Editorial by the Casper Star Tribune-

Tribune editorial says wolves not decimating NW Wyoming elk, wolves were introduced in fact so they would affect elk, but wolf management is needed.

Here is today’s editorial on the day before the anti-wolf rally in Jackson, Wyoming.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

48 Responses to Don't blame wolves for elk hunting woes

  1. Bob Caesar says:

    Now that editorial contains food for thought on both sides of the wolf v elk debate. If ONLY reasonable people could settle such things…

  2. Save Bears says:

    Reasonable people would seem to be a logical start, but we all know that is not going to happen..

    • JimT says:

      Reasonable people need substantive items to consider. Being reasonable isn’t enough.

  3. Save Bears says:


    Spoken like a true lawyer.. LOL

    • JimT says:

      To me, that is a compliment. It means that I am seeking actual proposals with facts attached and considered thought about implementing the solution. You seem to offer….what? A sentence that does nothing to advance the debate.

  4. jon says:

    Here is a comment from a rancher I found interesting. You don’t see that many ranchers thinking like this.

    And not everyone agrees that ranchers should be compensated. Gretel Ehrlich, a former ranch hand, sheepherder and an author best known for her Western elegy The Solace of Open Spaces, says that the country does not owe ranchers that much. “If you raise livestock in a country where there are fierce predators, as there are here, then in a way you make a pact with the possibility of those deaths,” she told me at a Pinedale picnic.

    • JimT says:

      Imagine…assuming the risk and responsibility of the decisions you make, including the one made to be a rancher and the inherent risks of the activity. Of course, she will be dismissed by the good old boys at the grange…

  5. jon says:

    Scott Werbelow, the game warden coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish in Pinedale, offers yet another perspective. Werbelow says elk numbers are strong and relatively stable in his area. “Many hunters think the wolves have killed all the elk,” he says. “What we’re seeing is that the elk have been moved from small groups into larger groups, and the larger groups of elk have been redistributed.”

    I myself have not seen any scientific studies saying that wolves are killing all of the elk. Has anyone seen one? If you have, please drop the link here, thanks. Some people are saying wolves are killing all of the elk and others are saying differently. How do you people decide who is right and who is wrong? Just curious.

    • Wilderness Muse says:


      I have difficulty with the absolute term “saying that wolves kill all the elk.” It is clear they do not kill ALL the elk. They do, however, have significant impacts in some areas, along with other predators. Their effect, to some degree, is additive, meaning without the wolves an additional increment of mortality may not have been taken from the population. They also change elk behavior, causing them to stay in the timber out of openings, at higher elevation, eating browse instead of more nutritious grazing vegetation. And, there is mortality risk and lower anaimal and birth weight that results from that. I doubt very much you will ever see “any scientific studies saying that wolves are killing all the elk.”

      In fact, let me say, at the risk of being chastized by the group, that is a really stupid statement. Those kinds of statements that stifle the dialog.

      What, may I ask, is a game warden coordinator? And, is Scott Werberlow’s statement directed at wintering elk herding up, or is this another time of year? Do you have a source for his quote, so that we can see his whole statement and the context in which he makes it?

      If I recall correctly, the CST Editorial Board has in the past made a pretty strong stand in favor of delisting AND taken the WY governor/legislature to the wood shed for their stupid predator zone wolf plan. I am wondering if this editorial piece, given its timing and content, was just trying to diffuse the hot tempers of outfitter rally, a bit.

    • jon says:

      WM, I’m basing that comment on the comments I see made by hunters on wolf hunting blogs and other websites. Quite a few hunters that I have seen have made the claim that wolves are indeed killing all of the elk and the other wildlife.

    • Wilderness Muse says:

      Well, it’s a stupid statement when they make it, too. I did note the sarcasm on your end.

    • JimT says:

      Those kind of comments are self serving expressions to justify an otherwise unsupportable by facts observation. No one here should be surprised at all by them…

    • JB says:

      “Those kinds of statements that stifle the dialog.”

      And they are meant to. Statements that wolves are “killing all the elk” are meant to polarize the debate and put fear in the minds of the uninformed. They are akin to the statements made by conservative political pundits that “global warming is a hoax” or “Obama is a fascist”.

      It seems to me that the new currency of the media is fear. Rather than check and correct the rhetoric of out-of-control politicians the media is becoming an outlet for political fear-mongering.

    • Wilderness Muse says:


      Again, who is Scott and what is his area? Is it possible if he is in the Lander – Pinedale area around the Winds and Popo, that the wolves have not yet showed up in any numbers?

      I just looked at the 2009 WY Annual wolf report and it appears there are few (if any) identified packs with defined ranges down that far south or east, so far. If the wolves have not shown up in larger numbers the impacts of presence would obviously not be observed.

      Is there more to Scott’s statement that you can tell us, or point us to? Details are important here.

    • jon says:

      This is the article WM. It is a 2 year old article.


    • jon says:

      Scott Werbelow, the game warden coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish in Pinedale, offers yet another perspective. Werbelow says elk numbers are strong and relatively stable in his area. “Many hunters think the wolves have killed all the elk,” he says. “What we’re seeing is that the elk have been moved from small groups into larger groups, and the larger groups of elk have been redistributed.”

    • bob jackson says:

      With wyo G&F saying thewolves are bunching the elk up now doesn’t that make the herd…and thus the bulls….that much easier to find and hunt? Of course it does and this is why a lot more elk were killed in the earlier part of the wolf reintroduction…and why with all this overkilling the elk are now at a lower point of population. The wolf assisted the hunters (outfitters) in their % client kill the same as the fires of 88 immediately jacked the per cent kill rate up from less than 50 to about 90% in Thorofare country. Now why don’t the outfitters tie these two hapenings together? Deep down they do but know by overshooting they are to blame for a lot of the lower elk numbers where applicable.

      Wyoming G&F couldn’t react fast enough with reduced quotas…it happened so fast. Thus 5-10 years later they all with slack jaws say, oh it must be the wolves.

  6. ProWolf in WY says:

    Very interesting article. Nice to see a voice of reason who understand basics of predator and prey relationships. Nice not to see the Canadian wolf argument in the comments.

    • JimT says:

      Humans don’t have to look too far for examples of what happens when it is eat and survive, or die. Donner Party, the plane crash in South America….;*) So why shouldn’t we understand the mindset of the wolves?

    • Wilderness Muse says:


      Don’t forget CO prospector Alfie Packer, and allegedly his partner Shannon Bell, as you count those human on human meals. Wolves do, by the way, engage sometimes in cannibalism, if I recall correctly. Alfie, it was rumored, became a vegetarian before he died.

  7. Linda Hunter says:

    JB thanks for the clear picture of the current US media . . we are about to re-enter the country into the world of news and cell phones. . YIKES. I won’t welcome the barrage of negative energy. When people get radical on a subject and spout untruths they know in the back of their mind could not possibly be true it is like they are eating poison and expecting other people to die.

  8. Wilderness Muse says:

    Linda Hunter,

    “… it is like they are eating poison and expecting other people to die.”

    I thought that was the common definition of “resentment.” It is a useless emotion that serves no useful purpose and causes irreparable damage.

    On the other hand, some people thrive on lies and deceipt, like Bernie Madoff, and George W —– and a whole host of politicians, and some on both (yes, both) sides of the wolf issue.

  9. jon says:

    I think there is a strong belief held by elk hunters that if they don’t see any elk, that means the wolves must have killed them all.

    • Elk275 says:

      Jon, do you hunt elk or have you ever hunted elk? There is a lot more involved than what you are talking about and know about. I have a 12:00 appointment, so I must go.

  10. Tim says:

    I think there is a strong belief among wolf lovers that if you can’t sit on the highway and wolf watch, then there needs to be more because hunters and WS have killed them all.

    • JB says:

      I can honestly say that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that sentiment expressed. The data that we have on wolf numbers in the West are extremely reliable, and most wolf advocates who are at all familiar with the issue are aware of these data.

      Most of the people I know who desire more wolves fall into two camps: they either want wolves in more places or want the ecological changes associated with having a keystone predator on the landscape (higher densities). Neither of these precludes the use of hunting or lethal control as a management tool.

      I’m well aware that there are people who never want to see wolves (or any other animal, for that matter) killed by people, but they are really on the periphery of this debate, IMO.

    • ProWolf in WY says:

      I disagree with that. You see far more hunters who expect the deer and elk to be like cattle on the side of the road and when they are not the wolves have killed all of them.

    • jon says:

      Prowolf, I think it is easier for hunters to blame it on the wolves rather than accepting that the easy hunt days are over.

  11. Cindy says:

    Tim I don’t think you’ve made a fair statement. I’m a real wolf lover and an informed wolf advocate (sometimes it equates to two entirely different schools of thought). As much as it makes my heart sing to be blessed with a wolf sighting experience in the Lamar Valley, seeing them anywhere else makes me very nervous for their well being, especially on any roads – yikes! Just as I’m learning to stop lumping all hunters, outfitters and ranchers into the same group and label them all anti wolf, please respect us when many of us say we really don’t want to see wolves hanging around.

    • jon says:

      I have not seen any wolf supporters claim that ws and hunters are killing all of the wolves. I have infact seen quite a few hunters claiming that wolves are killing all of the elk and other wildlife as well. I have even seen one hunter claim the wolves are killing all of the coyotes as well.

    • jon says:

      I try not to lump all hunters together, but based on what I have seen posted on different sites, MOST, not all of the hunters that I have seen post comments about wolves do not like wolves very much and they support the killing of them. Wolves are making it much harder for elk hunters to hunt elk. The days of the “easy hunt” are over I believe. That is not to say hunts before were easy, but hunts now for elk will be a bit harder.

    • Wilderness Muse says:


      Maybe someone who has more knowledge on this, but if I understand correctly, wolves did reduce the coyote population in Yellowstone by roughly half. So, the hunter who said wolves kill all the coyotes, indeed was half right. LOL.

      And, while the truth is alot more complicated wolves have trimmed the elk herds in Yellowstone pretty substantially. Estimates of 40% reduction or more, I understand, are pretty close to accurate estimates. The easy elk in Yellowstone are long gone and have been for awhile.

  12. Cindy says:

    I wanted to bring a sign to the Rally on Saturday that stated I want my share of Elk to go to the wolves. Some outfitters do in fact believe they have first rights to the animal correct? Instead I stayed away from the Rally altogether:)

    • Elk275 says:

      Cindy as a resident of Wyoming you are allowed one elk a year, unless there are some 2nd cow tags then it would be 2 elk a year. Then the state wide average hunter sucess is approximately 25%, so every 4 years you would have one elk for the wolves. The average wolf eats 15 to 23 elk a year your share of elk would not feed a faction of a wolf per year. The average plus western elk hunter probably kills 15 to 25 elk in his or her lifetime, therefore it would take one life time to feed a wolf for a year. Anything more than that is proaching.

    • Save Bears says:


      That is an amazingly simplistic way to think about a situation that many complications…

    • JB says:


      That’s an interesting way of quantifying things. Using this logic, you would only need to find ~875 Idaho residents per year to donate their lifetime “share” of elk to the wolves in order to support the current wolf population. How many people in Idaho don’t hunt at all?

      Save Bears:

      I agree; it is certainly an overly simplistic view of a complex issue. However, it does speak to the heart of the issue: that is, how do you decide what constitutes a fair distribution of resources among people with (at least ostensibly) competing interests?

  13. Wilderness Muse says:


    A licensed hunter (who pays for that privilege) has a legal right to take an elk. Tack on to that the costs of the hunt, including a guide for some out of state hunters, and you have an estimate of the cost of the elk to the hunter. Depending on the state, and whether the hunter seeks a bull or a cow, the success rate can be fairly low. Bull hunters in the Western states (unguided) have a success rate of about 10-25%, usually on the low end. I don’t know what guided hunts produce on average, but 50% would not be unreasonable. When wolves, either by killing some of those elk which hunters seek OR creating elk behavior which makes it much harder to have an opportunity to get an elk, the success rate goes down, and in some areas dramatically.

    The outfitter, who makes a living at that profession is likely to see this phenomonon affect his/her business It may take the form of lower booking of hunts, or making them work harder (I know there is no sympathy for the latter). The hunter goes away disappointed because they may have spent money and time in pursuit of the animal they did not get. Both then focus their anger at the wolf, because they have something denied or taken away from them.

    Is it right? Probably not completely, but that is the basis for their anger and desire to do something about it.

    Your share, if it goes to the wolf, increases with each wolf that occupies the landscape, while the hunter/outfitter’s share goes down, or is harder to find. Therein lies the tension.

    • bob jackson says:


      To an outfitter any person who hunts on the outfitters “turf” is just as, if not more hated than a wolf. And the further one gets off the beaten path the more this sense of public lands ownership gets.

      Thus in remote Thorofare country every private hunter who comes in is promptly usered out one way or another. The wolf is seen as just another hunter to be eliminated.

  14. Save Bears says:


    I don’t think your going to find a fair distribution of resources in the current climate, remember your dealing with several generations that never had to compete for the same resources, There are very few people alive that actually remember when wolves were here before..

  15. Elk275 says:

    What is a fair distribution of resources? I would say that it is 51% of the vote. In Montana, Wyoming and Idaho with small populations and a very large hunting population, the hunters are going to be able to muster 51% plus of the vote. Therefore fish and wildlife commissions are going to be pro hunting and fishing, regardless of the party affiliation. In states like Colorado, Oregon and California maybe the 51% plus of the vote will be pro wildlife.

    If they get the anti trapping initiative on the ballot in Montana it will be interesting to see whether it will pass but I doubt that it will.

    • JB says:


      I think you’re right; that’s one of the reasons why I don’t support delisting. Right now the lands occupied by wolves in the West belong almost entirely to the people of the United States (check out the article “Wolf Wars” in the most recent NatGeo); yet, delisting will mean severe populations reduction to benefit local livestock producers and outfitters across the entirety of this range.


      In large part, all politics concerns how to fairly distribute resources. Imagine if we distributed food and water via the policy you advocate–i.e. majority rule/winner take all.

    • Wilderness Muse says:


      ++delisting will mean severe populations reduction {of wolves} to benefit local livestock producers and outfitters across the entirety of this range. ++

      You forgot to mention the hundreds of thousands of resident and non-resident hunters of elk, deer, moose, and antelope in the NRM states and adjacent states (WA, UT, CO, NM, OR), many of whom would prefer to see restrained numbers of wolves on the landscape over time. These are the largest public lands states. But then, there are also the states with fewer public lands which also seem not want wolf numbers to exceed current levels either- MN, WI and MI, all of which seek delisting.

      Does this really mean severe population reductions of wolves, or does it mean maintaining population at 2009 levels (or slightly below) in the 6 delisting preference states? Also, for the other states that have plans, they seek numbers necessary to meet ESA obligations, but probably not much more – whatever those numbers are. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in CO, with the largest elk population in N.A. If you want to see the flared tempers, smoke and flames wait until wolves become established there – public lands issue or no.

    • JB says:


      I didn’t forget to mention them; I simply assumed their preferences were no more relevant than any other citizen’s. There are roughly 310 million people living in the US; between 5 and 15% (depending upon how how do the math) hunt. Moreover, a fair portion of these hunters could care less about how wolves are managed, and some (I actually interviewed one a few years back) are all for more wolves.

      The Utah legislature has already passed legislation demanding that all wolves be removed, and Idaho has passed similar legislation on a number of occasions. Federal monitoring of endangered species post delisting lasts 5 years, then, anything goes. On average it takes ~ 9 years to get a species listed; longer to get a recovery plan. Personally, I am not willing to entrust wolves on federal public lands to states with a history of seeking their eradication. And that’s the bottom line.

  16. Cindy says:

    Right now I am in the middle of writing an essay or it may end up a letter to the editor. Here’s an example. I will talk of being 3rd generation in my industry, my grandfather started in 1900. My parents worked the business and now it’s belongs to me and my sister. I will speak to the challenges we face today including our own version of a pack of hungry wolves at our back door taking down our clients (well they’re actually competitors from large out of town corporations). I will speak how government regulations of my industry has changed and probably cost me in some way. I will talk about how years ago my parents had so much less competition in our small Wyoming town, I’ll touch on our commitment and dedication to new environmental standards that have helped clean up my industry the past 50 years and lastly there will be some information on how government regulations, laws and such have shifted the way I do business every day. Now, I am not an outfitter nor am I a rancher, actually I am a printer. I haven’t decided if I’ll throw a rally on the town square, but probably not. Anyhoo – that gives you an idea of how I feel about whiny outfitters!

  17. Cindy says:

    sorry for the repeat line in my overview. I guess I really wanted everyone to understand I deal with government regulations:):)

  18. Sharon M says:

    Hunters are saying that the wolves are killng off the elk and other wildlife. Yes they do kill to surive. But lets look at this, there are more hunters than wolves, so who is
    killing them off? A lot of hunters are for killing the wolves, and they will hunt them down no matter how cruel it is. Stop the aerial wolf hunting in Canada & Alaska and other states that allowe it, and also during the mating season.


March 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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