State Management of Wolves a Recipe for Conflict

State Management of Wolves a Recipe for Conflict. By George Wuerthner. New West.

Wuerthner is absolutely correct, but then are the state politicians interested in minimizing conflict?

The answer is clearly “no.”  If the politicians were interested in minimizing conflict, they would allow the federal government to keep managing wolves. The local politicians would play their usual role — damning the feds and the awful wolf lovers who all live in their NYC apartments. The wolf population would expand, but their population would top off in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Wolves would be shot an an acceptable rate legally and illegally. Everyone would perform their ritualistic role and social conflict would always be present but at a minimal level.

The Department of Interior and local politicians were not satisfied with the status quo, and, so endless and perhaps accelerating conflict appears to be the future for the reasons Wuerthner outlines above, and more still.






  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    I saw this in the IDFG weekly report:

    A proactive nonlethal project is being developed between 3 sheep producers in the Sun Valley area, Wildlife
    Services, Defenders of Wildlife, Blaine County Commissioners, US Forest Service, and Idaho Fish and Game.
    The effort to reduce conflict between wolves and sheep will include a cooperative agreement between entities
    sharing knowledge, funding, and manpower and hiring personnel to assist in nonlethal control in the area.
    Researchers from USDA Wildlife Services are attempting to establish a scientific approach to learning from this
    application. IDFG will be cooperating by assisting in training, oversight, coordination, and equipment sharing.
    Pending results of this and other ongoing projects and future funding, IDFG may expand nonlethal programs
    across the state as part of normal wolf management activities.

    If this is true, about expanding the program across the state, then this is good news. I am extremely skeptical that this would be the case and somehow I think this may be just window dressing. Especially after seeing this in the previous report:

    On 4/9, a WS employee was performing non-wolf related duties at a private ranch near Cambridge when he spotted a pair of wolves in a group of cattle. The WS employee shot one of the wolves, an adult, gray female.
    While investigating, he found a freshly killed calf carcass that he confirmed as a wolf depredation. Control efforts are concluded unless another depredation is confirmed.

    Nothing like “shoot first and ask questions later.”

    Yes, Buffaloed, it is good news (the proactive project, that is). I believe it involves the Phantom Hill wolf pack, which ranges the upper Wood River valley in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and adjacent public land. It is a favorate with local folks, and in the past one sheep outfit has been very cooperative; but there are other domestic sheep operations in the pack’s range.

    I hope it works and becomes a model, serving to invalidate my pessimistic comments.

    Regarding the Cambridge incident, I have photos. These guys couldn’t help photographing their grinning faces and the big bad wolf, and emailing them around. I’ve been wondering if I should post them.

    Ralph Maughan

  2. HAL 9000 Avatar
    HAL 9000

    Well, that’s certainly an interesting point of view — and it seems to make sense. I wonder though, what do other biologists say? Are these ideas peer-reviewed?

    I know there’s a growing school of thought that predator “control” is actually counter-productive. And the saga of the coyote certainly seems to bear that out.

    This is exactly the kind of information I wish more sportsmen would read and consider. As I’ve said, the overwhelming school of thought in the hunting community is that “whacking predators = more game/less conflict with human interests.”

    This essay alone suggest an entirely new paradigm that needs serious consideration.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Go ahead and print the photos. The people in them have no rights of privacy, especially if they themselves are sending them around.


  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Just another point. The scientific protest against predator control can be dated to the 1930 meeting of the American Society of Mammologists; the Society journal for 1930 published a number of articles exploring the role of predators in what we now think of as ecosystems. This was the beginning of the change of attitude in the United States toward predators; within 15 years, Aldo Leopold had made his recommendation that wolves be restored to Yellowstone.

    It is truly unfortunate that almost 80 years later, wildlife management agencies still haven’t gotten the message.

  5. HAL 9000 Avatar
    HAL 9000

    Robert, the reason the agencies haven’t gotten it is that hunters have not.

