IDFG Wolf Plan public meeting – Jerome

The first in a series of Idaho Department of Fish & Game public meetings on Idaho’s Wolf Management Plan took place in Jerome last night. The plan, IDFG maintains, is the result of a series of stakeholders’ meetings that included Livestock interests, sporting interests – including Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and conservation interests represented by the Idaho Conservation League and Defenders of Wildlife.

There is no measure of the restorative niche that this predator contributes throughout Western ecosystems planned to be taken by IDFG, nor does the wolves’ important role inform management in any way other than to trip measures of “control”. State management’s posture maintains wolves as problematic and seemed to pay little heed to any interest other than Livestock and big docile game. Even in maintaining 10 – 15 packs in the state, the motive was characterized in terms of protecting Livestock and big game interests from future federal protection of wolves.

The theme of this meeting was “CONFLICT” and that the management of wolves will be based on predominantly two things:

The first is that management will focus on “control” of wolves in conflict with livestock – on public land or otherwise – and on “control” of wolves in conflict with large game objectives – elk and deer. “Controls” include hunting, trapping, and a continued reliance on Wildlife Services. No mention of poison either way. Management zones will mirror big game hunting zones, an arrangement that makes it easier to determine allowable wolf numbers within each zone in reaction to “conflicts” and to big game objectives for particular zones.

The second basis for management is to prevent re-listing. This is the only metric that is evaluated in terms of the wolves themselves being of any value. 10 -15 packs will be maintained.

In all fairness a couple wolf watching areas would be established once IDFG can identify areas in Idaho that will not interfere with Livestock’s intolerance nor big game objectives. These areas came about in response to conservation steakholders’ participation in the plan’s behind closed doors development.

Funds for management will no longer be appropriated by federal legislative earmark, instead the Executive budget will appropriate monies for the state to manage wolves.



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The Idaho Conservation League and Defenders of Wildlife are listed as stakeholders for the plan, but Suzanne Stone of Defenders wrote: “John [Robinson, ICL} and I fought hard, but despite what it says about the “management direction was acceptable to the stakeholder groups,” on page one, this is not true. I just did an interview and denounced the process because we did not agree that the management direction was acceptable nor did we even get a copy of the draft plan to review outside of our meeting [emphasis mine].

    IDFG has refused to provide details of what they changed from the original draft to the new version. There was never consensus among the stakeholders.”

  2. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    The addition of the wolf viewing section is significant because it did not exist in the early drafts. As I’ve posted before, I think we need to apply more pressure to IDF&G to make these areas a reality and to encourage their use. However, I still do not see any areas in table 6.2 where conflict is listed as low where IDF&G’s “harvest strategy” is listed for Low harvest = increase population. From pg. 17 of the plan, “Based on stakeholder input, the most important objective within the management plan should be conflict resolution…” What should naturally follow from this, in my opinion, are wolf management zones already identified as having low conflict that are tagged with a low harvest objective for wolves.

    If anyone knows of a way to measure and quantify wolf watching area use in economic terms, that would certainly be effective in terms of what seems to be driving this plan.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    With a 7 month wolf hunt out of the calendar year, there won’t be any areas where wolves can be watched because none will show.

    Stakeholder input did not come from any conservation group. As Suzanne Stone of Defenders said, they were handed the plan.

  4. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Ralph – I agree on your first statement. On your second, good point – that stakeholder input that was used to create the document was clearly not the conservation groups and that part of the plan has not changed as far as I can tell, apart from the wording they use.

    The other thing to notice is the season they have identified. If the hunting crowd really “valued” wolves as a trophy, the son woseauld be in winter. As it stands, it is concurrent with deer and elk seasons when their pelts are not as “valuable.” I’ll let others make the obvious connection as to what that means.

  5. be Avatar

    SFW is leveraging to raise the conflict level of each zone across the board by one. There are no conflict levels identified as low because they hope to drop the numbers across the board and because SFW is shrewd .

    The state is not going to use science to come to these numbers – SFW is already on it applying pressure ~ pressure ~ pressure, skewing the objectives in terms favorable to Livestock and Big Game.

    whether steakholders get their viewing areas is nominal — IDFG made it clear that the area is contingent on finding land that will avoid conflict with Livestock & Big Docile Game on their terms. Good luck.

    Whether steakholders agree with the plan or not ~ IDFG gets their legitimacy – or at least our time is mired explaining why it shouldn’t rather than explaining how the plan pays no heed to the ecological values for which this so-called “recovery” was borne. But wait – the time wasn’t spent that way – it wasn’t spent leveraging for actual ecological consideration in management – it was spent asking for some viewing areas on Livestock & SFW’s terms. How much of this manipulation could have been anticipated before this process began ?

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Your are certainly right that the season is backwards if it had any goal other than killing wolves, because a wolf pelt or mount taken during the deer and elk hunt time of year is . . . well, not worth anything

  7. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The state of Idaho is run like a giant game farm by IDFG. The object is to raise as many game animals to shoot as possible and to sell licenses and tags to produce revenue for the IDFG. This will not change until new ways of funding are established. Those of us that like predators such as wolves, as well as game animals, need to explore other ways to fund the IDFG.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Hi Larry,

    Did you see the thread about forming an organization called “Wildlife Watchers?”

    This would absolutely not be an anti-hunting group, but it would also be one that says all wildlife are to be managed in the public trust, not just “game.”

  9. Nate Helm Avatar
    Nate Helm

    Too much spin for me to take.

    Ralph, first of all, the quote you provide from Suzanne is not true. I do not fear debate on the issue. My fear is that a false statement could fuel an effort at misdirection. I will grant Defenders and ICL were not in the majority on the Stakeholder work group. Additionally, they certainly had a difficult hill to climb to ensure their wishes were fully encorporated in the Idaho State Plan. However, they represented their interests well and were provided the information they requested from the IDFG. That is where Suzanne is wrong. She says she did not get a copy of the draft plan outside of the meetings. Suzanne, John, and all members of the stakeholder group were emailed a 2 MB pdf file with the complete draft plan on Wednesday the 10th of October. Mine arrived at 2:32 pm. (Ironically enough I also see a Matt Bullard was sent a copy of the draft as well.) I will not debate her feelings on the direction of the management plan and can certainly understand her frustrations knowing her interests and objectives. But, she had the information available and could have provided additional comments to document her interests as the draft was created. It was made clear as the meetings progressed that we were there to have discussions, identify issues, list priorities, and so on. We were not the ones drafting the plan. As stakeholders, our collective hope, our reason for participation was that we might influence the plan by our input on the front end.

    Ralph, you are totally wrong when you commented that stakeholder input did not come from any conservation group. I will not debate whether or not SFW-Idaho is a conservation organization (even though that is what we call ourselves) but DoW and ICL had input at all of the meetings. In fact, they both were able to get our input better defined after the first meeting when it was apparent the IDFG had not thought the process through very well. Ralph and Matt, you must at least understand that just because all your ideas are not incorporated does not mean you did not have input. I mean, that is at the very least like suggesting if you do not get your way you will not be my friend (see also; second grade).

    be, thank you for recognizing our efforts. You do get a bit over board (I understand your use of absolutes to help suggest reality) but SFW-Idaho did in fact push hard to ensure our interests were represented. I appreciate your giving me credit for apparently working hard. However, it is not very difficult to carry the load of representing the interests of the majority of the “owners” of the wolf when delisted. (Chief Seattle discussion not needed here, just talking about the rights of Idaho citizens regarding the wildlife within their state’s boundary.) It is the interest of the members of SFW-Idaho to ensure the wolf is actively managed and re-listing is prevented.

    As to the trophy issue, you are right. Trophies are usually rare, unique, or “once in a lifetime”. Right now, wolves do not meet that criteria and until such time they will likely fit outside that definition.

    Now to comments from your readers in response to my input…

    If you have an emotional issue with the harvest of wolves we will never agree and I will likely not respond. I am always willing to help those with questions but with that burden I likely cannot help you see why I believe shooting wolves is an acceptable method of management for Idaho.


    Suzanne Stone of Defenders of Wildlife commented directly on nate’s comments, but the way WordPress works, her’s goes to the bottom, so I lifted it up and put it immediately below. Ralph Maughan

    Suzanne Says:
    December 4, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Actually, I still don’t have a copy of the draft plan that we commented on but were not allowed to keep. The version sent to us in October was not the same draft and we have no way to compare the two documents now. Given that we were considered stakeholders, that seems a most reasonable request but one that has been repeatedly ignored by IDFG. My comments and concerns were clearly not included in the final draft, which is a wolf population control plan only couched as a harvest plan. Even the polling remained skewed despite IDFG’s promise to fix the survey’s inherent errors before making it public.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you, Nate.

    Having input and making any sort of difference are two different things. You know, input does not equal output.

    Why are wolves not a trophy? I’ll think many people would prefer to have a fine specimen of a wolf than another set of antlers on the wall.

    I think you had enormous effect on the contents of the plan. Steve Nadeau even said, when Jack Oyler, one of your leaders, complained to him, “I thought that was OK with Nate?”

    This isn’t a “harvest” plan. Harvest does mean something — it strongly implies sustainability, and at relatively constant levels in the long run.

    Elk and wolves are not incompatible at all, but you have done a good job making people believe they are despite no decline in Idaho elk populations as the wolf population has grown. Elk hunting is great in Idaho. It is unfortunate that you scapegoat many kinds of wildlife in order to built your organization.

  11. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Nate Helm is one slick manager; I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him. Perhaps this quote from the Spokesman Review will shed some light on the way he and Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Idaho view wolves and wolf management in Idaho:

    Nate Helm: “The reality is we’d love to see that lawsuit win and see the federal government be tasked with eliminating wolves from Idaho,” said Nate Helm, the former staffer for Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who serves as Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife’s Idaho executive director.

    Mack P. Bray

  12. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Hi Nate – yep, I did get a copy of the plan on Oct 11, but I think what Ralph is referring to is that the plan was presented for the first time to the stakeholders on Sept 5th – more than a month before – and the development of the plan to that point did not have the input of many/all of the stakeholders present at that 9/5 meeting except the Fish and Game folks who crafted it. Forgive me – I do not know how much input was asked for or received prior to 9/5, but you know as well as I that the plan was handed out and then asked to be returned when the meeting concluded. So from this perspective, it appears the deck was stacked. The plan was presented on 9/5 with already a significant amount of work done on it. So the amount of influence in changing direction/momentum of what is already a pretty hefty piece of work was going to be steep, as you say.

    It was clear to me, when I attempted to read and digest as much of that plan in the afternoon that it was in front of me, what the direction IDF&G decided to take – uphill battle all the way, which is why I think it is important to recognize at least the small gains that have been made from a wolf advocates perspective and I have tried to elaborate that here where I feel it is appropriate. But the plan is still the plan that we all now see and it is therefor understandable why so many wolf advocates who were not involved are upset. Thank you for recognizing that ICL (really John Robison deserves all the credit) and Defenders represented their interests well.

  13. Chuck Avatar

    Clearly I don’t believe that IDFG wants to manage these animals (wolves) at all, it seems to them its just another burden for them to work out. Also it does not help that the man running our state (Butch Otter) has ties or had ties with the farming industry and has went on record saying he would be one of the first people to buy a wolf tag. To me that shows he is very short sided and favors one entity over another, which I would think he would want to remain unbiased.
    As far as hunting wolves goes, their pelt only has value from November to around March for selling their furs. Any other time of year are you killing them to eat them??? am not sure how good wolves taste. Yes there will be the few that might have the wolf they just killed mounted at the local taxidermy shop. I am unable to understand any reason for killing these beautiful animals other then to rid the state of them. Elk and deer can coexist just fine, just take a drive thru yellowstone sometime. I am a deer hunter and elk hunter, I always see plenty of wolf tracks while hunting, my wife and I got our deer this year.
    Its kinda funny to set back and listen to all the hunters out there that don’t like wolves point their fingers at the wolves as the reason they did not get their deer or elk. Did they ever come to realize that maybe the climate conditions had something to do with it or maybe poachers came in a killed a few???? no they will just set on their atv’s and blame the wolves. These animals are more important to us left alone. Let mother nature run her course and us humans quit playing god. Yes I oppose a wolf hunting season.

  14. kt Avatar

    What we have here is the perfect example of groups being used (yet again) to provide Green Cover and stir up a “He Says, She Says” controversy – rather than the focus being on what is really occurring here: Greedy Public Lands ranchers realized that they would take too much heat for the Bloodbath that is planned for Idaho wolves, so a Trophy Hunting group in Synch (and in bed) with Larry Craig is now the Public Face of the Wolf Killing movement in Idaho. How pathetic – grown men whining about wolves killing “their” elk. And they are the unwitting pawns of the wealthy and greedy public lands ranchers.

    ICL and Defenders were USED.

    The “rank and file” of SFW are being USED – to achieve the Goals of the livestock industry. At its core, the FG Plan Kills Wolves For Ranchers. SFW is now the public face of industry pursuing its Wolf Eradication goals.

  15. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Lynne, Matt, Ralph,
    Please continue to counterpoint Mr. Helm. As we all should realize with politicians that when the lead comment is how they are anti-spin doctors, as in Nate Helm’s first sentence of his comment, The very next thing out of their mouth will be……………. you guessed it; spin in overdrive.

  16. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    be said “But wait – the time wasn’t spent that way – it wasn’t spent leveraging for actual ecological consideration in management – it was spent asking for some viewing areas on Livestock & SFW’s terms.”

    I can assure you that time was spent by the Defenders and ICL asking for ecological consideration in management. But the plan that was presented clearly did not have any/much consideration for ecological considerations from the outset. So while that point was addressed in detailed comments that were presented to IDF&G, there was a need to try and work with what was presented to make it better. Whether that works or not remains to be seen…

  17. be Avatar

    i am glad to hear that matt, thank you. it is unfortunate that this process has been derailed from that to such a degree.

  18. Suzanne Avatar

    Actually, I still don’t have a copy of the draft plan that we commented on but were not allowed to keep. The version sent to us in October was not the same draft and we have no way to compare the two documents now. Given that we were considered stakeholders, that seems a most reasonable request but one that has been repeatedly ignored by IDFG. My comments and concerns were clearly not included in the final draft, which is a wolf population control plan only couched as a harvest plan. Even the polling remained skewed despite IDFG’s promise to fix the survey’s inherent errors before making it public.

  19. RJ Avatar

    Mr. Maughan- How many breeding pairs/population level do you suggest is appropriate to have in the State? If 10-15 is not appropriate, what is appropriate? Since Yellowstone elk are reportedly at half or less their population level before wolf reintroduction, in a artifically controlled environment, and the average age of the elk population is reportedly nearly two years higher, with quite poor calf recruitment, is it really your position that wolves have no impact on elk populations?

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Given that the plan foresees reducing the current 600+ wolves to as few as 104 wolves, I won’t even speculate.

  21. JB Avatar


    I don’t want to answer for Ralph, but I think nearly everyone here agrees that wolves have some impact on Elk–it’s the extent of that impact that we would argue over. The Northern herd is down–but it’s down from a near historic high of 20,000+ that was clearly not sustainable. As Ralph and Robert Hoskins have pointed out in many other places on this blog, other Elk populations are thriving–even where wolves are present. To be specific, they’re thriving while be killed by wolves, competing with sheep/cattle, and being hunted by humans. Thus, the Northern herd’s decline seems fairly anomalous. If you check Idaho and Wyoming’s websites, you’ll see that in fact they have more elk then they would like in many management areas. So controlling (i.e. hunting, killing) wolves to take the pressure off elk is nonsensical at this point.

    I’m confused over you comment about YNP being a “artificially controlled environment”? Can you explain what you mean?


  22. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    If you would take some time to collect the data the northern herd is actually near objective as desired by Montana Fish & Game and recruitment for 2006 (the latest available that I could find) was 24 per 100. Very good considering the sustained drought in the Yellowstone area.

  23. elkhunter Avatar

    Jeff E: Lets hope it can stay at that level considering for 4 years in a row recruitment was 12-14 calves.

    “Estimated sex and age ratios for the population were 24 calves and 20 bulls per 100 cows. Calf ratios averaged 20 calves per 100 cows inside the park (i.e., Gardiner to Lamar Valley) and 27 calves per 100 cows outside the park (i.e., Gardiner to Dome Mountain). The overall ratio of 24 calves per 100 cows is higher than the late-winter ratios of 12-14 calves per 100 cows during 2002-2005, and within the range of 22 to 34 calves per 100 cows observed during the previous six years”

    It might be important to know that this is the year after the big wolf die off of I believe it was around %40 of YNP wolves. Thats at least what the study says.


  24. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    It might also be important to note as, was noted in this report, the two year correlation between severe drought conditions and subsequent low requirement.

  25. Jay Avatar

    I agree with some of the stuff being stated on here, but disagree with more, on both sides of the issue. Everyone seems to be jumping into “their” corner, be it pro- or anti-wolf, and claiming this plan is either a death warrant for all but “104” wolves, or an important step towards sound wolf management. I’d tend it’s somewhere in the middle–yes wolves will be killed, and yes this is what wolf management will entail. One thing I’m curious about: when Montana comes out with their plan that says they intend to hunt wolves, will they be bashed like Idaho? Up to now, everyone has touted Montana as being more wolf friendly, and their state plan more sound. However, looking at the numbers, in 2006 Montana controlled more wolves than Idaho (53 to 45) for fewer cattle (32 to 41–more sheep killed in Idaho, though), despite having fewer than half the wolves that Idaho has (316 to 673 as reported at end of year). I’m not mathmetician, but it would seem Montana is killing wolves at more than double the rate (when expressed as the number of controls/wolf, pre-mortality) of Idaho. Pretty interesting, I think–maybe they’re not the bloodthirsty killers everyone is making them out to be?

  26. Layton Avatar

    Face it — on the “for the wolf” side that is so well represented on this blog, killing EVEN ONE wolf will never be favored —- let alone any sort of a number to bring them under any semblance of control.

    To advance any sort of a plan that would fail to let them breed at will and kill all the elk that they want to is NOT something that will ever meet with favor here.

    The Idaho plan is not right, the Wyoming plan is not right and the Montana plan will not be right. Agreements made in the past are not honored — ANY control measures that are suggested now will not meet with any favorable response. Was anyone out there REALLY expecting anything else??


  27. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    Layton – this is a blog hosted by a pro-wolf person. I read it because it’s the only pro-wolf website I know that those of us in remote areas in Idaho, or wolf supporters across the U.S. and the world, can communicate without having to listen to the rant from people who don’t like wolves or any predators, and will never be convinced otherwise.

    However, you and elkhunter and Nate Helm remind us of the human segment that has yet to grasp that something besides an antlered head that can be mounted on the wall has value.

    From your above post, it’s obvious that you don’t understand wolves or the tough life that they live. I learned a long time ago to fight battles that one can win and never get into a pissing match with a skunk.

  28. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Layton – I feel sorry for you. You obviously are working with minimal knowledge when it comes to predator/prey relationships (and quite possibly minimal knowledge in all areas of life). However I’d like to address one of your comments concerning wolves breeding out of control and killing all the “hunters” elk. I, nor anyone else on this blog will ever convince you that wolves, elk, and human hunters (including Elk Harvester) can co-exist and have been for thousands of years, but you really ought to read as much literature as you can about the wolf/moose relationship on Isle Royale National Park. Isle (meaning island) Royale has had a population of both wolves and moose since @ 1949. Not to bore you with details but the island is roughly 8 miles wide and 49 miles long. Guess what? In 50 + years the population of 14 – 50 wolves hasn’t killed the population of 500 – 2000 + moose. Based on your logic the wolves should have by now bred to over carrying capacity and wiped out the moose and should be cannabilizing themselves. Now replace Isle Royale with Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and let’s say 2000 wolves (on the high side) with 100,000 + elk (not counting deer, moose, etc..)……..

  29. Charles Newton Avatar

    Layton, you make it sound like the wolf population is outta control. At what number is the population under control???
    The big problem is the powers that be that want control of the wolf population and will not be happy until the wolves are killed off completely. It would seem that the powers that be are heaviely influnced by the cattle & sheep farmers.

  30. Layton Avatar

    Jeff N.

    First of all — Please show me where I said ANYTHING about “hunter’s” elk!!

    Here’s your quote:
    “However I’d like to address one of your comments concerning wolves breeding out of control and killing all the “hunters” elk. ”

    Isle Royale has been talked about for a lot of years- a lot by those that don’t know much about biology themselves. If I was referencing Isle Royale, folks here would be all over me because it’s moose, not elk that are the prey species, but we’ll go with it anyway.

    You said “Based on your logic the wolves should have by now bred to over carrying capacity and wiped out the moose and should be cannibalizing themselves.”

    I’m not really sure where you made this leap to “my logic”, but let’s play with it anyway.

    Funny you should mention that, here’s a quote from a Science Daily article that would say maybe the logic you attribute to me isn’t so far off:

    “Wolves are responding to the dwindling of their food supply as they have in the past: with internecine warfare.

    Last year, Vucetich witnessed members of the island’s East Pack attack and kill the alpha male of the neighboring Chippewa Pack. This year, they got his widow, the alpha female.”

    You can read the complete article here;

    It also has some interesting things to say about what is happening to the moose population on Isle Royale. Seems that the moose population is at an ALL TIME low and the wolves are forming another pack! I thought the popular thinking around here was that wolves didn’t even breed when the supply of prey species was low.

    By the way Jeff, Please don’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for me and my “minimal knowledge in all areas of life”. You need all the time you can get to come up with more ASSumptions.

    Matt Bray!!! Can you help me here?? They are attacking me with CHEAP SHOTS!! 8^)


  31. Layton Avatar


    I DO think the wolf population is out of control — mostly because nobody is doing anything to control it!!

    Sure, the dreaded FWS picks off some of the worst offenders once in awhile, but the general population keeps increasing by somewhere around 20% a year — and that’s only what is admitted to — of course we know that packs without radio collars don’t count on that census — don’t we!

    You said: “The big problem is the powers that be that want control of the wolf population and will not be happy until the wolves are killed off completely.”

    C’mon, be a bit reasonable here — this is subscribing to the same hysteria that would have you think you can’t even TALK about wolves in certain parts of Idaho for fear of having a gun pulled on you — poppycock!

    If these wolves are even 10% as smart as they are supposed to be hunters won’t EVER even be able to do much more than hold the line on the population.

    I don’t know what a good number is, I really don’t think anybody (from EITHER side) knows. I do know that the number that the “for” side seems to want — all that the other wolves can make — is no more right than that attributed to the “against” side — which is 0.

    I would also like to think that somewhere out there are a few people that realize that neither of these numbers will work.


  32. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Layton – The moose are at an all time low because the warm winters are allowing parasites (a tic) to infest the moose. This tic normally dies off in cold winters but is now a major factor in why the moose population is in decline. Another cause is the fact that the vegatation patterns on the island are changing, not in the favor of the moose. The wolves are engaging in interpack strife because of the dwindling moose population and the competition for food. The article does a pretty good job in showing that as the moose population goes, so goes the wolf population.

    Layton…don’t B.S. me..I’ve read your posts before.. I know where you stand regarding hunters, wolves, and elk.

    Somebody…please help me here!…..Noooooo!

  33. Layton Avatar

    Lynne Stone,

    I realize that this is a “pro wolf” blog and I think it’s pretty cool of Ralph to allow open discussion on the wolf subject. I’ve expressed that in the past — several times.

    I’ve also pointed out that (IMNSHO) it would be really boring if there was only one viewpoint expressed here.

    I think it’s to bad that some folks can’t discuss things without resorting to personal attacks – hey, I can handle them, sometimes I even fire back, I just think it’s kind of a sign of weakness when one has to resort to that.


  34. Layton Avatar


    Look at some of the other articles that the article in the link I gave point to.

    They say things like “As the moose population struggles against the heat and ticks, the wolves have thrived, largely because it’s been easier for them to bring down their biggest prey. “The wolves are killing about twice as many moose as they did last year,”

    That one was from (I think) 2005. The population of the wolves goes up and the pop. of the moose goes down. But — you already said that!!

    Can you refresh my memory on where I stand on “hunters, wolves and elk”?

  35. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Layton – I’ve read the latest articles on Isle Royale, I have books on the shelf behind me written by Mech and Peterson (Peterson’s latest) regarding Isle Royale. Moose go up wolves go up, moose go down wolves go down. It’s not a perfect dynamic. I can imagine that weak moose means easier pickins’ for the wolf but eventually the trend is downward for the wolves as the moose numbers decline.

    But it’s not really about Isle Royale, even though the wolves haven’t killed all the moose on an island for 50 + years. This really is their only prey base, although in the summer thet do rely on beaver, which based on changes in vegetation are also dwindling in numbers.

    Let’s recap here…wolves and moose on Isle Royale since @1949. No outside pressure or influences from hunters, livestock, deer, elk. Tics, warm winters, and vegetation playing a major role in declining moose and beaver numbers. Wolves declining along with the moose and beaver population (oh..I forgot…a “new pack is forming”..and somewhere on the island a big bull moose is banging the hell out of a cow moose, so we’re even.)

    But the wolves in ID, MT, and WY are going to wipe out the Elk.

    Layton, explain to me how the wolves will “kill all the elk they want” until the elk are gone. Give me some data that supports this. You see, wolves out west have elk, moose, deer, beaver, cattle, sheep to eat.

    You said it…back it up.

  36. Buffaloed Avatar

    How many times do we have to have this argument about wolves and elk? Let’s get back to discussing this plan which obviously throws science out the window. If the plan doesn’t call for or at least hope for ways to reduce the population to the minimum number of wolves then show me how. The number of >104 wolves and >15 packs is thrown around in that plan over and over again when there is no acknowledgment that wolves play a vital ecological role. I do think that wolves can sustain a certain amount of hunting but this doesn’t call for a sustainable harvest, it calls for a massive harvest, one that is not sustainable and one that will likely cause more livestock conflicts…not less.

    When asked, IDFG people have always said that they will manage wolves like mountain lion and bears. Well, wolves are not like mountain lions or bears which number 3000 and 20,000 respectively in Idaho alone. Why is 700 too many and why should the target be >104? This is bullshit. Why should wolves be managed with a heavier hand? They don’t have nearly the effect on livestock or ungulate populations that weather, habitat or other sources of mortality and yet they are treated like some disease which threatens everyone’s way of life.

    This is obviously political game management at its worst.

  37. George Haney Avatar
    George Haney

    All great replies, with a lot of theory. With me and my group it’s where the rubber meets the pavement. We are real hunters, outdoorsmen and real tree hugging environmentalists, who have hunted our best and have not taken an Elk now for the second year. No BS. Our hunt area now has pleanty wolves. Our hunt area now has literally no Elk. Talk all the theory you want but our empty freezers are fact.

  38. JB Avatar

    I agree with Buffaloed–but I think Layton’s concerns get to the heart of WHY this unbalanced plan is being advocated in the first place.

    Let’s throw out the wolf-livestock issue for a second and just focus on wolf-elk/deer/moose issue. SFW and other groups claim that wolves need to be limited because either (depending on the group) 1-they are killing all the elk, or 2-they will kill all the elk. We will disregard, for the moment, the fact that wolves have co-evolved with this species over thousands of years and that wolf-prey relationships around the world seem to negate this claim. Despite these facts, I’ll concede that we don’t know the extent to which wolves will affect elk populations over the long term.

    In light of our lack of knowledge, one reasonable compromise would be to conduct an experiment. Divide Idaho into several regions, preferably with considerable physical obstacles to wolf migration, and heavily “manage” (i.e. kill) wolves in some of the regions, while fully protecting them in others. Run this experiment for at least a decade, and monitor wolf and elk populations in both.

    Then the wolf-lovers and wolf-killers can find something else to argue about. 😉

  39. JB Avatar


    The reason people are unhappy about the Idaho plan is not because they will kill wolves, it is because limiting them to 10-15 packs is totally unreasonable and not justified by the “best available science” as is specified under the ESA.

    Take Minnesota for instance. In 1978 wolves were reclassified under the ESA; wolves in Minnesota were listed as threatened, everywhere else in the conterminous lower 48 they were listed as endangered. Minnesota initially protested, arguing that wolf populations were healthy in Minnesota (they were estimated at 1,235 in the 1978-1979). FWS disagreed. In fact, they argued that one of the reasons wolves should be protected was that “in recent years there has been a decline in deer, the main prey species.”

    Thus, more than 1,200 wolves in Northern Minnesota was not adequate to ensure the species long-term survival minus ESA protections in the state. Now, fast forward 20 years and all of a sudden 10-15 packs (roughly 100 wolves) is considered adequate to ensure wolves survive in Idaho? This reasoning is not supported by science, and if flies in the face of FWS’s previous listing criteria regarding wolves. In short, it is bogus.

    I can’t speak for others, but I frankly don’t care if a few wolves or even a few hundred are killed in a hunt, so long as the population remains viable. However, in my mind, a viable population is closer to 1,000 wolves than to 100. FWS’s previous decisions and own science would seem to back this up.


    Minnesota wolf populations:
    1978 Reclassification:

  40. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Is this not the scenario currently taking place in the YNP and surrounding areas?

  41. Layton Avatar

    Jeff N.,

    Again, you put words in my mouth. You said:

    “Layton, explain to me how the wolves will “kill all the elk they want” until the elk are gone. Give me some data that supports this”

    I DID NOT say “until the elk are gone” — didn’t say that, never have. Do I believe that wolves are adversely affecting the ungulate population in Idaho?? Absolutely!

    Do I have documentation yet? Kinda, but you have to read and do a bit of research. One sentence out of a management summary from F&G here in Idaho (quoted widely on this site) says that elk are “within objectives” in parts of the state, you have to dig out the truth through the politically correct language in the rest of the report. If you read the reports from the individual areas, you find that many zones are being affected adversely.


    Just a small part of what you said in your last post, but one that I am extremely curious about:

    “when there is no acknowledgment that wolves play a vital ecological role.”

    What “vital ecological role” is that? I’ve asked this before, the answers I get are — biological diversity — more trees, cuz they kill more elk — etc. I have really never seen an answer that comes close to the “vital” definition. Can you provide one?? I’m not being a smart ass here, I would really like a logical answer.



  42. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    George Haney wrote
    December 5, 2007 at 9:19 am

    All great replies, with a lot of theory. With me and my group it’s where the rubber meets the pavement. We are real hunters, outdoorsmen and real tree hugging environmentalists, who have hunted our best and have not taken an Elk now for the second year. No BS. Our hunt area now has pleanty wolves. Our hunt area now has literally no Elk. Talk all the theory you want but our empty freezers are fact.
    – – – – – – – –

    Ralph Maughan wrote: So are you saying Idaho Fish and Game is falsifying their reports on hunter success rates, number of elk taken, population counts, etc.?

  43. Layton Avatar


    “I’ll concede that we don’t know the extent to which wolves will affect elk populations over the long term.”

    Thanks, but is that an “admission” that other wolf advocates are willing to make. If it is, I haven’t seen it.

    “In light of our lack of knowledge, one reasonable compromise would be to conduct an experiment. Divide Idaho into several regions, preferably with considerable physical obstacles to wolf migration, and heavily “manage” (i.e. kill) wolves in some of the regions, while fully protecting them in others. Run this experiment for at least a decade, and monitor wolf and elk populations in both.”

    This would be a hell of an idea!! But, I’m afraid one that will never be implemented, it makes to much sense!! The only big hole I can see in it is that the “obstacles to migration” don’t seem to be there.

    Idaho F&G requested (last year or the year before) to do just that in ONE hunting zone here in Idaho that is having terrible calf recruitment problems — they got turned down flat!!

    As I said up above on this thread — to threaten the life of EVEN ONE WOLF in Idaho seems to be an idea that the advocates won’t tolerate here in Idaho.


  44. JB Avatar

    Jeff E-

    In a word, no. It appears they are allowing a near free-for-all outside of the park. I would suggest that any experiment would have to cut across public and private lands; if you limited wolves only to parks and wilderness areas then you could claim that wolf/elk success or failure was due to factors associated with these areas (e.g. lower road density). In a true experiment, the designation of management areas would be random, but I think you’d run into problems with in/out migration. I would suggest wolves should be fully protected (at the minimum not hunted) in half the state.

    I was being half-facetious when I offered this idea; but it’s still much better than the current plan. You could allow “hunters” to blast away until their “hearts” are content in some regions, while maintaining healthy populations (and hopefully, corridors) in other regions. To be realistic for a moment, I don’t think anything like this has a chance at passing.


  45. Chuck Avatar

    See there goes the finger pointing to the wolves, because we have not gotten our elk in two years, I am sure the elk are not effected by mother nature, climate cycles, hunting pressure. I have watched elk herds graze in the same valleys with wolves, grizzly bears, buffalo, antelope, moose. I believe they can all get along.

  46. Buffaloed Avatar

    One of many ecological roles that wolves play is the one you mentioned leading to the way that prey species use their habitat.

    Another one is increasing the health of prey species in general by eliminating the individuals that are less healthy. This also hastens the pace of evolution as well. It’s kind of the opposite of diabetes in children. It used to be that children with early onset diabetes died before they could reproduce thus the incidence was lower, now children can survive and have families increasing the genetic component of diabetes in the population. It’s a controversial hypothesis, I know, but since there is a genetic component that has lost the selective pressures it will increase in the population.

    These same kinds of considerations should be made with wolves and prey populations. They improve the health of prey populations over time. Sometimes populations of prey in certain areas may increase or decrease but that is related to many factors not just wolves.

    I think that one of the big controversies revolve around the fluctuations in populations. People seem to have become accustomed to the idea that populations should be stable and want populations to remain static. It just isn’t that way nor should it be. The Clearwater area is an example of this. There is little likelihood that elk populations will increase in population because of the reduction of wolves. The population is probably near or at its carrying capacity because the habitat is not capable of supporting more elk until fires clear more habitat or some other habitat changes occur. It’s like expecting that elk should thrive in the desert. The Clearwater may be a forest but that is not the preferred habitat of elk. Elk eat grass not trees and grass is limited in the Clearwater.

  47. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Gerorge Haney
    The irrefutable biological fact is” there would not be plenty of wolves if there were not also plenty of prey.

  48. JB Avatar

    Can’t remember who requested info on the ecological role that wolves play, but there’s a link on right hand side of this page under “Wolves” called “Idaho Wolves: Myths & Facts,” with a bit of info. Here’s some of what it says:

    “Wolves play a key role in their ecosystem by culling weak and old elk and deer (Smith, Peterson and Houston 2003) and reducing the long-term concentration of elk herds on sensitive meadows and wetlands (Ripple and Beshta 2004). In what is known as the cascade effect, the presence of wolves affects a multitude of species within the ecosystem. Elk, wary of the new top predator, have altered their grazing behaviour. With less grazing pressure from elk, streambed vegetation such as willow and aspen are regenerating after decades of over-browsing. As the trees are restored, they create better habitat for native birds and fish, beaver and other species. In addition, wolves have reduced the Park’s coyote population by as much as 50 percent in some areas, which led to increased populations of pronghorn antelope and red fox (Crabtree and Sheldon 1999). In short, wolves play an important role in nature and their presence enhances native biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. “

  49. Wendy Avatar

    George Haney

    I’m glad you posted. I understand that to you it looks as though the coming of the wolf has caused the going of the elk. I would submit that you are both right and wrong about that.

    I am sorry you did not get your elk this year (or last) and sorry that your tradition and expectation has been upended. And I believe you are correct that there are likely fewer elk in your “hunt area” than there used to be.

    However if there are wolves in your “hunt area” then there are elk, too. Yes, wolves will take other prey but mainly they follow elk. I suggest (and I mean no disrespect to your hunting skills) that the elk which have survived the arrival of the wolves have acquired or re-learned the skills needed to avoid wolves, and thus how to avoid you, too. The elk no longer behave like livestock: they move more often, use areas they never used to use, and may vacate your “hunt area” for weeks at a time, only to return later.

    Wolves will follow elk. If elk numbers begin to drop, hunting becomes more difficult and they must travel further to find the elk, which brings them inevitably into conflict with other wolves doing the same thing. This results in the death of wolves by other wolves. This is how wolf populations regulate their own numbers and thus avoid reducing their own prey base to an unsustainable level.

    Luckily, as a human, you have many more choices available to you than a wolf or an elk. I hope that you will travel elsewhere to fill your freezer with elk meat and I hope you do not have to travel too far.

  50. be Avatar

    JB & Buffaloed,

    thank you ! the illustration of the ecological benefits of wolves is a point that is too frequently ignored ~ it is also a point, i might add, that has absolutely NO BEARING on the state management plan. for those whose hopes for recovery were that Western ecosystems would once again enjoy the restorative influence of this top predator ~ those hopes are dashed/under assault with this state management — a state management, and essentially a de facto privatization, that negatively implicates the ecological well-being of all of our FEDERAL public lands.

  51. Jay Avatar


    Let me be up front right off the bat that I’m for wolves–all predators, for that matter–and elk, deer, etc. That said, you’re right that the ecological benefit of wolves “has absolutely NO BEARING on the state management plan”. This is a management plan, not a Wildlife Monographs about wolves. It’s the nuts and bolts of how wolves will be managed. You won’t find an “ecological benfits” section in the state elk plan, either. It’s not the intent of the document. If you want that information, you can find it in JWM, CJZ, Oikos, Ecology, J. of Mammalogy, etc.

  52. be Avatar


    perhaps the nuts and bolts of wolf management would be benefited by integrating and understanding the effects that wolves will have on wildlife habitat in a way that implicated management – beyond the shortsighted and anthropogenically contrived demands of an industry lobby.

    perhaps you’re right ~ monographs of an industrial lobby or a whining rancher ought inform the intent of a management plan more than those of wildlife or ecology.

    the intent of the document is to kill wolves ~ they do so by claiming wolves conflict with livestock and ungulate objectives. this is a shortsighted account which puts the fulcrum of value on everything but the wolf.

    that is wrong – the intent of the document should change.

  53. Jay Avatar

    So by that rationale, their elk management plan–which revolves around numbers of elk and levels of harvest, or killing elk–is also wrong? How come nobody is crying foul on the elk plan? Or even more broadly, why isn’t anybody up in arms over the fact we kill close to 20% of the elk population annually in the state?
    I’m not in disagreement that there should be more value placed on a wildlife species, but the State Plan that was accepted in 2002 says that wolves will be allowed to persist where they don’t cause conflict, but would be managed accordingly where they do. This draft plan spells out how that will be carried out. Until the State Plan changes, IDFG is pretty tightly constrained in their management.

  54. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    George Haney – your post about not getting your elk and blaming it on wolves, reminds me of a bumper sticker that says: “Anti-wolf — another name for poor hunter”.

    If you need help in finding an elk next fall, let me know. Am looking at a herd of elk right now out the cabin window, despite the fact I saw a pack of wolves a mile away this morning.

    Idaho has plenty of elk. Elk meat is delicious — ask the wolves! — and preferable over eating beef steers that have been standing in 12″ of manure in a feedlot waiting to be slaughtered.

  55. Don Riley Avatar
    Don Riley

    Geroge Haney,

    Would you please let us know what hunt area you are referring to?



  56. Chuck Avatar

    George I can also tell you from experience elk hunting on the Oregon coast where there are no wolves, the elk would change their habits and move to another area, I can’t tell you why they did that, but they did.

  57. be Avatar


    no qualms with “killing” per se, nor hunting. my problem is with the “conflict” perspective being wholesale represented/prioritized and the unique actionable standard, and how that plays out on federal public land – i.e. the management of public lands and wildlife on both federal and state land remains in the hands of a few industrial associations whereas the greater public has no ground to stand on given the priorities spelled out.

    absent predator – elk’s “contribution” is negative – hunting elk is good, from my perspective ~ and “problems” with elk are being remedied given wolf re-introduction. they’re wild again.

    even the wolf viewing areas are contingent on the ability to find land that will not have livestock or elk “conflicts” ~ and if anyone caught at either of the meetings thus far, nadeau points out that these wolf viewing areas are likely to have to be in accepted and laid out on private land. this is representative of Livestock and Big Docile Game’s private interest almost completely eclipsing that of conservation interest or public at large as it relates to the management of public wildlife on public lands. public interest held hostage to that of a few private parties.

    having tread on the plan which recognizes the contribution of wolves to the public environmental interest – via ecosystem restoration etc. – would at least signal a meaningful exercise of influence for conservation folk who care about the proper management of wildlife in general. that did not happen. if you are going to manage wolves in the shadow of other species, in reaction to ungulates ~ why not make the shadow larger and manage as a response to a greater swath of wildlife of which IDFG is charged with management ? why not also include wolves’ positive contributions ?

    because nadeau, Livestock, and SFW don’t see our federal and state public land as a lab experiment ~ they only see a production line.

  58. JB Avatar

    The really damning evidence in this plan is the focus on immediate reduction of wolf numbers, despite IDFG not having any good reason to do so. Again, look at the MN plan. They went from 1,200 wolves to 3,500 and the plan isn’t to allow hunting until 5 years after they’ve been delisted. This makes Idaho’s plan to reduce wolves down to 10-15 packs seem ludicrous, by comparison. It is clear to everyone that they are caving to the loudest shouters with the largest wallets.

  59. Jay Avatar


    Just to clarify…the measuring stick is breeding pairs, not packs. Also, it states explicity that 15 breeding pairs is the absolute minimum. The plan also states “furthermore, optimal hunting opportunity and flexibility in conflict resolution can be achieved
    by maintaining >20 breeding pairs.” I totaled up the ranges in the DAU table, and they’re allowing for a range of 15-54 breeding pairs. Based on that, it would appear there’s no intention of reducing the number of wolves to the minimum.

  60. JB Avatar


    Thanks for correcting my mis-statement–I assure you it was unintentional. However, I don’t see how this makes the plan seem any more reasonable. Let’s assume IDFG does not allow hunters to reduce wolves to the minimum # of breeding pairs. In fact, let’s be generous and say they aim for 30 breeding pairs. If I’m counting correctly, the 2006 report indicates there are currently a minimum of 69 packs, at about 6 wolves per pack (the report notes that there are also 261 “unknown wolves”). Let’s again be generous and assume that each breeding pair is accompanied by 4 other wolves (that is, they are all packs). Thirty packs/pairs times 6 wolves per pack = 180 wolves. Again, I point to Minnesota who said that 1,200+ in the Northern 1/3 of the state was not sufficient to avoid listing and, despite having 3,500 wolves, the MN plan called for a 5-year waiting period (after delisting) before hunting.

    Yet, with 700 wolves Idaho can delist and begin a process that will likely reduce wolves to well under 1/2 their current numbers? I just don’t see how any court is going to buy that.

  61. Jay Avatar

    Two things that give me hope: the State Plan (not the pop. management plan discussed here) says wolves will be allowed to persist where they don’t cause conflict; also, IDFG has been considerably less heavy handed when issuing kill orders to Wildlife Services for wolf conflicts compared to our neighbor to the north (which I brought up in an earlier post). Considering these facts, I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re not going to see a wholesale slaughter like everyone seems to think here.

  62. matt bullard Avatar
    matt bullard

    Jay – the first point you made is well taken, but the harvest plan seems to be in direct conflict with the statement that is made in management plan (that wolves will be allowed to persist in areas of low to no conflict). This was one of the major concerns we raised with the harvest plan since areas that IDF&G identified as low to no conflict still listed wolves as having some degree of hunting pressure. The idea conveyed to me was that hunting 1) does no preclude non-consumptive use (viewing) and 2) does not mean that wolves will be eliminated from said low/no conflict area.

    I think it is clear that the intent of the plan is to remove a lot of wolves and the way they seem to be trying to do that is to increase the perception of conflict, both with cattle and big game, to justify the nature of the plan which is written, as has been pointed out, with conflict as a central principle of management.

  63. JB Avatar

    Jay–I sincerely hope you’re right.


  64. Heard Enough Avatar
    Heard Enough

    There is a major disconnect between the state wolf management plan and the population (harvest) management plan; the former says the state will manage to maintain 10-15 packs, whereas the harvest plan manages for breeding pairs. They are not the same and it seems the harvest plan should be a subset of the other. This should be noted by those groups that will litigate the upcoming delisting proposal as the FWS contends that the states have agreed to manage for breeding pairs. Technically, ID has not agreed to do so.

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Brian Ertz