Major hunting groups' statement against wolf poaching

Wolf poaching not supported-

Calling For Calm With Wolves. This statement was signed the Presidents/CEOs of the Boone and Crockett Club, Mule Deer Foundation, Pope and Young Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club, Wild Sheep Foundation, and Wildlife Management Institute.







  1. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    Talk is cheap. We’ll see.

  2. JB Avatar

    This statement is worrisome:

    “We will pursue this goal with the diligence we take to hunting itself, working professionally with the agencies, seeking allies, and pushing forward the policies that will prevent this tragedy from happening again with other wildlife. “

  3. Jeff N. Avatar
    Jeff N.

    Say one thing do another. Their ultimate goal is to have as few wolves on the landscape as possible. The first italicized paragraph is pure b.s. Wolves have not “decimated” game or livestock anywhere. They’re salivating over states gaining management of wolves. These groups will push for the absolute minimum population threshold. What a crock of sh%t.

  4. jdubya Avatar

    I think this is very well said….I would hope the members of these organizations will take to heart this message from their leaders.

    “Statements on the Internet about poaching wolves are an affront to the American conservation ethic. Illegal killing is wrong, self-defeating, and exactly opposite of how sportsmen created conservation and the privilege of ethical hunting in the first place.””

  5. Dude, the bagman. Avatar
    Dude, the bagman.

    I think they’d do better channeling their “rightful anger” toward Wyoming than complaining about “loopholes,” “legal technicalities,” and “judges second-guessing government experts.”
    Maybe the judges (experts in the law) are second guessing the “fuzzy laws” made by wildlife agencies because those laws are based on political grandstanding and economics, and not the “best available science” required to satisfy ESA delisting requirements.
    Stomping their feet about how unfair it is us unlikely to lead to a legally sufficient plan under the ESA (which is fine by me).

  6. Alan Avatar

    Good for them. I am so tired of reading (and hearing) this however: “Many hunters are rightfully angry that a federal judge has put the gray wolf back under federal protection based on legal technicalities.” Either you are in compliance with the law or you are not! There is nothing “technical” about it. If you are doing seventy in a fifty five zone you didn’t get pulled over on a technicality. “Rightfully angry” because a federal judge did something that Wyoming refuses to do, and actually read the law!! Hunters should be upset with Wyoming for failing to write a decent management plan, period! One plan should be written for the entire Northern Rockies based on best available (current) science and be done with it, IMO. How hard is it? That is the question Montana and Idaho (and hunters and ranchers) should be asking Wyoming. You know the law, you can read the law. Write a management plan in compliance with the law! Don’t drive seventy in a fifty five zone. Sheesh!
    There is little question that talk of illegal poaching on the internet (and elsewhere) are self defeating; they are clear and irrefutable evidence that wolves are in need of continued protections. Is it true what that comedian says, “You can’t fix stupid”?

    1. WM Avatar


      ++You know the law, you can read the law. Write a management plan in compliance with the law!++

      While you seem to think this is as simple as obeying a traffic sign, I will offer that it is not. The states did as the federal government (FWS) told them to do (except WY in the end). MT and ID did all that was asked of them, only to be told by a federal court (Judge Molloy), not the FWS which administers the law, that what they had done was not enough even under their approved plans.

      Even if they had done more, meeting every requirement on wolf recovery that the most strident environmental organization wanted, IT STILL WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ENOUGH FOR WOLVES TO BE DELISTED. It took a judge a twenty plus page legal opinion to say that they couldn’t have their wolves delisted as long as the WY geographic portion of the DPS was not delisted and covered under an approved plan, because that is what the ESA law “seems” to say. Now it is up to a panel of federal Court of Appeals judges in San Francisco to determine whether Judge Molloy was correct in his reading of what he thinks the ESA “seems” to say.

      So, Alan, let me offer that this is not as simple as obeying a speed limit. And to continue your analogy (I don’t like analogies but just to play along), even if MT and ID were driving the speed limit (unknown because there are no signs, only advice of the FWS), because WY wasn’t driving the speed limit all three states get a violation ticket – no delisting. By the way, FWS was driving for WY and doing what they thought the speed limit was, so that didn’t even help.

      Alan, do believe that is fair to ID and MT (and their residents) to not have their wolves delisted just because WY won’t play the game in good faith? I don’t.

