New York Times editorial: When Protection Vanishes

When Protection Vanishes. Opinion of the New York Times.

This is about the spate of wolf killings since federal protection vanished. Actually there were 5 wolves killed in Sublette County, Wyoming, not 3 or 4 as reported earlier.

“The simple ethical fact seems to be that humans cannot restrain themselves, not without laws and incentives that are only as solid as our weakest intentions. The laws change, and overnight all that good work is threatened by gun smoke.”



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There is now a sixth confirmed kill, near Fisherman Creek below the big bend of the Hoback, on 2 April. This is just south of the trophy game line along US HWY 191 between Pinedale and Jackson.

    The McNeil elk feedground is on a private ranch–the only one of Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds wholly situated on private land.

    The location of the fifth kill has not been specified other than near Daniel, but I originally heard that it was west of Big Piney in the Middle Piney drainage, which puts the kill in the vicinity of the Finnegan elk feedground as well as numerous private ranches. The Middle Piney is a huge drainage and was one of the old pre-settlement migration corridors out of the Wyoming Range into the Little Colorado Desert, which was/is traditional winter range.

    One of things we’re going to have to do is pinpoint the exact location of the shootings, and G&F will not release that information without a court order. Problem is, the wolf legislation that created dual status exempts the names of individuals who shoot wolves from the provisions of the Public Records Act.

    However, I’m still convinced that elk feedgrounds have been and will continue to be lethal to wolves, both within and without the trophy game zone.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I forgot to add a sentence telling you that the kill is in the vicinity of the McNeil feedground.

  3. TPageCO Avatar

    This article states that the conflict is the competition between two top predators over elk. Not entirely true. If this were the case, ranchers wouldn’t shoot wolves. It also follows that Wisconsin wolves would be shot over whitetail deer, which isn’t happening.
    Two things that, to my mind, motivate these guys to go out and shoot wolves are: they are simply not comfortable sharing the top end of the food chain when they go out in the woods, and they shoot wolves to remove that uncertainty and fear. Second, it’s a way to get back at the feds for putting “their” wolves on “our” local ground – wolves that “our” father and grandfathers spent lots of time removing to make the country “safe” for the “western way of life”. Driving around with a gun in your pickup looking for wolves is an easy way to euphemistically flip the bird at all the guvmint and greenies who threaten this same “way of life”.

  4. BW Avatar

    You guys crack me up. Does no one understand that the USFWS was killing wolves annually? The only thing that has changed is who is killing the wolves. Rather then the Federal Government, Wyoming’s citizens are now able to remove wolves. When wolves were introduced Wyoming was told that wolves would only be in the NW corner of the state. I guess you must not believe that the Federal Government must adhere to and follow their plans.

  5. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    How’d ya like to be a wolf or cougar living just outside Pinedale or Cody? Actually Jackson for that matter…

    Interesting editorial! AND, one which we can only hope other publications will pick up on. The rest of the world needs to know Wyoming has once again become a killing field of predators. Hopefully, the glare of the editorial spotlight will help to keep Bubba in check!

    On the other hand – Bubba cares not a whit about what the eastern establishment or California tree huggers think. In fact he resents any outsider even thinking about the Wyoming at all. Unless of course those people are happening to be visiting Wyoming and spending $ to enjoy all this public land – public land which some residents think is theirs and theirs alone to control.

    A safe bet is – if they can help it Wyoming Game & Fish will not release any data to the public on the wolf population, pack locations, numbers of wolves “controlled wolves”, dead wolves. No details anyway. BUT, bet local G&F folks will keep local bubbas advised as to good places to go for “hunting opportunities”. Organizations such as the new (and hopefully successful) Wildlife Watchers must keep Game & Fish’s feet to the fire on public disclosure!

    The days of the US Fish & Wildlife keeping the public up to date on the wolf reintroduction are way, way over! Too bad cause they did an OK job!

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    BW Says:
    April 5, 2008 at 9:28 am e

    You guys crack me up. Does no one understand that the USFWS was killing wolves annually? The only thing that has changed is who is killing the wolves. Rather then the Federal Government, Wyoming’s citizens are now able to remove wolves. When wolves were introduced Wyoming was told that wolves would only be in the NW corner of the state. I guess you must not believe that the Federal Government must adhere to and follow their plans.

    Maughan says:

    I don’t think anyone here believes WY Game and Fish is going to be like the feds in terms of what they do or the information they give, and the feds weren’t all that great.

  7. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    “Only in the NW corner?”

