to see how many deer and elk that is a year. So you cannot compare the great lakes area with ID. More deer. Less predators. So common sense is that yes you could have more wolves. In ID and the west Mule Deer populations are declining. So I think that putting hundreds of wolves in every state would probably not be a good idea. But i have only been an outdoorsmen for 25 years so I would probably not know what I am talking about.
    And as for coyotes. I hunt them all winter long. I also participate in the hunting contests. Do some research on coyotes and you will know why we do. In UT coyotes kill over %70 of newborn antelope fawns each spring. And also get a large portion of deer fawns as well. I have hunted coyotes for 10 years and i can promise you that they are in no danger of leaving. Very smart. Tough and very fun to hunt.

  25. Bruce Boxall Avatar
    Bruce Boxall

    josh–you’ve been killing for 25 years? What a big man you are-lol

  26. Heard Enough Avatar
    Heard Enough

    So coyotes kill 70% of pronghorn fawns. They have probably been killing that many for thousands of years, and still there are pronghorns. The biggest threat pronghorns, and other ungulates, face is human-induced habitat loss. These species have co-evolved with their predators and do just fine. The anti-wolf commenters to this site usually put forth the unsubstantiated claim that wolves “decimate” their prey populations and seem to ignore the fact that MN has a huge wolf population (way more than ID will ever have) and a huge deer population. How can that be when wolves are “decimating” the deer? Wouldn’t the extremely high numbers of wolves in MN offset the missing cougars as far as total number of deer being killed? Seems in your 25 yrs. of being an outdoorsman has taught you very little.

  27. jordan Avatar

    How about a hunting season on coyote killers? Now that would be “very fun” (to quote Josh). Have been around coyote shooters for a half-century and they are one sick bunch. Real men don’t kill coyotes, let alone wolves. But there don’t seem to be very many “real” men in Idaho, starting with the Governor, Game Commission and legislators.

  28. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Heard enough you need to do some reading on about things you think you know. Do you know the white-tailed deer population in MN? Over 1,000,000. Over 2,500 wolves. Thats alot of deer compared to wolves. Now in ID. Around 300,000 deer. Over 700 wolves. Kinda big number in offsets. Yes I agree that MN needs those predators. We dont. So if you can do basic math you can see that you are talking about 2 very different situations. But of course you dont read up or study you just kinda shoot your mouth and hope it sounds good. So yes my years of hunting have taught me something.

  29. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Jordan if you like coyotes so much then how can you like wolves. Wolves are the coyotes only natural predator. They kill coyotes. But you place the needs of animals over humans so I would not expect you to understand.

  30. Moose Avatar

    I would argue some caution in comparing the two, in re., Great Lakes vs. West. However, when discussing high numbers of deer in the Great Lakes – 2/3 of those deer reside in the lower halves of those states..Concentrations of wolves inhabit the northern thirds of those three states (generally speaking – exception central Wisc.). Deer densities in wolf inhabited areas are some of the lowest in all three states – this has always been the case even prior to arrival of wolves in Mich and Wisc – because of weather/habitat. There are also a good number of other predators applying pressure on the pop.- coyotes, bobcat, black bear (12,000-15,000) in UP alone..black bear are the biggest killer of fawns among pred.s..the situations regarding number of prey and predators may not be as far off as Josh S thinks..I cannot speak for elk or mule deer numbers in ID, or they’re reproductive rate vs that of whitetails.

    When discussing delisting, I don’t think you can compare the GL situation with that in the West…too many differences.

    Either way, Anti-wolfers will have to accept that wolfs are here to stay.

    Pro-wolfers will have to accept that there will be some form of control on not only “transgressors”, but overall wolf numbers (hunting season, trapping, etc).

  31. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Moose I agree with you.

  32. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    On the Carnivore Conservation Blog there is a exceptionally interesting subject that should really not be overlooked: Italy´s wolves bounce back. A subject that always amazes me because Italy has quietly and somewhat unnoticed by the rest of Europe and the world over the years built up an excellent and highly professional bear and wolf management. It´s even more amazing, because the Italians are – not without some justification – well known for their temperamental approach to certain issues and also for their love for hunting. Nevertheless, they do not mess around with mathematics and pro / contra statistics, with 10 buck tags for shooting, with deer counts, with listing or delisting debates.. Don’t be mislead, wolves and bears are in no way spread out over whole Italy. The wolves are mostly restricted to the Abruzzo Mountains where sheep and goats are also in abundance and of course conflicts occur. I admit they have not much livestock there and hunting is not considered sort of industry worth millions of Dollars (oops, EUROs of course) – they just go out and do it! Why have they been so incredible successful there? Sure the last two sentences say it all: The credit goes to the Italians, for having found a balance. “However, the problems start when wolves return to an area after decades, and the ability to coexist has been forgotten.” Sure you can always argue … you cannot compare xx and yy because there are toooooo many differences…
    Carnivores are seen controversial all over the globe but you really get the impression, that intensity and heat of the discussions are something unique to the “American West” and all species of carnivores, from Coyote to Puma to Wolf are most intensively pursued, even hated, there.

  33. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    …..(tearing a wolf apart) would be perfectly legal. Silly question from across the pond: Is there no such thing as a law that prohibits cruelty against animals, domestic or wild? Thus I can imagine such a law – if it exists – would sure be extremely difficult to enforce.

  34. kt Avatar

    A few inter-related things seem most important to me in understanding the hatred for nature in the American West. And they are not really separate.

    One is a completely subsidized public lands livestock grazing industry that subsists on the degradation of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. This industry has perfected whining, complaining, bullying and politically bludgeoning any BLM or Forest Service or other official who may stand in their way to a fine art. They are in many ways the Front Men for Manifest Destiny still being played out on public lands, i. e. Conquering the Natural World of the West, subduing or destroying natural things as a sense of social duty and Whiteman privilege — playing out. This, and the constant yammering of the livestock industry about miniscule losses to predators, still sets the tone.

    And ALL the industries (mining, logging, now water privatizers, energy developers who want to privatize or reap profits from public lands or public land assets, etc.) love it. While we’re all off worrying about an impending wolf slaughter — the rest of these guys are out gutting public lands and regulations that protect them.

    And now we have the various “Sportsmen” groups, often with increasing ties to industry (led by ex-Larry Craig aids, or RMEF now bonding with the logging industry and “stewardship contracting”) joining in with the ranchers whining. And unfortunately, the footsoldiers of some of these groups are all caught up in the manliness of making the natural world free from any thing that would make it truly wild – like top level predators.

  35. jordan Avatar

    Josh – Coyotes can and will wise up to wolves. I’ve watched coyotes on a wolf kill, watching and running when their larger cousins show up. I’ve watched many times coyotes staying back as wolves ate their fill and then left. I watched a wolf the other day howling at a coyote who was mostly ignoring wolf, knowing in coyote logic that he/she was able to walk on the snow with its light weight as opposed to the heavier mass of the wolf who could no way pursue a song dog in the snow conditions. The #1 “natural” predator of the coyote is the human who traps, snares with bait, or drives up and down our highways and backroads and engages shooting coyotes, fox, or whatever animal that breathes or flies, in order to satisfy some human internal rage or disappointment.

  36. TONY NELSON Avatar

    I read all your pieces & still wonder when your are all going to stop calling each other names & solve the problem. Get in 1 room & everybody give a little. People want to see wolves & some want to hunt elk & some want to raise cows & some want to drill for oil. You have large states that are mostly still wild. Figure out the numbers & locations & respect each other and a resolution can happen. In Minnesota here we have about 1.6 million deer & 4000 wolves. In the areas where the wolves are we have the fewest deer but mostly because its too cold & snowy. Yes we have lots of other predators: black bear, bobcat, coyotes & mountain lion(they are starting to show up in the twin cities). Work to solve the issue, not just flap your arms. If it goes on for much longer, you may end up with a court or government imposed answer & then evrybody loses.

  37. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    I think voices from Minnesota are a welcome additon to any carnivore blog or comment section (especially that of the Billings Gazette). Minnesota seems to be something of a well kept secret. Especially here in Europe you normally do not know much about Minnesota and Minneapolis being nothing more than a change of planes when venturing out to the Southwest or West. By coincidence I came upon a book “Wild Minnesota” (surprisingly not a single word or pic about wolves in it), shortly after I got “Howl in the Heartland”. That was mouth watering enough and off we went to Minnesota! Great!


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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