Howling Over Federal Plan to Expand Wolf Killing

This is from a special section of the New York Times today regarding the new 10j rule. Howling Over Federal Plan to Expand Wolf Killing. By Andrew C. Revkin.

The article’s author gets credit for writing “In a news release, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the states needed more flexibility to allow them to “manage” and “remove” wolves (euphemisms for shooting them) where their predatory skills are too effective.”

I haven’t seen any other msm reporter state the obvious that “management flexibility” means shooting more wolves.


More. Here is the Natural Resource Defense Council’s statement on the new 10j.

CONTACTS: Craig Noble at 415-875-6100 or Louisa Willcox at 406-222-9561 or (406) 581-3839 (cell)

Conservation Groups Challenge Bush Administration Wolf Killing Plan

“It’s going to be open season on wolves,” says Natural Resources Defense Council

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (January 24, 2008) – Conservation groups say they will file a lawsuit in federal court immediately to block a rule announced today by the Bush administration that will allow the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to kill most of the threatened wolves in the Northern Rockies. The new “10(j)” rule widens a loophole in the Endangered Species Act that permits the killing of hundreds of wolves even though the animals are considered at risk of extinction. State plans to hunt, trap and shoot wolves from airplanes threaten to reverse one of the greatest wildlife recovery stories in U.S. history, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“The Bush administration is giving a blank check to the states to slaughter wolves for doing what they need to do to make a living – which is eating deer and elk,” said the NRDC’s Louisa Willcox. “The government spent millions of dollars to reintroduce wolves to the wild in the Northern Rockies, and now it wants to spend millions more to kill them. That’s crazy.”

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will publish the rule in the Federal Register on January 28. The rule allows states to kill wolves that they believe are adversely affecting on elk. But elk numbers in the region are at an all-time high. Despite this fact, the states of Wyoming and Idaho have made it clear that they intend to manage wolves at the minimum allowable level, leaving alive as few as 600 of the 1,500 wolves now living in the region. According to the rule, aerial gunning and shooting from the ground will be used to kill wolves.

The rule precedes an expected decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list next month. After that happens, wolf numbers could be reduced to as few as 300.

“I’m prepared to bid for the first ticket to shoot a wolf myself,” said Idaho Gov. Butch Otter at a press conference at the state Capitol in Boise on January 11, 2007.

Wyoming officials say they ultimately aim to kill two-thirds of the approximately 300 wolves on state land according to an article published in the Billings Gazette on June 11, 2007, leaving about 100 animals alive – the minimum number allowed by federal law.

The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has been widely hailed as a major success story. It has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations, according to NRDC. Many thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year, the group said.

“Wolves are one of the main attractions for visitors at Yellowstone National Park. People are amazed and awed when they see them,” said Willcox. “Their recovery after more than a century of extermination is nothing short of miraculous. Turning back the clock would be a huge mistake.”

Conservation groups oppose the revised 10(j) wolf killing rule and the decision to delist wolves because the wolves’ numbers, genetic diversity and geographic spread have not increased enough to ensure their long-term survival. But the loophole announced today allows the slaughter to begin even before the wolves are formally delisted. It also will allow the state and federal governments to continue killing wolves if conservation groups are successful in slowing or stopping delisting through litigation.

In revising the 10(j) rule, the Fish and Wildlife Service says it needs to make killing wolves easier to protect big game from wolf predation. However, current rules already allow wolves to be killed if the states can show that they are the “primary” cause of elk, moose and deer depletion. The new rule allows wolves to be killed anywhere big game herds are considered below desired management levels, even though studies show that elk populations are particularly high and not in jeopardy.

Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated in most of the West by the 1930’s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and part of Idaho in 1995-96. As many as 1,500 wolves now live in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

“The federal government is giving the states a license to kill under almost any circumstance,” said Willcox. “It’s going to be open season on wolves.”

# # #

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing







  1. kt Avatar

    … You gotta love how Butch Otter has become an Icon of Barbarity. Just wait until the New York Times hears about Butch and the Idaho legislature’s plan to establish Kill Zones for Bighorn Sheep to satiate the greed of all 17 or so public lands welfare Woolgrowers in Idaho.

    Cattlemen and Woolgrower puppet Dirk Kempthorne, also Out of Idaho, heads Fish and Wildlife Service that proposed this outrageous 10 j Rule for wolf slaughter.

    And behind the scenes, in the closet (and in the hip pocket of public lands welfare cattle and sheep men) is Larry Craig – whose long-time public lands rancher adoration and wolf eradication dreams are coming to fruition as the Bush administration accelerates destruction of the natural world in its Latter Days .. before, let’s hope, 2009 where they all will be we hauled off to Jail, war crimes trials, sharing a cell with Jack Abramoff (oops – Larry might like that) …

  2. Shelley Avatar

    It’s beyond my comprehension what they are thinking to consider or allow such barbarism. How horribly sad.

  3. Monte Avatar

    You know, I was in favor of the reintroduction of wolves and remain in favor, admittedly, Idaho’s plan sounds a bit extreme, but when reintroduction occurred there was a promise of state management once the population reached recovery goals. It is starting to sound like many wolf supporters are trying to back out of the deal. Wolves should be managed by the states and hunting should be allowed. If you don’t like the way your state is managing the wolves, take action in your state, don’t file endless lawsuits. I knew the radical enviro groups would file lawsuit after lawsuit to stop any hunting of wolves, but I thought we could all be reasonable and recognize that there is a place for wolves, big game, livestock, and people. I think I was wrong.

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    One needs to understand that in the states–it’s certainly the case in Wyoming–there is no legal mechanism to challenge biologically unwise, special interest politically driven agency decisions. Politically, state government is driven by the livestock and minerals oligarchies, and citizens have no voice at all.

    Look at Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds. By every biological and ecological measure, feeding elk is stupid. Just plain stupid. Yet we’ve been artificially feeding elk for almost a century. Why? Because ranchers have G&F by the shorthairs; feedgrounds keep elk off ranchers’ grass. That’s what it’s about.

    It’s the same with wolves. When I first came to Wyoming 15 years ago and got involved in conservation, I began to study wolves. Spent three winters in the Yukon doing just that, and studying wolf control too. What a goddamn mess that was.

    Based upon my knowledge, I did everything possible to convince G&F to approach wolf management sustainably, and acknowledge that there are numerous positive benefits to having wolves around.

    Unfortunately, that was the reasonable approach. Reason and wolf management do not go together on the other side. It’s a combination of emotional hatred for wolves and the determination of a fading oligarchy (livestock industry) to hang onto its illegitimate privileges. These people are determined to wipe wolves out, the way it was 70 years ago. So, there will be lawsuits to prevent it.

    Yes, part of the deal with reintroduction was delisting and state management. But also, part of the deal was that state management would be legally and scientifically defensible. That is not the case either in Wyoming or Idaho.

    Given the politics, there is no other option than going to court.

  5. Ronnie Avatar

    A little off subject, but, I wonder why a decade later, wildlife biologists are still chasing down and radio collaring wolves? Doug Smith, whom I have great respect for, said early on that it was his goal to get the population back up to sustainable numbers, then let wolves be wolves. It is really frustrating to see animals collared for research that doesn’t help the species, but is purely to satisfy the curiosity of the researchers..

  6. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    It’s called job security. I brought that same subject up at the 10 year wolf recovery meeting in Mammoth Hot Springs a few years ago and Doug Smith gave me a vague BS answer that “more knowledge was needed about wolves.” That means that they are milking the study for more money and more graduate degrees. Yellowstone wolf researchers act like the wolves belong to them and treat them like livestock.

  7. TallTrent Avatar

    Monte states, “Idaho’s plan sounds a bit extreme, but when reintroduction occurred there was a promise of state management once the population reached recovery goals.” Part of that is correct. Idaho’s plan is extreme. Wyoming’s is worse. That being said, state management was promised once the population reached recovery goals and when each state had a management plan for long-term sustainable in the Northern Rockies. The concern that I have, and many others have, about delisting is not about the current numbers but the management plans and the future that those plans will create for wolves.

  8. JB Avatar

    Monte: Like you, I am hopeful for a solution that allows the states to manage wolves. That being said, the state plans risk reducing wolves to a level that is not sustainable and would require re-listing. It is better to have these fights now, force the states to develop plans that are consistent with the ESA, and then turn management over to the states. That is what the law suits are about.

    In my view, rather than recovering wolves over a significant portion of their range within the DPS, the state management plans would turn Yellowstone and Grand Teton into nothing more than “wilderness zoos” with remnant populations of wolves in federally protected areas. These plans make a mockery of the ESA–I suspect the courts will agree and the delisting rule will be remanded.

  9. Wendy Avatar

    Monty, Ronnie and Larry

    Monty, – I second the opinion of JB and TallTrent in that you are right that wolf advocates originally agreed to allow delisting when certain population goals were met and to turn over sustainable population management control to the states. I am in favor of delisting (after all, that was the point) but I expected the Federal government to insist on good plans from all three states. That has not happened – the Feds capitulated, especially in allowing Wyoming to retain their “predator” designation. In addition, there is the overhauling of the 10j rule – which has no basis in science and is a de-facto end-run to counter the (admittedly real) possibility that delisting will be held up in court for several years. However, it would have been hard for me to support a lawsuit against delisting had the Feds made sure the three states were on board with rational plans.

    Ronnie – I look forward to the day when the collaring of wolves in Yellowstone comes to an end (because I find the collaring process invasive), but I think it is odd and false to say that the research facilitated by the collars exists
    “purely to satisfy the curiosity of the researchers”. I don’t know how we got to a place in which the rigors of scientific study are equated with petty selfishness. Scientists are not infallible, but in my view it is overwhelmingly apparent that scientific research has many benefits to humanity – so many I cannot possibly list them all here. Wolf research, as it is being currently practiced in Yellowstone, does indeed benefit the species being studied, as well as the various species with which they interact, the Park itself, the wider natural world and of course, humans. If you spend even a little time in Yellowstone watching wolves, I don’t know how you could miss seeing that they are indeed “wolves being wolves”.

    Larry – I see no higher degree of self-serving behavior in
    preserving one’s job security by scientists than I see by journalists, ranchers, sheepherders, wilderness guides, truck-drivers, teachers, or doctors. I have spent many, many hours observing and listening to the wolf researchers in Yellowstone. I have never once seen an example of the wolves being treated “like livestock”. As for researchers acting like the wolves “belong to them” – I have not seen that either, at least not in the elitist/negative way you suggest. I have seen researchers ask visitors to refrain from approaching a carcass in order to take a photo (which can prevent wolves from coming in to feed), or ask visitors to stop following a wolf along the road in their car (thus preventing the animal from crossing) – if that’s what you mean, then perhaps, yes, a slight possessiveness toward the animal may be present, but it ought to be pretty easy to see that such a request is in the wolf’s interest, even though it may also temporarily benefit the researcher.

    More knowledge IS needed about wolves. I don’t know what is so “vague” or “BS” ish about that? Science needs data. You comments about milking the research money sound a bit like professional jealousy. Perhaps you were overlooked for a position?

    I wish a less-invasive type of monitoring might be devised for all wildlife. But for now, especially as it looks like opportunities to study wolves outside the Park are going to be few and far between, I support the research in the Park.

  10. JB Avatar


    The comments on this blog (not this particular post, but many others) adequately demonstrate why more research is needed. People accurately point out that YNP is different from Minnesota, northwest Montana, Wyoming, etc., so principles gleaned from watching one system don’t necessarily strictly apply to another. Picking up on this, some “hunters” scream never mind that wolves haven’t killed all the moose on Isle Royale, all the deer in Minnesota, or all the caribou in Canada, we still think they’re going to kill everything in ___ (insert state/ecosystem/management area). So we continue to do research. Of course, the controversial nature of wolves isn’t the only reason we should be doing research on these critters, but it is a pretty good one, and its left us with a LOT of information about wolves (they are probably the most studied wild carnivore).

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re objecting to, but if it is the money, let me assure you, there is ample fat in the Federal budget that could be cut before we reduce funding for research. Personally, I’d start by not invading other nations, but that’s just me.

  11. Ronnie Avatar

    Maybe I have missed something, and I am open to hearing what radio collaring wolves in the park is doing at this point in time. I can see radio collaring in the beginning to monitor their dispersal, as well as pack interactions, but it’s been over a decade, and enough is enough. The wolves will not benefit from us knowing pack size or territory, and since we don’t manage the elk in the park, knowing kill rates or kill preference does nothing for the wolf. . Could you please name 2 things researchers are doing in the park by radio collaring to benefit the wolves?
    You are right though, I don’t spend a lot of time in the park, mostly because I enjoy seeing wolves outside the park more. And, overall, I do not enjoy seeing wolves or any other animal, while standing next to 20 other people. That’s not a wilderness experience to me. I am glad there is an opportunity there for others to experience seeing wolves as well as other wildlife as a means to gain wildlife support. But you yourself said collaring is invasive, which is a good indication it needs to come to an end.
    You said that research is benefiting humanity, my question is How do the WOLVES benefit? Otherwise, yes, I do think it’s selfish on the scientists behalf.
    JB, I agree, we have a lot of information on wolves due to studies, but, how are the WOLVES benefiting from this?
    Even if we don’t agree, thanks for the comments because I enjoy hearing different perspectives!

  12. JB Avatar


    Good question! Under the current political climate, wolves–at least in the West–don’t appear to be benefiting much at all, as the agencies and administration seem hell bent on ignoring science altogether. One would hope that wildlife managers will eventually use this information to set population goals, establish sustainable harvests, protect wolves where they are in most need of protection, and understand where wolves are most likely to be problematic for people. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  13. Wendy Avatar


    I think perhaps that you and I may have different exposures to science and/or wildlife biology and its relative value, and I warn you, I am a science geek, not a scientist, so I apologize if I am unable to answer you properly. I completely understand that you do not enjoy watching animals with 20 other people nearby. I always find it a special thrill when I get to see any wildlife when I’m by myself, but I also enjoy sharing the experience with others, and sometimes I find I have no choice but to have the experience with LOTS of others (!)

    For starters, I agree with what JB says, above. The main thing I want to convey to you based on my limited experience watching wolves in YNP is that although I first disliked seeing collars on them and worried that they were a harmful burden to the individuals, I no longer feel that way – because I have yet to see a single difference in the day-to-day, season-to-season behavior between collared wolves and uncollared wolves. They play the same, run the same, sleep the same, rise or fall in the heirarchy, survive or become injured, regardless of whether they wear a collar or not. What I meant by “invasive” is not the collar itself, but the collaring operation: the helicopter chase and the darting. I have watched the proceedure and although it is handled in a highly professional manner and every precaution is taken to minimize the effect and length of time on the wolf, I just find it upsetting to see a wild animal run for its life from humans that way. Wolves sleeping in the open have learned to head for the trees when they hear the helicopter coming.

    But I must also say that the individual wolves that are darted seem to return to normal very quickly, showing no continued signs of stress once they are awake again and back with their pack-mates.

    You say: :”The wolves will not benefit from us knowing pack size or territory”. Not sure what you mean by
    “benefit”. If you mean does research make wolves’ lives better, I have no idea. The wolves in the Park seem to have pretty good lives right now. Data is being recorded so that it can be analyzed now and in the future. The benefits of that data might end up being to people, wolves, elk, bears, willows, a combination of all or none of those things. It’s gathering knowledge. The existing data on pack size and territory is being added to every day. The individual wolves being observed may not enjoy an immediate benefit from the data they provide, but they are certainly not harmed by daily observation, are they? To me, the point of research isn’t necessarily to benefit the study subject; it is to expand our knowledge and understanding of that subject.

    I believe that the more we know about wolf behavior, the better we will be at managing them outside the Park. But let me try an example: in 2005, the year that so many young pups died, it was learned that it was not parvo as first suspected, but distemper that killed them. I believe tissue samples were gathered from dead pups. The number of pup carcasses found would have been far smaller if collared individuals had not made it possible for researchers to find denning areas. The larger the sample size, the more accurate the data. That data may play a part in the future should distemper strike again, in or out of the Park. Another example is the current DNA study regarding how much (or how little) inbreeding occurs in packs, how much packs can tolerate, etc. This topic may become enormously important if wolves are extensively controlled outside the Park and it becomes difficult for dispersing wolves to find mates.

    You say “since we don’t manage the elk in the park, knowing kill rates or kill preference does nothing for the wolf.” Again, not sure I understand your point. Since we don’t manage elk in the Park, knowing kill rates or kill preference among Park wolves gives us a much better idea about what wolves will do “normally” wherever elk are present. It seems to me that the data collected in YNP gives us a solid basis from which to predict wolf behavior outside the Park, since wolves will chase and kill elk regardless of whether the elk are being managed by humans or not.

    You ask: Could you please name 2 things researchers are doing in the park by radio collaring to benefit the wolves? Not sure we agree on what constitues a benefit but…
    1. Finding them quickly each morning makes detailed observation of a large sample population possible, resulting in highly accurate, high-volume data available now and for years to come. That will make us better stewards of all wildlife, (which I would define as a benefit) 2. Collaring allows more direct correlation between daily/weekly/yearly observed/recorded behavior individual wolves whose DNA is known (blood and hair samples are taken whenever a wolf is collared), leading to a better understanding of wolf population dynamics. (again, to me, that is a benefit)

    You mention the impact that seeing wolves (and other wildlife) has on visitors to the Park. This is surely the main non-scientific and clearest benefit to wolves that is a direct result of some of them having collars – their greater visibility allows the regular visitors to Yellowstone, people from all walks of life and multiple countries, the opportunity to watch a wolf in the wild go about his/her daily life.

    I hope this helps. I hope others will correct me if I’ve included anything inaccurate.


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