    Nope, don’t think so, that is not the way it was presented at the many meetings I attended on wolf re-introduction, perhaps you were hearing what you wanted to and not what was actually being said..I actually still have many tapes that I recorded in the various meetings leading up to re-introduction…and none of them is there a statement, that they would only be in the NW corner of the state

  8. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    This was a good editorial. It provoked a lot of thought in my mind. Having tried to educate folks on my county’s Land Use Board on wolves (a complete and utter failure!), I am always looking for educational idea of how to talk to red-necks. All I have learned is, if it is big and furry, shoot it.

    I have not come up with an answer on how to get through to these folks. I have spent over 12 years trying and nothing will budge them off their red-neck center. I hope that Mack Bray,and his Wildlife Watchers can come up with some answers. Perhaps a seminar in the future can address this issue.


  9. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    the wolves removed by FWS were ones that had depredated on livestock and were therefore controlled. The five that have been killed to date were simply there at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even you should be able to pick out a difference being concerned with wildlife and all.
    Are you related to Bob Fanning by any chance?

  10. Catbestland Avatar


    Have you ever attended mettings of the Western Colorado Congress? They are supposed to be conservationist oriented and I have found them to be more open on the concept of wolves in western Colorado than most. Go to their website and check them out if you haven’t already. I am trying to work on them from down here in Montrose.

  11. Heather Avatar

    “Second, it’s a way to get back at the feds for putting “their” wolves on “our” local ground – wolves that “our” father and grandfathers spent lots of time removing to make the country “safe” for the “western way of life”
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. The mentality and maturity in some of these people sorely lacks. .. I dont think they can ever be reducated or reindoctrinated unless you had wolf biology in kindergarten. That is why that Fed protection was needed. Its like removing affirmative action for wolves….

  12. Bob Caesar Avatar
    Bob Caesar

    Ralph, you have a good point there! Actually, seventeen percent of ALL wolves in the tri-state are were “controlled” last year mostly by the US F&W guys. The concern might be the lack of any common sense as to which wolf get snuffed!

  13. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I have a copy of the Final Gray Wolf EIS and a copy of the Final Rule for Reintroducion in front of me.

    Please tell me in either document where–that is, what page or pages–it promises or states or opines that wolves would stay only in NW Wyoming.


  14. Heather Avatar

    One thing I dont see mentioned when people speak of FW killing wolves, and Montana killing more than ID or WY previously as I remember, is that it seems the FW is under a lot of pressure for lethal control from the ranching community. If there was pressure for non lethal controls, we would have that instead. the minute a neighbor dog kills a sheep in Corvallis, the FW are called because the owner assume and jumps to the conclusion it is a wolf, out of their prejudice and hatred. It is not such a black and white issue…

  15. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel


    I have heard of them, but I am not familiar with them. I have been centered on Colorado Environmental Coalition and Friends of Northwest Colorado, a group in Craig.

    Friends are pretty active locally and are wolf friendly. We have been focused on a lot of issues including climate change. We developed a 3 part guest editorial for our local newspaper, the Craig Daily Press. The Press had run a poll on climate change and 34% (85) of the respondants thought it was propaganda. So, we were prompted to develop a reply to that.


  16. Frank "Two Jump" Morris Avatar
    Frank “Two Jump” Morris

    Greetings from New Mexico, “Beautiful land of entrapment” Where children carry sidearms and awit the school bus in cages. The Curr, hybred dog refeered to as the Mexican grey wolf is no more than a tool to get people out of the forest. Think me crackers? go to and see how the “green industry is duping the urban lice into serfdom.

  17. TPageCO Avatar


    I’m well aware that the feds killed many wolves annually, and I don’t have a problem with well-managed state wolf hunts – ultimately this is the way to go, although many here would disagree with me. However, I prefer to hunt big game, as elk likely tastes much better than wolf (I haven’t eaten wolf, so I can’t compare).

    My comment referred to the motives I’ve seen in guys who have an interest in shooting wolves, and I think they are different than what the writer discusses. For some reason, there’s a dislike for wolves that is unique among all huntable species. I can only conclude that this is cultural, as there seems to be no biological basis for it. In my opinion it doesn’t really have much to do with elk as the article states, other than the debatable perception that wolves reduce hunting opportunity to a significant degree. (That’s another subject).

    In my years as a hunter, guide and general ranch hanger-on, I’ve always been amazed at guys who can walk calmly up to a bronky horse or ornery bull, yet go all frothy at the mouth when it comes to talking about “wuffs”.

    To back up this point, I think it’s worth looking at the relative cost of wolf tags versus other species. Wolf tags go for less than $20 – if hunters and FG departments valued wolves as a huntable species, these tags would cost much more. I suspect griz tags, should that ever reoccur, will be much much more expensive, so it can’t be solely that wolves are fellow predators. I can only conclude that FG commissioners set the tag fees low (willingly giving up income on tags they knew could sell for more) to indicate in their immature way just what they thought of the federal wolf program.

