Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Uses Hyperbole in Latest Press Release

Accuses groups of being party to may become “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century.”

I’m not going to say much more about this other than to observe that RMEF seems to be adopting the same type of hyperbole that they accuse the pro wolf groups of using. They are also adopting the unfounded language of some of the most hateful and vitriolic people on the anti-wolf side of the argument.

The fact remains that wolves do impact elk herds locally but the full reason for the declines in some populations are not fully represented in their press release. They infer that wolves are the reason that “[t]he Northern Yellowstone elk herd trend count has dropped from some 19,000 elk in 1995 before the introduction of the Canadian Gray wolf to just over 6,000 elk in 2008. At the same time the wolf numbers in this same area are on a steady increase.” This is disingenuous at best and an outright misstatement of the truth at worst.

Wasn’t reducing elk part of the reason that wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in the first place? Montana FWP specifically had late season hunts on cows in a concerted effort to reduce the population of elk, the winter of 1996/97 had a tremendous impact on them, and yes, wolves played a role along with bears and other predators but the elk population has stabilized and the wolf population has drastically declined as well.

And what’s this business about the “Canadian Gray wolf”? Are they seriously buying that line of crap?

RMEF Turns Up Heat on Pro-Wolf Groups
RMEF press release.






  1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I know I am taking them less seriously after this. This is why I don’t support most sportsman’s groups.

  2. jon Avatar

    It seems as if the rmef are back peddling on their past comments about elk. This comes straight from their website.

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      The grid indicates that in 1984 there were 90,000 elk in Montana and in 2009 there were 150,000 elk. That is a 60,000 net animal gain. Where did these elk come from and where are they now? The large portion of these elk have moved east, all the way to the North Dakota border.

      My Brother-in-law has a large row crop farm where the Big Horn meets to Yellowstone several miles east of Custer, Montana. In the mid eighties he was plowing one of the fields and here comes two 5 point bulls; he stops the tractor and watched the elk. The whole extended family heard the story several times. Today, he complains about 200 elk feeding in his beet, barley and corn fields. Last Christmas, I was hunting pheasants in the corn stubble and there were hundreds of elk tracks more than I was all last hunting season. Twenty years ago there would have need no tracks.

      My nephew said to me “Uncle I used to be able to going hunting on any of the neighboring farms and ranches until the elk, now it about money”. Another time he said “I watch five six point bulls cross the Yellowstone and the then came the sixth bull, his horns so big that his body was small’.

      There has been a large net gain of elk in the eastern part of the state which is mostly private property and the Fish, Wildlife and Parks only issue tags through the drawing. This is in part to kept the elk from becoming de facto private property and sold to the very high paying clients. When I was young in the late 60’s and early 70’s one could knock on a door and get permission to hunt.

      It is important for today’s hunter to have the maximum sustainable population of elk on public lands. As it is important for other uses of wildlife to have there diversity of wildlife. The local Fish and Wildlife people I talk with have indicated that there has been a downward trending population in the last 3 years in Southwest Montana which has the largest elk herds and most public land. This could be from over hunting, wolves or a natural decline.

      Jon, when you are using the charts please try to understand where the increased populations live and how they got there. I would never talk about Wyoming or Idaho because I know nothing about the wildlife in those states yet the charts indicated that the elk have increased. If the wolves move with the elk to the east they will shot on sight on private ranches. A large number of ranchers do not want elk, hunters, wolves or wolf lovers, it is a mean life for all of us.

  3. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Well I am sorry to see them take this route, but looking at them less seriously is probably not the best strategy to follow, they have some pretty strong assets behind them. When talking about groups at this level, remember that RMEF carries a lot of weight in the conservation world, probably just about as much as DOW, I do hope they are able to sit down and discuss these issues, or this whole thing could really get ugly..

    1. WM Avatar


      I think you and I read this nearly indentically. I posted the link to the RMEF website and the release earlier today on the “Have you seen any interesting wildlife news for April 10” thread, where JB and I exchanged views.

      It is rare, in my view, that RMEF rolls up its sleeves and jumps into the frey. DOW is getting a little like-kind treatment – heavy on the emotion and to hell with the facts. I hope there is a lesson to be learned here, but I doubt it will take.

      I expect there will not be much discussion while the lawsuits are pending, and I think the expanding range of wolves into OR, WA, and eventually UT and CO, where they are also sure to start affecting elk populations and behavior will increase the stakes. RMEF is now doing some forward thinking on that issue, I believe.

  4. Talks with Bears Avatar
    Talks with Bears

    About time the RMEF spoke the truth on this issue. New news comming out daily about elk and deer numbers down due to wolf impact. Time to wake up folks.

    1. Wendy Avatar

      TWB – but their own website shows increases in elk populations in all three states (ID, MT & WY) which have thriving wolf populations. How do you explain the numbers on their website?

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      I don’t have a problem with RMEF “speaking the truth” on this issue but in this press release they are not.

    3. WM Avatar


      Sadly, RMEF has taken some tips from the DOW, HSUS, NRDC playbook, and the exchange of views is not better for it.

    4. Elk275 Avatar

      Wendy read my above post. In 1984 we had one elk tag and today we have 2 elk tags — twice the fun and twice the amount of time spent elk hunting.

    5. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Wendy – you don’t get out much do you? Those of us living with the impact of wolves on the landscape do not need you, RMEF or anyone else educating us on the numbers – we are seeing it first hand. We can sure agree that the wolves are thriving.

    6. jon Avatar

      TWB, so the rmef #s on elk aren’t correct? Just because you hunters haven’t seen that many elk, does not automatically mean the wolves killed them.

    7. steve c Avatar
      steve c

      Talks with bears:

      You might want to check out this link from the RMEF. It is the 2009 elk hunting forecast and according to them things have never been better. Do you get out much? I suggest you stop whining, get off your ass and get out there to find the elk. They do exist and with 360,000 in the tri-state area I am sure you will eventually trip over one if you hike long enough.

      Elk Population: 107,000
      Bull/Cow Ratios: 10 to 50/100
      Nonresidents: $142 hunting license plus $373 elk tag.
      Have wolves eaten all the elk in Idaho? Not even close, says Brad Compton of Idaho Fish and Game. “We still have some good elk hunting. Wolves have had an impact on our herds in some parts of the state, but they’ve not been decimated like it’s been publicized.” Elk populations are fairly stable statewide with areas of western Idaho trending upward, while wolves have had the biggest impact on the Lolo and Sawtooth zones on the Idaho/Montana border. For 2009, caps will occur on tags offered in the Sawtooth and Diamond Creek elk zones. Idaho elk hunters enjoy around a 20 percent success rate on average. In an area such as the Lolo zone, elk are holing up more often in security cover. Compton suggests hunters who enjoy hunting whitetails in cover should try the same tactics for elk.

      Elk Population: 150,000
      Bull/Cow Ratios: 5 to 25/100
      Nonresidents: $593 for regular drawing, $1,500 for outfitter sponsored tags.
      Elk populations in Montana remain at or above management objectives in most areas, but many hunters will have to work harder to find elk this fall. Quentin Kujala of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says tough wintering conditions in portions of western Montana decreased the number of yearling animals. Some areas will no longer offer over‑the‑counter, either-sex tags. Wolf impacts near Yellowstone National Park appear to be stressing elk populations. Anecdotal evidence from popular hunting grounds in the Snowcrest, Ruby, Centennial and Gravelly ranges suggest that wolves are dispersing elk in ways that make for tougher hunting. Finding a mature bull will remain tough in the region between Butte and Boulder, where extensive road access keeps bull/cow ratios extremely low. All in all, though, Treasure State hunters can expect a fine season.

      Elk Population: 105,000
      Bull/Cow Ratios: 11 to 40/100
      Nonresidents: $577 for regular drawing, $1057 for special drawing, $288 for cow/calf.
      Cowboy State elk populations are at or above objective and elk hunting opportunities have never been higher. Antlerless tags are abundant. Hunters can anticipate an exceptional elk season, with a few exceptions. Jeff Obrecht of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department cautions that access to the elk-factory Laramie Peak area is problematic with public lands highly fragmented and private lands heavily leased. Reduced forage on winter range left elk struggling in the southwest. Bull-to-cow ratios remain low east of Jackson where biologists are observing just 11 bulls to 100 cows. Leftover tags (after the drawing in 2009) went on sale on a first-come, first-served basis in early July.

    8. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Steve C – it takes effort to keep up with this evolving situation. We here are use to people “like you” you dismiss and insult those with direct observations and information which does not support your agenda. I will leave the whining to you, I and others here are actually working in many different ways bring about a positive outcome for all wildlife. Just because the RMEF is not rolling over for you anymore does not mean you need to attack me.

    9. steve c Avatar
      steve c

      How do you explain that the numbers completely disprove the most common complaint against wolves? It isnt about spin or agendas. The numbers are the numbers.

      And I don’t understand about the RMEF rolling over for people “like me”. It looks like they do a lot of good for land conservation but they contradict the data on their own site with this press release and they contradict what is happening on the ground (saying the yellowstone wolf population is still growing for example). Sounds like they want to present altered facts to rile up the base and raise money like defenders of wildlife does.

  5. jburnham Avatar

    RMEF hit all the anti-wolf code words except for “shoved down our throats”.

    The anti-wolf fabrication that continues to annoy me is this:

    Wolf numbers have far exceeded what sportsmen, ranchers, wildlife conservationists and the
    public at-large were told was a desirable goal. Specifically, 30 breeding pairs and 300 total wolves
    was the goal line when wolves were released in 1995.

    All the anti-wolf groups claim or imply that the recovery plan promised a maximum of 30 breeding pairs and 300 total wolves in the region. The news stories repeat this claim but never fact check it.
    The recovery plan’s Primary Objective is

    To remove the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf from the endangered and threatened species list by securing and maintaining a MINIMUM of 10 breeding pairs in each of three recovery areas for a minimum of 3 successive years.

    It goes on to say “The above goals…represent the best available estimate of the minimum numbers and populations necessary to recover and ensure perpetuation of the wolf. These goals will be revised as necessary as, or if, new information becomes available.”

    And just to be clear, these objectives are minimum numbers for delisting an endangered species, they don’t have anything to do with setting maximum population numbers after delisting has occurred.

    1. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      The problem is that the anti’s try desperately to insert “kept at a”, before the word minimum. they turn the document upside down, sideways, look at it in a mirror, hold it over a spot light, read it from right to left, say incantations over it, and when those words don’t magically appear, well then they will resort to the tactic of ;if you repeat it enough then it will come true.

  6. mikarooni Avatar

    Follow the money …and the politics. RMEF needs support to pay salaries and enable their “core” staff to hobnob like they are somebody. To achieve this goal, they need to please their stakeholders and be sufficiently sycophantic to have a place at the table, with the likes of Cal Groen and “Butch” Otter and so on and so forth. RMEF is an elk hunting group; there is nothing in their make-up that requires them to give a damn about conservation. They don’t support the likes of Rex Rammell and the other shooter bull operators only because the majority of the RMEF subscriber base can’t or won’t afford to pay for a shooter bull experience. It has nothing to do with ethics or conservation; it’s a self-interest decision on the part of the RMEF management. If their subscriber base could or would favor shooter bull operations, then conservation and ethics be damned; RMEF would support them. The RMEF subscriber base does listen to people like Groen and Otter, so RMEF falls into line. That’s why it’s never a good idea to listen to or hang around collaborators, collaborator organizations, or even people/organizations that have inconsistent or conflicting goals or beliefs. RMEFers like to kill elk; that’s their thing; that’s their mission. Do you see anything about conservation in this mission? Were you not clear on the contradictory nature of an organization that claims to love elk …because they like to kill them?

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Mikarooni – please apply your general thesis above to most enviro groups. However, not sure how you are going to work in the huge sums of taxpayer monies they receive to file lawsuits.

    2. mikarooni Avatar

      Like I said, “it’s never a good idea to listen to or hang around collaborators, collaborator organizations, or even people/organizations that have inconsistent or conflicting goals or beliefs.” Some people can’t take a hint.

  7. Si'vet Avatar

    Mikarooni, any organization that doesn’t listen to it’s supporters isn’t around long, including DOW, supporters are the organization. Relook at Jon’s link, compare all the columns, I would have to disagree, there has been a lot of $$ spent on increasing habitat, and populations, and alot of people benefit, hunters and nonhunters alike, memebers, and even us nonmemebers.

  8. Layton Avatar

    Wow, Ken uses the word “hyperbole” in the lead in to this story. It would seem that Mickarooni really picked it up in his post.

    Mick sez:

    “RMEF is an elk hunting group; there is nothing in their make-up that requires them to give a damn about conservation. They don’t support the likes of Rex Rammell and the other shooter bull operators only because the majority of the RMEF subscriber base can’t or won’t afford to pay for a shooter bull experience. It has nothing to do with ethics or conservation”

    This would seem to be in direct opposition to much of the RMEF’s mission statement which goes something like this.

    +Conserving, restoring and enhancing natural habitats;

    +Promoting the sound management of wild, free-ranging elk, which may be hunted or otherwise enjoyed;

    +Fostering cooperation among federal, state, tribal and private organizations and individuals in wildlife management and habitat conservation; and

    +Educating members and the public about habitat conservation, the value of hunting, hunting ethics and wildlife management.

    Then Mick says:

    “RMEFers like to kill elk; that’s their thing; that’s their mission. Do you see anything about conservation in this mission?”

    (read the preceding statement Mick, yes, I do see the word mentioned — at least a couple of times.)

    The RMEF says:

    Number of Acres Opened or Secured for Public Access for Hunting and Other Outdoor Recreation
    More than 585,000 acres opened and secured

    Number of Permanent Land Protection, Habitat Stewardship, Elk Restoration, Conservation Education and Hunting Heritage Projects
    More than 6,500 projects

    Areas Where We’ve Restored Long-Absent Elk Populations
    Kentucky – Eastern coalfields
    North Carolina– Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Ontario – Various locations
    Tennessee – Cumberland Plateau
    Wisconsin – Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

    Should I believe the RMEF’s statement, or should I believe Mickarooni’s HYPERBOLE??

    I know what my choice is.

    I quit the RMEF about five years ago when they took a stand that basically said their mission was ONLY to secure and protect HABITAT and that they would leave the wolf question to other orgs.

    Last week, based on other things that I had heard about the new stance, and also after reading about this letter exchange, I sent in the $$ for my NEW membership. I am also finding out that a LOT of other, former members of the organization that feel the same way I do are doing the same thing.

    Now, if they just hire a few lawyers ——–

  9. Jon Way Avatar

    Interesting that Layton posts that they have been brought back to WI, which I knew. So there are 4000 wolves in that tri-state area (MN, WI, MI) yet they don’t complain about the devastating effect they are having there. I also believe they are crying wolf and distorting the facts. The Canadian Gray Wolf argument immediately turns me off. They must be using the smaller body mass of MN wolves (which are actually Eastern/Gray wolf hybrids and hence why they are smaller) to continually make that inaccurate comment. The fact that Layton recently renewed his membership is a microcosm of describing their constituents….

    TWB, your statement to Wendy is pretty offensive. You look at how many elk there are in the states compared to 25 years ago and we should take your word b.c you aren’t seeing as much in your backyard? We have repeatedly on this blog been over the fact that elk get moved around by wolves but that doesn’t mean they all are gone. But I guess I am another person that doesn’t get outside like you do.

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Jon Way – “do you get out much” offensive? On this site we have suffered thru many “experts” that have never been out much to see a wolf, bear or an elk – but they sure want to tell those of us that do all about it.

      Jon – you may know the answer to this question – which sub species of canis lupus was reintroduced into yellowstone and idaho? Sorry, two questions – and was this sub species a native species?

    2. WM Avatar


      Like you, I have wondered why the WI wolves have not chosen an elk diet. I expect in time there will be some experimentation by this very adaptable and smart species. In fact, maybe with your work on coyotes, you may have greater insight on that than nearly anyone here. Have you spoken with Adrian Wydeven about why they don’t bother the elk?

      I am guessing the RMEF comment about the “Canadian” wolves has to do with the country of birth of the reintroduced wolves – and no more. It is just a little more of the same crap DOW dishes out, only a little different perspective on the same problem. It appears you agree that the wolves are the same species, just across the border, and really and I mean really, not even close to being an endangered species (forgetting for a moment the range issue of the ESA). My biggest objection to the DOW legal argument of lack of metapopulation genetic connectivity is that it could be cure by dropping another dozen wolves from Canada in an area of apparent void for a few thousand dollars. That, of course, would blow one of the DOW planitiff arguments in the Mt litigation out of the water in a heart beat. Then to quell the argument of the anti-wolf crowd all you do is a net population adjustment by removing another 12 wolves somewhere there is a surplus with an increased hunt quota. Problem solved.

    3. jon Avatar

      WM, I have no idea where you get your info from, but wolves in Wisconsin do infact kill elk.

    4. jon Avatar

      TWB, I’m not sure if it was you or that other poster save bears, but we have been over this subspecies issue quite a few times on here.

    5. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      I see you usually very good at getting to the root and underlying reasons for organization stategies, but I think you would do well to go beyond initial, on the surface, cause and effect when it comes to animal interaction. Try “going where no man has gone before”…I mean biologists who treat animals as numbers and bar room “hunter” alarmists who slur the drink with the behind the “obvious” with predator-prey interactions.

      Everyone out there has trouble with answers for which there is personal gain, whether emotional or physical, to be had. As hunters we all want something NOW and loss of that NOW means blame pointed at the most obvious.

      The same as human abuse when the saying “it takes a whole village to commit that abuse….or crime” so it applies to the animal world.

      Instead of thinking there are less elk now where wolves are think of hunting something like pheasants and how one event by someone else helps fill the game bag. My brothers and I in high school would keep watch of all the neighbors picking their corn fields. When they were getting close to finishing a field we went to them and asked if we could stand at the end of the field when they were coming through with those last few rows. This is when all the roosters would get up and be easy pickins.

      It got so they would call us so they could break the monotony and see us bring down birds from the tractor seat.

      If we had a not so friendly farmer we would figure out where those birds were flying to and station ourselves there. Nothing like having birds coming into you with that tail all stretched out.

      Now apply this to wolves and elk. Think of the farmer as the wolf and all those elk hunters …only this time not aware of those flushed out elk coming into their sights.

      I’d say a lot of elk were killed by hunters, abnormally so, not so much when the alarm of no elk left went out but well before… when they were eating the loin from the wolf disturbed elk BEFORE they sensed elk herds were supposedly “in trouble”.

      The outfitters of course do not get a pass on being ignorant. They knew in Thorofare country exactly what theweolves were doing. Thus, they looked for and saw when elk were bunching up and easily picked the bulls out of these abnormal groupings of elk.

      Success was high in those first years of wolf reintroduction, no different than when the fires of ’88 meant those deep timbered areas normally always being protection for heavily hunted resident herds were now gone. Outfitters told of these elk trying to hide behind trees no longer having branches and pine needles…and how easy pickings it was. The only problem was they wiped out even more resident elk herds and thus had to depend even more on yellowstone elk overflow or migrating herds.

      I say look a step or two behind the statements of no elk and the wolves ate them all. Look to yourself as a hunter and see if maybe the greater you overshot the elk these wolves moved around….no different than my brothers and I did long ago in all those farmers and the pheasants “last stand” corn fields.

      An elk today in wolf country has nowhere to run unless it can make it to protected private lands where hunting isn’t allowed. The blame for this situation goes to the state G&F departments who look at only surface cause and effect…and all those hunters who look only to the next drink to come up with answers.

    6. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Jon – no one here has yet to answer my question. My self and Save Bears have been over this and I am not interested in revisiting. The lack of an answer is telling.

    7. WM Avatar


      Sorry, the post was for Jon Way. Yes, I do realize wolves kill elk in WI, but not really that many from what I understand. They still mostly go after deer. My point was why aren’t wolves killing more elk in WI? Do you have an answer? And, if I recall correctly, RMEF has been instrumental in getting support for and conducting projects in states like WI and throughout the US to reintroduce elk to states which have had few or none in recent years. Look at the conservation projects on the RMEF chart you posted and you will get a feeling for the magnitude of their beneficial efforts to conserve habitat and help with expanding elk populations nation-wide.

    8. Carl Avatar

      Jon is correct in his statement that elk are killed by wolves in Wisconsin. The growth of the population was expected to reach 500 elk in 2007-2008 but stalled at about 120 due to calf mortality by wolves and bears, and adult mortality by motor vehicles. Perhaps a more interesting question is why do we not see elk predation occurring to any great degree in either of Minnesota’s elk populations were wolves commonly prey on moose.

    9. Jon Way Avatar

      sorry I was working all day (long day)…
      My guess (no I haven’t talked to AD in WI) is that the incredible abundance of w-t deer is the main reason for their relative lack of elk. I don’t have much experience in that area personally but it would make sense for wolves (esp. since they are smaller in the Great Lakes area) to feed on abundant deer over elk. That’s my guess, sorry for the delay in responding.

  10. JB Avatar

    Hyperbole from wolf opponents:

    “[T]here’ll be a dead child within a year” [of wolf reintroduction]. –Montana Senator Conrad Burns

    “We predict that the largest migrating elk herd on Earth [the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd] will be completely extinct in three years.” –Bob Fanning

    “The wolves introduced into Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are EXOTIC CANADIAN gray wolves. Idaho’s gray wolves are extinct. The Canadian strain is larger and more aggressive.” –Ron Gillette

    “Pro-wolf groups like to cite statewide elk numbers because it glosses over the ongoing annihilation of local elk herds…” –David Allen, RMEF

    — Allen uses the words “annihilation” and “decimation” to describe the effect of wolves on elk, and he has the gall to accuse defenders of misrepresenting the facts! Personally, I cite statewide numbers because they demonstrate the absurdity of the claims that elk populations are being decimated.

    News flash: If you expect stable, harvestable surpluses of elk everywhere you are going to be disappointed–wolves or no wolves. I have heard hunters complain in lower Michigan and Ohio (where there are no wolves) about the “mis-management” of deer because they couldn’t find any deer in the place they hunt. The only difference is they don’t have a convenient scapegoat.

    1. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      Don’t ya just love Bob”chicken little”Fanning

    2. JB Avatar

      This is the same tired rhetoric we’ve been hearing since wolf reintroductions were originally proposed. The sky didn’t fall then, and it isn’t falling now.

      For anyone interested in the rhetoric surrounding the original reintroduction, here’s a good read:

      Paystrup P. 1993. The wolf at Yellowstone’s door: extending and applying the cultural approach to risk communication to an endangered species recovery plan controversy. Dissertation. Purdue, West Lafayette.

    3. jon Avatar

      JB, hunters want something to blame. They use wolves as scapegoats for being unsuccessful hunters. They want to go into the wild and automatically see a deer. What do they expect everytime they go hunting, they should see deer? That is not the way it works.

    4. Elk275 Avatar

      JB how can you be an expert when you live in Ohio. Were you out in the NMR countrywide this last weekend? I was.

    5. JB Avatar


      First, I never claimed I was an expert.

      Second, the location of one’s residence has little to do with their knowledge of politics or ecology, and with the internet, someone living in Tibet can have the same access to information about elk and wolf populations in the northern Rockies as someone living in Bozeman.

      Third, thankfully, recreating in a tiny portion of the NRM DPS is not enough to make one an expert on wolf and elk populations throughout the DPS–which now encompasses parts of 6 states. I’m not suggesting “local knowledge” is not valuable, but such annecdotes skew perception, making the broader trends hard, if not impossible to see. Thus, as many people have said, elk are doing fine in the NRs.

    6. WM Avatar


      I am not sure why there is this attempt to over-analyze what hunters (or livestock operators) want. If you go back to the basics, they selfishly want things the way they were before the wolf reintroduction. It is that simple.

      Are many willing either voluntarily, or under threat of federal law, to have wolves on the landscape that meet the (miniumum) requirements as intended by Congress that passed the ESA There is a big difference between legal sufficiency of meeting ESA requirements, and what some advocates want. You well know, the answer ranges from hell yes, to hell no! I personally want them on the landscape at numbers larger than the miniumum, but not so many that it ruins elk hunting for hundreds of thousands of hunters. Spatial distribution and density for an acceptable equilibrium can only be accomplished by managing wolf numbers and range LOCALLY to keep wolves from adversely affecting LOCAL elk populations. Gross numbers of elk within a state is nothing more than slant statistics.

      For every wolf reintroduced or allowed to repopulate, there is an impact to ungulate populations and behavior. That much is certainly clear. At lower wolf numbers, they do take the old and injured, and a few young ungulates. At higher numbers they take more from the healthy population and affect herd dynamics by taking more and more calves. It seems, when the prey is more difficult to find, and their wolf numbers increase, they move on to new areas. All the time, taking more and more elk, weakening some through behavioral change, and certainly making it tougher for hunters to find and harvest elk. What is a level at which they benefit the ecosystems in which they inhabit by keeping the ungulates out of riparian areas and allowing for trophic cascade? The jury still seems to be out on that for now.

      And, JB, you of all people, are now resorting to using RMEF in the same sentences along with the likes of wack jobs, Fanning and Gillette (you missed my favorite, Toby Bridges -so better include him in your next rant).

      No, their views are not the same, nor is their manner of dealing with the issue. RMEF stooped a little lower than I expected, by playing loose with the facts, but I guess that tactical ground has been well plowed by Defenders, CBD, HSUS and the like for some time.

      No, JB, the sky is not falling, but the evidence of wolf impacts is beginning to mount and the states which are empowered to manage wildlife species within their boundaries have indeed spoken that they want to manage the wolves that live there. Current tally of those wanting to manage: MT, ID, WY, MN, MI, WI, WA and OR. UT as we saw a couple of weeks back is making its views known. And, I expect when the fight goes to CO, there will be more of the same.

    7. jon Avatar

      TWB, they are the same wolves that would have been there in the 30’s.

      There are those who say we brought the wrong wolves into Idaho in 1995 and 1996, that they’re bigger wolves than the ones that were here.
      I have to support the science again, and specialists in morphology and genetics on wolves indicate that the wolf that was brought down from Canada is the same wolf that lived here previously. And I did some research into books on early wolves that were captured in the Northern Rockies, even as far south as Colorado during the days that wolves were being hunted down in the 1930s; and the body weights were very much the same.

      So I feel that this wolf that was brought from Canada is the same species and genetics as the wolves that lived here once upon a time. I think people have to remember that the northern Rockies — we call it the northern Rockies in Idaho and Montana, but actually we’re a southern extension of the northern Rockies out of Canada — and all of those wolves in Canada have the potential and the ability to disperse. I believe what happened over the last 50-60 years is that individual wolves have come from Canada following the Rocky Mountain chain and ended up periodically in places like Montana and Idaho.

      This is from Carter Niemeyer.

    8. JB Avatar

      “Gross numbers of elk within a state is nothing more than slant statistics.”

      Actually, the population numbers for the whole state are the only reliable statistics–that is my whole point. Ecosystems are dynamic; local conditions and populations change, but if you look across the whole you can see that populations are up in some areas and down in others. This would have happened EVEN IF WOLVES WERE NEVER REINTRODUCED, as elk populations in Idaho are generally quite high compared with historical averages. The same is true with deer populations in the Midwest–they fluctuate, with and without predators.

      Let’s turn your logic around. What if I said to you, “gross numbers of wolves within a state is nothing more than slant statistics”? Clearly, wolves do not occupy the VAST MAJORITY of the NRM DPS. Wolf populations have generally stabilized in Idaho and have actually begun to fall in Yellowstone. Well, if wolf populations are falling in Yellowstone and we know that humans are the primary source of wolf mortality (over 80% in fact) the only logical answer is that human persecution is dramatically affecting wolves in YNP! Quick, get all the people out of Yellowstone!

      That is the analogue of the argument I hear people making, and it confounds the hell out of me.

    9. R.N.T. Avatar

      State wide statistics seems applicable for Idaho, but as for Montana the elk/wolf overlap varies greatly. In most of Montana, roughly 2/3, where elk numbers are on the increase, wolves and bears a absent. In the western 1/3 of the wolves and elk coexist in great numbers, it seems the overall region #’s for elk and wolves would be applicable to state whether wolves are hurting elk or not(not saying they are or aren’t). With a state as vast as Montana though to throw in numbers of elk in areas that are booming, some of the eastern Montana herds are 20 years old or newer, does seem to skew the #’s data slightly. These elk being absent of predators and in their more historical habitat (prairie/island mountain areas) will probably continue to boom well into the future, inflating elk numbers.

      Now being as I’m new here(though I have followed for a while) I have a question to pose to Bob. I find your family sub group/structure group theory extremely intriguing and would pose the following question: If older males pass down defense/migration techniques for generations as you say, and wolves have been absent for probably roughly 6-8 elk generations, it seems to me that it wouldn’t be impossible to expect wolves to have a greater success against elk that have not defended them selves against a pack animal such as this before. It would seem to me that they would retain maybe some of the defense mechanisms, but that the finer points might be missing and would take several generations to relearn….thus creating maybe overly oppressed elk number in certain areas. Your thoughts?

    10. WM Avatar


      ++Actually, the population numbers for the whole state are the only reliable statistics–that is my whole point.++

      Clearly we are in disagreement. State aggregate numbers of elk are merely the sums of local game management unit numbers, which are prepared periodically by various survey techniques. Wildlife agencies specifically manage for unit objectives, and that is MY point. If you look closely at prepared comments of wildlife agency managers, their analyses are on the individual or in some cases combined unit levels, hence the comments about the Lolo, Sawtooth, Dworshak-Elk City, etc, in Idaho. Wolves, for now, are tracked with some certainty through telemetry, are also managed at the unit/combined unit levels.

      Hunters typically, in my experience, will hunt the same areas (game management units) year after year. This may be based on proximity to their home, familiarity with an area, likelihood of increased harvest success based on habitat quality, among other factors. When wolves affect harvest opportunity in these units in which the hunter has a perceived vested interest, that has a very real impact on the hunter. They don’t give a rat’s a__ about state elk or wolf populations. They are thinking smaller ecosytem effects. State totals are irrelevant in that context, and so that takes us back to game units, which are the backbone of the managment philosophy.

      Sort of like the national election axiom – “all politics is LOCAL.”

    11. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Jon – sounds reasonable. Do you have any thoughts on the theory of a hybrid with genetics of the great plains, rocky mountain wolves in the MT,ID area?

    12. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      To answer your question of loss by elk of defense mechanisms in the short time I have available right now.

      It is not the defense of singular males that makes herd animals counter effectively wolf predation, but rather the completeness of male infrastructure. With most males gone via skewed state hunting regulations….and the remaining males having to do everything possible to just stay alive….none of pre whiteman herd- predator relationships are in order.

      There is active and indirect male protection in functional herds. Active has to do with warnings and indirect has to do with the ring of males circling the matriarchal units…thereby deflecting wolves from suprise contact with those vulnerable segments of females and dependents.

      Sadly, there are no functional male populations left outside the indigenous 300 head group in Yellowstones Se arm Yellowstone lake delta area. And since this herd is far from the road and researchers who feel the need to be home every night….plus the same researchers who have locked in superiority complexs when it comes to animals they “study” in patriarchal, at best, manner, I have serious doubts they can pick out the characteristics that makes these males carry out the roles they do in herd protection.

      I say the above because the bison herd in Yellowstone is a lot easier to see with its social infrastructure and the best that biologists there can say is, ” We see some association and bonding up to and including the yearlings”. Well duh.

      Plus the biologists in yellowstone can’t even recognize the distinct culture of the supposedly extinct mountain bison herd in upper Pelican Valley.

      And since these biologists do not have the pressure of their state employeed peers to block out all thoughts of family structure (in order to kill by the numbers) I doubt there are any biologists in this country who have the appropriate mind set to see elk male component necessities when it comes to herd defense. Even this blogs part time moderator, Ken C., recognizes only the female family component in bison. This, of course, parallels the same thought plantation owners had regarding slave family organization.

      Ken, do you still feel the same? your BFC newsletters now talk profusely of bison family groups. still no males in this assessment, Ken.

      Then we have WM who likes to rest his answers on his dark ages biologists contacts. If WM was in the era of “the world is flat” he would read all their peer reviewed papers, and like them, be afraid to sail too far out for fear of falling off the “edge”.

      Sorry, but none of this is going to change until those doing the studying and killing learn to respect animals as equals. “My Brothers Keepers” attitudes went the way of all those hunter-gatherer “ignorant savages”.

    13. JB Avatar

      “They are thinking smaller ecosytem effects. State totals are irrelevant in that context, and so that takes us back to game units, which are the backbone of the managment philosophy.”

      I’m not sure if we actually disagree? The point I am trying to make is that the smaller the geographic unit of analysis, the more likely you are to find variation from year to year in a particular population. Because local conditions vary (think of the presence of wolves as part of the conditions that affect elk populations) you will always have some units going up and others going down; and thus, you will always have hunters that are pissed off in some places and happy in others. This happens regardless of wolves and is why the summary (total population) stats are more relevant.

  11. Si'vet Avatar

    Interestingly enough, wolf recovery has been a landmark success story of the ESA. Why, ironically because of the decades long efforts and $$$ from those selfish hunters and sportmans groups who have increased the main prey base (elk) making it available to hunters, hikers, etc. and WOLVES. And now their the bad guy’s because we want some management, and control to help protect those efforts and investments.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that hunters, in part with other groups, simply restored elk to areas they nearly wiped them out from prior to their being managed? Just because the damage done by unregulated hunting was undone with the assistance of hunters, doesn’t give those hunters more ownership of the resource.

    2. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      Very well put!

    3. JB Avatar


      With all due respect, when you purchase a hunting license you are paying for the opportunity to kill an animal (or animals, as it may be). Sometimes the money you’ve spent goes toward conservation efforts, other times, it goes toward enforcement, or to pay for the “system” (i.e. the phones, computers, offices, personnel, etc.) that allows for hunting to take place. When I purchased a bow last year, some of the money went to pay a federal excise tax that is then distributed to states to do research and conservation efforts. I didn’t pay for habitat restoration, I paid for a bow. That the government chooses to use the excise tax for habitat makes me happy, but it does not entitle me to any more of a say in how species are managed than anyone else.

      And remember, for the most part these are federal lands we’re talking about, so my Ohio tax dollars are being used to pay for all of those beautiful public lands and wonderful wildlife you all have in your backyards and get to enjoy on a regular basis.

      Hunters are not the “bad guys” for wanting a say in how wolves are managed, but they make themselves the bad guys when they DEMAND that their desire for maximized elk populations on federal public lands supercedes the desires of other citizens. Bad form.

    4. Layton Avatar

      “Just because the damage done by unregulated hunting was undone with the assistance of hunters, doesn’t give those hunters more ownership of the resource.”

      What damage do you speak of?? The main cause of the demise of wolves was to poison and trapping – NOT hunting as we know it today. Sure, there were some “wolfers”, bounty hunters that killed some wolves. But individuals hunting wolves on the opportunistic basis that is used today wouldn’t even touch the population. Even if it went on 365 days a year.

      It would seem that the recent hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho, with the lack of the predicted “slaughter” of wolves would have proved that — even to some of the more jaundiced folks here.

    5. Jay Avatar

      Layton, I was referring to the damage to big game pops., not wolves.

  12. pointswest Avatar

    Since reading about the reintroduction, I always expected wolf populations to explode and deer and elk populations to collapse…before settling into an equalibrium. I expected this to take at least a decade or two. As I have mentioned previously, I had a roomate at Universiy of Idaho in the early 80’s who, with his professor, wrote some of the first software to model animal population. Anyone who has studied animal populations should have expected the same. We have many examples. The striped bass is a preditor and was intoduced into Elephant Butte Reservior in New Mexco and it population exploded and Elephant Butte was fabulous fishing for giant strippers…for about five years. After the prey specied (some undesirable non-game fish) was nearly consummed out of the lake, the stripper population went down to a stable level. But this process took several years as the lake was overpopulated with the prey species.

  13. Si'vet Avatar

    Everytime I go out, I expect to see many, many, deer/elk, why, because I am in the very heart of the public land areas they can survive, and thrive in, and have done so for many years. And if I am not seeing animals in those difficult to access, prime habitat areas, there is something wrong. Their only alternative is to move into poorer quality, more accessable, private or urbanizesd areas. More people, more hiways, more conflicts, less wolves.

  14. Si'vet Avatar

    Jay, are you talking about market hunters, subsistance hunting, because regulated hunting has been around along time. When does the statute of limitations run out on finger pointing. What side of the line was your relatives on during the civil war for example. if we want to go back that far, and we believe that bounty hunters were actually turning in thousands of wolves every year for $$. Then we may beable to trace the low numbers clear back to wolves.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Well certainly hunters don’t fingerpoint (insert sarcasm). Fact is, I hunt, but I don’t interpret the fact that I buy a license as giving me more ownership of the deer and elk I hunt than someone who isn’t interested in putting one in the freezer. The bottom line is human harvest, be it market hunting or subsistence, decimated abundant populations of most prey species. Now that they are restored, many hunters have a sense of entitlement to those animals. It’s like having someone knock your house down, then upon re-building it, say it’s more theirs than yours.

    2. Jay Avatar

      And one other thing: weren’t you the one that brought up the point that hunters restored big game pops. that were killed off prior to unregulated hunting? Its ok for you to dredge up the past, but not me?

  15. Si'vet Avatar

    JB, I understand the distribution via lic., tax, etc. my comments were geared more towards the private organizations in which I am not a member, but I do donate, time and money. I also understand your point with regards to “demand’, that always get’s attention. One other note, where you live, your choice, you obviously do your homework and are passionate about these issues. If there are wildlife issues in Ohio that I were versed on and supported or opposed to I would be parcipating there as well. You have provided several links to info I was not aware of.

  16. WM Avatar


    ++And remember, for the most part these are federal lands we’re talking about, so my Ohio tax dollars are being used to pay for all of those beautiful public lands and wonderful wildlife you all have in your backyards and get to enjoy on a regular basis.++

    With regard to Pittman-Robertson exise tax distribution, Ohio gets its share of funding from the federal pot, too. So, Si’vet and everybody else who purchases taxed hunting merchandise (there is a formula in the law for this), contributes to the pot. The funds are distributed according to the number of licenses sold in each state (a percentage of the total). So, if you lived in Ohio, and purchased your bow there, but bought a MT hunting license the proportionate funding would be weighted to MT, where it would be spent for the various direct and indirect costs of habitat improvement projects, etc. So, in a sense the vote is where the hunting is done, not the purchase. A technical note. The exise tax is built into the manufacture cost, and assessed to the manufacturer, if I recall. So your argument is not really applicable because they are not Ohio tax dollars. They are federal tax dollars distributed based on hunting license revenues.

    1. JB Avatar

      Actually, I was referring to my federal income tax dollars, which go to support the NPS, BLM, and the FS, and their efforts to manage federal public lands.

  17. Si'vet Avatar

    Jay, I don’t remember that comment but I could have. I intrepret what I just posted as, along time ago things happened that were out our control, for decades now there has been $$ and effort put into restoration, by “private groups/individuals” those efforts need to be taken into consideration.

    1. Jay Avatar

      I undestand that and appreciate the effort, but that still doesn’t give hunters ownership of big game (which is the attitude that many–not all–but many, take), and more say in how predators of big game will be managed towards minimum numbers to accomodate hunters desires–that all I’m trying to get across. I’m fine with wolf management, I have no problem with wolf hunting, I have a problem with the entitlement attitude, and the concept that human hunting is completely benign, and predators cause all the distress and discontent amongst prey. Hunters are every bit the predator as the 4-legged kind, but that word is thrown around with disgust and disdain by many of those 2-legged predators.

  18. Si'vet Avatar

    Jay, I get that same entitlement attitude from both sides of the fence. I understand the point you are trying to make, and agree hunting isn’t benign, but it is the easiest to control, and that’s exactly where most of the control will take place.

    1. Jay Avatar

      That’s a fair statement–I hear some equally bizarre and outlandish statements from both pro- and anti-wolf folks. I suppose its not different than any other politicized arena, but the rhetoric and hyperbole gets pretty thick at times.

  19. Virginia Avatar

    Ken’s comment about the reduction of the Northern Yellowstone elk herd reminds me of when we heard about the NPS slaughtering the elk in the park from helicopters. Now that was a brilliant strategy!

  20. Si'vet Avatar

    Steve c here is how I interpret the RMEF chart.
    Dear member or contributor, attached is a chart that shows where we have spent your millions and millions of hard earned donations. Even with urban sprawl, increased human population, through our conservation efforts we have been able to keep some areas stable, while greatly improving, and in some case, complete reintroduction of elk back to it’s original home ranges. Upon review of the most recent 2010 aerial surveys, meeting with game biologists and managers and you our supporters, it has been brought to our attention that the reintroduction of the grey wolf, with it’s ability to reproduce and expand at such a rate, needs to be addressed immediately.

    1. JB Avatar

      Here’s how I read the chart:

      (1) There are more than 1 million elk in the U.S.
      (2) [Not in the chart, but relevant] there are ~12,000 wolves in the U.S.–the majority are in Alaska.
      (3) Every state with wolves–including Alaska with more than half the U.S.’s wolf population–has seen an increase in elk since 1984.
      (4) Overall, elk populations are up 44% since 1984.
      (5) Despite these facts, the RMEF is using terms like “decimation” and “annihilation” to describe the effect of wolves on elk populations.
      (6) RMEF’s own data makes them look foolish and petty.

  21. Si'vet Avatar

    1. Note projects completed column. Hopefully Ken\Ralph post 2010 Mt.,Wy. Id. numbers.
    2. Largest state in the union, least populated, 1000+ head of elk??(note projects completed).
    3. Note projects completed.
    4. ditto
    5. JB, when wolf hunting season was expanded to March 31st, I remember seeing those same comments, used! Are those comments now foolish?
    6. Data looks like they have had a pretty succesful 25 year run, and taking their supporters concerns seriously.

    1. JB Avatar

      (1) Yep, I can read. I can see that there seems to be almost no correlation between the number of projects they have completed or the number of acres they claim to have conserved and elk populations. Hmmm…?
      (2) There are a few other unglates in Alaska besides elk. 😉
      (3) See #1.
      (4) See #1.
      (5) Using terms like “decimation” and “annihilation” to describe wolves’ affect on elk are always foolish.
      (6) I would agree that it appears they are taking their supporters concerns seriously; I would add that it is too bad that their supporters appear to be drawn from the bottom of the barrel.

  22. Si'vet Avatar

    JB, on #5, I meant if pro wolf people use those comments to describe the expansion of wolf season, wasn’t the comment just as foolish. I believe gold usually settles out at the bottom, even in a barrel. I think we’ve beat this one up.. Would you be interested in a Marty Stouffer dvd collection and I’ll throw in some baseball cards?

    1. JB Avatar

      LOL. No thanks!

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Was it you, that was selling the ankle biter a while back!?


  23. Layton Avatar

    I have basically been staying out of the “exchange shitty remarks” thing that is going on with each side accusing the other of “hyperbole” — with one notable exception, that being the post I directed at Mickarooni. (and his post WAS hyperbole)

    I’ve watched with interest while JB and Si’vet have been exchanging their individual interpretations of the statistics — but I still stayed out.

    Then JB comes with the following:

    “(6) I would agree that it appears they are taking their supporters concerns seriously; I would add that it is too bad that their supporters appear to be drawn from the bottom of the barrel.”

    That one just flat pisses me off!! I don’t come (at least I try not to) on here and just generally knock and stereotype the folks that have another viewpoint.

    I sure as hell don’t accuse even the most avid “greenie” org. of drawing their supporters “from the bottom of the barrel”.

    That’s bullshit JB!! You know it and it really puts YOU down to resort to that.

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Layton – along the same lines. For the last several months I have been in contact with many different folks that work for MT FWP. My evaluation of their attitude is that they value all wildlife and are charged with protecting/managing the same. On this site, if it is not good for a wolf then it needs to be made better well, for the wolf. In addition, NO ONE I have spoken to at MT FWP has indicated a desire to get rid of the wolf. It is hard to keep this issue in the middle of road with some here.

    2. JB Avatar


      I’ve been sitting on this for a while trying to decide how to respond. Based upon our previous interactions, you seem to relish argumentative exchanges more than substantive exchanges, so I’m relatively sure that there’s nothing I can say that would sufficiently pacify you. Moreover, given your penchant for labeling people “green necks” (among other things), I have to wonder if you are actually being serious, or if you’re simply employing mock indignation to make a point?

      Regardless, I stand by my comment. The statement put out by the RMEF’s CEO is designed to appeal to the “bottom of the barrel” of hunters (i.e. alarmist, anti-predator fanatics). I’ve always respected the RMEF and I’m saddened to see them go down this path.

      – – – –


      I know several people at MTFWP and have great respect for them. Montana has taken a much more balanced tact when it comes to wolf management. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with Layton’s original comment?

  24. Jon Way Avatar

    my post about elk/deer in WI is above in this long, rambling comments section. So I am not ignoring you.
    I hear you talk of hybrids up the threat a bit. I don’t know if you were talking to me or “Jon” but I’ll answer anyway. All the evidence indicates that there were not gray wolves in the NE US but rather a smaller wolf called the Eastern Wolf (likely same as Red Wolf). These animals hybridized in some areas, most noticeably in Minnesota where Dave Mech (and many others) now believe that the wolves he has studied were hybrids of the 2 with more Eastern Wolf in NE MN (near Ely) and more Western/Gray Wolf in western/NW MN. Almost all of the genetics indicates that there were only gray wolves west of there which would include Rocky Mt states and western Canada.
    Thus it is looking even more like the wolves that were restored to the Rockies were more appropriately taken from BC/Alberta rather than Minnesota or somewhere else. In other words, reintroducing pure Gray Wolves (hence why they are larger) was important. I agree with that viewpoint having reviewed much scientific evidence. In the NE, it is much more gray as the original wolf throughout much of New England probably was the smaller Eastern Wolf which is very closely related to the Eastern Coyote/Coywolf now living here.

    1. Talks with Bears Avatar
      Talks with Bears

      Jon Way – I was responding to Jon. Thanks for your input though. Do you have a thought on wolf traits other than “size” – in this discussion of Canadian/Native to MT and all “size” is somehow the standard of discussion however, would not pack size, temperment and other factors be equally important to how large of an impact the wolves could make on the landscape?

      Bob – I invite you to comment on my question – surprised eh?

    2. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      All the beginning populations I know of obtain a larger size in core similar environment…. at first….then “settle down” to the size needed for time sustainability.

      It is a basic function of nature for survivability of that population. Yes, some increase is due to a use of a flush of nutrients but not the main reason. Once infrastructure is obtained (whether functional or not) demands are there that limit energy for size expansion. Thus new ponds and resivoirs produce bigger fish, newly transplanted elk obtain larger size and there are more partidges in a pear tree…at first.
      How does all this pertain to wolf pack size etc.? For one, packs would probably be bigger at first after reintroduction. Any population needs to produce as much as possible whether there is enough food available or not to insure survival of that species. After survival is assured …and only then does that population deal with all the shortcomings in that new population. This is where herd or pack infrastructure, as it develops, comes into play. Hunting seasons, as set by ignorant biologists, keeps this infrastructure from maturing in the likes of wolves and elk.

      That is why I say big game biologists are the same as confinement pig farmers.

      As for temperament I’d say most aggresive behavior is developed because of lack of mature pack infrastructure plus loss of basic needs. Aggression takes up a lot of energy not different than the need for thorns on trees such as locust and osage orange takes away from nutrients needed for health of that tree. Priorities are priorities, and if a savanna tree needs to be keep from being eaten by a cloved hoof animal then that is what it needs to do.

      With the reintroduced wolves I would say if the packs are allowed to develop infrastructure and have multiples of these packs then most aggression will be displaced from bringing animals down to that of wars between its own artifical territorial populations…..same as humans.

      As far as impact on its landscape, I’d say when talking of any prey population, level of dysfunctionality is directly proportionate to there ability to counter any prey infrastructure. Thus, elk “herds” that have most all male functions eliminated by aberrant state hunting practises will “suffer” more than those herds lightly hunted by humans.

  25. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I don’t think size of the wolf brought in from anywhere makes a hoot of difference in the long run. All species adapt to their environment over time. Environment can be climate or it can be prey size as in the case of wolves.

    The deer in the humid Southeast U.S. are smaller than their cousins up north. To project, I’d say as elk were eliminated (whether by pre whiteman natives or europeans) in the Eastern U.S. the so called Eastern wolf became smaller to switch to more of a deer population.

    When referenced to the “monster” so called canadian wolf I’d say who cares what size it is now. It will adapt to it prey base whether runts were brought in or goliath’s were chosen. It was that way before “scientists” and bar patrons made their proclamations of validity.

    And as for “hybrids” what is in the name anyway other than an animal who is trying to find a niche in a changing environment. Order seeks out disorder and whatever closely “related” species, sub species or race …or whatever you want to call it… close enough to pass on genes will do so.

    Case in point; The reintroduced “eastern” red wolf bred with the areas coyotes because those biologists transplanting it did not understand population infrastructure needs …. AT ALL!!! But did it matter in the long run if the Aryan race was saved? Not really, because the environment it was put in had changed.

  26. pointswest Avatar

    It is also true that moose are larger in Alaska than in Wyoming. That might be explained as a spectrum of genes ranging from north to south. Wolves of different sizes just a few hundred miles apart with nothing but short grass prairie between them does not make sense, however. There are many things that genetics do not explain and the field of genetics is in upheaval at the moment.

    Epigenetics has been around since the 50’s but it was after geneticists mapped the entire genome for several species that they realized that genes could not possibly explain the myriad of differences within the same species and that epigenetics must account for many of our traits.

    The genes, by themselves, are only the tip of the iceberg in explaining the traits of a species. Life is 100 times more complex than what genetics alone can explain.

    I personally find all this refreshing.

    There is still not that much published on epigenetics because not very much is yet known. But here is a link…

    1. Jay Avatar

      The moose in Wyoming are Shiras moose, a distinct subspecies that are morphologically different from moose up on the Taiga. Moose don’t disperse to any degree that wolves do, hence the geographic isolation that allowed them to sub-speciate. Wolves, due to their renowned dispersal ability, don’t really lend themselves to sub-speciation because they easily overcome any geographic barriers and readlily mix with other populations.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      “Sub-speciate” is a very ill defined term and if science tried, it could sub-speciate moose or wolves or elk or deer in North America into dozzens or even hundreds os “sub-species.” In fact, some scientists have.

    3. Jay Avatar

      Sure, but its an imperfect world…some sub-species are more distinct than others, and it’s just a matter of gradations of difference, with some subjectivity involved.

    4. mikepost Avatar

      I can see some interesting and controversial applications of epigenetics in the ESA process. It is a very interesting subject matter. learned something today off that web site, thx.

    5. Cutthroat Avatar

      The size difference in mammals at higher latitudes may also be explained, in some instances, by Bergmann’s Rule.

    6. pointswest Avatar

      Bergmann’s Rule is more of an observation with some rationale but it is not really an explanation. It does not explain how members of the same species can differ in size when there is no distict geographical barrier.

  27. WM Avatar

    bob jackson,

    ++Then we have WM who likes to rest his answers on his dark ages biologists contacts. If WM was in the era of “the world is flat” he would read all their peer reviewed papers, and like them, be afraid to sail too far out for fear of falling off the “edge”.++

    I don’t mind going to the “edge” of the world, Bob, I just want to go with a navigator/ship’s pilot I can trust as knowing the way. So far, you haven’t convinced me with any degree of confidence that your theories are worth the risk of the journey. If you think you can hold your own in the company of the likes of Aristotle or Eratosthenes, both early theorists of a round world, who, by the way, provided strong empirical proof the world is round, then I would be more willing to accept your invitation.

    In the meantime, I will keep an open mind receptive to your ideas, and hoping others will support your views and say so.

    1. WM Avatar

      …and, bob, I should have added, I would be very much in favor of the Buffalo Commons we have spoken of before (possibly Eastern MT) to have plains herds of elk as well, with wolves preying on both ungulate species. It is as close to the savanna as we will likely ever get on the North American continent in the 21st Century.

  28. Si'vet Avatar

    Save Bears, missed your question till today, thanks for ruining the suprise. For the first caller to use a credit card you will recieve not 1 but 2 completely untrained jack russell terrorists. All sales final…….

  29. Phil Maker Avatar
    Phil Maker

    This from the RMEF press release: “The Northern Yellowstone elk herd trend count has dropped from some 19,000 elk in 1995 before the introduction of the Canadian Gray wolf to just over 6,000 elk in 2008.” The implication is that this 68% elk pop. decline is due to wolves. In a paper entitled “Seventy Year History of Trends in Yellowstone’s Northern Elk Herd”, published in vol. 2 of Journal of Wildlife Management (pages 594-602) 2007 (sorry I can’t provide the link), Eberhardt et al’s. Fig. 1 shows a decline of elk from ~12,500 in 1962 to ~5,500 in about 1967 (56% decrease). The Figure also shows 3 other severe short-term elk pop. declines, along with a general downward trend beginning in 1935 to the mid-1960s. No wolves around then, so what would RMEF blame these decreases on? Couldn’t the same factors that contributed to those declines be in play today?

    1. jon Avatar

      Is there any hard evidence at all to prove that wolves alone are the sole cause why elk #s are down?

      This is what Jon Rachael of Idaho fish and game said,

      Another fallacy Rachael said he has heard over the course of the season is that wolves are solely responsible for the decline in the state’s elk population.

      While the predators have surely had a hand in thinning herds, Rachael said, many people have ignored a number of other significant factors, including the state’s history of wildfire suppression. Fewer wildfires have resulted in denser forests, inhibiting the ability of elk and deer to find food.

      This has led to a natural decline in these prey species, which saw peak populations while wolves were being reintroduced to the state.

      “It was really unfortunate timing,” Rachael said.

      It is my personal opinion that hunters believe that just because they aren’t seeing any elk, that must mean the wolves killed them all off. Wolves are being used as scapegoats. Wolves keep elk on the move. I am sure that some hunters must understand this. They say wolves are the reason why elk #s are down and some guys from Idaho fish and game say different, so who is really right and who is wrong?

    2. jon Avatar

      If wolves weren’t around, I’m sure the other predators would get the blame, the mountain lions and bears. The predators seem to be the ones used as scapegoats by hunting organizations and hunters when prey animal #s are low. People must understand that there are different reasons why animal #s may be low. This automatically blame the predator mentality must be stopped.

    3. pointswest Avatar

      It is true that we had all the fired, including the great Yellowstone fires in 1988. I remember, at the time, people were saying that these fires would be good for elk. Now the burns are 22 years old and many are probably thick with new growth.

  30. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Who is right and who is wrong, lies somewhere between what gets posted on these websites…

  31. WM Avatar


    ++Is there any hard evidence at all to prove that wolves alone are the sole cause why elk #s are down?++

    Forgive my candor here, but it is a loaded question. Of course, there is not. In fact, let me take it one more step, and say it is not a very useful question because of the way it is asked.

    The issue that some people purposefully like to avoid addressing is that the impact of wolves is ADDITIVE to what other predators take (This should not to be confused with additive or compensatory mortality). Wolf impact must be factored in along with changes in habitat, weather and the presence and number of other predators that influence elk mortality and net reproduction.

    The first question that needs to be asked is what is the net change in elk numbers, physical body condition going into winter, behavior and successful pregnancy rate, with and without wolves?

    The a companion question is, where are these changes locally occurring?

    The third question is, what is the net change in habitat (and where) with and without wolves (think possible positive but not conclusively proven trophic cascade)?

    Some wolf advocates and anti-wolf people get wound around the axle on this “wolves alone are/are not the sole cause…..” language, without wanting to look further.

    1. Phil Maker Avatar
      Phil Maker

      What is the natural condition of an elk/elk herd: with or without wolves? All of your questions should be asked after answering this one.

    2. Jay Avatar

      100% of wolf predation is additive? Really? There’s no compensatory segment? Every single deer and elk that wolves kill would all survive, sans wolves? Hmmm–the literature abounds with prey selection information that indicates wolves are highly selective for disadvantaged prey, more so than any other predator out there, so certainly if all wolf predation is additive, than bear and lion predation must be super-additive, right? And how many times does it have to be said that pregnancy rates have not changed with or without wolves? Furthermore, how many times does it have to be shown that humans influence behavior more than wolves?

      Some anti-wolf advocates get wound around the axle that human hunting and other predators are insignificant, and that wolves are the one and only reason that elk numbers change, to the point they will ignore the literature and use their own opinions as proof.

  32. Layton Avatar

    “And how many times does it have to be said that pregnancy rates have not changed with or without wolves?”

    It has to be said a LOT of times if it is to be believed. More and more reports from F&G agencies would contradict that statement.

    “Some anti-wolf advocates get wound around the axle that human hunting and other predators are insignificant, and that wolves are the one and only reason that elk numbers change”

    Not sure just who is saying that — wolves ADD to problems with predation rates on elk — would you deny that this is true??

    1. Jay Avatar

      Nope, no doubt there are instances of wolves being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but I also won’t ignore that the camel has a bunch of stuff on his back besides wolves.

    2. jon Avatar

      I also wanna bring up that hunters never factor in all of the elk they harvest. if they are going to go around pointing fingers at wolves and whatever else for the low elk #s. why don’t they ever factor in all of the elk that they kill?

    3. Layton Avatar


      They DO factor in the # of elk that they kill. BUT, the fact of the matter is that cougars, bears, coyotes (I guess) and wolves ALL kill elk.

      Hunters are the only one of these predators that are regulated, and unfortunately those hunters have already been regulated more and more because of the additional mortality in the elk herds caused by wolves.

      Nobody (well, almost nobody) cares if “some” elk are taken by wolves, but the contention here is that they are allowed to take to many. AND that the number they take is rising.

      If you look at the last few years of F&G hunting regs you can see just how many tags and hunts have been taken away from Idaho’s elk hunters because of wolf predation.

  33. Si'vet Avatar

    I believe the U of M study I read clearly talked about pregnacy rates and overall condition of elk that are continually run by wolves. Interesting it always comes back to lions and bears, and for the last 40 yrs only in a few isolated areas have I ever heard any complaints about lions and bears, when hunting was poor it was winters kill, habitat loss and grazing.

    1. Jay Avatar

      From MT FWP final report on wolf-elk interactions:

      5. Most data that have directly measured elk pregnancy rates since wolf restoration
      began indicate that elk pregnancy rates are unaffected by wolves, in contrast to some
      indirect evidence from average hormone concentrations in elk feces. Indirect
      evidence from hunter-collected samples also indicates that elk pregnancy rates have
      been unaffected by wolves.

    2. Jay Avatar

      Direct measurements, not taking hormone levels from poo piles. Unaffected. Pretty clear when the bulk of literature indicates no changes based on actual testing, not poop.

    3. WM Avatar


      I think you should read the third paragraph again. I specifically avoided the additive / compensatory mortality issue, for EXACTLY THE REASON you state. The point is to address the question of “but for the presence of wolves what would the situation be?” That is the base line, if it can be measured.

      Phil Maker also suggests a base line, as desireable as that would be, it is doubtful it can be established in the real world. Even in YNP it seems that is difficult because the elk migrate out of the Park in winter.

    4. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson

      WM & Phil,

      It is hard to find any herd animal with functional “natural” components. For a certain grant proposal for study of herd social structure, Utah State and myself searched the world for just one…all we needed was one…functional cattle herd. It wasn’t there. We did just miss cattle on an Alaskan island…a wild herd being there for 75 years. Since it was gone we didn’t check, however, to see if this herd had been subject to dysfunctional hunting.

      But with elk there is that one and only herd having functionality…the 300 head of elk on the SE arm of Yellowstone Delta area. This herd stays in the Park year round and definitely acts and is composed differently than those hunan dominated elk herds that migrate out of the Park.

      I really doubt this herd will ever be studied …unless some biologist with rank tries to “rediscover” or has “original” thought all over again. Can’t have a lay person originating this idea ya know.

      I also think there has to be an elk herd (needs to be 300 plus) hunkered down on some large private ranch lands where hunting isn’t allowed…. that would make a good study …as long as it is in an area of wolf presence. even without wolves there should be sign of males occupying the perimeter of matriarchal components. Plus behaviors extrapolated to theorize on how this affects ability of wolves to predate.

      And WM did you ever read page 125 of Colonel Dodge’s book?…for that “smoking gun” evidence of male protection?
      You know, the page that tells of a group of bulls guiding a new calf back to the matriarchal herd….all the while being harassed by wolves??

      And as far as a buffalo commons the success would depend on the reduction management…and in the end I don’t think it be managed any different than other herds today. The thoughts might be pure but emergencies will come up, buffalo will get out and some driver will be killed…and that is the limit of how far it will ever get.

      I get the American Prairie Fondations newsletter. They just announced they are trading out their main herd bull for new blood.

      Pig farming again. Those “natural” wildlife managers know nothing of what prevents inbreeding in nature and they have not a clue of the importance of that bull to this young stressed out herd. Again they are pig farmers and pig farmers make for very poor buffalo commons guardians.

    5. WM Avatar

      Bob Jackson,

      I can think of two herds with some possibility, but I haven’t followed either for years. I don’t know whether either has ever been studied by conventional or new-age behavioral ecologists. The first used to be on the Baca Grande, a huge ranch in the San Luis Valley, C0, north of Great Sand Dunes Nat. Mon. They had not been hunted for many years prior to the mid-1980’s, possibly not since, because the original ranch owners didn’t want it (an esoteric group I have some history with), and I think the new owners of at least part is the Nature Conservancy and the federal government. The herd was as many as 500 at one point. maybe more today.

      The second is on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation north of the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. The Hanford elk have been studied a bunch, but I cannot say whether they have been hunted, except possibly some thinning for some reason. The herd is something like 700+ maybe as many as 1,000. These elk live in the sage brush year-round. But then, neither of these herds have much in the way of predator risk, except the occasional coyote.

      Drop some wolves in and see what happens.

  34. Si'vet Avatar

    Layton, lions & bears.

  35. WM Avatar


    Seems like over a year has passed since the Hamlin – Cunningham report for MFWP. Alot of their conclusions were based on data that was something like three year old or more. That is a lifetime in the wolf world, so to speak, because the population is just now getting to a critical mass where changes happen very quickly.

    The more recent stuff is from Scott Creel at Montana State U (I think this is the study Si’vet mistakenly said was U of M) – showing increased stress levels from fear of predation, with elk spending more time at higher elevations, on steeper ground eating less nutritious browse instead of grazing. That translates into skinnier elk going into winter, including pregnant cows that have lower birthweight calves, which do not survivie for various reasons to recruitment age in the presence of wolves and other predators.

    And then, there is my favorite work from the YNP biologist, Dan Stahler, who showed a preference of Park elk for mature rut weary bulls.

    1. Phil Maker Avatar
      Phil Maker

      To WM,

      “showing increased stress levels from fear of predation, with elk spending more time at higher elevations, on steeper ground eating less nutritious browse instead of grazing. That translates into skinnier elk going into winter, including pregnant cows that have lower birthweight calves, which do not survivie for various reasons to recruitment age in the presence of wolves and other predators.” So what- that is the natural state for a predator/prey system.

    2. WM Avatar


      ++So what- that is the natural state for a predator/prey system.++

      You certainly won’t get any argument from me on that biological point. But, tell that to several hundred thousand hunters in the Western states, with perceived vested interests and high harvest expectations for future years, and see where it goes.

      Heck, if elk had winter range, which they surely do not because of ranchers on private or public grazing, farmers, housing developments, roads and people and their dogs, it might not be such a big deal that elk go into winter skinnier. It might not hurt that weather kills off a bunch in a bad year, but then hunters have their expectations, and wildlife agencies have their management marching orders for higher elk per unit yields.

    3. WM Avatar

      Correction: And then, there is my favorite work from the YNP biologist, Dan Stahler, who showed a preference of Park WOLVES (not elk) for mature rut-weary bulls.

    4. Jay Avatar

      They have been physically catching elk in Y-stone for years, also in Idaho and MT, taking blood, and testing for pregnancy, and they have not found any difference. So one researcher looks at fecal hormones and determines that wolves are reducing pregnancy rates? Does he have a way of partitioning out habitat, human hunting, other predators, etc.? Does he have pre- and post-wolf reintroduction fecal samples (not that feces is a reliable way to test for pregnancy to begin with, but I’ll just be happy to see some sort of scientific method, other than saying “this elk poo indicates reduced pregnancy”).

  36. Si'vet Avatar

    WM, yes thanks, Creel report.

  37. WM Avatar

    Geeez, Jay,

    You really ought to read stuff more carefully before you cut loose, and maybe providing some sort of citations to the “literature” you rely upon would be nice for those who want to check further.



    I think some of the earlier (pre-wolf) problems on the Lolo, for example, were attributed to bears, and IDFG tried some major bear harvest strategies to cut down their take. Others who post here know alot more about that, and it was discussed on an earlier Lolo specific thread quite a bit. Layton may have memory of it.

    Bears, black and griz, do get alot of newborn calves and fawns in some areas. I think the MT GFP report of Hamlin’s even addresses the subject for some GYA MT areas. Of course, griz are getting even more now as their numbers increase.

    1. Si'vet Avatar

      WM, spent lots of time in the LoLo, lots of bears, but winter of 92-93, 95-96, seemed to be the biggest issue. Elk populations were down but I believe the F&G didn’t feel they were sustainable through tough winters at 12,000, so targets were set around 7500, which I believe is a little more realistic for current habitat. Current count 2200. Yes bears eat NEWBORN elk calves and fawns, once there up and running, odds are then in the elk-deers favor.

    2. Jay Avatar

      I’d be happy to provide citations, but I don’t know that it would do much good, because even when I provide information, you discount it or call it outdated. For instance, the MTFWP elk-wolf report: in spite of evidence they provided that indicated human hunting caused a greater effect on elk behavior, you tossed out your own creative interpretation that elk are exhibiting some sort of displaced fear of people via their fear of wolves. Heck, you even referenced that report a while back in one of your comments, yet now when I cite it, its outdated? It doesn’t matter what literature I present, you will ignore it in lieu of your own interpretation of things.

    3. WM Avatar


      Aahhhh, yes, one of my favorite “independent” scientists, Paul Pacquet is co-author. Explains alot. Recall he is the guy who said Kenton Carnegie was not attacked and eaten by wolves, notwithstanding substantial evidence and the forensic conclusions of others. I wonder if this Darwinian study addresses the phenomenon of wolves going after rutted out bulls – you know, the big guys that saw all the action with the cows, which also would tend to drain the gene pool. It doesn’t.

      Sarcasm aside, the study seems to reach reasonable and expected conclusions – if hunters, fishermen and plant harveters always take the biggest and the best of the species it is bound to have a negative effect, and more rapid than natural evolution. Apparently few have formally studied this before. I think most wildlife agencies recognize this to some extent and factor it in to management strategies. For example, many Western states for many years have had “spike only” elk seasons, or regulate hunting by season length and timing to better account for this. Whether, in the in end, it is sufficient, is up for debate. In the plant harvest area, there is alot of tree farming going on to preserver best phenotype and genotype.

      The primary author is a Darimont at U of Victoria, BC. Here is the actual paper:

    4. WM Avatar


      ++… tossed out your own creative interpretation that elk are exhibiting some sort of displaced fear of people via their fear of wolves. Heck, you even referenced that report {Hamlin} a while back in one of your comments, yet now when I cite it, its outdated?++

      First, Jay, if you read the Hamlin – Cunningham MT GFP report, you will note that it is a summary of alot of stuff that Hamlin assembled just before his retirement. I think a fellow employee at GFP referred to it as a pre-retirement “brain dump.” It is has not been peer reviewed, as Hamlin, himself, states in the Acknowledgement Section at page iii. It probably should be, and I found parts of it a bit hard to read because of the way it was organized, for example back tracking from the conclusions in the Executive Summary to relevant sections.

      Second, as to your concerns about my “creative interpretations,” I am quoting from the literature review of Scott Creel at Montana State, in his “elk poop” hormone study that you seem so ready to dismiss (Creel S, Winnie JA & Christianson D 2009. Glucocorticoid stress hormones and the effect of predation risk on elk reproduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(30):12388–12393).

      Pay close attention to the numbered cites in parenthases behind each statement below. You can go to the Creel paper and identify to whom these conclusions are attributable. Alot of the work, by the way, was done in the YNP and GYA areas. I think these conclusions address the antecdotal observation I and others have made, which you find difficult to accept. Some of it is just common sense.

      Elk have increased vigilence in the presence of wolves, thus making them even more sensitive to the presence of humans. They stay on the run, and in the brush at higher elevation and steeper slopes, more than before wolves were introduced. Pretty simple and straightforward, really This is not some “creative interpretation” I cooked up. Read closely, Jay, as you seem to be challenged in that area.

      “…..We have previously shown that mean progesterone concentrations
      and calf production in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
      (GYE) elk (Cervus elaphus) are negatively correlated with the
      risk of predation by wolves (Canis lupus) (30). Elk responded to
      wolf presence by more than doubling the proportion of daylight
      hours they spent vigilant (31, 32), and consequently decreasing
      the proportion of time spent feeding by 19% (33). Elk also
      responded to wolves by moving into the protective cover of
      wooded areas when wolves were present, reducing their use of
      preferred grassland foraging habitats (34–36). Elk strongly
      prefer grazing to browsing, and habitat type is a strong predictor
      of the balance of grazing and browsing in elk diets (37).
      Experiments with GYE elk show that changes in the balance of
      grazing and browsing affect the rate of mass loss over winter (38).
      For GYE elk in the Gallatin population, changes in habitat
      selection and feeding behavior were associated with significant
      changes in diet and nutrition (38, 39), including a shift from
      grazing to browsing (39) and a reduction in estimated intake
      rates by 27% of maintenance requirements (40). GYE elk
      steadily lose body mass and fat through winter (33, 41), and
      nutritional condition affects pregnancy rates in elk (42). Elk
      numbers on GYE winter ranges have declined by as much as 60%
      since wolf reintroduction (34, 43, 44). For example, elk numbers
      in Yellowstone’s Northern Range herd were between 16,791 and
      19,045 in the 3 winters up to 1995, then declined through 11
      annual counts to between 6,738 and 6,279 in the 3 winters up to
      2008 (45). The decline in GYE elk herds occurred while elk
      populations in Montana as a whole were growing at a geometric
      mean annual rate (_) of 1.030 (46)……..”

      And if you don’t like the work of Scott Creel, you might find the work of Mark Hebblewhite, another elk – wolf behavioral ecologist at U of MT more to to your tastes. He has just been retained to work with MT GFP on a three year study to look at the Bitterroot elk herd:

      Last, Jay, it is ok to disagree, just back up your statements in a way people can check your authorities if they are available. Challenge Creel’s conclusions, but do so with intellectual honesty, It makes for a better and more informed conversation.

    5. Jay Avatar

      WM, could you be more hypocritical? You come at me for using non-peer reviewed material, even though you cited that same paper? Then you follow up with a newspaper article (uh, would that be a peer-reviewed Missoulian article?) as what, some sort of reference for Hebblewhite? So now Hamlin is just a rambling idiot, and Creel is the expert? How about all the papers that will come out of that work that will be peer-reviewed? Seems there were several grad students that worked on that project that will eventuall publish those results that comprised their theses and dissertations–will you bash those papers when they show results contrary to what you want to hear? As I’ve said, I could cite numerous references, but its a waste of time when you want to hang your hat on a handful of papers that support only what you want to hear.

    6. WM Avatar


      ++Could you be more hypocritcal?++

      -The reference to the Hamlin report was to acknowledge the origin and self-described limitations of the paper – nothing more. There is alot of good stuff in there. I just said it was tough to read in spots, and from what I gather he ran out of time before he left MT FWP. The work of any author graduate student or otherwise needs to stand in its own. By the way, some of Creel’s work is cited in the reference section at page v, more than any other published source – look it up smart ass.

      -Creel’s work stands on its own, as do the authorities he cites in the literature review.

      -The point of the newspaper article was only to introduce the topic that Hebblewhite was working on for MT GFP. Some of the research he has been working on is listed on his U of M bio page.

    7. Jay Avatar

      Well golly, I guess we should just throw out the last 50 years of 50 research literature for Creel’s poop analyses.

      Smart ass? Ouch, that stings, hypocrite.

  38. pointswest Avatar

    Without citing any studies, it seems to me, in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, the key to deer and elk populations is the winter range. It is all about the winter range. There is so much high country in this region that is snowbound in winter, that when the snow melts, there is, in general, a vast abundance of feed and range. In summer and fall, grass and browse is waist deep and there are thousands of square miles where deer and elk can disperse and grow fat. It seems to me that if the conditions of summer persisted for 12 months of the year, the area could support five times the number of deer and elk it does naturally. So, if I am trying to figure out why deer and elk populations are down, I would not concern myself with summer and fall, I would first look and see what is happening in the winter and early spring in the winter range.

    The winter range is much, much smaller than it once was. The Jackson Hole herd, that now winters in a pen and is fed hay at the National Elk refuge is an extreme example. This heard, as large as 25,000 head, used to migrate on down the river or over the passes into the desert country of Idaho or Wyoming. In the desert, the wintering elk were widely dispersed. Wolves certainly followed them but would have a harder time finding weakened elk to take down when the elk are dispersed over thousands of square miles of desert. That is, the former and more widely dispersed winter range for elk, would not support as many wolves. When the elk are concentrated, wolves only need to trot around a mile or two until they spot a weak elk. They are going to find many more potential take-downs and work less to do it.

    While the Jackson Hole heard is an extreme example, the situation is similar all over the area. Migration routes are blocked and vast areas of winter range are now cultivated. Elk typically winter in confined canyons or hillsides with southern exposures and are PROBABLY much more concentrated than they would be naturally.

    I know of one heard that has a large winter range. I do not know the name of the heard but they winter in an area known as “The Junipers” north of the St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho. It would be interesting to know if this heard is in significant decline as the others herds are. It is a vast winter range because there are many lava flows and consequently, it was unsuitable for agriculture. The elk summer in Island Park and in Bechler Meadows in SW Yellowstone Park and then move down into this vast desert region at the first heavy snow. They are very dispersed in winter and I can’t imagine wolves doing very well in this winter range.

    Rip at this apart lupus-philes. Grrrrr.

    1. WM Avatar


      To add to your view, migration corridors are also extremely important. Some other grad students and I did work on this issue many years ago in rapidly growing mountain resort areas of CO – defining critical winter range and migration corridors with the assistance of Div. of Wildlife staff. A deer might clear a five foot three wire fence, but an elk not so much. Make it a mesh sheep fence four feet high, topped with a couple of strands of barbed wire and an elk either can’t clear it or go through it. Same is true for those double high (8 ft high ) sheep wire mesh elk fences with railroad ties or other heavy posts every 8 feet. They are effective barriers for keeping animals off the highway, but not so good for the animals getting to winter range. Very effective for all ungulates elk, deer, bighorns, antelope, bison and moose.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      Hmmm…I always thought deer and elk were about equal in their abilities to jump fences, but I don’t really know. I remember seeing a big cow jump a fence to which she was standing within a foot of and parallel to. When we rounded the corner and spooked her, she jumped sideways, without taking a step, over the fence without so much as touching a wire. It was just one bounce to the other side from all fours to all fours…one of the most impressive things I’ve seen an elk do. She was a big cow and the fence was just below her shoulder in height.

      It does seem to me that elk avoid fences more than deer. Where elk tend to migrate in groups or herds that get nervous around human activity, it may be harder to get an entire herd across a fence. They probably can jump fences but are more likely to avoid them than deer. I’ve seen herds of 20 or 30 jump fences and it seems to get them nervous and stressed and they are easily spooked while waiting for others in the herd. I would attribute this dislike of fences to the disruption they cause elk in their herding instinct rather than ability (or lack thereof) to leap fences. I think development creates other disruption like dogs, lights, roads, cars, etc. that also affect elks herding instincts. You see elk in and around developments in singles and in pairs and maybe in threes, but seldom see them migrating through in groups of 10 or more, which is how they often migrate. That’s my theory because elk can leap if they want to.

      I have read quite a bit about migration corridors and I agree that more should be protected. I have hunted in some major game corridors where you see deer by the hundred after a heavy snow, and quite a few elk. I don’t want to say where since they are secret family hunting spots. One is a place where you can go and choose the trophy buck you want although we invariably would choose a smaller good eating buck or maybe a doe if near the road.

      But my point is that wolves may (read “may”) be having an unnatural affect on elk population due to the unnatural crowding and confinement elk now have in the winter range. Maybe the problem could be greatly exacerbated by providing elk with a more natural winter range and a means (ie corridors) to get to these winter ranges.

      In general, I am more in favor protecting and even restoring habitat rather than managing game by controlling predators or feeding. I think the Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole is lame. I’ve never liked it, even when I was eight years old.

  39. Si'vet Avatar

    PW, your spot on about the importance of winter quality winter range for elk. If you want to find an abundance of wolves and not a single bear, or elk hunter go to an area where elk are wintering. The wolf population around St.A / Ashton/is very robust, that wolf quota was filled quickly.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      But St. Anthony is where this Sidoway guy lives who has the little powered hang glider and was in trouble last year for shooting wolves from it. The area north and west of St. Anthony would be a grassy prairie or cultivated if it were not for the lava flows. There are a lot of sheep in this vast area since sheep do well among the lava flows. The rainfall in parts of this area is relatively high and it can be very green. If there was a high wolf kill here, it may only be because of the tremendous effort put forth by the sheep owners and their families. I would suspect coordinated hunts with radios and the use of light aircraft. Since it is largely open, flat, and treeless, people could have been using tripods or window mounts and readily killing wolves at 500 yards.

      I would like to know how successful wolves are in this area at taking down elk in winter. I’ll bet the success rate is much lower here than in areas where elk are crowded or confined in their winter range.

  40. Layton Avatar


    “I think some of the earlier (pre-wolf) problems on the Lolo, for example, were attributed to bears, and IDFG tried some major bear harvest strategies to cut down their take. Others who post here know alot more about that, and it was discussed on an earlier Lolo specific thread quite a bit. Layton may have memory of it.”

    In the late 80’s and maybe even the early 90’s there was an Idaho F&G biologist named Gradson (maybe Gratson?, I’m not sure of the spelling) that was running a study on bear predation of elk calves in “the Lolo”.

    For 3 years he would come into our bear camp at Wilderness Gateway and BS with us at night. He was using helicopters to collar elk calves and do survival studies. The bear “take” was huge. I remember one 3 day period (Wed. thru Friday) when he collared 21 calves — by Monday 14 of them were dead – bears. They collected the collars and verified what killed them.

    His work was one of the reasons for the extended and enhanced bear seasons back then. Unfortunately he was killed in a helicopter crash (during a F&G flight) before his study was complete. You can still see his name referenced in many of the elk studies that have been done on the Lochsa.

    As much as he had to say about the bears, it would be REALLY interesting to hear his opinion about the addition of the wolves.

    1. jon Avatar

      But are the wolves really to blame?

      Rachael says it’s more complicated than that. He says elk flourished in this part of Idaho after the Great Fire of 1910. The flames burned huge forests and created open fields full of vegetation for the animals to graze. But in the hundred years since, he says the trees have grown back and the habitat for elk has gotten worse.

      Jon Rachael: “What really sent us in the tailspin was the winter of 1996 and ’97, when we had heavy snows very early and the winter just lasted and lasted and lasted.”

      He says as many as half of the elk in that area starved that winter. Since then, he says Idaho Fish and Game has tried different remedies to rebuild the population…no hunting female elk, improving habitat. It allowed the killing of black bears, one of the elk’s main predators. The elk population still declined.

      Many hunters can’t help but blame the wolves.

      University of Idaho Professor Oz Garten says they may have a point. Garten studied wolf and elk populations after wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s at Yellowstone.

      Oz Garten: “I would argue that, in fact, wolves do have a pretty substantial impact, but the impact that they have is kind of complicated.”

      Garten says some of the same phenomena that happened at Yellowstone are coming true in Idaho.

      Oz Garten: “The elk are changing their behavior and they are hanging out much more in the timber now and much less in the open areas. So that makes it harder for hunters to harvest them.”

      But harvest them they are. Garten and Jon Rachael from Idaho Fish and Game say, even though elk struggle in the Lolo region, they’re doing well in most of the rest of Idaho.

    2. Layton Avatar


      Excuse me, but you’re beating a dead horse!! Nobody that I know is saying that the wolves are the SOLE cause of the decrease in the number of elk in Lolo.

      By the same token nobody that knows much is saying that they are NOT affecting the elk numbers. An apex predator was put into an area that already had a couple of apex predators. The wolves were put in at a time when elk populations were low — they are NOT allowing the populations to come back!! Lower calf recruitment is NOT fiction, it is FACT. Lower overall numbers of elk is NOT fiction, it is FACT.

      As to the red herring about elk “just hanging out in the timber and not the open areas any more”. In short, that is just a laugher. People that have been hunting those units for 20 or 30 years and know them intimately can’t find them. People use airplanes to try to spot them, they can’t find them. They JUST AREN’T THERE!!

      Fish and Game has knocked of most (if not all) the cow tags in those units. They have “capped” the bull tags, they have liberalized the predator seasons — is the ultimate goal of the “forwolves” crowd to just knock off ALL hunting and give the wolves free run of the place??

    3. pointswest Avatar

      Where do elk in the Lolo winter?

    4. Layton Avatar

      I gotta assume that they work their way down to the Lochsa and even on down on the main Clearwater.

      I know that in the spring you can see elk all along the river from Kooskia on up toward 3 Rivers and even further North.

      To go anyplace else (like the South fork or North into the Mussel Shell country) they’d have to migrate over some pretty big mountains.

    5. pointswest Avatar

      So when we are talking about the Lolo, we are talking about the Idaho side and the Clearwater and Lochsa drainages? … not the Montana side with the Bitterroot and Clark’s Fork drainages?

      Historically, those elk on the Idaho side probably wintered on the Camas Prairie around Grangeville, ID that is all under cultivation now. Some certainly wintered in the Clearwater Canyon with its hundreds of side canyons…where they do now. I lived in Moscow, ID for several years and know elk wintered in the Clearwater Canyon and as canyons go, it is immense. I used to see the elk too driving up the Clearwater and Lochsa.

      I also remember that there was a large controversy over Dworshack Dam and Reservoir on the North Fork of the Clearwater. The North Fork’s Canyon was a wintering area or corridor and it seems like the Burea of Reclamation compromised and agreed to feed the North Fork herd in winter. (They also built a large fish hatchery at the dam for the lost salmon spawning beds.) I don’t know if they still feed the elk or not.

      Elk may have been fine wintering in these canyons prior to wolves, but now, with wolves; maybe (read “maybe”) does not work very well for elk. If elk could disperse across the Camas Prairie, wolves would not do so well and the wolf population might drop. I don’t know about the Lolo…this is just speculation.

    6. DB Avatar

      Historicaly, I don’t think there were a great many elk in the Lochsa. The great fires in 1910 and later created wonderful browse, elk numbers increased and they wintered right there, on the lower Lochsa and Middle Fork. If those conditions existed today, we’d have elk regardless of predators.

  41. jon Avatar

    So Layton, there is no truth what so ever in this comment made by Oz Garten: “The elk are changing their behavior and they are hanging out much more in the timber now and much less in the open areas. So that makes it harder for hunters to harvest them.”???

  42. jon Avatar

    Based on what hunters have told me from before, the elk were apparently doing great before wolves were reintroduced and now you are saying their #s were low Layton before wolves got reintroduced?

  43. Layton Avatar


    I’ll give you one thing, you have an extraordinary talent for twisting words around to make them sound as you want them.

    First, where did I deny that elk have changed their behaviors?? Don’t think I did. What I DID say was that the elk are NOT (!!!!) simply hiding out someplace in the trees–they are simply NOT there, they are gone!! (some of the ones that are left are hiding in the trees) It is my feeling that their current abode is in a wolf’s intestinal tract, or maybe laying on a trail in a pile of wolf crap! Elk don’t manage to hide from folks that know the area they hunt intimately.

    AND before you even try it, I’m not talking about people that don’t get out of the truck or off the ATV, I’m talking about good hunters with thorough knowledge of the area they are hunting.

    As to your next comment “and now you are saying their #s were low Layton before wolves got reintroduced?”

    If you read what I said “The wolves were put in at a time when elk populations were low — they are NOT allowing the populations to come back!!” You can figure out that the bad winters of 95 and 96 hurt the elk population(s). You can also think about what was happening with bears — at the same time.

    Now, add the wolves, intro’d into the equation in 94-96 and you can understand that the inability of the current elk population to maintain/enhance calf recruitment presents a BIG problem.

    By the way, I did ask you a question – did you not read it?

    here it is again:

    “is the ultimate goal of the “forwolves” crowd to just knock off ALL hunting and give the wolves free run of the place??

    1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I am definitely a part of the “for wolves” crowd and I don’t want hunting to end. I am also a part of the hunting crowd but I don’t agree with what most sportsman’s groups say and do. It is possible to have wolves have a “free run of the place” and have hunting. Minnesota seems to have no problem with that. There are more wolves there than any other state in the lower 48 and still enough deer left over for people to run over.

    2. jon Avatar

      Not according to this article prowolf.

      “Winter severity, hunter harvest and a change in the forest (habitat) — all of those things factor in whether a deer population increases or decreases,” said Dan Stark, Department of Natural Resources wolf specialist. “Wolves are a component of that, but not a driving factor.”

      Among the scientific evidence, he said:

      –Research indicates each wolf eats 15 to 19 adult-sized deer yearly, and with about 3,000 wolves, that would be 45,000 to 57,000 deer yearly. An estimated 450,000 deer populate the state’s forested wolf range, meaning wolves are killing 10 to 13 percent, Stark says. Hunters kill about 100,000 deer in that region.

    3. WM Avatar


      MN is an abundantly rich deer state, having over 1 million white-tails, and an extremely high reproduction rate, in habitat that is for the most part consistently productive, even during the lean winter months. Bad winters have taken huge numbers of deer, however. A 3,000 wolf (apparently self-regulating based on recent estimates that have plateaued the last ten year) population hardly makes a dent in the overall state deer population, although some local areas have been impacted, but bounce back pretty quickly. That hasn’t kept the hunters and livestock groups from complaining Wolves are confined by natural constraints to the NE 1/2 of the state in the more forested areas.

      MN currently has a petition before the FWS for delisting, and has been at population thresholds for delisting for the last fifteen or more years. their wolves (the Great Lakes DPS which includes MN, MI and WI) have been delisted, then relisted as a result of litigation. MN is a little pi$$ed, and has a unique arguement to make for delisting on its own. Make no mistake, MN has thinned its wolves in the past for getting in trouble with livestock, and after a 5 year waiting period following delisting they will likely start hunting them, if not before (it would require a change in state law).

      The NRM is an entirely different situation. LIvestock are raised differently, as we have talked about here so many times before. The land, because of its shorter growing season, highly variable weather, including less precipitation and recent droughts, and less productive soils produces less biomass for ungulates. Winter range for deer and elk is constantly under development pressure or livestock use for the past 100 plus years. That is why we don’t have the high densities of deer as does MN. And, then, we have elk, and MN does not, in any great numbers.

      What is my point? WY, ID and MT are not MN! And, MN wants to manage its own wolves (with or without MI and WI which are part of the Great Lakes DPS).

    4. jon Avatar

      Despite high wolf numbers, hunters have harvested record numbers of deer since 2003, five times exceeding 250,000. “We had some of the highest harvest of deer in the last decade even with a robust wolf population,” Stark said. Deer harvest numbers have fallen the past two years, dropping to below 200,000 last year.

      It disgusts me that Minnesota deer hunters have the audacity to claim wolves are responsible for the supposed deer decline when you look at the how many deer hunters have killed compared to wolves.

    5. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson


      I think you might want to “relook” your logic for dismissing some of reasons Minn. is different….and therefore your argument folks can’t use the logic of wildlife still maintaining populations of herd animals ….. even when wolves are in abundance.

      It is all relative. Fertility of the land directly corresponds to the ability of prey to increase but this also means predators would increase also. Winters in the mts. mean elk and deer are forced out of habitat but farms in the midwest also take the same fertile ground away.

      Yes, deer are more of a disturbed habitat type increaser than elk but todays soybean and corn fields are left with pancake flat bare soils for all of the winters…and good for no sustainable wildlife populations.

      And “up north”, away from those farm fields, there is a lot of sterility of landscape…even more so than a lot of the mt. regions. A lot of that rich black dirt in Iowa came from N. Minnesota with repeated glaciers scouring Minn. to bedrock and gravel.

      I think the real difference comes in with predators, man in this case, ability to wipe out his prey so easily in mts. with his long range guns. “Hunters” out west could wipe out just about all elk and mule deer in less than 5 years if there weren’t laws to stop it. For Minn hunters it would take 25 yrs. Just like “down south” heavy brush limits human take of prey. Man is good at sight recognition of prey but other predators include such things as smell.

      Plus, man with his technology has made it a single mans game. Groups of humans …or wolves are not needed to kill herd animals as before. Yes, single animals were always killed by single humans from blinds or stalks but any real impact on herd numbers was from groups working in unison.

      Thus I say look to todays man predator and his tech “unfair advantage” then compare Minn to the Mts.

      Other factors of course do come into play, like the need of herd animals to alert others when in blind alleys grazing. In the mts vulnerable valleys and draws you take out these male scouts and guards …. and these elk are all sitting ducks for man and wolves. In war it would be like one army not deploying perimeter defenses or putting out scouting patrols while the other did. Suprise attacks and flanking abilities would soon decimate the one army. This is what human selective hunting for “males only” in elk herds has done in the mts….taken away the defenses of those predator vulnerable matriarchal components.

      My arguments, of course leave a lot of arguments open for the “other side”. I realize this. But that is the point, we could go on forever with counter debate, but in the end it shows anti wolf folks can argue you can use Minn. as a counter proof of wolves and prey both being in “harmony”.

      The only difference I see in Minn. and the mts. is todays human mt. hunters can kill at will. In Minnesota N. country this isn’t possible. The land of ten thousand lakes means just that ….lots of “land” that humans can’t shoot across or penetrate. Thus one ends up with more normal predator – prey interaction cause and effect in Minn..

      In the Mts. one has to look first how humans altered that balance and how they most effected dysfunctionality in those prey herds to determine how it can be fixed. Otherwise it is all symptom solutions and management.

      When elk numbers and infrastructure of these herds can be totally manipulated and controlled by biologists, who know they can do this solely by setting take of these animals, then their moral and professional responsibility to understand what this does to those animals is very much elevated. Since they are blind to this obligation I have to again say they are pig farmers. I hate to say it, but WM you are going to have to research further than peer reviewed biologist papers to come up with your answers to this one.

    6. bob jackson Avatar
      bob jackson

      In reading above I guess I posted with the two drafts I had going for this response. I didn’t recognize the space between the thoughts filled up and “Cut and Paste” to coordinate a consolidated process was incomplete. Oh well, you all get some redundant reading. Our you can just say I “hammered it home”. Ya, thats it.

    7. WM Avatar

      Bob Jackson,

      ++Fertility of the land directly corresponds to the ability of prey to increase but this also means predators would increase also.++

      That is exactly my point. The West is not the Midwest.

      Bob, if you look at a map of wolf distribution in MN there is a pretty well defined line which, based on habitat and human development (farming + human density), Great Lakes wolves, for some reason, do not cross. I have even spoken to the MN wolf coordinator, about it – no lengthy explanation – they just don’t cross it.

      Back to the West. If I recall the results of some polling done within the last thre or four years, MOST elk are still killed by rifle at a distance of less than 100 yards. Yes, I agree with you that technology has allowed for longer distance “reach out and touch.” I don’t care for it either, but it really does not account for the the majroity of kills, although more than, say, twenty years ago, and it is nominally on the increase.

      I have hunted white-tail deer, but not in MN. They are smart, love the brush which is omni-present in their habitat there, and the most successful hunters, from what I understand, use “stands,” or “drive” in groups (kind of like your pheasant experiences in IA).

      Deer in MN, to my limited knowledge, are not large herd animals. They do maintain very high densities and the population is something like 1.1 million deer, but compare that against the 250,000 plus the hunters take and the 50-60,000 the wolves take (not all live ones), that shows the population is pretty resilient, with incredibly high reproduction rates, absent a bad winter or two in a row. In contrast, for example, muleys in CO are low density in their sparse vegetativ habitat, herd up some in winter, and Western CO has the largest migratory herd in the country that moves from high elevation to lower in winter. Most of the year they, as well as elk, have much lower density on the land – again, a big difference between Midwest and the West.

  44. Nancy Avatar

    Please enlighten me about the qualifications for being a “forwolves” crowd?

    Will I qualify if I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness when I look at pics of happy hunters posed over dead elk, deer, antelope or moose (that are boosted about, all over the internet on hunting sites) Or as in the case of this year’s hunting season – which included for the first time out here in the west – wolves for the taking?

    If I’m just a tad bit pissed about the years of government handouts $$ to the ranching industry in the way of subsidies and predator control programs (as they abuse public lands and wildlife) also qualify me as part of the “forwolf” crowd?

    If I wonder (and worry) about the “official” numbers, charts & jargon out there from government agencies (who are quite capable of their own twist on things, depending on the pulse of their communities) place me in the ranks of the “forwolf” crowd?

    I really don’t think we are a crowd Layton just because we care about wildlife. I could care less if you hunt to feed your family, but at what cost to wildlife when it gets too commercialized (bag the biggest) which seems to be the latest trend these days.
    Hunting brings in about $300 million. Wildlfe viewing – $500 million. Do the math……… No one, I’m thinking in the “forwolf” crowd, wants to knock off ALL hunting, they just want someone to be respectful of other species right to exist without being badgered, collared, trapped, shot at and hunted down when the numbers don’t always tally in the right direction, in what’s left of wilderness areas.

  45. pointswest Avatar

    I am reposting this here from the IDFG Releases Video article since there is discussion about the Lolo here….

    According to the video, the Lolo herd has dropped from 16,000 elk to 2000 elk. This is all attributed to wolves and they give the number of wolves at 75 to 100. This is slightly unbelievable.

    For some simple arithmetic, let’s say we had a herd of 16,000 elk and we released 100 wolves among them. 16,000 elk means 8,000 cows. Cows do not calf until the 3rd year and some cows twin so the herd would probably produce something like 5000 calves every year. So 100 wolves are killing 5000 calves a year? They video said amost none were surviving. That is 50 calf elk per wolf.

    A study found the average weight of a calf by fall to be 298 pounds and typical birth weight is 40 pounds. So the average weight of an elk calf over the course of 1 year is 170 pounds. Let’s say 75% of the calf is edible by a wolf. That would be 128 pounds of edible food per calf.

    For simplicity, consider that to reduce the herd, wolves would need to kill ( and consume) at least the weight of all the new growth that would total 50 calves per wolf at 128 edible pounds per calf.

    Thus, according to the Fish & Game, the Lolo wolves are eating, 6,400 pounds of elk per year or 18 lbs per day per wolf.

    Sure they are….

    This is just if they were only killing and eating the calves. We know, however, that they also kill yearlings and full sized adults. So by the Fish & Games own numbers and comments, it would mean wolves are consuming over 25 pounds of elk per day per wolf.

    1. WM Avatar


      Nice try. The Lolo elk population has not been 16,000 for about twenty to thirty years, before wolves showed up. So, your assumed starting point is off by about 10,000 or so elk to begin with. Alot of elk died during the 1996-97 winters, about the time the wolves showed up. It is the recovery to even remotely historic levels that has been hampered by wolves (and probably bears and habitat). The rest of your calculation(?) is consequently fatally flawed. Read Director Cal Groen’s written piece for a more accurate historical perspective.

    2. WM Avatar


      It is likely that, say, 100 wolves in the Lolo (if they have not gone to adjacent units where elk density is higher) would take quite a few calves and cows. Recall a wolf will eat between 8-23 ungulates between November and April, the standard research year, as well as more outside this period.

      So, let’s just say 20 elk per wolf per year. Do the math – 2,000 elk for 100 wolves (of course a few of those would have died anyway, but for simplicity lets keep the analysis clean).

      No wonder recovery is slow in the Lolo, if Groen is correct about wolf effects on elk recovery.

    3. pointswest Avatar

      OK…my point was that it was not wolves that reduced the herd. The video implied that it was. I can believe that 100 wolves might cause a problem with an elk herd trying to recover where the population has dwindled to 2000.

      How about a few perscribed fires to create some burns?

  46. pointswest Avatar


    I hunted several years in Northern Idaho where I killed five elk and five deer over a period of about seven years. It was mostly northwest of the Lochsa/Lolo area into the head of the North Fork of the Clearwater. Many people argued the same, that the Clearwater/Lochsa/Selway area historically had few elk and that it was clear cutting by loggers that increased the elk numbers. They cite antidotal evidence such as the journals of the Lewis & Clark expedition (they starved on their journey through the Lolo) and the journals and letter of early miners and others who traveled through the areas.

    I do not buy this for many reasons. It is certainly true that this area is heavily forested and forbidding country. The journals of Lewis & Clark described many burns, however. The first burn was not in 1910. There were always burns. Further, I hunted in area that had not been logged nor burned for over 80 years and there were elk…a lot in certain locations. The elk are spotty. There are vast areas of dense timber where almost nothing grows beneath the canopy and there are vast areas of brush so thick that not even I could get through it when 21 years of age. Also, the mountains tend to be rounded at the tops and cliff-like steep in the canyons. The elk tended to be about 2/3’s to the top in southern exposures in light timber and moderate brush. They also like burns of a certain age that has a certain brush called “redroot” or some name since they could browse the shoots.

    The Lolo was, by far, the most treacherous stretch of the Lewis & Clark expedition. They would probably have died if the Nez Perce Indians had not taken pity and saved them. There has always been elk in the Lolo region, however. The population may have waxed and waned with the pattern of forest fires and maturity of the burns but they have always been there. The habitat can be spotty but it is spotty over thousands of square miles. The fact that Lewis & Clark or miners could not find elk in the Lolo means nothing to me. You have to know where to look and since their Indian guides were from the dryer regions to the south, they probably didn’t know.

    I agree that elk may have been able to winter deeper in the canyons since the canyons are so deep and at such low altitude that the winter is mild in the canyons.

  47. Layton Avatar

    Nancy and PW,

    It’s really interesting to me that you folks totally disagree with anything that F&G or the “feds” come up with as far as counts, statistics, observations, whatever.

    Yes Nancy, most of the things you reference would (IMHO) qualify you as a member of the “forwolves” crowd. If you dislike pictures of hunters posing with the meat they have gotten for the following year — you’re qualified. Unfortunately that qualification – on this site at any rate – seems to mean that ANYONE that says wolves are damaging herds, that says wolves are increasing in population, or (heaven forbid) that there should be any sort of control of their numbers is WRONG. Yep, you qualify.

    Then of course there is the obligatory remark about the “ranching industry” (which is blamed for everything from starving wildlife to inventing the common cold – or preventing a cure for it) which, by the way, doesn’t even graze any cows in most of the Lolo that I am familiar with. Yep, another qualification.

    “Hunting brings in about $300 million. Wildlife viewing – $500 million. Do the math”

    Not sure what area you are putting those $$ into, but I would almost bet that, while the hunting $$ might be fairly accurate for the Lolo area, the wildlife viewing numbers are way out of whack. People don’t go the Lochsa and areas around it to view wildlife, the brush won’t allow them to see it.

    PW, I’m not even going into your statistical scenario very far — it’s so far fetched that it’s not worth it. Suffice it to say that if there was the calf recruitment in the Lolo that you use in your example(s), F&G would be deliriously happy and probably not even worry about the puppies!! 8000 cows producing 5000 calves would be a DREAM!! But unfortunately the real recruitment rate is closer to !0% that it is the the 60+% that you come up with.

    Somehow you seem to have glossed over the fact that there are NOT 8000 cows and there ARE well over a hundred wolves.

    I also find it interesting that Lewis and Clark had some sort of an axe to grind – their journals were wrong – by the way, why would they lie?? The wolves were there when they came through. The early miners were in on it too, why would they not tell it like it was??

    Rave on.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      My numbers were for a hypothetical herd of 16,000. I was just throwing some numbers around and do not have statistics for the Lolo herd. The IDFG video implied it was the 100 or less wolves that reduced the herd of 16,000 to 2000. WM (above) pointed to the Cal Groen paper where Cal says the wolves did not reduce the herd; they are only preventing it from recovery which I believe. So what I said about the hypothetical herd is not wrong, it was what the IDFG video implied that is wrong.

      And I think you are misunderstanding the term “recruitment rate.” Recruitment rate is a measure of the number of calves per adult cow (1.5 years and older) alive in the fall pre-hunt population. With this definition, my hypothical herd had a recruitment rate of zero since one assumption was that all the calves were killed by wolves.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      Layton, you really read a lot of things into people’s statements or completely misread them. First of all, facts are facts and some are verifiable and irrefutable. It is well known that the Lewis & Clark expedition starved while crossing the Lolo. They were reduced to eating a crow and eating their own horses.

      Further, my point was that this did not mean the elk were not there, I think they just could not find them due to the rugged mountains and dense forests.

      Do you even read these posts before you respond to them? …or just browse for a few key words?

    3. WM Avatar


      I think spotty elk is a possibility in the Lolo when Lewis & Clark came through – not that they weren’t there, just concentrated in areas where the Corps of Discovery could not access them on their straight as an arrow journey through. In that area they either travelled the valley bottom of the Lochsa or along the ridge line from just west of Lolo Pass to the Weippe Prairie (Nez Perce villages). That ridge line from Cayuse Junction past Indian Grave Peak to Castle Peak to Sherman Peak then to the confluence of Hungry Creek/Lolo creek at the east edge of the Weippe is kind of barren. They even saw very few deer. It is likely their party hunters didn’t get far off the the ridge lines down into the valleys, where the elk would likely have been in September 1805, during the rut. The return was in May – June, the following year, again when the elk would likely have been lower in the valleys calving. The stretch of Hiway 12 up the Lochsa doesn’t have much elk habitat from, what I remember. Nonetheless there were probably not alot of elk in these drainages until the logging improved habitat throughout all that general area. Further to the west there was a huge central logging camp outside Pierce at what was called Headquarters. Only remnants of the old camp remain – nicely red stained board and batten sheds for equipment. That, as you know, is the Dwarshak- Elk City combined wolf hunt management units. Elk have been hard hit there too by wolves. In fact, I think that is where many went when they cleaned out the Lolo. The quota was filled VERY quickly there, in part because of access as you have previously pointed out. I just think they have alot of wolves in those units, and suspect IDFG would have put a higher quota there, had they know the Lolo units quota would not be met even withe the extended season. Gotta wonder what they will do this coming season, if a relisting court decision doesn’t allow one.

    4. JB Avatar

      “Elk have been hard hit there too by wolves. In fact, I think that is where many went when they cleaned out the Lolo.”

      “Cleaned out the Lolo”? Et tu Brute?

    5. WM Avatar


      Sorry. ” …..allegedly cleaned out the Lolo.” You apparently missed an earlier dialog (with Ralph and Ken) about three weeks ago when the official December ID wolf count came out, in which it showed lower than expected numbers in the Lolo as compared to the rather large harvest quota. Coincidentally, there were larger increases in adjacent unit numbers in ID with overlaps of a couple of MT packs at the eastern border of the Lolo units.

      Yes, “allegedly” is a better term until there are some research conclusions to tell the story. I apologize.

  48. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    When I was first in Thorofare there were very few grizzly bears more than ten miles into the wilderness from the park boundary. All the outfitters said the bears just wouldn’t go any further. That once one hit cow lease country of the Bridger Teton the bears wouldn’t cross it.

    But of course the real reason bears “didn’t cross it” was ALL bears were shot at and the further they went out the higher the chances of mortality. Only when a lot of “foreigners” moved in and the old time ranching establishment had to be more carefully did bears “cross” that electric fence of deception and bull shit stories.

    Thus it is the same with that G&F guy in Minn. He is just giving an outsider (you) a snow job. Wolves don’t cross that imaginary line because all those farmers SHOOT them. The G&F know it, all the residents know it and even my family….a family that travelled to N. Minnesota every summer to fish….knew it.

    Its like abuse in a family. All the immediate family knows it, a lot of extended family knows it and a bunch of the community knows it….but it is everyones little secret.

    Tell me what happens when little secrets are exposed? Turmoil and white picket fences that has to be repainted black.

    What do you think happened when I went to Thorofare and cleaned house on poaching outfitters? A lot of resistance from Yellowstone district rangers, other back country rangers, Black rock ranger station, jackson hole FS, F&G marshalls and Wyoming G&F, thats what. Not all folks within these agencies but a lot more so than those who saw it as favorable. The Park administrators used my convictions to get in more federal dollars but do you think they ever implemented to include other agencies to stop it. all they did when meeting with them, their partners in their Agreement of Mutual Understanding was to down play it.

    They all had a little this nice white house niche everyone filled. The romance of John Wayne went on with all those Walter Mitty horse riders talking bays, dapples and four white socks.

    I called a spade a spade and it went from poacher getting to busting the wild west lifestyle myth that allowed illegal salting right in front of Wyo. G&F cabin a mile and a half from my cabin and 40 yards from the Park line.

    Every ranger before me that tied his horse to G&F hitching rail and then shared some peach scnopps or shot of Old Yellowstone Whiskey with those wardens knew the truth but said and did nothing about it.

    So by extension, you see, the guy from the hallowed Minn. G&F gave you a snow job. He has a vested interest in doing so. It means he can continue to hunt ducks and talk walleye with all those other Fur-Fish and Game readers. Plus he doesn’t have to worry about the state legislature backing farmers more than resources if this dirty little secret is exposed. Oh, I think I’ll go out and skip some rope and suck on some lollipops.

  49. WM Avatar

    ProWolf in WY,

    Please read bob jackson’s post, above. Now, if what he says is true, MN folks south of what is formally recognized as a natural wolf country boundary are doing some 3S. Actually, I find his argument compelling. It would seem wolves would cross a natural habitat boundary, especially when their density starts to increase and they are searching for new places to live conflict free with other wolves. Afterall, we have seen NRM wolves go great distances in a very short period of time across inhospitable habitat. Think some of that vast expanse from the Greater Yellowstone Area south to Colorado.

    If it is true that there is 3S going on in MN (as bob jackson implies) it means three, actually four, things. First, there is conflict and the perceived state of harmony that some wolf advocates suggest. Second, there must be a fairly large number of farmers and ranchers who are violating federal law by shooting or otherwise killing a federal ESA protected species (and not getting caught). Third, they are not making damages claims for any livestock that have been killed or injured. And, fourth, the MN wolf coordinator was giving me a line – I’m not quite sure I believe number four, which then brings the other three into question.

    Maybe there is someone monitoring this thread who can tell us exactly what is really going on in MN (or WI, which gets its wolves solely from out migrating MN wolves).


  50. Moose Avatar

    Some comments on Great Lakes wolves:

    80-90% of the deer in those three states don’t exist anywhere near wolves.

    ou really have to look at harvest success rates in Deer Management Units that have active wolf packs.

    Harvest rates in all three states went down in the northern sections – as a whole – this past hunting season. Last winter (not this past winter) was especially hard on the deer herds in the northern areas…the number of deer hunters was down in each area…some of those same units had doe reduction goals operating the past several hunting seasons….it was unseasonable warm in the Upper Midwest this past Oct/Nov (reduced movement)…and yes, predator numbers are up (coyote, black bear, and wolves..cougars too?)

    Deer density numbers in the northern areas of those states has always been relatively low…even before wolves arrived in WI/MI….Thick woods and hard long winters make it tough….deer in the North do yard…I’m sure predators have a much easier time then…

    Southern third of each state is mostly cleared farmland…there really are few places wolves could exist without detection for very long. Great wolf habitat in the North…death sentences in South.

  51. Layton Avatar


    First you say,

    “They cite antidotal evidence such as the journals of the Lewis & Clark expedition (they starved on their journey through the Lolo) and the journals and letter of early miners and others who traveled through the areas.

    I do not buy this for many reasons.”

    And then you say this

    “The fact that Lewis & Clark or miners could not find elk in the Lolo means nothing to me.”

    And then you accuse me of “reading things into” what you say. It looked to me like you were accusing the L&C Journals and the miners of telling less than the truth — it still does.

    But you go ahead — by all means.

    “Layton, you really read a lot of things into people’s statements or completely misread them. First of all, facts are facts and some are verifiable and irrefutable. It is well known that the Lewis & Clark expedition starved while crossing the Lolo. They were reduced to eating a crow and eating their own horses.”

  52. pointswest Avatar

    I honestly do not understand where the conflict is. Here is what I thought I said.

    1. People cite the journals as proof that there were no elk in the Lolo and say the elk only showed up after logging began clear cutting timber.

    2. I say that, from my personal hunting experiences, elk are spotty in the Lolo and the fact that Lewis and Clark or miners did not see elk does not mean there were none there. Not seeing something does not prove it is not there especially in the Lolo. It is non-scientific antidotal evidence that is about as good as bigfoot sightings or non-bigfoot sightings.

    I didn’t say anyone was lying or that there was a conspiracy. I meant to say antidotal evidence is not very good and, in Lewis & Clark’s case, it can be easily explained away.

    The country really changes after you cross the divide at Lolo Pass. The annual precipitation changes from 20 inches per year on the east side of the divide to 80 inches per year on the west. The forest is much heavier in the Lolo than in Montana. Lewis and Clark had some Shoshone guides and it seems like some Flatheads also helped guide them across the Lolo. Both of these tribes resided east of the divide in a much drier climate. I suspect that neither Shoshone nor Flathead knew where to find elk in the Lolo. As soon as the corps was discovered by the Nez Perce, who resided west of the divide and who were familiar with the country, they were saved. Perhaps if they had had Nez Perce guides in the first place, they might have found elk in the Lolo.

    From my experiences hunting in the North Fork of the Clearwater, it means nothing to me that hunters from Montana could not find elk in the Lolo.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      There were caribou in the Lolo at the time of Lewis and Clark too. From what I have read the caribou extended south to Salmon, Idaho. The caribou were Mountain or Osbone and wqhich are found in smaller bands than the Barren Grounds Caribou.

  53. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    To expand on your assessments of my statements and questions it raises of “why wolves don’t cross into southern Minn.”.

    1) You have to remember the number 1 reason ranchers and outfitters out West are so publicly vocal on the wolf issue. The more the ranchers yell the better the chance they deflect from the govt. going after their sacred cow, public grazing being allowed and this grazing happening at very low cost. For outfitters it is the same…keeping the govt. off their backs on other issues.

    Farmers in Minn. do not have public lands to be “given’ to them. Thus the issue is back to the basics of wolf depredation.

    This brings up number 2. If you want to kill wolves illegally you don’t ask for livestock compensation. This brings attention to yourselves and limits your ability to kill off the wolves yourself. You tell me, is it more effective to get paid two or three times for depredation and have continual labor involved in watching for depredation to happen or “take care of the problem” once? The early wolfers always put strychnine on the wolf kills …or waited till the wolves came back to shoot them. It is so simple for any rancher or farmer to do the same. Out West they “cry wolf” publically because of other reasons than to stop depredation.

    3) Minn or Wisc. farmers do not have the melting pot or influx of others of different ecological priorities moving in. It is so much easier for everyone involved to keep that little secret of death stabilized to the back room. of course it could never be maintained without back room approval of the “law”.

    4) That wolf coordinator you so want to believe would have to have his head stuck in the sand to not know why wolves don’t “cross that line”. I’d have to say he does not want to know …..kind of like the militaries gay stand of ” don’t say”.

    If he truly doesn’t know then Minn. has chosen the main character of cult movies’ , Tropical Thunder, Simple Jack on their hands. I would hope you would be able to note this in your conversation on the phone, WM. Did some wet drool come into your phones ear piece? Did their words slur and was there significant time between each of your questions and this persons response? If not, were there other little clues? Did this person ask to wait while they shook sand out of their ears? Without the above I’d have to say this person more than likely sent a blizzard and snow shovel your way. Ok, I know, the characters in the cult movie, Fargo, really are true to life Minnesota documentary type non actors. Norm, Marg’s husband, has a brother in the states wolf management. They both paint ducks while the one should instead be minding the store….and paint wolves.

    P.S. In rereading the above I must admit I had a bit too much fun and got a bit carried away with the story developing in my head of what a Minn. wolf biologist must be like to give snow jobs for those out West. Too many cult movies and Gary Larson’s Far Sides I guess.

    To summarize, the answers sometimes are not on the surface of retardedness. Just like elk numbers going down may even contain proof wolves are killing, but at the same time maybe our state hunting rules and preferrence for male take has handcuffed ALL elk so they can no longer defend themselves against predators.

  54. WM Avatar

    Just to keep this thread up to date, here is an interesting perspective from the Idaho Statesman’s Barker on RMEF’s stand:

    First time I ever heard the term “elk hugger,” or anyone go after Defenders for not doing enough for wolves in the East.


    Bob Jackson,

    I have been around the block a few times, and can usually tell when my leg is being pulled. But for sake of argument, let’s go with your version. If wolves are being killed in MN if they stray “south of the line” it sure puts a hole in ProWolf’s assertion that there is harmony there is harmony and tolerance.

    What is the distance from the “line” (largely defined by Interstate 94) south to your place in IA, Bob, about 300 miles or so? What kind of fencing do you have around your buffalo, is it enough to keep wolves out? If those wolves start moving south would you be up for an experiment testing your herd infrastructure protection theories for real?

  55. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I’d say the “harmony” is where the wolves in Minn. and Wisc. are allowed to live mostly unmolested…N. of “the line”. This is of course a lot more area of harmony than out west where there is no area of tolerance. That is the main difference I see.

    I don’t even see the farmers of S. minn. having that much hatred of wolves. They just quietly take care of agricultural impediments. One could even say they are a lot more grown up than the childish tantrum stomping ranchers…if one can be tolerant of what they are doing illegally.

    You got a bunch of zeros out there WM. Our Germans, I mean poachers are better than your Germans, I mean poachers (from the movie the Right Stuff).

    And as for those nasty wolves coming into my pastures I say, “bring em on” (quote from that cult president, George Bush). My boys (bulls) will have more fun with them than a hog has in a wallow.

    1. WM Avatar

      Again, bob, what kind of fence do you have – can a wolf or dog slip under the wire, or would they have to be let in? I have this vision in my mind of a pretty stout and high mesh sheep type fence with heavy posts, and maybe a hot wire, yes?

      I don’t have time to post it right now, but I found a small section in Valerius Geist’s coffee table book, “Buffalo Nation” (1996), which supports your view. If an opportunity presents I will quote or summarize. Also found a paragraph which said something to the effect of buffalo appearing nonchalant with wolves around, but really not, then when the wolves leave they run like hell for as much as 46 km before stopping to aviod them.

  56. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    By all means, lets compare those Shakespeare equivalent family social order quotes. I am your huckleberry. (I know, you caught me plagiarizing from the movie, Tombstone”).

    As for fences most are county type 5 barb wire construction. You see once “home” and family interaction with cousins etc. is established its more fun being around your buds than travelling afar. Not to say they never “get out” when a tree falls over a fence but with a few bb air gun shots they all go home lickety split.

  57. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    I accidently hit something on the key board, and viola I had a post.

    I was going to add, the “problem” we have is those young gun 4-6 year old healthy and majestic as can be males, starting their satellite herds of 15-25. I can stop this by humiliating this guy by chasing after him much further than needed once he is split from his followers but this act of forcing the followers to lose faith in him is unjust.

    Thus, I butcher all the satellite group. I wish I had the land base to allow this expansion to happen normally but alas boundary line fences are a part of my bison social order mangement. Those finest of fine young guns deserve better however…plus the spin off matriarchal don’t get to take part in the exciting life they could have before them.

    As for Giests accounts of bison running long distances from wolves, I’d say they were running back to the fort (the power group matriarchal core group). Also they could be probably getting out of this wolf packs home range. All the same what causes this panic to run so far? I’d say the indigenous peoples hunts “up there” are focusing on killing males…just like they do around West Yellowstone when the Nez Perce come in to shot buffalo. They go for the animal licensed to them that has the most meat.

    I doubt Geist even knew how to interprete what he saw. It is just, “Oh, look at them run, and run they did”. There you have it, a supposed esteemed herd biologist who has taken care of the present (see them run) applied science and followed up with a conclusion (and how they did).

    1. WM Avatar


      You make it clear you do not like Geist. But, if you read the three or so pages he writes -again this is a coffee table book- relying on journals from the likes of George Catlin and David Thompson (sorry no Col. Dodge), and more contemporary studies from a Dr. L.N. Carbyn, you might cut him some slack. He actually agrees with you for the most part.

      Here are a couple of quotes I found most interesting:

      “Observing wolves and bison in Wood Buffalo NP suggests, that contrary to appearance, bison pay close attention to wolves. Bison cows are sensitive to the predators, despite the fact that they act in a nonchalant fashion when wolves are around, even when there are wounded bison in the herd. …{They} are under so much pressure by wolves that about 1 percent of adults have lost their tails, and herds may run up to forty miles (64 km) nonstop to shake off pursuig wolves. And yet when a wolf shows up, the bison give every sign of ignoring it; when the wolf is gone, they leave.” (then some discussion about how from a survival standpoint making these long runs to avoid wolves is delicate balance due to the huge caloric cost of risk avoidance of this nature). {p. 64}

      “In Wood Buffalo NP today, wolf packs appear to ignore sick, incapacitated adult bison, even ignoring carcasss of adults that have died from disease. They prefer to go after bison calves. …. however, success is by no means assured because adult bison readily come to their defense. If cows with small calves are harassed by wolves and bull groups are around , the cows and calves may run to these groups for protection {same observation as Lott – cows/calves must take the initative}…. Attacks on cows/calves may last hours, but so may the spirited defenses by bulls.” {p. 65}

      Then there is discussion about young bulls coming to the fringes of cow/calf groups to charge out at wolves. There is a repeat of the earlier scenario – if a single wolf shows up and tries to attack or test the herd they will act nanchalant at the time. If the wolf leaves to get the rest of the pack for a full attack, the bison will make quick work to leave the area single file and go for some distance.

      Enjoyed the Western Producer article on you:

  58. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Oh boy, THE battle of the quotes. Not really opposing view point battle, I guess, but rather pushing a point home…in this case males actively protecting. (Roll of drums in the background and the spot lights are flashing). Well maybe not quite, but here goes as we pick up the fight on page 125 from Colonel Dodge’s The Plains of the Great West book of anothers witnessed account.

    “He (surgeon friend) was returning to camp one evening after a days hunt, when his attention was attracted by the curious action of a little knot of six to eight buffalo. Approaching sufficiently near to see clearly, he discovered that this little knot were all bulls, standing in a close circle with their heads outwards, while in a concentric circle at some 12-15 paces distance sat, licking their chaps in impatient expectancy, at least a dozen large gray wolves (excepting man, the most dangerous enemy of the buffalo).
    The doctor determined to watch the performances. After a few moments the knot broke up, and still keeping in a compact mass, started on a trot to the main herd, some half a mile off. To his very astonishment, the doctor now saw that the central and controling figure of this mass was a poor little calf so newly born as scarcely able to walk. After going fifty or a hundred paces the calf laid down, the bulls diposed themselves in a circle as before, and the wolves, who had trotted along on each side of their retreating supper, sat down and licked their chaps again; and though the doctor did not see the finale, it being late and the camp distant, he had no doubt but that the noble fathers did their whole duty by their offspring, and carried it safely to the herd”.

    There is more but enough for the first volley of my quotes. (drums roll again and fade into the distance).

    Now I ask, do we think this story is great and leave it at that or do we dig a bit deeper in cause and effect and ask why those bulls and calf were that far away from the herd in the first place. Were they baby sitting just like I saw happen many times in the park and on my farm or did this little guy get lost in the shuffle of herd movement and these bulls come back to rescue? Can’t say for sure but in this case I’d say the former. But then again I have seen the same number of mature herd bulls stay around a very little bull calf on my farm with the matriarchal component the same half mile off. This calf being with daddies I’m sure was there because mamma trusted this calf with those guys and thus the matriarchal herd grazed till further away from this calf with not a concern in the world. No wolves here on this Iowa farm however to see a repeat of the surgeons wtnessed predator-prey interaction.

    Now do we say this event or repeated events with buffalo is limited to just this species or can defense of herds
    happen also with herd animals such as elk? Maybe not the bulk of animal to say, “bring em on” but in other ways? Like warning the others or deflecting attacks by wolves?

    And regarding Wood Bison behavior with running away I’d say this defense is closer to their closer cousin the Mt. bison behavior than Plains Bison.

    As the war of words continues lets see where abstract thought leads “where no man has gone before”….at least I don’t have to worry about Dr. Geist lasting past the first round. How about you WM? I say follow the pack (of today’s herd biologists) and you die with that pack.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole