Rancher senators move to amend Endangered Species Act-

Although most of the grass roots activity against wolves has come from elk and deer hunters, it has always been the ranchers at the core of wolf hatred.  The reason is that the large ranchers have always believed it is their right to govern the rest of us. The were very insulted when something like wolf reintroduction happened over their objections . . . makes them think they are losing their grip.

We certainly see it in Montana. Max Baucus has always been a prime example of man born to ranch privilege and power. Jon Tester is a rancher/farmer.  The state’s lone Republican, House member Denny Rehberg is a rancher, and so is his Democratic opponent in the upcoming election.

This issue has always been about the privilege and power of a tiny elite in the West. That’s what wolves are so controversial in the Northern Rockies, but not in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan where social and economic justice has always been more important.

I don’t know if this legislation will move or not, but I do know what it is not about. It’s not about wildlife or wolves.  It’s clear now Congress won’t take this up before the elections.  They want to go campaign.
Temporary Spending Bill Passed: Congress Punts On Budget, Controversial Issues. Huffington Post.

Baucus, Tester introduce bill to return wolf management to Montana. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian. Note that the bill doesn’t do anything regarding wolves in Wyoming. It is kind of a “damn you Wyoming” bill.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

163 Responses to Baucus, Tester introduce bill to return wolf management to Montana [and Idaho]

  1. jdubya says:

    Sound like this Senate bill matches one in the House from two of our losers from Utah…legislators never do a very good job pretending to be scientists.


    • jon says:

      I don’t see how it would be legal to exempt one specific animal from being on the esa. What are the chances that this will pass?

      • Brian Ertz says:

        it’s legal cause the crooks make it legal …

      • Save bears says:

        Depends on how many of their fellow congress people they convince to sign on..

      • jon says:

        This reminds me of when safari club international tried to get endangered polars bears thrown off the esa. You can expect environmental groups to not back down from this! I believe there will be a lot of backlash against this once it gets out to the masses in the us.

      • Save bears says:

        I honestly don’t know Jon, I would say, that right now the majority of the people in the US, don’t care about wolves, they have many other problems and hopes on their minds than protecting wolves…

      • jon says:

        Maybe so, but I would imagine that the majority of people in the us don’t really know what’s going on with this wolf issue because they just don’t know about it or they are wrapped in other matters they think are more important. I don’t think this has ever been done before, keeping one specific animal off the esa, has it?

      • Save bears says:


        In the history of the ESA, there have been several animals denied protection for one reason or another, I would bet if you took a pole in any major US city, such as Detroit, Chicago, NY, Nashville, LA, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans, basically any of the major population areas of the country, you will find that a good many of them don’t care, or don’t even know there are wild wolves not in a zoo.

        And I am not being negative, I am simply being honest, I just don’t think the majority of the US care, they have far to many other things on their minds..

      • Elk275 says:


        It is sad but true, American is more interested in Lindsey Lohan, Lady Gaga (who ever that is), and Paris Hilton.

      • jon says:

        Ain’t that the truth!

      • jon says:

        Do you bowhunt elk? you might have told me before, but I don’t recall. I assume you are going elk hunting this year? When are you heading out or have you been out already? Has elk hunting season started yet over there in MT?

      • Save Bears,

        You are right. Most Americans have other things on their minds, but that is always the case.

        The reason wolf supporters don’t do well in the Rocky Mountain West is not because they don’t live here. Hell, I do and hundreds of people I know who support the wolf restoration.

        The problem is the lack of political organization, not lack of support. In politics, organization is more important than numbers.

        As in the military, five well trained, properly armed, and positioned soldiers can defeat hundreds of irregulars. It’s the same in politics. Secure victory on these kinds of issues can’t really come until there is the proper political organization in place.

        As it is now, this is really about who is a prince and who is a peasant, and most of we peasants act like peasants.

      • Elk275 says:

        No, I do not bow hunt. I do not like bow hunting ( sorry save bears), I like fine firearms and with quality workmanship. I am a rifle hunter only.

        I was going to go moose hunting in a few days but my friend with the permit killed his moose yesterday. I do have a mountain sheep permit for the Beartooths ( Beartooth Highway), which is purchased over the counter and the season closes when 2 rams are killed. At 59 climbing up and down those mountains everyday gets to be a real effort.

        In two weeks, my 86 old father and I are going antelope hunting which will be his last hunt, everytime I see him he gets older.

        Elk season starts three weeks from Saturday in Montana and I will be leaving Friday afternoon for the Snowcrest and Cenntenial Mountains. I was not going to hunt those area anymore because of wolves, which have gotten in my way several times before. It is not easy to change one’s hunting area. I do have 2 elk permits

        I was going to purchase a very good mule and hunt in the Crazy Mountain but the mule is $4500 and the IRS wants about that much. My horse is over 20 years and is herd bound and can not carry me in the mountains anymore. I suppose a tiny faction of that money will be used to support WS, damn. What else do you want to know.

      • jon says:

        Whatever happened to that mt. lion hunt you were offered?

      • Elk275 says:

        I did not draw a tag, which is fine. It would have cost some money and I want to return to Chile and hike Torres Del Paine for the 3rd time.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        A third hike — that sounds like a definite advertisement for Torres del Paine. I’ll put it higher on my list. We spent 3-4 weeks in Argentina and Chile the winter before last (with our daughter who is fluent and knows a lot of people there) but missed that area. I was completely blown away by the visual similarity between here and Tierra del Fuego, same ocean channels, tidewater glaciers, shape and texture to the mountains and almost the same timberline. From the water, Ushuaia could nearly pass for Sitka — but the similarity ends there when you step into the woods or look into the culture. Our Tlingit are doing pretty well, while their natives will settle into extinction when the one remaining Yaghan woman dies. They have tremendous marine resources (king crab and fish resources reflected in vast colonies of cormorants and belching sea lions) but the current people who are all inlanders and urbanites recently from Cordoba and Buenos Aires are completely disenfranchised from it — no commercial fishing fleet, no charter fleet, no small boat harbor, not a skiff, canoe or punt evident anywhere in town. The ocean to them is nothing but a backdrop, part of the scenery that draws tourists.

  2. JimT says:

    It has to have hearings, it has to make it out of committee, it has to pass the House etc. It won’t happen this fall. So, the environmental community has a window to pull back the curtain for the rest of the country to see. Don’t just make this about wolves; make it about abuse of the public tax dollars, dollars Easterners and other regions put into the Feds, but never see the harm of how they are being used by Western political interests.

    One thing we all can do NOW is to flood the committee chair with emails, letters, etc….demanding this end around for the benefit of a few welfare ranchers is BS, and be stopped. I remember when Leahy and Jeffords wanted special pricing for the dairy farmers in the Northeast because the family farms were being decimated by the milk producer’s setting low prices..and the Midwest and the Western delegations went nuts, claiming special treatment at the expense of taxpayes, etc. What is good for the goose…

    • jon says:

      So you don’t think this will pass Jimt. I will take your word for it as you know the law better than most on here.

      • Save bears says:

        He didn’t say it won’t pass, he said, nothing will happen this fall, making it out of committee or not, will depend on how much support the representatives can garner for the bill, I think in the western states as well as the North Midwestern states, they might be able to gain a heck of a lot of support..

    • WM says:


      I think you forget this has broader following. NRA, as I have said before, will work the issue because it has several intersection points with their interests. It is a rural state – urban state issue. Got some Dems. will or are advocating for their home states- and the national purist environmental interest may take a back seat for them. I gotta wonder how Mark Udall and the new Senator from CO will react. And, will Tom Udall abandon his NM ranching interests in favor of holding the line on the ESA? Could be some horsetrading behind the scenes, on totally unrelated issues.

  3. JimT says:

    Members – Home
    Senate Majority Committee Members
    Barbara Boxer (Chairman)
    Max Baucus
    Thomas R. Carper
    Frank R. Lautenberg
    Benjamin L. Cardin
    Bernard Sanders
    Amy Klobuchar
    Sheldon Whitehouse
    Tom Udall
    Jeff Merkley
    Kirsten Gillibrand
    Arlen Specter

    Of these, Tom Udall, Bernie Sanders will be the most likely to block any kind of ESA weakening. Spector is a lame duck. Boxer can blow hot and cold on environmental issues, especially one that doesn’t concern her state.

    Start writing, folks.

    • jon says:

      It is my understanding that esa trumps state, but we shall see what happens.

      • jdubya says:

        This would be a federal law, not a state law. That is why groups are proposing similar bills in both the House and the Senate.

      • jon says:

        jdubya, in your personal opinion, do these bills have any chance at all passing?

      • jdubya says:

        Yes, of course. It all depends upon who brings what kind of pressure upon whom.

        But, by and large, this is a West versus East controversy in that most controversial ESA cases nowadays are in the west (yes, I DO remember the snail darter…) not the east. So for the west politocos to get eastern support they are going to have to come up with some quid pro quo that would favor the eastern states. What that might be I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

      • Ryan says:

        Its going to pass in one way on another, it has too mucn bi-partisan support and way to many big lobby groups pushing it. The last thing a Democrat wants to do in this election cycle is piss off the NRA, if they haven’t yet.

    • It won’t go through the committee. That is regular procedure.

      If it moves at all it will be attached to something in the Senate than can pass by voice vote. Right now the Republicans are blocking almost every bill of any kind.

      The position Harry Reid takes will make a big difference.

      There are appropriations bills being considered now, but most will come after the election. I don’t think Senate rules allow a bill of this kind to be attached to an appropriations measure bill.

      • JimT says:

        If it is allowed to be attached, Ralph. That battle has to be fought as well…not all efforts are allowed to have amendments attached, and I suspect that the Dems are smarting from the DADT and the Dream amendments losses, so we shall see if they have the backbone and unity to do the right thing. I have feelers out to folks on the House committee…will let you know if I hear anything.

        Harry is otherwise occupied, I think, and doesn’t want the greens and the animal folks sniping at his heels this fall. I suspect he will turn a deaf ear and tell them to take it up next session.

      • JimT says:


        Some of the ins and outs of bills in the Senate

  4. JimT says:

    This fall it is a matter of the fall election trumping everything, and therefore nothing will get done. The ONLY way would be to attach it to a spending bill, most likely defense, but even then, it would have to be reconciled with anything that happens in the House, etc. And the Repubs may find themselves hoisted on their own petard if they somehow wrangle control of the Senate, which is unlikely. If the cloture and holds and filibuster rules are not reformed, it will be government by minority objections all over again.

    Remember, it takes BOTH houses of Congress to get a bill to the President’s desk, and even then, I am not sure even Obama could stand up to a concerted effort by the greens and the animal lovers when vids of dead gassed wolf puppies, or wolves with chewed off legs emerge. And emerge they will..it is inevitable.

    While we are waiting for Vilsack to come to his senses and rein in Wildlife Services (btw, DOW is starting a campaign to go after WS…well, their political action arm…. I was wondering if requiring WS to make vids of their activities as part of a record keeping and public accountability effort would be worth going after…FOIA wouldn’t be the ruling statute if it is a requirement rather than an option. We shall see.

  5. jon says:

    I believe Brian said that one time he tried to film wildlife services doing their dirty deeds and told him they would have him arrested if he didn’t leave. They clearly don’t want the public to know what they are doing. You know the world has gone to shit when a sheep or cow is much more valuable and important than native wildlife.

    • Elk275 says:

      I depends upon whether it’s your sheep or cow. Can you afford to lose the value of one cow, approximately $1000 and I am not talking about cows on public lands. I am talking about cows or sheep on private land.

      Jon, I really do not think that you have $1000 to throw away nor do any of us on this forum.

      • jon says:

        Well true, but I still believe native wildlife should trump livestock. Willdlife belongs to everyone and that one cow or sheep only belongs to the rancher. This is just my personal opinion though.

      • JimT says:

        The problem here is that we don’t know their losses, E275. We only know what they claim to lose. And ranchers’ credibility is suspect at best on this issue.

  6. Rita K. Sharpe says:

    Ryan, In whay way would the NRA be pissed off?It,the bill, is not saying anthing about being against guns or hunting?Just about wolves.

    • WM says:


      NRA, for some reason, seems to be wielding alot of weight in DC for the last couple of years. For what reason, I can’t say. But the whole wolf thing has a flavor of anti-hunting, and thus anti-gun. It is sort of a domino theory. RMEF and the Mule Deer group, hunting associations, etc, as well as some others will talk to NRA, the arms manufacturers, and the outdoor gear folks and thus some sort of deal will be struck. The well oiled and many tentacled NRA lobby machine will work the problem if there is ground to gain, is my guess. That might even pull in some urban state support. Again, whether a change to the ESA will gain traction in the near term, is still a dice roll, in my view.

    • Rita K. Sharpe,

      The NRA has become an all purpose anti-environment interest group.

      They will have more clout right before the election than right after. Due to their excellent organization, they are feared. I don’t know if you read my comments how the degree to which a group is well organized politically is more important than the number who agree with the group.?

    • jon says:

      The nra believes that environmentalists are trying to take the guns away from hunters.

      • Ryan says:


        One has to look no farther than Mike and many posters on this board to connect those dots. This has nothing to do with wolves and everything to do with ideology.

      • jon says:

        Ryan, I don’t believe that. maybe for some, but not all. For me, this is about wolves and that is it. If you wanna believe that environmentalists are trying to end hunting and are trying to take your guns away, go on believing that.

  7. Virginia says:

    I would like to know the individual animals that have been de-listed from the ESA. Stating this and not providing those animals is misleading.

    • jon says:

      Virginia, I was asking sb if there have been any other cases where certain animals weren’t allowed to be considered endangered and protected by the esa as what is trying to happen with wolves now.

  8. Cobra says:

    What about the american alligator? I’m not sure about the listing but they do hunt gators now days.

  9. Mike says:

    Most people across the country may not have wolves on their minds, but I can tell you for a fact that if you ask them questions, the support for the wolf will be in the vast majority.

    It’s amazing to me that this bill is coming out of a poverty-stricken state like Montana. You would think the overfed and indulgent Tester would have better things to do in this economy.

    This just shows you how warped and demented the outlook is for many people in these states.

    Like I said before, many of these people are taught from day one that animals are only good for the dinner table or the wallet.

    • Save bears says:

      Poverty stricken state?

      Now where in the hell did you come up with that Mike?

      Please elaborate..

    • Save bears says:

      And I disagree with you that the vast majority would be in support, and your blowing smoke, if you think so, there are over 300 million people in this country, so what would you say is the Majority?

      • jon says:

        I believe they were polls before and the majority of americans were for reintroding wolves. I also believe that if there was a poll that asked the majority of americans how they felt about wolves being slaughtered, I believe in my opinion that the majority of americans would oppose that. That is only my personal opinion. I think most americans do not know what is going on in the west with the wolf issue.

      • Save bears says:


        There were polls taken before re-introduction, but they were not a representative cross section of America, they were polls taken to reflect a desired outcome of the groups taking the polls, there is simply no way to poll the majority of America, look at the polls they post on CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, they normally are about 1600 people at most they they actually ask questions of…

        Do you people really not understanding the polling process in this country?

      • Elk275 says:

        Jon that includes you. Several days ago you said that you do not live in a state with wolves and never have had the opportunity to see wolves in the wild. How do you really know whats going on out here, you don’t. Si’vet offer to take you hunting and I was going to pay for all the food for that trip, but no Jon you did not take up that offer to learn.

        One can study geography in school for years and know all of the river, mountains, bays, seas and towns but that is only looking at the cover of the book.

        One must be on the ground and experience it there selves. The smell of a squatter toliet in Napal or better yet a multi hole concrete slab in Tibet, the local music and food stalls. Get off of your computer and get west for several months, observe and learn.

      • jon says:

        sb, you are right, but a lot of people wanted wolves reintroduced. How many people? I have no idea, but I assume a lot. I would like to think that the majority of americans are normal people who understand and accept that wildlife has a right to live. Most people have good hearts and my honest opinion is that if you were to ask the whole us how they feel about wolves being slaughtered, I would say the majority of them would be against slaughtering wolves. Take that as you will.

