Yellowstone wolf decline thought to be disease-related

Given a situation like this in the most problematic state — Wyoming — what does this say about delisting?

This article covers some of the same ground as my ealier report on the current situation with the Yellowstone Park wolves. In fact we don’t even know that the decline is limited to the Park boundaries. I doubt that it is.

What a great time to try delisting! Typical Bush-Kempthorne inattention to reality.

Wolf decline thought to be disease-related. By Brett French. Billings Gazette.


  1. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    Well, gee, perhaps FWS should listen to Dr. Doug Smith, probably the foremost wolf biologist in the world. He is stating that distemper is creating a serious concern, particularly in the face of delisting.

    Disease is one of the factors in listing and to ignore it is a violation of the ESA. I certainly will cite Dr. Smith in my comments to FWS.


  2. Terry Avatar

    Hopefully this information will be taken into consideration. After all, Doug Smith knows what he’s talking about. He’s been with this project since the beginning. To delist now would be absolutely criminal. These magnificent animals need more time and protection by the ESA. What a waste it all would be to see a larger decline in their numbers…to see them become almost extinct again. Their progress and presence has created excitement and seeing them is an awesome experience. They are almost “magical.”

  3. TC Avatar

    I would say big emphasis on “thought” to be disease related. There are a lot of holes in this story, and Doug Smith, good wolf biologist that he is, is NOT a wildlife disease expert. Finding antibodies to CDV in wolves in the winter following a suspect CDV outbreak is not the same thing as confirming CDV as the cause of pup or adult mortality. All it tells you is that any wolf that has a significant titer was infected sometime in the past – it does not even tell you when unless you have paired or archived serum samples on the same wolf. It’s circumstantial evidence that begs for more field and gold standard lab work (ideally during a such a CDV outbreak) for confirmation. Then I spose there’s also the argument, so what? Are you going to manage disease in these animals? Vaccinate them for distemper and other diseases? This disease occurs in nature all the time, kills coyotes, raccoons, foxes, badgers, other wildlife and feral and unvaccinated domestic dogs on the boundary with wild places, and nobody does much…

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    They might have to vaccinate them if they have any hope of delisting the wolf in Wyoming.

    I think Smith believes, and I know I think that the cause of the rapid decline of Yellowstone wolves is not due to one factor alone.

  5. vicki Avatar

    I wonder if the return of packs tothe same dens as their previous lost litters may be a factor. I know with parvo and distemper in domesticated animals, it is next to impossible to get the desease out of the dirt, the floors, etc. So if they whelped where there had been a previous history of desease may expose the litters to the illness.

    That is some of why there is such a huge issue with certain deseases in canines that cause quarantines. Influenza, parvo, distemper, even kennel cough. It is within the nature of some canines to return to areas they are familiar with to whelp. As adults they may have positive titres having been exposed, a lot of deseases don’t have as big an effect-if any- on adults. But their off spring if born in the den where desease lies dormant, will be suspetable.

    We do need to remember that desease doesn’t SSS, and didn’t pass a shoot on sight law. We also have to consider, as Ralph says, the other possible causes. Drought, elk herds catching on and becoming better at eluding wolves, other wolves, or even just a leveling off of pups for the size of habitat….
    there are so many factors, which is why I feel it was premature to delist wolves in the first place. It will take years of observation and study to determine what steps need to be taken to assure wolf populaions will remain stable.

  6. Barb Avatar

    I have heard rumors that this disease is being intentionally spread by wolf haters.

    Is that possible, from a scientific/biological point of view and how likely do you think it is?


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