Wolf recovery target has changed, feds acknowledge

Bangs says recovery population goal for wolves in the Northern Rockies was changed-

Anti-wolf folks argue that a population goal deal (or promise) was violated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when it did not delist wolves in the Idaho, Montana and Wyoming as soon as the states had 300 wolves in total.  Project leader, Ed Bangs, however, said agency changed the goal to keep up with the best available science.

The 1987 goal (years before the wolf reintroduction actually took place) was 30 breeding pairs of wolves spread out over the three states. After reintroduction this was changed to 15 breeding pairs in each of the states and a population of at least 150 wolves in each state.  Bangs said that science showed the 1987 goal was too lean. He said understood that as soon as he took the job he now holds.

Anti-wolf groups have criticized pro-wolf wolf groups for going back on a deal, but there was no meeting, signing ceremony, or document where pro-wolf groups signed or were even asked to sign or support any document or goal. These groups didn’t even know if there would be an Idaho wolf reintroduction until a few months before the reintroduction took place.

Today there are about 1700 wolves and 115 breeding pairs. A rule of thumb has been developed that one breeding pair of wolves requires about 14 wolves on the ground.  Using the rule of thumb, that is about 650 wolves.  A few pro wolf group groups have suggested 5000 wolves are needed. This provides a lot of propaganda value for anti-wolf groups.

My view is that for a stable, solid wolf recovery, a widespread distribution of wolves (packs beyond those parts of of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where wolves are currently tolerated) is much more important than wolf population numbers. That means I don’t like the current delisting criteria.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Wolf recovery target has changed, feds acknowledge. Moving the goalposts is necessary to keep pace with science, they say. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
May 5, 2010



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  1. Virginia Avatar

    I believe these explanations by Ed Bangs clarify his position more and support the need to approach the wolf issue scientifically. I hope Judge Molloy is reading this article, as his earlier decision was based (if I remember correctly) on the lack of connectivity. Also, I wanted to thank Kathie Lynch for her update (I tried to comment on the link, but could not get in to the comment area.) The wolf situation in YNP area seems to be pretty complicated at this time and I am amazed at how she is able to document all of the changes in the packs.

  2. Rita K.Sharpe Avatar
    Rita K.Sharpe

    I would like to thank Kathie Lynch for her update,also.

  3. Ken Cole Avatar

    One thing that this article does not address is the ESA requirement that recovery should occur over a significant portion of the wolf’s historic range. The arbitrary boundaries created under the recovery plan are just that, arbitrary. They are not based on anything more than state boundaries and suitable habitats in many places are left out.

  4. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Just as a question, how do you define “significant” portion, if we are to recover over a significant’ portion, then we are virtually talking every where in the US, as the US was their range in the past…Not trying to start anything but just wondering who defines significant?

    1. WM Avatar

      Ken and JB,

      I have been troubled by the definition of “signficant” portion of its range,” as well. Here is my concern. Wolves were reintroduced, or repopulating (via migration from Canada) the NRM states and the Great Lakes states. Each of these states has what appears to be viable and genetically connected populations in their respective political boundaries and interconnecting ecosystems. At least, that is what they all assert. Each state wants their population of wolves delisted. Make no mistake, these wolves are not in trouble genetically.

      Now, the ESA requirement as defined by JB in his nicely done paper which I enjoyed reading, seems to suggest (and on this point he and I do not disagree) that the “significant portion of its range” is a desireable goal, and the ESA statute envisions range in much broader context than a recent Bush era 2007 Solicitor’s opinion.

      HOWEVER, the adjacent states or even the remote states which were historic ranges of these animals are, from a practical standpoint, the ONLY places where range can practically be expanded and restored to meet the legal requirement. Even if MT, ID and WY had every occupiable square mile saturated at, or above, carrying capacity, with wolves, the onerous “significant portion of its range” legal requirement arguably could not be met.

      ID has even gone as far as to offer some of its wolves to other states in a letter sent last year. Mostly, there were no replies, but it did receive a few formal rejections – thanks, but no thanks.

      My take on this is that these other reluctant states, and FWS (for not being more aggressive in reintroducing wolves to these other states), are unfairly holding ID, MT, WY back from delisting because, AND ONLY BECAUSE, these other states which constitute the balance of “significant portion of thier range,” where wolves would exist will not accept their share.

      Because these populations are not in trouble, and the DPS concept seems to be a viable basis to delist, Judge Molloy has a tool available to offer equitable relief to at least ID and MT (and maybe WY if it will get its act together on the stupid predator zone), with some instruction to FWS to work on aggressive expansion of “significant portion of their range” in adjacent states.

      Now UT, CO, WA and OR will probably go ballistic with such a proposal or legal decision, because none of these states is in any hurry to have wolves reintroduced for apparently the same reasons as ID, MT, WY, MN, WI, MI have struggled.

      Would this not be the equitable thing to do – get these other states to step up and accept the opportunity, responsibily and administrative burden of a taking their share of our furry friends, so that delisting can be accomplished and FWS can move on and work on species that are really, really, in trouble?

    2. Angela Avatar

      WM, there may be some ranchers and hunters that don’t want wolves in Oregon and Washington, but the majority of the people in these states do. There is no plan to reintroduce them because they are colonizing on their own from the north and east. Wolf packs are already in Washington and Oregon. Washington Department of Fish and Game has a draft management plan.
      and Oregon has had theirs since 2005.
      Dare I say it–Oregon and Washington have much more progressive attitudes regarding wildlife than Colorado and Utah.

    3. WM Avatar


      I am very much aware of what is going on in OR and WA. In fact, the WA draft plan was predicated upon a certain number of wolves, and translocation was a key management feature so they would not create problems in the discontinuous habitat which exists there. That plan EIS was conducted late last year. The livestock contingent on the plan working group bought into the draft plan based on a certain number of breeding pairs with an estimated population (as well as some very lucrative compensation provisions for depredated livestock). There is some waivering on that now, as I understand. With more information being revealed about alleged impacts on elk populations as seems to be playing out in the NRM, the WA Game Commission will get an ear full before a final plan is adopted.

      But, the clear point of my earlier comment is that until those surrounding states get their share of wolves to add to the necessary cumulative “significant portion of its range” the states with the most concentration of wolves cannot get theirs delisted. In that sense those states could be considered selfish, while they await the slow process of recolonization. It could be speeded up easily and with little cost. I would even venture to guess any of the three NRM states would trap, and maybe even transport at no cost, up to fifty wolves each to a new state, if it would get theirs delisted quicker.

      That is a hellofa lot cheaper than litigation, having outfitters go out of business and having to deal with the politics of the livestock lobby in their states.

    4. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      And when it comes down to it, Elk lovers don’t want to see elk killed by wolves, so where is the happy medium Jon?

    5. jon Avatar

      Yes, but the elk lovers do not need elk to survive, the wolves do and that is the difference. Both sides care nothing for science. A small amount probably do, but this is an emotional issue for both sides. Wolf lovers don’t want wolves killed and wolf haters want wolves killed so that they can kill the elk themselves. Do you think an outfitter whose business is hurting supposedly because of wolves is going to care about science? No, he wants wolves hunted down and killed period. Emotion is why this war between opposing sides will never end IN MY OPINION. The size of the wolf or where it comes from will never truly matter. If wolves kill animals that hunters want to kill, there is always going to be a problem.

    6. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Well I beg to differ, I depend on my ability to take elk to survive, but I am still not in favor of killing all of the wolves..and yes, I agree there are people out their that outfit, that depend on the elk hunt to survive, and I also understand there are people who have no concept of what I am talking about..

      But I can tell you, if I didn’t have the ability to hunt elk and deer, I would be in a very precarious position…

    7. jon Avatar

      sb, wolves depend on elk more. Unlike you, they have limited food choices.

    8. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      And you know that how Jon, you have no idea of how I live and what I depend on, that is pretty forward of you…I guess if I have a choice, I will just kill the wolves to ensure I have something to eat…be very careful the road you go down Jon, with attitudes like yours, it is no wonder some are taking to extremism, you are putting wolves above humans well being and I can guarantee that will go over like a lead balloon..as I said, there is no solution presenting itself and what is a shame, is those vehemently against wolves are very well armed, and no Judge in the world will be able to do anything to prevent that, as long as this continues..

    9. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      People are always preaching we should choose to eat healthier, well I have made that choice, I only eat commercial beef a couple of times a year, I depend on wild meat, it makes up over 95% of my families diet, I also grow my own organic vegetables, I eat grouse and other wild foul, I as an unemployed person, basically live off what I can provide for me and my family, the closest town to me currently is 35 miles, my property in Montana sits 55 miles from a town, my family depends on our ability to hunt, and grow our own stuff. My electricity is provided by solar as well as generator and batteries, I do have a land line phone in place. But I have done my part, and know a heck of a lot of others that do their part as well…and I have to say, I get darn tired of people saying that I can just jump on down to the store and pick something up…

    10. Jeremy B. Avatar


      I think there are several legal hurdles to delisting wolves, of which, the SPR issue is but one (we discussed the regulatory mechanisms threat the other day). One point that confuses lots of people: remember, a “species” under the ESA can refer to all of a species, a subspecies, or a distinct population segment. Thus, wolves in the NRMs are treated as their own species and “a significant portion of its range” refers to wolves’ range within the NRM DPS. The legal issue is what constitutes a “significant” portion of the wolf’s range within the DPS. In my view, FWS shot itself in the foot when it drew the boundaries of the DPS so large that the vast majority of the DPS is unoccupied by wolves.

      However, the issue on which Molloy indicated he was likely to rule against FWS concerns whether political boundaries can be used to delineate a DPS. At least one court has held that the boundaries of a DPS’ can not be based upon political boundaries because there is nothing about a political boundary that makes a population “distinct” from adjacent populations. However, one could argue (and FWS did) that the threats faced by wolves in one state (political boundary) are different than in others. This logic also led to wolves being listed as threatened in Minnesota while being listed as endangered everywhere else in the conterminous lower 48.

      Anyway, all of this just scratches the surface. What people can’t seem to grasp is that wolves have become THE test case when it comes to defining recovery. The reason conservation groups keep pushing is they are trying to set the bar high–not just for wolves–but for other species. Think about it; if all FWS needs to do to recovery a species is ensure that a viable population exists somewhere, then we have set the bar pretty low. If FWS can’t recovery wolves (perhaps the most charismatic species in NA) to more than ~5% of their former range within the lower 48, we will have set the bar pretty low for future recovery efforts.

    11. WM Avatar


      ++The legal issue is what constitutes a “significant” portion of the wolf’s range within the DPS. In my view, FWS shot itself in the foot when it drew the boundaries of the DPS so large that the vast majority of the DPS is unoccupied by wolves.++

      You may very well be right. I should have been more specific (I was just trying to simplify the issue in my earlier comment about respective states taking their share to lessen the burden of the others). The whole “species” differentiation (we are really talking about the same wolf in the three DPS’s and the current MT litigation raises that), and the DPS application linked with SPR is exceedingly complex in application. Congressional debate and whatever reports came out don’t seem to give clear direction on some of the more complex matters that have come up in interpretation of the Act, and particularly the DPS . Intuitively, I sense Congress had more practical implementation in mind than what we are tending to see come out of the courts so many years after passage of the Act. This works in favor of those with a more rigorous view of how the ESA should be interpreted.

      What I was attempting to convey was that flexibility – for example the DPS issue that was at the core of the Great Lakes litigation in the DC Circuit, is also rearing its head in a very big way now in the MT litigation – that being whether FWS could use a DPS designation to simultaneously create a DPS (defining an area where the species is NOT endangered, but elsewhere IS), and then delisting the DPS. See 6/2/09 Complaint paragraphs 29, 50 -52, 68, 85-102. I am sure I missed some as I haven’t looked at this stuff for awhile).

      This stuff is front and center in the lawsuit. It is just that everybody commenting here migrates over to discussion of the numbers and the genetic connectivity issues because they are easier to comprehend and debate, myself included. As I have said before the DPS related stuff is the meatier legal issue for Judge Molloy, and where he will likely get slapped around by an appellate court on appeal if he gets it wrong.

