Are Wolves The Pronghorn’s Best Friend? Wolves benefit pronghorn by keeping coyotes in check. Coyotes are a very serious predator of pronghorn fawn, whereas wolves pretty much ignore them.

ScienceDaily. Mar. 3, 2008 — As western states debate removing the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act, a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society cautions that doing so may result in an unintended decline in another species: the pronghorn, a uniquely North American animal that resembles an African antelope.  Rest of story.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

32 Responses to Are Wolves The Pronghorn's Best Friend?

  1. JB says:

    Uh oh; don’t tell “Sportsmen” for Fish and Wildlife. I don’t think they could handle the news that wolves might actually help preserve a species they want to kill.

  2. BW says:

    Only problem with this logic is that you environmental types would need to admit that coyotes are impacting pronghorn recruitment in order for this claim to hold water. This argument, in fact, supports our (SFW’s) claims that predators do need to be regulated and do impact wildlife populations. Perhaps SFW should be holding more coyote contests and/or offering more bounties. This brings up and interesting question; do you think I coyote cares how it dies? Would they prefer to be killed by a bullet or ripped a part by a wolf or two? How about a pack of 15 or more?
    JB, you should probably keep this from Mr. Hoskins as it might cause him some pause; how do you defend the undefendable?
    Rest assured, he will have an answer for us.

  3. Buffaloed says:

    Mr. Hoskins will probably have an answer for us and it will be based in science backed up with good evidence rather than the barstool variety of evidence that SFW seems to use.

  4. Mack P. Bray says:

    Ah, Bob Wharff, “BW,” Executive Director of Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming, has reared his logical head yet again.

    Actually, we “environmental types” have admitted for a long time that coyotes are impacting pronghorn recruitment. This fact is not news; it’s been out for years.

    Your statement “This argument, in fact, supports our (SFW’s) claims that predators do need to be regulated and do impact wildlife populations” is illogical to this thread and completely ignores the fact that wolves have the ability to lower coyote populations, thereby helping pronghorn recruitment. Let’s hear you say it, BW: “Wolves are beneficial to pronghorns.” Can you say that? I doubt it.

    Let’s hear it again, Bob: “We are not anti-predator.”

    I think Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife of Wyoming could improve it’s image by holding more coyote killing contests and/or offering more bounties. In fact, I’d help you with publicity. When you, as Executive Director, make the decision to hold more coyote killing contests, put me on your PR committee. I’ll make sure you get the publicity you deserve.

    Here’s some great publicity you got from one of your coyote hunts – 475 coyotes killed:

    “Our goal was reached,” said Lou Cicco of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the program’s sponsor. “It really got the kids involved, women, too,” he added. “It gave them something to do and got back the old pioneer spirit of hunting.”

    To make a dent in coyote numbers, a program needs to take 50 percent of the population for three consecutive years, said Kevin Hurley, Game and Fish wildlife coordinator.

    Regarding criticism from biologists that the program would have little effect, Cicco said, “I don’t believe a word they said. This did a lot of good.”

    Note the way Sportsmen for (some) Fish and (some) Wildlife conveniently ignores science and the opinions of biologists and wildlife experts.

    Why don’t you rename yourselves to “Gunners for Wildlife We Love and Wildlife We Hate.”

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  5. Lynne Stone says:

    In the Sawtooth Valley south of Stanley, Idaho, there’s a growing herd of pronghorns that migrate through the White Cloud Mountains in late fall and early Spring. They co-exist and are thriving among the Galena Wolf Pack and also coyotes.

    The valley has a lot of cattle during snow free months, mostly on private ground, but there are ungrazed areas with good cover for pronghorns to drop their fawns. The fawns are up and running soon after birth.

    Two problems facing pronghorns here are fences that they cannot go under (the standard in pronghorn country is a bottom smooth wire at least 14″ off the ground), and speeding traffic on Highway 75.

    A couple of local coyote hunters who would get on well with BW, are trying their hardest to kill off the coyotes. A lot of locals including ranchers would like to see more coyotes (as well as badgers) because they trim back the Columbian ground squirrels.

    Here’s a bumper sticker — Real Men Don’t Kill Coyotes.

  6. JB says:

    LOL! Exactly what I expected. They never cease to amuse!

