NW Montana hunters at local rally complain predators are wiping out elk
By Ralph Maughan On March 1, 2009 · 25 Comments · In Montana Wolves, Wolves, Wolves and Prey
They’ve been saying the same thing for years. How many times can elk be wiped out and their numbers stay generally the same? 😉
Wolves in the sights: Hunters complain predators are wiping out elk. By Michael Jamison of the Missoulian
Tagged with: Montana • urban legends
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.
25 Responses to NW Montana hunters at local rally complain predators are wiping out elk
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I saw that story earlier. That was quite a crew of “hunters” that turned out for the whine session. (The bars must have been closed that day.) The most they accomplished was to make a real emotional case for the anti-hunters.
I kind of feel sorry for them though… I guess it really is getting harder and harder to shoot an elk from the front seat of a pickup.
Gotta love the whiners.
They can kill elk and deer as many as 20 in a single day, but woe be tied if a single wolf manages to kill one a week (it normally takes an entire pack of about 5-9 to select, run down and kill a sickly one).
Maybe a decent slap of reality is in order for these folks, or to be more precise, a nice kick to the abdominal region by an elk hoof.
And of course our sporty Sportsmen are quite open threatening with SSS if not granted their will. So just ignore them, they do what they want anyway.
SSS in the Northern Rockies is actually an informal, if illegal, hunt.
I doubt it harms the wolf population, and might serve to spread it by breaking up packs, because some members of the packs with mortality then disperse. Sometimes they travel a long way to set up a new pack.
Once again, I argue, the real threat is Wildlife Services which has the technology to take out entire wolf packs.
Although it hasn’t been mentioned much, elimination of entire packs has much more of a negative genetic impact than random killing of wolves.
Johnd- you are one of the rare few who has a handle on what’s really going on.
It is illegal. This is just backlash from people who feel hopeless in this situation. If a proper managment plan were in place many of these outspoken indviduals would be a great asset in fighting land grabs, developments, etc. Instead they have been backed into a corner for lack of better words by percieved lies from the feds about delisting etc..
Barb, John, and others…
What do you actually know about hunting or hunters.. Obiviously not much based on your comments, but hey keeping that holier than thou attitude sure goes a long way towards finding common ground.
Ryan, I disagree with your assessment. I think most of these hunters have very little understanding of how ecosystems work and are more interested in getting their elk–no matter what the cost. Their thoughts are probably “less wolves=more elk”. As far as a management plan, what would that change? NOBODY, including wolf advocates wants to see wolves overpopulate—who would benefit from that? Sorry, but I have to agree. It sounds like just a bunch of selfish, spoiled hunters whining.
Without knowing this group, its hard to say. But I am willing to bet that many are members of REMF, MDF, FNAWS, which all do alot of good for wildlife across the west with regards to habitat protection, preserving privately held habitat etc. These guys do have a legitimate bitch as there opportunities have dropped as have success rates. There fighting to protect there heritage from a percieved threat with no measures in place or that have been enacted for population controls. Also as a general rule hunters and fishermen pay the lions share of Fish and Wildlife management costs.
“They can kill elk and deer as many as 20 in a single day, but woe be tied if a single wolf manages to kill one a week (it normally takes an entire pack of about 5-9 to select, run down and kill a sickly one).
Do you mean individual human hunters are killing 20 ungulates a day? The only instances of a kill rate that high are population reduction programs carried out by contractors, usually in the Midwest.
Also, I’d be wary of over-generalizing about wolves & their hunting. See:
“Effects of population density and pack size on the foraging ecology of gray wolves.” J. M. Thurber & R. O. Peterson. Journal of Mammalogy 74(4):879-889 
“Solitary wolves and pairs readily killed adult moose, in contrast to a common belief that larger packs benefit from cooperative hunting.” (p. 879, abstract).
I do not bring this up to express agreement with the protesters in Kalispell, because I think they’re just throwing a tantrum. We’re kind of turning into a tantrum culture, with our short attention spans, poor critical thinking skills, and inability to accept responsibility for things (such as weighing 300 pounds yet expecting that we should be able to go find elk to shoot).
I agree with Ralph that most of these people pose very little threat to wolves.
I took a trip this weekend left Sandpoint early Saturday Morning, drove over Hwy 2 to East Glacier then Down to Great Falls spent the night and came back hwy 200 then on to Sandpoint again….
In the two day drive, we counted close to 5000 head of elk combined for the two days, and that was just from the hwy and a few gravel roads, we saw 22 moose, several Coyotes as well as two many deer to even thing about counting…I was specifically interested in seeing how many elk we could find…
Very informal, but did show me, there are elk out there, and I can say, my wife and I hunted in NW Montana this last season, and found elk in all of the expected places, we both harvested elk this year as well as deer..I did see wolves, in places I expected…
But it was an enlightening weekend to say the least…
How would you rate this year’s winter up there? Is it normal, mild, or harsh?
Ryan, some of those organizations can do some good. My personal feeling is that any of them that view predators as competition are not worthy of my time and money. I’d be interested to see, though if anybody ever did a study to find if illegal hunters and cars take more elk and deer than wolves. Kind of funny that nobody screams about that. Maybe they should make a fairy tale about “the big, bad, car!”
Things looked a bit below normal this year, I ran into quite a bit of snow in the Lincoln area where we saw most of the moose but pretty much every where else looked low on snow pack..There was virtually no snow on the ground at Clearwater, and coming up the Swan, not much at all..I am hoping we get some spring snows in the north part of both Montana and Idaho, or we could have a difficult fire season again…
Ken and Save Bears…….spent the last 2 days tracking on snowshoes in the Swan. The snow depth in the valley varies considerably because of all the micro-climates on both sides of the valley. Lots of snow just north of Seeley Lake and moderate amounts from Condon to Swan Lake. That’s as far north as I went.
LOTS of road kill, both elk and deer. What a waste. They’ve got to do something about that stretch of highway.
It be interesting to see, but for the study to be valid it would need to compare areas that wolves, cars, and poachers inhabit. Deer get killed all the time by cars, but if you compared a study it would not be apples to apples.
Whether or not you agree with some groups stands on predators, there work in habitat enhancement and protection is noteworthy.
“LOTS of road kill, both elk and deer. What a waste. They’ve got to do something about that stretch of highway.”
And what would you propose Jerry, I watched two Elk Calves(last years) get blasted yesterday morning and I know for a fact, the only way to stop it, is to get rid of the people and close the hwy, so I would be interested in your ideas..
#1 people need to slow down. Almost everyone is speeding. In open areas in good light it’s not an issue. In forested corridors and night driving I would like to see the speed limit severely reduced. That would help right off the bat.
BTW save bears what an awful thing to witness.
People just need to slow down when it matters.
Save Bears…..”get rid of the people and close the hwy”. Well they didn’t do that on 93, did they? They built underpasses and used fencing between Missoula and Hamilton, and between Evaro Hill and Polson. AND it has been extremely successful. There are some people who do think progressively..
Thanks your insight is amazing…building under highway corridors would be great, except for the fact your going to spend a minimum of 10 years in court weighing the impact to the endangered grizzly bears.
By the way, could you cite an article or study that shows that Evaro Hill and Polson has been extremely successful? I seeme dto have missed that with my updates from FWP, which I used to work for..
As a biologist, believe me, I look for solutions every single day…
When it comes down to it, we need to get back to reality, which I see many have no idea of what reality is! We all have wants, desires and wishes, now how do we implement that in the REAL world?
I don’t know that slowing down is the answer, I would say, people need to pay attention!!! after a several hundred mile trip, I really didn’t see many speeding, but what I did see, is a hell of a lot of people not paying attention..
Save Bears..Trust me, I’m certain that every regular on this blog knows by now, that you’re a biologist and worked for FWP. Many of us, like myself, are mere mortals without much education or important credentials. That said, here’s some info for you from another “biologist”…this one from the Montana dept of transportation….
Enough on this topic……
Beyond that, matters get expensive. U.S. Highway 93’s reconstruction sports about 15 miles of new fencing between Evaro Hill and Polson. A similar amount is appearing between Missoula and Hamilton.
The 8-foot-high barriers guide deer and elk to underpasses that provide safe crossings without ever getting in the way of drivers. Should a critter end up between the fences on the roadway, there are “jump-out” ramps that let them exit.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Basting said. “Some animals started using the underpasses even before we had the fences buttoned up.”
Such fences cost $26 to $40 a meter for construction. Depending on materials and size, the underpasses can run several hundred thousand dollars for basic large-opening culverts to $15 million for landscaped overpasses like Canadian highways use.
Highway consultant and retired Forest Service biologist Bill Ruediger has been working on several animal crossing projects with between $100 million and $200 million in built features. Despite the eye-popping price tags, he said they pay for themselves quickly in accident reductions.
“Far more people are killed hitting whitetail deer than die in all air accidents, private and commercial,” Ruediger said. “Yet we put huge amounts of resources into air safety. And tort claims have hit DOTs (departments of transportation) for millions, because they didn’t fix these problems.”
While the science is pretty sound showing that such crossings work, each one must be adapted for the local animal population. A misplaced bit of shiny metal or a squeaky joint can scare critters off. Migratory herds may take a few seasons to learn locations of crossings, while local deer may start using them, as Basting said, before they’ve finished construction.
Then there’s the question of who uses them. While deer and elk are the most common roadside suspects, predators like bears and lions use them as well. Effective crossings can have a biological benefit by helping endangered species mingle between population centers.
“Those Trans-Canada highway crossings are as much for the Americans to preserve our wildlife as for the Canadians,” Ruediger said. “Look at the grizzly. It’s a very low-density species and there’s not many of them. If a population is connected from Yellowstone to the Continental Divide, you’ve got 800 to 1,000 individuals. Each ecosystem alone would be half that or less.”
Like many here, yes, you are a mortal, throwing your chest out and telling every single person how it “Should” be handled, in real life, there are many things that come into the equation…and spouting off about what “Should be done” has no bearing on what really “Gets Done”!
Bastings is a fool that BS’d his way into his position, Geeze put your faith in somebody that actually knows what the hell they are talking about!
I could really care less if you like the fact I am a biologist that worked for one of the very agencies you rail against, it is fact, I know how they work on the inside, and I can tell you I DIDN’T LIKE it, that is why I don’t work for them any longer…
It seems to me it would be a good thing to have someone on your side that actually knows how this mess works! but based on the things that go on here, I guess not!
Press is easy..solutions are hard!
It is amazing how many people in the western US think that wolves are competing for “their” game. I agree that so many of these hunters are throwing a temper tantrum and that is it. I think the best way us informed folks can deal with this is to use rational arguments like most of us do on this site. People will at least take us seriously.
For those of you mentioned that people can’t shoot from their vehicles I guess a sad day of fair chase has come uopn us.
“For those of you mentioned that people can’t shoot from their vehicles I guess a sad day of fair chase has come uopn us.”
I’d like to find an Elk that you could shoot out of a car window. Every elk I ever killed, called in, or packed out for a friend has been nowhere near a road. I guess it happens from time to time, but not at the rate protrayed by some on this website. Think of this group as no different than a PETA rally, both fringe groups on the extreme of the issue.