Yellowstone Park sees major loss of wolf pups, adults this year

Yellowstone wolf population is hit hard this year. Reasons not certain-

Back in 2005 after years of major population growth tapering off to stability, the Yellowstone wolf population suddenly crashed when all but 20% of that year’s wolf pups died. While the cause was not determined for sure, most think it was due to canine distemper.

The next two years, however, saw a rebuilding of the wolf population with high wolf pup survival rates. 2008 began with what appeared would be more growth with reports of very high pup counts, e.g., 24 pups in the Leopold Pack.

The first signs of trouble came, however, from the Slough Creek Pack which had a number of pregnant female wolves, but only one pup was seen. As the summer wore on, many packs seemed to have lost all of their pups and most at least some. Currently only the Gibbon Pack has a large number of pups left — ten — and it is the largest wolf pack inside the Park with 25 or more members. Despite its size it is not commonly seen. Its territory is not close to the Park roads.

Not only have more than half the pups died, but interpack strife is high with fights between wolf packs and attacks on by packs on lone wolves taken by surprise.

Finally, canine distemper, which might be the cause of the pup loss (this has not been proven) does attack older wolves too. It is less deadly with older wolves but for those in poor nutritional status mortality can be high. Nutritional stress could be present given the decline of the elk population in the Park.

Wolves born in 2005 or earlier in the Park probably have antibodies to distemper, but the 2006-7 young adults probably do not. If distemper is around, it may have taken wolves older than pups.

Distemper is spread by saliva and is carried by wolves, dogs, coyotes, fox, skunks and other animals.

I should caution that distemper has not yet been proven as the cause, and the pup loss might be due to one or more entirely different factors.

The following packs seem to have lost all their pups as of October

Slough Creek, Agate, Oxbow, Canyon, and Cougar Creek.

Update: Canyon still has one pup. RM

The Delta Pack, which was the Park’s largest last year, appears to still have 2 pups (the alpha female is old and she may not have had more than that).

The Druids went from possibly 18 pups down to a current 5. The Druid Pack still has 21 members and dominates the area.

After an attack by the Agate Pack, the Oxbow Pack is down to just the alpha pair, and maybe not even that.

The Canyon Pack, which formed from a Hayden female and a Molly’s male (replacing the disrupted Hayden Pack) lost one, or maybe 2 pups. I think it has 4 or 5 members, including a surviving pup.

Mollies Pack size is unknown. It has 2 or 3 pups.

The Leopolds are on the brink of extinction. They are the Park’s oldest wolf pack and have long been one of the biggest. At the beginning of the summer it looked like they might have 30 or 40 members. However, all but 3 of their 24 pups disappeared. The alpha male was killed in an attack by other wolves and only 3 adults are now collared and seen regularly. So the pack might be down to 6 or even less.

The Slough Pack lost all its pups, and in repeated attacks by other packs lost its alpha and beta females. Now just one female is left, “Hook,” a surviver of the 2005 pup dieoff, is the sole and alpha female. The pack seems to have 8 adult male wolves.

The Slough Creek Pack lost all of its pups, and in repeated attacks by other wolf packs it lost its alpha female and beta female this summer.

Now the alpha female is “Hook”, a surviver of the 2005 pup dieoff. The Slough pack is female, not male-heavy. All the pack members are females except for one male. There are about 11 pack members.

One new wolf pack has formed. Wolf 470F, born to the Leopolds, and who became a founder of the Oxbow  Pack, has gathered some other wolves and may have a few pups. Her pack is called the Mt. Everts Pack, based on their primary range.

I will be in Yellowstone and hope to return with more information.


  1. teklanikaphotos Avatar

    Sad news… I could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure that the Canyon’s do still have one pup with them though, and they’re a pack of 5.

  2. outsider Avatar

    is it just ynp or all over?

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I don’t know, but recall the recent announcement by USFWS that the overall wolf population in the Northern Rockies is probably down a bit this year. This would be the first year of no overall growth.

  4. caleb Avatar

    Just more proof that all the Livestock Growers and Hunters that say wolf populations will do nothing but increase are wrong. Nature can take care of itself if left alone, unfortunately humans have changed so much already that leaving it completely alone is impossible. But the fact remains that wildlife does not need to be managed at least not nearly as much as people do.

  5. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    As of September, according to our state wolf management director, there are 360 wolves in Montana. I believe that’s down from 422. I’ll try to verify the 422.

  6. Alan Sachanowski Avatar

    Yellowstone wildlife in general seems to be way down this year. We have been spending a lot of time in the Tetons because of that. An example: When driving to the Tetons last week, from the north gate to the south on the west side road, we saw six or eight elk (in Mammoth) and three bison near Old Faithful, total wildlife. On the way back we went through Hayden and saw maybe a hundred bison and then the usual elk in Mammoth…that’s it. Within a short time in the Tetons we saw twenty bull elk (and several dozen cows), fourteen moose, a herd of pronghorn, a couple hundred bison, river otters, one grizzly bear and a bald eagle stealing a fish from an osprey. While there have been exceptions, this has been typical lately. I spoke with another photographer in the Tetons, who happens to work for an outfitter (wildlife viewing type), and he said that they have suspended wildlife viewing trips to Yellowstone because (his words) “there’s no wildlife for our clients to view in Yellowstone”. He said all Yellowstone trips are now for the hot springs etc., and for wildlife they stick with the Tetons.
    While standing around and discussing this with other photographers in Yellowstone, the theory has been raised that perhaps the wildlife in Yellowstone has taken even a bigger hit, with the brutal (and late) Spring this year, than has been previously suggested. With the overall sterile feel of the Park this fall, I wonder if this isn’t the case? With a drastically reduced prey base, perhaps Nature is now adjusting, as it does, by also reducing predators?

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks Jerry,

    Montana FWP has been having Wildlife Services whack wolves like crazy in Montana — 60 wolves.

    There was an article the other day how a wolf killed a goat near Helena, and it was in most papers — a big story on a wolf killing a goat . . . incredible!

    From the article mentioned, “Altogether wolves have killed 44 head of cattle in Montana so far this year, along with 39 sheep and six llamas. Representatives of FWP or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have killed 60 wolves this year.”

    – – – –
    I can’t get over it. . a goat, a goat, a damned worthless goat!

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I do think that the wolf population would have to decrease one way or another due to the decline in ungulate numbers. This is one more reason why the development of a meta-population in Idaho-Wyoming-Montana is so important. In the future, as in the prehistoric past, there will always be areas (some fairly large) where events will cause a big decrease in prey, and, thus, predators.

    As an aside, I just don’t believe the Park Service’s summer count of over 3000 bison after the starvation and deliberate slaughter of last year.

  9. JB Avatar

    So MFW&P has killed 60 wolves for 89 depredations? That seems a bit excessive. Montana gained a lot of political capital by going through a lengthy and expensive stakeholder process, the result of which was a reasonable management plan for wolves (kudos to them). However, they shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that this gives them license to cavalierly kill wolves for every minor offense. Eventually, the good will and trust they’ve acquired will disappear and they will be back in the same position as Wyoming and Idaho; that is, facing outright opposition from conservation groups.

    One goat? Seriously?

  10. Terry Avatar

    Really sorry to hear of this great decline in numbers and the loss of so many new pups. Happy that the Druids have 5 surviving pups. It all goes back to the old saying “Only the Strong Survive” Will be in Yellowstone again in January and hope to see the Druids out there 21 strong. Was priviledged to see the Slough Creek Pack on Sept. 20th in the Lamar Valley. They caused quite a nice “wolf jam”. They were very visible that day and we almost missed our plane because we watched them for so long. Got some great shots of them. Hope to see them again also. It was a great treat for my friend because she has never seen them before and it was our last day in the park. Can’t wait to get back out there in late January. It’s much easier to see them in the snow. I’m sure they will all be “Looking for Love” at that time.
    Just wanted to add that I am more than grateful the USFW has dropped their petition to delist the wolf and that they are again protected by ESA. In remembrance of Wolf 253 and all others killed needlessly His courageous story will always echo through the “valley”.

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Alan Sachanowski just sent me a photo of one of the Canyon Pack’s pups trying to play with an adult.

    He said there appear to be 3 gray wolves and 2 pups in the pack at the present; a black pup and a gray one.

    Thanks, Alan.

  12. Alan Sachanowski Avatar

    Actually I believe the black is an adult. I see that I mistyped in my e-mail…sorry.

  13. ynp4me Avatar

    The Slough Creek Pack is actually predominantly female. Of the 10 or 11 members, only 2 are male: the alpha and a yearling. The rest are females: one 3 year old alpha and 7 or 8 yearling females. All of these females could come into estrus this breeding season.

  14. Kathie Lynch Avatar
    Kathie Lynch

    I think the Canyon group consists of five wolves: four adults and one pup. The gray alpha male, 587M, was born into the Mollies pack in 2001. The gray alpha female is probably the former Hayden pack beta female who was probably born in 2005. She would, therefore, be the mother of everyone’s favorite black pup from the summer of 2007, the one who grew up to be Hayden 638M. The Canyon group also includes a gray male adult and a jet black male adult, origins unknown (maybe Mollies?). And, they have one very photogenic, beautiful gray pup.

    The Sloughs should have 11 wolves total (not counting “The Dark Female,” who is usually absent). The 11 include the alphas 590M and “Hook,” and the rest are all yearlings (they had 9 of 13 pups survive in 2007). I think the yearlings include eight females (two are collared: 630F and 631F) and only one male, a big, husky black.

    The Slough beta female, 526F, was killed by the Druids on 9/3/08. The former Slough alpha female, 380F (born in 2003 to Slough Creek pack founders Mollies 261M and Druid 217F) was killed three days later, also by other wolves. However, the Druids were out of the area at the time and it is unknown who killed 380F.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    ynp4me and Kathie,

    Thanks for straightening me out on the Sloughs. I guess I misunderstood.

  16. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    Over the past few-several years MT has killed more wolves, proportional to their overall population, than ID; not sure about WY. Seems they have a better “spin” team, as their plan is held up as a model and it is better than the other 2 states in many respects.

  17. outsider Avatar

    Ralph sorry to point this out but

    “One or more wolves recently killed a domestic goat on private land about 15 miles northwest of Helena”

    You say “a goat, a goat, a damned worthless goat”

    Well if it was on PRIVATE property than that wolf had no right to kill that goat. I know sounds harsh but this country is founded on private property rights. Was the landowner supposed to be protecting his goat on his private property? Or should he expect the government to take care of its introduced preditors?

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I respect private property rights, and the owner might be compensated. Did you see the article I posted on compensation for bear and wolf loses in Montana? Not much property damage was done, but if the owner wants a check, fine.

    However, a goat is not worth very much in terms of money, and it isn’t much of a story. It is the story that irritates me.

    Would there be a story in numerous newspapers if the goat was killed by a careless vehicle driver?

    So my point is this amount of attention is too much attention.
    – – – –
    Oh, the wolf got away and wasn’t killed.

