WY Game and Fish . . ."People shouldn't be alarmed," but 13 are dead already

WY Game and Fish . . .”People shouldn’t be alarmed,” but 13 are dead already [I rewrote the headline]. By Chris Merrill. Casper Star Tribune.

At the Chico Conference one of the best papers made it clear that the Wyoming plan’s cutoff of the migration route south by putting it in the wolf-are-vermin zone, is one of the worst things about the delisting, and it is a major reason by folks who care about wolves in Colorado and Utah are so upset about Wyoming.

To those who defend Wyoming, this is a big reason why “outside” people care about what Wyoming does with the wolves.







  1. Heather Avatar

    Ralph: would it be possible to have a post on the wolf conference? don’t know if that is appropriate or not..

  2. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Oh I am not alarmed . . not . .. they thiink it is about the numbers but for me it is about the attitude .

  3. JB Avatar

    Reasons not to be alarmed: “First, there’s not a whole lot of wolves in the predatory management area; the majority of Wyoming’s wolves are in the trophy game area.”

    Hmm…If there are “not a whole lot of wolves” in the predatory management area, what is the justification for classifying them as “predators”? Oh right, to create “tolerance.”

  4. vicki Avatar

    I think thatthe minimalization of the importance of a corridor for wolves in one of the biggest problems with Wyoming’s plan. I find that the lack of a corridor makes shooting wolves in Wyoming a lot like shoot fish in a barrel.
    There are a number of things that are alarming about 13 verified dead wolves in 10 days. 13 dead wolves for starters. The lack of scientific basis for their deaths being necessary would come to mind.
    Alarmed? Well, I am for darn sure…sickened? yep for a while now…ticked off…youdamnbetcha.
    But hey, as long as Wyoming Game &Fish thinks that would be unfounded….I must be wrong to be concerned.

  5. The Trout Underground Avatar

    Why would the almost immediate killing of 1/3 the wolf population outside the trophy area “alarm” anyone?

    It’s simply confirmation that Wyoming’s plan isn’t about management as much as eradication; ample proof the state can’t be trusted with wolf management.

    Advocates knew it was going to happen; anti-wolfers prayed it would.

    The state keeps repeating that 97% of the wolf population is in the trophy area, and by god, they mean to keep it that way.

  6. Heather Avatar

    In this emotional laden blog – I hope I didnt seem sarcastic Ralph I am just looking for a response to some info on the wolf conference for those of us who couldnt go … if not, I’ll find out by just reading bits and pieces here. Thanks.

  7. Ryan Avatar

    I can see no reason for alarm. A bunch of like minded people who were already against the delisting found another reason to dislike Wyoming’s plan.

    Its not as though Wyoming has dropped below the Federally required population numbers. Even if all 30 that supposedly live in the predator zone are removed Wyoming will still have plenty of wolves.

  8. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    In the paper world of wolf regulations and recovery objectives the “safe zone” for maintaining wolf populations in Wyoming supposedly allows this animal an area of sanctuary. In reality this zone is not all that safe.

    Most every hunting outfitter hates wolves because, for one, wolves move elk around. Thus every guide who glasses a herd of elk the night before is PO’d the next morning when he sees no elk (and no $300 tip from his hunter) but lots of wolf tracks. The outfitter he works for is doubly PO’d because he hears shots coming from close to private hunter’s camps or worse yet, from a neighboring outfitter he has been feuding with. Those were his elk, “damn it”.

    On federal lands, where outfitters have, by defacto, taken “ranches” the wolf represents a threat no different than what cattle ranchers feel when wolves come onto their property.

    These outfitters will go to any lengths to kill every wolf out on their “land”. For one, they have the blessing from the state of Wyoming. The management plan gives them the green light to shoot any wolf harassing their horses. Since there is no law and order or even witnesses back in these areas any wolf outside Yellowstone is fair game.

    But we still have the core sanctuary of Yellowstone, don’t we? Not so. There are few packs of wolves in Yellowstone that don’t have some part of their circuits outside of the Park. Plus all these fall hunting outfitters take dudes into Yellowstone for sight seeing and fishing trips in the summer. Any den discovered…and it is not that hard to find, just look for the pup tracks on the sand bars and do a few circuits in the area … is hoof pounded out by the outfitter and his whole entourage. Then after the dudes, unaware of what they are contributing to, go back to camp this same outfitter makes sure the wrangler runs all the stock over this spot and every guide slips away to do the same thing everyday the dudes are fishing anywhere near. Then when the outfitter leaves he tells the other outfitters and the same thing is repeated the next week. Get the idea? Destroy the core den by harassment and wolves either move on immediately or they won’t come back next year.

    In my neck of the woods, the Se corner of Yellowstone, there was a wolf den less than a mile from my cabin and a half mile from the Bridger Teton Wilderness boundary. As soon as I saw and figured out what these guys were doing I rode to every camp, sorted the outfitter and help from the dudes, and in very explicit terms told them if this behavior continued there would be hell to pay. I may have been able to save this den with its 4 pups, but with Yellowstone wanting all its back country rangers to make only short trips into its backcountry, how much of this illegal behavior by outfitters will be noticed or curtailed? As for the “trophy hunting” area, where the Forest Service has only volunteers or cowboy wantabe’s on its backcountry staff, who there is going to insure critical denning areas are saved? No, I don’t think the wolves are safe in their sanctuary!! And when wolf numbers go down in these areas and these harassed wolf packs are increasingly dispersing out of these “safe” areas to lands where open season prevails the biologists won’t know why. It will be blamed on disease, “new” carrying capacity information etc. Then the number of packs needed to be maintained, as stated in the recovery plan, will be downsized. It will be the easy way out for our govt. Then the “caring ones” will sympathetically put a hand on the shoulder of wolf proponents and say the idea of wolf recovery may have been for a good cause but today is not the days of the frontier when there was lots of open land for wolves.

  9. vicki Avatar

    Bob Please forward this to a paper or two. The world could stand to hear this insightful commentary.

  10. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Go ahead and send it on to whomever you want. I would also be willing to say the same to anyone, oganization or media, who wants to pick up on this.

  11. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Folks, if you don’t know, Bob Jackson was a backcountry ranger for Yellowstone National Park for how many years, Bob? He was responsible for patrolling the Thorofare, which is the most remote part of the lower 48, and is adjacent to the Teton Wilderness of Bridger-Teton National Forest which is an area of BIG BUSINESS for outfitters. Outfitters will charge, what, some $5,000-$7,000 per week, per sucker, er, ah, elk “hunting” client? How much do you think an outfitter would average an elk season, Bob? $100,000 + is what I’ve heard. Bob, do you think salt licks are back now that you’ve left the park and are raising buffalo yourself?

    I met Bob one time, along the Snake, when I was headed into the Thorofare. I asked him what he thought was the main factor contributing to poaching. He said he thought it was the Forest Service’s habit of moving law enforcement rangers off of the forest before they learned the area and before they got to know the outlaw outfitters – not all outfitters are law-breakers.

    I’m saving your post, Bob, because I think you’re right ~ there’s the “paper” world of wolf regulations and recovery objectives, and then there’s reality ~ the real, boots on the ground world, which you know so well, better than anyone living today.

    So I’m saving Bob’s post, as I think it’s dead-on accurate.

    Bob, under what headline did you write about the price of buffalo compared to beef? I can’t find it.

    Ralph, so many people have posted so many mini-essays that you’ve got quite a collection of valuable thoughts here on your blog. But I can’t find them. I can search but the searches return only what’s in your headlines. Or is there a method I’m overlooking?

    Mack P. Bray
    Wildlife Watchers

  12. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    I think Bob’s comments about the vulnerability of wolves in the trophy game zone are right on target, as it were. Wyoming law and regulation exempts wolves from protection that are harrassing livestock–e.g., outfitters’ horses. This doesn’t happen much but it happens enough (it happened to me once) that it provides a good excuse to kill wolves in the trophy game zone with no penalty.

    One hardly ever sees G&F in the back country, even at the Thoroughfare Patrol Cabin that was near Bob’s NPS cabin inside the Park, and quite frankly one hardly ever sees USFS rangers in the backcountry either. It won’t make much of a difference because outfitters get a lot of leeway. Look how long it took to get the Bridger-Teton NF to deal with the salting problem on the YNP boundary, and it’s still a problem now that Bob’s retired. These outfitters are a force unto themselves.

    Outfitters are on their word to obey the law–they’re required to report violations as part of their permits–but having worked for outfitters, I don’t think their word is worth much, especially those outfitters who work the Thoroughfare and other Park boundaries.

    The trouble is, it’s hard to prove these charges in a court of law. You essentially have to get guides, wranglers, and clients to admit them, and that rarely happens.

    Just another reason why delisting is worse for wolves than the situation we had with the feds, which wasn’t all that good. But the feds are the lesser of two evils.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Bob is absolutely right, and it will be just as bad in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho near any outfitter camp or hunting area.

    In fact under Idaho new state law slipped in on the day of delisting Feb. 28, an outfitter can basically shoot any wolf that is “molesting” (bothering) his operation.

    “Wolves may be disposed of by livestock or domestic animal owners, their employees, agents and animal damage control personnel when the same are molesting or attacking livestock or domestic animals.” A “molesting” wolf is one that is:

    […]annoying, disturbing or persecuting, especially with hostile intent or injurious effect, or chasing, driving, flushing, worrying, following after or on the trail of, or stalking or lying in wait for, livestock or domestic animals.” [emphasis mine]

    In the rare case of the outfitter being detected, all he has to say is the wolves were “worrying” his horses.

  14. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Robert, clear me up: will outfitters be able to guide, for money, wolf hunters in the trophy game area?

    Mack P. Bray
    Wildlife Watchers

  15. vicki Avatar

    Thank you Bob. I think I will forward it on.

  16. TallTrent Avatar

    I have a question that maybe somebody can answer:

    Since one the major components of delisting wolves was that each state had to have a federally-approved management plan in place, but Idaho has passed this law that completely invalidates their wolf management plan, shouldn’t that invalidate the delisting of wolves?

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, I think it might. It will certainly be an argument brought before the judge.

  18. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    THANK YOU!!!
    Mr Jackson!!! You have away of cutting through the CRAP and getting to the POINT. (;) BRAVO! OH, Baby!
    Your insight is amazing. Keep writing….
    I love it and always print/save.
    The Delta Pack will be the first targeted!
    It’s the largest at this time. Then the Oxbows.
    I’ve wittnessed what you say myself, talk about DEJAVU!
    The outfitters should be banded from the park. They are working the system to their advantage.
    Hopefully you can help Mack with some articles for a Newsletter for Wildlife Watchers.
    People you make our world a better place.
    Keep up the good work! Spread the word…
    I like big blod print.

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Mack, To answer your questions. The outfitters in my area churned 65-100 “hunters” through the “puppy mills” in the 7-8 weeks of hunting season each fall. Price was around $4,500 – $5,000/person for a 6-8 day hunt in 2003. After the hunter got his elk he was allowed to only go out one more time with his guide ( 2 hunters per guide). Then he got the choice of either staying in camp or going to the front country on the next pack train out. There was a lot of pressure put on the hunter to leave. They were told it was a lot more exciting sitting on the saddle bar stools at the Cowboy Bar than it was holing up in camp. Every hunter was looked upon as someone who ate the grub that had to be packed in a user of firewood that was more difficult to gather every year (The reason the perimeters of these outfitter camps look like moonscapes is they girdle trees so they die and then can be used as fire wood in a few years) .

    Thus a hunter could look forward to a very long, 30 mile ride in and out of camp in short time. he was left wondering where his money went…but since outfitters didn’t have to depend on return hunters little did he care.

    The day after arriving he was too sore to hunt any distance from camp (set him on a salt baited station close to the boundary) then if he didn’t get his elk he would have at most 2-3 days of hunt before the last day where all stock had to be back in early for the long ride out early the next morning.

    If he got his elk the first day he could expect to be packed out on one of those everyday meat or supply runs the following day. This is a hunter who never got to know fellow hunters because all hunts were overlapping.

    Compare this with the ’70’s when all hunts were 10 days. When the hunters got their elk the guide would take them fishing on Bridger lake. Life long hunting buddy friends were made and there were few sore butts because mid trip camps were the norm.

    Hunters per camp averaged 3-4 compared to the 12-16 in the puppy mills today and there was a Forest Service Ranger coming by every hunt to check numbers of hunters. You see, outfitters have to pay a percentage of gross for having a commercial site and with no govt. employees around today, plus overlapping hunts, outfitters are reporting they have 30-35 hunters, or 1/3 of actual numbers. Thus you get the $100,000 figure instead of the $400,000 to $500,000 amount the outfitter grosses in 2 months work. All of this is on govt. wilderness ground and the Forest Service is scared to do anything about it. The environmental impact is tremendous. Some of these camps had very liberal limits as to numbers of horses allowed (max 60 animals), a figure set before impact was a concern, but now some of those outfitters need 120 stock ….and again, no one is doing anything about it. Grass is grazed out in all the valleys between camps ((5-7 miles apart) and outfitters are running off neighboring outfitter horses when they get pushed into their turf by wranglers who run out of grass on their allotment. Pity the poor private hunter with horses. All those camp areas are grazed out first by the outfitter.

    As for my posting on the price of bison meat I think I posted it on the same column you asked it. If not then I can post it here. Let me know.

  20. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Outfitters can guide clients on any legal game, including wolves. I personally don’t see it happening to any extent; wolves won’t bring in any money unless they do something “value added” such as bring in wolfhounds, which would require legal sanction.

    To add to something Bob wrote above about why big game outfitting is such a mess: outfitters have become so heavily capitalized that the incentive is to run as many hunters through the “mill,” as Bob puts it, as they can. Part of the reason for this is that about 20 years ago the USFS placed a moratorium on new outfitting businesses–for a good reason, so that the woods wouldn’t be crawling with outfitters–but that also raised the commercial value of hunting camps. Many pre-moratorium outfitters sold out to wanna bes for what now seem to be inflated prices, and of course, you’ve got to have new trucks and trailers, etc. to look the part

    To a large extent, almost every outfitter I know is overcapitalized and thus caught in a financial trap where he or she has to charge excessive amounts for hunts and run excessive numbers of hunters, many of them absolutely incapable of functioning in the backcountry, through the camps while at the same time keeping a high success rate on kills for marketing reasons–that’s one of the reasons for the salt pits on the Park boundary.

    The impact on land and wildlife of too many hunters and too many horses, as Bob points out, is excessive, especially in the Thoroughfare area he patrolled for all those years, which is the worst I’ve seen. Hunting camps in the Thoroughfare region might as well be feedlots.

    The Forest Service is doing literally nothing to get control of this situation, nor is the Wyoming G&F Department.

    While I personally believe that going on horseback is one of the best ways to experience the backcountry, I also look at the bad impact of outfitting on the backcountry and big game animals and realize that if the agencies make no effort to deal with these serious problems, outfitting is on its way out.


  21. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Right on, Robert. And the only way the govt. will have any success at getting outfitter compliance on any thing is to notify the real owners of these camps, the banks. If an outfitter has one strike against him and the next time his permit is suspended…and his money behind the scenes knows it…this outfitter will begin to follow the rules.

  22. Catbestland Avatar

    My question is; If wolves can be shot by anyone at anytime for any reason in more than 80% of Wyoming, what is to stop outfitters (even out of state outfitters) from conducting wolf hunts at any time of the year in the majority of the state? What is to stop them from taking as many wolves that their clients are willing to pay for? I am sure that there are people from all over the country and the world who would be willing to pay an outfitter enough to make it worth while. After all there are no restrictions on wolf killing where they are considered predators. From what I understand, they don’t even have to report the kills.

  23. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    You can’t stop them, but if your going to guide hunters for money, you are supposed to be registered with the state, and believe me, I am not naive enough to think it does not happen.

    Yes, they have to report the kills, they have up to 10 days to report after the kill has happened..

    But right now, there is nothing to stop them from hunting wolves in the predator zone and as long as they are licensed by the state at a guide/outfitter, they could in fact take clients for money to shoot wolves in the predator zone..

  24. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    There are outfitters that “guide” clients on prairie dog shoots.

    Still, I haven’t heard any outfitter say he’s going to offer wolf hunts–all think there will be no money in it. Actually, I’ve heard the same about grizzly hunts too.

    The real threat to wolves and the wolf population will come from formal lethal predator control (i.e., Wildlife Services).


  25. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I agree, the numbers are small enough in the predator zone, that an outfitter is not going to put the effort in taking hunters out to hunt them, prairie dogs are another story, they are still a lot of them out there..the threat to the wolves are going to be WS as well as the weekend beer drinking “hunter” that wants to pop a few shots off, just as they do with Coyotes


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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