Guest Opinion: How best to manage wolves in Wyoming

This is by Dr. Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. It appears in today’s Billings Gazette.

His summation reads:

We can either come together and manage wolves like other wildlife species, or we can continue to argue and waste time and money in court and get nowhere. For now, I urge everyone to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to NOT delist wolves until Wyoming has a management plan that incorporates the points mentioned above.

The deadline to comment on wolf delisting is at 5 p.m. today. Please visit for information.

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  1. J. Delaney Avatar
    J. Delaney

    Reasonable, unlike most of what we hear out of Wyoming. Having said that, I do not agree that wolves on public lands who are in the act of attacking livestock should be allowed to be shot on site. The risks involved with having livestock on public lands should be allowed to exist, not removed for the benefit of the livestock ranchers

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    It is truly unfortunate that Franz Camenzind, who has a PHD in wildlife ecology, is supporting wolf control in this proposal. He knows better than most that predator control is one of the two most irrational wildlife management strategies. (The other is feeding wildlife).

    This is nothing more than another example of the capitulation of so-called “mainstream” conservation groups to the livestock industry.

  3. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I think it is more a realization that wolf/predator management is about politics and not biology.

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    And capitulation to the politics is to deny the biology.

  5. be Avatar

    “If it is proven scientifically that wolves are having a detrimental effect on other wildlife…”

    What kind of shortsighted “science” does this refer to? It seems to me that the only “detrimental” effect that wolves have is on the anthropogenically projected quotas that human beings prescribe – not on the wildlife. another instance of managing for a single species i suppose… or the ecology/biology of ‘sociology’.

    it is the absence of the wolves that negatively affects wildlife and ecosystems – and the ‘sociologically’ derived ‘suitable’ habitat that ensures wolves’ artificially depreciated presence will only benefit wildlife in the livestock interest’s narrowly admissable regions.

    if they mitigate the positive contribution of wolves to naturally occurring healthy wildlife habitat – the full deal – our kids won’t know what it looks like, and biologists will have skewed baselines with which to make restorative decisions.

    compromise kills when one side is allowed to remain vigilant while the other trips over itself to avoid confrontation…

  6. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Robert – I repsctfully disagree. But I could turn that around on you just as easily. Come on, we’re on the same side here! I am all for using science, I have a background in it. To say that recognizing the significance of the political process is to deny biology, to paint these issues in black and white terms like that, is naive.

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    You can disagree all you want, and I’ll tell you this: we’re not on the same side. Franz’s column reflects nothing but a capitulation to the livestock industry, which is all you can expect out of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance–the same brown-nosing you find with all the so-called mainstream “conservation” groups.

    If you have a background in science, then I want to know when and where it has been scientifically proven that wolves have had a so-called negative impact on ungulates. I spent three winters in northern Canada studying this very question. Here in Wyoming, too, I want to know why it is legitimate that livestock have priority over wolves or wildlife in general. There’s no legitimacy to it; we have only the oligarchical manipulation of law through rancher control of the legislature that benefits a historically powerful but now fading special interest. That’s a brute fact, and to recognize it is not naive, but an understanding of how politics works.

    Robert Hoskins

  8. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    I recognize Wyoming has some “interesting” politics and I’m not defending the livestock industry or their monopolization of Wyoming politics. Not sure how I am not on the same side – you seem to want to alienate everyone, including those working a different set of tactics? I’m sorry about that…

  9. SAP Avatar

    Hmm . . . great deal of polarization here, and I’d rather not wade into a disquisition on the philosophy of science . . . suffice it to say that whichever vision we pursue (e.g., that espoused by Franz Camenzind, versus Jerry Kysar, versus Mr. Hoskins) is a product of subjective value preferences.

    I recommend Jay Odenbaugh’s (google him) writings on environmental philosophy if you want to dig into the topic, because it’s way of out my depth, but one CAN make an argument for the superiority of one value preference over an other, I suppose.

    But, seriously, let’s stop acting like our value preferences are somehow mandated by “Science.” That goes for everyone — we’d have way more productive discussions if folks would say, for example, “well, we WANT X of elk in Herd Unit C, because we want to provide ‘opportunity’ for 600 hunter days with a 15% success rate . . . so we will not tolerate more than 25 total wolves there, because we surmise that more than that will impinge on what we want.”

    Or, “well, we WANT Teepee Basin and Arrowhead Basin to be a ‘vignette of the primitive scene,’ or a largely wild, un-husbanded predator-prey system . . . so wolves there will be left alone, and because we value them so and want to minimize risk to them, we will protect wolves in a 10 mile isopleth around those basins . . .”

    I’d like if we stopped calling things we disagree with “politics” or “sociology” (that’s a new one!) or “utopian social engineering,” and the things we agree with “Science.”

    Like the man said, politics is just a process for deciding who gets what, when, where, and how.

    If we want to speak about someone (say, Julie MacDonald late of DOI) who wants to quash the truth for the sake of gains in wealth or stature, well, isn’t “lying” a more straightforward way of saying what she did, instead of saying she “put politics ahead of science”?

    A couple other nearly random points before I waddle off to Magaritaville:

    1) Is it possible for someone to actually value ranching AND wolves?

    2) If you’ve ever been around wolves in the wild and know much about firearms, then I’d think you’d maybe agree that your chances of catching a wolf in the act of attacking livestock are quite slim; slimmer still are your chances of witnessing this within rifle range where you’d have clear, safe firing lane (remember, cattle are usually in herds, so you could quite easily shoot one); and vanishingly slim would be your chances of actually killing a wolf in the act.

    Maybe the principle is the important thing for some folks, but I wouldn’t lose much sleep over giving people the latitude to shoot one because the practical impact seems like it would be minimal (CAVEAT: investigations of 10j shootings have to be rigorous, so that shoot-in-act-of-attacking doesn’t really mean shoot-on-sight).

  10. SAP Avatar

    “In our society, we have an unfortunate habit of labeling our political institutions in two different ways. On the days when we are happy with them, we call them democracy; on the days when we are unhappy with them, we call them politics . . . The activities we call “political” are simply another manifestation of the propensity of human beings to identify with personal goals and to attempt to realize these goals in a lawful manner.”

    — from “Reason in Human Affairs”, by Herbert A. Simon

  11. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Well said SAP. And sorry if I came across a bit aggro. My intention was not to “dis” science or Robert. Rather I feel science *should* inform politics. If it doesn’t, then change the politicians. I know, easier said than done. But my stating that “we are all on the same side” was meant to be a reminder that there are many ways to address these problems that we all care about. I just don’t think putting those involved in the political process down as capitulators is fair. But that’s just me…

  12. elkhunter Avatar

    SAP that is a good quote, it seems pro-wolf have all the scientific data to prove anything they want to, but as soon as anyone but them puts out a report, like the one from WY fish and game about calf recruitment it is immediately disregarded, it seems pro-wolf only accept “science” when it is in line with their feelings.

  13. jewel Avatar

    Yes it is possible to value ranching and wolves. I sure do. I finally got to see 3 wolves at the edge of our field where our cows were calving. I got so excited I was jumping up and down. I then went inside and did not worry about my cows. Guess what nothing happened. I started raising cows the same year the wolves came to yellowstone. Im in sw wyoming. Ranchers and wolves can work if only the fighting would stop.


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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