  19. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I am in Yellowstone at present. I photographed all of the Canyon pack yesterday and the day before and there are four adults and one small gray pup.
    Elk numbers seem to be way down in the park this year and I think some packs had a hard time feeding all of their pups. Grizzlies seem to show up very soon on a kill, forcing the wolves to hunt again. The Canyon pack lost both of its last two kills to grizzlies on the first day .
    There are a good number of Bison here(I get tired of driving through them) and although I think the killing of Bison last spring may cause some to feel bad, I think the range looks much better than it has for several years due to the reduced grazing pressure. There have been far too many Bison in Yellowstone for several years.
    It will be interesting to see how many elk show up on the Northern range this winter. I think that the numbers are likely to be way down and as a result wolf numbers will drop even more.

  20. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for the update.

  21. Ken Fischman, Ph.D. Avatar
    Ken Fischman, Ph.D.

    I do not know why so many pups have died in Yellowstone this year. However, the reports of increased killings of wolves by other wolves may be a clue. Such killings as well as increase in pup deaths are often a sign of stress in wolves. The wolves may have exceeded the carrying capacity of the area because of an unfortunate combination of circumstances.
    Prey animals may have decreased in number, due to the unusually severe winter, while wolves either increased in number or their population held steady.
    Ralph Maughan points out the apparent decrease in the Rocky Mountain wolf population this year as perhaps part of a trend. However, the cause may be quite different. Increased killing of wolves during the 3 months they were delisted may account for this.

  22. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Just wanted to confirm that Montana did have 422 wolves at the end of 2007. As of last month the count was 360 and decreasing almost daily. WS is presently hunting the last 5 members of the Sapphire pack in the area southwest of Philipsburg.

  23. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    sheep go to heaven
    goats go to hell

  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for your comment, Ken. And to your last point, look at jerry b’s below.

  25. seabreeze Avatar

    Outsider I’m just wondering how a wolf is suppose to know it is on private property? Last time I checked they couldn’t read so it probably didn’t know it shouldn’t have been there. Perhaps the goats owner should keep better track of it and keep it in an inclosure where wolves can’t get to it.

  26. outsider Avatar

    Ralph you can bet it would have made the paper if the car had been a jacked up hummer drivin by tourist, who killed the goat in the front lawn and drove away after without paying for damamges.

    Seabreeze, lots of people on this site say either livestock owners need to watch their livestock on public lands or take them back to private. Now your saying they need to watch them on their private as well? Where does it end, when all livestock are gone from public and private both? How would you feel if someone killed your dog in your backyard and when you reported it all the police said was “you should have watched it more closely” Bet youd have a cow

  27. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    You didn’t get my point at all.

    If someone killed my dog in my backyard and the police said I should have watched it more closely, it wouldn’t be a regional news story.

  28. caleb Avatar


    I have goats, chickens and ducks. I keep them on my own land and behind a fence i built to keep the coyotes and foxes from getting to them. So far it has worked, if a fox or coyote killed some of them then i would change the fence to keep them out. I wouldn’t get any compensation for it and that is the risk you take when wanting to own prey species in a place where predators roam. The fact is that those livestock growers want not to just kill the predators on their private land, but they want to go destroy the public land as well. They think since they grow livestock they should be able to kill all predators on public land. Land that belongs to a lot more people that don’t want to see that happen to the predators than the ranchers that do. A goat is worth $100 to $150 tops, this livestock grower should not be reimbursed at all. I didn’t go fight a war overseas so ranchers and hunters could walk all over my rights and destroy my country. What they do on their own private land is fine but not the public land that belongs to everyone.

  29. caleb Avatar


    You are completely right. The newspapers here in WY, don’t report that dogs were killed on the highway i live on. They just want to make it sound like it was some intentional crime and oh poor livestock owner doesn’t want to deal with living in the west with predators. They should go back east where they belong.

  30. Layton Avatar

    “oh poor livestock owner doesn’t want to deal with living in the west with predators. They should go back east where they belong.”

    Now that quote is a hoot!!

    All that livestock owners, residents, fishermen, hunters, etc. in the affected states want is the ABILITY to “deal” with the predators!! To remind them that they are NOT the top predator on ladder — as they seem to be now with govt. blessing and protection.

    What the wolf supporters want is a de facto, unbreakable, no holds barred SHIELD against anyone harming any one of their protected critters — for any reason!!

    Kind of seems like an impasse to me.

  31. caleb Avatar


    No! What the livestock owners want is the total annihilation of all animals except their livestock. The hunters want annihilation of all predators so they can have more ungulates and such to shoot. What livestock owners want is a de facto, unbreakable, no holds barred killing until there is nothing left.

    If you would have read my earlier statement that “What they do on their own private land is fine but not the public land that belongs to everyone.” you would see that i want them to have the abiltiy to do what they want on their own land. But unfortuantely they want to do it on all land, not just theirs.

    Just because people are the top predator you must think we should use that power to destroy everything we can just because we can.

  32. Layton Avatar


    You’ve drunk to much of the “they want to kill them all” kool aid.

    The FACT of the matter is that IF hunters and livestock owners DID want to “kill them all” they just would NOT BE ABLE TO DO IT!!

    This was proven pretty amply back when efforts were alive and well to do just that. People tried to eliminate ALL of the wolves around by hunting and trapping them. They couldn’t do it!! The only way that the large % of wolves were killed was poison and aerial gunning. Hunting, even the deliberate, bounty driven hunting that was going on couldn’t get it done.

    Now the “theme song” or popular refrain, or whatever you want to call it from the wolf support side is “they will kill them all”. Then of course the words annihilate, slaughter, eliminate, exterminate, etc., etc., have to be thrown in for more of the desired effect.

    In a word (or letter) or two — BS!

    By the way, concerning that private vs. public land thing. There ARE those among us that share in the ownership of that public land you reference that ARE in favor of control measures — on the public land.

  33. vicki Avatar

    Yes, there are those of you who support control measures on public lands. But, you are out numbered. There are those of us who believe if numbers reach a very high level, control will happen…but that is not the same as “supporting” it.
    But let me ask you, how much of a part of wolf erradication in the GYE, in 1926, was done by aerial gunning? Now that is a stretch.
    Wolf populations, sadly, could be eliminated without the use of poison and aerial gunning. No, maybe not every single wolf would be shot, but an end to viable breedling populations could easily and effectively end the existence of wolves in the WY/ID/MT. In a matter of short time, those wolves that were not a part of a viable family unit, with no breeding capacity, would die off.
    If you really want to be forthcoming about the whole deal, look at the realistic side. If wolves get to a point where biologists say there are an excess of animals, they will be hunted. If not, well, they probably aren’t have a major effect on cattle or elk anyhow.
    If you are all about the elk numbers, worry about CWD, get them to close feedlots…and let the wolves keep CWD from spreading.
    As for the wolf numbers declining in YNP, I think that is evidence that the delisting was premature. I know you will disagree, and that is fine. But it goes to show that the real problem was not that wolves were going to breed and be over running the mountains in a year…but that people have a misconception and lack of knowledge about how wolf numbers really stabalize themselves.
    So what then is the real issue? Straight up greed. I want more land, I want more elk, “I” “I”, “want” want”. What really needs to happen is a reinstatement of the maximum nature balance possible in the ecosystem, which should include elk have real four legged predators.

  34. caleb Avatar

    Do you have any clue how many hunters have told me they want all wolves to die, and the only good wolf is a dead wolf. And yes they did “almost kill them all” by poisoning and such. Just as we had almost killed off other species predator and not alike. So i take it you think that people can’t possibly make a difference in the world populations of any species at all, which has been proven time and time again that we can. And yes they want to poison and aerial gun them still today if they get their way. It was in the wyoming mangament plan to allow poisoning. And it sounds like that is your way as well. Public land is not there for ranchers to run their cattle on.

    Layton, do you want all predators eleminated from public lands as well? If so why and why not. Why do people want control measures on public land? Because they are running their personal property on it like it is their own.

    According to the law, wildlife belongs to every citizen. If the ranchers get their way then they will try every way they can think of to remove my property as well as yours. You say kill them, i say don’t and we both have an equal say. Unless you are illegal or something. I know and understand your side and point, but just as you don’t care about what i think should be done. I don’t care about what you think either. This is clearly an issue that will not be solved without a cooperative agreement being struck between both sides. And people like you and me will always take up the side that our side isn’t represented correctly or getting our fair share.

  35. Barb Avatar

    If Wildlife belongs to “every” citizen, it only goes as far as “states” then as I have no say so what they do in WY or MT or ID to wolves — I just have to sit by, watch them slaughter these animals and give my time, efforts, and money to organizations that have to SUE to do anything to do anything about it.

    I am not for “state’s rights” to “manage” their own “populations” if it entails killing in the manner WY would like to do. They feel it is their “right” to kill every wolf on sight for any reason. That is not reasonable.

    In light of some Western states like WY’s wolf hatred, and for the wolf’s sake, I hope the wolf NEVER gets off the endangered species list. Seems it’s the only way to keep it protected effectively with these gun totin’ boys.

  36. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    The problem is, with BOTH sides, on side says something and it polarizes the other side and on, and on…until such time and there is give and take on BOTH sides, there will be no solutions..

  37. Barb Avatar

    One of the above postings reminds me of some INSANE laws of Wyoming (and other states) that says that drivers will be held responsible if livestock is accidentally hit and killed or hurt.

    What about domestic dogs then?

    Seems to me if you aren’t keeping an eye on your livestock that’s YOUR problem.

    Laws re: livestock in the Western states are truly of the 1800’s and need revision.

  38. Barb Avatar

    So what do you propose, SaveBears?

  39. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    It is called communication with out the rhetoric, as I have said many times in the past, I am middle of the road on wolves, if they are causing a problem, take care of that problem, if they aren’t then leave the darn things alone..but when you start bringing up the rights of those who own their property, your going to have a fight on your hands..and yes, I agree, the WY wolf plan was not only stupid, it was a guarantee the wolf was going to end up back on the list…but until such time as both sides sit down and start talking, there will be no solution to this situation, your going to have those on the far sides of the issue continue to make statements that are going to inflame the other side…

    There is a place for both livestock as well as wolves, but neither side, wants the other to win…so hence we have an impass..

    Right now the view is, all environmentalists are bad and all livestock owners and hunters are bad, when in fact, the bad ones on both are really only a minority…

  40. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And by the way, I don’t think the de-listing had anything to do with the decline in the park, as they we really not de-listed as you can’t hunt them in the park, this year, from a biological standpoint was not a good one for wolves in the park, the park population is pretty much a self regulating population that is going to grow or decline based on environmental factors..

  41. vicki Avatar

    Not everyone who believes wolves have a substaintial place in the environment is an extremist. I happen to know that eventually, if numbers become high enough (though in light of this info I doubt that will be soon) that wolves will need to be hunted. I know that may not be the pc stand here, but it is the most realistic one.
    Shoot at will is crap, never shoot at all is crap….shoot with careful planning, strict regulation, and appropriate fees is the middle ground that will be the only place any meeting of the minds will happen.
    But I know this, the west of old is fading. The days of wranglers and cowboys holding court over the west and the land are fading. And the time of the thinkers and socially conscious is upon us. People are now starting to recognize that they have a responsibility to the environment, and to one another, that supercedes their obligation to the fablistic historical romance that is the way of public land ranchers.
    Cowboys don’t ride up on white horses and save the world. Cows aren’t paving the road with gold and glory. Miners aren’t panning their way into history.
    Cowboys actually drive 4×4’s and only save what has something in it for them. Cows are stomping the life out of all things wild, and heating the earth one degree at a time. And miners are blowing up the beauty in the world while choking on the sludge they create.
    It is time for everyone to realize what they WANT is not as important as what this planet and our children’s children need.
    Wolves are just a symptom and a symbol of a much greater problem….selfish disregard for what really matters, and that is getting things done, even when compromise makes people uncomfortable.

  42. Layton Avatar


    You said:
    “No, maybe not every single wolf would be shot, but an end to viable breeding populations could easily and effectively end the existence of wolves in the WY/ID/MT. In a matter of short time, those wolves that were not a part of a viable family unit, with no breeding capacity, would die off.”

    Why would this happen?? It didn’t happen before, even with the measures that were taken to MAKE it happen. We had wolves here in Idaho when the new ones were dumped in ’94 and ’95. What makes you think that the current population is any different??

    “If you really want to be forthcoming about the whole deal, look at the realistic side. If wolves get to a point where biologists say there are an excess of animals, they will be hunted. If not, well, they probably aren’t have a major effect on cattle or elk anyhow.”

    Now THAT is a major fallacy — many biologists DID say there was more animals than were needed to maintain a population — but it seems that a judge in Montana is a better scientist and he stopped the whole thing. Have you forgotten that already??

    And they DO have an effect on elk populations — oops, wrong, I know, it was just the winter in Yellowstone that decreased the elk numbers —- not!!


    OK — here’s several things you said;
    “So i take it you think that people can’t possibly make a difference in the world populations of any species at all”

    Who said that?? I surely didn’t and I’m really not sure where you came up with it. More kool aid?

    “And yes they want to poison and aerial gun them still today if they get their way. It was in the wyoming mangament plan to allow poisoning. And it sounds like that is your way as well.”

    Again, cut out the invented stereotypes and read what I SAID — don’t invent things that aren’t true.

    “Layton, do you want all predators eleminated from public lands as well? If so why and why not. Why do people want control measures on public land? Because they are running their personal property on it like it is their own.”

    No, I don’t!! I’ve NEVER said anything like that. AND, just in case you don’t understand it, wolves are NOT like most other predators, not by any stretch of the imagination.

    People want control measures on public land for a variety of reasons, because they run stock out there (they pay for the right to, I’m not going to argue about the price, that’s a whole different discussion), because they want to practice their own type of recreation, hiking, hunting, running dogs, etc., etc. And, just maybe, because they want to watch OTHER critters, and there aren’t near as many out there with the wolves running the show.

    By the way, I don’t run a THING on public land, no cows, now sheep, no nothing.

  43. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Working in the field and talking to as many people as I do, there are not as many as you might think that want them gone, many have the same attitude as I do, no problems, leave them alone, if they are a problem, solve the problem, not many are going to accept the hunting of wolves and the environmentalists side, because it will be pure and simple trophy hunting, there is no food benefit to killing a wolf…I don’t know anyone that eats canine to kill a wolf with out the threat of livestock deaths, is nothing but trophy hunting..which is something, I don’t advocate

    When I hunt, it is for the I don’t hunt wolves or coyotes, or bears anymore, although I have eaten bear meat that was quite good as I have had lion that was good…unless it is control, your never going to see anyone on the restoration side, say, hunting wolves is a good thing..

    Until we get past this, rhetoric of you want the wolves everywhere, or you don’t want wolves anywhere, there will be no solution..

  44. Linda Hunter Avatar

    It was only thirteen years ago that wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone and just four years later when we started hearing the “manage them” mantra . . humans are an impatient lot aren’t we? I would think that if we let wolves be wolves for perhaps 25 years we might begin to understand how they work, how they fit in the habitat and what they are good for but humans do not move on nature time and are just so impatient to take the reins in their own hands they never learn whether the horse knows its way home on its own. If they don’t DO anything and just watch maybe BOTH “sides” will win.

  45. vicki Avatar


    The elk numbers in YNP are probably more close to where they should have been all along, and that is due to weather, and wolves. That is evident by the regrowth of vegetation and water ways that elk over-population had caused so much damage to until now.

    Guy, come one…you are comparing a few lone wolves wondering through Idaho with a VIABLE population. Nice try, but it is simply not the same darn thing.

    That judge is the deciding discretionary voice, so yep, he was more qualified to filter throughthe scientific and other info to formulate an unbiased opinion. That is what is called “the system”. You’d surely have no issue with it if the system had sided on your end of the spectrum.

    You may call the effect that what few wolves are in the lower forty eight have had a huge deal, but I feel that the benefits have far outweighed the livestock losses. That one is just my opinion though. I’m not quoting anyone there.

    And yes, people want to enjoy public lands. More and more people want to do that without cow manure al over. SO I expect that those who “pay” (what a freakin’ joke) will not be doing it too much longer.

    Aside from depradation on livestock, the reasons you gave for opposing them on public lands just don’t stand up. A hiker is more likely to be attacked by a moose or elk in the rutt than a wolf.

    Look guy, I am not an extreme animal rights type of person, but I am also not dumb enough to believe wolves eat all the other animals, kill all our children, and over run the world unless we extinguish them either. If they are some day hunted, they need to be hunted in with extreme regard to their numbers, and with a draw for a tag and price tag that is reflective of their trophy status. I don’t think ranchers in Wyoming or hunters in Idaho are who should decide those terms….or should be able to pay those who decide….it should be based on a scientific approach by people in Washington D.C. who were not involved with the states at issue. (Or some other panel that can be effective and impartial.) Then a judge should decide if and when it is legal and valid to do so….or a law should be passed that does.