    I know the hunting fraternity has its share of guys who seem to think the “I am Nature’s Joseph Stalin” approach is the only one, and by-gumbit.. don’t try to tell me no different.. ’cause shooting coyotes is fun!

    But, I honestly think if more hunters were exposed to more information like this, they would change their tune and support efforts to reform game management.

  6. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    I agree with printing the picture, they want to brag, well, really give them some thing to brag about. And maybe with luck a few folks will recognize them, if they are pro wolf maybe they will say something to them. At any rate I would like to print it out, and blow it up a bit, I need to take some frustration out all this wolf killing is giving me, a few darts thrown at the picture may make me smile!!! LOL

  7. Buffaloed Avatar

    Ralph, please post the photo’s. This kind of unprofessional behavior should not go unnoticed. It has been an ongoing problem with WS since state management has been in place. I am reminded of a litany of examples especially the incident with the coyote snare killing a wolf and the incidents with the coyote getters in Riggins.

    I have to determine if the photos are copyrighted. Ralph

  8. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Ralph, I’m not familiar with the Cambridge incident; please describe the incident and post the pics.

  9. Buffaloed Avatar

    It was in my original comment at the top of the page. Here it is again.

    On 4/9, a WS employee was performing non-wolf related duties at a private ranch near Cambridge when he spotted a pair of wolves in a group of cattle. The WS employee shot one of the wolves, an adult, gray female.
    While investigating, he found a freshly killed calf carcass that he confirmed as a wolf depredation. Control efforts are concluded unless another depredation is confirmed.

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Re educating hunters as to the facts of predator-prey-habitat-environment ecology: been there, done that.

    Seventy five years after Aldo Leopold published Game Management (1933), hunters in most cases still don’t understand the basics of game management. Getting them to understand conservation biology is hopeless.


  11. vicki Avatar

    I am always reading references here to Leopold. His infor is pretty dated.
    Robert, do you know of other works, perhaps more recent that would be of value? I am wanting to get some books for summer reading, and perhaps to have my son read.
    Also, try not to count all hunters out, some of us want to do thing the right way. I think that as our youth gets more informed, we will have a different atmosphere surrounding hunting and ecology.
    We may not be able to teach old dogs new tricks, but we have new people to influence all the time.

  12. Catbestland Avatar

    I so appreciate Georges articles. I wish he was president.

  13. JB Avatar


    I agree that “educating” hunters is hopeless. However, educating our youth is not! Principles of ecology should be taught along with earth science and biology as required courses in the HS curriculum. Moreover, ecological principles could be covered in hunter-education classes for the youth.

    This isn’t a solution, but it would be a start.

  14. timz Avatar

    If those photos are not copyrighted send them to every congressman and senator in Washington so they can see how the money is spent.

  15. HAL 9000 Avatar
    HAL 9000

    Robert, true… some hunters are just as stuck in their ways as some PETA activists are. Ever try to discuss wildlife conservation with a hyper-urbanized PETA activist? I have, it’s not fun.

    But, as has been pointed out here, we can focus on the younger generation. The hunting community needs a paradigm shift. But again, don’t assume all hunters are buy into the “I am Nature’s Joseph Stalin” (hey, I should patent that as a bumper sticker) mentality.

    I’m a middle-aged hunter, Western born and bred and I’m open to new ideas. This essay Ralph posted really got my gears turning…

  16. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I’ve done some writing on Leopold, so have a good idea of where to begin. His textbook, Game Management (1933) is the first textbook of the profession and is still the best introduction to the subject eighty odd years later. I would also pick up the long book of essays, The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays. It includes essays dating from his early days until just before his death in 1948. Both books are available from the University of Wisconsin Press.

    I also highly recommend Curt Meine’s biography, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, also from Wisconsin.

    My essay on Leopold’s thinking about conservation economics, Outstretched Palms, is available on the NewWest website at


  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    P.S. I may have misunderstood your request about more recent works, although I do not think Leopold is dated at all. The reason we read him today is because of his timelessness.

    I personally have found the works of the deep ecologists and bioregionalists to be of great value to me; one of the best ways to get into their frame of mind is through Gary Snyder’s poetry and essays, and then dig into the philosophy. I have also learned much about the perception of land and wildlife from Alaska poet John Haines, especially his little book of essays, The Stars, The Snow, the Fire, which may be the best non-fiction prose work in 20th century American literature. Further back, Robinson Jeffer’s poetry, especially his shorter lyric poetry, gets to the heart of things. Jeffers is the author of the line everyone has hearad of but no one knows where it came from, “what but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine the fleet limbs of the antelope.” It’s from the poem The Bloody Sire, which is a protest poem against WWII, of all things.


  18. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    P.P.S And for ecological/philsophical/religious issues in fiction, there’s nothing better than Frank Herbert’s Dune series, especially the first book, Dune.


  19. Maska Avatar

    Robert, I agree that Leopold still has much to offer us. I especially enjoy reading some of his essays while sitting around camp in the Gila country.

    I also agree that the best way into the realm of the deep ecologists and bioregionalists is by way of the poets and essayists. Some of the philosophers (e.g. Arne Naess) can be pretty heavy going! Jeffers and Gary Snyder are among my favorites. I’m not familiar with John Haines–must look for his work. Is the book you mention in currently in print?

  20. Catbestland Avatar

    And Vicki,

    You must read Desert Solitare by Edward Abbey if you haven’t already and of course The Monkey Wrench Gang. I think its a law somewhere that every conservationist has to read it. (just kidding)

  21. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Books–try Jack Turner’s The Abstract Wild. Or Richard Nelson’s Heart and Blood: Living With Deer In America. Nelson, an anthropologist living in Alaska, is a hunter and deals with the dilemma of killing the very deer he loves and admires. I suspect today’s wolf killers don’t have more than a 6 pack worth of consideration for what they’re doing.

  22. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    As far as I know, the Haines book is still in print. I’ve had it a long time. It should at least still be in paperback. The prose is mesmerizing.

    In addition to Nelson’s Heart and Blood, I would also recommend his study of the Koyuk Dene in Alaska, Make Prayers to the Raven.

    And because they’re so intimate, if you can find them, I also highly recommend any of the books of Canadian outfitter, hunter, and conservationist Andy Russell. Russell died a few years back, and few people have heard of him, but his knowledge of wildlife and land is that of someone who’s lived close to both all his life, and learned without prejudice.


  23. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    With regards to the Cambridge, Idaho wolf killing by a Wildlife Service agent, the question to ask Idaho Dept of Fish & Game and Wildlife Services in Idaho, is why didn’t the WS agent try to haze it away, so it had a chance to learn to stay away from cattle and people?

    Supposedly there was a dead calf at the ranch. Ranchers have a lot of dead calves. Part of doing business. Maybe the wolves killed this one, maybe they didn’t. Who is doing the investigating? Was the calf sick? Dying? We won’t know and will never know. The deck is stacked against wolves.

    The photos floating around show a wolf killed on the Ford Ranch near Cuddy Mountain. The photos include a young, light colored wolf, draped over the back of a four-wheeler (of course!), with a cowpoke with cowpoke hat nearby grinning ear to ear. Then another cowpoke standing next to the poor wolf being displayed hung by its hind legs. Then there are the usual photos of the wolf’s bloody mouth and canine teeth, and then these “men” took a photo of a very average sized wolf paw. Yah, guys, it’s a bigger paw than your bird dog.

    A few days ago, there was a similar-looking wolf standing outside the cabin where I live. What a wonderful moment, a gift … . But the Cambridge cowpokers don’t get it, and unless things change and wolves get some protection, and the state of Idaho starts to do some outreach regarding wolves, there are going to be hundreds of wolves shot down and exhibited.

  24. TPageCO Avatar

    Andy Russell’s books are wonderful – Grizzly Country, Horns in the High Country and Trails of a Wilderness Wanderer. Stories of animals and the country just north of Glacier Park in Alberta before the oil and gas boys trashed it in the 60’s. Russell gets my vote for most underrated outdoor writer. So glad someone else still reads his work! Richard Nelson gets a thumbs up from here, too.

    I don’t think Leopold is outdated, rather he was way ahead of his time. For another story on a guy way, way ahead of his time, read Wallace Stegner’s biography of John Wesley Powell called “Beyond the 100th Meridian”. Powell recognized that (among other things) western landscapes should be managed by watershed, not political, boundaries. His idea languished in obscurity for decades after he lost a political power struggle. Stegner brought Powell’s vision to light in 1954, and it’s only now that we’re starting to recognize that Powell was right. As a plus, the book is a great adventure story of the first documented trip down the Green/Colorado River system. It’s probably Stegner’s most lasting and visionary work, and should be required reading for anyone interested in western water issues.

    As for fiction, I’m going to stick with my choice from the other topic – Faulkner’s Big Woods. It’s Faulkner, it’s the “Lord God bird”, it’s the Mississippi Delta. Nuf said.

    I’ve never read Haines, but I’m going to get it.

  25. vicki Avatar

    Robert, and Everyone,
    Thanks for all of the recommendations.
    I see how Leopold is timeless, and couldn’t agree more. (I wasn’t suggesting he was out dated.) But when you talk to a teen as inquistive as mine, he is bound to ask about people who have written things recently. I want to be able to offer a variety of choices.
    The poetry might be an ideal way to get him, and his friends to read more. It may spark their interest and be descriptive enough to keep them going
    I truly appreciate all of the help and ideas. Thanks to each of you!!!
    I will be passing through Dubois soon. I have been to most of the tourist hot spots. Could you perhaps recommend a short hike that is a little less populated? I am taking atleast two kids with me who have never hiked anything more than local bike trails, so it may need to be somewhat level.
    I plan to have them fish the Wind River. I want the to see what has changed there since I was a kid, and what is still the same.

  26. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    There is a photo of dead calf too — almost totally consumed. Was it a wolf? Maybe.

    The wolf looks pretty skinny to me.

  27. Nathan Avatar

    Very good editorial from the LA Times regarding state management plans,0,4142879.story

  28. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    thanks Nathen. That op-ed was exactly on target. Except no lower than 2500 would be more realistic in my considered opinion.

  29. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    It depends upon exact time and physical condition and what’s open. If I’m just on a short hike, I always like to drive to the end of Trail Lake Road east of Dubois to the trailhead into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness. Lake Louise is a nice short hike through some knarley but reasonably flat terrain, mostly. You can also hike up on bighorn sheep winter range this time of year, and there are pulloffs at Whiskey Basin and near Ring Lake Ranch to the end of Trail Lake Road. Much of the road between Whiskey Basin and RLR goes through private land so you have to keep on the road.

    Most of the sheep in Whiskey Basin have started moving up toward summer range, and the ewes are lambing now on the sheer granite cliffs.

    At this time of year, a lot of really good short hikes in the Upper Country are still snowed in.


  30. vicki Avatar

    The ewes hear are also up high now. I also saw signs of the first new moose of the year two weekends ago.

    We may try the Lake Louise suggestion. I think it sounds reasonable. The kids are probably in good shape, but better safe than sorry until I see what the altitude does to them.

    I appreciate the info, and will let you know how it goes. I have loved the Dubois area since I was 9. I caught my first trout on a fly in the Wind River. It has changed a lot, but remains the same in so many ways. There is a metal bridge that crosses the Wind, it’s big and kinda out of place, but I love it. Every time I see it I get kind of sentimental.

    The Wind is also the first place I ever knw of where they tagged fish. It was an awesome learning experience. I hope to pass it on.

    Thanks again so much.


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