    12. JB Avatar


      I agree that the DPS issue is the “meatier” issue for the court. The problem–as I understand it–is that congressional record makes it pretty clear that the DPS was to be used to list endangered populations of species that were “distinct” from surrounding populations. Using a DPS to DElist a population seems to run counter to the intent of the law.

      My primary concern is that this will become yet another tool in the government’s kit for limiting listings and recovery efforts. If we step back from the complexity of the DPS issue and look at the big picture, Interior (via the Solicitor’s Mem.) is essentially pushing back against the courts, trying to argue for maximum flexibility in how FWS interprets the law. The problem is that this flexibility never seems to be used to increase protection for species; thus, more flexibility = less protections, fewer listings, etc. (and not just for wolves).

  5. JB Avatar


    Several authors have taken up the task of defining the phrase. I posted a complete (to my knowledge) bibliography a while back. Let me know if you’d like me to re-post the citation list. Also, we tried to summarize the controversy and how it arose in a relatively short article: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/cleaning_up_the_bush_legacy/pdfs/Bruskotter_and_enzler_2009.pdf

    Another issue that has arisen with the latest NRM Final Rule is that FWS read the word “suitable” (as in a significant portion of suitable range) into the ESA. This word does not appear anywhere in the Act, yet it is used to dismiss half of the NRM recovery area as “unsuitable” for wolves–mostly because of the presence of livestock.

    1. WM Avatar


      Is there any public access to your expanded article in the UVA Env. Law Journal?

    2. Jeremy B. Avatar

      If you have Lexis Nexis Academic. Or feel free to email me and I’ll send it your way.

  6. jon Avatar

    My opinion is that no matter how many wolves there are, it will always be too many for some people who clearly do not like wolves. I imagine even if there were 100 wolves in each of the 3 states, that would be considered too many by some. You are never going to win with these wolf haters. Deals are made to be broke. That supposed deal of a certain # of wolves in each state was probably made 10 plus years ago. Things change as time goes on and science changes as well. 100 wolves in each state? No wolf biologist would go along with this absurd thinking, not now anyways.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      The key is Jon, there are never going to be enough for a certain segment of the population and there is always going to be to many for another segment of the population, now the question is, how do we come to a compromise, that seems to be the evasive question now. There will have to be a happy medium at sometime in the future, but right now, neither side seems to be able to define what the happy medium will be..so we will continue to be in a conundrum!

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      And I agree, you are never going to win with the wolf haters and your never going to win with the wolf lovers, so the rift grows wider every day..

    3. jon Avatar

      SB, that is right!

    4. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      My biggest worry, is in the future, there are going to be a whole bunch of people in the woods with guns, that will shoot any wolf on sight that they see and let them lay, sure you will catch a few, but never the majority, the guys that brag are not the ones to worry about, it will be the guys with the most backwoods knowledge that will just shoot them and go on with their business. There is a war brewing, another one of those wars of the west, which will be a shame..

      Once it gets going, there is no Judge in the country that will be able to stop it, unfortunately…….I would sure like to see both sides trying to work to the middle, but everybody is just to dang polarized at this point in time…neither side sees the other giving an inch…and one of my biggest fears is that somebody is going to end up getting killed over this…

    5. jon Avatar

      SB, I believe that is already happening and it will continue to happen whether there is a legal hunting season or not. If Molloy rules to relist wolves, you can bet your bottom dolllar you are going to see wolves killed. SSS will be in full effect. Thank god wolves don’t stay in the same place for a long time and are always on the move. Makes it harder for those wolf haters to catch them and shoot them dead. I also believe in my opinion is that both sides will never agree on this issue. I guess now with the wolf hunting seasons over for now, one might consider letting these hunting seasons happen a balance to please those who do not like wolves, but the wolf lovers did not want this hunting season to happen even though the hunting seasons didn’t put a dent in the wolves overall #s, but the thing that separates us from the wolf haters and the reason why I believe both sides will never see eye to eye and come to an agreement is because we care about the lives of individual wolves, so hunting seasons on them is a no no in our eyes.

    6. WM Avatar

      ++neither side sees the other giving an inch…and one of my biggest fears is that somebody is going to end up getting killed over this…++

      And that is why this controversey begs for creative flexible solutions, which I do not believe are possible with strict construction interpretation of the ESA.

      Reasonable people can differ in their views and come to compromise. But the folks at the fringes – pro and anti – whose passions run deeper than their common sense (including their lawyers) will continue to escalate this issue.



      You were making sense for awhile, there, and then you went into this “lives of the individual wolves” business. Unless there is recognition that in order to manage or control populations and distribution, there will inevitably be killing or harvesting of individual wolves, the conflict will not abate. That was always intended from the start of introduction. If purists believe that wolf populations should be allowed to expand unfettered by other social constraints, they should have lobbied for no wolves at all. That way there would be no moral conflict or whatever drives this uncompromising vision of “caring about the lives of individual wolves” to the point of not allowing any to be killed. Indeed, it is a conundrum, which only purist wolf advocates, with that view, can resolve for themselves by adjusting their values, as difficult as that might be. You can only push this heavy rock uphill for so long.

    7. SAP Avatar

      Well, shooting wolves on sight is one thing, and I agree that they’ll get harder to hunt after awhile. Let’s not forget the criminal Tim Sundles and his ilk, roaming around incompetently trying to poison wolves. I don’t want to live in a police state, nor do I want to live in fear that my dogs are going to get poisoned while we’re out in the hills. But I agree with SB and others: there are a lot of angry people out there, talking only to each other, and coming up with their own “facts,” and urging each other to take action.

      I can’t tell if these extremists are for real, or they spend all their time in front of their computers and going to meetings.

    8. jon Avatar

      And that is why wm there will most likely never be a balance between both sides. Wolf lovers don’t like seeing wolves killed period. Wolf lovers don’t want a hunting season on wolves period. Maybe a small minority do, but I am confident in saying the majority don’t. We don’t want to see wolves killed period by hunters and their guns. This is why one of the biggest reasons why both sides will never get along and come to an agreement.

    9. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Well if we could ever get to a point of managing based on science and not emotion, we might have a hope, but as long as those who love elk and those who love wolves continue, there will never be any balance at all, and that is a fact of life, on both sides of the issue, these are wild animals, that have been manipulated by the hand of man, look at the science and not the emotion…

    10. Elk275 Avatar

      Jon, et al

      Save Bears talks about how his family lives on wild game as their only source of meat. There are a number of families that are in the same situation in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho and other states and providence’s. Even in modern America there are a number of people in the same situation some by choice and others not by choice, hunting has a subsistence need

      There is a very good book that one should read, it is “In the Wilderness” by Kim Barnes, ISBN 0-385-47820-8. Today Kim is a professor of creative writing at the University of Idaho. The book is about her and her families life in the logging camps on the Clearwater River in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. “In the Wilderness” is about the wilderness that her father help saw down and truck out, and when it was sawn down, they company moved over to the next hill and into new wilderness. Then one day her father realized that the wilderness was not endless. It is also a metaphor of her coming of age and her parents conversion to Pentecostalism.

      The book has approximately 15 pages about hunting elk and deer for food. Here is a small passage:

      “My father and uncles filled their deer and elk tags, and then those bought in the their wives’ names. Night after night they came through the door, a haunch or back strap thrown over their shoulders, or the full body of a yearling, lean and tender. The women worked at the counter and table spread with butcher paper, trimming and boning. Whatever meat was left after the steaks and roasts were cut was fed into the hand-cranked grinder and mixed with pepper and sage for sausage.” These people needed all of the elk they could kill.

      Kim did a reading 12 plus years ago in Bozeman’s County Bookstore and after reading awhile, she asked if anyone wanted another passage read. I said, “read something about hunting because you have captured the essence of modern day subsistence hunting in your book”. She hesitated, hummed then hesitated again and said “No, I read several passages about hunting before an audience in San Francisco several months ago and a number of people walked out”. I said “this is Montana and we hunt” She hesitated and then read a passage about hunting. These are people that are and would have been very adversely effected by wolves.

      A month or so ago we talked about the down turn of elk numbers in the Lolo region. Whether is it wolves or a natural downturn, it has and is effecting people and there lives and wolves have not helped the situation. Whether they are the cause of not. Today there are food stamps and the grocery is not that far away, but people have pride and their way of life. A life that they do not want to change because of outside interest or extreme wolf lover’s wanting to try to establish a balanced eco system. An eco system that has been changed maybe not for the better, but it has given us education, health care and security. The remaining eco system and wild lands that must be protected for future generations. But this wolf extremism is going to change what political chances we have for the future protection of our remaining wild lands.

    11. Jeremy B. Avatar

      “Reasonable people can differ in their views and come to compromise. But the folks at the fringes – pro and anti – whose passions run deeper than their common sense (including their lawyers) will continue to escalate this issue.”

      For the most part, I agree. However, we are guilty of perpetuating this conflict when we adopt an “us vs. them” or “wolf-lovers vs. wolf-haters” frame. Proponents of wolf-delisting are not necessarily proponents of wolf eradication anymore than supporters of relisting are necessarily against all hunting of wolves. Some people want public land to produce more elk, some want fewer elk and fewer wolves, others don’t want any livestock. This issue has many dimensions, and the people who are interested in it hold many different motivations.

      Personally, I don’t believe the actions of groups like Defenders are extreme in the least. They are attempting to make recovery under the ESA mean more than simply restoring a viable population somewhere in the wilderness. The fact that wolves are the species in question is both convenient (insomuch as they are good for fund raising) and inconvenient (because they are controversial).

      Unfortunately, all of this complexity is lost as people’s tempers rise, and their self-righteous anger overwhelms their common sense.

  7. Elk275 Avatar

    Check this out. People are getting mad and they will demand a change in the law. If a guide and hunter spend several days on horse back and never cut a track where elk have always been then there is something wrong.


  8. JimT Avatar

    “Strict Interpretation of the ESA”? What the hell does that mean? The heart of ESA is science, and if the science changes as time goes on, so too do the decisions. Maybe those who think they have this ironclad agreement over 20 years old now of “300” are confusing it with that animated movie The 300..movies are done; nature is an ever moving target.


    It used to be that hunting was no guarantee you would get “yours”; now, the game industry sells the poor schumks on the idea you WILL get an elk, and of course, it is never natural changes or the vagaries of chance that would result in not getting their trophy..it is the Four Legged BoogeyWolf….I now know how urban legends persist…

    I was in Tucson for a few days, and saw THE WALL. It is shameful, unnecessary even to the Border Control agents we talked to, and a major impediment to restoration of the Mexican wolf and jaguar. Never thought I would see the day when we had our own Berlin Wall. So, does that mean now Russia’s leaders get to chant “Mr. President, tear down that wall?” ;*)

    1. WM Avatar


      I said “strict construction” interpretation. Read the comment again. You know, sport, it is a legal term for statutory interpretation by a judge, or did you not cover that concept in law school? Maybe you can look it up in Wikipedia, if you don’t understand it. That is what the hell it is! You missed the point of the comment, Jim. It had nothing to do with the science. It had to do with flexibility in apply law to real world scenarios not especially anticipated by the drafters. It is fine if you disagree with me, but at least make the effort to understand the framework of the analysis. As usual, you let your emotion get in front of your brain.

      Regardless of the “heart of the ESA is science,” it was a creation of well-meaning, but imperfect elected officials who were at the forefront of the environmental movement. There were (are?) alot of things legislators don’t get right when they first draft stuff. Happens all the time. There are lots of examples of that throughout our federal and state laws. That is what keeps them busy.

    2. WM Avatar


      …As usual, you let your emotion get in front of – the thinking part- of your brain.

      Just like I hit the Enter button before completing my own thought.

    3. JimT Avatar

      Geez, WM, the law school I went to usually referred to “strict construction” in terms of Constitutional law, and other jurisprudential concerns in the context of precedents,stare decisis, activist judges, And actually, Sport, if you are familiar with the typical analysis chain of any legal issue, the first rule is READ THE STATUTE. It matters greatly that this statute is based on the best available science, not cost benefit analysis, or best available technologies, or other standards found in federal environmental laws. Caselaw matters, of course, but you were the one to call for a strict “construction” of the ESA, and that to me, looks to the plain language and intent of the statute. So, perhaps, YOU should rethink your approach. Perhaps you meant that you wanted the current relisting case to be bound by some MOU with arbitrary numbers that subsequent science have shown are inaccurate for today’s conditions.

      As for castigating the imperfect way legislation gets crafted, I don’t see the point. You seem to be arguing for a contemporary interpretation of laws to reflect current conditions with that statement, and yet you seem to want to freeze the ESA to a strict “construction” So, which is it? Are you a Scalia guy, with time frozen, or are you someone who believes laws should reflect current reality. ?

      Yeah, I have always been the kind of lawyer who believes you don’t check your values and emotions at the door. Perhaps your training taught you to be the proverbial hired gun,and check those things at the door. I spent some time with one of the main lawyers on the Spotted Owl cases this past week, and passion and emotion is what allows environmental lawyers to beat the legions of corporate shills on the other side who are “just doing their jobs”.

  9. jon Avatar

    SAP, I think a good majority of those “extremists” are just angry and make empty threats. I’m sure some of them are angry enough to go out there and start killing wolves.

    1. SAP Avatar

      Probably true. There is so much rhetoric of victimization out there right now — not just with anti-wolf folks, but a whole lot of Tea Party rage is about feeling victimized and not taking responsibility for oneself (which is ironic, considering how much they also talk about responsibility and self-reliance). My, how far we have not come.

      I googled Tim Sundles; this interview of three years ago was very telling for his lack of contrition, making himself out to be a heroic loner (a la Ayn Rand’s “Galt”?), the bad ol’ feds as the REAL criminals (cf OJ Simpson hunting for the “real killers”), and demonizing the “tree-huggers” for posting death threats on his now-defunct website.


      This self-righteous, grandiose rhetoric is a little worrisome.

      Tell you what, I’m no tree hugger, but if someone hurts my dog, there will be a reckoning.

    2. Layton Avatar

      “Tell you what, I’m no tree hugger, but if someone hurts my dog, there will be a reckoning.”

      This is OK ?? Then, by the same token, is it OK for someone to take the law into their own hands when THEIR dog is harmed/killed by a pack of wolves?

    3. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Are you so blind to not realize, those on the opposite side of this issue view YOU as an extremist?

    4. Moose Avatar

      “This is OK ?? Then, by the same token, is it OK for someone to take the law into their own hands when THEIR dog is harmed/killed by a pack of wolves?”

      Interesting response Layton, are the illegal actions of a human (i.e., Sundles or someone like him attempting to poison/shoot wolves and ends up killing someone’s pet) on the same moral and legal plain as an animal (who happens to be a territorial predator) killing someone’s pet? You seem to be drawing some sort of equivalacy there. I don’t know him, but ELK appears to be a reasonable person, and I don’t believe he was talking about taking the law into his own hands…though he may want to clarify that himself.

    5. SAP Avatar

      Ah, Layton, I’m so glad I didn’t specify any particular reckoning!

      I worry about wolves every time I’m out with the dogs; and where I live that could be anywhere — there’s a pack of 12 within two miles of town. I have bells on the dogs and keep them close, because I hate to imagine what my response would be if wolves did kill one of them. I’m afraid I’d go all Liver-Eatin’ Johnson on wolves if they did.

      Bells, voice control, and pepper spray are reasonable precautions in my book. What reasonable precautions could I take against Sociopath Sundles and his Temic meatballs? Muzzle my dogs? Carry a stomach pump?

      Leaving poisons around on the landscape is cowardly, cold-hearted, and sick.

      Jeff N & Moose are correct about the moral issue here, too: we can’t expect wolves to make moral choices. They do what they do. I expect to be able to defend myself & my animals against wolves if the situation arises, but vigilantism against ALL wolves unfair (and that kind of bitter mission never seems to satisfy a person).

      People, though, have choices, and are to be held accountable for those choices. I expect to be able to hold my fellow humans to a higher standard, Layton.

    6. SAP Avatar

      I think it’s interesting that you seem to make dog poisoining into an “Us vs. Them” issue, Layton. Or am I misreading you?

    7. Layton Avatar

      Ho boy,

      First of all, I was NOT equating a misguided attempt by a lowlife like Sundles with anything, I was merely going on what SAP said – the part about “if someone hurts my dog, there will be a reckoning.”

      To me there is very little difference between some idiot throwing poison around and a pack of wolves nabbing the family pet out for a stroll in the woods – none – both are things that shouldn’t happen.

      Yet, on this blog, many times, I have seen comments that would indicate it’s OK for a wolf to kill that pet. The difference in attitudes amazes me.


      I’m glad to see you admit that your tendency would be the same as mine if one of my dogs were attacked. Your precautions make good sense. Nope, not trying to make this an “us vs. them” just pointing out that both types of attacks on a pet could/should elicit the same response from the owner.


      Because the killer/attacker happens to be a “territorial predator” makes the harm to one’s dog OK?? I guess you think that people and their pets should just move away when the wolves show up — not my viewpoint, that’s why I asked the question.

      Jeff N.,

      I can assure you that your assessment of my intelligence is something that I give very little thought to. Personal attacks are cheap shit when they aren’t earned.

    8. jon Avatar

      Layton, you said, To me there is very little difference between some idiot throwing poison around and a pack of wolves nabbing the family pet out for a stroll in the woods – none – both are things that shouldn’t happen.

      Uhm no, it’s a wolf’s natural instinct to go after other animals. I would think it is not natural for a man to put poison out just to kill animals he clearly doesn’t like. The man understood what he was doing and he still did it anyways. He was wrong. You going to blame the wolves for acting on their natural instincts?

    9. SAP Avatar

      Thank you, Layton. I would be very upset if anything happened to my dogs, regardless of who/what did it.

    10. Layton Avatar

      “Uhm no, it’s a wolf’s natural instinct to go after other animals. I would think it is not natural for a man to put poison out just to kill animals he clearly doesn’t like. The man understood what he was doing and he still did it anyways. He was wrong. You going to blame the wolves for acting on their natural instincts?”


      If I really wanted to “get down to the basics” I could point out that Sundles and the wolves are BOTH evidently “acting on their natural instincts”. Sundles should have had his “natural instincts” altered by his punishment for the crime and (IMHO) the wolves should have their “natural instincts”sharpened up a bit by the recent hunting season.

      When you get right down to it, man AND wolves are predators – they both have some of the same instincts. Wolves protect what they see as their territory, humans have a tendency to do the same thing – to protect their territory and “their” prey.

      ‘Cept us human critters are more inclined to suppress our “natural instincts” 8)

    11. Moose Avatar


      I believe if your pet is attacked by a wolf you have the right to defend it by lethal actions if necessary. But as SAP stated above, revenge on wolves in general is not “OK”. And, NO I don’t feel that people should move away if wolves show up. Most people I know who live in wolf country never see one – I have property in UP of Mich – nothing but forest.

      I have no problem with a wolf hunt – I feel the Great Lakes wolves should of have been delisted years ago…. I feel like my stance is kinda in the middle of this “fight”.

      Your theory on human instinct reminds me of a short story that riffed off Orwell’s “Some animals are more equal than others”….it was “Some humans are more evolved than others”. It was very funny.

      So, is a terrorist blowing up an airplane of Girl Scouts the same as a wolf snatching fido while you’re out huntin?

      just kiddin a kidder, man

  10. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Layton…there you go again, you misguided fool. If I understand your rationale..or rather lack thereof….You are equating a pack of wolves acting out of territorial instinct, to a human being of supposed superior intelligence and reasoning capabilities, illegally and intentionally scattering poison laced meatballs in the forest to kill wolves. Resulting in the indiscriminate poisoning Fido, as well as other wild critters.

    Your posts have lead me to the conclusion that on the pecking order of intelligence you rate right behind Fido.

  11. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    The significant portion of the range is so hard to define, (if there is a definition at all). I seem to remember that when the reintroductions were planned in the Northern Rockies, there was talk of the Olympic Peninsula and Colorado. Why were those not pursued more? It seems like it would be smarter to have more populations in other areas to really achieve recovery.

    1. WM Avatar


      Olympic Peninsula was initially dismissed, if I recall even the Park Service weighed in. Then the WA plan came out, affirming this. EIS comments seemed to suggest there was interest in it again. Olypmic Park Associates has advocated for some time, but had only luke warm reception. Characteristics of desired wolves has been in question, maybe even some BC coastal wolves that like salmon. Will always be a problem with genetic connectivity because of the discontinuous habitat, and will likely require substantial translocation, if I understand correctly.

      CO, which has the largest elk population in the West, has definitely been a sleeper for some reason. Rocky Mtn. NP formally stated they would not support an introduction (2/09, I think). Wolves have been slow to move south from WY. A few more wolves showing up, so far mostly on private land on the West slope. Nobody is jumping up and down screaming…. yes, yes, we want them! Go figure.

  12. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    WM, it seems like the Division of Wildlife is very anti-predator (they are the same with grizzlies). You have to wonder what kind of a stranglehold the livestock industry and/or hunting groups have in that state. The reason I had asked the questions was why Colorado was not pursued more aggressively. The Northern Rockies have enough anti-wolf people I guess I would figure Colorado would be less so due to people in the Front Range Urban Corridor possibly not being so anti-wolf.

    1. Rick Hammel Avatar
      Rick Hammel

      A few years ago DOW convened a “Wolf Working Group.” IT was dominated by ranchers and hunters. There were about 4 pro-wolf members and 6 anti-wolf members as I remember. The outcome was fairly reasonable, considering. The main facilitator was the ESA guy for DOW and he had a lot of influence over thew outcome.

  13. Cody Coyote Avatar

    Thankfully , due to the lawsuits and imbroglio, the expat Wyoming wolves were able to breed and den and whelp one more season with little encumberance.

    The next Anti-Wolf Rally to be ” hosted” by the Outfitters Cabal will be in my town of Cody WY on Saturday , May 22 , midday , City Park on main street.

    I sincerely hope it isn’t all anti-wolf. Some representation from wolf advocates would be a nice counterbalance to the fiery rhetoric of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife , who are driving this rally on the pretense ( and it is largely just a pretense) that wolves are severely impacting their commercial elk hunting business. Meanwhile, elk herd counts continue climbing…

    Hope to see some of you there.

    1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I should try to make it. It’s a bit of a drive for me though. Are there some other pro-wolf people going that you know of?

    2. Cody Coyote Avatar

      PW—No other pro-Wolf people that I am aware of are planning to walk into the fray at the Cody Anti-Wolf Rally. I’m about the only person around willing to even speak pubilcally for wolves on any given day . Not sure that’s gonna happen if a hostile crowd of 300 outfitters won’t hear a word of it, regardless. The Jackson anti-wolf rally was about 300-to-2 in favor of wolf haters.

      By the way , one of the very most strident anti-wolfers just announced he’s running for Park County Commission, and he will very likely get elected. that wold be one Joe Tilden , President of the local chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, former ( or maybe current) outfitter and has a long record of public service. But his group, SFW, is a political lobby and very anti-wolf. They only do enough hands-on conservation work to keep up their credentials, like hauling a few round bales of hay to the National Elk Refuge and calling themselves wildlife conservators. On the other hand, they run a private Coyote bounty program…$ 25.00 per coyotre turned in by a member of SFW. It used to be $ 50 to anyone who brougt in a coyote , member or not.

      Tilden claimed in announcing his candidacy that he ” has no axes to grind” , but the truth is it’s only becasue he ground them to a pile of metal filings, and is now starting in on his sledge hammers. ( He’s reserving the shovels for future SSS use, no doubt ).

      I’d say offhand that the Cody WY area is 95+ percent anti-Wolf. Which is why I mentioned that the rally needs a few more pro-wolf voices, if possible.

    3. Jon Avatar

      Cody, did you see that guy holding the humans are the pest sign? Did you talk to him or see him?

    4. Jon Avatar

      Cody Coyote, check out this video. RH posted one of these videos from this fellow on youtube.

    5. SAP Avatar

      Wow! Quite a video!

      8:55, the hatted guy telling the hippie about how the environmentalists signed “on the paper.”

      Come on, won’t ANYBODY fess up to being at that signing ceremony?

    6. jon Avatar

      SAP, I would have gone if I lived in WY, but I don’t. I think we need pro wolf people going to these rallies who know what they are talking about. I believe cody coyote said he will be at the next anti-wolf rally in Cody, WY and I believe pro wolf in WY said he might go as well.

    7. jon Avatar

      I also wanted to point out that wolf expert Mike Jimenez was at the last anti wolf rally in Jackson. He chatted with hunters and start giving them the facts, but as expected, hunters only like their own facts and care nothing for what an expert has to say. I believe Mike might be at this upcoming anti-wolf rally in Cody.

    8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      I confess; I was at the signing ceremony. It was at the Leaky Cauldron.


    9. Cody Coyote Avatar

      I just watched that “Why do you love wolves” YouTube video. It’s awful. I’ll never have those 10 minutes back. Except for the opening and closing credits it’s downright bad filmmaking, and that’s before you realize it’s wholly propaganda, negatory on the wolf. The one enviro they key in on , presumably the wolf lover, certainly doesn’t speak for anyone other than himself. I would be embarrassed for him , were it not for the fact he detracts from the discourse by escorting it to the fringe. ( Not that the outfitter types on camera were any more illuminating of the wolf issue.) I sure do get tired of seeing the photos and clips of bloody disemboweled elk. I guess nobody films their own gut piles and bone sawing. I should have some old 8mm movies of my family’s 1950’s communal elk butchering parties converted and uploaded. Of course we could send a film crew to any modern slaughterhouse and watch them do their fine work on the killing floor and on down the line… or all the neighborhood crematoriums disguised as Weber gas grills.

      Bottom Line : not one iota of a useable fact to be gleaned from that tragic YouTube movie , but regrettably typical of the emotional bombast that takes up far too much volume in the Great Wolf Debate.

    10. jon Avatar

      That is why people like you need to be there Cody just incase these wolf haters try to interview you. Unfortunately, that guy they interviewed really had no clue as to what is going on. You on the other hand do.

    11. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      This Joe Tilden sounds like Palin.

  14. Nancy Avatar

    For anybody that missed this discussion the link is below.

    (Its interesting that 7 years later, there still is no clear answer as how to handle this situation)

    Dean Miller: I think the, the overarching question is that when Teddy Roosevelt, I keep coming back to Teddy, but I love Teddy, when the conservation movement started, the idea was that we were sort of these zookeepers. We were stewards of scarce wild animals that were way the hell off in the back country and the fact is that now you really, there is no such thing as a separate human and wild world, those, those two worlds are colliding on the edges of all these western cities. And the question again I keep going back to you, but the question to you is what are you willing to give up? Because it’s a really easy myth to say that I can send my money to the Sierra Club or I can send it to the Defenders or I can send it to the Nature Conservancy or whoever and I’ve taken care of the problem, but the fact is you are the problem. I mean Julia Butterfly was pretty interesting when she tied herself up in a redwood and protected that tree and what I’m waiting for is somebody who ties themself up at the end of a subdivision and, and talks about the fact that suburban soccer moms are the problem. People who want to put their kids in a safe nice neighborhood are developing all this habitat and it really is not somebody else’s problem anymore it’s everybody’s problem. We focus on the ranchers, and the loggers and the miners and there’s a lot they can do. But the fact is all of us are making decisions that are costly to these critters. We want to drive fast, we want to get to Yellowstone Park and then we want to scoot over to Butte for some, I don’t know what it is. But we have to make those decisions and I think the fact is, the world is changing. We’ve gone from an era of conservation and stewardship to an era in which we have to co-exist and this is why we wrote the book about cougars because like somebody said here, it’s a different question. They come right in around town and they force folks who don’t usually deal with wildlife questions to ask themselves am I willing to be a little less safe and have this critter in the world? And it’s a very real question. Yeah there aren’t a lot of attacks, but a lot of those statistics are a canard, if you took the number of people who went to the wildlands in a year and calculated the attack rate, it’s not like calculating lighting strikes or bee stings, bees are everything. But if you just take the number of people who went into bear or cougar habitat it’s a fairly high rate. It’s still you still are taking a lot more risk driving your car, but we haven’t run advertisements on TV constantly saying you know beware in cougar country, take some precautions. When we get to the point of doing that then we’ll be having a real discussion with real voters about living amongst predators and they’ll making a decision based on some facts. Right now we pretend that they’re out there away, they’re not, they’re here all that habitat stuff is happening on the edges of every town that people live in.


  15. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    On another thread, I posted a rather long comment that I had originally posted on NewWest in response to a column by Bill Schneider that tried to reframe the issue of wolves away from numbers to distribution and density. I never got any responses from anyone here. Should I post it again?

    In any case, I agree with Ralph–the issue scientifically and legally is one of distribution, not numbers. My argument is that with widespread distribution of relatively stable packs, specific places only needed low densities of wolves. Remember the book Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare? Isn’t that the natural condition we are trying to replicate? This situation is compatible and indeed demanded by the ESA.

    I also agree with JB that the meaning of “significant portion” of range (SPR) means historical range. That’s the range driven by the species’ evolution–biology and ecology. The SPR of the black footed ferret is way different than the SPR of the gray wolf. So yes, the SPR of the gray wolf is North America.

    I am having a hard time giving any credence to the claim that wolves are imposing additive mortality on elk. I can ride in any direction here in the Dubois area–the Upper Wind River Valley–and cut recent elk tracks, find fresh elk sign, see bands of elk. Trend counts of local elk made by the Wyoming G&F Department on winter range are more or less stable, although bull-cow ratios are a lower than I’d like, and I think that’s driven more by commercial overhunting than by wolves. The big change from wolves locally has been to change distribution and density.

    We’ve had two more or less stable packs in the Upper Wind River Valley for over a decade, despite the frequent WS aerial depredations, although there appears to be one trying to form in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness, which is long overdue. There are quite a few elk in there.

    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for outfitters who have overhunted their areas year after year after year and are now determined to blame their poor choices on wolves.


  16. JB Avatar


    Sorry I missed your post on the other thread. I’d like to see your comments.

    – – – – –

    FYI: This article is in the most recent issue of JWM, which is not yet available on line. It is an interesting read, so those of you with access to journal articles through your libraries may want to take a look.

    Smith, D.W. et. al. (2010). Survival of Colonizing Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains of the United States, 1982–2004. Journal of Wildlife Management, v. 74 issue 4, p. 620.

  17. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Here it is:

    “The Endangered Species Act calls for the restoration of threatened and endangered species to a “significant” portion of their (historic) range. The word “historic” doesn’t appear in the law but “historic” is logically and scientifically inseparable from “significant,” for reasons I’ll get to below.

    When the Fish & Wildlife Service wrote its first implementing regulation for the ESA, it interpreted the law and congressional intent to require restoration to historic ranges. This interpretation remained in place for over thirty years until the Bush administration illegally tried to reinterpret “range” to mean only “currently occupied” range to limit the biologically necessary but politically volatile expansion of such species as the wolf or grizzly bear. However, this latter day interpretation violates the restorative intent of the ESA and the biological and ecological needs of previously wide ranging species such as the gray wolf or the grizzly bear.

    In other words, the ESA does not envision the restoration of endangered and threatened species to geographical “zoos,” especially with such historically wide-ranging species as the wolf. It envisions restoration of species to their historic habitat, not currently occupied habitat.

    Wolves didn’t evolve in geographic zoos; until their extermination began with the first American colonists in the 17th century they were spread all over North America. They are a North American species–not a Rocky Mountain or Great Plains or Upper Midwest or New England or Southern or Southwestern or Pacific Northwest or Canadian species. Wolves are a continental species.

    This means that their genetic diversity and long term survival depended–and depends–upon local adaptations to many different environments as well as upon interchange with other populations on a landscape scale.

    The intent of the ESA is to replicate, as much as is possible, these evolved, natural conditions of the species.

    I don’t want to get any more complicated with this discussion. It’s complicated enough as it is. But it follows that what is most critical about wolf restoration and conservation is the distribution of and relationships among populations, not raw numbers of individuals. We’re not talking about livestock here, with each isolated animal unit assigned such and such a price. We’re talking about a wild species that has an evolutionary biology and ecology that depends upon its being in lots of places at low densities rather than presenting big numbers in a few places, which creates serious biological and ecological problems, such as we see with an extreme example of inbred wolves in Isle Royale National Park.

    Animals like wolves at the top of the food chain are necessarily limited numerically in specific areas by their prey. That’s how nature works–or is supposed to work. Lots of prey, few predators. (Unfortunately humans have been violating that ecological law for millennia, but that’s another issue).

    In short, that means what is natural for wolves is low densities in specific places but widespread distribution of interconnected populations throughout the continent. This is how genetic diversity, the critical path of species survival, is maintained. Low density wolf populations in many places. Restrict wolves to small places, or few places, you create genetic and other problems.

    Environmental groups have gotten locked into the folly of the wolf numbers game primarily because anti-wolf groups have gotten locked into the numbers game–their false claim that the Feds and environmentalists agreed on a maximum of 300 wolves for the Yellowstone and central Idaho restoration area. No one agreed to any such thing nor did the FWS implement it as policy; it’s fantasy. Such geographical restriction would also be biological and ecological disaster for the restored population of wolves and violate the ESA.

    But at the same time, it’s absurd biologically and ecologically to call for thousands of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as some environmentalists are doing. The numbers game as it’s being played is all rhetoric and bad science.

    Five thousand wolves might be an appropriate number technically for genetic purposes but those five thousand wolves need to be spread across the landscape in stable packs at low densities, not crammed into the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem or central Idaho.

    Once again, you maintain genetic diversity by having small stable populations spread widely across the landscape with dispensers moving between and among populations. That’s what the “metapopulation” argument is all about. It’s about density and distribution and interconnectedness, not numbers.

    It’s certainly easier to talk about wolf numbers since it’s far more complicated to talk about wolf ecology. You can’t soundbite ecology. But it’s a mistake because talking about numbers automatically forces us to ignore the distribution issue, which is the fundamental issue. However, I have found environmentalists curiously reluctant to talk publicly about distribution because it means talking about wolves in lots of places. Distribution seems to be a politically incorrect topic.

    I don’t see why it should be. Remember what I said above. The ESA requires, in effect, wolf restoration on a continent wide scale. To the species’ historic range. And the evolution of predators and prey reflects this survival rule: few predators, lots of prey, in relational densities across the landscape appropriate to the biology of the respective species.

    Black footed ferrets have vastly different biological and ecological requirements than wolves. But unfortunately wolves are being treated an awful lot like ferrets.

    So let’s treat wolves as wolves. As a species with its own evolutionary history. What this means for the gridlocked wolf “debate” is that with widespread populations, we don’t need lots of wolves in specific places. What we do need in specific places are stable, well-functioning packs at low densities.

    That’s the trade-off: low densities but widespread distribution. Any takers?

    In closing, I would strongly recommend against anyone, especially environmentalists, “agreeing” to specific numbers of wolves. That’s not wise wolf conservation. Instead, we need to apply the ESA as it was intended and restore wolves to a significant portion of their historic range in North America and allow wolf populations to set their own densities (through the establishment of stable packs) according to the biologically and ecologically suitable habitat and prey base. We should be doing the same with prey species, elk and bison (especially bison), while doing all we can to to protect, conserve, and expand habitat in general. But that’s the next controversial topic.


  18. WM Avatar


    ++My argument is that with widespread distribution of relatively stable packs, specific places only needed low densities of wolves.++

    In advocating this approach, by default, you agree that fairly aggressive control or harvest of some type would be required – sooner or later depending on how a widely dispersed population is achieved (natural migration or aggressive translocation from high density to new areas without wolves). Wolves, along with other predators, will always be reproducing to increase their numbers, hence density, limited only by available prey.

    Low density, but wide geographic distribution does meet the SPR requirement of the ESA in an easier way than having a couple of states with more wolves than they want in order to meet a numbers requirement, chewing away at capping those numbers so that ungulates are available for hunters, and keeping the wolves from eating livestock or otherwise getting in trouble.

  19. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    If you had read the post closely, especially the last paragraph, you’ll see that I don’t agree with what you call “the default position.” I think what we should be working toward is for wolves to establish and sustain their own densities through the creation and maintenance of stable packs–stable family groups.

    While I don’t object to hunting or trapping of wolves by individual hunters or trappers, in theory, as this tends to reflect natural mortality, I am absolutely opposed to wolf control, where wolf control is little more than the attempt to mitigate human failure to control our own actions–primarily the fragmentation, usurpation, and destruction of habitat that is the root of all ecological evils. Quite frankly, I’ve not seen any wolf (or coyote) control program that didn’t cause more harm than good. It’s pure game agriculture–and that’s the wrong paradigm, as Aldo Leopold discovered decades ago.

    You also seem not to give any credence to the capability of wolves to control their own numbers. After all, they, unlike us, have not exempted themselves from ecological rules and controls.


    1. WM Avatar


      ++If you had read the post closely, especially the last paragraph…++

      I did read your essay very carefully. The part of your essay that is missing (AND CONSPICUOUSLY YOU DON’T EVEN MENTION IT) is the tradeoffs between wolf presence and human presence, both in terms of going after the same prey base and the inevitable conflicts presented by an expanding wolf population (albiet at lower density eventually) across a landscape that includes wolf presence in areas other than “suitable habitat,” however it is defined.

      You simply ignore this very large pink elephant in the middle of the room. It is there. It will not go away, and it is the dominant area of conflict at the heart of this issue. It is the basis of need, and the reason for the passage of the ESA.

      There will, of necessity, be some sort of control or management of wolf numbers, wherever they go. Because of the presence of humans (also growing in population and impact over time) there will continue to be inevitable conflict. You simply cannot ignore it, even in the context of a tightly written essay that does not account for reality. So, it is back to the default, which becomes a part of your scenario, whether you acknowledge its presence or not.

      I certainly do not disagree with the general ecological parameters you lay out. And, if the MN wolf repopulation is a good indicator of wolves controlling their own numbers (everybody seems to point to that including the FWS) that is fantastic. But, for those suggest this is the way it works, they conveniently fail to mention the out-migration back to Canada, or more important for our discussion, to neighboring WI. The wolf numbers in the Great Lakes DPS are not stable, but increasing. They are just dispersing to new habitat, and that too has it’s limits as WI (which receives ONLY its wolves from MN and net births over mortality from the in-migrating MN wolves). And, then the wolves of WI (increasing there too) are also moving to MI, where the scenario is also being played out in the same fashion as WI (in and out migration). Bottom line. All three states want wolves delisted, and the ability to manage (interpret that any way you want, but WI wants a wolf harvest and it appears MN is waffling on their 5 year waiting period before considering a hunting season, and that is because it has taken 10 years longer to delist than they believe they agreed to.).

      I, too, like the way your write. I just think the reasoning is not as honest as it might be.

    2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      I go off for a few days to count elk and I come back and find this crap from you. Trying to score points are you by claiming I’ve left something out YOU think I should have included? That’s juvenile and asinine. I’ll let others decide whether it’s honest or not.

      Just for the record, I have many times here and elsewhere made it clear that when there’s a conflict between conservation and humans, I take the position that the land takes priority. Just because I don’t address that specific point when I’m trying to make another very complex point in as few words as I can doesn’t mean I’m ignoring it. It means I’m trying to keep on point. Too bad you aren’t honest enough to see that.


    3. WM Avatar


      ++Just because I don’t address that specific point when I’m trying to make another very complex point in as few words as I can doesn’t mean I’m ignoring it. It means I’m trying to keep on point. Too bad you aren’t honest enough to see that.++

      Nineteen paragraphs to lay out a wolf ecology based “low density and distribution scenario,” to meet a “significant portion of its range” requirement of the ESA. I get that part Robert, believe me, I do. I support it, and I even advocate a version of it. You need not look far in this thread or my past posts to see that I do. It is the mechanics and practicality of how to achieve a balanced scenario (I am thinking real world implementation here) with ever growing numbers of people on the landscape, discontinuous or fragmented habitat, concentrations of prey species in certain areas with voids in others, and the potential of wolves, wherever they disperse having “problems” that require human intervention, or those pesky hunters who want their share. This habitat to be infilled is not all rural WY, where you live. If I understand correctly, the “significant portion of its range (excluding any wolf species subtle taxonomic differentiation) includes CO, UT, WA, OR, maybe even Northen CA, and in the heartland to the south of the Great Lakes, and a whole lot of other places throughout the US.

      I even think we have talked before here, very briefly, about a national wolf management plan. Yeah, I realize low density with wide distribution is a complex topic – especially the stable packs part.

      My only request of you was to acknowledge that an expanding human population needs to be a part of the equasion and move on. And don’t try to slap me around, with terms like “juvenile or asinine” if you don’t like what I have to say. I am not one of those clueless hacks over on BBB. You insult your own intelligence when you do that.

      One last point about federal laws. Alot of times lofty goals are stated, goals that cannot realistically be achieved, but that does not mean we don’t try. I get that too. My favorite was the 1972 Clean Water Act – fishable, swimmable water quality by 1983, and zero discharge of pollutants by 1985. Hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars spent on the municipal construction grant program for secondary and advanced waste treatment. Are we there yet -zero discharge?

      The ESA needs to be taken in its proper context along with other legislation with lofty goals (and no I don’t agree with the Bush Solicitor’ recent legal opinion).

  20. Nancy Avatar

    I remember reading that article Robert and thought it addressed the situation very well, but who are the minds that need to bend alittle in order to:

    “apply the ESA as it was intended and restore wolves to a significant portion of their historic range in North America and allow wolf populations to set their own densities (through the establishment of stable packs) according to the biologically and ecologically suitable habitat and prey base”

    There’s so much passion surrounding this issue but little positive action or reaction……atleast that’s how I’d look at if I were a wolf just trying to get by.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      “apply the ESA as it was intended and restore wolves to a significant portion of their historic range in North America and allow wolf populations to set their own densities (through the establishment of stable packs) according to the biologically and ecologically suitable habitat and prey base”

      I feel that we should apply the ESA as it was intended and restore wolves to significant portion of the historic range in North American. I just goggled “historic wolves in Texas” and came up with a very nice article: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/GG/tcg1.html

      Here is a quote: “In the early 1890s the state government paid bounties on 50,000 wolves, many of which were lobos. Wolf hunters poisoned wolves, trapped them, ran them down on horseback with the help of dogs, and dug them from dens with their puppies.” Texas is historic range.

      Therefore, if we apply the ESA as intended, wolves should by law be restored to Texas. Texas has a very large population of whitetail deer that would provide a prey base plus a large number of exotics. Texas is almost 99% privately owned with very little federal land. If the wolves were transplanted as the law intends, private landowners should then be required to allow them access their private property. We also should require the states east of the Rocky Mountains to restore wolves in the historic ranges of those states. I think that brown cows will be jumping over the moon before that happens. Texas and private property is a law on to itself.

  21. Kropotkin Man Avatar
    Kropotkin Man

    Brown cows aside, wolves are moving south and west from the northern Great Lakes states. So you might get your wish in the near future.

    Also, I believe that wolves would be back in west Texas-if only “people” would stop slaughtering them in the Gila region. Look how far the wolves up north have moved back into their historic range. Catron County east to Texas ain’t that far.

    Good point ELK275, be certain to give the McBrides down Alpine way a good howl from me!

  22. Jeremy B. Avatar


    Nice essay. One point of disagreement among attorneys and scholars is what Congress meant by the term “significant”. Does it refer to a portion of range that is geographically large or important. We have argued that both points need to be considered. John Vucetich and colleagues have suggested that if a species is threatened in more than 33% of potentially suitable historic range, then it should be listed; however, there is no biological/ecological basis for this number. In science we use 5% (.05) to indicate significance, though this number seems unattainable in the case of species such as wolves, that were once very widely distributed.

    Another consideration is how far back in time do we look when we consider a species range? Pre-industrial revolution, pre-Columbian, or pre-human settlement of N. America? The farther back we look, the more the ecosystems have changed and the harder successful restoration becomes.

    I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but the debate I see in the scientific literature is generally thoughtful regarding these issues; whereas by comparison, the public debate is characterized by ideological reasoning, chest-thumping, and a heavy dose of mis-information.

    – – –

    Elk: Texas is actually part of the Mexican wolf recovery area (see link below). If I read your logic correctly, private property owners should get to say what wildlife gets to reside on their lands? Do you really think this is a good idea?


  23. Elk275 Avatar

    ++Elk: Texas is actually part of the Mexican wolf recovery area (see link below). If I read your logic correctly, private property owners should get to say what wildlife gets to reside on their lands? Do you really think this is a good idea?++

    What I am saying in Texas things are done differently and with a different attitude. We all know that Texas was once it’s own country and therefore there is very little public land. I have only been to Texas several times for very short durations. From what I have read about wildlife and hunting in Texas with the exception of the state issuing a hunting licence and setting seasons it is the landowner that controls everything else. Texas is about as close as a state where the surface owner owns the indigenous wildlife. Texas in years gone-by has allowed the importation of about every exotic animal from every continent to be transplanted and become established.

    From what I surmise and I maybe wrong, I doubt very much that the landowners of Texas are going to be pro wolf and/or pro predator. I doubt very seriously that Texas landowners and the political establishment whether Democratic or Republican are going to be pro wolf and if forced upon them they are going to demand changes in the laws.

    This blog has had several threads on coyote killing contest in the Rocky Mountain states with almost everyone aghast with the practice. If one goggles: predator hunting Texas, one will find that in Texas they have a reverse coyote and predator hunting contest. Instead of the hunters getting points for their kills and the one with the highest number of points wins the pot. In Texas a predator hunter pays for each animal killed and yes some ranches advertise that hunting of bobcats, coyotes and mountains lions is unlimited.

    The more and more wolves are being pushed on people where they do not want them, is the start of change. Do I feel that a landowner has the right to decide what animals reside on his/her property, no. But, I do not think that a very large landowner in the Big Hole Valley of Montana should have to tolerate a large pack of wolves on his property during the spring when his cows are calving.

    Texas is different.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      Hunting is deep in Texas culture. In many areas, high schools are recessed for the opening of hunting season. Texas is a vast area of mostly arid or semi-arid wilderness even though it is private land. I’ve flown across it many times and it makes me sleepy just thinking about how vast it is. El Paso, Texas is closer to Los Angles, California than it is to Texarkana, Texas. Much of Texas, especially those areas within a few hundred miles of the Gulf, is great deer habitat. It is too arid to farm but is woodland and scrub that is full of deer and this woodland and scrub area is vast, maybe the size of Montana. Despite Texas’s human population of 25 million people, hunters can kill up to five deer in a season. Texas has a game preserve system where private land owners sell hunting privileges through the State. It can be very important income for land owners that might own tens of thousands of acres. The oil is gone and they can only raise so many cattle and deer are everywhere so the state game preserve systems is important income to many land owners.

      I think Texans would love wolves as long as they didn’t kill too many deer and as long as they could hunt them.

  24. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Elk, you are kind of contradicting yourself on that last paragraph. You said that a landowner should not be able to decide what animals can reside on his/her property but then say that they should not have to tolerate wolves. Are you saying they should get to decide what lives there depending on the cows’ birth cycles.
    In response to what you said about Texas being different, I think you are right that it would not tolerate wolves. I’m not too familiar with Texas, but it seems to me Big Bend National Park is about the only place that could support wolves. I believe Texas is the only state where mountain lions are predators. Texas in general seems to be a mess with its wildlife with all the exotics.

  25. Elk275 Avatar


    I can not verbilize as well as some, so we will have to leave it as an oxymoron.

    1. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      I guess I will leave it at that then.

  26. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Robert –
    Your thinking is well laid out and makes a lot of sense to me – at least the ecological arguments (I can’t comment much on specifics of the ESA). One could point to numerous examples where the focus on predator numbers is a self-defeating argument for predator proponents.

    To mention one – Alaska predator control proponents have turned the numbers logic around and point out that their goal of a larger prey population will ultimately support substantially more wolves and is, therefore, a win-win for everybody. Groups have long demanded, sued and fund-raised for swift action at whatever cost (generally assumed to mean curtailment of fisheries) to restore SW Alaska pinnipeds and otters to some “historic” number. Meanwhile, science points increasingly toward a “top down” effect as a cause for the declines, likely involving a large, charismatic super-predator, as opposed to a bottom-up effect involving a fishery’s impact on their food. There are politicians who would find the cost of dealing with a pod or two of “rogue killer whales” to be acceptably low to help solve this thorny problem and get those sea lion and sea otter numbers back up where they belong. Ted Stevens was starting to talk along those lines. Populations of both species remain strong in the eastern gulf. Sure, abundance is down in part of the range but distribution is still good. Just like wolves are down in Yellowstone at the moment – but doing well somewhere else. Is the lower number of wolves in Yellowstone at the moment a problem, especially with the elk population bottoming, if wolves are overall well-distributed?

    For the most part, I share your belief that wolves will limit their numbers based on their prey. However, it can get more complicated, especially where bears are a big part of the equation, as they are over much of Alaska. Wolves do tend to be fewer when moose are few but bears may not change much because the moose calves they consume seasonally may not be much of a driving factor in their population. The combination seems to hold the moose population over much of the interior at a low level, far below habitat capability. That doesn’t appear to be anything new – records indicate that moose were pretty sparse when Europeans first arrived. And its not a total loss as far as hunting – a harvest of 5% of the population as bulls is usually sustainable while maintaining an acceptable sex ratio.

    The predator-prey situation will hopefully remain near a higher equilibrium in most of the Rockies (and north-central states). I guess one advantage the lower 48 states may have is an ability to “manage” wolves with attention to their prey populations (similar to how one might manage hunting of ungulates with attention to the condition of their range) using hunting and potentially trapping. That certainly won’t be acceptable to everybody but if exercised with some reason and restraint should seem more rational and acceptable in general than pure predator control. In Alaska, there is a lot of wolf trapping in places, but little evidence that it’s having much more than a seasonal effect on wolf numbers over what the populations would dictate. Hence, we are seeing increasing plans for predator control over broader areas, using volunteer pilot-gunner teams to leverage efforts, and enlisting the public to go after bears. With area dilution and dependence on voluntary public involvement, its not hard to imagine that a lot of wolves and bears will be killed in total, but commensurate benefits in any one area seem far less certain at this point.

    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      Southeast Alaska

      When I was doing my work in the Yukon 15 years ago I kept hearing the justification for wolf control in the term “animated landscape.” That is, it was being claimed that people won’t support conservation unless animals are moving (animated) on the landscape in large numbers, the animals referred to being caribou and moose, not wolves. I never understood this term because what animates the landscape is the predator prey relationship, not the absence or limitation of predators. Predators are part of the energy that drives the system. In truth, what people were demanding was not moose and caribou being animated, but moose and caribou being where hunters could easily find them. The ease of the hunt was the driving factor for wolf control. It’s my impression it’s the same in Alaska, at least in the Interior.

      I can’t speak to marine predator prey systems as I know very little about them, although in 1998 I interviewed Dr Jim Estes of UC-Santa Cruz, who had done quite a bit of the “top-down” research for Alaskan marine ecosystems (orcas-otters-anemones). He did caution me that marine systems are somewhat simpler than terran systems, and so one should avoid applying marine findings to terran problems.

      What I found most interesting about wolf control in the Yukon is that every wolf control program occurred near major road corridors such as the Alaska Highway or the Robert Campbell Highway between Ross River and Watson Lake. That is, where there were problems with moose or caribou and wolves (or bears), these problems all occurred where roads or trails had been pushed into the bush. No one is proposing wolf control around Old Crow in northern Yukon, for example.

      What I learned is that the fundamental problem was fragmented habitat that eased access of both four and two footed hunters to moose or caribou. This really confuses the distinction between compensatory and additive mortality, for example. Is wolf predation truly additive when human caused habitat fragmentation makes it easier for wolves to prey on moose and caribou? I think it’s at least debatable.

      Furthermore, in every case I looked at, fragmentation of habitat had caused the old woodland caribou migrations to cease or falter, tending to fix herds in place, compared to the space invovled in the old migrations. For example, caribou are no longer crossing the land bridge between Bennet and Nares Lakes at Carcross (“caribou crossing”) as they did in the old, pre European days. This used to be a major hunting spot for the Tagish people.

      So one of the impacts of roads and trails has been a kind of “corralling” or fixing in place of previously migratory moose and caribou that made it easier for wolves and men to find and prey upon them.

      A follow on problem of habitat fragmentation and fixing big game in place has been overhunting by both whites and by First Nations. Overhunting is a huge political issue and thus is something politically incorrect to discuss. (Another similar problem in Alaska was soldiers from Fairbanks lining the Taylor Highway north of Tok shooting every caribou of the 40 Mile Herd that tried to cross the highway during fall migration. It was a firing line and a significant factor in trying to bring back the 40 mile herd).

      In short, the main problem in the Yukon and Alaska is that there is too much hunting, by city hunters (Whitehorse, Anchorage, Fairbanks) as well as rural subsistence hunters, exacerbated by fragmentation of habitat by roads and trails that made it easier for hunters on ATVs or skidoos to get to them. There simply isn’t enough secure habitat for either moose or caribou in the Interior any more.

      When you add to this human caused problem that the northern interior isn’t all that ecologically productive in the first place, we run into the simple problem that big game supply isn’t meeting demand. That’s the why and wherefore of wolf control–to mitigate excessive human demand: to eliminate the competition in the high demand areas.

      The problem is that no one addresses the complex ecological problems caused by overhunting, predator control, and habitat fragmentation. Not hard understanding why: try telling Anchorage hunters they can’t drive their ATVs into moose country and see what happens. I remember several years ago ADFG proposed to guarantee “wilderness” licenses to hunters that would abandon their vehicles and actually hunt moose on foot away from roads. I heard the howls of rage from Anchorage hunters down here. Haven’t heard anything about wilderness licenses since then.

      We’re reached the point where there simply are too many hunters in Alaska and the Yukon. At some point, if we are to have reasonably functioning ecosystems, we have to restrict hunting in the short term to save hunting in the long run.


  27. Harley Avatar

    What would happen if wolves were kept to between 300 and 500 consistently throughout each state that they are currently found in? With the exception I think of Minnesota since they are so very dense there and so far are maintaining an uneasy balance for the moment.
    Or even if the wolves were kept at the numbers that had been originally agreed one before it was decided that science changes or is flexible?
    I’m just curious what the people here think.

    1. Harley Avatar

      Yeah… I didn’t think anyone here would answer the question. It’s all good. At least it wasn’t blocked. I guess unless it has to do with all wolf all the time, no one has an opinion on compromise. I would at least get feed back from the BBB, even on things they didn’t agree on. You know, you people over here are just confirming all that’s said about you, right? It’s only when someone goes all bitch you react.

    2. Jon Avatar

      Wolf #s should be allowed to grow Harley. That agreement was made years ago. This is 2010. Things are different.

    3. JB Avatar


      I’m afraid you lost people here when you said “even if the wolves were kept at the numbers originally agreed [upon]”. We’ve been through this so many times now, most of us are just tired with having to dispel the same old myth:

      There was no agreement. The USFWS devised a recovery plan which included minimum numbers for wolf populations along with several other criteria. No one was asked to agree or disagree with these numbers–to do so would have arguably violated the law. They were simply targets set as MINIMUMS for a viable wolf population. The numeric targets were achieved in 2002, however, states did not have adequate (according to the FWS) management plans until 2007. However, the legitimacy of delisting wolves at this time has been challenged on multiple fronts.

      The issues facing listing/delisting and recovery are highly complex, both legally and ecologically. Thus, when you ask “what would happen if wolves were kept between 300 and 500…” I don’t even know where to start in formulating a response? I suspect others feel the same.

      If you go back and read through the comments here, you’ll see many of these issues get discussed. I know there is a lot of information, but there’s a lot to know.

      Anyway, I hope that helps.

    4. Moose Avatar

      Short of implementing a bounty system…wolf numbers in WI and MI will not get down to that number….hunting wolves in the northern forests will be a very difficult task for most I see MI and WI maintaining pop.s of 600-800 per state.

    5. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      For being an alleged teacher it is pretty curious the lack of research and English comprehension skills. but here are a couple to get you started. Maybe you could have one of your special needs students explain them to you.
      and this
      http://search.usa.gov/search?affiliate=fws.gov&format=html&locale=en&m=false&page=1&query=wolf&submit=Search&v%3A Project=firstgov
      Try to have your students read these to you and educate you.
      Now hurry back to that commercial of a website you slink around and maybe you can talk pope gregory into giving you a spanking for daring to post here when he would ever so much like to

    6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Been counting elk on winter range south of Dubois over the last few days. Yes, they’re still there, wolves and the locals’ claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Remember, I’m a local too

      I suspect no one answered your question because it made no sense and it was based upon a falsehood. As JB eventually responded to you, there was no agreement on wolf numbers. None of your buddies at the BBB can produce any such agreement. It’s a fantasy, just like the claim that the feds promised wolves would stay in Yellowstone is also a fantasy. No one promised such a thing. It’s all made up. Call these claims rural legends. No truth required.

      As I made clear in my long comment above, it’s ecological fallacy to base wolf conservation and management upon numbers. The key factors are distribution and density. Maybe you should go back and read what I wrote. I don’t feel like repeating it. But trying to limit numbers as you described above would require preventing wolf populations from interacting and expanding their range to biologically suitable habitat, both of which are requirements of the ESA. In short, unless management plans allow for a functioning wolf metapopulation, or a population of populations distributed across the landscape, delisting would violate the ESA. That’s one practical reason for abandoning the numbers approach.

      You should understand that nothing you read on the various anti-wolf sites like the BBB has a factual basis. These guys are making stuff up and refuse to deal with real problems. You’ll never hear from these guys, for example, that one of the critical problems we are facing with elk is commercial overhunting of bulls to the degree that it’s hard to find a mature six point any more in the Greater Yellowstone. Here in Dubois I’ve been watching outfitters taking 15-20 bulls each year out of individual watersheds for the last decade. We’ve reached the point where more 5X6s and even 5X5s are coming out, and among other problems we’ve got young, unproven bulls breeding the cows because the big bulls have been shot out. You don’t think that has an impact on elk herds?

      I’ve been trying to get G&F to eliminate the general license in this area for years and go with limited quota licenses to allow the bulls to recover, but the Dept. refuses because it’s afraid the outfitters will explode. It’s not hard to understand why. The outfitters are so overcapitalized that they have to run hunters in and out of the camps on the assembly line to make enough money to pay the bills. All those hunters want an elk. But by overhunting in the short term, they’re damaging their businesses in the long term. And they’re abusing the herds. The other problem is that there are simply too many outfitters in this country. There’s one in every watershed. They’re practically stumbling all over each other, chasing elk back and forth across the watershed divides. Elk are getting shot at coming and going. That’s not good for quality huntingk. That’s one reason I don’t hunt elk until after the outfitters have pulled out.

      In short, G&F, refuses to act in a way that would benefit the local elk herd by reducing the bull take. Instead, G&F lets hunters scream and shout about wolves and bears without correction. The screaming and shouting is misplaced. It’s about time outfitters and hunters took responsibility for their own actions. The Forest Service isn’t helping either because it needs to reduce the number of outfitters on the Forest but won’t even consider it.


    7. Harley Avatar

      It’s difficult to sort through what people say. Everyone has facts and sites to back up each claim. You being a local, I appreciate any first hand knowledge. But I think I’m hanging up my responses to anyone anymore. I’m not directly involved. It doesn’t really affect me one way or the other. I used to think I had an opinion but I’m sure no one really cares what it is. I can honestly see both sides of the issue which makes my position even more difficult. I have some ties with folks who do research on Isle Royale. I also have ties with folks who make their living ranching. I have a cousin who used to be an outfitter til he lost his business. I see a lot of intelligent people on both sides of the fence. It’s a shame no one can come to some sort of a compromise but neither one wants to admit that the other side just might have some sort of valid claim. I stand by my claim. As an outsider, I just want to see balance. What is balance? When there is enough game so that predators don’t have to go after livestock. Or so there’s not too many predators that there aren’t enough game for them. Take that either way I suppose. I am not, never have been for, extermination of any species, even snakes which I personally can’t stand. I believe in trying to preserve things but there also comes a time when we have to deal with preservation vs. our ever growing population. Which is more important? I also firmly believe that as our population grows and we move more and more into what is considered wilderness, we are going to find more problems like what happened in Alaska where the wolves killed the teacher.
      Anyway, has been a pleasure for the most part. I do read what people suggest I read, even from good old Jeffie because I do want to learn more. And I have learned more. and am now more confused than ever but hey, that’s the price one pays I suppose.

    8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Facts are established through a rigorous, systematic method of investigation that includes rational debate in accordance with the rules of logic, most of which are common sense. That’s the heart of the scientific method. You don’t find that rational process on the anti-wolf sites. Take the nonsense that has been put out about tapeworms. Echinococcus is a native North American parasite, for god’s sake; it’s been around for a long time. It just didn’t show up, and reintroduced wolves didn’t bring it here.

      I don’t know a single outfitter or rancher or businessman who’s gone out of business because of wolves. I know several who’ve gone out of business from being poor businessmen or managers, and others who’ve been caught, for no fault of their own, in economic downturns such as the one we’re experiencing now. That’s capitalism, isn’t it?

      If I know compromise, as a practical matter, will cause more harm to the resource than good, then why should I agree to compromise?



  28. Harley Avatar

    Wow Jeff E, way to be an asshole! Thanks for making my day!

  29. Harley Avatar

    Ah Jeff E, you’ve just proven you and the folks over at BBB are very much alike. Thank you for restoring my faith!

  30. Harley Avatar

    Wow… interesting reading Jeffie, thank you for the…enlightenment. I’ve said it before on the other site, you know, the one that you are all free to roam at will and post your opinions on… I am not for extermination of the wolf. I am not for needless killing. Hell, this doesn’t affect me directly, I don’t even live in those regions! But there are plenty of people who do who seem to speak from first hand knowledge. And I’ve seen the posts here and I’ve seen the posts there. I’ve seen how some people are treated on both sites and sometimes that treatment sucks. But I don’t think I’ve personally attacked anyone here. You however came out with both barrels blazing. I think JB got his point across in a much more civilized manner than you did. That’s the problem. Both sides need a smacking upside the head sometimes. It’s like watching two little 5 year olds go at it.
    Anyway, enough said. Thank you to those of you that took the time to answer me in a civilized manner.

  31. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers

    On the bbb there was a comment from Todd Fross “The tape worm is sylivatic E-granulosous hydatid not Echinococcus.” His was in all upper case letters – to make an important point?

    The scientific name of this tapeworm is Echinococcus granulosus of which there are appparently two forms, domestic or wild, depending on whether the are found in domestic animals or sylvan ungulates. So in Todd’s statement sylivatic is an adjective describing which type of animal it affects, it is not part of the scientific name. It is customary in scientific literature that once a genus is mentioned, in further references that genus can be represented by its first letter. So now I can call it E. granulosus. Note that Todd did not spell the genus or species correctly nor the adjective sylvatic. I can understand how Todd could become confused and think that he had correctly named the animal. A scientific background and understanding of basic grammar is required.

    Check out this site for a good discussion of this disease:

    Perhaps Jeff’s response was not as civilized as you would like after he read your bbb response to me for not answering your question regarding my pro wolf stand quickly enough. You did say that your students would be able to figure out what your question really asked faster than I did.

    1. jon Avatar

      Barb, the wolf haters are using Echinococcus granulosus as a scare tactic. Other animals carry the same thing, but all you hear them talking about is wolves.

      International Wolf: Why is this controversy brewing now?

      Mech: The Hydatid Tapeworm was recently documented in the restored wolves of the western U.S. This was no surprise because the worm has long infected coyotes and dogs throughout the northern hemisphere. Similarly, the cysts resulting from this worm’s eggs have forever infected the lungs of moose, deer, elk, and other ungulates, including domestic animals. However, the Hydatid-worm issue has recently become a handy weapon against the wolf. In reality, it’s a tempest in a teapot.

      International Wolf: Only a tempest in a teapot?

      Mech: Humans at greatest risk of getting the worm are wolf biologists because we handle so many live wolves, carcasses, and scats. Nevertheless, no biologist who has been tested, even after having handled thousands of wolves, coyotes and scats, has ever had the parasite.

      International Wolf: Are parasites a great problem in wolf populations?

      Mech: Wolves, like most other mammals, carry an array of internal parasites. Among them is the tiny Hydatid Tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosis) whose eggs are released into the environment through the wolf’s anus via scats or otherwise. Hoofed mammals ingest the eggs and grow cysts, usually in their lungs. If a wolf, dog, or coyote eats the lungs, larvae in the cyst develop into adult tapeworms in the canid.

      International Wolf: Even though there’s evidence to the contrary, is it possible that this might become a problem for humans?

      Mech: The tapeworm eggs would only very rarely hatch in a human who ingested them, although there are a few such records, most in the far north where natives’ dogs eat many infected caribou lungs and then pass millions of eggs into the local environment. (See International Wolf, Spring, 2008).

      International Wolf: Where does the hydatid tapeworm live, for instance, with no evidence of human infection?

      Mech: The worm has long been documented in MN and in Isle Royale National Park. Thousands of people hike, canoe, and camp there yearly without any record of infection. I hiked 1,600 miles on Isle Royale during four summers and ate its berries and drank unfiltered water from its lakes, streams, and puddles. Perhaps that was reckless, but that was 50 years ago. Still I never contracted the worm.

      International Wolf: So you believe the current controversy is merely an attempt to make the wolf look like the bad guy?

      Mech: Sorry to say, but yes.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Barb Rupers,

      Todd Fross had been clamoring to get on this blog and post the same stuff.

      I haven’t let him through but could if you want to deal with him.

    3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I just posted an account of the Montana legislative hearing on this worm and other matters. Dr. Norman Bishop prepared it my request.

      Bishop sat through much of the hearing and testified himself.

    4. jon Avatar

      http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/article_dc285eb4-fb34-11de-9b39-001cc4c03286.html. By Brett French.

      Thanks Jon, I deleted what might have been an overly long excerpt for copyright reasons. Anyway this is a pretty good article, although if French had done more digging he would have discovered the tapeworm was found in Montana wolves as early as the late 1980s (years before the reintroduction). Ralph Maughan

  32. Harley Avatar

    Lee, I’m pretty sure I used that in regards to you playing the dancing game, not because you weren’t quick enough. I’m also fairly certain you are intelligent enough to understand what I was asking the first go round instead of saying you needed it clarified. That’s where that comment stemmed from. I hate when people play ‘dumb’. You are not dumb and it doesn’t suite you, therefore it’s irritating when you put on the act.

    1. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      Several questions went unanswered at the bbb because the only apparent results are insults from the troops. I sent a link to Veterinarian Mark Johnson’s web site and because of the symbol on the page Ar and Greg got to expound for paragraphs. If you had sent the same information nothing would have been said. It is more like armor than an act.

    2. Harley Avatar

      However, they did not pose the question. I did. And the end result was the ‘dumb armor’ you assumed. I suppose it’s self preservation but if what they say bothers you so much, don’t post there. That’s a pretty simple thing to do.

    3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      May I suggest that you’re wasting your time trying to engage in intelligent conversation with these guys? It’s hilarious that they’re trying to describe conditions in my own back yard, and they keep getting things completely wrong.

      For example, now I hear that there are no wolves south of the Wind River, which is why there are elk on Whiskey Mountain. That is incorrect. There are elk all through the Dubois area. Wolves are moving through the country south of the Wind River (Warm Springs, Jakeys Fork, Torrey Creek, Blue Holes Creek (extinct geysers here), Red Creek, Dinwoody Creek, Dry Creek, Bull Lake Creek), both on and off the Reservation, as well as making kills, but for some reason I haven’t figured out there is yet no pack established in elk area 69. For all I know it’s SSS but I can’t prove that. The winter range is not closed to human presence, only to vehicular traffic, and people are up there all the time.

      We’re also told how outfitters have spent their own money to protect the Whiskey Mountain wild sheep herd. What they did was to waste their money on predator control, sending up a private “wildlife damage professional” in an airplane to kill coyotes, with G&F blessing. They killed around 30 coyotes over 3 years–truly, a drop in the bucket when you consider how many coyotes are around here–and it didn’t do a bit of good because predators aren’t the problem. The problem is that the habitat–specifically, low fertility granitic and sandstone soils–of summer and winter range won’t produce the forage to support a herd objective of 1320 sheep. Summer range is sheer granite of the Wind River Mountains and winter range is sandstone with some limestone. Nothing to compare to the volcanic soils of the Absaroka Mountains north of Dubois.

      The most recent G&F habitat study–interestingly, dated 1978–established the carrying capacity of the range as around 600 sheep. That hasn’t changed over the years, except for the worse with conifer encroachment. A burn five years ago didn’t accomplish much.

      Easy winters in the 1980s allowed the herd to exceed the outlandish objective, but the nasty winter of 1991 took care of that and killed half the herd. Drought since then, along with the existing poor habitat, has kept the herd at around carrying capacity. The herd still isn’t healthy, and I would recommend dropping the objective to around 400 sheep. Of course, that conflicts with how the herd is marketed for tourism as the largest sheep herd in North America. Not any more it isn’t, but that hasn’t kept people from acting as if the herd can be boosted back to objective. It’s another example of how economics drives bad wildlife policy.

      And by the way, the Wiggins Fork Elk Herd numbered in 2009, and that’s with two established wolf packs north of the Wind River, where most of the herd is located. I’m still waiting for the most recent numbers from G&F.

      Here’s an interesting story: http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/article_a2a2bf6e-1458-533f-9570-cf6b1dd82602.html. The assertion is that the Wiggins Fork Herd is below objective. This claim leaves out the 5 year herd reduction program I’ve described in detail elsewhere, and it also leaves out the fact that G&F raised the herd objective in 2003 from 4800 to 6000-7500. .

    4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      (hit the wrong button)

      As far as I know, the Wiggins Fork Herd is the only herd in Wyoming to have a window or range of numbers for the herd objective, rather than a set number. This is due to the discovery that 60% of the herd summers out of the herd unit, mostly with Jackson elk, something that screws up the population model G&F uses to estimate herd numbers and ratios. So G&F bases its estimates and seasons strictly on the winter census/trend counts, which vary according to the severity of the winter–better counts with lots of snow and cold weather, worse counts with less snow and warmth, which puts elk into the trees where they’re hard to count. So any discussion of herd objectives with Wiggins Fork elk is fraught with difficulty.

      Bottom line: learning is a voluntary act. Those who insist on ignorance will remain ignorant.


    5. Harley Avatar

      I tend to think there is ignorance on both sides. Everyone finds ‘evidence’ to fit in what their current agenda is. No one is willing to give an inch and in some cases, are more than willing to keep taking an inch.
      There are many petty things running around in my head. I’ll just leave it here as is. Good luck to you all. I somehow think the truth lies somewhere between the two perspectives, but that comes from someone who would rather see compromise and resolution. You know, the ideal why can’t we all get along? Ah well… in my dreams.

    6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Facts are either true or false. There’s no such thing as a middle way with facts. Well, I guess you could call the middle way “fantasy.” But to base policy on fantasy is folly.


    7. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another – too often ending in the loss of both.
      Tryon Edwards
      Accuracy of statement is one of the first elements of truth; inaccuracy is a near kin to falsehood.
      Tryon Edwards

    8. WM Avatar


      ++Facts are either true or false. There’s no such thing as a middle way with facts. Well, I guess you could call the middle way “fantasy.” But to base policy on fantasy is folly.++

      Once again, I find myself needing to add to what you state. Facts are truth, or reality, but can be unknown. That is the big problem with facts. “False facts” to use your term, are not facts; they are misinformation. When facts are not known, it does not necessarily mean they are “fantasy,” nor does it mean what is stated is a false fact. It just means we don’t know the facts.

      Many of us spend our entire lives in pursuit of facts (truth). Most policy decisions, of whatever type, are not made on perfect knowledge – all the facts – because we live in an imperfect world. And the quote Jeff E offers from theologian Tryon Edwards has a flip side. Compromise is a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions. And that is kind of how the world works most of the time.

      RH, “just the facts, man.”

    9. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      “I suppose it’s self preservation but if what they say bothers you so much, don’t post there.”

      I post there so that newcomers to the blog, like you, will have an opportunity to explore opposing viewpoints and I try to give links to back up my position. Case in point the weights of the reintroduced wolves in contrast to those claimed there. I certainly don’t expect to change the perspective of the troops.

      If you have been following the dialogs here then you should be aware that there are many hunters that are also pro-wolf. and are very aware of conditions in their regions. There are also those that don’t want so many wolves and they are still posting here; they are civil and not censored.

    10. Barb Rupers Avatar
      Barb Rupers

      Robert Hoskins
      Thanks for the advice to not engage those at the bbb blog in intelligent conversation. I keep hoping that newcomers, like Harvey, will gain greater insight into the controversy, and form a reasoned conclusion from the information submitted. He seems to be more swayed by emotion than reason.

    11. Harley Avatar

      Hmm, not sure if you meant me or someone actually named HARVEY. I’m HARLEY and I am a woman. And sometimes I do let emotions get the best of me which was why it was so easy for Jeff E to get under my skin.

  33. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    FYI Todd Fross and FreeCoyote are one and the same. He’s an outfitter who also runs sheep outside Lander.


    1. jon Avatar

      RH, I think Ralph should let Todd Fross post on here. I am curious as to what he has to say. Unlike that guy rockholm, fross was willing to have you interviewed.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Robert Hoskins and jon,

      Actually, I told him he could comment, but it was a case of mistaken identity, so I decided not to after I read his first comment.

      He had already been excluded by another webmaster here.

    3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      I’d say let him post and speak his piece. That’s the American way.


    4. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      speaking of Mr. Fross and I quote,
      “…..Ralph told me I could post as long as I stayed on subject. As you can see for yourselves in the above example I did in fact stay on subject so much so that I actually corrected the subject. Now Lee say’s, Ralph say’s …..here’s what I say ,”Until either acknowledge the difference between E-Granulosous and Echinococcus and their fabrication about Domestic Sheep , there would be no reason to post there. To do so would be simply throwing Pearls befor Swine.”
      Now just what does this cupcake think the E in E-Granulosous stands for??
      how do you have a conversation with that level of ignorance much less debate any real issues concerning this or any other subject??
      but maybe some reasearch will help the poor soul out
      If I may;

    5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Jeff E,

      I guess I shouldn’t have told Todd Fross he could comment. I had just come home from a nice month in the desert and was feeling friendly.

      When I saw his comment, however, I changed my mind.

      Hey, public apology!! If you read this, Todd. Sorry! But thanks for the pretty picture anyway 😉

  34. Barb Rupers Avatar
    Barb Rupers


    Robert Hoskins would be an excellent person to deal with him.

  35. WM Avatar

    Jeff E,

    Maybe we should all chip in and enroll him in a microbiology or medical terminology class.

    1. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      Do you think we could get a group discount.
      pope gregory could bless it and the rest would fall in line

    2. jon Avatar

      The pope is angry he isn’t allowed to post here anymore. We all know he spends more time reading this blog than the bbb one.

  36. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    pope gregory knowes very well why he was blocked from this blog and it has nothing to do with censorship. I had the conversation with him in another venue and when confronted he pulled his typical miss- direction happy horse shit. some day I will put togeather the ~ 2 years + of history i have with the guy. some day when I am reeally bored.
    We had actually talked about meeting each other face to face and discussing the whole deal as just two interested adults.

  37. Richard Giallanzo,nj Avatar
    Richard Giallanzo,nj

    To sb;
    You said if you could not hunt, this would put you in a precarious situation! You would be in danger if you could not hunt? You would be poor ? Is hunting a life or death situation ? I am curious, is their something spiritual about hunting ? This is a very vague statement you made, if you can’t elaborate I can understand. I know you look fresh meat better,than store bought, if it is health,then this is personal!

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      As I have stated, 95% of our yearly meat stock is provided by wild meat, I am a sustenance hunter and depend on that meat to feed us, I could not afford to purchase the equivalent amount of meat from any source. As far as being poor, I would say that is a relative term, I don’t feel poor, but currently, I don’t have a sustained income, as I no longer work for any agencies, and my retirement has been tied up in some litigation, that hopefully will be cleared up soon.

      I don’t take “Hunting Trips” I always hunt locally where I am living, be that in Idaho, WA or Montana. I do some work as an independent consultant, which helps pay bills.

      Life or death, no, change in the quality of life, yes, it would dramatically change our lives if I didn’t have the ability…Hunting has always been spiritual to me, I have hunted since I was 8 years old, I am not a newfangled gear hunter, I hunt with a bow most of the time(Longbow).

      As it would change our life dramatically on the financial side, I consider it a necessary activity for my well being as well as health..

      I know many find it hard to believe, that in the 21st century, there are people out there that still depend on wild meat to provide for their families, but in lower income areas, such as Montana and Idaho, it is a very important part of life for many people..incomes tend to be lower and many families are large and commodities are expensive compared to some other areas of the county. People live in a completely different environment that many are used to, currently where I am at, it is over 50 miles to a town, My place in Montana is over 30 miles form the nearest town…I can’t just drop down to the local market to pick something up! I know many people that live the same way..

      Hope that answers some of your questions.

  38. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Robert Hoskins,

    Your work in the Yukon sounds very interesting. I was aware of the historical importance of caribou at Carcross, but have never seen one there or anywhere along the road to Whitehorse. I’m not very familiar with the woodland caribou situation in the Yukon, other than reading about the very small transboundary Chisana herd (only woodland herd in Alaska) for which the publicized temporary impoundment of a number of pregnant cows on the Yukon side (with school classes out gathering lichens to feed them) was done to boost calf survival.

    I’ve hunted and watched caribou and read about them but just don’t feel I know enough to hold forth much with opinions. I can see how woodland caribou in particular could be vulnerable to any number of things from weather changes to habitat changes, particularly those that make them more vulnerable to predators. I don’t understand much about caribou, but they seem a little like herring – everything in the world seems to want to kill and eat them and its probably important to maintain enough of a core population so its usually the next guy who gets nailed. However, any general hypothesis about access, disturbance and human impacts has to contend with the successful example of the central Arctic herd some of which spends a lot of time in the vicinity of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields with much of the herd migrating near the north slope haul road, where it’s pursued by bow hunters right up to the road, although given some protection from the historical Steese-Taylor type slaughters you describe, by a 5 mile buffer with off road vehicle restrictions and no rifle hunting inside that zone.

    However, as far as moose go, I’m not sure access/fragmentation or even over-harvest is that much of a problem. There was a very interesting article published in the September 3, 2009 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner titled “Multiple factors make managing moose in Alaska more difficult than Scandinavia” by Tim Mowry. Unfortunately, it has been archived where you’d have to register and maybe even pay to read it. It was briefly put in the ADF&G wildlife news series and would be there free for posterity but was pulled for fear of offending a powerful group that propagates the Alaska-as-Sweden dream, because a particular moose biologist is quoted with emphatic denouncements of the comparison. I found the article very informative,including information from someone with extensive experience both studying and hunting moose in Scandinavia and Alaska. The moose harvest in Sweden averages about 80,000 and about 35,000 in Norway compared with 7,000 in Alaska. The article goes on to list and discuss the factors that add up to that difference:

    Better climate (considerably warmer)
    Better habitat “timber companies grow trees, i.e. scotch pine, that provide a never-ending supply of browse for moose”
    Different moose (smaller moose and “Very few moose make it past 2 or 3 years of age”)
    Few predators (bears and wolves just beginning to reappear in Norway; about 200 wolves and 2,500 brown bears in Sweden compared with 7-10 thousand wolves, 30,000 brown bears and untold black bears in Alaska)
    More roads (265,000 miles in Sweden; 57,000 in Norway, 4,100 in Alaska“The road network is such that there’s almost no refuge for moose from hunting,” Brainerd said. “Moose hunting occurs on basically every square inch of Scandinavia.” Even on roads and in national parks.)
    Different hunting (“Hunting is done in teams or groups, and dogs are used to track down and find moose, Brainerd said” “You can shoot as many moose as you need to shoot to reach the quota,” Brainerd said. “I’ve shot three moose in a week over there. It’s no big deal. I met guys in their 70s who have shot 150 moose during their life.” “You have a motorized rig pull it out of the woods, you throw it on a flatbed truck and take it back to the processing center where you have electric meat saws,” Brainerd said. “We could process a whole moose in 20 minutes.”
    Different harvest (“A large portion of the moose harvested in Scandinavia, particularly Sweden, are calves, yearlings and cows, a management technique that is frowned upon by many Alaska hunters who oppose shooting calves and cows but one that results in a larger moose population given the right circumstances like those in Scandinavia.” “About 60 percent of the moose they shoot are calves and yearlings,” Brainerd said. “They shoot about 25 to 30 percent of the moose population every year.”)

    Anyway, lack of access infrastructure is cited as being a limitation in being able to evenly and fully harvest moose populations in Alaska and as a potential danger if predator control were successful in increasing populations above their habitat capability. I can see your point about access being a potential problem for scaring game out of habitat as well as facilitating predator access and over-harvest by hunters, and certainly the latter may be a problem from what I’ve heard of unrestricted aboriginal hunting rights in the Yukon. I also prefer to hunt on foot and have usually used a canoe or raft moose hunting, but there is definitely a limit to how far a hunter on foot can pack an Alaska moose. Even in my 20s, I was never too tempted by bulls out 3 miles or more off the road, so foot hunting off a very limited road system leaves a pretty small access footprint.

    However, my impression in Alaska is that reasonable management tools have been developed and applied to avoid over-harvest in the broad areas of the interior that have long remained at low density (predator pit), starting with bull-only hunting and progressing into antler restrictions such as spike-fork or 50” plus spread, sometimes with minimum of 3 brow tines included as a criterion – and finally permit drawings. One concern about placing more and more emphasis on predator control is where is the money going to come from to do that over a substantial area and continue to broadly collect the detailed information that’s made the existing system successful (especially when there’s resistence to raising resident license fees and non-resident license sales are declining)? I don’t know that the current management system and way of hunting is broken. There’s still reasonable legal opportunity to hunt in relatively uncrowded areas with adequate bulls around. I know several people who successfully do it from the road system and by river every year.

    My impression of the objective behind intensive management is that its more a “Build it and they will come” model aimed at making it much easier for more people who are less skilled and dedicated to go out and bring in moose and caribou – basically to get participation and harvest up – rather than aimed at addressing declining or over-harvested populations. There’s a slightly different issue in the more remote villages – where I think it’s not so much an absolute game resource limitation as an economic difficulty for people to fund the machines and fuel (at $6-$8 gallon) to go the distance to be successful at low moose density. Fishwheel-fed dogs, hand-made wood and rawhide sleds, and freighter canoes (with small prop outboards) that I remember from living in Nenana in 1963-1965 have been replaced with expensive gas-sucking outboard jet units, snowmobiles and 4-wheelers — and there’s a continued exodus from the villages to Anchorage.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan