Questions arise over tallies of wolf depredation figures in Montana

Claim is that more are killed than reported-

Yes, and given Wildlife Services’ seeming intent to reduce wolf populations by control after “depredations”, it seems just as likely the depredation figures are inflated.

At any rate, the cost is small. Many people as individuals have lost far more in the decline of their retirement funds, stock portfolios, etc., than the cost of entire wolf depredation in the state of Montana. Of course, the 120,000 dollar losses to many John Does in Missoula somehow is not news, but the loss of a $1000 heifer somewhere in rural Montana is news.

How about equal time?

Questions arise over tallies of depredation figures. By Eve Byron. Helena Independent Record



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  1. Salle Avatar

    After reading all the “poor rancher” news blitz articles in the news today, all I can conclude is that they can’t seem to figure out that trucking their cattle out to pasture and not tending to them except on an occasional ~if at all for months~ basis is that they don’t seem to really want to do their jobs. But as soon as they “figure out a few days later” that a predation event has occurred, they get incredible press coverage and, quite often, a check.

    I wish I had a job like that, they don’t seem to get fired or even a job performance review…

  2. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    For wolf advocates, I find this a rather disturbing letter that relates to the current wolf management team in Montana. As you notice it was written to Hagener(since replaced) and copied to the Governor and various livestock and outfitter groups.

    Allen Schallenberger

    53 Elser Lane

    Sheridan, MT 59749-9604

    Nov. 15, 2008


    Jeff Hagener, Director

    Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Dept.

    P.O. Box 200701, 1420 East 6th Ave.

    Helena , MT 59620-0701

    Dear Jeff:

    We have large problems in the wolf management program here in Montana. Speaking for some of the organizations copied below, we believe we have a wolf diva rather than a Montana public servant running that program.

    The legislature passed requirements for the Dept. to monitor wolf packs and report their locations. That is being done very poorly. To go to wolf monitoring on your website you must click on wild things, threatened and endangered species, gray wolf, wolf conservation and management, wolves in Montana and the Northern Rockies and then finally the buried wolf monitoring. You will find that flight reports are mixed from 2007 and 2008 in a haphazard manner. That makes it very difficult to find the current flight data. No information is usually given on who made the flight, observer and pilot, flight and weather conditions, elevations used to search for animals in the mountains and other useful records such as areas not covered well or not at all. Instead the catch-all phrase “radio not heard” is used which covers a multitude of aerial coverage errors by the Dept. Animal locations are often to general to have any meaning and there is no effort to accurately identify drainages with the same names.

    Your supposedly weekly wolf report often comes out bimonthly or monthly and is not timely. Inaccurate information and current and past history is put out for public education and often not corrected. Let’s take the Freezeout pack for example. That pack over the years has killed hundreds of domestic livestock and big game animals and appears to be responsible for the elk leaving the Blacktail and Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Areas in winters since at least 2003. This spring it was decided to eliminate that pack after it killed many domestic sheep. At the time it consisted of about two or three adults and seven pups after three adults were removed this spring. The wolf diva put out a news release saying that the pups would have to be killed before the adults. To this date we have not had an accurate report of what happened to that pack and if all the members have been killed.

    You report all the livestock verified killed and there may be eight to 10 times that amount based on detailed studies. You and the wolf diva present very little information on the big game animals killed by wolves, the effects on our game herds and where we are headed in the future. Also you have not told the public how elk herds and their distribution are affected by wolf harassment and predation. You have not provided an accurate assessment of how this is affecting hunters, ranchers, businesses, private and public land use. You have not come up with information on how closely wolves are tied to brucellosis and other disease problems. Recently a news release by the Dept. quoted a warden saying we should be outraged by the one moose shot and killed and left on the ground near Boulder. We are outraged that Dept. employees are not more concerned about the thousands of big game animals and livestock killed by wolves and the other problems wolves cause.

    After reading the wolf reports it appears that many young women without much experience or appreciation for our big game ungulates are being hired by your Dept to work with wolves. Some appear to excel in taking pictures of fuzzy pups and showing them to school kids. FWP is pumping the press and public full of false propaganda not backed by wildlife science or wolf history. You could learn much from Alaska, Canada, Russia, Idaho and Wyoming wolf managers about wolf impacts. Quit saying wolves can kill and eat all the big game animals they want. Those animals are the property of the people of Montana who entrusted you with active, scientific wildlife management. Provide us soon, accurate information on numbers of each game animal species killed by wolves and the herds adversely affected by wolf kills and harassment.

    Please respond soon on how you are going to improve the wolf management program. If that does not occur, our legislature should provide you detailed guidance.


    Allen Schallenberger

    Experienced wildlife biologist and concerned sportsman

    c. Gov. Brian Schweitzer, FWP Commission, Rep. Diane Rice, Rep. elect Robert Wagner, Senator elect Debbie Barrett, Senator Joe Balyeat, Montana Shooting Sports Association, Friends of Northern Yellowstone Elk, Inc., Montana Bowhunters Association, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, Beaverhead Outdoors, Skyline Sportsmen, Anaconda Sportsmen, Tobacco Root Archers, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Wool Growers, Montana Stockgrowers Association Western Ag Reporter, Billings Gazette, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, The Montana Standard, Missoulian, Daily Interlake, The Great Falls Tribune, Helena Independent Record, numerous ranchers and sportsmen

  3. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    “I wish I had a job like that, they don’t seem to get fired or even a job performance review…”

    Maybe its time there was, get a nice watchdog to put the wind up them.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Everyone interested, please note Jerry b’s comment. WordPress mistakenly sent it to spam

  5. Maska Avatar

    Thanks, Ralph…and thanks, Jerry, for posting this revealing letter.

    “You report all the livestock verified killed and there may be eight to 10 times that amount based on detailed studies. ”

    This is the same sort of completely unsubstantiated reference to “studies” that wolf opponents use in the Southwest. There are only a couple of studies they ever cite, and “detailed” they are decidedly not.

  6. Salle Avatar

    Sounds like a lot of hot air that is really the last dying breath of a hegemonic industry that sees its power diminishing due to their lack of recognition that there are more people who actually think rationally than emotionally.

    This sort of crap used to work to their advantage but the politicians they used to buy are now on the outs because the people have spoken, and are standing up to them and their fear-mongering and misinformation rubber-stamping.

    Sorry boys, we aren’t playing by your rules anymore. It’s time to get off your subsidized butts and get out there and actually do that hard work you give lip service to.

    I know many of the researchers out in the field and I trust their findings long before I would give any credibility to those who spout off about what they don’t really know based on their misinterpretation of the facts.

    I’ve been out in on the range and have seen how they operate first-hand. They need to do their jobs or find another line of work, just like the rest of us.

  7. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    They have accurate studies on wolves in Canada and Russia now? Last I heard from the Russian biologists in regards to wolf management it went something along the lines of (and I quote) :
    “The fewer there are the better!”

    Canada’s approach: ummm… let’s kill a few thousand and see what happens…

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Hey folks, the studies Maska refers to come down to rancher estimates of losses–not exactly scientific. I read through all of them, including the one done on the economics of the Mexican Wolf program, when I commented on the Wyoming G&F Department proposal to institute a 3X compensation formula for all sheep and cattle calves. I was told by a G&F bureaucrat that the WGFD based its proposal on the Mexican wolf study, not one done in Wyoming.

    The only way to actually determine what the ratio between confirmed kills and unconfirmed kills is to monitor all livestock in an area through radio collars and track down every mortality signal as soon as it happens. This hasn’t been done for wolves anywhere. So the claims that unconfirmed wolf kills are X times the number of confirmed kills are bogus.

    Surprise, surprise.


  9. Salle Avatar

    And… (to add to Robert H’s comment)

    According the “official” statement made by Ed Bangs when I asked him about who are the “peers” in the state’s (Wyoming) official studies used in determinations for management, he said that the state will select the peers as well as the fact that they have the authority to determine population numbers for any portion of the state based on one study that is reviewed by their chosen peers.

    Sounds like a state sanctioned smoke and mirrors sort of defense of an indefensible non-scientifically based strategy.

    Obviously this only makes sense to them and their favorite choir.

  10. Salle Avatar

    Oops, this is about Montana, sorry for the digression!

    So this guy is attacking Carolyn Sime and her position in MT FW&P. I guess he really feels he can harm her based on this vitriol and that someone in the know would actually think he’s playing with a full deck.

    Perhaps he’s feeling left out and hurt that Wildlife Services, essentially the ranchers’ favorite subsidized hit squad for their interests, haven’t been killing all the wolves in the state as quickly as he’d like.

    It doesn’t make any sense unless you are one of those folks who don’t really understand that they are misinterpreting research that carries legitimacy…


    Somehow, hunters are willing to pay for tags yet they don’t seem to understand how they impact the ecological balance with their activities when they make claims of low deer/elk populations. The hunting claim of the need to cull the herds are based on unnaturally high populations that are actually resulting from manipulation by way of predator elimination that actually damages the environment they claim to be preserving ~ for the sake of a “killing sport”. Where is the logic of that coming from? I don’t buy the “It’s our heritage” argument when our heritage is actually one of unbridled manipulation for a special interest.

    Aside from that, this guy doesn’t accept that his special interest is based on Euro-American manipulation of nature fallacies and the “…as long as the rules don’t apply to me” attitude that wreaks of selfish interests over rational behavior.

    And if the indigenous folks were to return to their traditional activities, he’d really hate it. They were removed for those of his ilk too.

    What he’s really saying is that he can’t deal with any kind of competition on any level because it’s the American way and he’ll go out of his way to throw a public temper tantrum for all to see that he doesn’t have a clue.

    As for being a biologist, I know a lot of folks who whined their way to graduation, if he in fact accomplished such a feat. Where’s HIS research?

  11. Jon Way Avatar

    I agree with the above posts except to add that even if there was a 10X figure (no matter how skeptical the estimate might be) based on confirmed kills, that still wouldn’t be a heck of a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and miniscule compared to the economic gains that wolves have brought to the region…

    1. Ryan Avatar

      “and miniscule compared to the economic gains that wolves have brought to the region…”


      Do you have any studies to back this up?

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I couldn’t agree more.

    It’s amazing how they keep running these stories about the hardship wolves impose, when millions of people have lost so much more in the bad economy than these few livestock operators.

  13. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    I found the following information about Allen Schallenberger at:

    “My background includes growing up on ranches in Montana, a B.S. in Wildlife Management from SDSC at Brookings S.D. (1963) and M.S. in Fish and Wildlife Management from MSU Bozeman (1965). I have worked on the Black Hills, Custer, Gallatin, Lewis and Clark, Helena, Flathead, Lolo, and Beaverhead/Deerlodge National Forests as a wildlife research and management biologist (17 years), cattle rancher (10 years), outfitter (20 years), and I presently am a wildlife consultant.”

    I would hope that people with this background would be more tolerant of wolves. His outfitting currently at least, seems limited to fishing and backcountry recreation, not big game hunting.

  14. jburnham Avatar

    Another wolf story of interest:

    Ranchers frustrated as wolves run wild

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar



    I should note a made of post of this story earlier.

    One comment, what an ironic headline, “Ranchers frustrated as wolves run wild.” [emphasis mine]

    Like they aren’t supposed to run wild? I think if you ask most livestock operators, you’ll find they hate wild and wilderness. They want everything tamed, domesticated, under control (preferably their control).

  16. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    “I think if you ask most livestock operators, you’ll find they hate wild and wilderness. They want everything tamed, domesticated, under control (preferably their control).”

    Not much different from ‘city folk’ are they then?

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    John d,

    I think they are different from city folk.

    Most city folk haven’t even thought about the question. Most ranchers have thought about it and have a viewpoint, an answer.

    They have no interest in, and often hate the notion of a free, uncontrolled outdoors and animals who don’t belong to them or take direction from humans.

    The ranch notion is to farm not just cattle, sheep, hogs, etc., but also elk, deer, and other animals.

    Those that can’t or refuse to be farmed are seen as useless or a danger. Herein we find their hatred of wolves. It isn’t because the wolves are much of a threat to their livestock. Wolves are a threat to their values — to their crooked perspective on the world.

  18. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    No argument there Ralph.

    I meant the desire for a cushy lifestyle where everything is predictable, no-one questions anything and animals ‘jump’ when they say ‘jump’.

  19. Salle Avatar

    Not to mention the fact that they aren’t able to make a buck off them if they can’t control them.


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