The Problem with Wildlife Services

The leaders in the war on wolves

When was the last time you heard about Wildlife Services talking about non-lethal methods of preventing livestock losses to wolves? The only place in Idaho that this is practiced is with the sheep passing through the Wood River Valley each year and by Lava Lake Land and Livestock but nowhere else has it even been talked about.  In their annual reports they talk about how they want greater latitude to kill more wolves rather than try to avoid conflicts in the first place.

The Problem with Wildlife Services.
Switchboard, from NRDC :: Andrew Wetzler






  1. jon Avatar

    Killing should always be the last resort, not the first Ken. Good article!

  2. jon Avatar

    Ken and others, what are your thoughts on wolf sterilization? Even wildlife services are considering it. I may not be crazy about it, but any non lethal methods are good in my book.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Wouldn’t that just go against what we are trying to do…have self sustaining populations? I don’t think the ranchers would go for sterilization since it wouldn’t stop the potential for predation.

      I just can’t believe they can be this open about what are essentially plans to exterminate the wolf over time, and not raise HUGE red flags with FWS, and the groups.

      I will was WAY past time the nationals who are doing wolf work started really going after Wildlife Services politically and legally.

    2. jon Avatar

      Maybe so Jim, but if I had to pick between killing wolves or wolf sterilization, I would go with wolf sterilization. As the wolf population gets bigger and bigger, more and more people are going to complain there are too many wolves and that they need to be controlled. Even some biologists have recommended wolf sterilization. It definitely beats killing wolves which I am 100% against.

    3. Jon Way Avatar

      Sterilization works in specific circumstances and there I agree with you Jon. It would work with individual packs esp. where WS spends ridiculous amounts of our tax paying money anyway gunning down wolves at likely a cost greater than the cattle that are actually killed. It is worth a shot with the understanding that it is done at a local (not state-wide) scale.

    4. Phil Maker Avatar
      Phil Maker

      IDFG has a policy against sterilizing wildlife (where is Mark Gamblin to enlighten us?), but I’m sure they’d make an exception for wolves. And this type of decision is not something that WS should be making- their involvement with wolf management is at the behest of state of ID. I don’t see how it could work though. WS would have to aerially, or otherwise, take out an entire pack except for the 2 dominant breeding animals. How would they do this? It would be exceedingly difficult for them from their gunship (there have been instances where they couldn’t even tell a collared wolf from one that was not) to determine which wolves those were, and even from a ground removal effort they’d be hard pressed to know when they had all the wolves but two. Would a “pack” of 2 wolves, sterilized or not, be able to hold down a territory over time if their neighboring pack(s) decided to encroach? It might be interesting to try it on a pack to see what would result, but as far as being a practical solution I can’t see it.

  3. Nancy Avatar

    A couple of weeks ago I drove by my neighbor’s calving area. Up on a little knoll (in full view of the main highway) was a dead cow. Worse yet, she was just a 50 yards or so from the main calving area. She laid there, all bloated up for close to a week before they covered her up.

    Drove by yesterday and there were a couple more dead cows piled there. How insane is that in an area where there has been wolf conflict?
    They certainly have the heavy equipment and manpower to bury these animals but instead, run the risk of attracting predators. Is it because WS is just a phone call away or as many of us suspect, old, arrogant habits are hard to break?

  4. Nancy Avatar

    jon Says:
    April 23, 2010 at 10:43 PM
    Ken and others, what are your thoughts on wolf sterilization? Even wildlife services are considering it. I may not be crazy about it, but any non lethal methods are good in my book.

    I’d much rather see humans begin to address their own over populations (because we are now close to 7 billion people on this planet) before we “play God” with other species, in whats left of wilderness areas.

    Not into quoting the “scriptures” (nor do I give a rat’s ass about a book written when humans had no concept of what evolution actually ment) but:

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

    , “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and SUBDUE it;

    This kind of ideology has never made any sense to me but it appears to be painfully clear out here in the west, because if it isn’t based on greed, its based on religion, when it comes to the ultimate control & management of other species.

    1. jon Avatar

      I’m with you 100%, but we humans are an arrogant and selfish species Nancy.

  5. Nancy Avatar

    And why is that Jon?

    Have we become so conditioned and pre-occupied with how we can benefit our own species, as in continuely gobbling up the land thats left out there, that we are blind to what we are doing to the rest of the species we share this earth with?

    1. jon Avatar

      We think the planet is ours for the taking. Look at India, 1000 tigers or less and over 1 billion people. We as a whole care about nothing, but our own needs. The planet doesn’t belong to us. We are visitors and the animals were here before us and I believe they will be here long after we are all gone. We think we are superior to all other species and that the other species don’t matter, but the truth is we are inferior. We do more damage to the planet than any other species Nancy.

  6. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    when talking about wildlife and the issues, problems or solutions, I don’t think we need to discuss scripture, that is a completely different subject that really does not belong on a wildlife blog.

    Many different people have many different beliefs about spirituality.

    Let, if I may ask, stick to the reason the blog was set up and that is wildlife and wild lands..

  7. Nancy Avatar

    And not what the real reasons might be behind its destruction Save bears?

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      You honestly believe that spiritual reasons are behind the destruction?

      Boy, I will be glad when Ralph gets back…

  8. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    And I will agree with Jon, humans are an arrogant and destructive species…

  9. Ken Cole Avatar

    Yeah, let’s leave scripture out of the conversation. Too much anger comes out when it’s brought up.

    1. Phil Maker Avatar
      Phil Maker

      With the ideology of the conservative/religious segment of society that certainly has influence over the decision-makers in states like ID, UT, WY, etc., I think Nancy’s on the mark with her Biblical quotations because some of that philosophy is taken very literally and affects these folks day-to-day lives. Do you think Sarah Palin’s attitudes about wildlife/natural resources aren’t partially derived from her fundamentalist beliefs regarding scriptural passages like those quoted?

    2. Jamie Archer Avatar
      Jamie Archer

      I have to agree with Nancy. We have to look at the underlying reasons why humans feel entitled to wipe out species they consider undesirable. We’re discussing sterilization for wolves but we don’t even begin to consider the same for humans, and we are the biggest threat to this planet by far. Most humans believe we have “God Given” rights and as long as we continue to believe that other species will be subjugated and at risk. It’s a sad world we live in.

    3. Ken Cole Avatar

      I feel the same way about the underlying reasons for how wolves/wildlife are managed, especially in Idaho. I guess it needs to be discussed but name calling and using scripture to justify things one way or the other isn’t going to last long on this blog. This just isn’t the place for it.

      Go forth and discuss but keep it in control. It is a delicate subject to many.

      Again, no name calling.

  10. Linda Hunter Avatar
    Linda Hunter

    Let me see if I can get this straight. . first ranchers leave nice beefsteaks laying around and wolves say hey lets move here! The wolves get big and fat on corn fed beef which is much fatter than elk. Next people decide to hunt wolves and the hunters go out and break down the pack structure and now the teenage wolves can multiply too. . so then humans decide to kill all the wolves or sterilize them and soon we are back to multiplying elk and deer who eat all the vegetation and then the bugs all die because they have nothing to eat . . the fish, the birds the people . . . so this sounds like correcting all our mistakes with yet another one.

  11. jon Avatar

    Ranchers should only get reimbursed in my opinion if they are willing to co-exist with wild predators like wolves, not call up wildlife services to have wolves killed. Wolves don’t know any better and you can’t fault wolves for going after the vulnerable prey farmers call cattle that are on public lands. cattle on public lands is basically an all you can eat buffet for the wolves.

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      What if they are on private land? Most cattle in Montana are on private land.

    2. Jeremy B. Avatar


      If a raccoon tears up my attic or deer eat my ornamental plants I don’t get a check from the government. I guess I don’t see why should ranchers be any different.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Actually Jeremy,

      There is a program in place to mitigate damages that are caused by wildlife, even for the if you know how to go about it, you can be reimbursed by the government.

    4. Jeremy B. Avatar

      Save Bears:

      Can you point me in the direction of said program? I am interested to learn more.

    5. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Just got to the FWP and search for wildlife depredation or wildlife mitigation programs, you will probably have to contact a cordinator to get details as it is not a standard advertised program..but they do have a mitigation program.

    6. Jeremy B. Avatar

      Well, it appears we (in Ohio) have a program to reimburse livestock producers for cattle/sheep lost to coyotes, but I can’t find any other reimbursement programs. Will ask the state extension person tomorrow.

  12. jon Avatar

    Well, that is a different situation. I rather not have them kill wolves, but it is going to be done no matter what I say or feel about it. I don’t know what ranchers have tried to prevent predators from eating their cattle, but there has to be some way to keep wild predators from getting to their cattle without resorting to lethal measures.

  13. Nancy Avatar

    Sorry Ken, didn’t mean to bring religion into it but I recently had a rancher (after watching the movie Earthlings) tell me that while the abuses at slaughterhouses certainly shouldn’t be condoned, animals were put here on earth by God, for man’s benefit. How much of that mentality is out there? And if they don’t care to police a part of their own industry, what chance does wildlife have?

    Ranching is a business, and with any business its your responsibility to insure it and protect it. You shouldn’t expect everyone else to cover your losses as in the huge $$ subsidies paid out & the millions paid out for WS and lets not forget the incredibly cheap grazing allotments on public lands. ($1.35 per cow/calf pair here in Montana)

  14. jon Avatar

    Jamie, you are 100% right, but human overpopulation seems to be a taboo issue that no one wants to bring up or talk about. We think we are the rulers of this world. We feel we can as as many babies as we want simply because it is a human right. As our population continues to grow, animals will suffer because of it.

  15. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I know we have discussed this a few times in the past, but how do you propose to convince people they should sterilize themselves and not have children?

    1. Jeremy B. Avatar

      People always seem to overlook the fact that most of Europe and North America have achieved zero population growth without any prohibitions on reproduction. In the US, immigration essentially accounts for population growth.

      Rather than sterilization, the conversation should be focused upon turning around incentives, such that they encourage people to have fewer children. For example, if–theoretically speaking–a country wanted to promote population replacement with zero growth, it could give substantial tax deductions for the first and second child, and then implement increasing penalties for additional children. Governments can use policy to promote zero population growth without implementing authoritarian measures.

    2. Jeremy B. Avatar

      If you’re interested, the link below provides a list of births/female by country. Somewhere around 2.1 births / female is the replacement rate (depends upon other mortality factors). You’ll notice that almost half of the world’s countries have a birth rate at or below population replacement.

  16. jon Avatar

    SB, you can’t. People are going to feel like it is a human right to have a many kids as you want.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Even if successful in convincing people, then we run into another issue, how do you ensure genetic diversity in the human population. The drive to reproduce is one of the strongest, no matter which species you talk about and that includes humans…

    2. Phil Maker Avatar
      Phil Maker

      Weak argument about human genetic diversity Save Bears- there are 7 billion of us and even if the world’s population were “reduced” to half that amount (which is way more in line with carrying capacity) I think that leaves plenty of opportunities for genetic mixing.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Ok Phil,

      It sounds like you guys want to argue…anyway, we know for a fact, we are not going to convince people to not have babies, so at this point in time, it is moot..

      And you think the carry capacity of the earth is only 3.5 billion, I sure would like to see some studies by published authors to back that claim up!

    4. jon Avatar

      SB, check out this interesting site.

      I usually am not one to speak about this problem even though I know it is a big problem that is rarely ever talked about, but I am worried about animal species going extinct because of of us.

      Forum: WHO and Population Growth. The WHO estimates the population to rise to 12 billion people and then stabilize in 2050-60. WHO says this proves that family planning works and all talk about collapse is just cultism – there is no cause for alarm. The WHO projection would make sense if the REST of the earth’s living community remained stable. Unfortunately in order to sustain a human population of 6 billion we are losing 70,000 species a year. We are in a period of mass extinction for which the human population is responsible. A human population of 6 billion is not sustainable; the living community cannot indefinitely sustain a loss of 70,000 species a year. As our population grows, the number of extinctions will increase. Our population might become stable at 12 billion but that does not mean the REST of the living community would be stable. And our survival depends on its survival. Some experts still have the ridiculous idea that humanity is separate from the rest of the living community.

      Global Population Too High..
      A New Zealand scientist from the Central Institute of Technology says the present global population of six billion people is about 30% more than the earth’s biological capacity to sustain present standards of living, but growth may not even stabilize at the projected 10 billion by the year 2050. There are 51 billion hectares on the earth’s surface, but only 1.3 billion hectares are available as arable land 3.3 billion hectares available as pasture land. The world needs to immediately reduce by 1/2 its carbon dioxide emissions, yet United Nations’ member countries have only agreed to reduce it by 5% by 2012. The United States puts out 20 tonnes of CO2 per capita, in comparison with New Zealand, which produces about four tonnes per capita.

  17. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    When I taught science in an Oregon high school I always showed a 3-4 minute movie (before videos and dvds) on world population. It showed one dot for each million people on earth – things moved slowly for thousands of years until the 1800s. It also projected into the farther future of 2000; Earth was packed. Kids frequently asked to see a movie backwards; this is the only one I ever did show during the rewind; year after year. The action is all over in the first few seconds; there is a bit of interest at the diminished population in centreal America while the natives are being killed off by the Spanish and or their diseases and in Europe during the plague during the reversal discussion. History includes a lot of information about past wars. They would postulate that populations could or would be kept in check that way. Tongue in cheek, I pointed out that if people quit having kids for the next 50 years the problem would be solved without blood shed. A few blinked and some pondered.

    Changing the tax laws to reflect preference for fewer children is another incentive that I have supported.

    Man having dominion is a frequent theme I hear from those wanting to control predators in particular and “game” species in general.

    I think people move around on Earth enough that we don’t need to worry about genetic diversity for humans in general.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      I am a biologist, and I am sure not an authority on world population, which many here seem to be, I concentrate on wildlife, I will let you all work on the humans..

  18. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    In my opinion, overpopulation by humans is the main problem facing all Earth species.

    1. jon Avatar


    2. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I also agree.

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      I didn’t say, I didn’t agree, we can all agree on the problem, but often times, that does not present the solution..

    4. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      I would like to think that there is a solution.

    5. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Barb I am sure you do, but, there is a long ways to go before any viable solutions present themselves, and I am not a pessimist, but I do happen to be a realist..

  19. jburnham Avatar

    I think the focus on overpopulation is misplaced.
    Consider: Consumption dwarfs population as main environmental threat

    Our (U.S.) population growth has been slowing, yet we continue to use more and more. By far, the most resources and most detrimental impacts on the planet come from a small percentage of the world’s population.

    see also: ecological footprint by country

  20. Linda Hunter Avatar

    If you haven’t seen it check out the story of stuff:

    It takes about 20 minutes and is enlightening in a very entertaining way.


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.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole