FWP warns MSU over scientist’s wolf study

Come to the same conclusions as we do with the data, or else says Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks!

Despite what FWP says, this is a flat out attempt to suppress the scientific method.

FWP warns MSU over scientist’s wolf study. By Gail Schontzler. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

It is good to see MSU stand up to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in this matter. In the growing climate of fear and intimidation of science in the United States, you can bet the Montana state legislature will get involved in this.

Dr. Creel’s research conclusions have, in fact, not been as positive for the wolf as wolf conservationists had hoped.  Nevertheless, the state’s anti-wolf wildlife politicians are not happy.



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  1. jon Avatar

    Thanks for posting Ralph. Politics/junk science over real science, that’s the way Montana fwp likes it.

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    It appears that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks doesn’t like it when somebody comes to a conclusion about wolves that doesn’t fit their agenda or preconceived notions. But it also appears that they didn’t expect that their threats to discontinue cooperation would become public. As with most of the western game agencies, they have become less insulated from politics, especially when it comes to wolves. While Creel’s studies have been controversial it appears that they show things which both sides may find inconvenient which is a good indication that he is being objective.

    The way in which wolves, prey, and humans interact is not a simple equation and needs to be investigated objectively without fear of political meddling.  It really seems that what FWP did was try to underhandedly influence what can and can’t be studied.  It is unseemly.

    I think MSU’s Tracy Ellig put it best:

    “We don’t have any concerns with (Creel’s) research,” Ellig said. “It was peer-reviewed. It appeared in the scientific literature. It used previously published public data and … the way he arrived at his conclusions was transparent. Other scientists could either back it up or disagree with it.”

  3. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Although I’ve decided to pretty much stop commenting for various reasons, this one really raises the hackles. Dave Risley has already proven himself to be a worthless bureaucratic hack over the bison issue, but this attack on Scott Creel is a truly brazen–and despicable–attempt to subvert science for political reasons. I might add that the MSU president’s response to Risley’s letter wasn’t all that courageous either. No matter where you look, administrators are gutless.

    The larger point is that this kind of censorship is rampant throughout the wildlife agencies, regardless of the subject. We’ve had nothing but lies and half truths about wolves from Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana’s fish and wildlife agencies and their various hack bureaucrats. It’s amazing how low people will stoop to keep the paychecks coming.


  4. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    I hope there is a great deal of blowback on this.

    1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      I forwarded the story to some friends at the New York Times and other national publications.


  5. jdubya Avatar

    Risley obviously knows nothing about science or the processes involved:
    “….Risley sounded conciliatory. He said FWP wasn’t objecting to Creel’s conclusions, but felt Creel had taken selected parts of FWP’s data without understanding it and didn’t work with FWP to avoid mistaken assumptions.
    “I do think you owe it to the original researcher to consult about the interpretation of their data,” Risley said.”

    Are you kidding? If the data is there in pubic domain you can do ANYTHING you want with it. In an academic process, your conclusions from those data are either verified by others, or you are put out in the cold. In the non-academic environment (such as on the Lobo Watch web page and others) there is no peer review so you can say anything you want without repercussion. I don’t know Risley but he sounds like the usual anti-science political hack that usually is selected for such positions.

    1. WM Avatar


      ++I don’t know Risley but he sounds like the usual anti-science political hack that usually is selected for such positions.++

      If the linked article is accurate Risley, with both MS and MS degrees in wildlife management and a number of years (30) of research and administration under his belt in Ohio, he probably knows how the science and politics games are played. Whether he is a good player is entirely another matter.


      From the content of his stupid letter, maybe not.

      1. jdubya Avatar

        WM, Good point but all because you got a degree does not mean you also got a functional education.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This is precisely one of the ways scientific research properly takes place.

    Data is gathered and analyzed. Results are written and published.

    The original data are made public and other researchers reanalyze it to see if they come to the same conclusions. It is called “secondary analysis of data.” Secondary analysis is one of the major ways scientific conclusions are made more or less solid, and a major way scientific fraud is detected.

  7. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    A reasonable conclusion from this episode is that Risley and his cohorts at FWP, all the way up to the Commission and the Governor are interested only in presenting scientific fraud to the public as fact.


    1. Salle Avatar

      Seems like scientific inquiry is taking a beating when it does not serve as the “yes man” proof of what the politicians and their anti-wildlife buddies want it to say.

      And just to put a little more context to the situation is this last paragraph in the story about the original complainer:

      Risley, hired in August 2009 after 30 years with Ohio’s wildlife agency, is in charge of fisheries, wildlife, law enforcement, communications and education. He reports to FWP Deputy Director Art Noonan, a Butte legislator and former Democratic Party executive director, and to Joe Maurier, FWP director and former college roommate of Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

  8. PointsWest Avatar

    Even if it could be shown that Creel is bias, it is not a good idea that a goverment angency threatens to end funding and cooperation with a University. It sends a signal that anyone who does not fall in line with the official goverment science will be punished. It is contrary to both the priniciples of science and the principles of democracy.

    If Creel really is bias, then let science prove him to be so, but do not allow some goverment agency to appoint themselves as some sort of scientific comisar. Once you do, you have no science at all.