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Hey “Two Jump Morris” I let your comment thru so folks could see how nuts some people are down Catron County way.

  19. Heather Avatar

    wow, pretty nuts I think.

  20. Heather Avatar

    “To back up this point, I think it’s worth looking at the relative cost of wolf tags versus other species. Wolf tags go for less than $20 – if hunters and FG departments valued wolves as a huntable species, these tags would cost much more.”
    I agree, TpageCo. I would think those tags would cost much more, as the wolf seems to up there in American idols as much as the American Eagle…
    but as far as hunting the wolf goes, I dont think trophy hunting or “vermin hunting” fits this type of animal, personally … Because they are so socially and family oriented, as well as extremely intelligent. Killing the best hunter wolf doesnt stop them from killing more livestock. So, another method is needed for coexistance, which was never used to its fullest extent, in my opinion. That, being non lethal control.

  21. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Way, way, nuts. Soup ‘n nuts or stup(id) ‘n nuts…

  22. Heather Avatar

    Cream of nuts.

  23. Heather Avatar

    On second thought: I’m disappointed, I thought New Mexico has always sounded really cool. Like some place I might want to visit some day. Lots of art and culture. Enlightened people, this can’t be the majority…

  24. dbaileyhill Avatar

    How about skewed, no, stewed nuts.

  25. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I think New Mexico is a good place, but it has its crazy corner. Over the years a lot of researchers have written about the Catron County area (and some places adjacent).

  26. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    In Wyoming, fees for all hunting licenses are set by the state legislature, not the G&F Commission. The cost of a wolf tag in Wyoming is $15 for a resident and $150 for a non-resident, and it is the least costly of any Wyoming hunting license.

    The term “trophy game” is a legal term to differentiate the species of animals covered by that term from “big game” animals. “Trophy game” in Wyoming applies only to predators: black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves in the specially designated trophy game zone in NW Wyoming. “Big game” animals are the ungulates: elk, deer, moose, and bighorn sheep.

    Wyoming state law already has a provision that allows the Commission to declare “trophy game” animals to be “predatory animals” in any area of the state, (giving proper regard to the livestock and game industries in those particular areas.”

    Wyoming state law merely imposes permanent “predatory animal” status on wolves in 3/4 of the state.

    Officially designated predatory animals in Wyoming are: coyotes, jackrabbits, porcupines, raccoons, red foxes, wolves, skunks, and stray cats.

  27. Maska Avatar

    Heather (and Ralph), not only are most folks in New Mexico perfectly sane, kind, and friendly–so are the majority of folks in Catron County. It doesn’t take too many vocal oddballs and bullies to give a place a bad reputation.

    Please don’t let these folks dissuade you from coming to Southwest New Mexico to camp and hike in the Gila National Forest, and with a bit of luck, to hear or see a few of our rare and beautiful Mexican gray wolves.

    If you come, write a short letter to the editors of local papers (the Silver City Daily Press, the Silver City Sun-News, the Socorro Defensor-Chieftain, the Las Cruces Sun-News, etc.) letting them know that the lobos were a drawing card when you decided to visit. Most, if not all, have web sites. Those locals who are wildlife and Mexican wolf friendly need all the encouragement we can give them.

  28. BW Avatar


    As Robert Hoskins stated earlier the license fees are set by Wyoming’s Legislative Body. These fees were recommended by the WY G&F. The reason the fees were set at $15.00 for residents and $150.00 for non-residents was to entice as many hunters as possible to buy licenses as all information indicates that WY G&F will have difficulty in controlling wolves through sporting hunting alone. Most take will more than likely come from incidental take; hunters out hunting big game animals and coming upon a wolf or wolf pack.
    There is a huge difference between grizzly bears and wolves. Grizzly bear licenses are more expensive. I can not remember the license fees but I know they were set higher then the wolf license fess.
    Whether anyone on here wants to admit it or not wolves are impacting big game herds; predominantly elk and moose. Some areas the cow:calf ratio’s are getting to the single digits.
    As far as the predator listings; Robert Hoskins provided, how many of those species are threatened or endangered? It seems that Wyoming has not caused those species to become extinct, nor will this designation cause wolves to become threatened or endangered in Wyoming. WY SFW has stated that we believe wolves are here to stay. They must be managed like all other wildlife as protected status no longer makes sense. They have met recovery goals. All three states have approved plans and the USFWS believes it is time to allow states to resume management of wolves. They know that wolves will be killed under these state plans, but they also believe the state plans provide enough protections to ensure that wolves will remain recovered in the Rocky Mountain area.

  29. TPageCO Avatar

    Robert and BW

    Thanks for the correction regarding the entity that sets tag fees in WY. I think here in Idaho the recommendations come from the commissioners, too, but I’m not sure on that -tag fee recommendations are equally low I think, although I may be wrong.
    I agree that wolves are having an impact on big game herds in some places, but the evidence is mixed at best – for just one counter-example that I’m very familiar with take a look at elk numbers in the Madison Valley, MT. We’re seeing record high counts despite continuous wolf presence, so go figure. When I hunted there in 2005, I saw the largest elk herds I’ve ever seen – 3000+ (yes, thousand!) at the same time there was fresh wolf sign around…

    As for your statement regarding the reason tag fees were set so low, it seems contradictory. If WYGF “will have difficulty controlling wolves through hunting alone”, how will selling more hunting tags at low $$ solve this problem? I think that after the first few get shot, they will wise up fast. Compared to other species, there are many fewer wolves out there, so why not make tag fees comparable to the opportunity to hunt a relatively uncommon species such as sheep? There are lots of guys out there that would like to hunt a wolf, but it appears to me that FG is more interested in eradication than real “management”.

    Grizzlies kill livestock and elk calves just as wolves do, and they have had an equally precarious history in the Rocky Mountains but I’d be willing to bet that grizzly tag fees will be much higher should the season ever return. Again, I believe that it comes down to perceived value of each species and has no basis in elk population control, endangered species management or other contrived biology.

  30. TPageCO Avatar

    Here’s the information from the ID Wolf Mgmt Plan regarding tag fees for ID. I’d like to hear a sound reason why the tag fees were set so absurdly low for a species that is in such high demand? It’s just a way for the commissioners and the legislature to make a point to the feds, and they’ll bite their noses off to spite their faces to do so.

    “An obvious revenue source is sale of tags for regulated hunting of wolves, though there is some
    opposition to the use of license and tag fees to fund the program. License fees may help fill
    funding shortfalls. The statewide random survey of hunters indicated 72% would hunt wolves if
    allowed, and 56% would hunt every year. The average price these hunters would pay for a wolf
    tag was $42; the median was $20. Current tag price, set by 2006 Idaho legislature, is $9.50. The
    entire wolf management program could be funded by sales of approximately 29,000 tags if
    resident tag fees were increased to $25. “

  31. BW Avatar


    The idea in Wyoming was to make the licenses cheap enough that everyone would buy one, hoping that they might be the one to get a shot at a wolf. It will be interesting to see how many wolves will be killed under this concept. I was told that once upon a time your elk license in Wyoming also include a bear tag. From what I understand it was the same idea, more hunters with licenses in the field equates to more opportunity for the state to meet management harvest objectives.
    As far as the comparison between big horn sheep and wolves I don’t think it works. I have heard many hunters say that they have no desire to hunt wolves (or bears). Some may not even have a desire to hunt big horns. The point is that the WY G&F would prefer to have hunters killing the wolves but it is unlikely that they will be able to kill enough to keep up with population growth as reproductive rates have been fairly high. Wolves unlike bears are highly prolific as is evidenced by their rapid growth after introduction. Even with all of the lethal take by the USFWS wolf numbers have still expanded.
    I thought Idaho was a bit lower then Wyoming but I was thinking it was around $12 dollars but you are correct with the $9.50 license fee.

  32. vicki Avatar

    I disagree with your statement, “it is unlikely that they (hunters)will be able to kill enough to keep up with the population growth”.
    How many wolves do you really think there are?
    I am sure that the number of hunters is greater.
    Perhaps not each hunter is wanting to kill a wolf. But I am sure that there will be enough to shrink the numbers to a level that is near or below the number required to relist before too long.
    The plan that is in place is scientifically wrong.
    I also know thatthere are hunters who would seek to kill a trophy wolf. I don’t know how many, but they are out there.

  33. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Ralph et all:
    Frank “two jump” Morris spent last week on the Wild Again blog. Look it over; draw your own conclusions.

    You never answered as is your custom but I will try again; are you related to Bob Fanning

  34. BW Avatar

    Jeff E
    I really didn’t think you were serious but I doubt I am related to Bob Fanning. I have never met Bob. Occassionally, I gat an email or two from Bob but that is about as far as it goes.
    Are you related to Jeff Thompson?

    When I spoke with the folks managing wolves in Alaska they told me that sport hunting alone would not provide enough kills to offset production rates. Wolves are very intelligent animals and it won’t take them long to figure out how to avoid the majority of hunters.
    As far as how many wolves there are we don’t know exactly but I have heard somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35 wolves are known to be within the predator zone. More than likely there are more wolves then the 30-35 but I doubt there would be significantly more. Currently, all the wolves within the trophy area are protected as WY G&F hasn’t designated a hunting season yet. The nursery (YNP) will continue to produce wolves to maintain and sustain wolves into the distant future.

  35. vicki Avatar

    Surely there will be more hunters to take wolves than 35. Wyoming is one of the most sought after places to hunt.

  36. vicki Avatar

    I think you may over estimate how many wolves will survive and then be able to reform packs in time to breed. You also have to consider genetic diversity.

  37. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    I hate to say this but I “agree” (I just beched up some bile in my mouth) with BW on one point. I don’t think “hunters” (the rolly-polly type on their noisy-ass quads with a case of beer bungied to the back, too lazy to stumble more then a few off-balanced steps from the road) will have a major impact on the wolf population in ID, MT, or ID. They don’t have the work ethic and don’t travel too far from the local tavern. The greater concern is the Fish and Game Depts. of these states. They have the money and the means to put a serious dent in the wolf population. History shows that once the government decided to eradicate the wolves, that is when wolves started disappearing in large numbers.

  38. TPageCO Avatar

    “The nursery” – that’s a good one…I’ll have to remember it.

    While wolves are certainly prolific breeders, I don’t think reproductive rates have much to do with tag fees. Tag fees are more a reflection of our desires as hunters to be able to hunt game (edible or otherwise) and how much we are willing to pay the state to do so. Essentially, how much economic value do we place on these species and the privilege to hunt them. All these species have other values, of course, but for the purposes of discussing the ridiculously low wolf tag fees, we’ll stick to the economics of the issue.

    This is why I think looking at sheep and hypothetical grizzly tags (or AK tag fees for a current hunt) are worthwhile. Sheep and grizzly conservation work has been a long grinding road, one that is far from over. People have cared enough about these critters to ensure their survival to this point, much as has occurred with the wolf over the last couple decades. Opportunities to hunt sheep/griz are very tough to come by, and the high demand is there year after year. Tag fees reflect this. Drawing a sheep tag is like winning the lottery, and thousands put in for the draw even though the cost is several hundred to a couple thousand bucks. AK fees are in the five figures.

    The same dynamic should occur for any wolf tags, but it doesn’t because the ID powers-that-be don’t look at wolves as anything more than a nuisance imposed on them by the feds. By setting the fees way below market, they are essentially telling FWS (and all the greenies who worked on the restoration) what they think of their program and wolves in general. This was the point of my original post regarding the motives of the current crop of wolf hunters.

    Take a look at the statistics regarding potential Idaho wolf hunters in my previous post, and then look at the disparity between the average $ people are willing to pay and the median $. This shows that there are a lot of people willing to pay lots of $$ to hunt wolves – money that might go to a sustainable wolf program which would help reduce future conflicts and potential funding sources. I suspect similar polling would show up in WY. However, FG commissioners and the legislature choose not to take advantage of this funding source (hard to believe coming from a govt agency, I know…) and set the tag fees below $20. Can you say “petty”?

  39. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    You bet “petty”. It reflects what I think most knew all along. The anti-wolf faction entrenched within the state Fish and Game Depts. would rather charge chump change for a wolf tag in hopes that hundreds of “hunters” will do the job they want done…..wipe out the wolves. They don’t give a damn about a sustainable wolf population.

  40. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Bob Fanning says,
    “What we have seen transplanted here below the 45th Parallel into the Northern Rockies, are wolves that evolved for eons in the Arctic , were culled naturally by severe Arctic weather, with a significant amount of pups that starved naturally because of the natural expansive disbursement of the prey base and the massive amount of country that Arctic wolves naturally had to cover in search of food and mate.”
    BW says,
    “When wolves were introduced Wyoming was told that wolves would only be in the NW corner of the state. I guess you must not believe that the Federal Government must adhere to and follow their plans.”
    I just notice a real propensity to make statements that have nothing to do with reality or even a semblance of. Just seems like it could be genetic but if you don’t want to claim Bob, well can’t say as I blame ya; or visa versa.

  41. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Remember last May when the MDOL decided not to cart off 330+ bison to slaughter, to “make nice”. The only reason was that they knew they would make up for it many times over this year. I can’t help to wonder that maybe the only reason the wolf intro was “allowed” was because of a promise that they could have the fun to kill them off all over again. The above the law attitude that still exists here in the west.


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