      This is why some people, myself included, call this a “technical flaw” in the ESA, and why some are calling for change. I would prefer the law allowed for wolves to be delisted in part of a DPS, while remaining under the higher protection of listed status whenever a state demonstrates it is not capable of management status, and FWS remains the manager. And, of course, all of this assumes the state delisting plans pass a scientific muster.


      I have no doubt that a number of hunters would not go the next step to shoot a wolf, or go against the stated guidance of these national sportsman organizations. However, there are hunters out there who do not belong to these organizations, and are locals where the wolves are, who will. Those are the ones to worry about, and they won’t just be shooting them during elk/deer hunting season. As SB has said before, their work will be silent. They won’t brag about it, and they may utilize methods other than shooting that could be far more effective.

      1. Jay Avatar

        The judge doesn’t have the power to bend the rules and reward MT and ID just because they played by the rules. Molloy is not the bad guy, Wyoming is.

      2. WM Avatar


        I agree and have said that several times, since Aug 5, when the opinon was filed. He has a hard job. WY is the bad guy, AND the law has a flaw because it apparently allows bad guys to control the outcome for everyone. The other problem is that the politicians who recently introduced ESA legislation are not approaching a fix appropriate to the problem and that is a grave disappointment.

      3. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        Obviously, it is not as simple as obeying a street sign. However, the act provides for protections that apply to the levels of species, subspecies, and DPSs. That’s not “interpretation” or what the law “seems” to say. It’s what the law says.

        Compared to other environmental statutes, the ESA is pretty simple. While it’s still not an easy read, that doesn’t mean every part of it that you disagree with or don’t understand is a “technicality” (in quotations to denote derision).

        The act’s purpose is to conserve species and ecosystems. The protections applied to a DPS “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” are consistent with that purpose.

        Whether or not that reflects the situation on every square inch of the ground is another matter, but judges have to apply the law consistent with what it says, not just what they wish it said. The court can’t change the language of the ESA to say something else. Only Congress can do that.

        No doubt that NRDC and DOW would have sued no matter how the wolf was delisted. “Best available scientific data” is a loaded term, and there’s plenty of room for debate. Really though that’s not the point.

        Wyoming politicians want to be brats. Wyoming politicians don’t want to obey federal laws. The Feds aren’t going to roll over for that because it would send a terrible message. The wolves and the ESA aren’t even really the issue. They are just being used as weapons in a battle for cultural hegemony. Wyoming is throwing a fit because they feel entitled to have their way, but they are outnumbered.

        Similarly, I don’t think fairness is an issue. Why is it “unfair” for ID and MT not have their wolves delisted because of WY’s actions? I’m not sure what they are being deprived of other than the trophy hunting of wolves (which they haven’t had for 80 or so years). I don’t think ID and MT residents are entitled to that.

        Certainly the wolves will eat some cattle, but that can be mitigated by better ranching practices and compensation programs.

        Despite all the whining about the elk herds, all of my hunting friends managed to get an elk this year.

        If it’s just unfair because people feel that they are losing control, that’s just too bad. The entitlement they feel is just their imagination of an assignment of rights they never had. Demographics are changing. Rural places and PUBLIC lands are more crowded. It’s all just the unintended consequence of our collective decision to keep spawning babies.

      4. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        The first 7 pages of the opinion merely gave background and discussed the relevant law. The bulk of the analysis had to deal with the government’s Bill Clintonesque argument that “species” in the act means something less than how it was explicitly defined in the act.

      5. Ken Cole Avatar

        Dude, the bagman says:

        “Feds aren’t going to roll over for that because it would send a terrible message.”

        Actually, that is exactly what they did by delisting in Idaho and Montana but not Wyoming. They did it before when they arbitrarily accepted Wyoming’s ridiculous management plan after they rejected it.

        Otherwise, I agree with the rest of your sentiment.

        The ESA is very clear regarding delisting of a DPS. You can’t delist just part of one. The judge’s ruling was made very simple by this.

      6. Jay Avatar

        “MT and ID did all that was asked of them, only to be told by a federal court (Judge Molloy), not the FWS which administers the law, that what they had done was not enough even under their approved plans.”

        WM, from this statement, it sounded as if you were suggesting that Molloy made his ruling based on the performance of ID and MT (or underperformance if I read your comment correctly), rather than the specific rules about delisting DPS’s. However, as I recall, he said what ID and MT did was more than adequate, and that his ruling was based strictly upon impropriety of the FWS in delisting based on the rules entailed in the ESA. My mistake if I misinterpreted.

      7. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        Huh. I didn’t know they accepted Wyoming’s plan. I thought they didn’t and the Feds still managed in Wyoming. No?

      8. JB Avatar

        Homework: I suggest everyone read DPS policy–which is the Services’ interpretation of the Act. I don’t think this is as clear cut as people would like it to be.

      9. JB Avatar

        In deciding what risk is posed to wolves by the lack of regulatory mechanisms, I think it is also instructive to look at what the people who make the policy decisions within the state F&G agencies are saying:

        “…wolves have become the keystone ‘divine’ species in order to achieve a major goal of eliminating hunters and our hunting heritage.”


        “Wolves are stone cold killers, do what they were born to do, and the damage that these killing machines are inflicting on Idaho’s wildlife in unacceptable, unsustainable and must stop.”

        -ID F&G Commissioner Tony McDermott

      10. Ken Cole Avatar

        Yes, in the first attempt at delisting the USFWS arbitrarily accepted Wyoming’s plan after they rejected it. Jude Molloy rejected the original plan so they went back and delisted without Wyoming. He rejected that too because it was based on arbitrary state lines and not on the best available science as you said.

      11. WM Avatar


        ++I’m not sure what they are being deprived of other than the trophy hunting of wolves (which they haven’t had for 80 or so years). I don’t think ID and MT residents are entitled to that. ++

        The reintroduction of wolves to the NRM was done under Section 10j “non-essential experimental wolves,” which gives the greater management “flexibility.” If you retrace the steps from 1987, up thru the preparation of the EIS in 1994 and beyond FWS has represented (right or wrong) that impacts to ungulates and livestock would be addressed with “flexibility” by either FWS or the states in their designated agent, or ultimately full management capacity when these wolves were delisted. That gave rise to the 10j regulations, which have gone through several iterations, and of course, the multiple delisting fiascos. The content of the 10j regulations are even the subject of at least one more law suit currently before Judge Molloy (possibly more in other jurisdictions), now that wolves are back on the list.

        So, it was represented by FWS (sans any court interpretation of the law) to the three states that reintroduction and delisting would not be as painful as it apparently has become:
        1. Change in numbers (more needed than the miniumums in the EIS under best available science issue and by some wolf advocate groups – that little jewel was buried in an appendix to the EIS, if I recall correctly and not addressed in the text of the EIS)
        2. Individual states eventually being allowed to manage (no indication of what would happen if one state didn’t play)
        3. No forseeable scientific issues on connectivity, DPS technicalities, etc. playing out through lenghty and expensive court proceedings delaying state management transfer.
        I am sure there are more misrepresentations, but these are the biggies.

        Tell us, Dude …..and Ken….. if DPS policy and requirements are so simple and straight-forward……. if a state cannot fulfill its “manager” responsiblitities with an approved plan, can FWS assume a management role for purposes of delisting the DPS where there are no scientific objections to delisting the DPS?

        Or in other words, applied to a specific real world situation, could FWS have named itself the manager with its own plan for WY, and delisted the NRM DPS? What are the legal impediments that would prevent such an arrangement?

        If this could have been done, it could have avoided Judge Molloy’s ruling, and the case could have progressed to the substantive portions of the plaintiffs’ case – like the science of the recovery and adequacy of the management plans for purposes of the ESA.

        If I recall correctly, there are also lingering legal questions whether there is legislative history under the DPS provision to use it proactively to delist an experimental population, rather than list a species that is otherwise endangered within its range, while maybe not so in the remainder of its range.

        So, again, as JB also says, this is not so simple.

        * Correcting my earlier error, Molloy’s 8-5-10 opinion was 50 pages. and still a tough read considering the referenced regs., policies, Congressional testimony and cases.

      12. WM Avatar


        ++WM, from this statement, it sounded as if you were suggesting that Molloy made his ruling based on the performance of ID and MT (or underperformance if I read your comment correctly), rather than the specific rules about delisting DPS’s.++

        No. I think the adequacy of the ID and MT plans may still be at issue in the litigation, even though approved by FWS. And Molloy ruled only very narrowly on the DPS issue, without addressing the substance of the plaintiffs’ other claims.

        Actually my statement was to call attention to the mismatch between what FWS had instructed the states to do (over these many years since the experimental population wolf reintroduction began), and what the judge says the ESA, and specifically the DPS provision, requires.

        So, here is the convergence of the three branches of federal government – each with their own message: Congress enacts a law; the exec branch (FWS) tries to interpret what it means writing regulations and making states partners in implementation of ESA provisions as the law requires (sometimes outside the scope intended, or applied to new unanticipated situations) and the poor judge is trying to match up what he thinks the law written many years ago says, and how the exec branch deviated from the path intended by Congress.

        Then, you have the states (ID, MT) who are active participants in this process trying to make sense of their (reluctant) compliance with the law over such a long time (developing wolf management plans, and “preparing” to assume management primacy), and how now it seems it was all for nothing, as the earlier promises of FWS were broken.

        To the states, especially the West, they really don’t care about who says what – its all the federal government. The judge was the last to speak, and becomes the easy target for venting. They don’t like it and they conveniently boil it down to broken promises for political reasons.

        Maybe FWS should have forseen a future in which a state refused to play (inadequate plan, political opposition to playing at all), and whether this development could jeopordize the good faith efforts of the others. The clues have always been there. This is a HUGE institutional -socio-political- impact/glitch that was not addressed in the EIS, and, in hindsight, should have been.

        Other federal environmental laws that contemplate roles for states usually have pretty clear back-up provisions for maintaining federal primacy in certain roles if states won’t assume implementation roles in good faith. The ESA, apparently, is devoid of that feature. Another reason why the law needs to be tweaked.

      13. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        WM –
        I don’t think the entire issue is simple. I was only referring to the one narrow issue that was decided in the case – the delisting of part of a DPS.

        “if a state cannot fulfill its “manager” responsibilities with an approved plan, can FWS assume a management role for purposes of delisting the DPS where there are no scientific objections to delisting the DPS?”

        That’s a good question. I don’t know for sure, I haven’t taken any classes in admin. law. Generally speaking, wildlife management is left to the states. However, Congress has the authority to create and enforce federal laws that affect the way wildlife is managed over the states objections. This comes from the Commerce Clause and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
        The Feds can’t compel the states to enforce federal laws. However, they can create incentives to comply by attaching conditions to the receipt of federal funds (like when highway funds were withheld unless the states raised the drinking age).
        If the state refuses to enforce federal law, the federal government can step in and do it for them. (For example, consider the DEA raids on pot clubs in California.)

        So that’s a long way of saying yes. I think this specific issue could have been avoided if the feds regulated sufficiently in Wyoming. But that’s not what they decided to do.

        Regarding the 10j introduction, not all the wolves are part of that designation. North of I 90 (as Save Bears pointed out) the wolves are not part of an experimental population. Of course they have merged together now.

        Regarding state management, I think it was implicit that any management by the states couldn’t jeopardize the wolves. It wasn’t a secret that they were protected by the ESA.

        Regarding numbers, genetic connectivity, etc. This all falls under “best available scientific data.” That’s open to interpretation in litigation, which is a hassle for all involved. I don’t think anyone intended to lie about this stuff. Different actors over time came and went, and some probably changed their opinions, discovered new information, or generally thought about the intricacies in more detail. Again, it was no surprise that reintroduction would have to comply with the ESA.

        I just don’t think the details were all hashed out beforehand.

  7. Connie Avatar

    I sure would like to believe this call for reason is sincere.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      What leads you to believe it is not? At some point in time, we have to start believing that efforts are actually happening to get this worked out and get on with other issues!!!

  8. jon Avatar

    Jeff N, you took the words right outta my mouth.

  9. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The Wild Sheep Foundation needs to do some homework. Wolves are not a threat to Bighorns and when Wolves lower Elk numbers, Bighorns benefit from the reduced competition.
    I am seeing more Bighorn Rams here in Yellowstone this week than I have for the past twenty years.

  10. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Larry Thorngren,

    I think more than a decade passed before wolves took a single bighorn in Yellowstone Park.

    Last winter over 1000 bighorn in the West died of pneumonia. Most, maybe all, had it transmitted to them by domestic sheep or goats.

    The Wild Sheep Foundation may find it difficult, but it needs to deal this instead of leaving it to the Western Watersheds Project if they are to become true friends of wild sheep.

  11. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Interesting how RMEF can refer to wolves as a disaster or tragedy but say they are against poaching. It’s already pretty extreme thought by referring to them this way. You have to wonder about what they really believe.