      • jon says:

        sb, just curious, why do you disagree? Are you saying that the majority of americans would be in favor of slaughtering wolves? I think most would be appalled by it personally.

      • Save bears says:


        I said I disagree with the percent of the population that would even care, they don’t know about it, they don’t care to know about it and if you asked them a questions about it, they would not know what the hell you are talking about!

        This group on this blog is a very small group of people that talk about wildlife, the rest of the country for the most part have to worry about feeding their kids, paying the power bill and many have to worry about getting a job, you think spending millions of dollars on something they know nothing about really matters to them?

        Go to downtown Detroit and let me know what you find out, what you want, and what we get is entirely different things…

      • jon says:

        Well, I don’t think we will ever truly know how the majority feel and I am sure there are many that are more concerned with more pressing matters. I would also say that a good portion of the american people probably have no idea what is going on in the west with this wolf issue. I guess all we can do is speculate really. Somehow, I don’t think the people of Detroit think about wolves all that much. lol Detroit is a crime riddened city.

      • Save bears says:

        Exactly Jon, Detroit is a crime ridden city, as are many others in this country..wolves are the least of their worries or thoughts…and they really don’t care what is going on in the west..

      • Save Bears and others,

        I don’t know if you saw my comment earlier, but these things are not decided by public opinion. They are decided by who has the most political resources to bring to bear in the appropriate arena.

      • Save bears says:


        I am well aware of this political nature of this issue and what it is going to take to get this bill moved further along. I just happen to believe based on my experience, there are far fewer people in this country that care about these matters than some would like to believe.

    • Elk275 says:

      Mike, you have no idea about the State of Montana, we are not poverty struck anymore than any other state. Currently, I do not know anyone who is warped or demented. In early August you wrote on your blog from the Borders Bookstore in Billings, I grew up in Billings and I will bet you that more people are wraped and demented in Chicago. Your Chicago has many times the problems that Billings has.

      If this is such a backward state why do you come here. You fish why do you want to fish in Montana and not Ill, because Montane has the best fly fishing in the USA. Maybe the FW&P’s should ban certain people from fishing. If you want $10 a gallon gas then maybe the state should charge Chicago fisherman/women $100 a day to fish. Your fishing days would be over.

      • jon says:

        Elk [jon, note my comment further down. Webmaster], I don’t think Mike has any problem with Montana, just the people and their extreme attitudes that live in it. I don’t think IL offers the wildlife and fishing that Montana offers. I believe this is why Mike goes to Montana. Correct me if I am wrong Mike. Also, may I have the link to your blog to check it out if you don’t mind?

      • Save bears says:

        Well if you have a problem with the people then you have a problem with the state, the people are what makes up the state..

      • Elk275 says:

        Who has the extreme attitude? The people of Montana or Mike. If you do not like the people then stay away. I do not associate myself with people who I do not like or have views so extreme that they offend.

        I see nothing wrong with spending the day shooting gophers in the spring. It is fall and I am spending to much damn time on the Internet. I should be out hunting Blue Grouse on a warm Indian summer day, that is one of my favorite things in life or tossing streamers to fall run browns on the Yellowstone River then a soak in Chico, one will never know who they will meet there. Life is good here in Montana, I am not poverty sicken or demented. In fact I am living a better life than 95 percent of the people in the US and Nancy and Save Bears are part of the 5 percent, what a great life.

      • Save bears says:

        To bad your not closer Elk, I picked up 4 grouse this morning and a turkey, it is going to be a great night, I even cracked the BBQ out of storage again…Home made brew(huckleberry and a nice German stout) and sauteed grouse and turkey breasts…steamed veggies, a bit of wild rice…hmm, hmm, good and this weekend, I am going to wet a fly and see if we can have some fresh trout on Sunday…

      • jon says:

        elk, I will let Mike answer you as I don’t want to speak for him. I believe that is the way he feels, but if I am wrong, he will tell me. Me personally, as a pro wolf advocate, I wouldn’t really like the people of Montana, mainly the ones with the anti wolf attitudes. I wouldn’t let them stop me from visiting Montana to view the wonderful wildlife Montana has to offer. I am sure some people do not like some Wyomingmites for their anti wolf attitudes, but they still go to visit ynp whenever they can.

      • jon says:

        I will also add that some in Montana probably would not like me simply because I am pro-wolf, so I guess it works both ways.

      • Save bears says:

        That is the key Jon,

        You said you have never visited!!!! One thing I will say for Mike, at least he visits..what I find sad is many of us, have offered to let you come along with us, but you continue to turn it down! Why, Why not take the chance, and let us show you where we live, and how wondrous it really is…?

      • Save bears says:

        Well Jon,

        Not me, I don’t care if your pro, anti, democrat or republican..I don’t care one bit, I would still welcome you, and let you see my world…it would give you a far better perspective, than what the extreme nature of the internet does..

      • Save bears says:

        Anyway, I have some plumbing to do and fire up the BBQ, so will bid you a good day, I will check in later..

      • jon says:

        sb, if there is anything I learned about life, it is that opposing sides on different issues are sometimes very hostile towards each other. I doubt that if I walked into a bar with extreme wolf haters and told them I am a pro wolf advocate, they would welcome me with open arms and buy me a beer. I just don’t see it happening.

      • Elk275 says:

        I do respect Mike and his boots on the ground for two months. His photography is excellent — good work Mike.

        Save Bears the limit is 3 grouse a day, ok, someone else went with you and got one of the grouse. I have had the hardest time getting blues this year.

        Tomorrow is another day.

      • jon says:

        Elk, you said you have been hunting in Russia I believe it was. What animals did you hunt and how is Russia compared to the states when it comes to hunting experience and have you ever been to Africa to hunt? Where is your favorite place to hunt?

      • jon says:

        Elk, I have never been to Montana, but have seen pictures of it. It looks like an amazing and a beautiful state. It has wildlife that most other states in the us would dream of. Ever you ever caught the show on animal planet, the last american cowboy?

      • Save bears says:


        Rest assured, My wife was hunting as well this morning…so I guess, I should rephrase, I got three, she got one..as we both had our guns with us…and we got 4! Ruffed Grouse, Not Blues..

      • Save bears says:


        That is the problem, you have never been here, no more to say anything, a picture show on the TV, is a completely different experience than being here and living it..

      • Daniel Berg says:

        ELK275…..Better than 95% is a conservative estimate.

        I enjoy my life and where I live for the most part, but every time I leave western Montana it has always been with a pit in my stomach. Just the few things you mention in your comment many can only pine away for from thier cubicles. As a kid I dreamed of moving to the northern Rockies after high school. My ambition has kept me away, for better or worse.

      • Save bears says:

        By the way Jon,

        I don’t think I would fit in, in NY, LA or Seattle, in my beat up jeans, my cowboy hat and boats with my pistol on my hip, no matter what bar I go to…

      • Daniel Berg says:


        In Seattle or Portland, almost anything goes. In some parts of either city I don’t believe there is anything a person could wear anymore that would draw a second look.

        I exaggerate, but you really see the full spectrum in terms of outfits out here.

      • Brian Ertz says:

        there are plenty of bars in those urban cities, save bears, where the get-up you describe is acceptable ~ even celebrated …

        in fact, in those same urban bars you might even find folk in police, sailor, and construction worker uniforms – perhaps even bump into someone in full native head-dress !

        don’t be so dismissive of urban environments, with that outfit, i’ll bet you’d fit right in … – … you might even find that you wouldn’t have to buy your own drinks all night !

      • Elk275 says:


        I hunted in Mongolia. How did I hunt? I told my interpreter that I liked to hunt, when we were camped out with the nomads one night. The next morning the guns came out, horses saddled and off six of us went. Up the mountain we rode stopping at a shrine to pray and give an offering. We rode more and three of us stopped, tied the horses and hiked to a saddle and the other 3 tied there horse below us and started a drive up the draw. They gave me a gun and we waited and waited, then the drivers arrived and no deer. The deer give us a slip, off we rode to another yurt and stopped to visit and drink fermented mare milk and eat something deep fried. I wet my lips with the mare milk and nibble the “something”. I was more interest in fishing and catching a taimen which did not happen.

        Yes, I have hunted Africa once. After the hunting trip was the most fun. A fun little story that I wrote:

        After hunting in Namibia, I return to Cape Town, rented a car and drove north up the coast of East South Africa. In Durban, I returned the car to agency and made reservations to return to Europe because this was NOT the Africa that I wanted to see.

        A young woman in Durban I meet at a B and B after I told her of my disappointment with what I had seen. She said “you must go to Mana Pools”. Now the problem was how to get there. No one in Durban knew how to get there. I could fly to Harare but it was $1500 in 1990. Finally, I learn of the train and took it to Johannesburg, then to Messina, S.A and walked across the Limpopo River at Beithbridge, Zimbabwe. Now What? No transport. It is past noon and darkness is 5 hours away. In the customs office is a Zimbabwe farmer named George from Beatice, Zimbabwe who said that I could go to his farm and spend the night, then he would take me to Harare tomorrow. Off we went.

        The Sable Inn in Harare was the place to stay for world travelers. George pulled up to the Sable Inn and I unloaded my duffle. World travelers were everywhere by the pool two Australian ladies were discreetly sunning themselves topless. George scanned the entire courtyard, then the pool area, then the Australian ladies.
        He said, ” I have never seen anything like this before”.

        That day, in the streets of Harare, I learn how the black market works and doubled my money. Twenty dollars later, I had become a citizen of Zimbabwe and was able to buy plane tickets at their prices. Cheap. For $20 to $30, I was able to fly to Karbia and booked a canoe trip down the Zambezi River starting at Mama Pools and finishing in Mozambique. With black market money, that was about $80. The days were spent canoeing down the river. Crocs, hippos, elephants every day, all day. In the mornings, buffalo, zebras, and various antelopes would water quickly and vanish into the Jesse. I heard the elephant’s trumpet, saw the African sun set, and the smelled the smoke of the Mopane fire. Another day, another sunrise. More animals and more miles down the river.

        Back in Harare, I was able to buy another ticket from Harare, Zimbabwe to Lilongwe, Malawi to Johannesburg, S.A. for less than $100. While I was on the Zambezi River, my Zimbabwe citizenship expired and Sam at Sam’s Travels said that he could renew it for twenty more dollars. I paid him, a solid Zimbabwean for another day. Things were cheap. Onward to Malawi.

        After a number of days of exploring Malawi, I arrived at Mulanji. Mulanji is up in the mountains with a mountain climate. I had not seen a white person in several days.
        I wandered though the markets and noticed crops growing on the slopes of Mount Mulanji with a big white houses in the middle of the fields. What was growing? Who lived in these white houses? I found someone who spoke English and he told me that the crops were tea and coffee. Towards evening, I returned to my hotel, had a beer and wondered what to do for dinner. In comes two German women who had attempted to climb Mount Mulanji but heavy rains made them abandon the climb.

        After a few minutes of talking, the Germans were going to the country club for dinner. I was invited. A country club, except for my hotel and the white houses, all I could see was tin shacks and open sewage ditches and poverty. I’ll go. The girls cleaned up and we got a cab for the club. A mile down the road was a large stucco white building, it’s glory fading, it’s tennis courts cracked, and the golf course in need of a professional green’s keeper.

        No one was inside except the bartender. A one day membership cost one dollar. I now was a member of the Mount Mulanji Country Club. Within an hour, the building was full of “Planters”,as they called themselves, dressed in Khakis’s and desert boots. The planters were British interspersed with a few Malawian officials. I learned about growing coffee and tea and about their future in Africa — uncertain. I was given a ride back to my hotel at the end of the evening and the following day, I left for Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi. I did not appreciate that evening until several years later, for I had been a part of the last of colonial Africa for an evening. An Africa seen in the movies. An Africa lifestyle the sun had set on.

        My favorite place to hunt is Montana, British Columbia and Alaska.

        Anything else Jon?

      • Mike says:

        Jon (concerning my blog link) – You’ve actually quoted my blog before on this site. Look for the Wilderness Sportsman link on the right. The site is currently taking a break as I am wondering about the focus and direction for the future and also working on much bigger projects right now. Thanks.

    • Mike says:

      Ok, I’ll try and answer some of these questions.

      First where did I come up with Montana being a poor state?


      That should settle it, and shows you just how out of whack Tester is on this legislation. Then again, I believe this wolf-hating is really a cover for frustration and unhappiness of people.

      I love Montana. I love the land, the fly fishing and everything about it. I have friends there. But yes, I do think many of the people are inherently evil, and the same applies to many people in Illinois, but usually for different reasons.

      Last year a rare mountain lion was spotted near Illinois napping in a tree on a large farm. This “outdoorsman” contacted the DNR and asked if he could shoot it. Because mountain lions have no protection in this state, the DNR gave the go ahead, and this man-child approached the tree-napping lion and shot it. I consider this an inherently evil and pointless action. And I see this propagated on a higher level in Montana simply because there’s so much more wildlife. I see these man-children all the time on ATV’s set with rifles on the front, scanning for “interlopers” and then killing them for no apparent reason. Again, I see this as inherently evil and of course a flaw in our behavior. I believe that one should have a very good reason for ending the life of another warm-blooded creature. Are you thin and hungry? Need the meat? Those are valid reasons for killing something.

      Over the years I’ve witnessed what I consider to be a deep-running psychosis in the thread of some Montana and Wyoming citizens (and this year Idaho), and I imagine it’s not all that different from the dementia and insanity which spread about the German citizenry preceding WWII. Except this time it’s not “the jews”, but rather “the wolf” – a target for the insane and gone awry to blame their woes on. These people patrol their property lines and public land on their rifle-equipped quads, always looking for something to kill. To me, this isn’t all that far removed from the high-spotlight case of the U.S. soldiers accused of killing civilian Afghans for fun (one of the accused from Billings):


      I wonder where one gets this “kill” mentality from? Actually, no I don’t. Would other blood-lusters inquire about the possibilities if they could get away with it? When people kill things for no reason, it causes me great alarm. Just how far would they go if given a chance to go unnoticed by law? Where does someone who enjoys killing for the sake of killing draw the line when the eyes of law are shaded?

      I consider all of this a regressive form of behavior –one that humanity must evolve from if we are to survive, if it’s not too late (climate change).

      What causes someone to roam the country side angrily, looking to kill harmless things? Is it boredom? Insanity? A blatant viciousness? I can relay a story this summer about a small prairie dog park which was heavily fenced off from some rangeland. I was horrified to witness an unkempt, shirtless man racing up and down the fence line in a quad with a rifle rack. Every time a prairie dog crossed the line, this demented man retained a gleam in his eye, picked up the rifle (without moving his fat ass from the quad), used the rack as a balance and shot the prairie dog, then laughed. Soon his wife rolled down the far hill, and her quad had a huge tank of likely pesticide, and this toxin sloshed and spilled about the ground because of an unsealed cap. She too had a rifle, and shouted out in an embarrassing dialect over the roar of the engine:

      “Didya git ‘em? Didya git ‘em?”


      The men that shoot wolves from helicopters are these same people – just with a bit more money and the blessings of crazed politicians who block the wheel of progress.

      These are the actions of the insane, of the unhinged and the morally reprehensible. They do not care because at some point along the way they lost all ability to feel emotion or to contemplate standards, ethics and a basic feeling for the grace of humanity. Unfortunately, my encounters with these deranged citizens of Montana and Wyoming is all too frequent. Of course not everyone is like this. Most people in Billings, Missoula and Bozeman are not this way. Not all ranchers are like this. But make no mistake this is not a small number of people. And boy do they hate animals – wolves especially. They hate them so much they patrol at night on poaching runs; they hate them so much that the Senator introduces a wolf-kill bill. That’s how crazy it’s gotten; that’s how off-balance and poisoned their minds are. Sometimes it’s hard to see all the crazy when you are in the middle of it, and it takes an ability to get outside of your daily path to witness what is really going on. To most people living in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, the wolf “problem” is not a scientific issue. These people don’t care about science (heck, most of them think global warming is a hoax). They don’t care much for facts, either. What they do care about is taking out their woes on a furry animal.

      That’s insane.

      • jon says:

        Mike, I believe that mt. lion was shot in Iowa. Recently, 2 mt. lions were spotted in Nebraska and they were shot for no good reasons. One lady that shot a mt. lion said that it was eyeing her livestock. It’s disgusting to know what little regard some have for wildlife!

  10. Mike says:

    Elk – Why do you shoot an animal for no reason (prairie dog)?

    I don’t understand this. This is a living thing. Why shoot it and let it rot?

    • jon says:

      Mike, gophers are viewed as vermin by ranchers and hunters.


      Fournier has tried using chemicals and traps to wipe out the furry pests, but was wary of the risk of harming other wildlife. The late start to seeding this year — the result of rainy weather — means he is now too busy to spray his land with gopher poison.

      So he placed a classified ad in the Leader-Post urging hunters to bring their “weapon of choice.”

      Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/Sports/Hunters+keen+help+farmer+shoot+gophers/3165270/story.html?id=3165270#ixzz10yDzY6b5

      Guess some have no problem with poisoning wildlife. Sad and troubling world we live in.

    • Elk275 says:


      “Gophers also known as Richardson Ground Squirrels”

      I have seen animals lovers, non hunters, those that disapprove of hunting etc. Move out to the Gallatin Valley, purchase a tract of land 5 miles from town and within a few years hate gophers. They then purchase a pellet gun or 22 and start shooting them. In my subdivision every spring propane is pumped into gopher holes killing hundreds. This is repeated by every homeowners association. My assistance does not think much of hunting and did not think much of killing gophers. Then she became a homeowner and president of the home owners association within a year she had researched the best and cheapest methods of killing gophers. Gophers are plentiful and pests.

      I enjoy a good Sunday spring gopher shoot and ranchers welcome you participation and if you do not like it tuff. So, Mike I am one of those demented and twisted good old Montana boys who one day you may meet on a Montana stream and he will open his fly box and give you a 1/2 dozen local patterns and disappear down the stream while your fishing has improved and you will never forget that fisherman.

      • Mike says:

        That’s sad, Elk. I wonder what else the propane is killing?

        Oh no! my yard has a prairie dog hole in it! The world is coming to an end!

        Why do you “enjoy”(your word of choice, not mine) killing an animal for no reason? Do you really consider that a “hunt” (again your word choice).

      • Elk275 says:

        Mike you have your right to your opinions and I have a right to my opinions. We all have our opinions. Why do you go somewhere where you do not like the populous. But, you like what the populous occupies. Sure there are people I would like in Chicago, but most of them I would have no use for. I have always been successful at avoiding Chicago and that airport. Maybe next year you should go some where else.

        This is the way things are and you are not going to change them nor is anyone else. Does anyone really care, that has been brought up about the wolves today. I wonder. I read that Michael Vick’s quarterback rating is now the best in the NLF. Michael dog fighting is repugnant to all Americans. But the Sunday NLF couch potato 3 years later could less, oh, the wife may glance at the TV and then her husband and say “I can’t stand Michael and his dog fighting, that slime bag” and walk away. The American public generally does not care about wolves or anything else that does not effect them. They care about what is in front of them and how that is going to effect their lives.

      • jon says:

        The American public generally does not care about wolves or anything else that does not effect them. They care about what is in front of them and how that is going to effect their lives.

        I don’t believe that elk. I am sure there are many americans that fight for different causes that don’t effect them directly.

      • Daniel Berg says:

        Jon –

        I don’t believe it either. Many people do in fact care about their own idea of something, even if it’s not right in front of them. How many people were proud of the space program? It costed billions and none of those supporters ever got to space themselves. It is not a stretch to imagine many people desiring pristine wilderness areas that are kept in their natural state, even if they rarely visit them. Their support of such areas could have been inspired from a single trip to Yellowstone. There is a trickle down effect from places like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mt Rainier National Parks that can extend into a lot of different issues, including wolves.

      • pointswest says:

        My family and friends used to shoot ground squirrels in the Centennial Valley, Montana. We also shot jack rabbits near Mud Lake, Idaho. Neither was edible and were killed as varmints. The farmers and ranchers loved us for it but that is not why we did it.

        We did it for fun. It was a good excuse to get out and get some outdoor activity. It was a sport for us. The object was to kill a squirrel or rabbit cleanly and with one shot. It was certainly viewed as a way to hone your hunting skills and, in particular, your shooting skills. You must learn to stock, judge distance, judge the affects of wind, control your breathing, aim from different positions and different angles, etc., etc.

        I’m sure it greatly improved my stocking and shooting skills. I had lots of fun on these trips. Our dogs had fun. Everyone except the varmints had fun. I intend to take my son varmint hunting too so he can hone his stocking and shooting skills for big game.

        I was always taught that these animals were varmints and would overpopulate and would die anyway from starvation that is a more agonizing death. It is true. That is exactly what happens to them. When you live in or near the country, you see it all the time. I can remember a friend of mine’s father left bales straw in the field one winter. The next spring, you could turn over those bales and under every one was at least four, five, or more mice and at least one mouse nest. We put on thick leather gloves that they could not bite through and caught them by the dozen. A typical nest had 6 to 12 baby mice. There were tens of thousands of mice in that field and they were still multiplying. They were all destine to starve, and they did starve. What else could have happened to them? It is nature.

        I can see no problem with killing varmints as long as they are truly varmints and as long as you try and kill them with a quick painless death. I’ve seen the starving jack rabbits at Mud Lake. They look like furry zombies. As they starve, disease and parasties overtakes them and their fur gets mangy, their eyes dull, and they might have sores. They cannot run and only stagger out the way with their bony carcass when you come walking by. It takes them weeks or months to finally starve to death.

        The same must happen to mice, squirrels, and groundhogs except we do not see it since it generally takes place underground. I do not feel it is heroic to kill varmints. I simply see their lives as meaningless in some instances. I feel no different in killing them as I do in killing ants, houseflies, or mosquitoes.

      • Mike says:

        ++My family and friends used to shoot ground squirrels in the Centennial Valley, Montana. We also shot jack rabbits near Mud Lake, Idaho. Neither was edible and were killed as varmints. The farmers and ranchers loved us for it but that is not why we did it.

        We did it for fun. It was a good excuse to get out and get some outdoor activity

        I would strongly suggest a visit to a therapist if you think killing things and leaving them to rot is “fun”.

        That’s some twisted behavior.

      • jon says:

        pw, when is wildlife considered a varmint or pest? When it causes you problems? People need to stop labeling wildlife vermin just because it may cause them a few problems. People call wolves vermin too. Just because they eat deer, elk, and moose, they are considered vermin by some. It may be normal for some rural americans to believe that gopher shooting is fun, but to the rest of the country, it is probably looked down upon. I can tell you one thing, if you told someone you shoot animals for fun, they would probably think you have a few screws loose. Again, just my opinion.

      • WM says:


        I see once again you are the expert, this time on methods used by rural folks – depraved, poverty stricken, and therapist deprived as they are, to dispatch offending ground squirrels, gophers and the like. You spend a couple of months out West and know all, once more.

        Next time you are out and about, look at those golf courses, school play fields and parks in Chicago or Naperville, or wherever it is you live. They are virtually gopher and mole free. I bet the grounds keepers and greenskeepers use a little more than a shot of propane or a little target practice to keep the numbers under control (Envvironmentally friendly? Yeah, sure. Ever see the Bill Murray movie Caddyshack?). And I will bet if you look in the phone book, you will see Wildlife Services is listed and willing to lend a helping hand with technical advice and operations- look under USDA, APHIS.

      • pointswest says:

        ++Mike writes: I would strongly suggest a visit to a therapist if you think killing things and leaving them to rot is “fun”.

        That’s some twisted behavior.++

        It was fun. Our dogs like it too. The dogs like it better than we did.

      • WM says:


        I should add, I learned marksman skills taking out starlings visiting the fruit orchards, especially cherries. Couldn’t scare them away with carbide guns (sounds like firecracker), tinsel strands or rope fuse firecrackers. They get habituated, and little moves them off once that happens. Also spent a little time at the local dump, and my grandfather’s dairy thumping rats that got into the grain bins.

        As Mark Gamblin suggests, nature is chaos and as long as there is food or other habitat which allows populations to grow -whatever it is- the species will try to occupy at the highest populations permissible unless controlled naturally or otherwise. Sometimes populations peak then they fall abruptly.

      • pointswest says:

        ++when is wildlife considered a varmint or pest?++

        …when they unnaturally depend on human development or agriculture for for survival and are harmful to that development or agriculture and when they have no value to humans.

        Larger and more interesting animals such as foxes, coyotes, wolves, deer, etc., I would not consider as vermine since most people enjoy seeing them which gives them value. They can be pests to some, however.

        Small and simple animals whose population regularly explode in cultivated fields and pastures to the point of a mass starvation are vermine.

        The only time when people in urban areas frown on the killing of vermin is when a few emotionally disturbed animal rights activists misinform them. I grew up in a small town in Idaho but curretly live in Los Angeles and have lived in large cities for the past 30 years.

      • pointswest says:

        I should point out that vermine are exterminated in cities all the time. There are professional exterminators in all American cities. The kill termites, cockroaches, ants, mice, bees, rats, lizards, snakes, birds, raccoons, etc., etc.

        Here in Culver City, we are having a problem with crows. There are thousands that roost here on the powerlines. They crap all over the cars and sidewalks below and create a health hazzard. There have been calls to exterminate them but animal rights activists have taken the city to court. I have seen neighbors shooting them with pelet guns. No one turned them in!

      • Mike says:

        Elk, I have no doubt that if I met you or Save Bears in person, we would probably get along. I am very nice in person and it sounds like you are too in terms of your fishing knowledge. But I don’t like how you treat other living things. I will never understand receiving joy from killing a prairie dog for no reason.

      • Elk275 says:

        1851: The black-footed ferret is reported and described by John James Audubon and the Reverend John Bachmann. No one will report seeing a ferret again for another 26 years.

        The black-footed ferret was never a pentiful animal even in the good old days. Audubon was acused of making up the black footed ferret.

    • william huard says:

      You mean everyone doesn’t hunt varmints for fun? This says alot more about the type of person who makes the judgement that certain species have no value. This is a cultural phenomenon, passed down through several generations. The Paquet book “Wolves of the world” states that rural environments that produce less educated people seem to have this notion of superiority in relation to other species. Gophers in the spring, running over turtles in the summer- this is great fun- and stimulates the mind also!

      • jon says:

        All wildlife has value. Some rural americans don’t seem to understand this or maybe they just don’t give a crap about wildlife plain and simple William.

      • william huard says:

        It is impossible to get one party to see either the logic or nonsense in this argument. As I told you yesterday it is pointless. I don’t think people that have those views and I could agree on the weather

      • pointswest says:

        What value does a field mouse have when they have over populated an already harvested field and number in the thousands per acre? They are eating every last kernal of grain missed by the harvestes and will begin to starve and the field will soon be plowed anyway. What value does one of those field mice have? I want a 1000 word essay!

      • Mike says:

        This sort of senseless behavior is far outside the mainstream of society.

  11. jon says:

    What the hell are you talking about? I was telling elk that the american public does infact care for things that may not directly affect them. Just trying to get folks’ attention here. Webmaster.

    • I deleted a couple comments here.

      I’m not siding with Craig necessarily here, but maybe folks should use the entire alias a person uses if it is elk-something-or-other, or wolf-whatever.

      Wow, things getting pretty hot. 😉

      But please cool it.

      • JimT says:

        Too hot…94 in Boulder the other day.. more records for heat.

        Some have opined here that the campaign rhetoric has contributed at least 2-3 degrees to the increase of hot air..;*)

  12. ProWolf in WY says:

    Baucus and Tester need to look at their neighbor down south if they want wolf management. While I know that Wyoming changing its mind is far from a guarantee of delisting wolves, it might not hurt the cause.

  13. Nancy says:

    +There were tens of thousands of mice in that field and they were still multiplying. They were all destine to starve, and they did starve. What else could have happened to them? It is nature+

    But did they Pointswest?

    Nature also includes predators like coytoes, foxes, badgers, skunks, hawks, weasels, owls etc. All of those animals benefit from those mice. They benefit from the rabbits and the ground squirrels. Unfortunately, many of those predators are considered “varmits” or their furs translate into cash, so they are either shot or trapped out of many areas which as you know, leads to an imbalance of nature.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      Admittedly, I don’t know precisely what you mean by “balance of nature”. If you are suggesting there is a balance in the sense that nature will tend toward a stable or harmonious mean – in the absence of human “disturbances”, that is not correct. There is no “balance of nature” in that mythological sense. Ecosystems (“nature”) are dynamic, messy and generally chaotic when compared to the Disney-esc vision of an orderly, predictable organisation of creatures.
      Expectations for ecological benefits to be derived from any of a myriad of wildlife “management” or non-“management” changes in human practice are frequently confused by this fundamental mis-understanding of ecological processes.

      • JimT says:

        Mark, I would love to see some science based studies that show just exactly how much damage these varmints truly cause ranchers, and not just claims of damage that justify a traditional viewpoint. Any exist?

      • JimT says:


        I am more interested in the western plains ecosystems rather than California or Oregon. I am also not sure that the ground squirrel in Cal is the same creature as the western plains prairie dogs in terms of behaviors in their ecosystem vs. a different one. And I am interested not in estimates of damages, but studies and documents.

        Thanks for the info…

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        JimT –
        I can’t cite any right now, but I’m confident that you should be able to google a number of wildlife damage assessments by a variety of state and federal agencies. State agriculture departments, Wildlife Services, possibly NRCS or FSA offices.
        Most western state fish and game agencies now have wildlife depredation programs to compensate landowners, ranchers, famers for wildlife damage to crops and other private property. Those depredation programs typically do not cover damage from non-game animals – coyotes, starlings, etc. Idaho has a depredation program that compensates landowners for damage from deer, elk, antelope, bears, cougars, etc. We also frequently conduct control actions to reduce those depredations. Those control actions include kill permits issued to the landowners and public depredation hunts. In areas with chronic, serious depredation problems it may be necessary to reduce the total number of deer of elk to manage the damage to private property.

    • pointswest says:

      ++Nancy writes: Nature also includes predators like coytoes, foxes, badgers, skunks, hawks, weasels, owls etc. ++

      No…there were many too few preditors to eat the thousands of mice. The population of the mice had obviously exploded. I’m sure a fox or two (no coyotes in this local) and maybe some hawks and owls had their fill on mice for a few weeks but 99% mice were certainly dead within a couple of months. The field may have been plowed. I do not know. I was just 9 or 10 years old. But even at that time, I knew that this many mice would never survive and would eat all the remaining grain in the field and then die off.

      This was in Idaho, BTW, and not California.

      We discussed the jack rabbits at Mud Lake, Idaho before. Yes…the coyote population increases when the rabbit populaiton increases but coyotes are not nearly as prolific of breeders as are jack rabbits and do not even come close to keeping pace. The jack rabbit populaiton still explodes and then there is a massive die off.

  14. Nancy says:

    I’m relating to what I’ve witnessed in my area over the years. I have a healthy population (meaning they aren’t over running the place) of ground squirrels on my property. They feed the raptors and the occasional fox, weasel or coyote that comes thru. And when a badger takes up residence, I have no problem with that. But all around me these predators are shot or trapped because its ranch land and as a few have pointed out, ranchers welcome the reduction in “varmits”

    • Alan says:

      Nancy, perhaps it is indicative of the overall problem we have in the Northern Rockies when we have a member of a state wildlife agency state that he does not know what you mean by “balance of nature” (ecology 101 when I went to school), or imply that such a balance in the absence of man is a “myth”.
      Of course nature is “dynamic, messy and generally chaotic” and not “Disney-esc”; “balance of nature” does not suggest otherwise, but it works. A grizzly bear tearing apart a new born elk calf is, in our eyes, a horrible and disgusting event because we are civilized and most of us are removed from having to kill our own food, but in nature it is no more violent an act than a bluebird ripping apart a worm, or an osprey a fish. Without predators these species would multiply exponentially to the detriment of both themselves and other species.
      It is man that often disrupts the balance as in removing wolves from the Northern Rockies.
      BTW, I too am sickened by the wanton destruction of wildlife. I have seen dozens of badgers, fox, coyotes etc. killed, not because they were causing any problems, but because they MIGHT or their offspring might. Now they want to do the same with wolves, again. Will we, as a species, never grow up?

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        Do you subscribe to the concept of balance in nature? If so, what does it mean to you – ecologically – and what hinders or prevents that balance from being achieved?

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        After my last post, I realized that you misundersood my ealier phrasing about dynamic, messy, chaotic ecological processes. I should have been more specific. I was describing the ecological reality that is quite opposite to the Disney version of “balance in nature”. Populations surge, retreat, sometimes disappear, most often in a stochaistic manner that bears little resemblance to a harmonious system of checks and balances. That process continues with or without the participation of human populations. Certainly, there is predicatability in wildlife population dynamics, but not in the sense that if humans would just butt-out, some higher level of natural order would manifest itself.

      • Alan says:

        Why is it that whenever anyone points out the value of predators in a balanced ecosystem someone always accuses them of having some sort of “Disney” version of nature? Disney has nothing to do with it. There is nothing harmonious or neat about it. You are right, populations surge and crash and surge again. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Just like in the famous study of linx and snowshoe hares. What would happen to the moose on Isle Royale if the wolves were suddenly gone? Just because checks and balances do not occur in a timely fashion, according to man, does not mean that they do not occur.
        Man, in particular Fish and Game departments and hunters..as well as some wildlife watchers, photographers etc. would prefer a stable and consistent elk population (for example), but the mountain needs to rest, as they say; predator populations increase and elk numbers decrease. This is a disaster for an agency that makes its living off of selling hunting licenses. Much easier to predict future earnings without pesky natural processes going on. But it is, in ecological terms, a very temporary situation. Eventually the pendulum swings the other way, as I believe has already begun happening in Yellowstone where wolf numbers have colapsed and elk, I believe, will slowly recover. There will never be 19,000 in the northern range again (which, BTW, was a perfect example of an ecosystem “out of balance”), but then again the “management” goal for this herd is, I believe, around 7,000. Even by setting such a “goal” man MIGHT be disturbing the balance of nature by not allowing elk numbers to reach a point that triggers the next cycle of predator dominance and mountain “rest”. Who knows?
        Man is the only animal who tries to alter the environment to his liking rather than accepting it as it is. When one talks about the “balance of nature” it does not mean that nature is in perfect harmony at any given time, indeed it never is. It’s kind of like when we talk about global warming and someone always points out that it was 20 degrees below zero yesterday. Who cares? The weather has nothing to do with the climate. Natural processes are often very slow, it may take decades or even centuries for pendulums to swing. It is man who is impatient, who wants everything perfect today, right now. Indeed, I would submit that it is man who is “Disney-esc”.
        “An ecosystem can be defined as “a stable system where the biotic and a biotic factors of the environment strike a balance and form a functional unit.””.
        “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
        John Muir

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      Thanks for clarifying what you mean by balance. You refer to your personal preferences and values which are legitimate and important. Your comfort with the ground squirrel population on and near your property is just that – your personal level of harmony with those rodents and predators around you. When the discussion broadens to predictions of an ecosystem response to specific management changes towards a stable equilibrium – “balance of nature” – that is somehow prefereable or more beneficial, the discussion has moved into the realm of mythology and away from ecological reality.

      • Nancy says:

        Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

        +When the discussion broadens to predictions of an ecosystem response to specific management changes towards a stable equilibrium – “balance of nature” – that is somehow prefereable or more beneficial, the discussion has moved into the realm of mythology and away from ecological reality+

        What exactly does that statement mean Mark? Shop talk? Or an excuse (of which WS is paid very well to handle) to kill any form of wildlife that still can’t conform to mankind’s unchecked populations and non-stop encroachment, into what’s left of their neighborhoods?

        Been from one end of the country to the other, also spent some time in the middle (before I settled in Montana 20 years ago) and I’ve got to say, there are many people living in urban areas of this country that are thrilled anytime they see anything resembling wildlife.

        Rural America & the west? They want wildlife controlled or dead, especially if they should happen to interfere with their lifestlye……… And unfortunately, they’ve got the ear and the power of WS behind them and have had that power for years.

        Its a disgrace and a waste of other species, that did and do benefit this planet.

      • jon says:

        Nancy, it is my opinion that non-rural people tend to have a lot more respect for wildlife than people who grow up in rural places. That is not to say that all rural people don’t respect wildlife because I am certain a lot of them do just like you.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG),

      Just to let you know where I stand, I am pretty much opposed to depredation payments and hunts for deer, elk, antelope, bears, cougars, etc.

      I say this after just sustaining irritating damage by deer to the hybrid poplars and purchased and planted this year.

      I knew deer were on my property many days a year. I just didn’t think. I will plant other kinds of trees this fall and learn from my stupidity.

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        Ralph –
        Understood. You are not alone among landowners. There are many, including farmers and ranchers who choose to not participate in the state wildlife depredation program – for a variety of reasons.

      • Alan says:

        Ralph, a little chicken wire around the poplars for the first year or two until they are tall enough to handle some browse is what I did. The suckers are twenty feet tall now, just five years later!

      • Alan,

        Thanks for the info. I’ll do something like that.

      • Ryan says:


        Hang some bars of irish spring on them.

  15. JimT says:

    Another admittedly biased view of the value of the prairie dog to the ecosystem. Guess it depends on your point of view and what you care about. Personally…I like the little critters, and the benefits they bring to the places in which they live. The main problem here is not the so called damage they do, but the development that is encroaching on traditional habitat and forcing populations into artificially constrained areas.

    BTW, there are several areas here of common lands owned by Boulder County where both cattle and prairie dogs happily co-exist. Just saying it can be done.


    • Nancy says:

      There’s not much difference between Prairie dogs and the little ground squirrels running around here JimT. I enjoy watching them, especially the babies, tumbling and chasing each other around. They were alittle tough on my garden the first year but after screening in the bottom and putting top soil over it and, enclosing it with deer netting, the problem was solved!

      • jon says:

        Prairie dogs in Wyoming as now recognized as a keystone species Nancy.


      • jon says:

        Increasingly, ranchers find themselves on chemical treadmills. “When you kill off the prairie dogs you kill off their predators,” said Larry. “So after the prairie dogs get going again there’s nothing to control them except poison.” I asked him if prairie dogs hurt his cattle. “No,” he said. “In fact, we think they’re healthier with prairie dogs. We went to rotation grazing school in 1986, and we’re sold on it. It’s the only way you can come close to imitating what the buffalo did.”

      • Mike says:

        Jon – Did you know that the #1 prairie dog predator was an animal called the black footed ferret? They were perfectly designed to catch and kill prairie dogs. Unfortunately, goon ranchers poisoned them off by the thousands and they are now the rarest mammal in the U.S. On top of that, rampant prairie dog killing also played a role in the ferret decline.

        I will say it again – there is something deeply flawed and damaged in the brain of a grown man who uses prairie dogs for target practice. They may not see it most likely because they are surrounded by crazy and can’t contemplate their ghastly actions, but there’s no doubt about it.

        So the ranchers kill the #1 predator of the prairie dog, then they kill the badgers, coyotes, snakes and other prairie dog eating creatures on sight. With those control mechanisms gone, they start to use poison (killing god knows what else in the process) and other unethical devices.

        Like I said before it’s hard to see the crazy when you’re surrounded by it. When your neighbors think and act the same exact way you do fifty miles from some town, you begin to believe that this must be the right way to do things.

        It has to absolutely be a good thing that these towns are dying and the kids are moving to the big cities. That means smarter kids and a break in the hideous and psychotic behavior which plagues so much of the rural west.

      • jon says:

        Yep, ranchers are responsible for the thousands and thousands of deaths of wildlife. Normal people don’t shoot animals for fun. Growing up in rural places, they are probably taught that killing animals for fun is normal behavior. HH Holmes used to kill animals for fun. Well, we all know how he turned out.

      • Mike says:


        “Animal abuse has received scant attention as an early warning signal,” said Charles Chesanow, D.O., a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Ohio State University. He believes that the proposed measure could help identify violence-prone individuals who need counseling, but doubts that it will be a panacea as violence has many dimensions and a multitude of causes. In his experience animal abusers come in three broad categories.

        How the mainstream sees it:


      • pointswest says:

        ++Mike writes: Jon – Did you know that the #1 prairie dog predator was an animal called the black footed ferret? […] On top of that, rampant prairie dog killing also played a role in the ferret decline.++

        Mike, do you have any evidence that black footed ferrets were, “the #1 prairie dog predator”? Something tells me you are just making this up…you know…don’t let the facts get in the way of a good post sort of thing. There are many predators that prey upon prarie dogs. I would like to see some scientific evidence that black footed ferrets were #1. …and I don’t mean some animal-rights disinformation sheet…scientific proof!

        I actually grew up not very far from where the last group of ferrets were discovered and used to drive by it a few times a year. I read quite a bit about their recovery. Some of the black footed ferret’s recent problems were disease and had little to do with prarie dogs or humans. By far, and by miles and miles and miles, the most destructive force to the black footed ferret was habbitat loss. Probably 90% of their habitat has been destroyed by agriculture so at least 90% of black footed ferrets were destroyed by habbitat loss.

        Cetainly ranchers (along with everyone else) did not realize or were not concerned about accidentally poisoning them. The species was not even recognized until 1851 well after the onset of farming and ranching on the plains. Many were ignorant, not just ranchers.

        But I want to see some proof that they were the #1 preditor of prarie dogs. …or you should retract your claim.

      • pointswest says:

        ++Mike writes: How the mainstream sees it: [link deleted]++

        This is hardly related to shooting vermin. The question in the pole is loaded. It it asks if “abusing or killing” is wrong. Of course abusing is wrong…it is in the very definition of abuse.

        One could ask, “is the abuse or killing of insects wrong” and most people are going to agree that it is. There is hardly a person alive, however, who does not slap mosquitos, or kills houseflies, or poisons cockroaches, or who steps on ants!

        Your disinformation campaign is pretty lame… .

      • Mike says:

        ++Mike, do you have any evidence that black footed ferrets were, “the #1 prairie dog predator”? Something tells me you are just making this up…you know…don’t let the facts get in the way of a good post sort of thing. There are many predators that prey upon prarie dogs. I would like to see some scientific evidence that black footed ferrets were #1. …and I don’t mean some animal-rights disinformation sheet…scientific proof!

        I actually grew up not very far from where the last group of ferrets were discovered and used to drive by it a few times a year. I read quite a bit about their recovery. Some of the black footed ferret’s recent problems were disease and had little to do with prarie dogs or humans

        Pointswest- Your post is proof that you can still live near these public lands and have no idea what you are talking about, while average Joe from the city may know much more.

        The black footed ferret was wiped out by humans.


        Black-footed ferrets are highly specialized predators that depend on prairie dogs for food and shelter. More than 90 percent of the ferrets’ diet is made up of prairie dogs. Ferrets and prairie dogs live in prairie dog towns in underground tunnels called burrows.

        In the late 1900s, a national effort to eradicate prairie dogs from prairies and grassland, because they were considered pests, resulted in a drastic decline in prairie dogs. This action also had extreme consequences for the ferrets due to their dependency on prairie dogs. By the late 1970s, no known black-footed ferrets lived in the wild, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) considered declaring them extinct for the second time.

      • pointswest says:

        Yeah…that is what I thought you would do…just dodge the questions.

        The prarie dog may be the ferets number one prey but that does not mean that the feret was the prarie dog’s #1 preditor. So since you do not have any scientific proof that, “the blackfooted feret is the #1 predator of prarie dogs,” I believe you should retract this statement. You are fast losing all of your credibility.

        It is clear that humans are responsible for the decline in the ferret. It is because we destroyed the habittat with acriculture. What you said was that, “goon ranchers poisoned them off by the thousands and they are now the rarest mammal in the U.S.”

        Why must you spew all this disinformation Mike? Is your mission so important that you feel you have license to completely disregard the truth?

      • jon says:

        The range of the black-footed ferret coincides closely with that of three species of prairie dogs on which the ferret depends for food and habitat. As the plains were settled and large tracts of prairie were plowed for farmland, prairie dog and ferret habitat was destroyed. Poisoning campaigns eliminated vast acreages of prairie dogs that were competing with livestock for forage. Prairie dogs occupied an estimated 700 million acres in the Great Plains in the late 1800s but occupy only about 1.5 million acres today. The black-footed ferret’s decline probably followed that of the prairie dog. In the 1950s, ferrets were still thought to occur in low densities throughout most of their historic range. In the 1960s, the only known population of black-footed ferrets was a small colony in southwestern South Dakota. That colony was studied from its discovery in 1964 until the last member died in captivity in 1979.


        Has anyone ever had a ferret as a pet?

      • pointswest says:

        I had a roommate who had a pet ferret at home. He would bring it over every once in awhile. They are very busy, bery playful and very funny. They are not affectionate like a cat or dog, however, and I can’t imagine them being loyal like a dog or even a cat. They can be very rough and will scratch and bite you to the point of blood if you are rough with them.

        They’re fun to have around for a day or two but I would not want one as a pet. They do not bond with thier human owners and this is probably why they never caught on as pets.

  16. Alan says:

    Quick question: Isn’t this McDonald who is running against Rehburg the guy who wanted to treat Yellowstone like a big “ranch”? I just don’t know where to place my votes. It seems like Montana just has Republicrats, or is it Demlicans? Should I just close my eyes and poke or not go at all? Maybe I should run myself! Oh, wait! I don’t have millions of dollars!

  17. Nancy says:

    +“How we treat animals says a lot about how we treat each other,” State Rep. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) and a sponsor of Ohio bill SB 221, told Psychiatric News. The bill would also stiffen criminal penalties for animal cruelty+

    Interesting article Mike but it doesn’t address the people out there who grow up, loving the family pet (and would have no problem shelling out hundreds if they were hurt and needed attention) vs taking a week, weekend or a day or two off, to kill another form of life, often for sport.

  18. Save bears says:

    Looks like another bill was introduced yesterday to strip endangered species classification for wolves.

    Sorry if this has been posted, I looked but with so many comments could not find it:


    And here is the article from the Trib:


    • pointswest says:

      So anytime a state like Wyoming can cause problems for the ESA, Congress will step in and simply remove an endangered species from the list.

      It is a dangerous and foolhardy precedent…and it is perfect for today’s Republican Party!

      • Save bears says:


        Its not just republicans that are introducing bills like this, and I am amazed by the number of bills being introduced by congressmen from all over the country, there is even a bi-partisan group out of the mid-west that includes many states as well as Canadian Provinces that have also sign letters wanting the wolves Off the endangered list. The ground swell on this issue is getting ugly…there is no science involved any longer, it has gone pure political!

      • Ryan says:

        And people are supprised again why?

      • WM says:


        Senator Tester is a Dem.

  19. Mike says:

    Tester is a Republican IMHO.

    • Save bears says:

      Mike you live in a very different world, than the rest of us, perhaps it is you, that needs some help?

      • jon says:

        sb, do you watch Casey Anderson’s show expedition wild? Grey wolves are going to be on his show this upcoming Monday. You should watch it with the wife. It should be a good show. Have a good weekend.

      • Save bears says:


        Have no interest, On Monday, I will not have access to TV, so I will have to miss it.

      • Save bears says:

        And when it comes down to it, my wife don’t care one way or another…She is part of the Majority..

      • jon says:

        Why am I not shocked savebears.

      • Save bears says:

        Don’t be Jon, I am not shocked, she is more interested in her books..I have watched Casey’s bear shows, but won’t be where I will be able to watch the wolf shows..and please don’t read more into it than it is..

      • Mike says:

        Save Bears – The spectrum has shifted to the right. It’s well documented. Thrity seven years ago Republicans created the ESA….think about how far they have lurched to the right.

        Can you imagine what would happen to the current extreme religious Republican party if they came up with the ESA? lol. It wouldn’t be pretty.

  20. Nancy says:

    Tester is a farmer/rancher and so is our democratic governor (Montana) He brings his cowdog to the office.


September 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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