Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal

IDFG claims wolves are having “unacceptable impacts” in the Lolo Zone

Now that the US Fish and Wildlife calls the shots again on wolves, the Idaho Fish and Game is proposing to kill all but 20-30 wolves in the Lolo Zone for a period of 5 years. Of course the current 10j rule was weakened so that the states didn’t have to prove that wolves were the major cause behind the inability of the ungulate population to reach their objectives, rather, they only have to show that wolves are a major cause. Because of this, the IDFG says that wolves are a major cause for the failure to meet objectives which conveniently allows them to ignore that the major cause is habitat, not just its reduced carrying capacity, but the changes which have made elk more vulnerable to predation.

It could be argued that given habitat succession, habitat potential may have declined more rapidly than elk abundance, and thus, habitat potential might be below the level necessary to sustain the elk population at objectives in the Lolo Zone. Given the rate of succession (USDA 1999), it is inconceivable that habitat potential might decline at such an aggressive rate.

The management objectives for the Lolo were set in 1999 but, given habitat changes, they are unrealistic and killing wolves will likely only have a very short term effect on elk populations here. The underlying issues of habitat are not really being addressed and possibly cannot be adequately addressed because they are out of our control.

The management objectives for elk in the Lolo Zone (GMUs 10 and 12) are to maintain an elk population consisting of 6,100 – 9,100 cow elk and 1,300 – 1,900 bull elk (Kuck 1999). Individual GMU objectives for the Lolo Zone are: 4,200 – 6,200 cow elk and 900 – 1,300 bull elk in GMU 10; and 1,900 – 2,900 cow elk and 400 – 600 bull elk in GMU 12 (Kuck 1999).

Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal.
Comment Deadline is August 30, 2010

I’ve written about this before numerous times:

A Whackadoodle Response to the Wolf Decision

N. Idaho outfitter reports 4 wolves killed

IDFG releases Video Summarizing Wolf Hunt



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  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    The science is a sidebar.

    Maybe if we paid every hunter who felt they were deprived “harvest” by wolves, the IDFG wouldn’t be so reactionary and we’d increase tolerance for wolves.

    Or maybe if we were less “emotional” and kept our passion and intangible appreciation for wolves under wraps, and publicly apologized enough times for spanking the hell out of these fools in court… maybe if they’d give us a seat at the table, where ~ if we pretend hard enough in the media ~ we could make-believe influence over decision-making.

    Maybe if we don’t protest … if we just keep to our fund-raisers and don’t rock the boat …

    Or maybe if we commission a study on moderation ….

  2. WM Avatar

    Why not let IDFG have their isolated “research” project on the Lolo? It is only one of several management zones (combined GMU’s 10 and 12), and many GMU’s.

    And if they are wrong you won’t have to prove they are fools. They will have done it themselves, and you can use it against them in the future.

    And, afterall, weren’t these wolves introduced to Central ID as a “non-essential experimental population.”

    1. Moose Avatar

      I agree…from what I can see there is going to be some kind of wolf reduction in these GMUs…How about DOW suspends its livestock reimbursement prog and hire an observer(s) to go along/review wolf/elk counts….maybe the sides can agree if the solution is science-based or politically based, right?

    2. JimT Avatar

      C’mon, you know better than that. LOLO would be only the beginning of the 10j killings based on some specious clalms that are not backed up by IDFG’s own report on that area. How many times does that have to be said?

      Use what against them? What mechanism would you suggest using?

    3. WM Avatar


      ++based on some specious clalms that are not backed up by IDFG’s own report on that area++

      Sorry, you lost me with the above statement. I gather IDFG’s baseline is as stated in the 10(j) proposal document. If there is another stated baseline from IDFG which conflicts please point it out.

      As for “mechanisms” to hold future findings against them, I can think of at least three:

      FIRST. If the 10(j) regulations stands up in court, also before Judge Molloy and on a briefing schedule, there will be a process going forward. Proposal, public input, implementation, scientific review of the results {repeat in same or new areas, repeat}as long as NRM wolves remain listed. Projects like this will receive visibility in court. A judge will see the results in a few years if wolves remain listed. Count on it.

      The listing/delisting thing is in fact a process, which has taken what up at least fifteen years to date in its implementation in the NRM and Great Lakes. It will no doubt go on another period of undetermined length as the legal challenges continue, and maybe a proposal for a national wolf management plan is considered (under a request from the CBD folks).

      ID and the other states will constantly be having to show to USFW and the courts what they are doing, and whether it works, over and over and over again.

      SECOND. There is the ESA itself, and whether it needs tweaking. If IDFG shows one way or the other, either control helps or doesn’t help ungulate populations with substantial removals of large numbers of wolves in the Lolo, that may account for something as the big picture develops. I, for one do not believe the ESA is working in this particular instance as there is overwhelming evidence gray wolves are not in trouble of recovery in the NRM DPS. The partial delisting that Molloy threw out on statutory construction grounds alone is proof enough of this. The “significant portion of its range” issue is entirely another matter, and if more states would take some that argument would go away very quickly. I have said before a translocation effort of excess wolves from the NRM to other areas would certainly cure that aspect. Seems, however, no states want them.

      THIRD. IDFG stands front and center on the stage of public opinion. They stand to lose credibility with an even broader segment of the public in ID, the West and the nation. This stands for something. I know my views will change if they screw it up, and get this wrong.

      I will submit, those who oppose this “research” proposal on non-essential experimental population” wolves, as these surely are, are afraid of what this proposal might show five or more years down the road.

      Yeah, I want wolves, but not so many as it appears we are going to get by default operation of the ESA, in a manner which I do not believe drafters intended had they been alive to watch the incredible success of the recovery of the gray wolf in the NRM. I would like to think they might, however, support my proposal to give some to every state in the West and Midwest. Maybe they would have even put in a provision to deal with idiot states like WY.

      I still do not have an answer to my practical question, of how it harms wolves to be protected in WY, not because they are not doing well there, but because WY does not have an acceptable plan. Seems to me it is a no harm, no foul situation, and the only problem is that it is apparently not permissible under the ESA – that is a shame and a reason by itself for the law to be changed.

  3. Carol Vinzant Avatar

    What’s amazing is that Wyoming couldn’t even bring itself to go along with these absurdly anti-wolf policies to get the species de-listed there. I hope that all of this bad wolf management shows that none of these states can handle managing wolf populations.

  4. somchai Avatar

    For 75 years the various state divisions of wildlife have been preserving endangered and threatened species using monies raised via the Pittman Robertson Act from hunters and shooters. The state divisions of wildlife have an unrivaled record of preserving species and habitat. Species including predators and prey, mamals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish.

    And now, because one predator’s genes so closely match our favorite pet, people with very little understanding or background in wildlife are working to perpetuate what may become one of the biggest species die offs since the bison.

    I think if you closely examing what your reasons are for advocating such high numbers of one predator, and honestly look at your motives, you might help defray some of the harm to all species such recklessness engenders.

    There are 75,000 wolves in Canada, an experimental population that was sustainable at 30 breeding pairs and 300 individuals will be seven times that many by spring. Two thousand wolves equal 40,000 dead elk. Without doubt some elk herds will be reduced below critical numbers to sustain populations.

    And when it becomes obvious to the general public that such high uncontrolled numbers of wolves are actually detrimental to populations of not only elk but also deer, both bears, mountain lion, lynx, and beaver, what then?

    The states are already legaly able to cull wolve as they see fit today. By air, with autoloading shotguns. Helicopter time is now approaching a thousand dollars an hour, likewise paying shooters isn’t cheap. Monies that could have been spent on endangerd species and habitat preservation will have been wasted.


  5. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    The problem with letting IDFG have its “research” project in the Lolo is that we won’t learn anything that we don’t already know–that predator control provides no positive benefits and costs a lot.

    One thing that was clear to me when I studied wolf control in the Yukon in the mid-90s is that habitat counts more than anything else. Killing wolves (and bears) to boost moose and caribou herds simply fails to get at the real problems, which are habitat fragmentation and degradation. You can kill all the wolves and bears you want and it won’t do a damn bit of good if the habitat is damaged, which it is. No different for elk.

    The “research” proposals from Idaho and Montana that have been floated since the Molloy decision on wolves have nothing to do with research, but with the bureaucratic politics of agency cowardice. I see no reason to compromise with the illiterate, the ignorant, and the idiotic.

    If the IDFG truly wants to boost elk habitat in the Lolo, I can’t think of any management action better suited to the task than striking a match.


  6. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Things we do in the name of research! Things we do over and over again and never start where a previous study left off. . Once tracking black bears I found a tuna can hanging in a tree (this was before trail cameras) and followed the bear from tuna can to the next one. Someone told me that it was a student trying to count black bears by the teeth marks . . of, guess what, all the same bear. And, this particular bear learned all about tuna cans and food hanging in trees! Yay! This is a good reason not to take tuna on your camping trips. You would think that now that we have such an elaborate information highway on-line that researchers would first research who else has done a similar study and where and what the results were. Doesn’t that make sense?

    1. JB Avatar

      Sure does, Linda. The problem is that the politically active on either side won’t accept study results from other areas or even the same area if enough time has passed. They will argue that it is different in zone X because of factor(s) a, b, c, etc. This isn’t all bad as replication is crucial to establishing the generalizability of study findings.

      I tend to think research hunts will go forth (note: Molloy, at least, did not stop the hunts last time around). Frankly, forcing agencies to couch hunts in research terms is good (my objection to the last hunt was that nothing would be learned from it because population reductions were essentially proportional). I think this is an opportunity to learn something about hunting wolves and its effect on ungulate populations in the NRs (not that it will matter much to those that have made up their minds).

    2. Maska Avatar

      It seems to me that the only way anybody could possibly learn anything from “research hunts” is if they proceeded according to a well-thought-out research design–not just by going out and shooting wolves willy-nilly until x wolves are dead and then estimating the number of elk next hunting season. What are the chances of that happening via the game departments of Montana or Idaho?

      Personally, I think the whole idea is bogus, but giving the wildlife managers the benefit of the doubt….

    3. Salle Avatar

      Doesn’t that define the problem with this proposal though? There is no desire to conduct real scientific process research, it is entirely intended to pacify the wolf-hating legislature by attaching a term rather than accepting the fact that they are not the arbiters of nature regardless of all the dominant species’ hype about dominion and stewardship duties. Making sense has little to do with anything they propose basically because the political game is the only game in town and any “magic words” that promote their political gain/interests are the only tools these clowns understand – invocation of emotional responses not promoting rational evaluation. Besides, research may not come to favorable conclusion to promote this political agenda – as with the elk pop study that was recently released.

      It is a war on wildlife and nothing short of removing the problem humans and their species-centric mindset will be of value to the ecosystem’s health ~ which ultimately determines the longevity of all species. Without recognizing this factor, we have no hope of “survival” for our own species. You can’t single out specific species and have ecological health for the other species. Every life form has a role to play… whether we humans like it or not.

      It’s the biosphere, stupid.

    4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      I’ve been studying predator-prey-habitat relationships for over 15 years and the situation with research is as I’ve stated above–habitat is what counts, and when there are problems with moose, caribou, or elk, it’s a habitat problem, not a predation problem. Killing predators provides no benefits to the long term health of ungulate populations. None. That’s a considered professional opinion, not one driven by politics, as JB suggests.

      I’m rather surprised that JB would support “research” hunts. As Maska says, to have any scientific validity, you’d have to have a valid experimental design, with valid controls. Very hard to do because nature is one long series of stochastic events. Plus, you’d need a time period a hell of a lot longer than the three years you generally see with such studies, which you usually find in the Journal of Wildlife Management, a journal firmly rooted in the game management agricultural paradigm, a paradigm that is no longer valid for conservation.

      Nature works on much longer time scales than funded research can deal with.

      In any case, the result is the same. Control proponents point to localized short term boosts of ungulate populations by taking out 80% of the predators in the “study area” but can’t point to long term benefits as populations still run up against the limitations of habitat, a situation no one denies, and the predators rapidly catch up to pre-control numbers. All you end up with is the necessity to keep on doing predator control. You’re negligently and ignorantly functioning in a positive feedback system and merely making things worse.

      If nothing is done for habitat, and it almost never is, then all you’re doing is throwing good money down the predator control rathole. The helicopter owners and pilots are happy, certainly.

      The sole basis for doing “research” hunts is hatred of predators and natural resource politics. Hardly a good way to proceed scientifically, because the science is undermined before you begin. I’ve never seen it otherwise.

      I’m not quite sure why this is so hard for people to understand.


    5. WM Avatar


      I have always respected your thoughtful comments, and continue to do so. If you dig a bit deeper into the proposal it is a bit more complex than what you conclude, in my view.

      If you read the IDFG proposal for wolf reduction in the Lolo, it is premised on an assertion that recently wolves (and to a much, much lesser extent other predators) have considerably reduced the calf recruitment rate as determined by the collared elk research that they have done from 2002 on. In addition, there is a pretty straightforward acknowledgement that habitat change is occurring there, and they do factor that, heavily in fact, into their assessment and conclusions. The thing that amazes me, as with RH’s comment above is that there is this simplistic summary conclusion – “it is the habitat, stupid,” which, for those wanting to summarily end debate, indeed stops the discussion for all but those who really want to know what is going on in the Lolo.

      However, and this is the important part, habitat change does not explain the low recruitment levels. Nutrition is adequate, they say, to support larger numbers of elk.

      Whether they tell the truth on this point is up to individuals to make up their own minds. IDFG asserts that from 2005 on when wolves started showing up in larger numbers and affecting elk populations, particularly their collared elk research calves, “Wolf predation was the primary cause of death accounting for…(70%) death when caused could be established” [p. 6]. No surprise here – wolves kill calf elk in larger numbers, proportional to the increase in numbers of wolves.

      They also say cow elk survival was monitored beginning in 2002, and during the research period through 2009 cow survival was adversely affected, stating, “Wolf-caused mortality increased over the eight year time frame. Wolf caused mortality was not detected during 2002 or 2003…During 2005-2009 92% of known-cause deaths…were due to predation of which 80% were caused by wolves” [p.6-7].

      They then go through some simulation modeling, with reduced wolf populations and come up with higher calf and cow survival abundance, which overall helps the elk population.

