New York Times editorial: Elk Hunting in the Badlands

This may or may not be precedent setting, but it would allow public hunting in a national park. This is forbidden except in Grand Teton NP.

Editorial. New York Times. Elk Hunting in the Badlands



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  1. Jon Way Avatar

    Hunting is allowed on the Cape Cod National Seashore, another national park. Some of my radio-collared eastern coyotes/coywolves have dispersed about 40 miles to the 44,000 acre park and have been legally shot. Bizarre statue for a park.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    That should say “statute” for a national park…

  3. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    How about introducing wolves into Roosevelt National Park? It is fenced to contain bison; any escaping wolves couldn’t do as much damage to livestock as weather – with a mortality of 90,000 in ND last spring and winter.

  4. Tim Avatar

    I personally don’t know any elk hunters that will only shoot bulls. There are some trophy hunters but the vast majority shoot the first legal animal they see. If they are worried about public safety then you put in firearm restrictions and allow only archery hunters. I don’t see how receiving money for special permits is going to cost more than shooting them out of helicopters.

  5. Jeff Avatar

    The idea that hired sharpshooters are superior to citizen hunters is governement nonsense dreamed up by some bureaucrat. The hunt in GTNP works well with the exception that elk stack up on the westbank of the Snake to avoid the open areas. Larger portions of GTNP should be open to hunting. Also GTNP requires all hunter have hunter safey training and bear spray. Additional safety requirements could be put in place in Roosevelt. It would be cheaper and more effiecient to allow citizens to harvest thier own food. I promise you there are plenty of ND hunters who would happily put a cow elk in the freezer, every elk I’ve ever shot in GTNP has been a cow.

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I will take a cow over a bull any day, much better eating and a lot more tender!

  7. Ryan Avatar

    This editorial was written by someone with no Knowldege of hunting. Managed hunting with seperate tags for both Cows and Bulls would be in the perscribed situation. Probably a 2 week off peak season impact. Instead of costing the state and feds money, it would bring in money to the park and state.. Good thing in this economy. Lets see 5 years and millions of dollars to reintroduce wolves or years with positive cash flow to the state and not nearly as much ruckus.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Save bears, I agree with that. The meat from a cow is much better.

    Barb, much as I would love to see wolves restored wherever they can be, I’m not sure that area would be able to support many without them getting into trouble with livestock operations.

    I see allowing hunting in the national park a dangerous precedent though. I think the slippery slope argument is valid int his case, especially with the push to allow guns in national parks and wildlife refuges anyway.

  9. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Economic Wolf Re- introduction
    The next time Wildlife Services decides to kill a pack of wolves in Montana , have them dart them instead and put them in separate cages in a horse trailer. I will bring my pickup and pull the trailer to North Dakota for free.
    The extra expense to the government for permits and handling should only be a few thousand dollars.

  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    People seem to be under a misconception, there are and have been various National Parks around the country that allow hunting and up until the late 60’s there was hunting allowed in Yellowstone, the concept of hunting in National Parks is not new by any stretch of the imagination…

  11. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Pro wolf, it is not a push to allow guns, it is a law that guns will be allowed, it has been passed and signed by the President..

  12. mikarooni Avatar

    I don’t think this is a good idea. More and more nowadays, hunting just attracts childish scum. This will just encourage more self-centered and boorish behavior.

  13. Hilljack Avatar

    Using public hunters to help manage wildlife is always better than paying sharp shooters. All you have to do is create a special drawing charge 8 dollars to apply and 25 for the tag and let them hunt till the quota is reached. If hunters need education run them through one of the classes you have to take before hunting on a military reservation each year. It was a stupid idea to use sharp shooters in Colorado and it is here to.

  14. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Save Bears, I didn’t realize that had been signed by the president. I still worry that that could set a precedent for more hunting in national parks. You said that hunting had been allowed in Yellowstone up until the 1960s in Yellowstone. Did you read that somewhere? I’m not saying I don’t believe you I am just curious if you knew of a source I could look at. I had thought hunting was banned outright in all national parks except Grand Teton on a limited basis.

  15. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I don’t seem to be able to find a link at this time, but there was a late season elk herd reduction hunt in Yellowstone until such time as public outcry forced the National Park Service to stop the hunt….

    Here is the law governing National Parks, which mentions hunting:

    Based on this, it is basically up to the superintendent of the park to allow or not allow hunting and trapping

  16. Ryan Avatar


    Hunting is also allowed in Denali as well in certain areas.


    Really? Granted I am a hunter, but the vast majority I seem to run into are good law abiding citizens.

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I hope to put up a story on the ID and Montana wolf hunts today. See jdubya’s comment above.

  18. monty Avatar

    Ryan: In the Alaska Lands Bill of the 1980’s (Jimmy Carter) new national parks were created and enlarged. For example, Denali NP was increased from 2 to 6 million acres. Part of the increase was divided between “Park preserve” where hunting is allowed and the traditional park where hunting is prohibited.

  19. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Save Bears, I think the control elk hunt was outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone NP – brutally referred to as the Gardner firing line where hunters lined up to shot elk as they migrated out of the park in late fall and early winter.

  20. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Barb, No, I am not talking about recent history, I am talking about in the late 60’s 40 years ago, there was in fact a late season hunt held inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, I have wrote to Outdoor Life Magazine, to see if I can get a copy of their article that appeared in their magazine in that time frame…

  21. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The elk reduction “hunt” in YNP in the 50’s and early 60’s was done by rangers. One ranger killed over 2000 elk with his new 338. Also quite a few elk were caught in traps for distribution to “Indians”. I put quotes around Indians because as soon as the elk were trucked past the Park boundaries the common price to Indians was $75/ elk and a bottle of whisky. This whole fiasco was finally ended in 1974 at Daly Creek in the NW corner of YNP. I was a part of that last trapping. The whole sides of elk were being stripped of skin as they tried to jump out of the abrasive Douglas Fir solid board fences. It was awful to see that much raw muscle. In the end the Park let these elk free. …to a slow death for too many of them.

    The reactions of the reductions in Yellowstone led to the “let nature take its course”. Thus, the start of the Wolf reintroduction seeds of thought.

    I believe there is no way any National Park should allow hunting by any of the public. It changes the whole attitude of preservation to one of exploitation being justified. GTNP is included in this also. I have hunted next to this “event” and those who partake in it I feel have little honor or respect for the Park because of this. theyt don’t even know this change is happening within them.

    How about we allow hunting of starlings in churches? Just make sure we don’t hit the organist!! Ya that makes it right. That attitude adjustment justification is something very similar to what is proposed by those advocating hunting in our National parks.

    There are always answers to “problems” where it is really wanted …. other than hunting the “modern” wildlife management way. I know of lots of ways any Park can make it work.

    And as for “cows being better eatin than males” there is no one on this blog who come close to me in sampling the meat from all the elk I have. For many years it was my staple of a piece here and a piece there from hundreds and hundreds of carcassses in a place very far from civilization …with no other source of red meat… so I can tell you there is no such thing as one sex being better than another. It all depends on ones need for energy and if the elk is in good shape or not as to knowing what is “better or not”.

    If your life revolves around much need for physical exersion then you your body will tell you you NEED the more nutritionally dense meat, connective tissue and fat from a healthy mature elk, bull or cow. If you are a couch potato most of the year or very young or very old then either a very young or very old (healthy) animal is what is needed. This is how the Indians and all hunter – gatherers Pre Whiteman instinctively selected the game their body needed.

    All those “hunters” of today including those on this blog don’t have a clue of what is better or not…. maybe for the situation in a very dysfunctional food source environment but not for understanding when real nutrition is dependent on natures food.

    If you eat for sport or justifying for “getting outdoors” then your assessment will be skewed. Throw in the fat rich candy bar and you will not know what your body needs. And in a civilized world lacking in the ability of the body to select out from “real” sources” ie. what nature gave us…. then you will not know.

    The cow elk “you” prefer means you get to eat in the same manner agribusiness has led you down the path of underdeveloped jaw muscles and poor teeth. Thus the eating preferred is what most aged grandmothers and grandfathers needed pre whiteman. One not based on nutrition but rather on ease of digestability. There, you have another part of life as assessed by Bob.

  22. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Christ Bob, have you always been so meandering and verbose without saying anything of meaning? You have no idea of the skill, preferences or needs of the people that post on this blog except yourself..

  23. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    save bears,

    Was a bit too much I guess. Will explain more on the nutrition part of my post later this evening–early morning when I have time. At least that is what I think you are most befundled about. Then again maybe you don’t want to know more. If not all I say is “think out of the box a bit more. That and read a lot of historical accounts to get past the listing ship of game management…and nutrition. And then it will all become a bit clearer.

    Don’t worry, there are lots and lots of present day nutrition advocates and “experts” who know little of what hoofed animals give them for food. A tip or two. Nutrients can not concentrate while a body is growing. Two, nutrients concentrate in that part of the body proportionate to the amount of use that part of the body needs.

    Think of where that might be on a herd animal. And no fair blind folding yourself and then sticking the pin in the stuffed dummy…and calling that the most nutritious part. I suggest you start thinking of the extremities.

    Another tip on nutrition….cannibals preferred the fingers first and then next the forearms of their victims. I say “tip” only because humans don’t have this appendage. You getting warm, warm, warmer? Or does all of this stink to you?

  24. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I actually enjoy many of your posts on this blog, and have followed many of the things that happened when you worked in the park, it just seems as if sometimes, you take such an superior attitude to those of us that have actually spent close to the same amount of time in the “wilds” as you have…I depends on Elk and Deer for my red meat, and don’t eat beef, I do enjoy a bison steak on occasion…but don’t just dismiss those that have a differing opinion or experience level than you….as far as cannibals, they have nothing to do with what this conversation was about…

    Stink, nope, I take in all opinions, and sort through those them…

    Of course, being a biologist, I already know what your opinion of me and the field I have worked in is..

  25. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    Save bears, Bob Jackson’s statement “The elk reduction “hunt” in YNP in the 50’s and early 60’s was done by rangers” seems to be accurate from what I have read today. I’ll keep looking for my source. I thought it woud be easy to find again.

  26. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Nope, those sources are not easy to find or find again, I will keep doing searches as well, and hope that OL mails me back, I might even give them a call on Monday, if I don’t get an email back from them..

  27. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Of course, right, wrong or indifferent, hunting is not banned in the parks based on 36CFR2.2, superintendents do have the say on if hunting or trapping will be allowed in the park they are in charge of…

    And please don’t take it as if I am endorsing one way or another!

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Without commenting myself on Bob Jackson’s commentary, I think he is factually accurate regarding how these elk reductions were carried out. The public outcry against this was one of the things that led to the institution of late season elk hunt just north of the Park and the eventual growth of the herd to 20,000 or so elk.

    The Park had reduced the northern range population in the Park down to about 5500.

    Because of the huge increase of the elk herd’s size and the expectation of the late season hunt, Montana FWP was loath to reduce the quota when the wolves were reintroduced. The combination of this mistake, the wolves, the bears, the weather, and probably more led to the much smaller herd we see today, although it id larger than 5500 elk.

  29. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Barb, I was able to come across and article in a National Geographic publication about Yellowstone that discussed the elk reduction by rangers. It also talked about the traps that Bob was talking about.

    Ralph, that is probably what did lead to the drop in elk populations. The severe winter of 1996-97 that occurred at the same time as the wolf reintroduction and the late season hunt certainly had a huge impact on the herd.

  30. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Save bears,

    To give a composite answer; I’d say my life in the backcountry was one where to do my job in a personally rewarding way meant I had to acknowledge the govt. work environment for what it was…a profession of stifling peer and supervisory collusions, net working and dysfunctional bonding.

    There were downsides to shunning the “easy”, however. It made for somewhat of a lonesome work environment. But unlike others, at least I coud see govt. actions coming. When my chief ranger tried to destroy a rock solid and confessed to poacher case so he could bring it back as his own, when Yellowstone’s Supt., head administrators and District Rangers wanted to interview on 20-20 and Dateline when these shows wanted air time only with me (and I told Yellowstone Public Affairs I would drive out to the Park and I said we all get on stage together) but Public Affairs said I should deferr to just them, not me, being before the camera…..all of this was predictable govt. behavior to me.

    You see they, the supervisors, were the ones with a superior attitude … one brought on with the false assumption that rank meant they were superior in every way to “subordinates”.

    So if you think I come across as someone superior to others in various “arguments’ it probably comes out of my conditioned reaction against a system that the only way I could survive emotionally was to understand so much more than “they” what was happening around me.

    I had to have answers and most all these answers it turned out resulted from thinking in terms of equality. Equality of personal worth, equality of all life, equality of the parts of animals we eat ….and the parts of them to match what corresponding ages and sexes of human populations needed most to sustain emotional and physical health.

    Thus, as I age it becomes a Catch 22 of relaying to others without stepping on toes. Stepping on toes prevention not only means tactful communications but also not being a threat to others understanding of “knowledge”. sometimes this is impossible to do.

    I definitely don’t want to be paternalistic, however. This, like any other emotion is so self destructive when applied outside normal evolutionary roles. A Catch 22 it is.

    I see so many things as being superior just like that used on me…like the proud ownership of how “we” like cow elk better than bull meat. There are so many superior connotations to this observation by “enlightened” hunters. It is saying we are not trophy hunters like those subhumans (hint…gross overexaggeration here for effect) who aren’t as hunter mature as “we” are. It is saying we are of a higher order…. if one looks deep enough. In the end every one of us, to validate our lives, has to have some sort of “superior” status as viewed by others. Thus “superior” is all around us.

    To go into the Safari Club International convention lounge with this “proud to be a cow eating” statement, when the buds are talking the illusion of power by achieving the Grand Slam of sheep ….or the African Safari where all meat is given “benevolently” to natives …. would, to them, seem like the intruder declaring “cow” would be labeled as “superior” attitude.

    Some say “superior” things a little more tacticially than others. As for myself I would rather have someone say what they know, or think they know, than have them walk away with a ” they don’t know what they are talking about”. To “say it” means equality to me. Tell me “I’m full of s–t” and at least it is a start to understanding. I tell you I know answers and you say I’m full of it. Equal footing here folks.

    To me when you guys talk of cow “being better” means you have the same narrow assessment as those supposed enlightened hunters I patrolled in Thorofare. None of them knew what constituted good food least for the purpose of why they took some and left other parts of the animal to rot….or the reasons given for liking cow better than bull.

    It doesn’t end with the sexes however. modern America has no idea…whether you are hunters or not. In times of plenty the Indians gave the hind quarters to the dogs. How could they? This is where all those sateaks are, you say.

    In Thorofare the scum would take the hinds and leave the front quarters just like agribiz taught them too. Of course the eagles, ravens, coyotes and other predators savoring the front probably thought of these actions as coming from a very mentally challenged species.

    Equality does give answers for me.
    The hind, though not being as concentrated in nutrients (the hind pushes the body ahead while the front both pushes ahead and turns side to side —thus more need for nutrient storage in the front) was better than the front if lean jerked meat was a priority. Fine tuning this further meant a bite of lean jerky and then a bite of fat jerky (the front quarter) alternating with the other was best….if you were a member of a WAR party.

    Now if you were a person of compromised chewing capacity then the fat jerky was out because it had too much connective tissue to chew. But then again these same population segments sought this connective tissue out if they were lucky enough to stay in a permanent camp and pulled out that pot of water (slow cooker) to dissolve this tissue into some great sources of protein…… Maybe enough so to hwant 4-6 bowls of broth a day like the winter bound Indians and mountain men consumed.

    So you see cow lovers, there is no such thing as an “inferior” tough bull meat. This “bull” was the source of the most power giving meat on the Plains. It is what we sell here at Tall Grass bison to those Mixed Martial enthusiasts and those in weight training…those folks who go from a 12 chin up impasse to 20 in 2 1/2 weeks of eating bull or a 600# squat to 900# in 6 weeks.

    So if I sound “superior”, so I guess it is to those who feel it is so. I say think in terms of equality however and all those “superior” answers so threatening becomes common knowledge childs play. Oh, and unless one thinks I think child play is inferior to adult “serious stuff” it is the childs play that stimulates older humans to gain more answers.

    And as for biologists, Save Bears, call it all superior if you want but the “gripe” I have with the biologist profession as a whole, not as a personal characterization, comes not from my dislike of them (I am one myself) but from the fact the name of the game in biologodom is govt. and Universitdom….And being in this dysfunctional work environment …and the need to cater and subordinate to this monster in order to be “successful” means we have very substandard output as a profession. Enough for now.

    Oh, the (ox) tail has the most nutrition…that and the cheek muscle at the other end. Start cutting these out of both National Park cow and bull carcasses and I will know you and pro wolf are finally on your way to knowing what good nutrition is.

    And “cannibals” is as pertinent to the cow meat preference you and pro wolf got side tracked on.

    Neither of you would be leaving that part from the knee to the hoof either if you weren’t so kindergardenish knowing what to eat. How about some hoof tendons? Oh how the elders of those long ago tribes cherished this REAL food. And that head you both chopped off and left to rot on that cow elk. Why didn’t you pop that eyeball out and start chewing on that while you cut out that cheek muscle and deboned your cow carcass (hunter-gatherers would never debone unless there was no other choice)? All the above were normal occurrances for me. I know, you don’t like to think that eye might pop. How about the kidney raw and warm then? I guess not, huh.

    Now lets see Save bears, how much similar experience did you say you had in the woods as me? Or would you read Thoreau while sitting on a tree stump in those woods?…and come out and then think you lived the life.

    I was lacking, however.I had little of the life of a social order functioning indigenous tribe, however. That is the part I so missed. They were so close…all the camps, blinds and play things were there but the people were gone…most 3000 years ago. But their presence did allow me to experience it the best I could for myself. I hope your route to outdoors and nature was the result of as much a craving as I had.

  31. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I wonder who this guy is 8>):
    – – –
    He got it about right, I think.
    Ralph Maughan

  32. Jeff Avatar

    I’m still not convinced that a citizen hunt is in any way inferior to a “governement sharpshooter” hunt either ethically or financially. I have hunted GTNP numerous times and the hunt is as wild and ethical as one makes it, this is the same whether a hunt is on national forest, blm or private property. The public is free to travel throughout our public lands during hunting seaon without any signicant issues, the same could be done in national parks where necessary without issue.

  33. Alan Avatar

    Here’s what concerns me: First we see a law passed allowing loaded guns in National Parks. Now we see calls for hunting in (some) National Parks that may (or may not) be a slippery slope. And we are also hearing calls to do away with National Park fees (and, presumably manned entry stations; since there would be little need for these stations if no fee was charged).
    Are we seeing the slow death of National Parks as we know them? Will the National Park of the future be little different than the surrounding National Forest and BLM land? Are we slowly losing the special family vacation destination, a place where city children have their best (and possibly only) chance to watch, and learn about, large animals in the wild? Are we watching the demise of the photographer’s, and researcher’s paradise? A hunted population of animals will not be any more visable than their cousins outside of the park.
    I’m not saying this is happening; just wondering if it is.

  34. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Jeff E.

    Doug Houston was the Yellowstone elk biologist. From what I saw and talked with him in the backcountry he was one of the last old time biologists. he got in the field a fair amount and was not in to climbing the ladder by sensationalist biology. Of course all animal counts, whether bison or elk, were subject to higher up administrators for manipulation. I doubt it got changed much however while Doug was still around.

    When he says the “elk reduction stopped” in’67-68 he means the vast majority. It is hardly ever stopped cold turkey on such a political issue as this one was. Rangers stopped shooting but the Lamar and Daly trap …and its helicopters herding them in….were still in use depending on political pull and posturing.

    Lemke, I did not know, but as Montana F&G there used to be more collaboration with the Park Service as professional peers not as political wanna be’s. Mt. State and Wyo biologists used to do a lot of fixed wing counts over the Park. If they saw any illegal type activity in any of my area of patrol, whether the Galatin or Se corner they would either directly or indirectly get ahold of me. They let me know because I would follow up their sightings.

    When the report refers to the late hunt it is the Gardiner outside the Park hunt as referred to earlier in this thread.

    And as a follow up to the rangers being assigned to “reduce” the herd it really screwed up some of them. Abuse of any form in an action like this means unless the guys head is turned on well it means the abuser blames the abused.

    Thus the guy who shot over 2000 elk became someone with little resgard for the Parks resources. he was said to formerly be a very good field ranger. He still climbed the ladder but District Ranger —-, when I entered the scene in 1969 , was caught by one of his own seasonals fishing out of season.

    This guy and his Lake Boat Ranger buddy used to love to catch a small boat of Mormons on the open waters with their two very heavy high wake making 25 foot Bertrams, just enough apart at maximum wake (throttled down a bit so little planing) with row occupants left holding on for dear life. He became the worst hypocrite in a uniform. A book could have been written on him. His final undoing was to cut a Christmas tree near Mammoth behind his house …instead of driving the eight to ten miles out of the Park.

    After retiring they finally strapped him to the guerney in a straight jacket. I can’t say it was all related to the elk killings but the behavior I saw of this man was consistent with what transpired.

    Of course the Park administrators were the main cause of this aberrant behavior by field rangers killing lots of elk. They should have ordered psychological briefings both before, during and after each event. For a group of rangers to be at the same time suppose to be protecting its resources from rifle carrying poachers…and then to order them to kill these animals themselves was too much for most rangers to keep it all in perspective.

    The same thing today is happening with Rangers running the bison corrals. It is causing a bunch of rangers to lose sight of their purpose.

  35. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Alan, that is exactly what my concern is with the hunting topic in national parks. I think we are seeing it slowly erode away with guns being allowed. I hadn’t realized they were trying to do away with fees. The parks will be getting less and less protection if this keeps up and this is a sad thought.

  36. Ryan Avatar


    With all due respect, I beg to differ. Animals know when hunting seasons are and become more secretive but soon return to their behavior patterns there after. During summer time scouting trips, the critters know they are safe, although they are not next to the roads, they seem to not be that warry. The National Parks will never dissappear, a few changes in management of species with in will not be the undoing. In this case I would be willing to surmise that hunting will be a very limited affair, with seasons totaling less than 3 weeks in combined duration.

  37. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    The NY Times said, “hired sharpshooters have culled cow elk in parts of [Rocky Mountain National] park that are closed to the public. This is a safer, more efficient and less expensive way of reducing numbers than shooting bulls, which is what most hunters do.”

    How would hiring sharpshooters to cull elk in TR National Park be less expensive than letting hunters do it for free? How difficult would it be to require hunters to shoot cow elk rather than bulls? If Rocky Mountain NP can close areas where sharpshooters are killing elk, can’t TR National Park close areas where hunters are killing elk? By NY Times standards, that would make elk reduction “safe.”

    Straw man arguments and silly excuses. An anti-hunting agenda masquerading as a common-sense soltuion to elk overpopulation.

    I don’t know where Rocky Mountain NP gets its “sharpshooters,” but with Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, and other metropolitian areas nearby, Rocky Mountain NP probably has a bigger pool of sharpshooters to hire from than TR National Park looking for sharpshooters in Medora, ND, population 462.

  38. Alan Avatar

    I know that parks will never disappear. The question is, will entering a park of the future be little different than passing from one National Forest to another? Viewing a few elk or deer while camping is a far cry from being able to watch wildlife interact for hours.
    Normally, in this case, I would agree that it makes more sense to use hunters (in a very limited hunt allowed only when absolutely necessary…not annually) who would be willing to pay for the privilege, than to pay so called sharpshooters. I just worry that once you open the gates, create a precident, you will end up with a “slippery slope”. It’s like the late season “elk reduction hunt” that Montana started in Gardiner, meant as a temporary measure to bring the northern range herd numbers under control. Now hunters feel that it is their birthright.
    I also worry about the other issues I mentioned eroding the traditional idea of National Parks. There will always be parks, but will they be parks as we have grown to know them?
    Did someone say that this park is fenced? I have never been there. If so, why not just herd some of the elk out of the park and into the surrounding country? Additional tags could then be issued outside of the park.

  39. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Jeff E.

    Thanks for the news about the new National Parks Director. Despite serving at Craters of the Moon in Idaho, I have never heard of him — Jon Jarvis.

    That might say more about me than of him.

  40. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Your welcome.
    I have never heard of him either however this line from Salazar, ‘”President Obama has made an outstanding choice for director of the National Park Service,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. ‘” made me get out the proverbial grain of salt.

  41. Jon Way Avatar

    I agree with Alan’s statements above. National Parks are unique b.c of lack of hunting, etc. The animals will not behave the same if hunting is allowed even for a few weeks.

  42. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    For large national parks, I completely agree with Jon Way.

    This controversy, however, is about a small, fenced park.

  43. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Alan, it would make sense to me to allow more hunting permits outside of the park. If that doesn’t work then I would agree with using government sharpshooters like Rocky Mountain.

  44. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Back to the he basics of the proposal to “reduce” the elk population of TR…. I don’t see anything in this threads authors comments that break out of the traditional exploitist or superior species motivated arguments.

    First, every species has ways to deal with any matter that threatens itself with extinction. They don’t have to depend on another species to help them out to stay healthy and vibrant. Herd animals do not need predators. Yes, it makes it easier but rest assured they have ways of making themselves viable and survivable as a species. That is why they adapted as a species over evolutionary time.

    Elk, bison and homo sapiens all have what it takes to keep them going as species. Yes, some species die out but the game plan is there to help all of them survive.

    How do all control population within their own ranks? Humans, we say, kill one another. Wolves we say kill one another. With wolves we say one pack overruns another. With humans we say one tribe or country wipes out another.

    Both species do it without help from another species. Why would it be other species, prey species we say, that is needed for herd animals. The logic isn’t there unless we as supposed intellectual superior beings can’t see past the surface, one dimensional body of an elk, or bison or deer.

    “We” identify herds as extensions of that one animal…and nothing more. Population density is how Teddy Roosevelt Park elk are quantified when the NYTimes says there are 900 animals and the carrying capacity should be 300. There is no language such as this Park has three families, tribes or nations of elk. If there was then those writing in this blog would be thinking of solutions other than the symptom solution arguments of whether it should be hunters or sharp shooters doing the dirty deed.

    I say “symptom” because either reducing effort just makes for more loss of herd infrastructure and in the end means we face the same “solution” over and over again.

    None of those “hunters”, Park or private killers is going to be thinking of doing any other than killing individuals or ” age bearing” cows.

    To shorten this writing a bit, herd animals are always trying to attain infrastructure, not numbers. Yes, numbers are important but only up to the numbers of interactive identification. In elk, bison, monkeys and humans this is 300 or so. Poorer environments mean less numbers. I’d say at TR it is 100 – 125 per extended family. After that it is fighting other extended families for territory.

    Thus, the answer is not in reducing elk NUMBERS but instead twisting the mind a bit (I know it is kinda hard to do so but start thinking indigenous peoples and how they controlled numbers and you are on your way. If you are a bit prejudiced and don’t want to think American Indians think Amazon rain forest aborigines) to start thinking of strengthening family infrastructure.

    Thus, these families will finally come into ecological balance within their landscape. They will finally be able to take charge of their own destiny and control their numbers. They don’t need man nor predators. Herd animals are not just out their breeding and trying to overwhelm the earth.

    And it makes little difference if the Park is fenced or not as to whether they can do it on their own. Think of it as little islands in the oceans. Yes the elk may change form over time to be in balance with their borders but they will maintain). In fact with their own borders a fence makes it easier because they won’t be available to dysfunctional human hunters turning families of elk into dysfunctional “population densities” again.

    Native Americans families hunted families of herd animals with their surrounds, buffalo jumps and corrals. Most all the larger herd animals were killed this way. Wipe out whole towns if you want to think “human”.

    If TR wants to speed up the process a bit to ecological restoration then identify those elk with bonding (and inclusion of that families males is utmost also) and “eliminate” those foster and orphan individuals.

    Of course to do it right TR needs to change their method of bison management (individual animal based reductions) also. The ecological health of this park…and thus the ability of family elk to make it ….. will always be compromised if bison are kept in dysfunctional turmoil. TR could do everything right with their elk (they won’t) but with dysfunctional bison gangs and prostitutes running all around then it will be harder for elk families to maintain stability.

    In the end it comes back to the same thing….Why do humans have to think of animals as FREAK shows??? That is the question I have the hardest to figure out….not how we should “reduce” herds.

  45. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    “First, every species has ways to deal with any matter that threatens itself with extinction. They don’t have to depend on another species to help them out to stay healthy and vibrant. Herd animals do not need predators. Yes, it makes it easier but rest assured they have ways of making themselves viable and survivable as a species. That is why they adapted as a species over evolutionary time.”

    however animals did not evolve in individual vacuums, but as an interconnected web with each having it’s role.
    How for example would a hyper-predator such as a cougar or cheetah be able to survive without the respective prey species?

  46. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I am saying each species has ways of dealing with “numbers” to maintain itself as a viable species…independent of what is around them. It may not be the prettiest but each species has to have the flexibility to maintain themselves otherwise they die out very quickly.

    Yes, predators need food in the form of animal kingdom sources of that food and herd animals need vegetation. And humans and bears, as omnivores, use both sources.

    Herd animals can live on grassses but need training to expand beyond grassivore status to forb herbivore classification. The less family infrastructure, the less they have for plants familiar with to eat. (most domestic and “wild” animal herd populations today are very dysfunctional, I say, due to agricultural and wildlife “management” thought and thus are not ecolgically good for this earth or are sustainable long term.

    Humans, as predators, can eat “meat” without training but to be an omnivore we must have training. Thus most omnivores do not have enough animals available to eat year round and therefore can not live as a species without some form of artifical or natural form of family infrastructure to teach them what vegetation is there which can be eaten.

    These are the basics of food procurement. None of this deals with the main issue of how species…in this case elk or buffalo of TR… need social family infrastructure to control their populations and at the same time allow for vital segments to continue in the face of supposed population “excesses”.

    They do this the same as any omnivore or predators do … by decreasing birth rates (yes, mostly independent of amount of food available), fine tuning the infrastructure on hand (on the surface seen as the ages within this extended family) and having wars with other extended families of the same species. Thus it is the same as any human population where artifical inputs are not present (schools for kids, masons and elks clubs, and churches).

    I suggest those hung up on predators expand to thinking of even larger herbivores such as elephants. Yes, there is some calf predation but all in all the number of calves born every year is very small. Predated potential makes up only a small percent of any natural population of elephant social order groups.

    Thus they are easy to see how they control there own populations and still maintain ecological viability …as long as one looks to historical accounts when herd infrastructure was viable as compared to todays very broken up “herds”.

  47. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Okay, however your post I quoted said a species can deal with “any matter that threatens itself with extinction” which is simply not true. If that were the case we would still have at least some passenger pigeons for example.
    If we just are referring to “numbers” then yes there always have been that biological component, but are you saying that that phenomenon a conscious choice made by a particular species

  48. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    In my previous 7-11 posting I said “Yes, some species die out but the game plan is there to help all of them survive”. The key words here are “game plan”. There will always will be out of the normal…the volcanoes, the market hunter (passenger pidgeons), the warming of the climate…that overwhelms any regular game plan of inhouse survival for all species.

    Passenger pidgeons, as you probably already know had a very developed social order. Without this order they could not survive. It is the same with any “big game” animal today influenced by present “enlightened’ game management. it may take longer than the passenger pidgeon but it will happen. No herd animal can survive with continual fractured social order…outside a zoo that is. And before it happens its ecosystem is impaired (now) or collapses.

    As for “conscious choice” all species have the same level of conscious choice as man does. It is just man has such a superior attitude toward other species he doesn’t recognize the sameness of processes.

  49. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    So in other words ungulate species A, experiencing a marked increase in predation, all get together and communicate, by some manner, that the birth rate needs to increase by x% to offset the loss by the predation (or some other cause).

  50. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    No herd animal can survive with continual fractured social order…outside a zoo that is.

    Bob, why is that white-tailed deer (as just one example) have not become extinct? They have been hunted for millennia but they are still around.

    As for “conscious choice” all species have the same level of conscious choice as man does.
    While I am not trying to sound vastly superior to other animals, I would have to disagree on that one. Ungulates have a basic primal urge to reproduce. I don’t think there is a whole lot of family planning there.

    I will however, agree that animals do have a game plan to survivie.

  51. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    If you look to humans, other animals and plants the most prodigious ones are faced with one of two conditions … a lot of niche opening up and at the other end no or little population infrastructure in place. The first we are all familiar with, the later, no. The later is an example of population panic.

    The poorest people whether Africa or USA produce the most. Their social infrastructure has become impaired. The same goes for domestic animals and plants and “wild animals” and plants. This is what state and federal game managers count on for lots of animals to hunt for paying their salaries….. and falsely think of as “most productive”.

    Or one can go to Wal Mart in the spring and see a lot of blooming plants with poor root structures. You see they stress them to produce (flower) right away so there is “offspring” to go on.

    The human gehettos are the same. It has little to do with whether there is birth control apparatus in place to counter the so called negative effects of overpopulation. They know they have to produce to allow others after them to structure up and then have viable social and environmental sustainability. It is too late for themselves…just like the impoverished flowering plants at Wal Mart.

    Species superiority or “intelligence” has little to do with it.

  52. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    pro wolf,

    If I pick off one of your family of 5 then there will be a loss but normally that family of 4 can pick up the pieces and remain functional. If your family is part of a larger extended family then 3 or 4 of your immediate family can be eliminated and the ones left (hopefully you) can blend into the extended family and remain productive as a complete unit. now if you and your siblings are one of many dysfunctional orphans and they pick off any off then there is a loss immediately felt.

    The same with deer. as long as they were able to maintain extended family infrastructure they were ok. This went on for evolutionary time. Yes a population such as near the pueblos might take it in the shorts but there were lots of places deer could exist within their own social needs.

    Now with every state making sure no infrasrtucture is allowed every deer is basically out there on their own. they reproduce a lot hoping the next generation can form up out of the chaos but the state G&F make sure that doesn’t happen. Thus most all deer today are very dysfunctional and are a species out of eclogical sustainability. Continue on this path and less and less is passed on to the next generation. They know little of what to eat and the stress of dysfunction makes them more susceptible to species survivability. Maybe they will have to turn into ground burrowers to survive as “deer”.

  53. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Bob, I’m not sure that I agree that this sort of scenario occurs with deer as they do live in looser herds. I’m not aware of any other North American ungulate that lives in tighter family herds. However, hunting can have a negative effect on social creatures like elephants which has been documented. It used to be that culling operations in Africa spared the calves so they could be sold to zoos and circuses. Adolescents were released into other game reserves. It was then found that the bulls in particular became very aggressive without parental guidance. The animals left over from culls were as you mentioned dysfunctional. I would imagine animals like apes, and possibly pack animals like canines and lions could have this happen, but am not aware of any studies done. However, to my knowledge, no North American ungulate lives in herds with structure to this effect.


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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