Shooting Wolves in a Barrel

About the shooting of the Basin Butte Pack.

Wildlife Services Helicopter
Wildlife Services Helicopter

Todd Grimm from Wildlife Services and Suzanne Stone from Defenders of Wildlife were interviewed for a segment on BSU Radio.

“One of the main concerns we had is that a hunter may take a collared wolf from this pack. If that happened we would no longer be able to find the wolf responsible if we waited longer. So we knew which wolves were involved in the depredations and we needed to remove as many of them as we could.”

“The number of depredations in the state of Idaho have increased to an almost unmanageable level. Our argument has been that if we can reduce the wolf population in Idaho there will be fewer depredations, there will be fewer ranchers that have wolf problems and there will be fewer wolves that have to be killed after the depredations.” Todd Grimm APHIS Wildlife Services.

This is the future of wolf management in Idaho. It now seems certain that those 26 “chronically depredating” wolf packs will be targeted this winter in Idaho long after livestock leave many of the areas they inhabit.

Shooting Wolves in a Barrel
Adam Cotterell – BSU radio



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  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    This would all be laughable if it weren’t so depressing.

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    Idaho Mountain Express has written a teaser article in advance of a longer one tomorrow.
    Feds kill seven wolves near Stanley

    and Rocky Barker has posted a blog entry to the Idaho Statesman
    Basin Butte pack killing raises same old wolf controversies

  3. Gerry Miner Avatar
    Gerry Miner

    The argument that fewer wolves equals fewer depredations is bogus. Take Wyoming for example, the wolf population has grown and there are fewer depredations–and fewer wolves killed in control actions.

  4. vielfrass Avatar

    Here’s a question for those more knowledgeable than I about wildlife. If there were not humans how long would it take for grizzlies to make it down to let’s say the San Juan mountains? How long until they made it back to their former haunts in Mexico? Yes this is pure fantasy but it was running through my head. Thanks.

  5. Cutthroat Avatar


    Just curious…do you have a feel for public opinion in the Wood River Valley pro vs. anti-wolf? I get the feeling that a number of the people that comment to this blog (pro) are from the Wood River Valley and judging by that I would say that there are a large percentage of people in the WRV who are pro-wolf and do not frequent this site. I will be interested to see their reaction after reading tomorrows Mountain Express article to find one of the nearby packs has been wiped-out, as many recreate and are property owners in the Stanley Basin. I guess it may be difficult to judge their reaction unless it manifests itself in the form of letters to the editor or otherwise???

    For that matter, are you familiar with any public opinion polls in general for Idaho with regard to wolves?

  6. Phil Maker Avatar
    Phil Maker

    WS should have no say/recommendation in how many wolves are in ID- they “work” for the state (IDFG). The comment regarding the timing (had to act so a hunter wouldn’t remove a collared wolf) is laughable because WS themselves killed a collared wolf in the pack. And they have done this many times before, whether knowingly or not.

    The mentality that if we keep predators down at a certain population level is from the dark ages; WS has been killing millions of coyotes and done absolutely nothing to stop them from depredating. It is a perpetuating cycle for this agency to claim things are unmanageable, request more money, kill lots of predators, make no dent in solving legit depredation concerns, and then cry that they don’t have enough money to be effective- repeat cycle.

  7. JimT Avatar

    No one is laughing, Ken, just grinding teeth at this point. If any of you have national media connections, use them. Find someone to post on YouTube,even if it is just still photos and the facts by a narrator informing people of the bad faith of the decision makers. Seems “going viral” is one of the new weapons enviros can use effectively and it can be done by grassroot folks.

    Hmm..I seem to remember someone disputing my case for bad faith…are you now convinced after reading what happened at this meeting?

  8. JimT Avatar

    Ken and others,

    this is a text based program that allows one to type and create a short cartoonish-figure based “movie’. I learned of this when my brother who is a cardiac telemetry nurse (downsize of IT industry forced choice) sent me one of these addressing the problem of ERs being used by folks for doctor’s offices, score prescription drugs, etc. It is cartoonish, but funny, and I think in the hands of the right, savvy grassroots media person, it could make an effective weapon on YouTube, FaceBook, etc. I am thinking a depictation of the recent meeting would make an excellent start….

  9. Ken Cole Avatar

    I can’t really speak to how Wood River Valley people feel about wolves because I live in Boise but I would suspect they feel less threatened by wolves than someone in other small towns. I have lived all over the state and there is certainly a large disparity about a lot of issues between rural and urban people. The Wood River Valley strikes me as an area with a more urban attitude about many issues but it’s an anomaly when compared to just about any other area of the state.

    When you look at those maps showing how red, purple or blue an area is when voting the Wood River Valley is a very dark blue.

  10. Ken Cole Avatar

    Phil Maker,

    You are right. WS certainly doesn’t act as an unbiased party in the management of wolves or other wildlife. They are quick to shoot and don’t really question anything that their agents do. I get the impression that they are actively lobbying the IDFG to kill more wolves and have been for a long time.

    If this practice of killing wolves long, long after any depredations, and as revenge continues, I think the delisting advocates are going to have a real problem in front of Judge Malloy.

  11. Smitty Avatar

    The upper Wood River Valley is a different place than the lower Wood River Valley with the upper valley being both more affluent and at the same time wolf tolerant. That did change somewhat last winter when the Phantoms actually showed up in town and in some folks back yards. Here is a quote from the mayor of Sun Valley taken from the Times News on Nov. 22 of this year: “I don’t need stories of wolves eating people’s dogs or driving the cougars down here,” said Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich. “The wildlife situation is getting a little unstable.”

  12. Smitty Avatar

    If wolves were relisted would that have made a difference in the Butte Pack killings?

  13. JimT Avatar

    Depending on how much data can be gathered on this shadow hunt by WS, and verified to the satisfaction of Malloy, I could envision him ruling from the bench. Perhaps that is the motivation; the anti wolf crowd have figured out, based on previous decisions, the environmental side will probably win on the merits, and the more wolves dead by the trail date, the better.

    The antics of Idaho and Montana anti wolf factions are, in fact, making a great case for never turning over wolf management to the state…ever. Perhaps it will take a completely new NGO consisting of stake holders and beholden to no one except the Secretary of Interior to make decisions on predators like wolves and bears based on science.

  14. Phil Maker Avatar
    Phil Maker

    With the current incarnation of the 10(j) rule, IDFG/WS is more or less unfettered in determining when to utilize lethal control, so the Basin Butte pack was going to go no matter what.
    ID wants to reduce the wolf pop. to ~500 and will use every means they have at their disposal. So when it became apparent that the initially set wolf hunting season wasn’t likely to meet the quota they extended it. If and when it seems likely the lengthier season will fall short they will unleash WS’ aerial assault to a degree we can’t imagine (remember, WS has identified 26 chronic depredating packs).

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Well, that is what I have said and said and said. Ken Cole too. I think the leaders in the wolf conservation groups have come, or are coming to understand that too.

    I sure hope Judge Molloy sees it quickly enough.

  16. Salle Avatar

    So, if this situation is “unmanageable” then why are THEY managing the wolves in the first place? Shouldn’t someone with more competence and skill be handing the management ~ not wipe out ~ of wolves instead?

    Sounds like they think W is still president with Dink Kempthorne at Interior.

  17. davej Avatar

    Maybe some of the big groups are getting concerned about this particular issue and about WS in general. I just got an email with link to a new NRDC blog about WS. I am encouraged that there seems to be a new surge against WS.

  18. Dusty Roads Avatar
    Dusty Roads

    A couple of interesting statements by Todd Grimm. First he used the word “we” decided which is indicative of the way wolf management will proceed in Idaho. Wildlife Services will make more and more of these types of decisions. And the interviewers asked Todd why now? Why did you kill the wolves now when all of the livestock is out of the area? Todd commented, “that we needed to get them now before hunters killed the radio collared wolf in the pack, so that Wildlife Services couldn’t find them later”

    Finally Todd comments toward the end of the story that Wildlife Services wants to see wolf number reduced dramatically in Idaho because Wildlife Services finds the situation nearly “unmanageable” with all the wolf complaints and depredations.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm………… signs of things to come?????????

  19. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Yes his comments were self contradictory. On one hand he said they would be doing very little more of this kind of killing this year. On the other hand, he finds the situation unmanagable and wants the wolf numbers way down.

    He says WS does this after a request from Idaho Fish and Game, but I hear they pretty much decide what they want to kill and lobby Idaho Fish and Game for the go ahead.

  20. Dusty Roads Avatar
    Dusty Roads

    That’s what the NRDC blog implies as well.

    I just got a letter from Lynne Stone about this event. I’ll forward it, in case you haven’t seen it.

  21. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Elk/Wolf news from Bozeman – just back from the Montana FWP meeting regarding the elk herd in Unit 310 (north of west to Big Sky) and proposed changes in hunting opportunities. Please be aware, I do not hunt in this area and only went to learn and listen. 1) The biologist provided their data in print and then followed that up with a few minutes of comment. 2) The news for elk in this area is grim. A herd with data going back to 1948 was near its long term average of 1,500 animals as recently as 2005 is now around 350. 3) The predator prey ratio is approaching the highest ever recorded in the Rocky Mountain west – a conservative estimate is that there are 16 wolves in this unit. 4) Beginning in 2000 hunting opportunities have been reduced each year. 5) At this point wolves (grizzlies would add to this #) are taking more elk than hunters – for 2008 wolves 107 – hunters 63.
    There was more of course just wanted to give the short story now.

    To all hunters and people who enjoy seeing wildlife other than just wolves please get involved in the issue of wolf management and control. This type of event does not happen everywhere but, it can happen and the people with the science and data cannot take action against the wolves because they are decimating elk and not livestock. If enough people get involved and speak up it will help.

    Hunters, some have been worried about people (anti-hunters) closing down hunting areas……if action is not taken the wolves will do it. Time to get involved folks.

  22. nabeki Avatar

    Ralph you were right…the real wolf hunt has begun. Just absolutely disturbing and what a load of BS from WS.

  23. Taz Alago Avatar
    Taz Alago

    What were the numbers so far in ’09 for livestock losses in the Stanley area?

    Talks with Bears – the wolves hunt elk for a living, the humans for sport. Hunters often take out the best animals, wolves often take the easiest to kill. What is the data on forage and weather that might lead to reduced herd size? How about herd health? ORV use during calving season? How are deer doing? How many cattle graze the unit? Have there been similar cycles before wolves were numerous in the unit? What’s the baseline for elk numbers, dating from when? For specifically this unit or for a larger area adjusted arbitrarily by the FWP? How about herd numbers in adjacent areas? Have the herds simply moved away under pressure from the wolves. Are the elk harder to hunt now that they’re more wary? Is that why they got 63 in “08? What are the numbers from other years? Maybe hunters should improve their skills. All these questions need answers before slaughtering wolves.

  24. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Taz – the people with the knowledge and 61 yes, 61 years of data have shared with us that this elk herd is near the highest predator to prey ratio ever studied in the Rocky Mountain west. And no Taz, this herd has been very stable during the period of data. The hunters in Montana have been required to give up more and more or their opportunities to hunt since 2000 and yet the numbers have collapsed.

  25. nabeki Avatar

    I’m so sick of hearing about elk and livestock. It’s as if the only thing that matters in our wildlands is if there are enough elk for hunters to shoot and if we can cram as many livestock into every square inch of our public lands.

    There are other people that live in these states and when will our voices be heard? RMEF posted on their press release in April of this year that elk numbers are up in twenty three states from 1984, that Montana has seen a 66% increase in elk. I actually wrote about this very subject on my blog, because it’s always the same two complaints…elk and livestock.

    Not sure if anyone is aware but wildlife watchers number 71 million people in this country and they generated 45.7 billion in revenue…whereas there are 12.5 million hunters with 22.9 billlion in revenue. So why is the debate continually dominated by hunters and ranchers?

  26. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Nabeki – do you understand that wildlife management includes lethal means – elk, deer, wolves and others?

  27. Rich Hurry Avatar
    Rich Hurry

    Go Montana Timber Wolves! There are no style point deductions for running up the score this year beyond last year’s 107-63 thumping! It looks like you all are going to need the extra food for energy and stealth, as today in Bozeman FWP was manufacturing consent for a bigger ground assault on your packs next year.

  28. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Nabeki the funny thing is “hunters” are included as “wild-life watchers” in your little study. In fact they counted anyone who has ever even stopped to look at a bird. Go read the study in detail. Its interesting.

  29. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    But on subject though I dont think these wolves should be shot because they killed some cows….

  30. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Talks with Bears,

    You said predators, not wolves. Are you talking about wolves or multiple predators?

  31. Taz Alago Avatar
    Taz Alago

    Tw/Bears – Yeah, mebbe so, but I’d have to see the numbers. There are so many variables, statistics are stroked. I will say that although it’s believable that this herd has the highest p-p ratio, the reasons why aren’t clear to me. Also, baselines are for periods when wolves were absent and the predator numbers low from incessant suppression. Plus the predator numbers are always estimates and based often on scat counts, anecdotal reports, trapping results, and in country much less accessible than today, and w/o much aerial surveillance. And without figures from adjacent units it’s still unclear whether or not the animals have moved away from wolf pressure. One unit being down – according to nabeki numbers statewide are up 66%. What say you? I’ll have to read your answer tomorrow since now I’m getting off this damned machine. I do agree with nabeki’s comments.

  32. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Ralph – FWP said – predator(wolf and grizzly was my understanding) the sheet just says predator/prey. They have in written form a sustainable relationship of 10 wolves per 1000 elk. And they referenced the relationship – in this case 350 elk and 16 wolves.

  33. nabeki Avatar

    It’s not “my little study”. It’s the 2006 US Fish & Wildlife stats. So you’re saying the money counted for wildlife watcher revenue is counted twice? Once in the hunting stats and once in the wildlife watcher stats?

    And the material point is there are only 12.5 million hunters and if you want to stretch it to people that hunted in the last four years maybe eighteen million. It’s still out of whack with how much influence they think they deserve.

  34. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Taz – according to FWP – the predator/prey ratio is approaching those recorded in the Madison Headwaters of YNP – study by Garrott. Certainly, dispersal was mentioned and recruitment. Taz, elk numbers in Montana up 66% since 1984 – I have no knowledge on this subjuct – it was said this was provided by RMEF. If I recall they have 17 animals left alive collared in this herd. They fly preseason/post/ and winter. In addition, SCI has provided funding for them to fly extra surveys this winter.

  35. nabeki Avatar

    Talks With Bears….
    I think I know a little something about what WS is up to.

  36. nabeki Avatar

    Talks with Bears….
    RMEF Press Release April 09…

  37. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Nabeki – it appears the FWP information is in contradiction to the RMEF press release for unit 310.

  38. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Vielfrass, wolves would probably be able to migrate to the San Juans in about ten to twenty years (my guess) if they were not bothered by anyone. It would be faster if they could migrate from the south. I think it would be interesting to see if wolves from the San Juans were a hybrid between Mexican wolves and occidentalis. They would be able to migrate to Mexico in a shorter period of time if they were allowed to disperse. Grizzlies would take a lot longer if they made it. The nearest grizzly population in Yellowstone would have to cross the Red Desert which would be a major barrier.

  39. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Talks with Bears,

    It’s my opinion that wolves don’t lower elk populations, neither do bears, nor hunters in a properly designed hunt.

    However, the combination of the three brought down the northern range elk herd of Yellowstone fairly quickly.

    I suspect it is the same case in the unit you are talking about.

  40. JW Avatar

    defund WS now
    let ranchers handle issues themselves

  41. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Ralph – my opinion is that the predatory ability of the wolf has been vastly underestimated. Take this area for example, the permit opportunities for hunters has been DECREASED since 2000, bears have been around for some time and the wolves in large numbers are the new ones in the equation.

  42. hilljack Avatar

    I don’t think this is the first pack. From what I hear they took out the Steel Mtn pack back in September. The only surviving members are the Alpha male and a sub-adult female. A real shame since the alpha is one of the few examples of genetic exchange.

  43. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Talks with Bears,

    It’s the interaction with bears and wolves, not each taken singly.

    It is the interaction that makes the difference, I think. You can’t think of either one in isolation.

  44. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Ralph – 56 years of data demonstrating a stable elk herd (with human hunting and grizzly & black bears) and then the collapse in beginning in 2005 with the beginning of a strong wolf influence.

  45. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Although, I don’t like to see a decrease in hunting opportunities, I do know for a fact, FWP spent a lot of time and effort in decreasing the Northern Herd, which was the original reason they issued so many late season “Bonus” permits, this was an area that was grossly overpopulated with Elk. It was never designed to be a lifetime opportunity.

  46. Chuck Avatar

    Ok bare with me as this just popped in my head, so when there are cattle killed by preditors “ie, bears, wolves, lions, coyotes”, if they are not sure which killed the cattle, are they just going by what ever animail “preditor” they seen eating on the cattle as the culprit who killed it??? We all know that in areas where there are wolves and grizzlies, one or the other could have killed it and one or the other take over the kill. I don’t know how many times have seen a pack of wolves take down an elk only to have it taken over by a grizzly. To me it seems like no matter what the wolves get the blame, say the cow died while giving birth and a pack of wolves came along, hey free meal and are automaticly blamed for killing the cow. Hope this all made since.

  47. Virginia Avatar

    This may be a moot point, but I have lost track of what is going on in the courts. Does anyone know where this issue is as far as Judge Molloy is concerned? Also, what about Sweitzer telling him not to use an injunction? is that legal?

  48. Jay Avatar

    Talks with bears–if you are referring to the N. Y-stone elk herd numbers, how do you claim that there’s been 56 years of stability when there have been elk counts PRIOR to wolves that were lower than they are seeing now?

  49. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Ralph posted the oral arguments are scheduled for the late part of January. As far as the governor telling him not to issue, that is not illegal and the judge is not obligated to do anything on the governors request..

  50. gline Avatar

    Ya Virginia I was disgusted with Schweitzer on that one, but he is good ole boy. I suppose he can say what he wants to a judge, just like we can. I think Molloy needs a few letters from people that see the carnage unfolding…on wolves.

  51. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Talks with Bears-

    You are a smart enough guy. When I say an “interaction,” you reply, it is wolves. Of course, it is partly wolves if there is an interactive effect.

    I am not disagreeing with you. I am saying it is not just wolves, nor just any other predator. If you want more elk, you need to be sophisticated about his.

    Now MT FWP is setting their hunting season rules for next year very soon. It is clear to them that their hunting areas for wolves this year were far too broad.

    I expect next year they will have many more, but much smaller hunt areas, maybe as small as a quota for this unit where elk have decreased.

    I’d urge you to support that solution.

  52. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Governors have been complaining off an on about federal judges like forever.

    A governor has no say in what a federal judge does.

  53. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Ralph – the head biologist region 3 last night stated numerous times that the issue of wolf management (Montana in this case) is not in the hands of the people with the data or expertise – it is basically in the legal system – they (Montana FWP) do not even know if there will be a wolf hunt of any kind next year.

  54. JB Avatar

    “…the head biologist region 3 last night stated numerous times that the issue of wolf management (Montana in this case) is not in the hands of the people with the data or expertise…”

    Unfortunately, the people with the expertise work for livestock producers and hunters, so I have to admit I’m not unhappy that the decision is not in their hands. Federal judges, on the other hand, work for all U.S. citizens.

  55. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    you certainly aren’t going to trust Carolyn “We didn’t think that wolves would be sensitive to firearms harvest” Simes. And she is the biological authority on wolves in Montana? Scary.

  56. Salle Avatar

    Actually, Ms. Sime isn’t the head biologist, she’s the project leader. Having attended the meeting where the parameters for the hunt were discussed at length and in depth, I feel that the FWP folks at least are more interested in retooling the hunt if they find it too problematic.

    I do recall that there was considerable concern about what the landscape would look like following the first hunt. they were interested in coming together to evaluate the situations that arise and go from there.

    They recognize that there are other options and are willing to at least review them. At least that’s the impression I went home with.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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