      They then address the important factor of whether wolf predation mortality is additive or compensatory [p.8]. The conclusion is kind of mushy here, citing studies by authors whose names we often see on this forum and their conclusions in other study areas. But, in the end they say survival of older elk, and of considerable importance prime age cows, is still higher in the absense of wolves, as is the survival of calves [p.8. Again, no surprises here.

      They then lay out their logic for reduction in wolf population, and elk population monitoring during this period. They also state 5 years may not show appreciable results in the elk population [pp.11-12]. This is probably reasonable, when wolves have basically taken out an entire generation or two of elk in the 2005-present period. I wonder what the Yellowstone research is showing after the rather large decreases in elk population there, and the wolf population in the Park has gone from 174 down to less than 100 after they zapped their primary food source.

    6. JB Avatar


      My support is hypothetical and contingent upon lots of factors. As you suggested, this research effort would require some pretty tightly-designed experiments and long-term monitoring, which would both be prerequisites for my support. Moreover, it would require monitoring more than just wolves and elk (wolves have other sources of food, elk other sources of predation, and the importance of habitat is tantamount), so for any effort to be useful, it would need to include measurements of all of these variables. Finally, experimental removal also would necessitate experimental controls (i.e. areas in which wolves are not hunted). From this perspective, allowing “research” hunts has the potential to satisfy multiple stakeholder groups: (a) the Idaho government gets wolf hunts (and symbolic “control”), (b) big game hunters get a reduction of wolves, at least in certain areas, and (c) wolf-supporters get areas where wolves are not killed.

  7. Paul White Avatar
    Paul White

    right, because the most important part of wildlife management is people having animals to hunt…
    I’m not anti-hunter but I’m not so pro-hunter that I feel we should subordinate a healthy sustainable predator population to people’s ability to bag elk

    1. JimT Avatar

      Shame on you for introducing reason into the whole Sacred Elk debate…;*)

    2. JB Avatar


      I think you’ve oversimplified my argument. Yes, OF COURSE it is politically pragmatic for F&G agencies to cater to big game hunters–we’ve been over that a thousand times on this blog, and I will be first in line to say things need to change. However, what constitutes a “healthy” wolf population is a matter of some debate; moreover, a substantial “harvest” in the previous year resulted in wolf populations that are essentially stable–meaning hunting can take place with little to no jeopardy for the wolf population.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have personal preferences regarding how wolves should be managed, but they are largely irrelevant. I am thinking about what constitutes a “recovered” population as so defined by the ESA, and from my perspective that means wolves in MORE places (though not necessarily more wolves).

      Full disclosure: I am currently writing on this topic and would love to hear more from the people that post here regularly.

  8. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    I love euphemisms, they can solve any touchy dilemma can’t they? I wonder if the aircraft or hunters’ jackets will have “RESEARCH” printed on them in big bold white letters?

    1. JimT Avatar

      yeah, ,just like the Japanese whaling boats have RESEARCH on them when they are killing endangered whale species..

  9. JerryBlack Avatar

    In case you all missed this………

    “Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks attorney Bob Lane said Friday his agency could not justify carrying out a hunt in the name of research since the goal would have been to reduce the wolf’s population, not study it,” according to the Associated Press.

    1. JB Avatar

      Jerry, you’ve left out an important fact:

      “Wildlife officials are dropping their proposal for a “research hunt” for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.

      Instead, they are considering proposing a possible “conservation hunt” to trim the predators’ population in the name of reducing livestock attacks.”

      — Hunting wolves to study the effects is one thing, reducing wolf populations to minimize attacks on livestock is something different entirely.

    2. JimT Avatar

      So, they want to kill wolves in the name of conservation? Conservation of what…dumb cows? Sacred Elk?

      I am continually struck here by the irony of those who support wolf kills citing depleted numbers of elk unavailable for them to then turn around and kill.

    3. JB Avatar


      Let me explain the logic, some of which I agree with, and some of which I don’t:

      (1) Tolerance for wolves decreases among hunters when wolf populations increase and elk decrease (regardless of any causal link). (2) Hunters have access, opportunity, and motivation to kill wolves, and thus, represent the greatest threat to wolf populations. (3) Reducing wolf populations will increase hunter tolerance for wolves (i.e.decrease illegal killing). (4) Preemptively killing wolves in a controlled fashion allows for their continued conservation (note: wolf populations held steady last year despite a hunt). (5) Therefore, controlled research/conservation/whatever hunts are the preferred alternative because mortality levels are tightly controlled, and political pressure and illegal killing (presumably) are reduced.

      There are a number of questionable (and untested) assumptions in this reasoning, but I believe it represents the Service’s thoughts on the matter.

  10. JerryBlack Avatar

    JB…..Geez I was excited to get that email…..guess I’d better research these statements myself or spend less time in the woods and more time reading the news.

    1. WM Avatar


      I used the term “research” sarcastically in an early comment on this thread, and it stuck. Indeed it is a “conservation” hunt grounded in the 10(j) regulations, predicated on a perceived “unacceptable impacts” on ungulate populations. These very regulations are the subject of another suit before Judge Molloy in MT, and Judge Winmill in ID.

      I used the term “research project” because that is the way the proposal reads, including the extensive study of the Lolo that gets IDFG to the point of making the request. I, for one, am hopeful the challenges to the regulations fail.

      Judge Molloy’s ruling (a good one based on his interpretation of the law) needs a safety valve or two to let off some steam from this contentious issue. The ESA is not working in the case of the gray wolf -it is clearly a recovered species in 2010, and some flexibility needs to be recognized to control numbers or expand range at much lower densities, again with control at some point. The alternative is to change the law.

    2. JB Avatar

      “The ESA is not working in the case of the gray wolf -it is clearly a recovered species in 2010, and some flexibility needs to be recognized to control numbers or expand range at much lower densities, again with control at some point. The alternative is to change the law.”

      I don’t think it is accurate to say the ESA is not working in the case of wolves. The sky is not falling, despite the IDF&G’s assertions to the contrary. In fact, looking beyond wolves this is an argument about what, exactly, the ESA requires. While I would agree that the population of wolves that occupies the northern Rocky Mountain states is indeed viable, that does not mean that the “species” is “recovered” in either a legal or ecological sense. The broader debate here is about what “recovery” entails. For many people, Idaho’s plan makes a mockery of recovery by managing for wolves at such low densities; others cite the lack of any wolves across the vast majority of their range as evidence of a failure to recover.

      The wolf issue is about delineating how far we, as a society, should go to recover species.

    3. Brian Ertz Avatar

      “The ESA is not working in the case of the gray wolf -it is clearly a recovered species in 2010, and some flexibility needs to be recognized to control numbers or expand range at much lower densities, again with control at some point. The alternative is to change the law.”

      the alternative is to follow the law

    4. WM Avatar


      ++others cite the lack of any wolves across the vast majority of their range as evidence of a failure to recover.++

      I am a pragmatist in regards to how the ESA should be interpreted. Numbers of wolves in the NRM – it seems there is a pretty good argument there are enough to satisfy the genetic connectivity issues, and if there are too many according to the three states at the heart of the issue, they should be encouraged to give some away, so that more of the “signficant portions of their range” can be occupied. Yes, give them to other states. Why is that not happening?

      The ESA says anything about density, of which I am aware, and which ever states get/have them will want to manage for density? Take a look at the resolution from the Midwwest Association of Fish and Wildllife agencies passed last week. They took a pretty strong stand in saying:

      ” ……NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies supports and endorses efforts to delist gray wolves in the Midwest (formally known as the Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment) from the Endangered Species Act as a recovered species, and recommends the management of this species by state agencies, including public taking, for the multiple values and benefits associated with their recovery.”

      This, after some five years of MN, WI and MI trying to get their wolves delisted in the face of legal challenge after legal challenge. That is why I say the ESA is not working.

      And, as I have said before, we keep dinking around with the wolf thing-whether NRM or GL wolves- while other species in far greater jeopardy get no publicity and attention- my favorite being the wolverine.

    5. JB Avatar


      You’re right, the ESA does not say anything about densities, but it also does not define “recovery” or “significant”. The conservation groups pursuing relisting (I say “pursuing” because this is hardly decided) of wolves argue that the stated purpose of the ESA–to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems on which they depend–demands more than simply the minimum viable population, thus low numbers and densities become evidence in an argument against the states’ management plans.

      States can’t “give” wolves away for a number of reasons, but mostly because doing so would negate their attempts to limit wolves’ distribution. What evidence do I have in support of this statement? (1) The eastern 2/3 of Montana were not even included in the analysis of habitat suitability cited in the 2009 final rule (meaning, most of Montana was deemed unsuitable without any science); (2) Idaho allowed wolf hunts in the southern 1/3 of the state with the knowledge that there were very few wolves present in these areas; (3) Wyoming has stubbornly clung to its “dual classification” status because it doesn’t want wolves outside of the National Parks and Forests of the western part of the state. Giving wolves to neighboring states would actually work counter to states’ efforts to limit wolves’ distribution.

      – – – –

      The Great Lakes states are an entirely different matter.

    6. Brian Ertz Avatar

      i think the suggestion that the wolf issue is sucking the oxygen out of other imperiled species issues is off the mark.

      species’ relative charisma generates its own attention. also, as i’m sure you know WM, there are many many reasons – probably different for everyone – why wolves garnish so much attention.

      that said – the failure of the federal government to promulgate a delisting rule that abides by the law is less indicative of an inadequacy or shortcoming of the law itself — and more indicative of the sickness of the agency administering the law ~ i.e. FWS.

      it just goes to show :

      an agency apt to rely on political expediency as its principle onus for a listing determination is less likely to make a lawful rule. an agency as apt to ignore the law ~ or spite it ~ is less likely to prevail in court.

      viability in a vacuum is not the standard by which listing determinations ought be made ~ if it was we’d have seen a recovery plan that built a kennel or a zoo.

      the integrity of the DPS, that it not become a tool to undermine the ESA via piecemeal removal of protection, is important ~ it’s important biologically/ecologically.

      who knows ~ maybe wolverines will benefit from this very judicial clarification that maintains the protective trajectory of the DPS.

  11. WM Avatar

    Sorry, Second paragraph above should read:

    The ESA says NOTHING about density, of which I am aware, and whichever states get/have them will want to manage for density at some point – probably low density for multiple reasons including management of prey species for hunters.

    1. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      500 wolves is a density of ~1 wolf for every fifty three thousand acres;as per Idaho’s management plan.

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      Just curious, in this modern day, with so many humans on the landscape, what do you think the wolf density numbers should be?

      And NO, I am not starting an argument, but trying to get a handle on what would be acceptable..

  12. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I arrive at that number by assuming that ~50% of Idaho is suitable habitat for wolves, taking into account the demographics of the state. My point is that the state position of what is a maximum carrying capacity,~500, is suspect. in 2005 the state said that it would manage for 15 packs/breeding pairs and 150 wolves. Then parvo wiped out nearly all of the Yellowstone pups that year and severely reduced the population overall. Seeing that, Idaho “revised” their plan to the present day ~500, so as to account for the perfect storm of possible mortality and still keep from being listed. it is that simple. To the state,”viable population” means the minimum number to avoid being listed by default.
    My opinion of what is a ideal number is what the habitat will support. It seems to me that both sides have some concept that wolves are outside, or extraneous, to the concept of habitat rather than an integral component of. That would also include human uses such as hunting.
    Until we get past the teeth gnashing and arms flailing on both sides there is a small chance if any of seeing what nature, the habitat, will determine as the ideal density.
    so you tell me. what is an absolute maximum number or density.

    1. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      I have never stated maximum or minimum at anytime in my postings on this blog, but I am starting to try to key in on what the various personalities are thinking, and believe me, with my background, it could be important…which is the only reason I asked.

    2. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      I am not trying to be abrasive, it is just I believe, always have believed, that the “numbers” game is a red herring.

  13. WM Avatar


    ++the failure of the federal government to promulgate a delisting rule that abides by the law is less indicative of an inadequacy or shortcoming of the law itself — and more indicative of the sickness of the agency administering the law ~ i.e. FWS.++

    I understand your perspective, but it is very important to understand the history. Remember that the 1994 EIS, the wolf releases, and the first five years of recovery in the NRM were under President Clinton’s Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbit (and Jamie Rappaport as FWS ESA chief and later Director for a portion) beginning in the early 1990’s. So the “sickness,” if there is any as you allege, would have started then. If the states are to be believed, during the early discussions in ‘91-93, folks like Ed Bangs and other FWS leaders made representations to the states, allaying fears, in order to make the introduction happen more smoothly, especially in light of resistance to reintroduction by state elected officials, which Ralph has spoken of in the past here.

    The following is from the very first paragraph from the ABSTRACT of the 1994 EIS, which I suggest you read carefully, especially the sentence highlighted in capital letters:

    ++ The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has selected Alternative 1, as modified by public comment,and proposes to establish an experimental population rule and reintroduce gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho, if two naturally occurring wolf packs cannot be located in either area before October 1994 or before experimental animals are released. THE RULE WOULD ALLOW MANAGEMENT OF WOLVES BY GOVERNMENETAL AGENCIES AND THE PUBLIC TO MINIMIZE CONFLICTS ON PUBLIC LANDS, EFFECTS ON LIVESTOCK, AND IMPACTS ON UNGULATES (DEER, ELK, ETC.) POPULATIONS. There will be no land use restrictions for wolves after six packs are established. State and tribal wildlife agencies are encouraged to lead wolf management outside national parks and national wildlife refuges. Reintroduction would result in wolf population recovery (ten breeding pairs, about 100 wolves/area for three successive years) in and around Yellowstone National Park and in central Idaho by 2002. Only the establishment of wolves in these two areas is the subject of this proposal.++

    Curiously, there is no discussion about what the ESA requires, ANYWHERE in the EIS (nothing about “signficant portion of range,” etc.). It is also highly significant that these NRM introduced wolves were designated as “nonesssential experimental populations.” This, in and of itself, says alot under the law and gave certain perceived flexibility, and maybe even personal guarantees by FWS personnel in the 1990’s, for how things would go in the future as population increased. No doubt many of those representations and assurances have continued over the years, including tweaking the 10(j) rules in 2008 as populations continued to grow, and allowing a hunt to go forward in ID and MT last year, while WY pouted.

    Sooooo, here we are nearly two weeks after a federal judge’s decision interpreting a complex law that has two states scratching their heads saying – wait, we did all you (the federal government) asked us to do (beginning in the early 1990’s), and we have six or seven times the number of wolves you told us we would have under the law, and very few options to manage for the numbers as agreed in our adopted plans. Just because another state won’t play in the sandbox, it heaps even more insult to an already stinky situation. It has also given state legislators the justification they need to say see we told you so, you can’t trust the feds – ever. They have good reason to be distrustful, and quite frankly a little pissed about the whole thing. So, on will go the sabre rattling, huffing and puffing on the political front.

    The fact that legal interpretations from the court are coming so late in the process is highly unfortunate, but that is the way our system of government works, warts and all.

    It would also be optimistic to believe that the range of impacts flowing from the introduction would be as they have played out over the past fifteen years, plus the pre-planning years going back to 1987, or earlier. So much of this was for a long time, a novelty, the consequences of which few could fathom in the early years. The complacency of RMEF, with its thoughtful wait and see attitude, is an excellent example, followed by a frantic wake-up call with an unexpected relisting due to a technical flaw in the plan implementation (a DPS can’t be split when a state won’t assume goodfaith management responsiblity).

    As population grew quickly these last six or seven years, impacts throughout the introduction range have been rather dramatic. For example, did scientists predict that the YNP wolves would munch through their surpus elk so quickly, rising to a population of over 174 recorded wolves by 2006, then taper back to less than 100 actually in the Park as wolves sought out new and easier to obtain food sources in adjacent areas outside the Park (and yes there was a parvo incident in there that affected population)?

    WHAT WILL BE THE FUTURE WITH NRM WOLVES IN LISTED STATUS FOR THE NEXT 2-4 YEARS? If wolf populations grow in the NRM states with the same or higher density, with range and total numbers increasing substantially, tolerance will decrease dramatically, and it has the possibility of getting ugly for wolves and dangerous for people – poaching may very well occur with frequency. Here is an article from this morning’s Magic Valley News.

    This thing needs some safety valves, like some 10(j) conservation hunts in specific areas in ID and MT, or it has the possibility of getting out of hand, as I think SB suggested before.

    1. JB Avatar


      I appreciate the thoughtful post. I’ll just add one point: I think there are several groups who would like nothing better than to see things “get out of hand”. Many people do not believe that states are capable of sustainable management of wolves, and would view a substantial rise in wolf poaching as strong evidence corroborating this belief. In the past you dismissed my suggestion that that a play may be made for federal control. I wonder if you still feel the same way?

    2. timz Avatar

      JB I suspect when you say “I think there are several groups who would like nothing better than to see things “get out of hand”, you mean the ‘pro-wolf’ folks. If I’m wrong please clarify.
      But the comments I’ve seen from the pro-wolf side are mostly along the line of, “now we can get back to the table and find a workable solution”, etc. But from the politicians we here, “let’s re-write the ESA to exclude wolves”, from F&G we hear, “how can we circumvent the ruling and continue to kill wolves, from the hunters we hear about gut-shooting and poisoning. You have to ask yourself which groups are really standing in the way of de-listing?

    3. JB Avatar


      Yes, your suspicion is correct. To be honest, I think both “sides” are standing in the way of delisting (a legal outcome) because they fundamentally disagree regarding how wolves should be managed. Note, I think the groups opposed to delisting have a legitimate complaint, and they probably are best serving the interests of their members. In reality, these groups are not likely to find acceptable any option the states will put forth, thus they have an incentive to keep wolves listed.

    4. jon Avatar

      I have been to different blogs and such and I already see numerous hunters claiming they are going to go out and sss. Whether or not these people are being serious is yet to be seen, but if some of them do infact kill wolves, I wonder what turn of events this will take.

    5. WM Avatar


      ++In the past you dismissed my suggestion that that a play may be made for federal control. I wonder if you still feel the same way?++

      I had a longer answer than what I state below, in which I was going to try to answer that question, but it seems interest is heading elsewhere on this forum at the moment. So I will save it for another time.

      The short answer is that I am troubled by how to treat idiot states like WY that choose not to participate in a cooperative federal-state framework, without really articulating a legal basis to act as they do. So, a federal role may be appropriate in more of a day to day management role if, as WY has clearly shown, they are not capable of being responsible in a wolf delisting management role. I find it much more troubling to take away a role for ID and MT and assert a stronger federal control role if they meet the intent of the ESA in recovering a species. I think they have met the spirit of the law, even if they come up short in what some folks think is “ecosystem recovery” or the “right number.” I just don’t think those indicators are a good measure by which to assess gray wolf recovery. Clearly the species itself is not in trouble in the NRM in 2010, as I have stated earlier. That does not mean the issue “ecosystem” aspect or “signficant portion of range” should not be addressed, it is just that holding ID and MT hostage to the obligations of the rest of the West is fair, in my opinion. More states with more wolves is fair- if they will take them. And, I don’t care how.

      I also wanted to mention that you and I will just have to continue to disagree on how far Kleppe v. NM can be extended to increase a federal role in “wildlife” management. If it would be applied as I think you suggested in the past, there would be a very quick legislative response, as I expect state wildlife agencies across the country would weigh in through their respective state governments and congressional representatives – even the urban states. I would take it even further, and suggest this would be much more likely than even a change in the ESA, which now seems to be getting more attention in light of judge Molloy’s ruling, and the impass in managing a DPS delisting caused by WY.

    6. WM Avatar

      Above post, third paragraph should read:

      “”it is just that holding ID and MT hostage to the obligations of the rest of the West is NOT fair….”

  14. timz Avatar

    JB, it makes no sense (to me anyway) why anyone who is pro-wolf (for lack of a better term) would want to see things get out of hand, that just means a lot of dead wolves and defeats the purpose of having them relisted.

    1. JB Avatar

      A lot of dead wolves in the short term is relatively meaningless given the species’ fecundity (short term populations reductions can be easily “fixed”). Moreover, if illegal poaching increases dramatically, there will be little question that wolves meet the definition of, at minimum, a threatened species. When wolves are federally listed, large national NGOs will have some power (mostly via the courts) to shape policy. Under state management, these groups will be powerless and wolves will be managed for what the states (i.e. their legislatures and commissioners) want–that is, what they think their constituents want (despite the fact that wolves occur primarily on federal lands).

  15. Harold Archiabdl Avatar
    Harold Archiabdl

    The wildlife management program is a big business for the state of Idaho.
    Wolves represent one part of the program regarding the overall management of this wildlife business. This management to date has resulted in less wildlife elk, deer available for harvest or just to enjoy seeing them in their habitat.
    Predators like wolves who do not have natural predators/controls can result in severe reduction of other species. This will ultimatley result of the demise of the wolf packs which were reintroduced without proper study of the impact or controls on the local populations of other wildlife.

    I am not against wolves , I am against no controls on their population and impact on other wild life.
    History has shown that wildlife management can increase the number of deer , Elk, bear , antelope and other big game species.
    No control of predators / man or wolf will result in a decline of wildlife.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Actually wolves do have natural predators, each other. Wolves regularly kill each other and are influenced by the abundance of their prey.

    2. Salle Avatar

      Actually, many studies were conducted regarding just those topics long before, up to and after the wolves were reintroduced. In fact, the wolves of the reintroduction, their progeny and prey have been some of the most researched (studied/peer reviewed) wildlife in the US of A.

      Speculation that promotes fear-mongering and lacking referenced study are/have been the production of misinformation campaigns all along.

      And, how come they didn’t wipe each other out before we came along and decided we knew how to manage life on earth better than anyone or anything else… including the deities of religions? ~ lest we forget that we were sure we knew how the original inhabitants of the continent should live, at least that was the rhetorical argument, when in reality our programs were intended to annihilate them. Even after they showed us how to survive here.

      The fact is that most of the western cultures seem to think that control of the natural world is our duty when in reality the natural world (everything not created or manipulated by humans) is and was just fine until we started messing with it. Human hubris about our role in the biosphere is what will eventually cause us to become extinct far faster than natural processes would have.

      It’s the biosphere, folks. Can’t survive without it.

    3. jon Avatar

      Of course, some hunters rationalize killing wolves because they suggest the animals “need” to be managed. I hear that all the time, as if somehow the natural world had gone to hell in a hand-basket before Euro Americans arrived just in the nick of time to rescue Nature from imminent collapse. Of course, the “need” to manage wolves is both a self-created and self-justifying excuse to kill animals that most hunters wish would just go away or at least believe should be kept at much lower numbers.

      All this talk about the so called “need” to manage wolves is disingenuous at best. Any good ecologist will tell you that wolves and other predators do not need to be “managed” since they are more or less self-regulating by prey availability and social interactions. The only reason one has to “manage” wolves is because state wildlife agencies want to sell more hunting licenses. (There may be rare instances where lethal action is necessary where an animal may have become habituated to people and poses a safety concern, but that is entirely different than “sport hunting”.)-George Wuerthner

  16. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Right on Salle!!

    It is modern mans feeling of superiority over everything that is so destructive to our earth. I look to the academic community, starting from kindergarden, and their professional “offspring” as being some of the worst influences to attitudes. Feeling IQ is proof of superiority over other species is number one on the list.

    My thoughts are; the bias and need of individual intelligence is directly proportionate to the dysfunctionality of that population or species. In humans so much of our energy is consumed by our brains. It is not good for our species. And how we impact other species in our dysfunctionality becomes a domino effect. To think that a big buck or bull elk has to be “willy” or elusive to escape man makes for less functional deer or elk herds.

    Superiority feelings means justification for abuse….and of course abusers always blame the abused. Thus we have “hunters”, ranchers and folks in state and federal wildlife agencies who can not see beyond themselves and their abusive attitudes and actions to blame other species (wolves) who only are being part of a system.


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

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Ken Cole