  7. Catbestland says:

    I’m still trying to figure out what an “Environmental Type” is. Are they born that way or is it a learned behavior? Do they have some defining physical characteristic? Does the name indicate that they “love” the environment, which would indicate the opposite for “Non-Environmental Types”? So then does that mean that BW and SFW are anti environmental? So it would seem.

  8. Jay says:

    I’m still waiting for your response on your “guarantee” that coyotes aren’t getting any of the N. Yellowstone elk, BW…11% of calves marked in summer, to be exact. Nothing to say?

  9. JB says:

    Just a point of clarification. I don’t have a problem with HUNTING coyotes. I would never do it, because…well, what the hell would I do with a dead coyote? But still, coyotes are quite successful in spite of programs designed to eliminate them, so I have no problem at all with a regulated coyote harvest. What I object to is (1) teaching people that killing coyotes will necessarily result in more antelope, elk, deer, etc., and (2) more specifically, SFWs advocation of these killing contests.

    You (BW) and your group (SFW) are teaching people that it is not only okay, but desirable to hold contests to SEE WHO CAN KILL THE MOST WILDLIFE. In my view, this is immoral. What happened to fair chase? What happened to the idea of becoming one with the environment in order to pursue one’s prey? What happened to the idea of using what you take from nature? These are thrown out the window. Instead you have a bunch of rednecks in trucks blasting away with semi-automatic weapons. Your group promotes KILLING AS A GAME; this, (again in my opinion) is bad for society, is wrong, is immoral, and should be stopped.

  10. AJ says:

    I believe it’s (SOME) Sportsmen for (SOME) Fish and (SOME) Wildlife.

    I hunt and fish and want nothing to do with these folks!

  11. Jon Way says:

    What is a shame is that state fish and game dept allow most (not all) predators to be slaughtered indiscrimately with little regulation. One day society will realize there is more to coyotes than being able to have them reproduce to make up their numbers. Leave them alone.
    I will amend Lynne’s bumper sticker and say “It takes more of a man to live with coyotes than slaughter them.”
    On a diff’t note, the science being done by the Berger’s is truly commendable with lots of good publications coming out of their (small numbered) research team.

  12. Don Riley says:

    Bob Whaff,
    What is your position on the human predator? Will SFW sponsor a family gathering and get back to the good old pioneer spirit of hunting? If so, lets get on down to the Cokeville area this week end. There are lots of targets running around on snowmachines and snowshoes, chasing the elk and deer gathered along the highway ’cause the snow is so deep the ROW is the only place they can find some thing to eat.

    I suspect many of them are either members of or sympathetic to SFW. Seems their goal is not to put meat on the table but to gather the antlers falling off these animals as they flee, kinda like the trophy, private ranch and game farm hunters you guys really represent.

    If SFW does not agree with what is going on down there, why are you guys not down there to help stop it and then haul some hay down there instead of to the refuge.

    Step up to the plate, your actions speak louder than your rhetoric.

    Let us know if you organize the two legged predator hunt. Many here would like to participate.

  13. Mack P. Bray says:

    AJ, how about Some Sportsmen for Some Fish and All The Big Game and Predators We Can Legally Kill.

    Bob Wharff, Executive Director for Some Sportsmen for Some Fish and All The Big Game and Predators We Can Legally Kill of Wyoming is probably monitoring Ralph’s blog, waiting for just the right opportunity to rear his illogical head yet in the meantime not answer or respond to legitimate comments and questions of him and his group.

    Excellent leadership, wouldn’t you say?

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  14. BW says:

    Mack P. Brayn,

    Your personal attacks only indicate your insecurities.

    What the Bergers have confirmed is exactly what sportsmen have known for centuries; predators do in fact impact prey populations. Just becuase we replace one predator with another doesn’t mean the impacts go away. Their article states that the Northern elk herd has been reduced by 70%. Because wolves have killed or displaced coyotes, which tend to effectively prey upon pronghorn, pronghorn populations are recovering by some 30%. Imagine what the Northern elk herd will do once wolf numbers are further reduced. Do you really think that you won’t see the same thing with the elk herd?
    I just find it amazing that you fail to see the forest for all the trees. You can call me all the names you want, your opinion after all is your own. I was unaware that you environmental types had already “admitted for a long time that coyotes are impacting pronghorn recruitment. This fact is not news; it’s been out for years.” I would think even you, Mr. P. Brayn, would be smart enough to figure out that if coyotes impact pronghorn recruitment then simple logic would say that wolves would also impact their primary prey base as well. I guess I gave you too much credit.

    Don Riley,
    For all of your knowing, you are ignorant. SFW has already been talking with the WY G&F (as well as our state legislators) about studying, developing and passing legislation next year to address antler hunters and fix this problem.

    You people criticize SFW for holding coyote contests but no one seems offended that Mr. Riley proposes hunting the human predator. Environmentalists do seem to have a very warped sense of right and wrong. Cat hit the nail on the head, I am not, nor do I consider myself to be an environmentalist. I prefer the title of conservationists. I am a utilitarian. But enough about me, all of your rhetoric and not one person answered my questions. I guess only I am suppose to answer the questions you pose.

    Lynne Stone,
    I have no doubt that you are right when you state that ranchers would like to see coyotes around. Most cattle ranchers know that coyotes pose little threat to them. Sheep producers would all argue that coyotes should be killed because they also impact their recruitment of sheep.

    This one is for Mack P. Brayn: WY SFW is not anti-predator, we are pro-sportsmen. I typed that as slowly as I possibly could. If you still don’t get it, let me know which word you are struggling to comprehend.

  15. Lynne Stone says:

    JB – You mention that you have no problem with “regulated coyote harvests”. Is there anywhere that killing coyotes is regulated? In Idaho they are considered a predator, vermin and anyone can kill them by any means every day of the year.

    A snowmobiler ran over and flattened one near Stanley several years ago — which led another ‘biler to ask: “wonder how fast a wolf would run before I could pancake it.” (Or words to that effect).

    Also, re. the statement from SFW’s Lou Cicco,. Suppose his name is fittingly pronounced “sick-o”.

    Do coyotes a favor and send them packing with shots and yelling every chance you get.

  16. Lynne Stone says:

    BW – Re. “Sheep producers would all argue that coyotes should be killed … ” This is not an accurate statement. There’s an outfit near Hailey Idaho that raises “predator friendly lamb”. It’s sold in grocery stores, restaurants and through other outlets. It’s the only lamb that a lot of people in Idaho will eat. Also, a few months ago I spoke to a large sheep producer in Oregon, who told me they no longer kill coyotes on their ranch.

  17. Bob Ostler says:

    The last information I had was that coyotes were learning to deal with wolves and were making a considerable comeback. I don’t know how reliable my information is, but it did come from a wolf researcher. I do not have a peer reviewed reference to cite. Ralph may want to check with his contacts?

  18. JB says:


    I’m not aware of any state that regulates coyote harvest. As far as I know they are classified as a predator/vermin/pest just about everywhere. The problem is that coyotes are widely successful despite the types of predator hunts that SFW sponsors.

    To address Mr. Wharff’s question: I don’t think coyotes are capable of thinking about and forming preferences for how they are killed (bullets or wolves). But to answer the question you’re really asking, I have to imagine that, in most cases, bullets would be faster and less painful for the coyote than being killed by wolves. But the pain & suffering of coyotes is not why I object to your practices. I don’t object to coyote killing contests because of the way coyotes die or because of the I think losing coyotes negatively impacts the environment–I object on moral grounds. It is simply wrong to hold killing contests, and it sickens me that SFW is out their teaching kids that KILLING FOR FUN is okay.

    Again, what they are promoting is not hunting, it is the wanton killing of animals for fun.

  19. Mack P. Bray says:

    Bob Wharff, Executive Director for Some Sportsmen for Some Fish and All The Big Game and Predators We Can Legally Kill of Wyoming, says:

    “What the Bergers have confirmed is exactly what sportsmen have known for centuries; predators do in fact impact prey populations.”

    Brilliant observation.

    “Their article states that the Northern elk herd has been reduced by 70%.”

    False. There is no mention in their article of the northern elk herd. You didn’t read read the article, did you.

    “Because wolves have killed or displaced coyotes, which tend to effectively prey upon pronghorn, pronghorn populations are recovering by some 30%. Imagine what the Northern elk herd will do once wolf numbers are further reduced.”

    The herd will recover; hopefully not to the record high counts but to a count that the habitat/system – WITH WOLVES – can sustain.

    “I would think even you, Mr. P. Brayn, would be smart enough to figure out that if coyotes impact pronghorn recruitment then simple logic would say that wolves would also impact their primary prey base as well.”

    I never said that wolves do not impact their primary prey base. Of course they do. Prey populations go down then predator populations go down. Prey populations recover and go up and predator populations do the same. It’s a natural cycle that you and your group wants to interfere with in order to maintain an unnaturally high population level of game animals not only for private hunters to take but for outfitters to charge suckers, er, ah, wealthy hunters what – some $5K+ a week per hunt. You and your group are a special interest group and do not represent the interests of many a hunter and angler, me included.

    “You people criticize SFW for holding coyote contests but no one seems offended that Mr. Riley proposes hunting the human predator.”

    False. Mr. Riley made no such proposal.

    “Environmentalists do seem to have a very warped sense of right and wrong.”

    Define “environmentalist.” I don’t even know what one is. I consider myself to be a conservationist. You have a tendency to paint the conservation community with a broad brush which is totally inaccurate.

    “… not one person answered my questions.”

    I’ll answer your questons if you answer mine:

    In your opinion, do you think wolves are beneficial to antelopes, taking the article referenced above into consideration?

    “WY SFW is not anti-predator, we are pro-sportsmen.”

    Bullshit. Total, unadulterated bullshit. The actions of your group proves you and your group is anti-predator.

    Mack P. Bray
    My opinions are my own

  20. Monty says:

    “Environmental type” or “tree hugger” is a typical label that is used by the “industrial extremists” who imply that the “greens” are out of the mainstream of American culture. In other words those who are advocates for clean air & water, riparian protection, open space & physical freedom, biological diversity, cultural restraint and land ethics are labeled as extremists.

  21. HAL 9000 says:

    “This one is for Mack P. Brayn: WY SFW is not anti-predator, we are pro-sportsmen.”

    And as George Lincoln Rockwell (that’s the founder of the American Nazi Party for those of you not as into obscure history as I am) put it: “I don’t hate the Jew or the Black man, I love the White Christian man.”

    I hate to break it to you, Skippy, but I’m an environmentalist because I’m a hunter, and a hunter because I’m an environmentalist. I consider myself following the great tradition of environmentalists like Aldo Leopold and my own father… who recognize nature as something to be respected and communed with… not beaten down and subdued.
    I’ve hunted since I was old enough to walk with a firearm.
    I’m a fourth-generation native of the West.
    Your little killing contest makes me want to puke.
    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  22. JB says:

    Environmentalist: “Environmentalism is a broad philosophy and social movement centered on a concern for the conservation and improvement of the natural environment, both for its own sake as well as its importance to civilization.” (Wikipedia)

    To the extent that this is an accurate description of environmentalism, count me in.

    This argument has nothing to do with environmentalism; Mr. Wharff intended to invoke negative stereotypes of environmentalists as young, wealthy, urban, radical hippies. Too bad (for Mr. Wharff) that these stereotypes are out of date. More to the point, most people have a positive view of environmentalists these days, so by throwing that particular term around in a pejorative sense, he only alienates himself (and his group) from the broader audience. Great, now I don’t have to call him a trigger-happy redneck, he’s done it himself. 🙂

    I’ll say it again: Killing contests are wrong, period.

  23. Lynne Stone says:

    Bob O – I can offer my observations re. wolves and coyotes here in Central Idaho,”not scientific”, but here tis. I see the “what doesn’t kill ya, makes ya smarter” scenario. None of this is probably new news to Yellowstone wolf viewers.

    Over and over I’ve watched coyotes stand at a safe perimeter when wolves are on a kill. When the wolves have left, the coyotes that come to feed are constantly looking about, nervous and watchful.

    Just a little while ago, I watched 13 wolves napping high on a ridge top. A little red fox came trotting by below them, then noticed the dozing wolves. Fox did a 180 and broke out into a run on the hard frozen snow. The wolves barely raised an eye.

    Once I watched a standoff as a wolf barked and howled at a coyote that could stay on top of the snow crust, while the wolf broke through. This made the wolf very crabby and it paced and howled. I saw this from a turnout near Stanley during mid-winter at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. It was a great show.

    I did come across a young coyote that wolves had caught napping and saw the chase tracks and the gruesome result. But overall, my conclusion is that Idaho coyotes suffer far more from 2-legged predators than they ever will from wolves.

  24. Don Riley says:


    Ignorant? I suppose you have let the public know of your efforts to regulate he horn hunters in Cokeville? Congratulations………

    I asked if your organization would sponsor a human predator hunt?
    You conveniently ignore the other questions, why and what are the answers.

    Why are you guys not down there with a big press contingent?

    Glad to see you refrain from personal attacks Bob. Someone else must be using your name, huh?

  25. Don Riley says:

    PS – I think the term came from the right, kinda like tree hugger. It is very difficult maybe impossible, to find it in the writings of recognized conservationists, just as the term conservationist is very seldom found is the writings of those who do not understand the value and importance of predators in a healthy eco-system. Your actions speak louder than your self anointed title.


  26. HAL 9000 says:

    JB, I’ve never understood this supposed riff between hunters and enviros. Like I said, my father and the other guys who stand out as big influences during my youth were both. I’ve spent quite a lot of time around the “environmental” movement… groups ranging from the GYC to the various Wilderness Alliance chapters to the NPRC, Nature Conservancy and even the Sierra Club. If Bob ever bothered to meet any of these people he might be suprised how many are hunters — or at least very supportive of hunting. Many of these groups have backed the wolves from the get go. And for good reason. Not only are wolves really, really cool — they’re also good for the ecosystem. Now I favor some wolf management, including fair-chase hunting of wolves. But to hear some hunters talk so bitterly and hatefully toward wolves is just beyond my understanding. If you step out the door to go hunting bearing hatred toward any part of nature.. buddy, you’ve totally missed the entire point, as far as I’m concerned. I’m getting really sick of the reactionary venom toward wolves coming out of the hunting fraternity. Trust me, I have to bite my tounge to keep from using terms a lot stronger than “trigger happy redneck.” Too many of today’s hunters need to ditch the two-way radios, peel their butts off the ATVs and start to HUNT — like Leopold, Fred Bear, Pope and Young and so many of the giants of our heritage did. To put it bluntly, I’m tired of nature-hating cry-babies ruining my tradition.

    A good friend of my Dad’s who hunts and was also a member of some enviro/wilderness groups way, way before it was “cool” to do so put it this way: There are forces with a vested interest in driving a wedge between hunters and the enviromental movement. And if they win out, we all lose. There won’t be anything left to fight over but subdivisons and shopping malls.

    As I see it, being a hunter and not being at least somewhat of an enviro is basically about as smart as shooting yoursef right in the you-know-whats.

  27. Jay says:

    Nicely put HAL, I consider myself an exact duplicate of yourself, and I’m also fed up with some “hunters” hating wolves or lions just because it might make it a little harder for them to kill “their” elk, which brings up another annoyance of mine: it aint your elk or deer until you’ve shot it and put it in the freezer.

  28. JB says:

    Hal, Jay:

    Ditto to both of your comments. I haven’t hunted in years–I “hunt” mostly with a camera now–though I’m still a strong supporter. I believe the primary problem is that the term “hunter” is too easily misappropriated; its a label that gets used for any guy with a gun and camo. Shooting at an animal does not make you a hunter–if you can aim well, it makes you a killer. We need some kind of label for rednecks that kill things that separates them from true hunters. We need to make it easy for someone who doesn’t hunt to say: “Joe is a hunter, while Tim is a _____.” Until then, everybody and anybody that enters the woods with a gun gets labeled a hunter, no matter their motives and methods.

  29. Brian Ertz says:

    “Joe is a hunter, while Tim is a Cabela Queen.”

  30. JB says:

    LOL! Thanks Brian. I guess I’ll have to start addressing BW as Queen Wharff.

  31. Catbestland says:

    Dogs are man’s best friends, maybe wolves are God’s best friends. They sure do a lot for his creation.

  32. John says:

    I find it surprising that this surprises so many. Then again not many people seem to realise that the species they so want to ‘manage’ has managed itself (meaning ebbing and flowing with its prey) and kept everything in line for last 100 000 years, having not wiped out a single species in all its time.


March 2008


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

%d bloggers like this: