We need wolves to be wolves

George Wuerthner responds to recent hyperbole from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation concerning wolves ~

We need wolves to be wolves ~ George Wuerthner, NewWest.net

If the restoration of wolves to the Rockies is really “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century” as David Allen suggests, I believe we need a lot more of these disasters across the country.



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Just as there is an ecology of plants and animals, with similar species competing for similar resources, so too is there an ecology of human organizations with closely related groups competing for resources such as money, volunteers, media attention, prestige.

    Organizations with similar goals are often in fierce competition with one another just as are animals, for example, the competition between wolves, cougar, and coyotes.

    During this period of diminishing resources for organizations, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation finds itself in competition with other hunting groups. I think the rise of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, not wolves, set off this explosive reaction of RMEF’s new CEO (or more to the point, the elevation of David Allen to that position). Because his statements are meant to (feed) bring resources to the organization, there is no reason for people outside RMEF to try to deal with Allen. RMEF can only fix itself internally.

    Another organizational maintenance strategy for RMEF would be to try to broaden its appeal rather than compete with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife for the same base. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they have chosen a tactic harmful to wildlife in general and not really helpful to elk except as a form of quick livestock.

    To think I joined them at one time. 🙁

  2. jon Avatar

    What another great article by George. I think some hunters resent wolves, bears, cougars and other predators because predators are competition and make them look incompetent. Far too many hunters are out of shape, and lack real hunting skills. They may know how to shoot a rifle, and can debate the merits of various rifle calibers, but that is different from knowing how to hunt. And when you have wolves and other predators on the land, you have to be a good hunter, in shape, and ever alert to be consistently successful.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    Just got back from looking for elk up Whiskey Mountain in area 69 over the last few days. It’s one of the few winter range complexes around Wyoming that’s open during the winter to foot or horse traffic; only vehicles are banned. I spend a lot of time up there during the winter since the other winter ranges are closed to human presence. Anyway, I counted around 200. I guess the wolves missed ’em, although it is a big mountain, as you know. However, that’s pretty much been the count each early spring, give or take ten or so, over the last decade. Not much change even though wolves have long been in the area, although there’s yet to be an established pack south of the Wind River. G&F is still handing out late season elk cow-calf tags in area 69, primarily to open up more winter range for Whiskey Mountain bighorn sheep. You don’t hear much about that. That’s usually where I hunt.

    I think what’s driving the absurd claims by David Allen and the RMEF about wolves and elk is not so much financial competition with other hunting groups such as SFW but to meet demands by wealthy landowners/ranchers and outfitters to open up on wolves for political reasons. You know the propaganda game: a respected, conservative hunting organization has taken all it can take from wolves, blah blah blah.

    Ranchers and big game outfitters–very often the same people–carry a lot more weight with the RMEF than do its rank and file members, because that’s where the money comes from. David Allen knows which side of his toast gets the butter, and it’s not the members’ side. We saw that clearly demonstrated early last year when the RMEF and the Montana Stockgrowers tried to pull a fast one with a secret conference in Billings to provide cover to livestock industry proposals to expand bison-style brucellosis management to Montana elk. Such a move surely is not in the interest of rank and file elk hunters, but what does the RMEF care as long as the big donors are happy?

    We have to see wolf conservation primarily as a struggle of power politics and less as a culture war, although the culture war is what it’s about as far as the rank and file is concerned. But the rank and file is ignorant and that’s how the politicians want it. The culture war is bread and circuses for the masses.

    Hunters in Wyoming for example have no understanding that the dual status classification of wolves has a political purpose–to keep the anti-fed flames burning and to sustain Stockgrower control over wildlife management in the State. Most of us who comment here understand that had Wyoming not gone with dual status, but declared wolves trophy game throughout the state in 2002, wolves would have been delisted successfully by 2005. But the fact is, the politicians, bound to the big landowners, don’t want wolves delisted. They benefit from continued political strife over wolves. People like David Allen are merely conforming to how things are. It’s not very admirable or courageous, but when you look for cowardice, you always find it at the top, no matter where the top is.


  4. cobra Avatar

    As I’ve said before, keep the wolf hunting seasons and let the ranchers fend for themselves. If you are a farmer and plant crops you do what is necessary to take care of them, if you run stock you need to take care of them. Growing up when a lion or bear got one of our cattle we never recieved any kind of subsidies because a predator got it, we just took our lumps and tryed to be more vigilant in watching our stock. You either took care of them or your bound to lose some somewhere.
    It amazes me how someone who has never hunted anything or even been around hunting can know so much about those of us who hunt and why we do.

  5. JimT Avatar

    First, the idea of public land leasehold ranchers taking a proactive management approach to their livestock is dubious at best. The ONLY way you could provide incentives for that is to make it a condition of any lease, and then yank the lease permanently if the measures are not taken. Period. No whining, no excuses. I admire your “take your lumps” attitude, but I don’t get the feeling the ranchers of today would give up their “take no responsibility and paid off for it” status. Second, given the tremendous hatred..no other word for it..of the wolf by the ranchers in the Mountain States, I simply don’t see giving them freedom to shoot predators, and rely on their good judgment to reach a balance of tolerance and protection. Just not in their value systems as it stands now.

    1. cobra Avatar

      It could be a way to get rid of wildlife services altogether and use the funds saved for habitat or other wildlife issues. I think in the long run there could be fewer predators killed because the ranchers may just take care of the animals doing the damage instead of culling out entire packs. Who knows for sure. I do know one thing for sure, a lot of people are getting tired of the wolf issue pro and con. I do know that years ago when we lost an animal to a bear or lion we didn’t try to kill them all, mostly just the ones doing the damage. I think their may still be some of these types of ranchers around but like everything else all we hear about for the most part are the ones raising hell.

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    This was a very good article. Did anyone read the comments about wolves being put into cities? I’m sure the person was exaggerating, but it is surprising how so many people bring up reintroducing wolves to Central Park since it was part of their original range.

    1. Jon Avatar

      I would like to see wolves reintroduced all over to large wilderness areas.


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Brian Ertz