Yellowstone Wolf Numbers Drop for Second Year

Park now has only 55% as many wolves as at the peak population-

I predicted this, and the same thing was happening to the wolf population of Idaho and Montana. Without any intervention they would have peaked and dropped. With the big campaign against them in Idaho and Montana, we will never know.  At any rate,  growth of the wolf population has now stopped in all three states.

Yellowstone Wolf Numbers Drop for Second Year. By Yellowstone National Park, via New West.



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  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    With fewer wolves and the same number of radio collars, the Yellowstone wolves are getting studied to death. The Black Tail Pack recently had four members darted and radio-collared. The collars are then used to direct the fleet of Yellowstone Association Tour Buses to the located wolf packs to make money for the park.
    With the guy in the yellow car soliciting donations from the bus passengers for finding the collared wolves for them with his park supplied radio receiver and the park biologists supplementing their paychecks by selling the photos they take while chasing the wolves with helicopters, the study has long since ceased to be legitimate.

  2. Disperser 356 Avatar
    Disperser 356

    “LT” I have never seen Rick M. soliciting money for the wolf project. He does a great service giving visitors the opportunity to see wolves that they probably wouldn’t find on their own.

    Although I have seen you trying to sell your photos out of the back of your truck…..

  3. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    The problem I see with Yellowstone Assoc. being in bed with the Park is higher up administrators pet projects get funded….and there is a lot of wining and dining going on that mostly strokes the egos and careers of those higher ups copulating with YA.

    There are very few checks and balances with this system. I would see the YA load cases and cases of booze on the Park Service boats then take the fat cats to Trail Creek Patrol cabin for several days smoozing. Trail Creek is in the SE arm of Yell. Lake…a no power zone….but the chief ranger of the Park, my boss, had a Park Service patrol boat power him in the three miles to the cabin in the evening and then powered all the way out the next morning…after a night of wine and dine…for a wealthy family from Calif. All this for the $25,000 this family, and like kind fat cats, give.

    The Park and its values and resources was being prostituted by the govt. administration no different than its first Supt. Norris, would chip off parts of geysers for the fat cats way back when.

    The naturalist division seasonal employees numbers have been decimated because “production” is higher with YA. But at what cost of principles and ethics ais lost… well as a lot of very fine college kids who will never get hired ….unless they are in with a YA non profit or Park administraators?

    The admins can put the word out that their son or daughter needs a job and not have to go through any equal opportunity or qualification requirements.

    It all was so demoralizing to the rank and file employees to see what was happening. I ended my employment with Yell. in 2003 and I really doubt it has gotten any better on the sleaze front. So much different (worse) than when I started in 1969.

    the intentions of some may be right but they are blind to seeing the corrison seeping in. Enough for now.

  4. JimT Avatar

    Studied and loved to death. We have seen it happen in other parks to other resources. In our efforts to learn, we seem to make more mistakes than we gather valid info.

    It is information like this that makes me think that we should establish a broad migration corridor from Canada down to Mexico and then stay the hell out of there and let the animals fend. They did just fine without humans before; I suspect the same would be true today. And if we truly did put our beloved nature first…but, of course, this is a pipe dream, sadly.

  5. jdubya Avatar

    “”supplementing their paychecks by selling the photos they take while chasing the wolves with helicopters,””

    jesus, larry, does everything have to center back around you? give it a rest…

    I am amazed that it is down to and holding at 6 breeding pairs in the park…..distemper, mange, hunters on the boundaries, hostile winters, not easy being a wolf.

  6. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    Larry, I have spent many many hours around Rick and have never seen this. It seems like you have a problem with anyone not named Larry Thorngren using and visiting the park. How many photos have you sold of wolves that Rick led you to?

  7. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    It is not the people involved in Yell. Assoc activities, it is what the intent of monies received does. A lot of Parks have non profit Assoc. but, at least not in Yell., do I see the checks and balances needed to put any fund raising on the up and up.

    The Ricks and any others are simply “used” by the Park admin. to achieve their own agendas. Rick, as I understand it, was just a private individual, who like others either sells items related to “nature” …like books and did what he needed to to work his way in. He went to NPS wolf meetings in Mammoth with NPS employees and in the wolves early years the Park wolf people handed out the radio frequencies to privates, like Rick, with no thought of the possible consequences.

    Then there was enlightenment …. and the earth warmed up. The ten commandments spoke and the likes of Bob Landis had to give up their using speed of light systems.

    But in the name of wolf protection Rick and volunteers were used to keep wolf mortality down. So when those jay walking wolves kept getting hit the Park air waves were set abuzz with guards notifying the public at each end of the road of wolves crossing ahead of them.

    The possible skewed decision came when in order to follow gods law of only govt employee use of telemetry they had to put a Park uniform on Rick. But the association of “park” with non Park ( paid by Yell. Assoc.) being volunteer with fake badges can mean the public is left in a coccon of misperception.

    Thats how it was as I heard it from other employees but I don’t know if it is so now. I do know if only Govt. employees are to have telemetry frequencies then getting paid by a non profit seems a crossing of the bar.

    There has always been favoritism in Yellowstone and there has always been a certain amount of abuses, but the rank and file could usually stop the worst infractions of those in power trying to convulute the principles and resource laws of YNP for their own advancement. Basically they would SQEAL!! to stop it

    But with the present Yell. Assoc. – Park “friendship” there aren’t as many things visible for others to yell, ” not fair”.

    I feel the govt., through its public service naturalist program, should be putting on the wolf tours and classes, not the Yell. Assoc. And they should be putting on any classes offered at its Yellowstone Institute in Lamar. If it means coming out of the govt. budget like it once was then I say Park administration needs to fight for that money….within normal govt. channels.

    And if there are experts deemed worthy, such as Rick, then the Park needs to hire him as a uniformed employee with proper access to frequencies. And if he doesn’t like being a Park employee as in his earlier days then he should go back to being a private observer writing notes for his books….or hire on for one of the private concessioner Park permitted outfitters.

    Straddling the middle, being both Park and Park Assoc., when these folks have to be seeing the same abuses of the Yell. Assoc., as I saw, is something they, whomever the employee, ed to get out of …..if it is as I heard. The people n the field working for Yell. Assoc. have to be aware someday it will all come out.

    And to that Yellowstone Assoc. gal coming in on the Park Service ranger boat and later pouring those fine wines into fine wine glasses for all the adults in “my” patrol cabin I say, ” What in the hell is going through your mind right now???” First you get on a 25′ Bertram where other piblic servants were denied a ride to do their job (you heard the diussion didn’t you between the district ranger and those field rangers with all their gear on the dock being turned away for your vip’s). Then you go right past that no power bouy and see the district ranger flip on the blue patrol light to make other back country canoeists and campers believe it is an emergency…pull up to the dock and see the horses that ranger left behind was suppose to use…but of course follow the lead of higher up law enforcement types and put it all out of your mind…as you pour more and more wine…with all those Calif. vinters names on those bottles.

    Twodays later the bottles are left for mainteance cleanup (field rangers). You hop back on the boat and all had a fine time powering back out. I hope who ever you are gal, you might just think back and ask yourself if all this fit into the misson of YNP??? Evidently yours and the govt. bosses never did.

  8. love nature Avatar
    love nature

    Rick is a National Park Service employee. As far as Yellowstone Association paid and volunteer positions with the wolf project goes, they are ALL volunteers with the National Park Service at the same time. This allows them to drive government vehicles, use telemetry, and follow ALL the same rules that paid NPS employees follow. NPS will not fund any more positions.

  9. SAP Avatar

    I, too, have never seen Rick McIntyre soliciting donations.

    More importantly, I have seen Rick very patiently letting visitors (totally random people at wolf jams, rather than prospective donors) use his scopes to look for wolves, while providing them with lots of information about what they’re seeing.

    Every time I see him doing this, I thank him because it’s hugely important for building a constituency for the wild. Most YNP visitors don’t have much in the way of optics, and probably didn’t really have a strategy for finding and viewing wildlife in the park when they rolled in. Rick and others really deepen and enrich those visitors’ experiences. I have to think it sticks with them when they go back to Ohio, or LA, or wherever they came from.

    Contrast Rick’s services with the sometimes cliqueish, exclusionary attitude of some of the Swarovski crowd in Lamar. One friend from Kansas was really put off by it. Not much of a way to instill a love of wild nature in the public.

  10. Jeremy B. Avatar

    I’ve never had anyone try to sell me anything at a wolf jam (I suppose that’s because everyone is usually busy looking at the wolves). However, I’m not sure how many times I’ve “heard” Larry peddle the idea that Yellowstone wolves are being studied to death. Each sales pitch is filled with the same baseless accusations. Frankly, it is really getting old.

  11. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    I can see how a professional photographer could clash with the wolf crew/ park employees. Multiple times while I was there “pro” photographers with their huge cameras have gotten into trouble either getting too close to the wolves/bears or hiking into den areas. Anything for a good shot i guess.

  12. Ronnie Avatar

    When I go to Yellowstone, I am one of those who “clash” with park employees. It makes me laugh when they want to close parts of the park off, or limit access by saying it is to keep from “disturbing” the wildlife. I admit I hike where I want, when I want and really don’t respect anyone in the park. I do respect the wildlife and use good judgement to not disturb them. As for the good ‘ole boys in the park, how about not disturbing the animals you chase down with a helicopter? And as Mr. Jackson touched on, how about not bending the Rules for a buck? To each their own,, I’ll keep hiking quietly, and out of sight of all the people in the park- to observe the wildlife in a “Natural Setting!!”

  13. John Avatar

    Hear, hear, Ronnie.

  14. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    It is information like this that makes me think that we should establish a broad migration corridor from Canada down to Mexico and then stay the hell out of there and let the animals fend. They did just fine without humans before; I suspect the same would be true today. And if we truly did put our beloved nature first…but, of course, this is a pipe dream, sadly.

    That is a wonderful pipe dream JimT.

  15. John Avatar

    “Contrast Rick’s services with the sometimes cliqueish, exclusionary attitude of some of the Swarovski crowd in Lamar. One friend from Kansas was really put off by it. Not much of a way to instill a love of wild nature in the public.” I will add to this note… I wouldn’t call myself part of the “Swarovski crowd” in the Lamar, usually I’m off doing my own thing, far away from people and roads. However, there are certain times and places I will view from the road. The first time a guy pushes me away, grabs the tripod holding my 2800 dollar scope, and starts yanking it around, I lose my normal genteel and caring attitude. Hence, unless someone asks me very, very nicely, in a calm manner, they can, quite frankly, go to hell.

  16. Sal_N Avatar

    my recollection is that Rick was part time Park employee (during the summer) and part time volunteer. You could have made donations to YA and stated it had to go to the wolf project. I have given them checks among other things that made their way to Rick. But one had to be careful with donations greater $xxx don’t remember the exact amount. It has to be declared to park ethics people otherwise Rick can/could/did get in trouble.

    one might not need a “swarovski” but over the last 15 years of watching wolves summer and winter, a good scope and binoculars made a great difference. I started with a big 5 scope for a couple of years then decided to invest in a Nikon. What a difference. I have shared my scope and found over the last few years every one has been polite and respectful of my scope and they have always said thank you.

    back on topic of the article, don’t know why they would not have talked about the 4 YNP wolves killed in the MT hunt. After all that was part of the decline. maybe they are trying to be PC.

    Back to the article

  17. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    love nature,

    I totally support the NPS volunteer program ….as long as they are not there to replace jobs. My ex wife and kids were part of this program. It was used to protect them from lack of coverage in case they got hurt while riding with me. they received a $7/day stipend.

    It also protected the govt. from the cost of tort claims….the main reason the govt. endorsed it but at the same time snow jobbed to promote it as a favor to those volunteers.

    But as for using those volunteer employees as part of a money making endeavor thats is where I draw the line…besides loss of jobs, of course.

    Money comes in and money goes out. This money does wierd things to the mind in a public service setting.

    A common scenario; Impressed folks want to give to a “good cause” and thus want the money going to that they were priviledged to be a part of. Those that are on the one step removed recieving end, the volunteers like Rick, either honestly show good waiter tip behavior or cop a good show. At its worst It can be sort of like the snow coach drivers at West who would wait till all passengers were aboard before crawling over them to defrost the viewer windows.

    This of course was private enterprise and they wanted better appreciation. The end result was they didn’t like the tourists because they knew those folks had been conned. Think of Eddie Haskell of Leave it to Beaver. Or think of the hunting camp guides who would berate the fat clients after they had left $300 poorer in the way of a tip.

    Those above the combo Yellowstone Assoc/volunteer know what brings the bucks in. Thus, those high profile volunteers get the yellow vans “on loan” and also get the NPS uniform. Logic says the govt employee showing folks for hire around…. as you call them, loves nature, should be driving a govt vehicle not a private one. This is the first error. The excuse of course is, “there is no money” in the govt money basket. So a ethical compromise is made and some past duly impressed donor has given the bucks to allow this “volunteer” to use the private vehicle.

    The volunteer soon learns what makes this system work and then either becomes part of the larger ethics and regulation breeches such I saw at Trail Creek fat cat wining and dining ….or they put their head in the sand so they don’t see the excesses they are associated with.

    The NPS supervisors of these “YA/volunteers”, of course are desperate to keep their pet projects afloat whether it is wolves or bears. They are told from higher up budget cutters you have no more money from us and YOU WILL DO whats needs to be done to get that money from others. In the name of higher values they physically partake in the smoozing of those fat cats. The fat cats are met at the Billings or Bozeman Airport. Or at the tamrack of the private jet landing in Livingston. They know the park violations will be “bent”, but of course it is reasoned as a “higher” good.

    Those administrators up above these supervisors have even higher values. They want BUILDINGS put up to be remembered by. They all want BUILDINGS. Not only a building but that building in a status location so they can pee on their division adversaries forever. Thus in Mammoth Wyoming the biggest fights happen in location of the pryramids. But the illusion is believed even at the higher levels of snookerdoom. First all agree to approve that building so money can further be brought in with enthusiasm.

    Only afterwards is it told by the “powers” this building, for example, this monolithic natural resources edifice has to be relegated to the swill hole border town of Gardiner. Yup, right where their perceived lowest order of Yellowstone was relegated to, Maintenances’ asphalt plant. Talk about bitterness!!!! And to rub it in further a concessions dorm is approved and constructed quickly in prime real estate right as one comes into Mammoth proper, right where this Yellowstone Foundation/YA supported NC building was suppose to be!!!

    I relate this because this is how it all ends up with play for pay. The biologist, to keep his projects going has to hire volunteers instead of seasonals, the volunteers are never an integral part of govt., finally figure they have been used and leave, and the higher up division heads retire bitter.

    What is lost out? The resource, for one. Two, no seasonals are hired to work there way up from being park aids and gate rangers to naturalists and even minded law enforcement rangers. Instead we end up with storm trooper law enforcement cops who care little of why Yellowstone was formed in the first place.

    And third we have division chiefs who want tombs instead of fighting for budgets that includes money for GS 3,4-5 seasonals.

    I believe in the “old days” where there were no volunteers, Lake Ranger Station had 19 staff all govt paid for, learning and commardierie was seen and the worst that could happen was when the administrators went to Thorofare on their annual Death March…and played that division Chief poker game, the poor naturalists lost. They had to fund the two horses I used for 15 years…and in the process had to let three seasonal go a month early.

  18. love nature Avatar
    love nature

    Mr Jackson,
    I agree with a lot of what you have to say. Still, there are a lot more visitors to the park year after year. That admission money does not go back into the park There is a greater need for more employees/volunteers to manage people, help and educate visitors, manage animals and protect them from habituation, study ecosystems, protect wildlife, and maintain Yellowstone for future generations. If the government won’t allow or create new NPS positions or funding for some NPS projects, yet the required work still needs to be done, who else but volunteers and paid Yellowstone Association folks should do it? Should the work not be done? These volunteers are not stealing jobs that could be filled by government employees. The federal funding is not there.

    I think we would all like to have less bureaucracy in the park and have more enjoyment of its resources. I respect you and your convictions. I am just being realistic for how the times are. There is not enough money going to places where it is needed and too much going to waste. This is unfortunate but we still need to continue protecting this place, no matter who is doing the work….a man in green and gray or a knowledgeable, well educated volunteer/paid YA employee.

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    In the gansta late 20’s Minneapolis-St Paul city govt. proposed a cloak of safety for all those nasty Chicago hoodlums if only they would move to their beloved city.
    Honorable men, everyone of them, those business leaders. But looking away from corruption doesn’t work anywhere.

    And just think if all the enthusiasm for Yell.tombs were directed to paid seasonal employment…millions of dollars that could have been innovatively put in govt. bonds sort of like they did with support of the war in the 40’s…only this time focused on smaller scale priorities such as employees, not volunteers, doing employee type work. Then govt. through private donations…not through minimal checks and balances non profits…..would control… it should with public servants.

    Amount of funds and specifically the limitations it creates is caused only by lack of effort or creativity in house. I was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars going to law enforcement because of my high profile ability to catch poachers. No, it wasn’t spent right and the administration spin was, “see, we have lots of poachers. It is proven because here are the stories of those being caught” but it did work to bring govt. money in.

    When that “BIG” national “Thing” happened where the Park capitulated to dicky and the whitehouse thugs it was the biggest donation time ever for PEER, the ones publizing my “plight”. Yes, put the back country boy before the cameras ….just like those who raised the flag on Iwo Jima were used to put a lot more private moneys in war bonds worked for them. Only difference was I understood the game and intentions of the promoters.

    With the wolves in Yell there was spin off need for additional research after the initial hoop -a -la passed. It probably would have happened except those administrators higher up in the biologist division, those with the budgets, felt threatened and withheld the funding. It was so childish (it would have meant more publicity and other projects could have ridden on the wolves coat “tails” )but very much something always going on…sort of like the British sailors did in forgone days after they were not allowed ashore after saving the Island from the Spaniards(?). To much threat to the King. Most died on board that winter. A lot of thanks they got!!!

    But funding could have been had and it could be had for public servants all over Yellowstone again. Maintenance infrastructure will always take a bigger and bigger share. Maintanence should be handled from outside the Park sources….like CCC or Army or Army corp. Split off infrastructure needs and the money will be there for normal Yell. public service needs….or as you infer when you say our public money is going to places not needed, I’d say you mean the billions to Iraq and the middle East. Yes, just one days funding transferred over could balance NPS needs.

    But just remember, the Nazis had a very high level of public service honor and funding even while the war machine was grinding on.

    There are answers to public service just takes the vision and the people to hold their heads to that “Walk Hard” movie vison and it really can happen.

    And now in the time of angst, tribulation and nashing of teeth don’t you think the time is ripe?????


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.

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Ralph Maughan