Montana preps for wolf hunting

Montana and Idaho, both with federally approved wolf plans, are now gearing up for hunting wolves. Most expect Montana wolf hunt is more likely to be an real hunt rather than a hunt serving mostly as a dramatic reduction in the wolf population. However, this is not assured.

Montana has about half as many wolves as Idaho at the present, mostly because Idaho has better wolf habitat in terms of wolf security (the mountains ranges are less developed and the backcountry that is good wolf habitat is deeper).

Story by Susan Gallagher. Associated Press.

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  1. Pronghorn Avatar

    Given Montana’s track record with “real” bison hunts, I’d definitely be worried.

  2. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Idaho’s approach has become crystal clear when looking at the 2007 hunting regs and see that wolves and noxious weeds are in together in one section. Regardless of all the politically correct rhetoric that is being fed to the media, THE STATE looks at and will manage wolves as something basically like a noxious weed..

  3. Monty Avatar

    It’s always about killing!

  4. SAP Avatar

    “Harvesting of wolves by hunting or trapping has rarely been a conservation threat, primarily because it is so difficult, inefficient, and time-consuming.”

    From “Wolf Conservation and Recovery,” by Luigi Boitani, Chapter 13 in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Ed. L. D. Mech and L. Boitani, 2003. Page 329.

  5. chris thomas Avatar
    chris thomas

    If the population get to many I am not against a hunt, but I dont like trapping at all.

  6. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf


    I find it incredible to believe that statement, even if it is made by Mech. If harvesting weren’t a conservation threat, then please explain how wolves became extirpated from their former extensive habitat, if not by hunting, trapping, and other means.

  7. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Wolves were not harvested in the sense that Boitani is referring to but rather pursued non-stop by what was known as wolfers (wolf bounty hunters). The method of choice by the livestock industry was poison which as an added bonus, killed tens of thousands of non-target species. Even then it was many decades of concentrated focused effort to ‘get er done’

  8. Jerry Avatar

    Here’s something to think about in regards to a pending hunt in Montana.
    Montana is an “open records” state. Nearly every wolf pack has at least one collared wolf. Are the radio frequencies of these collars available on request to any resident under the states public disclosure laws? Will outfitters, and “trophy” hunters, not to mention the DOL, use a loophole like this to track them?
    I’m presently searching for the answer to this….
    Another thought….It costs between $300 and $3000 to collar a wolf, depending upon location, helicopter use etc. They’re talking about selling tags for $10 to $25.. That’s our tax $$ they’re throwing away.

  9. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    SAP has it right. Wolves hunted under traditional methods: no aircraft, no bait, no denning, no pups, no females with pups, no poison, no traps, limited season, limited take, specified methods of take, do manage to keep healthy populations. Either all hunting is bad or there is room for a wolf season based upon sound management. I applaud and respect the movement that has brought the wolf back, but lets not be so in love with what you have done that you fail to see the need for wildlife management activities when the time is right. It is not insignificant that most voices are silent on the issue of management by hunting with more endangered but less politically correct species. “Cute”, “romantic” or “spiritual” animals are not entitled to more or less protection and managment than ugly, nasty, and “uncuddly” ones.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    The biggest worry have got to be in Idaho where the federal agency Wildlife Services may get authorization to use helicopters and radio tracking to reduce, not to hunt, the wolf population.
    Wildlife Services will be much more effective than the old wolfers and their bottles of strychnine.

  11. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    I am completely taken aback at the comments about wolf hunting by SAP and Mike Post. There exists no legal hunting, except in Alaska. The effects are NOT known. Yet you, Mike, state what you state as if it were known fact.

    I have always disagreed with David Mech on his thoughts on hunting. I believe more research needs to be done, but I believe that pack structure does not lend itself well to hunting. People seem to somehow forget that wolves are a social animal, with a very unique social order; the pack. There is an alpha pair, and there is a beta. These are the leader and strongest members of the pack respectively. They are the ones who would investigate any hunters coming upon the pack, and that means, they are likely the ones to be shot by hunters more often. This is completely in conflict with how wolves evolve and why wolf pack structure is the way it is. If the alpha’s are the ones most often killed, you are taking the leaders out of the picture, and worse, out of the gene pool. It is already known that wolves are in danger because of a lack of gene pool size, a fact that to my knowledge, even David Mech has failed to recognize. So, by simple logic, it is detrimental to allow open hunting, or at least potentially detrimental until these facts are known. Simply relying on the statements of a man who’s only claim of expertise is being the FIRST to comprehensively study wolves is illogical, and quite unethical.

    Even the Fish and Wildlife Service, in the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Plan states that ignorance about wolves was a contibuting factor to their demise. So I ask you this, isn’t relying on the research of one single person paramount to continuing that ignorance? Does that not completely invalidate the statements by Mech that wolf hunting won’t be detrimental?

    Citing the statements of one person does not make your argument credible. I am not stating fact here, but a logical THEORY based on facts that are known about wolves. I am not stating that hunting wolves isn’t safe, I am merely stating that we do not know for certain that it is; as there is sufficient knowledge out there to put into question that rather broad statement by Mech cited by SAP, and that research into the effects of hunting needs to be conducted due to lack of knowledge (ignorance). I am also stating that the Rocky Mountain Wolf Plan is once again being ignored by those who created it, by allowing management to include open hunting of wolves. There is a history of the FWS doing this: the population targets changing, the take rules changing and being ignored, carcass dumps being ignored, etc. This, to me, is just another case of the FWS ignoring their own plan and to me, becomes a valid legal basis for a challenge of delisting that I hope someone takes up in court when FWS moves forward with delisting.

  12. SAP Avatar

    Mike Wolf – the quote is from Luigi Boitani, not David Mech.

    Boitani’s statement should have some qualifiers on it, but it doesn’t, so we’re left to interpret what he means.

    Most likely, he means some kind of regulated sport hunt, and not year-round hunting, no-holds-barred. I suppose that hunting at certain times of year could really have quite an effect — kill the best hunters out of a small pack when they have dependent pups, and the rest of the pack is highly likely to either starve or seek easy food sources.

    Clearly, Boitani is not talking about aerial gunning, “denning,” and poisoning. The latter two practices were probably the biggest factors in wolf extirpation historically. People roaming around with firearms trying to get a shot at a wolf probably were not.

    I have been on ranches that had shoot-on-sight permits. These are permits to kill wolves that are killing livestock. Even with wolves that were not particularly wary of people, they are very hard to hunt. Wolves aren’t really that big, so they’re not as easy to detect as big game like elk. They seldom travel in one big pack, and they use cover and terrain to avoid detection. And they can move off silently. Even knowing right where they were from their howling, it was very very “difficult, inefficient, and time-consuming” to go after them.

    [NB: The ranches could have just had Wildlife Services come in with the helicopter, but the thought was that hunting them from the ground would be more effective as aversive conditioning for the survivors. And NO, leaving them alone was not a good alternative – WS was waiting for them to move onto adjacent lands so they could enthusiastically gun them down.]

    Although I agree that removals could be disruptive to pack social structure, I don’t really buy your logic:

    “They [alphas & betas] are the ones who would investigate any hunters coming upon the pack, and that means, they are likely the ones to be shot by hunters more often.”

    Your statement seems to imply they spend a lot of time hanging out together in one big group that hunters would come upon, and that the high-rank wolves would go out to meet the threat.

    While there are cases of wolves going out to check out people (usually with dogs) who get close to a den, these cases are rare. Nor do we know the rank of the wolves that have done this. Could be curious yearlings.

    A reliable individual I know walked right up to a den last month (on private land) and heard pups inside. Guess what happened? Nothing. No adults visible, none heard, nothing. I have heard of similar behavior at rendezvous sites — pups plainly visible and close up, but no adults show themselves.

    Mike, do you hunt? I ask only because I am curious about your practical experience with trying to locate and then shoot wild animals.

    It seems like a lot of people have this idea that whole packs of wolves just loll around in the meadow, and that hunters or ranchers are just going to walk up and start putting bullets into them. I think maybe some people have looked at a lot of Park wolves and have the impression that all wolves are that visible.

    Even in the Park, though, wolves traveling or loafing in big groups seems rare. And even there, people seldom get closer than 200 meters to wolves (Hayden Valley being an unfortunate exception).

    If most hunters were honest with themselves, they would admit that their marksmanship limits their effective range to less than 200 meters, especially on moving targets under field conditions.

    I think sometimes people who really like wolves are most upset over the idea that other people would WANT to go kill wolves, and never mind the impracticality of those folks going out and ACTING on their intentions. As the Book of Matthew says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

    I say, let them have their fair chase hunt. Ideally, focus most of the hunting pressure on places with chronic conflicts, with the intention of limiting wolf occupancy of such places. And, since we agree that wolves are social, “limiting wolf occupancy” doesn’t just mean a lot of dead wolves: it may mean that the surviving wolves become warier and learn to avoid such places.

    If you try to block hunting, then the Tim Sundles crowd will begin to have more sway: he says that poisoning and aerial gunning are the only way to reduce — or, in his twisted case — eliminate wolves. He, too, surmises that hunting and trapping are too inefficient to have a big effect on wolf populations.

    What is the source of your assertion that it is “known that wolves are in danger because of a lack of gene pool size”?

    I don’t think it’s illogical or unethical to put Boitani’s statement out there for discussion. If I had framed his statement with “Boitani said this, so it should put all arguments to rest,” then I would have been committing an “argument from authority” error in logic.

    I would point out, though, that Luigi Boitani has studied wolves in a lot of places, sometimes places where they are subject to quite a bit of hunting and trapping pressure. And his statement is in a book published by the University of Chicago, so it had to go out for review by qualified experts. I think he’s making that statement based on research on populations that have been hunted and trapped, yet DID NOT disappear. Maybe that doesn’t meet your standard of certainty that wolves can stand hunting, but it suits me.

    If his statement were untrue, don’t you think people would have refuted him in the journals by now? If you think it’s untrue, maybe you should write a comment piece for the Wildlife Society Bulletin? Or better yet, if you have some data on wolf populations being driven to extinction by regulated hunting, you should publish it. If your theories and observations can withstand peer review, then they should definitely be out there in the literature to help guide conservation.

    Hunting may end up being bad for individual wolf PACKS, but my sense is that he’s correct — it’s very rare that hunting and trapping would have much population-level effect.

    About ignorance: I’m not sure how the FWS reached that conclusion. Yes, there is ignorance and outright misinformation about wolves. But how did that historically contribute to their demise? Wasn’t it just a different set of values at work?

    Maybe knowing more about wolves — ie. that they’re family-oriented and intelligent, and not created by Satan — would have caused people to want to get along with wolves more way back then.

    But think of those photos from 1922 (see of the Park Rangers playing with wolves at Mammoth: were those guys ignorant of some fundamental fact about wolves? I rather doubt it, but they later killed those pups anyway. Those men were enforcing a different set of values, one that had no place for wolves, and was intolerant of the risk that wolves would harm ungulates. I doubt they would have considered Lamar River’s willows important enough to stop killing wolves, had they known the outcome ahead of time.

    And, if ignorance is a problem now, tell us what pieces of information people need to know in order to improve conservation of wolves. I’m just curious and ready to be rid of my ignorance.

  13. SAP Avatar

    Another thing, Mike Wolf: you ask where wolves are hunted besides Alaska.

    Canada has wolf hunting, so a lot of the information on effects of hunting comes from there. Wolves are also extensively hunted in the Carpathian Moutains and throughout Russia.

    Friends from Alberta tell me that wolves do far worse inside Banff National Park than in other parts of the Province, due to mortality on the highways and railroads.

  14. Robert Avatar

    It seems to me that one has a few screws loose, and a very lonely social life, (not to mention probably a disturbing childhood) if he/she is interested in hunting wolves. It’s asinine.

    These folks should be the first to volunteer to do a tour (or three) for our country in Iraq or Afganistan where their thirst for killing can be adequately met, and where they will be on more of a “level playing field”, unlike the wolves here.

  15. jerry Avatar

    Robert….Iraq or Afganistan? No way…….they’d have someone shooting back at them, and that defeats their purpose. They want the power over “something” that doesn’t fight back because most of them have always been considered losers. Put a weapon in their hand and suddenly they have that power and control that they never experienced in life.
    You’re correct about their childhood. They’ll never admit that, but most grew up in a very disfunctional environment.


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