  46. vicki Avatar

    Save Bears,
    I agree with your statement. I also don’t hunt anything I wouldn’t eat. (Though I find bear to be a bit fatty 😉 ) I have never, nor would I ever, eaten wolf, coyote or lion. So I don’t shoot them. Exception: I have shot a coyote that came onto my porch with my daughter and I. It was within inches of us both and wouldn’t budge when I threw things or kicked at it. I took my daughter inside and came back out to get it to leave, intending to fire a warning shot, but it growled and began stomping forward at me, so I shot it. I felt horrible, but justified.
    Now, as far as hunting, well even though I wouldn’t hunt wolves, IF the population became large enough to need “managed”, I’d rather have a trophy hunt so that funds generated by licenses and tags could go toward conservation in general. I think the varmit status was a huge mistake in Wyoming.
    The extreme opposites on this issue blur the obvious areas for compromise. Too bad, because it ends up costing a lot more for everyone in the long run.
    The only problem with shooting or managing “problem” wolves is the ability to determine what wolves are truly a problem or were just shot because of the beliefs of the shooter. If that could be solved, no argument from me…but I think it is a big issue.

  47. caleb Avatar

    Layton, two things.

    If you take the side of the people who want to still poison and aerial gun them until they are all dead, than you are in essence saying you want them all dead too.

    Second people could easily wipe them out again being that there are more guns, traps out there now than back in the day, and there is less habitat to cover with those traps and guns.

    Also I understand that wolves are “different” predators than the others of this continent. I may be a bastard, but I am not an uneducated bastard. But wolves are not the only predators that some people want to be rid of. They are the best of them, but they are needed for a healthy and at least a little less humanly altered environment in the places where that is still a possibility. Do you agree?

    There is a lot of comments above talking about the selfishness of the ranchers and hunters. Which is true, but I am selfish just like them but on a different side. And just like them I will fight this battle forever.

  48. caleb Avatar

    Also the few wolves that did make it in idaho that you talk about were saved before people had a chance to finish the job, if mentality had not changed they would be gone Layton.

  49. JB Avatar

    “People tried to eliminate ALL of the wolves around by hunting and trapping them. They couldn’t do it!! The only way that the large % of wolves were killed was poison and aerial gunning. Hunting, even the deliberate, bounty driven hunting that was going on couldn’t get it done.”

    Layton, this is a VERY misleading statement. For example, wolves were mostly eliminated from the eastern half of the United States BEFORE 1900 (when did the Wright bros. fly at Kitty Hawk again?); aerial gunning did not play a role in the elimination of wolves from the vast majority of the historical habitat within North America (wolves were eliminated from YNP by 1914).

    Wolves could easily be killed off today, as aerial gunning is far more effective (and selective) than strychnine ever was. In fact, given our increased knowledge of wolf behavior, increased density, and much improved technology (radio and gps collars, high-powered rifles, canine-specific lures, etc), I believe wolves could be effectively removed from the West in 5 years (with a concerted effort).

  50. IzabelaM Avatar

    Jerry B says:

    “Just wanted to confirm that Montana did have 422 wolves at the end of 2007. As of last month the count was 360 and decreasing almost daily. WS is presently hunting the last 5 members of the Sapphire pack in the area southwest of Philipsburg”
    I thought wolves were back under endangered species act..why are we hunting 5 memeber of the pack?

    I am not understanding it. Did the pack killed tons of sheep or cows?
    What am I missing?


  51. Barb Avatar

    I think there is a lot of SSS going on in MT, WY, and ID and I think the law enforcement is looking the other way.

    That kind of mentality is just like the lynch mob mentality down South years ago; i.e., certain people (or animals) are “bad.”

  52. John Avatar

    Make it legal and the people will abuse their privileges, make it illegal and they will still do as they please.

    Back to the topic, this is bad news on a personal level but maybe not so much on a more detached level. The wolf population from Isle Royale also suffered something similar to this when their population reached a zenith.

  53. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I think there is a lot of SSS going on in all three states, just as I have said for the last couple of years…Big States, Low populations and pissed off people, will always add up to something you will not be happy with..

  54. seabreeze Avatar

    Outsider I don’t leave my dog out where it is in danger of getting harmed, anyways that is irrelevant to the topic why don’t you go hug a goat and get off your high horse about protecting the livestock, there aren’t enough predators to cause irreversible damage to the livestock population and they don’t care about the animal just the money that comes from it. And yes growing up around ranchers and knowing families that it is there livelihood many are very irresponsible and have the capability to protect them from predators. Livestock does not belong on public land. They are not native and cause more damage to an ecosystem than a wolf ever will to one goat.

  55. Layton Avatar


    OK, take the aerial gunning out of the equation, it still took a lot more than “sport” hunting (which you would have in this day and age) to get rid of the wolves the first time around. Poison and bounties were the instruments that made things different. I guess I used a tool from the “wolfie 101” handbook and did a bit of exaggeration for emphasis. 8)


    “If you take the side of the people who want to still poison and aerial gun them until they are all dead, than you are in essence saying you want them all dead too.”

    Get it straight, it isn’t difficult — when have I “taken the side” of people that want to aerial gun and poison them?? I don’t think anyone has ever even asked me that — and I haven’t volunteered the info.

    Just FYI, I DO think that there should be a hunting season on them — NOW!! BUT, I think that the results of that hunting season should be monitored much like bears and (I think) cats are monitored now. Do that for a while and assess the results.


    “The wolf population from Isle Royale also suffered something similar to this when their population reached a zenith.

    The Isle Royale situation keeps coming up, over and over. It’s the biggest “oranges and apples” comparison that could be done. It’s a red herring from the “for” side. Isle Royale is simply different, there is ONLY one apex predator there (besides ticks), in the Northwest we have bears and cats in addition to the wolves.

    Save Bears,

    I agree with your post about the SSS, I’ve been saying the same thing — but I also think a lot of it would not happen if a hunting season — even a fairly limited one — were put into place. Maybe people wouldn’t be so PO’d.

    I also don’t think most of it started until Judge Malloy did his thing. IMNSHO that decision really changed a lot of people’s minds and took them “off the fence”.

  56. John Avatar

    Whilst it is true that Isle Royale is a simpler ecosystem, the fact of a population plummet after a significant spike still stands. Laws of nature mate.

    I do not believe that a hunting season would change much, in fact it would probably make things a lot worse. Besides, its like a child having a tantrum because he/she can’t have what he/she wants.

  57. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    A lot of things are going on in the packs this year. We will certainly see a change of power…on the Northern Range.

  58. JB Avatar


    It’s true, there was an organized effort to remove wolves, and the most effective tool was poison. However, there were far fewer people on the landscape, far fewer cars and roads (we didn’t have the Interstate Highway system until the 50s), less accurate/powerful weapons, less known about wolf behavior, and helicopters were not used nor snowmobiles. It was mostly ranch hands, hunters, and agency guys on horseback that removed wolves from the West (or near enough).

    You’re right about sport hunting; sport hunting alone will never remove wolves from the West. However, I don’t think anyone here believes that sport hunting will ever be the single greatest cause of wolf mortality.

  59. outsider Avatar

    seabreeze it must be nice to be indendently weathy and not have to worry about money. I’m far from a goat lover, but I am a very strong supporter of private property rights. Now you are saying that its not enough for me to own the property but I must also fence the wolf out? So what happens when I fence out 10,000 ac, then you all cry about disrupting wildlife migration paterns and loss of acess to public ground on the other side. wouldn’t it be easier to just kill a few wolves that are causeing problems, its not like we are going to run out, there is a very viable supply in Cananda and Alaska. No I’m not saying that you need to kill all or most but just the ones causing conflict, and I would call killing livestock on PRIVATE property conflict. Not sure on public lands yet still need to think that one over.

  60. John Avatar

    The loss of -a- goat…. out of how many? It is quite common to hear of farmers wailing about their livestock being killed by predators, cursing and condemning the carnivores that so ‘unethically’ (couldn’t resist) took the life of their precious private property. But in all honesty they could not give a rat’s left ear over the animal itself, only the price tag.

    It is the responsibility of the owner to protect their property before such events occur. Wherever wolf management is performed, to date, it is performed without the benefit of the animal in mind, only to facilitate the minority that wishes them harm.

    “its not like we are going to run out”
    Famous last words…

  61. catbestland Avatar

    It has always been and still is the property owners responsibility to fence unwanted range cattle out of their land. Why shouldn’t it be the property owners responsibility to deter unwanted predators from their land? Wouldn’t it be easier to just get the cows off public land where they will not so easily fall prey to wolves and other predators? What of the “public’s” property rights. Should not the public (or vast majority of people) be allowed to enjoy healthy public land ecosystems which includes the presence of wolves?

    I cannot expect the governement to protect my garden from being savaged by the local deer and elk populations. I must rely on deterants provided at my own expense. These deterants must be non-lethal because the public actually owns the deer and elk and the public has determined that they should be protected from such actions. Why should private livestock owners expect the government to protect their herds from local predators especially when the public has determined that these predators should be protected?

  62. Layton Avatar


    If I have livestock on my land and a bear comes in to eat a few — I can shoot it and never look back. Same thing with a cougar — no problem.

    With the amendments that went against the 10j ruling fairly recently, I can do the same thing with a wolf (at least that is the way I understand it).

    BUT — isn’t there currently a lawsuit filed to repeal those amendments — and therefore make it illegal to protect my livestock against wolves EVEN ON MY OWN PROPERTY??

    As far as deer or elk eating my garden, I’m not sure. I think under some circumstances, and after I have notified the “authorities” (F&G?) and nothing has been done, I can shoot them too. I know that there was a big deal in Washington state a few years back where a guy with an orchard shot twenty some odd elk and he wasn/t prosecuted for it.

  63. Jay Avatar

    No, the old 10j allowed a livestock producer to shoot a wolf in the act of attacking, harassing, molesting, etc., cattle on private or land or a federal allotment. The new one just adds protection to pet dogs and a few other loosened restrictions, and allows the state increased flexibility in wolf control to protect big game herds.

  64. Layton Avatar

    I thought I had saved a URL for the 10j ruling and the amendments — I guess I didn’t.

    Does someone have one that they would care to share?

  65. John Avatar

    That’s a perfect example of a lazy and thoughtless man’s solution.

  66. Layton Avatar

    Are you having a bad day John? Or are you always a butt?

  67. dbaileyhill Avatar

    As for the story at the beginning of this thread, i will add to Ralph’s reason for posting the story with this; If a dog, whether a pet or a stray, had killed the goat, it would not have been a story, even though domestic dogs kill a great deal more livestock than wolves. And yes, there are many more dogs but again, that is not the point.

    It’s similar to dogs attacking humans– Only the “pitbull” breeds make the news. A few years ago it was dobermans, rottweilers, etc.

    I find it interesting that there always has to be some creature that needs “controlling/killing”. Something that has to be despised and hated.

  68. JB Avatar

    DBH: Dogs bite nearly 5 million people annually, more than 3/4s of a million of these require medical attention, and ~30 are die (see: But a wolf killing a goat…well, now that is news.

  69. Gina Avatar

    The Canyon Group (pack) still had 5 wolves (1 pup) last time I saw them (few weeks ago).

  70. John Avatar

    I have my reasons for despising the lazy and thoughtless ‘just shoot it’ approach, it comes from seeing the aftermath of over 100 years worth of it.

  71. Layton Avatar

    “lazy and thoughtless” — that’s your opinion of people protecting THEIR livestock or whatever on THEIR land?

    Wow — interesting opinion — care to expound on it??

  72. catbestland Avatar

    I’ll expound on it a little. Policy making for the past 100 years in the ranching west has been made almost exclusively by and for the ranching industry and has catered specifically to their needs alone. Laws and regulation have been designed to do one thing, make life easier for the rancher. This includes the removal of anything that stands in the way of industry profit, including wildlife, both predator and non-predator as well. The ranching mentality has held that the land is theirs exclusively and should be used until it is used up no matter the consequences for the rest of the planet. Even the rights of non-ranching residents have been overlooked. For instance it is the property owner’s responsibility to fence catlte OUT of their property rather than the cattle owners being liable for damage done by straying cattle. Yet ranchers scream foul when the public’s wildlife causes problems for them. This has contributed to a lazy and thougtlless way of life. I speak from experience when I say that sure, ranchers have tough days but I would contend that the average blue collar factory worker, or office worker or construction worker, doing non-stop 8-5 days puts way more effort into maintaining his lifestyle than the rancher. The tide is now turning as more and more non-ranching individuals who value healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations move in the areas.

  73. Layton Avatar

    Well Cat —

    I guess that IS expounding — yes, but as far as what you are saying — well MY personal opinion is that you haven’t really seen much of what you speak about.

    “I speak from experience when I say that sure, ranchers have tough days but I would contend that the average blue collar factory worker, or office worker or construction worker, doing non-stop 8-5 days puts way more effort into maintaining his lifestyle than the rancher.”

    Not real sure where your experience comes from — I was raised on a farm or a ranch most of my life and I see things a lot differently. Sure — there are “off” days, when the crops are done and in and the fall/winter prep for next year hasn’t started. Or when it’s not calving time, or turn out time, or branding and vaccination time, or gathering time, or sale time, or —–. I personally thought that later, when I GOT an “8 to 5” job — THAT was easier. And it was a LOT warmer in the winter.

    8 to 5 day?? Whazzat?? Oh, I remember, it’s one of those days that aren’t included in any of the above — when all you have to do is feed a couple times a day and muck out whatever and do all the stuff that you can’t do when those other things are happening.

    By the way, when that tide you speak of gets turned, can you turn me on to some good tofu recipes?? I’m sure you must have some. I’ll need something to eat while I go look at that healthy ecosystem.

  74. JB Avatar

    I didn’t realize that 8-5 jobs still existed?

  75. catbestland Avatar

    I say this from the experience of being in the horse industry all of my life. The amount of work involved is the same or often harder but without the perks in the form of government give-away programs associated with the beef industry. I also worked for the largest cattle rancher on the western slope of Colorado when I first moved to Colorado. I know from whence I speak.

  76. John Avatar

    Lazy: waits for something to happen instead of preparing and securing livestock from predators – e.g. herd guardians and removing animals that could attract predators ect.

    Thoughtless: is not concerned with the impacts on wildlife outside the location. Example: 60 years ago when the grey wolf was exterminated – because farmers were concerned with their livestock and hunters were paranoid that their ‘big game’ would be annihilated by the wolf.

    I can cite another two examples: farmers and sport hunters wiped out the largest marsupial predator (Thylacine), causing a major upset in the population of resident herbivore and smaller predator species.

    Actions on the mainland: aerial baiting and unrestricted shooting, trapping and land based 1080 baiting, have decimated a keystone predator to the brink of extinction and the government continues practices regardless of this, actions that have since been forced out of public sight or misinformation supplied as to what is being killed. Once again this reduction in predatory species causes imbalance within the resident herbivore populations, not to mention relinquishes the natural pressures on introduced species.

    These actions persist because farmers fear for their livestock without considering the bigger picture. I’m not saying don’t protect your livestock, but shooting a wolf/eliminating an entire pack hasn’t halted the depredation issue yet, it just leaves an opening for another pack (and so forth) until there is a substaintial reduction in biodiversity leading to one big environmental catastrophe. I always believed that it was wise to learn from the mistakes of the past and from the errors others, not to shamelessly follow them.

  77. Steve & Sandy Avatar
    Steve & Sandy

    My wife and I viewed the Canyon pack very close-up on Saturday, Oct 25, and they do indeed have one pup in the pack.

  78. dbaileyhill Avatar

    Thanks for the stats and for sharing my sarcasm.

    Very accurate definitions. And well put.

  79. JB Avatar


    Stats and sarcasm: two things I’m always good for! 😉

  80. Layton Avatar


    Personally, I’m glad we got rid of all those Thylacines here in the Northwest, they were simply raising hell with the “roo” population!! 8)

    By the way, just curious — what’s “aerial baiting”?

  81. John Avatar


    1) A swing and a miss.
    2) Aerial baiting is the distribution of baits by aircraft.
    And don’t try to insult/rattle me because it doesn’t work.

    I shan’t deviate from the topic any further.

  82. Narcissus Avatar

    I’ve been hearing whispers of a rise of Distemper all across the country. I was pretty shocked to actually see a coon in one of Indiana’s state parks the other day who was suffering from the disease. I’ve also been hearing about it coming from adopted shelter dogs quite a bit this year as well.

    It’s a big concern of mine as a dog owner, so many people think that they can slide by without getting that distemper vaccine now, which as everyone knows, puts all puppies/wildlife at a greater risk.

    I’m sad to hear about the Leopolds, I remember a ranger telling me about them when I was on vacation in YNP.


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