Latest, Dec. 31, official Wyoming wolf report
Wyoming Gray Wolf Recovery Status Report. USFWS-
I notice livestock predation by wolves in Wyoming in 2009 was really trivial. Of the dead sheep, which was up in ’09, “three packs (Big Horn, Black Butte, and Dog Creek) were responsible for all of the195 confirmed sheep depredations. The Big Horn Pack consisted of 3 adults male wolves and all 3 wolves were removed in control actions. The Black Butte Pack consisted of 2 adults and 6 pups. Both adult wolves and 4 pups were removed. Six adult wolves and 6 pups made up the Dog Creek Pack. Five adults were removed.”
Too bad about the Dog Creek Pack. They could have sent more wolves into Eastern Idaho. They were a border pack.
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.
106 Responses to Latest, Dec. 31, official Wyoming wolf report
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I agree, 20 cattle lost does seem trivial. Last summer 16 cows died in the Upper Green River near Pinedale from Brisket: a High-mountain disease or brisket disease is noninfectious, congestive heart failure (CHF) of cattle. It is primarily caused by pulmonary hypertension associated with high altitudes. The disease affects cattle in mountainous ranges of the world and is seen most commonly at elevations above 2,000 m (~6,500 ft) in the western USA, western Canada, and South America.
It is unfortunate, that no matter how many statistics are provided to show far more cattle and sheep die by other causes, the way the ranchers look at it, those are “natural” and uncontrollable, but a wolf is “unnatural” and controllable..
I don’t think that’s quite how they see it because they know disease losses, poison plants, and predation are to some degree controllable.
I think they just don’t like having lost a scuffle. Unlike all the other groups in America, they don’t expect to lose. So it is especially galling to them.
It’s been this way for a long time. Old time conservationists, now mostly all dead, helped school me in the difficulty of dealing with what at the time I thought was harsh, “the range maggots.”
I am guess I am just being a bit cynical today, our neighbor lost a horse and I had to put it down, what surprised me so much, it was just another day to him, to me it was quite disturbing..
Ok, not only can I share info on this site as a hunter (killer) but let me share some farming, ranching mentality,”all on private property”. but first.. Iz’s husband Tom, wildlife lover, jump in, waters deep and cold, just have to learn to swim when all your parts are shrunk up.. Ranger Bob, still need a reply. Layton European hunters are better. I watched film where one “gentlemen killed 250 driven pheasants in just a few hrs.” The guy loading his guns for him worn out; back to livestock husbandry mentality,,, Again my folks had no idea what the left side of a ballot looked like. The winter I left home for college my folks who taught school and raised a few hogs and cattle, endured a very cold -30 deg cold spell late spring, a new born piglet had his ears froze, other piglets ate them off flush with his head. my dad pulled him out of the pen to let him die, he didn’t. in fact he flourished, bonded with my folks dogs and my dad, sleep in the garage, and jumped in the back of the little toyota truck when going out to feed cows run errands etc. A pig with no ears looks like a 4 legged fence post, my mom named him “post”. eventually he slept in an old dog house, came when you called him and loved to ride in the back of the truck and woof at cars with the other dogs. One semester break I went home to visit, called out but couldn’t find “post” went in asked mom, “where’s Post” her reply, he reached 230 lbs. In short he was wrapped and in the freezer.. Had a dog, wolf, or coyote, even looked cross eyed at that pig growing up there would have been hell to pay.. Save bears hit the nail on the head with regards to humanizing animals….
I meant right side of a ballot, true Dems in Idaho, talk about your minority..
I fully understand what happened today, I did what needed to be done to make sure the horse no longer suffered, that I have no problem with, it just caught me off guard a bit, because so many say horses are their pets, I can certainly say, they are not pets where I currently live, they are all working animals.
Now don’t take me wrong, I have no problem with pets or working animals, as I stated in another thread, I lost my two dogs last year and they were pets(old age), and if anything had tried to attack them, I would have given my life to save them.
I have raised cows and pigs as well for food. It was just one of those days, with an experience that left me a bit disturbed, not because it happened, that was a given, but how everyone acted when it did happen. It did give me a bit more insight to the local ranching community, that will be put to good use in the future.
I can say, there are definitely some wide divides out their that need to be bridged.
Well thanks for your thoughts, guys.
Everyone takes adversity differently, but hopefully some of us learn lessons that help and achieve a good perspective.
We should get some idea of the effect of hunting on wolf populations by comparing population change in WY vs. ID and MT. This should give us some clue as to how much the populations are self-regulating (which one would expect with a density dependent species). Not a perfect experiment, as there are differences in typography, game populations, etc., but it should be interesting nonetheless.
Not only is “wolf control” brutal and destructive. It is also pointless.
From an old article (http://www.cyberwest.com/wolves/wolf-control-methods-questioned.shtml):
‘Musiani and colleagues analyzed wolf attack information for Alberta from 1982-1996 and for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from 1987-2003. The data demonstrated that tracking and killing wolves that prey on livestock did not result in decreased depredation rates regionally, or over the long-term. Additionally, wolf attacks appeared to follow seasonal patterns reflecting the feeding needs of wolf packs, livestock calving and grazing cycles.’
A free copy of the study is no longer available from Prof. Marco Musiani’s site, unfortunately –
Seasonality and reoccurrence of depredation and wolf control in western North America (http://www.jstor.org/pss/3785024)
It is pointless from a rational viewpoint, but the point is government sponsored revenge killing on behalf of our landed gentry.
Thank you for the article, Erin. I especially like the quote by Musiani. “If society wants to co-exist with wolves, it has to accept that there will be losses and address the real issue…” which is the “cultural challenge”. “The study’s authors also noted improving animal husbandry, particularly during high-risk times of the year for livestock…”
This brings to mind the Mitchell Mtn pack – according to information online I read that the Baucuses’ leave the goats to wander, unsupervised.
You are correct in asserting that hunting and “controlling” wolves will not change the fundamental reasons why wolves kill livestock. Calves and lambs are too tempting a target at a time when packs have additional energy requirements (i.e. young of their own). Still, the more salient point is that while many (most?) packs will eventually kill livestock, the relative number of livestock killed wolves is trivial when compared with other mortality sources.
I think it is also important to point out that killing healthy adults could actually contribute to more livestock depredations by reducing the ratio of adult (hunting) pack members to pups (non-hunting). Perhaps this is why WS seems to have shifted focus and is now removing whole packs? That is, they plan to reduce depredations NOT by reducing the number of animals in a pack, but by reducing the number of packs?
There was just a case in SW Idaho where a whole herd of sheep, or maybe it was cattle, was rustled.
Why? They turn them loose in March and April and hunt for them in September with no supervision in between. That’s why they want all competing wildlife dead — the same reason their livestock are easy prey for theft — they can’t or won’t do any work.
I agree JB, reducing packs, and wolves in general now, rather than husbandry??
Liz Bradley, MT wolf team member says killing entire wolf packs is nothing new, which is true, but the number of packs killed seems to be going up..
Ralph, do you know anything about this predator derby in idaho? Why are these things allowed? May I get your personal opinion on them and why they are done. Are these sport hunts?
Certain animals in Idaho are considered to be worthless, e.g., coyotes, fox, bobcats, rabbits, starlings. It reflects the attitude of agriculturists. They are often called “varmints” — troublesome or objectionable animals.
Of the class of varmints, some are predators. A predator derby, which also contains big game animals like wolves if they are in season and you have a tag, is a social contest to see how many you can kill in a period of time. These contests are typically justified by the argument that killing these animals somehow helps farmers, livestock, owners, or more important animals.
I don’t like the varmint concept at all if it is applied to native wildlife. Starlings, feral domestic cats, exotic species of any kind; I don’t mind their elimination.
++I don’t like the varmint concept at all if it is applied to native wildlife. Starlings, feral domestic cats, exotic species of any kind; I don’t mind their elimination.++
So you would not mind the elimination of Huns, Chuckars and Pheasants? Just looking for a reaction.
Thanks for reminding me Elk275.
No, of course not. I have donated to Pheasants Forever, but I don’t want any more game bird species brought in.
“So you would not mind the elimination of Huns, Chuckars and Pheasants? Just looking for a reaction.”
I can only speak for myself, but I’m happy to say no, I wouldn’t mind their elimination. And I’ll go one up on ya; the Division of Wildlife here spends more stocking and managing the pheasant hunt than they actually make from license fees. Why in the world would you stock a non-native species if you can’t even make a profit off of it? It only goes to show just how much influence hunters have.
The thing about chuckar and pheasants is they depend on a particular kind of human disturbed habitat. I would not try to eliminate these birds, but the effects of a successful war on cheatgrass (if it is even possible), would hurt chuckar. It would be a more than acceptable tradeoff.
By the way, there is a predator derby this Friday and Saturday in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Do you support soccer fields, little league field, state parks, national forest and national parks? They all cost more than there bring in. It is all about recreation. Hunting is recreation, I can purchase a organic chicken cheaper than I can shoot a pheasant. In fact I could purchase all of the organic chickens in the case for what it cost me to shot a pheasant, but I enjoy hunting. You may not enjoy hunting but how about catch and release fly fishing? One could buy a fish farm for what it cost to fly fish.
The best answer that I have heard is a friend of mine who is a bank officer and family owns a farm near Billings, Montana. Hell yes I love to hunt, the only hunting I do is hunting for a steak in the freezer anything else cost more than it’s worth — each there own.
I know nothing about bird hunting in Ohio (which is where I understand you are located). If Ohio is like Nebraska, where I used to hunt birds, they rely on non-resident hunter tourist revenues to make up the difference between stocking costs in some areas and the license fees. If you make it easy to get birds, the hunters will come for a few days, and will buy gas, groceries & supplies, booze, eat in local restaurants, and stay in motels. Heck, maybe even some of the big city bird hunters from Cleveland go out into the rural areas, and income is redistrubted a bit to small businesses in small communities.
Not all that different than the elk hunting in some of the states we talk about all the time.
This is completely off topic, but can anyone tell me where you can buy fladry. I have been looking on line but have not been able to find out who makes it. Thanks.
Recreational fields and state parks generate benefits for all types of people with little or no cost to the natural environment. In fact, recreational fields are often one of the only “green” spaces in urban areas, while state parks provide a sanctuary for people and wildlife alike. Pheasants provide pheasant hunting opportunities for pheasant hunters. I’d say you’re making an apples to oranges comparison.
My understanding is that pheasant stocking + management > revenues generated by license sales–at least here in Ohio. Whether or not the cost of supplies, food, lodging is enough to make up for this is a more complex argument. For example, the Division doesn’t get any revenue from liquor sales or hotel fees. Ultimately, whether or not it is worth it to the state is an open question.
Regardless, I specifically responded to the question: “So you would not mind the elimination of Huns, Chuckars and Pheasants?” The answer (still) is “no”. [However, if you ask about steelhead and saugeye you might find me singing a different tunel!] 😉
Ralph are we going to flog the derby again. I thought we beat that mule to death. You know it fires JB and Gline up and they say mean things about me. I need to correct you, coyotes, foxes and bobcat’s a are not worthless, they are worth 2 points each.
Last time I was at the wolf conference, the fladry they used was hand made by Rick Williamson’s (of Wildlife Services) wife. I think you have contacts with WS, so you might want to check with Rick.
Interesting there is interest in fladry at this point!
Are you guys looking to experiment with coyotes? Just curious.
I understand your response was to the earlier question. Just wanted to raise the issue of “seed money” spent to generate revenues elsewhere. So, for example, Wildlife Division may not directly get the tax revenue from booze, motels, gas and food, the state does, and of course income is generated for those providing goods and services. And that is why states do these things- bird, elk or deer hunting, or maybe wolf viewing.
You could probably get some information from Lynne Stone, too. Ralph has her contact information.
Really all you need is fencing wire, and durable red strips of fabric or heavy ribbon of sufficient length to tie to the wire . I would guess a fabric store could help with that. If you run the wire with insulators on your posts, and hook it up to a battery powered a/c electric fence regulator (for maybe another $100 bucks), you would have a “turbo fladry,” as I gather they are called.
My family had lots of those for horses and cows when I was growing up. Never knew what to call them.
Re non-native game birds, Aldo Leopold has a delightful essay entitled “Chukaremia” in which he ascribes a kind of diseased thinking in those who work overtime to introduce non-native game birds–chukars, pheasants, huns–but do nothing to protect natives.
So we’ve got chukars running out our ears but the sharptailed grouse, etc., have virtually disappeared, while sage grouse are going in that direction.
You can find this essay in the book The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays, U. Wisconsin Press.
The Chukar: non native game bird from… Pakistan. And no one has a problem with them being introduced.
Ralph, is it true that some people are trying to get this predator derby banned?
I recognized where you were going; you have a legitimate point. Still, in the current fiscal environment, I think F&G agencies are focused much more on their own revenue streamd (who cares if the state benefits if they don’t see any $).
I don’t know. It’s legal. I can’t be banned. People can show their disapproval (or the opposite).
When SFW had their derby in my home town, Pocatello, it made regional news (critical). SFW then decided not to report the results, or so it seems.
Thanks for the comments about the fladry everyone. I will look into it a little more.
FYI: New Pub in BioScience regarding the NRM Delisting:
The Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Is Not Yet Recovered
Ralph, I apologize for all of the questions, but when Salazer removed the wolves from off the endangered species list, what this based on science? I doubt many people like him rely on real science to make decisions for him. I know he’s a rancher, so he is most likely anti-wolf. To remove a species from off the list, I would think real science has to be done to prove that a certain animal is without a doubt recovered. It seems like all of the hard work of bringing wolves back is going down the toilet. With wildlife services killing wolves, some of them innocent and not involved in livestock attacks, it is truly sickening to know that we people who love wolves can’t do much to stop it when people like Salazer in charge. It is truly frustrating reading about all of these wolves being killed by wildlife services. Whole packs are being wiped out.
The killing by WS has nothing to do with the wolves being listed or delisted and until such time as a complete overhaul of things are done, it does not matter what the Judge says…WS will continue to ply their trade no matter what the status is.
The focus needs to be on WS and not the one at a time hunter!
I never said it did, but to be sure, wildlife services can obviously kill wolves whether delisted or not right? Basically the wolves are screwed if they are protected or not because wildlife services can still gun them down either way? Someone has to be done about this wildlife services. This is just disgusting that an agency like this exists.
Savebears, I agree with you! Wildlife services is much more of a threat to wolves than hunters. Wildlife services can kill wolves all year round correct?
Yes, per the modified 10(j) rule, the only way to change things is to restructure WS and get the modified 10(j) thrown out, or wildlife services will continue the way they have for a long time now.
Of course the delisting decision was based on science. The opposition to the delisting decision and disagreement with ongoing wolf management actions are based on disagreements with the scientific basis of the delisting decision, management actions and – even more so – is based on differing value systems with respect to wolves and wildlife resources in general.
Secretary Salazar was counseled by some of the most qualified and knowledable wildlife scientists involved in these wildlife management issues. The reality of any public resource management decision with the passion, scrutiny and stakes of this one – canot avoid heated controversy. For the resource management and legal process to serve the public as our system of government intends, the process and we as public servants and public citizens can help by keeping science and values clearly differentiated in the dialog. Hunting, WS depredation control actions, and other human intervention with the RMR wolf population, as regulated under current state and federal laws and regulations, does not threaten the future of the wolf population. There are legal arguments to be resolved by the courts and there will be continued public discord driven by conflicting values. There will be debates about realized or unrealized ecological benefits of wolves to other wildlife and landscape resources. Those are real issues. The future viability and persistence of wolves in the NRMR is not in question. Wolves are here to stay.
++ jon wrote on January 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM.
“Ralph, I apologize for all of the questions, but when Salazer removed the wolves from off the endangered species list, what this based on science? I doubt many people like him rely on real science to make decisions for him. I know he’s a rancher, so he is most likely anti-wolf.”
Well we don’t think so — not on science, and the case against the delisting will be heard by Judge Molloy on Jan. 28 in Missoula.
Mark says: “Wolves are here to stay.”
That is a common line I hear lately. Is it supposed to make me feel better? It doesn’t.
What quality of life do they (wolves) have? Orphaned wolf pups, entire packs killed. What does this killing of one wolf or 3 wolves at a time do to a pack? The species? What kind of disrespect is this?? I have been waiting in vain for Jan. 28th. Today was sunny, my first thought: wolves will die today. What kind of life is it for me??
Yes gline. Knowing that wildlife services are allowed to kill any wolves they see as a problem all year around doesn’t make me believe in people when they say wolves are here to stay.
“here to stay” represents the desire for a token few…
Wolves should be valued. I am going to Idaho this summer and I really hope the Phantoms will still be there.
“Here to stay” is a phrase that no doubt appeared on a talking points memo that was passed out.
Talking points memo? It’s not unusual for IDFG of other agencies to develop talking points to ensure a consistent message that correctly communicates a policy or message for high profile issues. If my posts seem to reflect an agency effort for an orchestrated message to this blog community that would be a miscommunication. My posts are my own contributions, though I am trying to explain Commission and Department policy and programs. In this case my previous post is my own assessment, without consultation or guidance from others.
The security of the NRMR and more specifically the Idaho wolf population is a reality. Reminders of that reality are intended to help the discussion stay within rational bounds.
Your implied desire to ensure some “quality of life” for wolves or other wildlife is an example of personal values that are certainly valid for you or others as stakeholders in wildlife management policy. That specific anthropomorphic value, however, has little or no relevance in wildlife management or the role of wolves in the ecological landscape of natural resource management. As a management objective, “quality of life” will not, nor should it be – included in public wildlife resource management policy or programs.
I didn’t mean to single you out, but that exact phrase (it could be said in other ways) is used so much by ID F & G and other wildlife managers, that I think 1. talking points and/or 2. reading and hearing what one’s peers say and inadvertently repeating the phrase exactly.
Understood. I took no offense and you are correct that I am repeating a message spoken by other IDFG representatives.
“The security of the NRMR and more specifically the Idaho wolf population is a reality.”
Mark: You are far more confident about wolves’ security in the NRs than I. We exterminated wolves once without helicopters, radio collars and m44s, at a time when human populations and road densities (access) were much less than they are today.
While I agree that IDF&G’s motivation to keep wolves from being relisted will likely ensure wolves are not extirpated (in the short term), I would also point out that IDF&G’s apparent desire to eliminate any and all effects of wolves on the elk population (maximize hunting opportunities) and livestock producer sends a clear message about how wolves are valued. In this context, phrases like “wolves are here to stay” sound disingenuous.
I’ve been searching for some appropriate terminology to describe IDF&G’s management objectives for wolves. I think the phrase that best captures your agencies’ priorities is “functionally extinct.” IDF&G wants a wolf population that is functionally extinct; that is, present in small enough numbers to keep them from being listed as endangered but at such low densities that any and all effects associated with wolves (positive and negative) will be minimized.
“Functional extinction is the extinction of a species or other taxon such that:
1. it disappears from the fossil record, or historic reports of its existence cease;
2. the reduced population no longer plays a significant role in ecosystem function; or
3. the population is no longer viable. There are no individuals able to reproduce, or the small population of breeding individuals will not be able to sustain itself due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift, which leads to a loss of fitness.”
#2 seems to fit with Idaho’s objectives for wolves.
“wolves are here to stay”
I’ve been hearing this line from wolf adversaries since 2000. I heard if fourteen times at a public hearing, from legislators and among public comments alike, the first time it became part of the dialog.
I think JB nailed this, and this is absolutely the situation the Wolf Recovery Foundation does not want to see — a token population that plays no significant role in the functioning of ecosystems.
JB’s suggested definition sure fits in with the scenario I see ahead if this travesty isn’t shut down asap.
Isn’t MG’s participation on this blog subject to conflict given the now publicly announced lawsuit?
MSG says “quality of life” has no bearing on wildlife management. This statement and belief by wildlife managers today best describes the callousness and dumbing of the mind of all abusers out there…whether it is for homo sapiens or other species.
It is the same justification that allowed my military friends in Viet Nam to string a bunch of viet cong bodies together behind a tank and drag the trophies back to camp 8 miles away.
Anytime life of any species is devalued it is because of the life we impose on them, without sensitivity and respect, has to turn into disrespect and abuse. Death happens and we all, every species, has to eat but how we approach this death (life) is what either makes it all harmoneous or callous and shallow.
I have said many times what makes my biologist and scientist peers so blind to answers of supposed “science” is each of their willful intent to remove from themselves from lifes processes.
The word, anthromorphic, a word MSG uses to dismiss quality of life concerns, I would have to believe has its origins both in justification of abuse of animals by the general public and by those “scientists” in academia who wanted to reinvent knowledge for themselves. These scientists wanted protected trade status…and thus discounted all knowledge by all indigenous hunter- gatherers ….or any lay person who knew more than them.
Science, in hard science sectors, does have guidelines in place to justify valid research. But in applied science, where the phrases such as “quality of life” is a natural inclusion of that application, and should be inserted …..is dismissed in its protected guild “science”.
Thus MSG’s argument of “sound science” without quality being used to make these decisions is actually a very bigoted and biased management. If you don’t understand how a species is constructed then it all is symptom science and management….and I see no herd biologist who does. So strange when every hunter gatherer saw it so clearly.
Top that off with superior attitudes towards all species around you and you get a composite MSG Hitler aryan race “scientist.
And to put all this disallowing of “quality of life” when it comes to traditional hunters, I quit elk hunting on most public lands when on opening weekend I saw herds of cows and calves running back and forth from mountain to mountain…all with their tongues hanging out and totally exhausted because there were so many hunters in the woods looking for the bulls in a bulls only area.
Yes, MSG’s management based on “sound science” does not consider this in its stats but it is real….and so in is even those most callous of all “hunters” out there.
I also quit duck hunting on Midwest public lands when my brothers and I saw a large flock of mallards land in our family farm fields one blustery day. We loaded up and crawled out there to shoot them. As we went out the door we saw 3 or 4 cars and pick ups on the highway full of “hunters’ waiting for someone to go out there and put them into the air again.
We crawled way to close, “why weren’t they getting up again”. A few tried but then after a few feet they landed again. You see, that flock had been hounded all the way from Minn. or Canada…and there was no rest. Yes, there is anthromorphism, compassion and quality of life even in traditional hunters minds.
Only in “applied science” do the greater MSG’s eliminate this need. MSG’s are on the losing end of that belief. Maybe not this year or next but someday soon these callous Hitler belief concentration camp guards of a symptom management era will be gone. And I say good riddance.
Legal or not, I think we should encourage MSG and his regional administrative Idaho F&G background consultants for writing on this site. All those Idaho rank and file “subordinates” get to see their bosses for what they are. Some who want to become a part of this dysfunctional bull group, for sure, will take “his” words and use it to brown nose for further advancement (where are you guys…you yellow backs? when do you start “supporting your bosses in print?)….but most inhouse listening from Idaho F&G will start to question what their bosses are advocating. Dissension and “uprisings” will increase and then you will have meaningful change in the dept. Just as an oppressive dictator has to eliminate that lone dissident in the crowd who yells, “down with the dictator” so does all those of us on this site who ycounter “his” nonsense. The rank and file from Idaho F&G are listening. They hear the bull shit coming from the greater MSG’s. I say let them continue.
If I understand your comment about appropriateness of my comments given litigation of the FS FCW decision – I cannot and won’t comment on the legal elements of the case. I can offer explainations of state wolf management monitoring activities, population objectives and the like.
Continued reminders that wolves are not at risk of extirpation is, in part, because there are continued implications that delisting of wolves or state management of wolves jeapardizes the future of a viable NRMR wolf population. Continued reminders of the reality that wolves are indeed here to stay is worthwhile, if for no other reason that to help discussions stay focused on relevant wildlife issues.
We are not the only ones that think wolves are in jeopardy:
Bergstrom BJ, Vignieri S, Shefield SR, Sechrest W, Carlson AA. 2009. The Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf is Not Yet Recovered. BioScience 59: 991-999.
Abstract: “Without seeking independent scientific review, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently approved a 14 January 2009 Bush administration rule to remove endangered species protection from the northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of gray wolves less than 14 years after their reintroduction to Idaho and Wyoming. The “delisting” rule does not adequately address lack of genetic connectivity between Yellowstone wolf packs and other NRM populations, for which reason a federal court overturned the 2008 predecessor of the rule. The US Fish and Wildlife Service defies its own policies by delisting the Idaho and Montana portions of the DPS while Wyoming wolves remain endangered. Criteria for this delisting are inconsistent with prior delistings of recovered birds and mammals. New scientific understanding of species recovery argues for a higher delisting threshold for the NRM gray wolf metapopulation. Finally, we argue that ecosystem recovery should be a recovery criterion for this unique keystone predator.”
I can agree with much (not all) of your post, but perhaps not all of it’s implications.
Wolves were extirpated from the 48 contiguous states by a concentrated and highly organized long-term effort far beyond the scale of population management activities we are discussing in the NRMR – by the states and federal government. The extermination effort was that – an orchestrated extermination effort that depended on the broad use of chemical weapons. Trapping, denning, shooting indivudual wolves and other methods were tools in the arsenal of that extermination effort, but the ultimate extirpation of wolves relied on strychnineand other poisons in a big way. To suggest that hunting seasons and WS depredation control actions could effect the same outcome for the NRMR wolf population would be disingenuous – if that suggestion comes from someone who understands the history of wolf eradication in North America.
It looks like we agree that while the states intend to manage for stable, viable wolf population(s) – wolf population management objectives in state wolf management plans are not satisfactory for many stakeholders. Your characterization of state manaement objectives as “functional extinction” is a novel interpretation that deserves further discussion. I think you articulate a premise that is frequently expressed – less succinctly in different ways. Certainly, trophic cascade is one ecological role for wolves that would be included in the loss column of a cost/benefit analysis for wolf population managment objectives that examines the notion of “functional extinction”. This goes back to our earlier discussions about trophic cascade – CAN we describe how wolves benefit the landscape and therefor society and more importantly, how varying levels of wolf population management translate to varying levels of benefits or losses to natural resources and ultimately to our society? If we are assured that a wolves will be present on the landscape for future generations, what are the benefits of unregulated wolf populations and what are the liabilities? Those are important resource management questions that are at the foundation of these controversies. I suggest that the answers – especially arguments for unregulated wolf populations are not what is implied in your comments.
This is the second time you have referenced this paper. I am afraid I don’t have cost free access to the full report. Both the teaser on the first page and the Abstract are politically charged – mentioning elected and appointed officials and agencies. I would like to read the full report – have you?
I gather it is not original research, but possibly a literature review. The thing that irritated me (yes that is the right word) on the teaser page was reference to Molloy’s injunction in the first suit – you know where he misconstrued the VonHoldt modeling results. And even after the suit had concluded Wayne and VonHoldt backpedeled on the use of their report. I am wondering how they treated that issue – scientifically of course.
Are any of these folks actually wolf scientists who can stand toe to toe with Mech, Doug Smith and the Yellowstone crew? I am thinking they are also from second tier schools, with one Harvard post grad “Organismic Biology” student in the mix.
I just became aware of this paper, haven’t been able to get a copy to read yet. Have you seen the full paper? Can you describe how the authors describe inadequacy of genetic connectivity?
To Mark and Wilderness Muse
Here is the paper in its entirety for free that JB refers to
It is hosted on the schools website that Bergstrom works for.
Email me your addresses and Ill send you a pdf
Thanks, Nathan! Here are a few of the paper’s relevant points:
On the legality of partial delisting (delisting ID & MT, but not WY):
“The USFWS feels it has a solid case for rejecting only Wyoming’s wolf management plan, but in a 2004 letter the agency itself ruled as illegal the option of proceeding with a partial delisting before the entire DPS was recovered.”
On the lack of biological connectivity in the metapopulation:
“Recent studies suggest that extinction risk from inbreeding depression and the loss of genetic diversity generally has been underestimated in recovery planning (Frankham 2005). The 2009 delisting rule for the gray wolf differs from its predecessor in two respects: ( 1) Wyoming has been excluded from the delisting, and ( 2) the USFWS proposes to facilitate genetic exchange among isolated populations through vehicular transport of wolves around the DPS (USFWS 2009a).”
Culling wolves puts the metapopulation at risk:
“Although 1600 wolves may possibly allow adequate connectivity and genetic exchange to sustain the metapopulation, the population numbers proposed under Idaho and Montana’s management plans do not. The best-case scenario is the loss of nearly half the population–a substantial population bottleneck (Hedrick 1996). Furthermore, the pack structure of wolves, which in general is one breeding pair per family group, means that the Ne is considerably fewer than the census number.”
“Misguided concern for ungulate populations also drives aggressive state wolf management
There is no biological basis for declaring the NRM wolf DPS recovered, nor is there a wildlife management justification for the scale of the culling proposed by the states following delisting. Statistics from the IDFG show that wolves account for less than 10 percent of elk deaths in Idaho (much less than the number killed by hunters), that hunter harvest rates of elk were higher in 2005 than they were before wolf reintroduction, that elk mortality due to wolf predation is mostly replaceable, and that elk populations generally are at or above management goals, requiring cow harvest in some units (Wright et al. 2006, IDFG 2007). “
Sorry WM, just saw your post.
The piece is presented as a “Forum” article–meaning it is opinion based upon relevant research (it is peer-reviewed). I do not know the authors personally, so I’ll refrain from making comments about their credibility. I can, however, pass along their affiliations and let people judge for themselves:
Bradley J. Bergstrom is a professor in the Department of Biology at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, and chair of the Conservation Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists.
Sacha Vignieri is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Steven R. Sheffield is an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, and adjunct professor in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech.
Wes Sechrest is chief scientist at Global Wildlife Conservation in San Francisco.
Anne A. Carlson was the Northern Rockies wolf campaign coordinator for Defenders of Wildlife in Bozeman, Montana; she now works for the Wilderness Society.
Mark what the F (hell), I asked for clarification on the sheep issue. where are we at this. I’ve tried to be supportive… “two way street” the sheep issue iS A BIG, jump on board!!! If not we will chat the 13th………………………………..
bob Jackson,I took the time to reread your post to me… what I find hard to believe in all those years you never sored a horse, as you know for most of those years I was 180 degrees south, and 99.9\9 have not lived a fuller life than I. I am directly responsible for the loss of 3 horses lives, X ray my lower jaw it looks like bicycle chain, I’ve been bit by a rattler, and shot in the the left thigh and I can’t hit a bull in the a– with a pistol My dilema, honestly!!!!!!! Did you really give up a pro baseball contract? Under my roof baseball is life.. Your a better man than….
“…what are the benefits of unregulated wolf populations and what are the liabilities? Those are important resource management questions that are at the foundation of these controversies. I suggest that the answers – especially arguments for unregulated wolf populations are not what is implied in your comments.”
Indeed, these are relevant questions, especially if IDF&G takes its trustee role seriously. I’ll admit I’m not sure what you mean with your last sentence? If my comments are meant to imply anything it is that IDF&G’s wolf management plan bow’s to the interests of the politically-connected stakeholders: ranchers and big-game hunters. Your own survey data makes it clear that these two stakeholders want nothing more than to reduce wolves to the smallest possible number that is legally defensible under the ESA, and that is exactly what your plan does. All of this talk about serving the interests of other, non-consumptive stakeholders is nothing but agency spin. If you took non-consumptive stakeholders’ interests seriously then there would be some place in the state of Idaho where wolf populations were not being significantly reduced. Yet, there will be no sanctuary for wolves in Idaho, even in federally-designated wilderness. And despite the fact that Wilderness belongs to everyone, as an out-of-stater, my opinion–in the eyes of IDF&G–is less than meaningless.
Mark Gamblin. I’m often hearing the argument from hunters that wolves are decimating all of the elk population. Jim Unsworth said that hunters kill more elk than wolves. Do you have any idea how many elk hunters usually harvest per year and how does it compare to how many elk wolves kill?
Also Mark, can I get your thoughts on if you think the wolves now are the same as the ones before in Idaho. Some say that an illegal non native canadian species of wolf was introduced into Idaho. Who has done the science to prove that these are the same wolves as before? I also heard Jon Rachael and Unsworth claim they are the same wolf genetically and supposedly it was proven by science. Do you have any idea who did the science on these wolves to prove if they are non native or not? My own belief is that they are the same wolf, but I’m just curious as if there was indeed real science done on it to determine if they are the same wolves or not.
The biggest wolf biologists in the world as well as one of the best recognized genetic experts have stated they can’t tell the difference, and as there was no real border in the sense we know now a days, I find the whole non-native wolf argument to be a moot point, wolves are wolves..period
I lived in NW Montana and now live in Northern Idaho, where the wolves were not re-introduced, they were natural migrants and there is virtually nothing to show that the genetic make up of wolves now is that much different than the wolves of the past.
I find the whole non-native argument to be a red herring at best.
Savebears, what I wanna know why are hunters like Ron Gillette and others constantly claiming they are a non native canadian wolf?
It is easy to identify a Canadian variation of a grey wolf…just listen to the accent in the howl eh?
Seriously though, I have heard this line from day one of the introduction talk and no one has been able to bring any evidence to the table to back it up..
I have looked for it many times as well online in the professional catalogs of academia, simply put there is no evidence, it is all talk.
It is nothing more than a propaganda myth the anti wolf crowd uses, they will argue that there was a population of wolves existing in Idaho and that the reintroduction caused the ‘Idaho Grey Wolf’ to go extinct
Savebears, are you talking about Dave Mech and Bob Wayne?
Nathan, I have told hunters that, but they claim all of these wolf biologists who say they are a native species are biased. I guess the hunters don’t like anyone who doesn’t support their anti-wolf agenda.
I don’t quite understand why some claim it was an illegally introduced wolf. I know that some of these wolves came into Idaho on their own. They were coming into Idaho on their own, so it makes no sense to think that this wolf was illegally introduced when it was already coming into Idaho on its own.
Because Ron has an agenda, and he is just flat pissed off, because he is not in control any longer, he lost the battle, the war, etc.
Ron, has no understanding of science and wildlife dynamics, he has been a big fish in a little pond for so long, that he can’t be humble and he does not like to loose..
there is no argument that holds water that can show me that the wolves currently inhabiting the landscape are all that much different, if at all, I have looked at the genetics and behaviors and they are the same wolves..
It simply comes down to wolves are wolves, and succeeding generations adapt to the environment they reside in..
For what it’s worth, here is what Doug Smith, one of the biologists who worked on the reintroduction, has to say about the non-native/subspecies argument in his book Decade of the Wolf, p30.
“…on ongoing complaint even today is that the wolves we reintroduced are significantly different from those of the past–specifically, that we took from Canada a larger, more aggressive subspecies. Yet modern genetic analyses of wolves living across North America doesn’t support such claims. Wolves travel far and wide, and because of this they don’t tend to readily segregate out, grouping into different subpopulations. In other words, their wide ranging movements tend to keep the gene pool mixed, which in turn prevents the creation of localized forms. It’s largely for this reason that over the years modern taxonomic analyses have reduced the number of wolf subspecies from twenty-four to just five. Only when we take a wolf from the northern end of their range, in the Arctic, and compare them to a wolf from the southern end, Mexico, are we able to discern a noticeable difference. And even then, such differences are subtle.”
IF I concede the WHOLE thing that you quoted from page 30 of whatever —- then HOW can the current gang of lawsuit artists claim that “lack of genetic exchange” can be a legitimate argument for returning wolves to “endangered” status under the ESA??
Those are two separate issues. As I read it, Smith is saying that wolves south of the Arctic to Mexico are genetically indistinguishable. Barriers to wolf migration and genetic exhange however could weaken wolf populations by creating isolated populations. Every population of animals benefits from increased genetic diversity.
I have read most of the sworn declarations of those wolf scientists who have been at the forefront of the wolf recovery in the NRM, from the first delisting law suit. Doug Smith’s, if I recall correctly, was one of those declarations, along with Mech, and the wolf coordinators for the respective states, and several others. These folks all pretty much say the same thing Smith does in the piece jburnham quotes above.
The plaintiffs, Defenders of Wildife, et al. and their experts are the ones saying there is not sufficient genetic diversity, including John Vecutich, one of the scientists studying the Isle Royale wolves in Michigan that have been inbreeding for decades. Actually I think it is kind of sick – there are something like 23 of them and they are all very closely related. The plaintiffs fed a bunch of bull….. to Judge Molloy who didn’t know the difference, but did the conservative (and probably the correct thing) by telling FWS to go back and formally prove up genetic exchange with better data. Whether they can do that is kind of the question of the hour.
This round of the delisting litigation, if it ever gets to the science part, will likely debunk the lack of genetic diversity issue. The delisting, if it is reversed, will most likely be on technical legal grounds that has to do with the definition of the of a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and how USFWS applied the concept (as well as leaving WY out of the delisted area because they wouldn’t take their management responsibilities seriously to meet ESA obligations).
I have always had a problem with the Endangered Species Act, because it recognizes arbitrary lines on map…There are a lot of wolves in the world, as there are a lot of Grizzly bears. I will agree, there were very few wolves south of the Canadian border, but wolves as a whole were not endangered as a species..I really think we need to come up with a new law that is tailored to the species as a whole. AND no, that is not to say, we can go on a free for all killing wolves, but until such time as we come up with a different way to manage as well as reintroduce populations other than lines on a map, these arguments are going to continue.
And, to use a little Bob Jackson technique, yes, the Isle Royale wolf studies remind me of the movie, “The Secret Island of Dr. Moreau.” These wolves are so inbred it is pathetic – even reminds me of the stories of Appalachia from the 1930’s “Git off’n me Pa, yer crushing my cigarettes.”
See my post on the BHS thread. I just caught your questions on that topic. I’m out of the office this week, loggin in remotely.
I’m returning to Pocatello Wednesday evening, will go directly to the big game rules scoping meeting and will look for you then.
Thank you for the link access to the Bergstrom, et al. paper.
I’m going to read the Bergstrom, et al. paper before I offer any detailed comments. Without the benefit of reading their full arguments – the summary you provide leaves an impession that they didn’t read the USFWS delisting decision document or make an effort to understand wolf – elk interactions in Idaho. I’ll be able to provide more meaningful comments tomorrow.
I can’t add anything to what SB, jayburnham and WM said above. Jim Unsworth and Jon Rachael said it simply, jayburnham and WM provided documentation. The wolves brought from “Canadian” and “US” wolves were/are not separated by significant distance or geography. They undoubtedly mixed routinely. For all practical, relevant purposes, they were/are the same wolves genetically.
In Idaho wolves rely almost exclusively on elk for sustenance. Wolf predation affects elk variably around the state. Hunters take more elk than wolves in the whole state. Wolf impacts on some elk herds (Lolo and Sawtooth wolf management zones) is substantial and has forced the Department to significantly reduce hunter opportunity in those areas. That is not to say that wolves have the same affect on their prey base in all geographic areas. We do know however that wolf predation is a very significant population regulation factor for their prey species in many situations.
Save Bears says:
AND no, that is not to say, we can go on a free for all killing wolves
500 wolves dead in 2009 and they’re not done yet. Idaho has 80 wolves left to kill in their SEVEN MONTH LONG HUNT. WS is gunning for four packs in Montana and lord knows how many in Idaho. So we are definitely looking at over 600 wolves dead and probably more. If you take the high starting number of 1650 in the Northern Rockies….I think it’s more like 1500…we’re talking one-third of gray wolves GONE. If that’s not a kiling free for all, not sure what is. 40% of Montana’s wolves. GONE!!
They killed wolves wolves that wildlife watchers wanted to live and prosper. They can’t be brought back. They killed them for elk hunters and ranchers.
Shame to the states and WS for what they’ve done. Shame!!
“I have always had a problem with the Endangered Species Act, because it recognizes arbitrary lines on map…”
Save bears: The approach that you’re advocating WAS the law before the ESA; however, this law wasn’t sufficient because all developers had to do was say, “hey we don’t have to worry about species X here, because their population is viable over there.” This approach creates a shifting baseline and, taken literally, would allow species to diminished across their historic range down to the point where only a single population still existed (i.e. so long as that population was viable, the species is not endangered).
Needless to say, wiithout the “significant potion of its range” language, I think it is a pretty safe bet that there would be no wolves and grizzlies in the lower 48 today.
The real points of contention for scholars and policy makers today are (a) whether the ESA requires restoration to all but an “insignificant” portion of its range, as this language implies, and (b) whether the purpose of the act–to “…provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved…”–implies restoration to protect ecosystems rather than populations. I tend to agree with (a) but don’t see anything in the statutory language beyond this broad purpose statement to suggest (b).
– – –
In a time of great partisanship, it is worthwhile to recall that the ESA passed the House 355 to 4 and the Senate without opposition. You won’t find a bill that gets that kind of support today.
Oh, I forgot: And it was signed by a Republican President.
To answer your question to my post on an earlier thread, the most I ever put on a horse or mule was a cinch rub (no blood) on a couple stock early in the season. No withers, no above the kidneys and no side sores on pack or riding horses.
The hardest area and the one that needed the most maintainance was the cinch area. On a few soft loose skinned animals one would have to check for skin folding every 3-4 miles. And depending on the pack animals body shape one put hard sided box panniers on round horses so the cinch stayed away from the pressure points.
The main reason users sored their pack strings was they’d push the animals too hard. Thats where a lot of withers and kidney sores happened. Add to that packers who wanted to keep packs tight to the animal with diamond hitches and soft sides so the pack wouldn’t slip. Too much chance of uneven balanced packs looking straight but putting pressure on one spot…and a sore.
I only used these types of hitches in the most vertical and rugged off trail riding (to stake out camps well away from the line or cross country travel). Plus when I had to pack those 80# sacks of grain, one per side, for the 17 miles from the boat to different cabins I switched out the heavy loads every stop ..or if a 200 # pack was ever needed I never used the horse or mule the next 2 days. That is where tender skin and muscle turns into sore backs.
As for people injuries, all my peers, corral operations packers and trail crew (except one) got broken bones or banged up pretty bad if they rode much at all. Knees from shoeing went out all the time. This was always my number one concern …..injuries while shoeing…that and watching real close where I was walking between horses and mules. One time early on I had a mule “wave” two feet inches in front of my face as it connected with a horse two feet behind me. That memory stays with one. I was lucky.
On the public side of riding it seemed it was one disater after another. This is where 99% of my call outs for potential copter rides were. Crushed chests, broken legs smashed faces. My patrol area was one great big, what not to do.
Again, most injuries were caused by image being number one priority. The more I saw parties talking “grays, dapples, roans, hoof color the better the chance for that party to have an injury..maybe not that day or trip but sometime.
And of course I was lucky also. If a horse stumbles forward and down …and you are on a down hill slope ….it is almost impossible to get the foot out of the stirrup. It is where every bit of fast reaction and concentration is needed…to get the foot out quick enough to fly off and out of the way….and sometimes that still isn’t enough. Then it is just the chance of the draw where the leg ends between the side of the horse and the ground. The few times this happened the leg and stirrup were most of the way out and the foot was by the withers ….not straight ahead under the shoulder.
I know this is getting a little detailed for an off post but just wanted others to know they can make it out well and alive. It does take all the “fat, dumb and happy” life out of riding “enjoyment” but then again I never thought of riding as sport.
On the riding horse everyone tries to john wayne it…riding erect and with the off arm hanging straight. Image was always more important to most than riding with the horse. This meant going down the trail with legs going back and forth and the upper body moving about every way one can think of. It kept the horse and myself from getting sored and myself stiff and prone to injuries when “shit happened”. Plus one would find the need to walk at least a third of the time. Slip a safety donut from the lead pack horse lead rope over the saddle horn and walk, walk walk.
My patrol area, the Thorofare – Bridger Lake area was suppose to be the number one horse area of the country. I could spot a “horse sorer” ..or rather one who wouldn’t…. fairly easily. They were one in a thousand. TV and the movies has done a lot of damage to riding. Outfitters and guides were the worst. One of my peers asked one outfitter what he used for sores (most of his stock were oozing) and he replied, “saddles, man, saddles.
I rode one horse probably 15,000 miles and another 30,000. The first never developed a white spot on his side or back hair in the fall (sign of overheating at some time) and the other had one….from a guy who used my stock when I went to Iowa for two weeks before hunting season patrol….JERK!!!!
I had one pack horse go over a cliff on the Trident while tracking poachers. He free falled for over a hundred feet. Still breathing when I got to him. Shot him with my 44. He was my favorite shot chaser. He simply went around a small rock I was leading him instead of the path my horse did. It put him on a scree slope. Both my horses were seasoned and smart. Both laid down knees below them immediately (yes my saddle horse also in that kind of vertical terrain). I cut the pack off and the saddle cinch. Took ahold of the lead rope and said, “lets go” It worked…mostly…. but one of his hind feet touched space as he l lifted forward and up and over he went. End of story.
I read the Bergstrom paper last night. On my first read, I appreciated its comprehensive historical approach, and issues raised, notwithstanding the entertwined political message. This is OK, considering the topic section placement in the journal – “Forum.”
However, I reread it, in critique mode, and was more troubled by the content:.
1. There does not appear to be a field study biologist with any wolf experience, among them. Check their CV’s. The only possible exception is Dr. Anne Carlson, who is/was a wolf advocacy group employee, once at Defenders of Wildife (now there’s an objective source). I do not know if she has done much research which is published.
2. Ironically, these authors did not at all look in any depth at the final delisting rule, in which USFWS addresses, in very specific ways, Judge Molloy’s ruling. Judge Molloy invited USFWS to do this! There are undoubtedly authoritative documents supporting the summary in the delisting rule. I bet they could have access to this, if they had asked. They are intellectually dishonest on this point.
3. The authors claim no scientific community review of the delisting proposal- the very essence of their claim. A careful reading of the rule and earlier documents over the last thirty years outlines exactly how the scientific community was involved – up to present day. There are no doubt detailed documents in FWS possession which are more exacting as to who was involved and what they said – they did no exploration of this. They just conveniently focus on the “rush to implement Bush policy” tag line, and what an idiot Salazar is for not consulting the scientific community before making a policy decision.
4. They blow off the results of field studies and the opinions of experts like Smith, Mech, et al. and go to Bridgette VonHoldt (a graduate student under Bob Wayne) as the authority to state “The unregulated harvests allowed under the proposed management plans will disrupt pack structure, which can lead to in-breeding (VonHoldt, etal. 2008)…” The delisting rule background addresses and debunks the disruption assertion in some detail, and these are REGULATED harvests done by the states.
5. The authors claim to have done some “simple population viability analyses” with a model they do not describe, or make available. They make bold summary conclusions without discussion. All of this is done in one short paragraph (top of p.995).. This is intellectually dishonest.
6. They applaud the Great Lakes DPS recovery, failing to acknowledge that wolves are still ESA listed there for the very DPS technical argument (the result of an agreed litigation settlement based on alleged lack of public comment on the previously proposed rule) in the current law suit. It is like they were out to lunch on this one.
7. They seem to think translocation of wolves to new areas is an evil. Yet it is the very method by which the reintroduced wolves got here and they are doing fine. Translocation is also an integral part of the Washington State proposed wolf plan, and is scientifically defensible, and relatively inexpensive to bring in more genetic stock where it is needed.. Gray wolves are not threatened or endangered as a whole when considering the huge population and genetic reserve in Canada– and this is an important factor that goes to the very heart of the problem with the ESA as it applies to this species..
8. In a sidebar box they do a gross estimation of harvest + lethal kill to conclude devastating effects on population, WITHOUT consideration of net population increase that results from reproduction. This is intellectually dishonest.
JB, in short, I am not sure there is anything new or enlightening here. It is a slant political piece, and should probably be rebutted. There are a half dozen people who post here regularly who could do a better job. With a little more critical reading, citation research to obtain context, and writing time, I could find holes in this paper big enough to drive bus through.
Does anyone have any idea how much money Idaho generates in ecotourism with people coming to see the wolves? Also, to all the people that post on here, can I get your opinions and thoughts of wildlife services wiping out packs. Are we the taxpayers paying for them to fly around in a helicopter to wipe out wolf packs?
I have neither the time nor the inclination to post a rebuttal. However, you might consider that the “Forum” section of BioScience limits authors to 4500 words and 40 references and is meant for addressing “topical issues”, not presenting detailed reviews. I would also point out that while the Final Rule attempts to address Molloy’s rulings, FWS is still making an argument. Asserting that “there are undoubtedly authoritative documents supporting the summary in the delisting rule” gives the FWS too much credit, and the current paper too little. Remember, FWS is far from perfect. 😉
As an example of how cautious you should be in reading the final rule, go to p. 15179; there you will find the following quote:
“Public attitudes toward wolves have improved greatly over the past 30 years. We expect that, given adequate continued management of conflicts, those attitudes will continue to support wolf restoration.”
Interestingly, FWS cites no research in support of this conclusion. However, they do (on p. 15175) cite a meta analysis of studies on attitudes toward wolves conducted by Williams et al. (2002). In that paper, the authors conclude:
“Across the 37 attitude surveys we studied, the reported statistics were stable over the last 30 years. This contradicts a recent perception among some ecologists that wolf support has recently grown” (p. 581).
It appears FWS is not reading the papers they cite. The conclusion that support for wolves (in general) has increased in the past three decades is not supported by empirical research, and the implication–that support has increased in ID, MT, and WY–is ludicrous!
People are the only real threat that wolves face in the Northern Rockies (~3/4s of all wolf moralities are human-caused). Yet, FWS glosses over this threat, asserting “Post-delisting management by Montana and Idaho will further enhance local public support for wolf recovery” and citing no empirical research, but the opinion of Ed Bangs.
I could go on, but why bother?
Citation: Williams C, Ericsson G, Heberlein TA. 2002. A quantitative summary of attitudes toward wolves and their reintroduction (1972-2000). Wildlife Society Bulletin 30: 575-584.
Bergstom, et al. wasted much of their 4,500 words taking their political shots and making gross generalizations/conclusions, they should be criticized for that. Not much science in the article, and they should be criticized for that too.
One thing that continues to bug me about the “research” is that the wolf recovery is so swift and successful in terms of numbers and settlement of new territory, and the lag time in studies on their effects on the ecosystem, sometimes by as much as three or four years, leads to erroneous present day conclusions (could go either way pro or anti wolf). Nobody seems to addresss this. If you look at the time series population charts for the NRM (p. 15136 of the final rule) – you just have say WOW! And that is only population up thru 2007.
For example, the analysis of wolf impacts on elk populations use data from three to four years ago when the wolf population was about half what it is now (netted out from harvest/WS kills and reproduction replacement). This is even from the state game management agencies.
Similarly, you quote the Williams survey publication of 2002, which probably used data from as much as two years earlier. Well, we are nine or so years down the road from the data that was used to draw the emperically based conclusions. We are looking in the rearview mirror while a fast moving train is headed down the tracks.
As for the 30 year trend during which wolf attitudes according to FWS have improved, but Williams, according to you says not (not disagreeing on your conclusion, just the validity and practicality for present day use). This one is kind of obvious. I am saying conclusions in 2002 are not valid to reflect 2009-2010 views, in this instance. Common sense observation seems to be a more reliable marker for attitudes (not that weshould not value empirical research).
And, if there has been no improvement in attude favoring wolves there would be no point in educational programs such as the one at the heart of the MN plan, or which, according to some observers, should be more prominent in the NRM states.
Last, if FWS does not have supporting data for their assertions pf genetic connectivity, etc. they should be chastized. You will find me at the head of the line being angry about it, and saying so. The interesting thing will be whether the factual case gets its day in court. It will likely not if the plaintiffs win on the summary judgement papers.
Sorry, I hit “submit comment” too soon.
The last sentence should read: It (the scientific argument on genetic connnectivity) will likely not be examined in depth, if the plaintiffs win on the legal DPS arguments in their summary judgment papers.
The FWS doesn’t collect data on attitudes; they have never supported social science research. However, the law requires them to use the best commercial and scientific data available; oftentimes, the latest data simply isn’t available. What galls me is that FWS makes the very same mistake (assuming attitudes have improved) that Williams et al. identify as a common misperception (Note: this should tell you something about relying on “common sense observation”; common sense is either unreliable or FWS doesn’t have any).
I agree with you regarding the practical value of Williams et al.’s conclusions given how old they are. Moreover, based upon Idaho’s own recent survey, I would argue that, if anything, attitudes toward wolves in the state have recently become more negative–at least among big game hunters. This only makes FWS’ assertion that attitudes have improved all the more unreasonable.
You lost me here:
“And, if there has been no improvement in attitude favoring wolves there would be no point in educational programs such as the one at the heart of the MN plan, or which, according to some observers, should be more prominent in the NRM states.”
I don’t get the connection; it there hasn’t been improvement in attitudes this would seemingly argue even more strongly in favor of educational programs, at least this seems logical to me.
Regardless, my point is the same: just because FWS wrote it and Mech reviewed it, doesn’t make it so. In this instance (and likely others in the Final Rule) they are dead wrong.
++You lost me here++
Mine was a flip sarcastic comment. I was suggesting if attitudes are not changing for the better in areas where wolves are present, through education, then spending money on education to change attitudes is not money well spent.
Of course, in reality I do believe education is important for everyone to better understand the implications of having wolves on the landscape.
As you said that ” Wolf impacts on some elk herds (Lolo and Sawtooth wolf management zones) is substantial and has forced the Department to significantly reduce hunter opportunity in those areas. ………. .”, I wonder if cows and sheep have impact on elk populations by eating the grasses? More BLM lands for cows less for elk. More land for elk and less for sheep. Maybe BLM can claim some back from ranchers to help hunters by allowing elk to recover. Why the solutions is always, I reapeat always to kill the wolves?
Land and wildlife management agencies don’t like social science research in general.
At one time me a professor of sociology and I were hired by the Targhee National Forest to do a sociological analysis of the area to the west of the Tetons (that is the Driggs, Tetonia, Victor, Idaho area).
It was a great consulting job. For two weeks we road around on horses and talked to national forest visitors. At the end of every day we met a wrangler who cooked us a meal and set up a camp.
We did a lot more by vehicle and interviewed about a hundred people who were community leaders as well as those we determined might represent counterelites.
We gave the Forest Service a thick report talking about perceptions of forest users, community attitudes (including a long chapter on social problems and religious conflict), etc.
They paid us a nice fee and didn’t publish a word of our report. They quickly replaced it with a few demographic tables.
You ask an important question. In areas of intensive livestock grazing, those activities can and do affect wildlife populations in a varitety of ways. In the Lolo Zone there is very little if any livestock grazing. In the Sawtooth Zone there is livestock grazing. In both cases, the effects of wolf predation on the production and recruitment of elk herds in each wolf management zone are well understood and not confounded (misinterpreted) by habitat potential or changes in habitat production potential.
In the Lolo Zone, habitat has been changing since the 1919 fires that opened the country to successional forest changes favoring elk and other ungulates. Elk production was declining before wolves were re-introduced to Idaho and eventually the upper Clearwater River watershed that comprises the Lolo wolf management zone. Since wolf packs became established that area, elk production and recruitment has declined substantially below the capacity of current habitat conditions – for elk production. That is the direct impact of wolf predation on elk production (elk calf production) and survival of elk calves (recruitment).
Certainly, where other land management practices are affecting wildlife balanced land management alternatives should be pursued.
I can’t speak for other state wildlife management agencies, but I can say that the IDFG has conducted and contracted social science surveys and extensive public involvement efforts, for years. I agree with you and JB that social science research and the insight gained from that research is crucial to sound wildlife management and will increasingly important.