Official: Montana Wolf hunt was effective

The real story is that 40% of the wolves in Montana were killed this year-

Official: Wolf hunt was effective. By Matthew Brown. Associated Press

The rule of thumb is that wolves can withstand annual mortality of about 30 per cent of the adult wolves, and the population will remain stable. The article below indicates that hunters killed 14% of Montana’s wolf population this year. On the other hand, 26% were killed by Wildlife Services, poachers, ranchers defending their livestock, and natural mortality. They aren’t done yet either. There was just an article about them taking out a wolf pack near Helena because the wolves killed a couple sheep dogs and a goat or something. These officials, not named in the article, want to increase the number of wolves  taken in the hunt next year, but what the figures show is that it’s not the hunt that threatens the wolves, but the killing of wolf packs for mostly trivial livestock losses.

I’m not sure why the article ended with this: “Ranchers like Jerry Ehmann, 63, counter that the state’s hunt is not doing enough. Ehmann said he used to run about 200 head of cattle on 25,000 acres of public land in southwestern Montana’s Bitterroot Range. After wolves started harassing his animals this year and five calves went missing, Ehmann decided to cut back to only 72 animals and keep them fenced in on his ranch near Sula. He sold off the remaining cattle in November.”

Are we really to believe that the only reason this rancher reduced his herd of 200 to 72 is because “5 calves went missing” — not killed by wolves, but just missing. Calves too, not cattle. Isn’t there a recession or something going on too?  🙁 And isn’t this rancher getting toward retirement age?

Update editorial in the Great Falls Tribune. Highly regulated wolf hunt does seem like the right track. The Tribune looks at the Montana hunt and finds it to be sucessful and not a threat to the wolf population. What Tribune hasn’t looked at, what few look at, and what cause dispute between some hunters and wolf advocates, is the focus on hunting.

The Montana problem is not wolf hunting, it is Wildlife Service killers shooting wolves for usually minor offenses like killing a couple sheep or cow calves or maybe someone just ” a couple of my livestock gone missing.”






  1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Seems pretty knee jerk to sell off most of your cattle because five calves go missing. It is definitely the killing of wolves by Wildlife Services that is causing the population to drop. The hunt (at least in Montana) might be sustainable in the long run.

  2. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Ancillary information;

    what I find interesting is that Mont. has said the population is 500 for seems like forever, yet 200 have been removed just this year. as Ralph says that is 40% of the stated 500.
    Question is why is 500 still the number being quoted?
    Seems to me that right now Montana has >300 as it sounds like “control actions” are on going.
    Sounds like rancher math.

  3. Terri Avatar

    I’m curious what the state wildlife officials would like wolves to eat if they don’t want them eating “big-game”.

    from the article:
    “Confident state wildlife officials said they could increase the quota on the predators next year. They want to zero in on a number that would strike a balance between protecting the wolf population and stopping increasing attacks on livestock and big-game herds.”

  4. jerryB Avatar

    Looks to me like all the “consensus building” between groups like “Defenders” of Wildlife and the Western Wolf Coalition hasn’t done squat to bolster the tolerance for wolves. In fact there appears to be less and I’m sure the ranchers are laughing their asses off as they count their “compensation” and the number of wolves killed by the WS air force.

  5. Jon Way Avatar

    I love this quote:
    “An examination of Montana’s first public gray-wolf hunt showed at least nine of the animals were killed in an area prone to livestock attacks — a finding that could blunt criticism that the hunt was ineffective.”

    In other words, a whooping 63 of 72 (87 %) weren’t causing “problems” (of course a subjective term) around people.
    As we all know on this blog, common sense would be to have more hunting around livestock areas and less in wilderness areas. Therefore, some of the hunters’ take would be a higher % of WS kills (or should I say slaughters).

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    From what I have heard MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks is thinking next year about less wolf hunting in wilderness/backcountry areas and more in livestock/frontcountry areas. They really got burned with by shooting of what were basically Yellowstone Park wolf packs who just happened to be outside the Park, but deep in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

    Montana’s wolf hunting zones were very crude compared to Idaho’s. They pretty much just had 3 zones in the state. Next year they might have many zones.

  7. Jon Way Avatar

    thanks Ralph. That seems to make much more sense.

  8. Wilderness Muse Avatar
    Wilderness Muse


    ++In other words, a whooping 63 of 72 (87 %) weren’t causing “problems” (of course a subjective term) around people.
    As we all know on this blog, common sense would be to have more hunting around livestock areas and less in wilderness areas.++

    The points both MT and ID have made are the wolf impacts on ungulate populations, as being a basis for harvest in the other areas (wilderness, however that is defined). As Ralph says, the zones were pretty crudely defined in MT, which will likely change next year if Molloy’s decision on delisting permits hunts. For all the criticism ID has taken on its total quota of 220 (only half of which has been reached before extending the season another 3 months), they made a concerted effort to focus larger harvests in areas where they believed wolves were impacting ungulate management objectives, and livestock.

    If you read the MTFWP report by Ken Hamlin referenced by Jeff E in the links above, you may have a better understanding of why the other 63 were harvested. May I suggest the full report, as opposed to the summary.

    By the way, Hamlin’s “brain dump” was published before the release of Scott Creel’s work on the effects of harassment of elk by wolves which keeps them from better grazing areas and winter range, resulting in lower body weight and DOES affect successful elk pregnancy rates and calf survival. This conclusion may well have affected the summary conclusions in Hamlin’s paper, had it been available.

  9. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Ralph, I would hope that the state would consider hunting areas in places where livestock conflicts are more likely. Aside from winning over the ranchers (or at least being somewhat of a compromise) it would allow the wolves that are not as likely to cause problems stay in the wilderness areas.


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