  12. Alan Avatar

    “Alan, do believe that is fair to ID and MT (and their residents) to not have their wolves delisted just because WY won’t play the game in good faith? I don’t.”
    Since when is life “fair”?
    Of course it is more complicated than a traffic sign; the point is that the law is the law, it’s not a technicality. Judge Molloy is not creating law here, he is merely applying it as it is written. Yes, that is exactly what judges and courts are supposed to do. That is why they exist. If he is doing his job there is only one possible decision. When you stop and think about it, it is the only way that the ESA can be effective, you can’t use political (and therefore artificial) boundaries to determine threatened status. What next, a plant or animal is endangered in one county and not the next? On this side of the street but not that? No species can ever truely recover under those conditions.

    1. Save bears Avatar

      Except for the fact, there is still an arbitrary political boundary in play, the separates the classifications on wolves..South of I-90, they can be shot in the act of attacking livestock, north, they can’t.

      Now that we have seen genetic conductivity, there is no reason to have the I-90 boundary..either de-list all of them, classify them with full status or classify all of them experimental.

      1. Dude, the bagman Avatar
        Dude, the bagman

        Agreed. When the wolves are all the way from Utah up to the Canadian border in 3 states, I do have to wonder how D this DPS really is anymore. Regardless, FWS listed them as a DPS. I guess they are probably distinct enough to separate them from the wolves in the Midwest and be managed separately. Admittedly though, I don’t know much about their genetics.

  13. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    I re-read the missive from the Big Game Clubs. Other than calling for state management of wolves as the goal going forward ( no news there) , I still see nothing of real substance here, just a broad wave of the arm over the landscape of the West. The other arm is holding a rifle.

    Does anyone else find the omission of some verbiage along the lines of ” regulated Trophy and Limited Quota hunts of wolves…” as an eyebrow raiser? That seemingly dovetails with their mission nicely . So what are they asking for here, anyway ?

    The spirit of this letter would be much better recieved if it had the directors of some Non-Big Game ( non-hunter ) wildlife conservation NGO’s as co-signors as well.

  14. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    … or let me add to what I’m really thinking here.

    Did you notice which of the major big game club’s directors did NOT sign on to this letter ? Don Pey , at Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. Sometimes it’s not about what is not said and who is not saying it, too.

    Even by not specifically mentioning regulated trophy and/or limited quota wolf hunts as the best ( and maybe only ) tool for state management of wolves—at least from the sport hunting perspective— this letter is hollow. Because it does not address the only issue that really matters , for now : Wyoming’s bad wolf plan , that insists on Predator shoot on sight of wolves as nuisance animals away from Yellowstone in most of the state . ( Remember, the entire state of Wyoming is considered a single wolf management zone, as opposed to Idaho and Montana which have discrete areas of wolf management not encompassing the whole state.

    I think these Big Game Club signatories pulled up short of taking Wyoming to the woodshed directly when they asked for all sportsmen and the hunting community to take it down a notch or three…the denial, disinformation and rhetoric of the anti-wolfer and the SSS attitude prevails to a great degree in Wyoming. Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife are the leading anti-wolf organization not affiliated with the red meat or mutton industry. Still, SFW is not on board with this letter.

    Wyoming actually thinks it can get Idaho and Montana to come around to having wolves declared nuisance animals and open to predatory shoot on sight away from their own respective federal wolf management zones. There is some leaning towards that notion . This 3 state commission will undoubtedly have that proposal on the table thanks to Wyoming delegation , no doubt. Trying to rewrite the ESA to give Grey Wolves what amounts to a Categorical Exclusion via Congress will be a tough summit to scale. But try they will. The legislation is already drafted. Even Senators from Utah and oregon are jumping on the war wagon. The 3 state wolf commission , if not part and parcel of that silly attempt at special interest lawmaking, is at the least parallel to it.

    I’m pretty sure no olive branches or opportunities to co-sign this letter were extended to non-hunting conservation groups, as I alluded above. Most of these same hunting organizations were the co-funders of the Absaroka Elk Ecology Study north of my town of Cody , which tacitly was funded and designed to prove wolves were having an overt effect on elk herds. Unfortunately , the science is not backing that up. It’s worth noting that no environmental or non-hunting conservation groups were asked to help fund that study, either.

    This letter from the Big Game CLubs is more like that subatomic particle called a neutrino than not. It exists, but has no mass. IMHO

  15. Paul White Avatar
    Paul White

    Talk is cheap but at least it’s a start. Hopefully, give it a generation or two ofp eople living with them and some common sense will break up. When growing up in Colorado people didn’t mostly call for kill-on-sight of other large predators, so I’m hoping it’s possible for some reason to break out…


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

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