Hunters angry over dwindling elk need historical perspective

A historical perspective on the Gallatin Canyon elk “decline” controversy-

The following is by Norman A. Bishop of Bozeman, a member of our Board and long time naturalist in the Greater Yellowstone area of Montana.

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Hunters angry over dwindling elk need historical perspective

“Hunters vent anger over dwindling elk” in Gallatin Canyon (Chronicle, Dec. 4) took me back a few decades to an insightful 44-page Montana Fish and Game Department report by Allan L. Lovaas, “People and the Gallatin Elk Herd.”  In that 1970 report, Lovaas chronicles the history of the area, its elk, and the many factors affecting their numbers. The factors he lists include hunting (including for the market), trapping and feeding (elk), eliminating predators, removing Indians, grazing of livestock, controlling wildfires, creating wildlife preserves Yellowstone), and, mostly, through permitting the herd to burgeon out of control on its depleted range.

FWP biologists Kenneth Hamlin and Julie Cunningham compiled comprehensive report in 2009, “Monitoring and assessment of wolf- ungulate interactions and population trends within the GreaterYellowstone Area, southwestern Montana, and statewide.”  Item 4 in their Executive Summary is: “The number of grizzly bears in Southwest Montana and the GYA has increased more than 3-fold since 1987, concurrently with the increase in wolf numbers, affecting the total elk predation rate.”  And item 8, “In areas with high predator (grizzly bear and wolf) to prey ratios, …elk numbers have declined…”

In a 2003-2004 study, researchers noted that predation, hunting, and drought contributed to a decline of elk in northern Yellowstone.  They traced 151 newborn elk calves for 30 days, and found that predators caused more than 90% of their deaths.  Bears killed 55-60%; coyotes and wolves each took 10-15%.  The authors said it remains to be seen if wolf predation is additive to other mortality sources.

Lovaas saw the larger picture in 1970, and so do astute wildlife managers today.  They recognize the rarity in natural systems of single-cause effects, and don’t just blame wolves.

Norman A. Bishop
Bozeman, MT 59715



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  1. Patrick Avatar

    One should consider also the possibility that chronic wasting disease is a new factor in the decline of this herd. Predators may take down elk that are infected, but have not yet developed obvious outward signs (to us) of the disease.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There is as yet no evidence that CWD has made it to Montana. Not to say that it’s not coming.

    Norm, as usual, has it more correct than Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks or any other state wildlife agency where wolves are concerned. State wildlife agencies, whatever the issue, have long since subordinated science to politics.

    The more accurate account of the problem is not the heavily quantitative “predator-prey” ecology, but the more fundamental qualitative “predator-prey-habitat” ecology.

    Many of the effects of predators like wolves on their prey, whether elk, moose, or caribou, are actually a consequence of human action.

    When I was in the Yukon, for example, it became quite clear that the underlying factor for “excessive” wolf predation on moose and caribou was two human events and their consequences–the Gold Rush of 1898 and the construction of the Alaska Highway during WWII. These two events radically increased the human populations in the Yukon and Alaska, thus increasing pressure on game for food to feed the miner and GI camps in a market economy–always harmful to wildlife. Development also increased the number of roads, trails, and tracks that both “boxed” in prey, especially caribou, to make it easier for predators to find prey and increased access of both human and four-legged predators to prey thus boxed in.

    During the AK HWY construction, most prey in a band along the HWY was wiped out by GI hunters who were given resident hunting licenses after US military pressure on the Canadian government.

    In most cases in southern Yukon and central Alaska, the major impact on woodland caribou of the increased human population and spidery road and trail network was a cessation of migrations. This is one example of how prey are “boxed in.”. Oddly enough, the increased development, mostly clearing of land by fire and other means, created the early seral stage vegetation that is hospitable to moose, and moose populations increased dramatically, so dramatically that local Natives switched from caribou to moose. More buck for the bang. However, with the development of the road and trail network, it also became easier to hunt moose.

    The bottom line is that human activity has significantly disrupted ecological relationships among predators, prey, and their habitat, as well as adding in an extra predator–a European with a gun and now ATVs and skiddoos that comb the tracks and trails of the north looking for moose and caribou. The pressure is in most cases more than prey can stand.

    One can never overlook the impact of overhunting by humans in wolf-human-prey conflicts. Overhunting in most cases has the most devastating effect, as humans are much more effective predators than wolves.

    No different here than in the North. Just worse here.

    One reason why wilderness and projects like Y2Y are so important. Access has to be reduced, not enhanced.


  3. Carl Avatar

    Robert do the elk in this area have brucellosis? If so, are they easier prey for wolves than elk would have been historically prior to our introduction of this disease to wildlife?

  4. jerryB Avatar

    Robert…..listened to Creel from MSU speak about the effect wolves have on cow/calf survival because of stress. It was all about wolves and nothing about drought, habitat loss etc.
    Also ,nothing was mentioned about the stress induced by elk being chased and shot at by hunters during a time of year when the elk need to build up their strength to make it through the winter.
    Are there any studies you know about that have looked into the effect of hunting associated stress on cow/calf numbers?

  5. mikepost Avatar

    I am going to postulate that the US experienced an “elk bubble” similar in concept to the and housing bubbles that distorted the general view of what was normal and created unrealistic hunting and economic expectations. To me it seems that the relatively predator free and limited development (homes/ranchettes in the wilderness) time of approx. 1950 thru 1980 created some of the largest herds in living memory. Outfitters and state agencies created business models based up this bubble. State wildlife agencies began to treat it as the status quo and a great (and unreplaceable) revenue source. Hunters had historically unfounded expectations based upon 2-3 decades of anecdotal observation and success. Yes, we had bad winter kills here and there but things always came back in a few years. The bubble did not burst, but it slowly began to deflate as predators were restored, critical winter range was gobbled up for housing, and industry (Logging/Mining/Oil/Gas) made bigger inroads into the wilderness. Second and third generation family businesses linked to the “elk bubble” business model have suffered economic declines and will continue to do so. Other factors discussed in previous postings here exacerbated this trend.

  6. Jon Way Avatar

    I certainly don’t agree with some of your postings but I believe you hit the nail on the head with this one and I like the analogy to the bubble. I completely agree…

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Yes, elk in this area show low positive seroprevalence for exposure to brucellosis. I doubt very seriously whether brucellosis plays a role in making elk more susceptible to predation, although I don’t know of any studies that look specifically at it. It has not proven to be such a serious disease for either elk or bison that would so incapacitate them to be sitting ducks for hunters, to mix metaphors. In any case, brucellosis infections in elk don’t manifest themselves until the third trimester of pregnancies, in late winter and early spring, well after the close of hunting seasons.

    I have read Scott Creel’s papers and IMO 1) he does tend to ignore the larger habitat issues I raised above and 2) I have a hard time understanding how predation is so deleterious to elk when they evolved with it. I wonder if the impacts Creel describes are a part of the short/mid term “recalibrations” elk are going through now that wolves have re-entered the natural ecological mix.

    I don’t know of any studies that specifically look at the kinds of physiological impacts that hunters have on elk that Scott Creel has identified in elk as being caused by wolves. Hunting seasons are so short that I would think it would be difficult to design an experiment to properly assess it. It’s easier to assess stress under year round predation pressure as Creel does.

    However, it is well known to hunters, of whom I am one, as well as wildlife agencies, that elk easily figure out what are safe havens from hunting and what aren’t. This causes the “harboring” problem that many hunters in the GYE and elsewhere in the West have complained about; elk moving onto private property where the landowner, ignorant of ecological necessities, doesn’t allow hunting, thus putting the animals “out of reach” of hunters. Harboring in fact is a kind of exemption for big game from predation pressures and one reason why in some areas elk populations are high. In some cases, elk densities on private land are approaching those of Wyoming’s elk feedgrounds. I think we’re seeing this problem in Montana’s Madison River valley, for example, where private ranches are in effect harboring thousands of elk, causing all kinds of conflicts that are hard to resolve, not to mention potentially increasing brucellosis seroprevalence in these elk.

    There is anecdotal observational behaviorial evidence that extended, late fall/early winter hunting seasons, such as we’ve seen in the GYE over the last two decades that are designed to reduce elk populations to meet demands by cattle owning landowners for fewer elk, do stress elk. I’ve heard several game wardens and agency biologists complain about “firing lines,” such as the famous ones in Jackson Hole and in the Gardner MT area, or the local one here in the Dubois WY area on Horse Creek Road, as highly stressful for the animals, with hunters blasting away at elk whenever elk poke their heads out of the trees to try and make a run for the trees on the other side of the road. Here in Dubois, the Horse Creek Road firing line is made worse by the snowmobiles and ATVs roaring up and down the roads or tracks.


  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Because I was gone for a while and could not read all the comments, I wonder if we have determined that part of the explanation for the large decline of elk in such a short time in this particular hunting unit is due to private landowners “harboring” elk?

  9. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Generally, harboring creates an overpopulation problem, not an underpopulation problem. I don’t know this hunt area well, so don’t want to try to be definitive, but I wonder if habitat fragmentation and easier access to elk in this hunt area 310 by hunters and wolves (and bears in the spring) might be what the problem is.

    Also, I understand from talking with with more astute Montana hunters that many of these elk have “bailed” over into the Madison drainage, creating the overpopulation problem on the large private ranches there that I mentioned.

    In other words, my question is, has predation pressure, including human hunting, been severe enough to cause elk to seek refuge in another, less hazardous drainage, thus causing elk numbers in HA 310 to drop? I suspect so. I find it hard to believe that a sort of “predator pit” has appeared in the Gallatin, an explanation that MFWP biologists and many Montana hunters appear to leaning toward, although I’ve not yet seen it put in those terms.

    If I’m correct, then the best solution would be to increase hunting significantly in the Madison to force elk off the private ranches back onto the Gallatin National Forest and over the divide back into the Gallatin drainage. There actually is a project in place to do exactly this, but landowners are demanding more bull tags in exchange for allowing resident hunters to come onto their ranches to take cows.


  10. Elk275 Avatar

    ++There actually is a project in place to do exactly this, but landowners are demanding more bull tags in exchange for allowing resident hunters to come onto their ranches to take cows.++

    That is the start of privatization of wildlife. Do any of us want this?

  11. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Well, no, but MFWP was all for it, I understand. Politics rules. The last place these days you’ll find opposition to commercialization and privatization of wildlife is in a state wildlife agency. That’s why FWP is all for giving Ted Turner bison from the quarantine feasibility study.


  12. jburnham Avatar

    I remember Creel mentioning that in his study they categorized elk vigilance levels both when wolves were present and when humans were present. He said that wolves seemed more wary of people than the elk did and that as a result, elk could find some sanctuary from wolves when people were present. I can’t seem to find the specifics on this in the paper, but I’ll keep looking.

  13. mikepost Avatar

    jburnham, have you seen the Starkey research on elk behavior and human activity?
    Starkey is an experimental USFS site in Oregon with a large contained elk herd where they do research into how elk respond to humans, hunting of various types and motorized activity. Whether it has implications for the high country and migrating herds is a matter of conjecture but its a start.

    Jon Way; if we agreed all the time on all things there would be no point in reading these posts and the world would be a worse place. Thanks for the kind words, however fleeting they may prove to be with future posts.

  14. jburnham Avatar

    Mikepost, thanks for the link. I wasn’t aware of that program. Can’t wait to dig into their reports.

  15. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Well I’m back from the Caribbean and see posts for one of my old stomping grounds in NW Yell. Park.

    I was backcountry ranger in the Gallatin from 1974-1982. This meant I skied and snowshoed the Jan.- Feb. late hunt as well as rode the regular hunt. I also got to know a fair number of locals. One thing always stuck in my mind…..the owner of Black Butte Ranch said a “herd” of over 5,000 elk would always trail out on the West side of the Gallatin past their ranch after the regular season and head to the Taylor Fork area for the winter.

    This happened till the early sixties when pressure from the late hunt all at once saw this “herd” break over the top and forever go to the Madison.

    The Montana State biologists in their assessment of having 1500 elk reduced to 300 because of wolf predation needs to take another look at population losses BEFORE wolves were ever reintroduced. They need to suck it up and admit their quota regulations and open seasons were and are still causing the problems, not the wolves.

    And as far as solutions one needs to remember all hunted elk “herds” today are dysfunctional. Robert is proposing hunting of REFUGE CAMPS of elk that supposedly “hole up” on private lands. Think of African peoples, families broken up because of war, all going to the only safe havens available, and then with official permission, hunting these impoverished stragglers because they are “overpopulating” the area.

    This is what you have in the Gallatin and Madison situation. Until biologists, hunters and “environmentalists” understand what consititutes a “herd”…and extended family unit…and forgets about talking of a herd as multiples of individuals there will be forever symptom management.

    Once true herd infrasrtucture is allowed then all those former refuge camp animals will establish smaller “home” surroundings. They will be spread out in all suitable winter habitat, not bunched up.

    And as far as humans and their homes taking up winter habitat in Big Sky, elk will graze in and around these areas when they do not have the fear of human hunting. Look no further than Mammoth for an example.

    If Montana G&F want more elk in the area and if this was number one to find out if wolves truly are the culprits all they need to do is stop hunting in this small area of the state for 15 years. Then enough generational offspring would be born and learn to live with people.

    Also, as stated by others, elk and wolf predators were both in abundance prior to Whiteman entering on the scene. Where I live, fertile Iowa, was once core home to more elk than anywhere else in this country. Early settlers said when they burned the prairie the landscape was almost white with all the shed elk antlers. Accounts of wolves numbers were also tremendous. How did they live together? It is called herd and predator family infrastructure. Modern game management has taken all the protections infused in each elk family away. Montana G&F needs to recognize they made a situation where the predator is hunting scared vulnerable elk. And these elk have no way to structure up. They are continually being broken apart every time they struggle to form up.

    The private ranches now holding these refuges, I agree need to be replaced with homes for these elk to return to. But to flush them out, to take the UN peacekeepers away for additional slaughter is short sighted and just another symptom management failure in the works.

  16. Jon Way Avatar
    Jon Way

    I didn’t mean anything negative by my 1st post and could’ve left that comment out about occasionally disagreeing with you. My point was that you make a very good point here which I agree with 100%…

  17. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Bob is back. Bob, seems to be some conflict with your recollection and the 61 years of MFWP data on the unit 310 elk herd. Whom should we believe and why?

  18. Si'vet Avatar

    Bob, herd and predator family infrastructure, do you think that just maybe, the addition of 270,000,000 humans may have changed the dynamics a touch, so there needs to be a bit of a change in the management. Back in the good old days prey animals could just move to safer area. Now with hiways, city’s and subdivisions those escape routes aren’t quite so clear. With all the fracturing and mistakes made by humans, interesting enough that elk populations should significant increase since 1984 until just recently.

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    You must be very naive to beleive data from any politically charged hunt area such as the Gallatin was. Just like any issue that has ramifications dependent on what the “data” says the information coming out of Montana G&F of this era was skewed to meet their short term needs.

    I was on the hunt everyweek end and also patrolled by vehicle weekdays in this area of Tepee Creek, Buffalo Horn, Sawmill etc. I also conversed a lot with the Game Wardens (who did not like the hunt) at the Almart).

    This is what I knew personally. A biologist by the name of Kato was in charge of the hunt and he and his charges directed data way out of porportion to reality. He would double or triple all kills each weekend. He would tell disgruntled hunters they saw lots of elk on lets say the head of Buffalo horn when I’d skied their two days previous and saw no tracks as of the last they flew, and he would push regulations to try to put area not in the hunt so more elk could be killed. Then we found out he was asking the road crews to give him the numbers of elk killed on the roads from the Park line to Big Sky. These he added to hunter kills.

    Probably what this fine Montana biologist was best known for was putting about 50 hunters in a cross fire by trucking half to a location opposite (a 30 in number cow-calf herd) from the hunters he directed to the other side. He also was remembered for falling through into the Gallatin river trying to prove to the hunters he carted in the back of his pickup that the ice was strong enough to hold them.

    Of course mr. Kato was just one in a long string of motive inspired cooking the books. In yellowstone at one time it was important for funding to show how many back country users (day and overnight) were using Yellowstone. Us back country rangers were to record a bunch of different datas. This we relayed to our sub district at the end of each month. We found out he automatically doubled these numbered. Then we found out the Chief Rangers office, not knowing it had already been doubled, was doubling all info sent in from the sub districts. Ya that data you talk of TWB is really the gospel truth.

    My degree in FWB meant I also kept track of some of my college friends. Biologists that went on the states always told me I was so lucky to work in Yellowstone. My bob white quail biologist friend for iowa said no figures would be accepted from him showing anything but high numbers of quail on the ground. It was the same for all….they knew they better tow the political line of the hour.

    Ya, TWB, keep believing all that shit coming from Montana G&F.

  20. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Any population, any species does all it can to keep from being extinguished. This means when that species is up against the wall they reproduce. Look at any Wall Mart heavily stressed plants that flower to allow them to be passed on. Look at any third world country with broken infrastructure and poor nutrition. They WILL reproduce.

    The way all state G&F manages game is for the lowest level and quality of life for species existence there is.

  21. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Well Bob, I see that vacation of yours did little to teach you manners. You accuse me of being “naive” and “believing all that shit” – did you read my post to you? I was ASKING. I bet I am not the first to share this with you – your lack of civility and manners results in a diminshed enthusiasm for the “facts” that you present.

  22. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    I do love your stories, and you definitely have your own views of the world. I am however, standing on my chair above the computer holding my watch over my head with outstretched arm toward the ceiling trying to save it from your stuff coming off the computer monitor. It is getting deep in here…..again. lol

  23. Si'vet Avatar

    Bob, I see, so if rodent populations decrease, coyote populations increase. As the elk populations decrease, wolf populations will increase. So the more animals are mismanaged the more they will increase. So when mule deer populations crashed in 1992, instead of teaching my sons to be selective and conservative, I should have been teaching them to fire at will. No wonder the deer population in our area has been slow to return. Learn something new everyday.

  24. mikepost Avatar

    Jon Way; Happy Hollidays and Best wishes of the Season…perhaps our civility will rub off on some of these charaters, eh? Lots of yellow snow around this post right now….

  25. timz Avatar

    To All My Democrat Friends:
    Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

    To My Republican Friends:
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  26. Virginia Avatar

    timz: it is DemocratIC – and thank you and back to you.

  27. Mike Avatar

    Bob – Thanks for the fantastic post and the insider history lesson.

  28. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    That’s OK, Timz.

    Blessed Be.

  29. Alan Avatar

    Timz, thank you for that. With your permission I am going to e-mail it to everyone in my list. This illustrates so well why Democrats can’t get anything done in Washington. Because the party embraces so many different peoples, with so many different beliefs, different agendas, different standards; everything from slightly right of center to left of left. Is it any wonder that they cannot agree on anything? Rebublicans, on the other hand, are pretty restrictive; thinking as they do that John McCain is a left wing radical! As a result they have little trouble agreeing, and as a result, getting things done….even when they are in the minority.

  30. Alan Avatar

    Or should I say, “keeping things from getting done”!

  31. timz Avatar

    As a person with total distain for both parties and the current state of our system it was meant as a joke. Good Lord what is happening to this blog. It’s Christmas season, lighten up.

  32. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Bob would we be naive to believe these “truths” from you? As I have mentioned before, the elk in UT have been allowed to populate and mature with very little hunting, and yet I still see none of the “family” behavior you talk about.

  33. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    timz – “total disdain for both parties” – how could that be, they have both done a great job for America – always placing the interest of the country ahead of their own. You must be one of those, oh wait, what do you call them, hang on – is it a teasomething or another. Glad to know I am not the only one here – you know, even the Lone Ranger had a sidekick. Merry Christmas

  34. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Robert, I thought CWD had been in Montana for a long time now.

  35. Elk275 Avatar

    ProWolf in Wy

    ++Robert, I thought CWD had been in Montana for a long time now.++

    CWD has only been found once in Montana and that was a elk farm in Philipsburg, Montana a number of years ago. All the elk were destroyed. The only reason that it is not here now is because it has not been found — yet.

  36. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    To get away from Christmas politics follies and back to the mundane, no, CWD hasn’t been in Montana for a long time now. There was a problem with CWD on the Kesler game ranch near Philipsburg ten years ago, but that’s not the same thing. Check this URL:


  37. timz Avatar

    TWB, no I am not a teabagger either, I find them as hypocritical as the rest.
    BTW Alan, sorry you missed my attempt at humor but rest assured I thought your joke about the Democrats being the all-inclusive party hysterical. I almost pulled a rib muscle laughing so hard.

  38. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    CWD was found in ranched elk, that were imported from Oklahoma(if I remember correctly) they were imported from Canada to OK to Montana and they were all destroyed, there has never been any CWD found in a wild population in Montana.

  39. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And for once, I will agree with Timz, both parties are screwed up!

  40. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    timz – I respect your right to say whatever you wish. Just one question, you clearly choose to use an insulting term to describe someone that may have different political views than you so, how would you describe someone of a different racial background than yourself?

  41. timz Avatar

    “how would you describe someone of a different racial background than yourself?”

    as someone with a different racial background

  42. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    timz – of course you would

  43. timz Avatar

    You might ask that question of some of the folks I saw at the local tea party with the Confederate flag in their hand or sewn on their shirt.

  44. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    No, don’t know those folks.

  45. timz Avatar

    of course you don’t

  46. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Timz – just curious – I think, what is your solution for our current problems?

  47. timz Avatar

    A benevolent monarchy

  48. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    I see – thanks for sharing.

  49. Mike Avatar

    ++To All My Democrat Friends:
    Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

    To My Republican Friends:
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    This is embarrassing.

  50. timz Avatar

    “This is embarrassing”

    Why, are you a staunch Democrat and realize you like the masses of sheepeople have traded your common sense for political correctness.

  51. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    Timz I like that, there was a funny video on youtube awhile back showing two democrats going to the convention when the escalator stops working, instead of walking up the escalator they start yelling and asking for help, they talk about passing laws so this stuff will never happen again, they talk about who is going to save them etc.. It was pretty funny.

    Here is the link… its funny , Ralph you can erase if you want..

  52. timz Avatar

    That is funny

  53. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It’s amusing . . . . but I’m disgusted with both of them right now.

    I’ll probably erase the political party cheer tonight.

  54. timz Avatar

    “I see – thanks for sharing”
    Your welcome.
    “I would rather follow one lion than 100 rats” -Voltaire

  55. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Your response may have been a “question” but the wording implies a “statement”. I countered with “evidence” to support my assessment and to instill “question” of the institutions. It is hard to believe anyone thinks all that “science” coming out any politically charged issue. Of course Hitlers Aryan race science was believed by most of his country men for way to many years. So long was it instilled, as Mark Gamblin’s repeated statements of “sound Science” they had to die to be shown they were wrong. Please to not go off the deep end believing in heros and science of the moment…whether it is one year or 60.

    I suggest looking for motives and prejudices (ie Joshes) behind any applied science and its end stats to then be able to ascertain what truth is.

  56. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Please don’t fall off that chair reaching to lock in a time on your watch of the fallicies you now believe in. Yours is only a recent time for thoughts of superiority over other life on this earth. It will go back …and forward….to all hunter-gatherers….for a time when families of elk, bison, elephants and partridges in a pear tree are acknowledged for what they are. I suggest you bring some more watch batteries along for that last stand on superiority bias while standing on that chair. That way you will have perspective of time.

  57. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I guess your’s and my observations of family order are at an impasse. Therefore I propose a solution. The question becomes, “Is what is before us a DUCK OR A WITCH?”. Since I proposed the way out of this delimna I get to choose first. I choose the duck. To see who is right I suggest watching Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

    I guess in viewing this movie again I find I am wrong. Yes, you are the one, “who is so wise in the ways of science”.

  58. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    Bob – I do not know Mark, however, I think his contributions on this blog are appreciated. Bob, I can only speak for myself – if you think that I would accept as the truth information from a governmental agency you are mistaken. In the case of this topic, I was presented with written information (at the meeting) that was said to have reflected data that was collected over a period of 61 years. A case was made by the people presenting this data and they connected some dots. Bob, work with us to keep it in the middle of the road.

  59. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    Just trying to save the watch. Nothing more. And, I do hope you took the comment with the lighthearted humor I intended.

    By the way, on an earlier thread we were discussing your ” family/social structure” theories on bison, and you suggested the Barsness, “Heads, Hides and Horns,” historical bison book (1985). As promised, I bought it (near new from an vendero for less than $11, shipped!), and am slowly working my way through. A very nice oversized book, I might add, and I confess to having spent more time initially on the fantastic pictures and drawings. He did a nice job, and it looks good on the coffee table.

    I was particularly taken by the fashionable tradition of wealthy Easterners’ affection for a buffalo roast for Christmas/Holiday dinners in the early 1900’s.

    Any perticular section I should pay special attention to become educated about bison social structure – the Table of Contents is a bit obscure?

  60. gline Avatar

    God, please bob, don’t work for the middle of the road, I like your fire and intelligence. You serve as a mentor for those of us needing one…

  61. Alan Avatar

    Timz, I got your joke and thought it was great. I was falling on the floor. That’s why I’m sending it to all my contacts. I would think that members of both parties would find it funny. The other stuff in my post was just an after thought, forgive me. BTW, most of my friends and family are Republicans. What can I say? I live in Montana!
    As for me? In the famous words of Will Rodgers, “I don’t belong to any organized political party; I’m a Democrat!”

  62. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    HH&H, as you see, is a book of lots of close to origins written history. That is what I like about it. There is no one section that helps most in asssessing social order. All accounts up to the buffalo hunters who made the stands on bison families are applicable.

    Barnes gives accounts of Indians hunting in “surrounds” for elk the same as for bison. They would kill up to 300 in one surround (in this case on an island on the Missouri River). By knowing 300 is max for a lot of species extended family limits …. interactive recognition is dependent on a lot more than human style intelligence….. thus it is the same numbers for humans….one can read the acccounts and transfer info from one animal to the other.

    Patterns of herd animal hunting similarities by indigenous peoples in Barnes book also is helpful because this becomes more important than the specifics of EACH account. Thus if there are accounts of bison families being hunted at whiteman stands and acknowledged and quoted as “families of grandmothers, aunts and sisters”, then if same hunting techniques were used for elk then similiarities become more than unrelated occurrances. Natives used hunting techniques that worked.

    One can then go the next step further and have a logical explanation for why these “groups” stayed without fleeing while everyone was shot down. This is where emotions and roles of family members comes in.

    One can dismiss the authors quotes of others saying bison were just too “stupid” to run when the evidence showed the white hunters shot first at the old cows to hold the “herd” in place. The answer is in applying this same trajedy to a human indigenous extended matriarchal family. Shoot those the dependents look to for guidance and then the horror of family being killed means those dependents do not run….be it humans or bison…or elk.

    The late hunt in the Gallatin showed this in the same pattern. Kato, the biologist put those “hunters” (pawns) at cross fire risk because he knew if the hunters first shot the leaders trying to break away the rest would mill around the fallen ones. This is what he told the pawns to do…and it worked time after time…as long as those animals shot were structured extended matriarchal families.

    If they had refugee composition or had a number of bulls in these groups the pawns could not “hold” them….and they would cuss out Kato for directing them this way.

    Kato had no clue as to what made one herd a seperate entity from another. He had just heard from old time ranchers…who had no doubt had this info passed on by natives and early mt. men.

    Panic comes to the forefront with masses and bulls are the destination leaders to bust their way out of everything (this is why Indians never tried to guide family groups of bison over the jumps during the rut…nor ever try to direct bull groups over these precipieces).

    Thus with Barnes book it is LOOKING for answers based on looking closer to the social order “theory” as a possibility for why natives and mt. men quoted and recorded what they did.

    I have a whole power point presentation on this extended family ” theory” as you call it (to me it is nothing less than fact) starting from what is seen in herds Yellowstone by me, quotes from natives, early naturalists and Mt. men accounts. It is in PDF form so can be e mailed if sent in three or so separate times. Do you want it?

  63. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Mark is not on this site for any other reason than to “practise” for his next aspired level of “govt. service” (probably head of Public Affairs as spokesman or director). Everyone on this site is his guinea pig…including those that agree with him. If you wonder as to his “patience” look to his motive.

    His is a world where he is used and therefore he continues this pattern to everyone “subordinate to him”. His audience is “sub human”.

    The best example of using people is taking a look at Hitler. He propagandized his subjects so much that when he saw the war was lost he wanted the whole German infrastructure destroyed. He said these people were not worthy of continuing.

    If Mark continues on his path of climbing to the top with his ” attempted” manipulation of people he will end up just like most other govt. folks climbing the ladder through its “subordinates”….bitter and angry or apathetic. His LOYALITY to those “above” him comes from a bull group emotion that is totally dysfunctional in his govt. setting and non evolutionary in origins. Therefore eventually he will feel “betrayed”…another emotion non applicable outside evolutionary origins.

    I suggest Mark start looking for “common cause” ….. something whose focus won’t make him look so foolish on his arguments on this site. His looking to those for answers to relay to the peasants of this site are from the same dysfunctional offices at Idaho F&G regional offices …and may gain him favor with them for the moment but it will be short lived…as all these folks flow to the next pied piper “leader” installed above them.

    The “event” is universal. I saw it happen so much in Yellowstone. Too many biologists and planers would put their hand on the bible and claim truth of conviction for any issue favored at that moment from above. New supt. who wants snowmobiles means loyalty to making arguments for continued use. The previous Supt. wanting banning changes their truth of data reasoning overnight.

    What you see with Idaho G&F on this thread is a rare look into the dysfunctional workings of his organization. Enjoy his posts and learn how to more effectively fight their exploitation management directives.

  64. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    Is the riparian willow recovery in Yellowstone (“trophic cascade” theory) the result of reintroduction of wolves or the result of climate change?

    A very recent LA Times article citing Yellowstone NP wolf scientist Roy Renkin (30 year NP biologist who works with Doug Smith), indicates it may not be wolves (only). Longer growing season results in more plant growth and chemical production making willows taste bitter to elk.

    From the article: “The shrubs flanking a creek in Yellowstone’s Blacktail drainage had never grown so tall and lush. But why?

    Many of the park’s scientists theorized it was related to the successful reintroduction of wolves, which might have pushed elk out of the area, putting an end to the constant nibbling that stunted willows’ growth.

    But this summer, Renkin and a colleague arrived at their own theory: climate change.”,0,6081255.story

    Additionally, a quote from High Country News January 18, 2008:

    “One of Despain (retired USGS geologist) and Renkin’s first tasks was to see if climate is changing the growing season in Yellowstone. The idea germinated from a scientific paper Despain saw in 2003 that linked the start of willow growth in the spring to the number of days that temperatures stayed above freezing. He wondered if Yellowstone had recently experienced a longer growing season, and if the willows could be affected by it.

    Sure enough, Despain and Renkin found a 30 percent increase in the length of Yellowstone’s growing season over recent years. A longer season gives plants more opportunity to grow, but Despain and Renkin needed evidence that the willow’s recovery could be due primarily to that, rather than simply less browsing by elk. Their preliminary research shows that, in fact, willow bushes now grow at rates double or triple those of pre-climate warming days.”

    Draw your own conclusions, but “trophic cascade” as a sole result of wolf reintroduction is not conclusively proven at this point in time.

  65. gline Avatar

    WM you are good at trying to distract people form the real issues.

  66. timz Avatar

    No problem Alan. I had forgotten about that Will R. quote.

  67. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse

    No, gline. Just trying to keep the science of wolf reintroduction in perspective, and that is a “real issue.”

  68. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One of the problems here disentangling the effects of wolf restoration is that a lot of things are changing in Yellowstone Park. The grizzly bear population on the Park’s northern range has tripled! The growing season is longer (probably climate change). During much of 14 years of wolves, there has been a drought. The Lamar River itself was badly scoured and continues to be by the accelerated runoff from the Absaroka Mountains to the east which burned in the fires of 1988.

    This last point is one I’m amazed never comes up. It’s like no one knows about the rugged volcanic mountains east and southeast of the Park. Well, it doesn’t surprise me much. Bob Jackson seems to be the only one here who does know them.

  69. gline Avatar

    Well that is your perspective, but you do not seem to honor the wolves very much.

  70. timz Avatar

    “As representatives of 192 nations prepare to gather in Copenhagen for a UN Climate Change Conference, the theory of man-made climate change appears to be on the verge of collapsing under the weight of revelations of alleged data-manipulation or even fraud. ”

    WM, I’ll wait for more info on on this before this bunch of frauds dis-credit the wolves for their contribution to the eco-system.

  71. gline Avatar

    Jim Hanson was on Dave Letterman last night. Was awesome!

  72. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for your comments. This thread is now closing.