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The more I think about this blatant attempt by Montana FWP to silence a scientist, the angrier I get, and worried too, about the future.

    If this happens now for minor issues like wolves, what about those where a lot of money is at stake?

    1. PointsWest Avatar

      When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS. –Mahatma Gandhi

      1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
        Robert Hoskins

        Gandi was wrong.


      2. WM Avatar

        Gandhi was dead wrong.

  10. Phil Avatar

    If you people don’t know, the organization Risley works for was one of the few that went to court to retain delisting of Wolves in the region. They have had many critical articles against Wolves, and have never, to my knowledge, had any positive factors about the species. I believe the Fish Wildlife and Parks are clearly agains any predators because of their actions and behaviors of survival, and that is through hunting other species.

  11. Phil Avatar

    Ralph: It seems like the topic of “What will happen if a lot of money is at stake” is coming up in the near future from the legislation of governmental officials in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in their new proposals to Congress on delisting the Wolves. As far as from what I have read, they are trying to push a lot of money to Congress to delist Wolves, and it appears to be working to some degree.

  12. Mike Avatar

    These crazies are terrified of science and facts. It’s the same thing with global warming. How they function, I’ll never understand.

    1. Salle Avatar

      By brute force and ignorance…

  13. jon Avatar

    Scott Creel response

    I will not comment here other than to address some statements about what our past research reported. The following are direct quotes from our papers:
    “{D]ata from GPS radio collars show that elk moved into the protective cover of wooded areas when wolves were present, reducing their use of preferred grassland foraging habitats that had high predation risk. By constraining habitat selection, wolves may have greater effects on elk dynamics than would be predicted on the basis of direct predation alone.”
    This statement is from Creel et al. 2005. Elk alter habitat selection as an antipredator response to wolves. Ecology 86:3387-3397. This was the first paper that my students or I published on wolf-elk interactions.
    “Across populations and years, progesterone concentrations [of elk] correlated strongly with elk-wolf ratios: Low progesterone values were associated with heavier predation pressure. The recruitment of calves declined significantly in two of these populations since local recolonization by wolves.”
    From Creel et al. 2007 Predation Risk Affects Reproductive Physiology and Demography of Elk. Science 315:960. To my knowledge, this was the first analysis to report that elk calf recruitment sometimes declines as a consequence of the energetic costs of avoiding wolves.
    “For Gallatin elk, the calf:cow ratio immediately after the annual birth pulse has declined by 39% since wolf recolonization. These changes in reproduction
    were associated with strong changes in female elk behavior, habitat selection, grouping and sensitivity to environmental condition. Reduced calf numbers after the birth pulse account for a decline of 17.3 calves/100 cows . Increased bear predation on very young calves could potentially contribute to this decline, by increasing the number of calves killed before they can be counted. Contrary to this hypothesis, summer calf:cow ratios were not detectably related to estimated bear density, whereas wolf presence remains a strong predictor of summer calf:cow ratios after controlling for the potential effect of bears and snow accumulation during the gestation period . Grizzly bear numbers in the Yellowstone ecosystem have increased mainly by population expansion, but the density of breeding bears within the ecosystem core has not changed detectably .”
    “For elk calf recruitment, risk effects on reproduction [due to wolves] were 2–3 times larger than the effect of direct predation alone (17.9 versus 6.3 to 9.0 calves/100 cows), and the total effect of predation on recruitment was 3–4 times larger than was captured by measures of direct predation.
    These passages are from Creel & Christianson 2008 Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23:194-201
    This is what our earlier papers actually said. Whether the data cause people to be pro-wolf or anti-wolf, pro-elk or anti-elk, etc. is their own decision.

  14. jon Avatar

    I emailed Scott and he said he couldn’t answer any of my questions because of what is going on. I feel bad for this guy. His name is getting dragged in the mud and you have nuts calling him a wolf lover and using junk science.

    1. Jerry Black Avatar
      Jerry Black

      Jon…there’s quite a letter writing effort taking place in support of Dr. Creel and MSU.
      I emailed one of my legislative reps and her response…”I’ll make a call BUT, I have” lots on my plate”. In other words, don’t bother me with wolf issues. Every one of them is scared they may be perceived as a wolf sympathizer…..almost as bad as someone who believes in climate change.
      With the democrats we have in Montana, who needs republicans?

      1. Rita K.Sharpe Avatar
        Rita K.Sharpe

        We all have alot to contend with.She got and took the job..What did she expect? Fast food with easy pickup service and to be able to toss out quickly.

      2. mikarooni Avatar


      3. Jerry Black Avatar
        Jerry Black

        2X huh?????

      4. jon Avatar

        I do feel bad for this guy Jerry. i hope his reputation isn’t ruined.

      5. Jerry Black Avatar
        Jerry Black

        I’m sure he’ll be just fine, but has learned an ugly lesson about dealing with MFWP. It will make other researchers at both MSU and UM think twice before contracting with MFWP.

      6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

        Dr. Creel’s reputation is hardly hurt by this. The community of scientists will see to that.

        What is in danger is the reputation of the university if it does not protect his scientific freedom and that of Montana FWP for dealing with concerns with the results of Creel’s research in the way they did.


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

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Ralph Maughan