Wolves in hunters’ sights as Montana big-game season opens

Until now only limited parts of the state have been open of wolf hunting-
Now many hunters will be looking for wolves statewide along with many elk and deer hunts-

Hunters being given chance to manage wolves. By Rob Chaney. The Missoulian

Montana’s wolf quota of 75 is small compared to Idaho’s 220, despite Idaho’s 1/3 larger wolf population.

Controversy continues over the death of Yellowstone Park wolves that were north of the Park during the early wolf hunt. Montana wolf hunt is stalked by controversy.  The demise of a much-studied pack raises questions about lifting the hunting ban in areas bordering Yellowstone park. By Kim Murphy. Los Angeles Times. The article confirms what I have been saying, “Wolves often stalk elk outside the park and are attracted by entrails the hunters leave behind. But this year, the elk season coincided with the opening of the state’s first wolf hunt in modern times.” [emphasis mine]



  1. mikepost Avatar

    This article dominated the front page of the Times and went on for about 2000 words. The hunt may actually produce some long term unintended benefits given this kind of media attention to the issue.

    The habituation issue discussed on this blog before was mentioned. The featured hunter stated that the wolf he killed showed no fear and allowed him to walk up within shooting distance without moving. Now he says, well into the season, they seem to be getting smart. Bad news for wolf watchers, but then again, “Watching” was one form of the habituation which helped create the initial vulnerability.

  2. Rick Hammel Avatar
    Rick Hammel

    I read the article also. I found it to pretty objective, getting different perspectives. The author also got a comment frome Caroline Sime, who reflected the State if Montana position, should relisting occur.


  3. gline Avatar

    I would have to add here that the “protection” wolves had, the lack of is what is hurting them now. They will lose their natural curiosity now and turn to fear, much like AK wolves.

    AK wolves are very aware and afraid of the planes/helicopters flying above which they know will kill them.

  4. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    in this day and age, would you say curiosity or fear would be better, if I was a wolf living in this day and age, I would think fear would be a more sustaining trait than curiosity..in this day, wolves NEED to be afraid on humans..

  5. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And remember curiosity killed the cat, it will never go back to what it was…

  6. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I had some first hand experience with the Montana Elk hunt today. I drove along the dirt road from Gardiner to the CUT ranch. There is a narrow strip of forest service land between Yellowstone and the CUT land, which is used for hunter access. There were 14 vehicles in the access parking lot this morning. The hunters had killed 3 elk about 200 yards from the road and were carrying them out when I arrived.
    About noon, a large male grizzly arrived to claim the two closest gut piles. He dragged one onto the tall sage and covered the other with dirt to protect it from the numerous Ravens and Magpies and spent the day lying on top of the dirt pile in plain sight about 200 yards from the road.
    Numerous hunters and observers arrived off and on during the afternoon and watched the bear. Everyone was very
    responsible and had a good time. The grizzly seemed totally unconcerned with anything but a few pesky ravens.
    Sadly, the common theme of the people that watched the bear, was how pleasant it was to be able to watch a grizzly without the presence of over-bearing Yellowstone Park rangers. Everyone seemed to have a story of how they were mistreated in the park.
    The hunters reported seeing a grizzly sow with 3 cubs and another smaller male grizzly. If you do the math, that means that tomorrow morning there will be numerous hunters walking in the dark toward the forest and passing by 3 gut piles and possibly 6 grizzlies. It seems like a recipe for disaster.

  7. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Larry said,”the bear dragged the gut pile”. If the elk were full quartered there is no way to “drag” the gut pile. There is just a pile of entrails and four knee to hoove leg ends left…unless it is a cow and then there is the head left..no neck.

    And beings it is so close to the road why were these guys allowed to leave so much there as a bear attractant? In the back country Hunters legally could not leave a carcass within a quarter mile of a trail (no enforcement, however).

    Finally, unless that bear was habituated to shots there would have been little chance he would have discovered that carcass within a few hours. A “normal gut pile” is cleaned up fast by ravens, eagles and coyotes. It is only chance encounter that a bear would be on a “gut pile” especially one out in the open.

    What Larry describes very much shows what is wrong with bear management. It all could be prevented so easily. And this event didn’t even happen 32 miles from a road. It was near the mecca of bear management, within 10 miles of the NPS bear biologist office. If they can’t figure it out…or are too whimpidite to express these events to the rest of the Interagency Management team ..to give advice on how all this can be stopped…. then heads should roll.

  8. Mike Avatar

    Larry, are you kidding me? That indeed sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    Why is this being managed in such a fashion?

    The people that usually complain about “overbearing rangers” in the park are people who approach the bears on a consistent basis – usually to get the best picture possible. There’s a real lack of ethics. Many photographers feel they are “owed” a good shot after spending the money to drive and stay at the park. This is no different than the ranchers or mining comnpanies who feel they are “owed” a living at the expense of wildlife.

  9. jdubya Avatar

    Bob Jackson you wrote: “What Larry describes very much shows what is wrong with bear management. ”

    What? The bears are just doing what they are supposed to do, eat. The problem is HUNTER management not bear management.

    If there is one common thread on this blog it is that an increase in hunter (and grazer) education and management is needed. Continuing to blame the bears and wolves for doing what comes natural is simply ignoring the obvious.

  10. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Can’t tell if you are putting a bit of irony in your response or not. Management is what I said needs to change, the same as you say needs to be done. The habituation (and a habituated bear is a dead bear) with hunters leaving elk carcasses is no different than Yel. tourists throwing candy and potato chips out the window for former road side bears. The effect is the same.

  11. Jeff Avatar

    Unit 2 for southern MT is now closed. They shot 4 wolves this weekend filling the quota of 12 with 13 kills

  12. Elk275 Avatar


    Your are wrong it is unit 3, which will close 1/2 hour after sunset today.

  13. Dan Avatar

    A sad milestone has been reached. According to the official sites for Idaho and Montana, we’ve now reach 100 wolves killed in the combined hunts. 77 in Idaho, and 23 in Montana.

  14. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I went back down this morning to see if the grizzly was still there. He was gone and the Montana Fish and Game had closed the area to all human access for today. I hope that will help, but there is still a chance of unwanted encounters between the bears and hunters in the coming days.
    Bob- The elk (two cows and a small bull) were not quartered, they were gutted and carried out whole, complete with legs and head, to the road by several hunters on each animal. It was a big hunting party and an open smooth field. These guys carried them, one elk at a time. There was no dirt on the underside of the elk when they got them to the road. I was impressed by their determination.
    What ever the grizzly did with the first pile, it stopped the birds from eating it. I think the bear was attracted by the sound of ravens and magpies. He had been coming each night to the CUT ranch to eat apples off the trees and was staying very close by. A sheriffs deputy that stopped for a few minutes said that biologists had estimated his weight at 600 lbs.
    Mike- Not one of these people approached this bear all afternoon and there were no rangers or other law officers there. Everyone stayed next to the road and enjoyed viewing the bear from a safe distance. This Grizzly looked very capable of taking care of himself and no one went out to challenge him. There were no photos taken by anyone closer than two hundred yards from this bear.

  15. gline Avatar

    That is a good turnout Larry, thanks for the nice news.

  16. JB Avatar

    “Bad news for wolf watchers, but then again, “Watching” was one form of the habituation which helped create the initial vulnerability.”

    Habituation isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it is simply the extinction of a behavior after repeated exposure to a stimulus without consequences. Habituation to human presence is what makes Yellowstone NP such a huge attractant. Food conditioning (when animals learn to associate humans with food) is the problem (from a safety perspective).

    Mike’s post shows why wolf hunting and wolf viewing are viewed as incompatible activities and why many wolf lovers find it so aggrevating that the whole of Idaho was opened to hunting.

  17. Elk275 Avatar

    Here is an article from the Billings Gazette.

    GARDINER – Gallatin National Forest has implemented an emergency closure for the Beattie Gulch area north of Gardiner because grizzly bears are feeding on gut piles left by hunters.

    Gardiner District Ranger Mary Maj says the bears are gathering near the trail and the trailhead, posing safety concerns.

    The closure includes the area from the Beattie Gulch trailhead to the north where National Forest land borders private land. The closure extends southward to the Yellowstone National Park border and to the west about 2.5 miles.

    Maj says the district understands the closure is an inconvenience for hunters and the area will be reopened as soon as it is safe to do so.

    Two hunters were attacked in the Beattie Gulch area in the fall of 2007. The bear believed responsible was killed last fall.


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan