Idaho Department of Fish and Game looks for alternative revenue

To Convene a ‘Wildlife Congress’ in 2012

Some in the state (see: groups like Sportsman for Fish and Wild[sic]life) like to suggest that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) operations are paid for exclusively by sale of hunting and fishing licenses and tags and so, the logic goes, hunters and anglers ought have more of a voice in how wildlife is managed.

Usually this entails a high expectation for big game – and an accompanied demand to inflate big game numbers via habitat alteration projects (prescribed burning, chaining, etc.), predator control, etc. – effectively turning wildlife management into an agricultural endeavor in order to serve these private groups.

The recent reduction in hunter and angler licenses and tag sales combined with general budgetary woes  has threatened this status quo arrangement, while at the same time breaking open the opportunity for a broader conversation about state wildlife management in Idaho.

How should Idaho pay for managing wildlife? – Idaho Statesman

But with Congress cutting funds that are passed down to states for habitat protection — and flat hunter and angler numbers — Moore is worried about the long term. Historically, hunters and anglers have covered most of the costs for managing all wildlife in Idaho.

“I think we have to take a look at how to reach the majority who don’t have a way to contribute,” Moore said at a recent Idaho Environmental Forum meeting in Boise.

The truth is that federal dollars constitute almost half of the IDFG budget (see: FY 2012 Idaho Legislative Budget Book – Department of Fish and Game).  In addition, the wildlife “managed” belong to you and I – to our kids and are held in trust.  Consumptive users like hunters and anglers ought not be purchasing more influence over management when they purchase a license or tag, but instead purchase an opportunity at “take” from public wildlife resources that belong to all citizens.  That’s the cost of depleting the natural “resource” or otherwise depriving other citizens the relative opportunity.  Non-consumptive users enjoy wildlife without such “take”.

Although it is true that consumptive users – private interest groups – exercise much greater influence over management than non-consumptive users like wildlife watchers, hikers, recreationists – that ‘pay-to-play’ arrangement is fundamentally indicative of a corruption of the Public Trust – not a purchased “right”.

User groups, whether consumptive or non-consumptive – ought be wary of buying into and legitimizing a “Pay-to-Play” wildlife management model that legitimizes disproportionate private interest-group influence rather than bolstering wildlife managers’ primary duty to the public at large.





  1. Phil Avatar

    I find this article somewhat on the positive. From what is said, it seems like there will be less of an influence by hunters and fisherman on how wildlife should be managed and what should be done with wildlife and more of an influence from the general public. It is extremely sad that the budget cuts may affect (negatively) wildlife and ecosystems, but at least now the public (who are non-hunters and non-fisherman) can have their say on wildlife to where the Fish and Game will listen to them.

    As mentioned in the article, “In addition, the wildlife “managed” belong to you and I – to our kids and are held in trust. Consumptive users like hunters and anglers ought not be purchasing more influence over management when they purchase a license or tag, but instead purchase an opportunity at “take” from public wildlife resources that belong to all citizens.”

  2. troutoil Avatar

    How about catch and release anglers? We pay for licenses and don’t remove any resources. We certainly use them though, and perhaps others who “use” wildlife resources should also be required to pay fees. A trail fee for hikers would be touchy, but if all of those new dollars banded together to demand continued access or more agressive preservation of the resources that they use, the money will talk, and the brass will have no choice but to listen.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      money doen’t talk – nor would a flush of new resources do much at IDFG except 1 of 2 things:

      1. create a new budget to kill species for which individual interest groups lack tolerance or otherwise seek to be eradicated to make way for habitat that benefits politically priveleged commercial users.

      2. offset resources to accomplish the above.

      the question is: should wildlife or public land experience that carries a commercial value be more entitled to conservation than wildlife and habitat that is not commercial ? That’s the endgame of this effort – that’s what it will mean.

  3. somsai Avatar

    Hmmmmm The group of conservationists that restored healthy populations of every species from egrets to condors, bald eagles and white tail deer, hawks and bear, prairie dogs and elk, bison and peregrines, is now called “a consumptive user”? Decades of funding not only for conservation of species but also for the habitat in which they live.

    No wonder we are having problems getting the funding we need to continue the work we’ve done for so long. No one else to help carry the load. All anyone wants to do is sue the government, no one to do the hard work, no one to help pay.

    Consumptive users, folks who use a resource but do nothing to help maintain it, hmm….

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      “no one to help pay” ? federal tax-payers cover nearly half the costs as is – right now – of the entire budget.

      this is the very entitlement mentality of which i speak. too many commercial consumptive users pretend to be an exclusive contributor to fish and game budgets – which they are not … but are happy to take credit for generations past who actually ensured a conservation ethic alongside their contribution – rather than bitching and moaning about how they ought have more voice than anyone else because they can’t see past their own voice.

      i got news for you – the people in charge now have a limited view of that bygone conservation ethic. now, though content to wear on their cuff the achievements of the past – paying lip-service to its accomplishment – commercial consumptive users are found testifying in state legislative hearings and fish & game committees about the necessity of “controlling” wildlife, torching and dragging giant chains across habitats between tractors, and otherwise manipulating the landscape and less-desirable species to maximize habitat and populations of particular game species – usually trophies or those for which there is a commercial market. this is the “habitat improvement” for which so many dollars are spent.

      this is the torch that you carry. carry it proudly.

      1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
        Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

        You are technically correct to say:
        “federal tax-payers cover nearly half the costs as is – right now – of the entire budget.”
        but your implication is misleading and incorrect. Those federal tax dollars, Pittman-Robertson (P-R) and “Wallop-Breaux”/”Dingell-Johnson” (D-J) funds, as you should know, are excise tax receipts from the sale of hunting and fishing equipement – dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat. Both pieces of federal legislation that enable the collection of P-R and D-J funds were conceived and promoted by hunting and angling wildlife conservationists. Somsai is correct that the most of the wildlife research and habitat work funded by P-R and D-J funds benefits ALL wildlife – rather than a relatively small number of hunted and fished species. The same is true of wildlife work accomplished with state license/tag/permit receipt funds.

        The challenge of funding wildlife conservation in North America and the broader challenge of keeping the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation relevant in a rapidly changing society is a crucial contemporary wildlife conservation challenge. Every state and federal wildlife management agency and every wildlife management oriented NGO in the country recognizes this as one of the most important national challenges for wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation. This is a necessary dialog for all wildlife oriented forums, this one included.

        1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
          Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

          Repeating a question from an earlier post:

          “JB, others –
          The community of wildlife management professionals recognizes the challenges of keeping the North American Model relevant to our changing society. My experience is that wildlife management professionals are committed to maintaining relevance to the public we serve. This forum is one of many well suited for a constructive discussion of how to keep the North American Model effective and meaningful to the American public. What changes would you make?”

          Brian, others……?

          1. Phil Avatar

            If you know off the top of your head, can you post the top 10 species that benefit from the money that comes in from hunters and fishermen? I believe that much, if not all, of that money goes to big game prey, but because you are involved with the Fish and Game, I will accept and believe what you say.

          2. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            Too many species that benefit from the diverse work by state fish and game agencies to prioritize. Literally dozens of species, mostly non-hunted or fished species and mostly native species directly benefit from the habitat enhancement work (riparian and terrestrial)designed to benefit hunted or fished species. Conservation work that benefits deer, elk, pheasants, sage grouse, sharptail grouse, waterfowl, trout, salmon, bass, etc. benefits many more non-target species than those species of intended benefits. Additionally, most state “fish and game” agencies have well defined responsibilities and programs for conservation and management of non-game species. Your assumption that most state agency funds are spent on big game is also incorrect. State agency budgets are spread across a broad array of responsibilities that include fish and wildlife management, enforcement and information and education.

        2. JB Avatar

          Mark is exactly right about the origin of these funds, though technically speaking, some of the equipment that is taxed is not used for hunting and fishing. Still, it is certainly correct to suggest that dollars generated from P/R and D/J funds, along with license fees, have paid for most of the wildlife conservation that has occurred in the US.

          I disagree with Brian’s assertion (above) that the diversification of funding sources will simply result in
          “..a new budget to kill species for which individual interest groups lack tolerance…”. This has definitely NOT been the case in states that have managed to acquire funding from non-hunting/fishing sources (e.g., Missouri).

          Certainly, P/R funds are spent disproportionately on projects designed to benefit game species (at least in my experience); however, in reality the species we typically classify as “game” are also the most sought after for viewing purposes (e.g., deer, elk, bear, cougar)–at least when we’re talking about terrestrial mammals. Thus, habitat projects designed to benefit these species, promote both hunting and wildlife viewing. Moreover, P/R funds provide a lot of $$s for research, which helps us understand (among other things) which species/populations need protection and how best to go about it.

          More fundamentally, people should ask themselves if it is fair to ask a small proportion of Americans to shoulder the costs associated with wildlife conservation? Many people argue that wildlife and, more generally, ecosystems benefit society at large–whether one directly utilizes these resources or not. Is it not fair to ask people who benefit from wildlife resources to pay their fair share?

          In the past I have argued that the lack of representativeness of state fish and game commissions is problematic for ensuring the voices of so-called non-consumptive users of wildlife are heard. This is particularly problematic where statutory law demands certain types of affiliations (e.g., a certain % of commissioners must be hunters, or involved in agriculture). However, I firmly believe that the first step in securing the conservation of our wildlife resources is to ensure the agencies charged with this duty have adequate funding to accomplish this task. I have listened to numerous people on this blog complain about the lack of enforcement of poaching violations–does anyone honestly think enforcement will improve with sinking agency budgets???

          1. Harley Avatar

            JB, if you are the same JB that I looked up, you take some stunning photographs! Sorry, a tad bit out of context here but I haven’t seen you post in a bit.

          2. Carl Avatar

            JB, On a slightly different note , how our the sale of the non game stamps going in Ohio?

          3. JB Avatar

            Thanks, Harley. I’m afraid I don’t have much time for photography anymore; though I still try to get out west at least once a year.

            – – –

            Carl: The Wildlife Legacy Stamp made ~$21,000 in its first year. Not sure what other non-game efforts produced, but I own (and pay yearly) on a license plate dedicated to non-game funding.

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar


    Missouri’s general tax is most certainly a better model than we see in places like Idaho – and I would most certainly not object to a more generalized funding mechanism for conservation – however, the problem is two-fold – assigning priority to commercialized wildlife values via excise-tax inevitably results in modification – and often – destruction of less-desirable habitats to achieve inflated numbers of commercially valued habitats & game.

    and the political players – who when flush with more resources would be able to accomplish above, which too often includes folk in the Department – and private-interests outside the Department who hold other leverage (see: Ag).

    “Does anyone honestly think enforcement will improve with sinking agency budgets”

    the mass kill order on the Lolo wolves was halted due to an exceeded budget. this may be just one anecdote – but its having impact elsewhere as well, fewer collars is good for wolves, etc.

    when an agency is as politicized and actively pursuing misguided conceptions of “conservation” which include slaughter of predators and anthropogenic cultivation of habitat – I am skeptical of well-meaning calls to add more fuel to its tank.

    similarly, i grow less and less sympathetic to the demand for science at the state Department level. we’re studying our wildlife to death – and it’s not so much a function of the biologists or others – but the same politicization is apparent in state-led scientific inquiry as it is in the actual management. will science that suggests wolves are less responsible for big game reductions than originally thought decrease the Department’s march toward predator population reductions ? no. would a study that inquires into predator’s influence on big game populations be more or less likely to gain a larger piece of an inflated budget if the premise of its inquiry tends to validate a Department policy objective or if it threatens to invalidate that same policy ?

    the problems with IDFG (and other state Departments) are that they are overly politicized – the objectivity of their directors is suspect and the statutory (or even ‘unsaid’) mechanisms of insulating directors and staff from explicit and implicit overt political pressures up and down the Departments are breaking down over time — it’s not that they don’t have enough money.

    so to answer Mark Gamblin, I would say that a better model would be to generalize the source of those revenues – however, it’s not going to do any good (in fact – it may do more damage) until the selection process for your commission is radically reformed to ensure objectivity and diversity of view-points – and the introduction of much stronger protections for employees is explicitly enforced – this means codified protections as well as a willingness of leaders in the Department to go to the mat in defense of their employees over and over again until a legitimate and systemic confidence grows. it’s not there right now.

    1. JB Avatar

      “…assigning priority to commercialized wildlife values via excise-tax inevitably results in modification – and often – destruction of less-desirable habitats to achieve inflated numbers of commercially valued habitats & game.”


      I understand that this is the perception of people who post here, but I do not think what you are describing occurs frequently, and I strenuously disagree that destruction/devaluation of habitat is an “inevitability”. In fact, the vast majority of projects that are aimed at helping game species benefit numerous “non-target” species. Perhaps the best example of this is the protection and restoration of wetlands which, while often initiated to benefit waterfowl (game), also benefits numerous other species of wildlife from fish and amphibians to songbirds and aquatic inverts.

      In reality, any habitat modification (whether it is a controlled burn, timber harvest, stream restoration, etc.) is likely to negatively impact some species and positively impact others. (There was a time when fire was considered “habitat destruction”, but we now recognize that it benefits numerous species.) Therefore, habitat is really only “destroyed” when modifications are permanent (i.e., human structures are built).

      Moreover, in your neck of the woods federal law requires that federal land management agencies manage forests and other public lands for a variety of purposes (watershed protection, recreation, wildlife, timber, etc.), which means there are always a variety of types of habitat modifications going on, and state F&G agencies have very little control over these modifications.

      In my own state, where there is very little public land, the kind of control that you describe simply is not possible. Here in Ohio, the predominant habitat modification affecting wildlife is conversion of traditional agricultural lands to industrial agriculture–or worse, exurban development.

      All of this is to say that (again), most fish and wildlife management projects initiated with sportsmen dollars benefit a variety of species.

      1. Elk275 Avatar


        I enjoy your reasoning and commentary. It is well thought out, positive and facilitates forward movement.

        1. JB Avatar

          Thanks, Elk. I really don’t believe dividing people interested in wildlife conservation along hunter/non-hunter lines serves anyone’s long-term interest.

          I will say that I absolutely agree with Brian’s broader point–that a “pay to play” model sends the wrong message (i.e., only those who pay should get to play). We all benefit from wildlife conservation and so–at least in my opinion–we should all pay our fair share of the costs.

          1. Phil Avatar

            JB: I enjoy your comments as well. Brian’s comments are very well put out as well. It is a real thrill to read comments from you, Brian and many others on here. Run for OSU president, that school needs a good one right about now.

          2. Phil Avatar

            In my opinion, all individuals who live here legally pay, so everyone should have the right to voice out their opinions on wildlife. I do not hunt or fish, so why should my opinion on how wildlife should be handled be less of a factor of interest then others?

          3. Elk275 Avatar


            Remember that state game and fish commissions hold hearings every year and you as an individual have a right to voice your opinions. I have been to many of them, sometimes they go on to the wee hours in the evening and tempers get heated. In Montana everything that you say is recorded and reviewed by the commission; it many not get acted upon, but you have voice your opinion.

          4. Phil Avatar

            Elk: Having the right to voice out my opinion is fine, but how far will my voice go with the Fish and Game department on decisions on wildlife? If there were 1,000 non-hunters and non-fishermen and 300 hunters and fishermen and both sides viewed an issue on a certain species differently, who do you think the Fish and Game will take into consideration on a stronger level?

          5. SEAK Mossback Avatar
            SEAK Mossback

            Phil ─
            I think you are viewing the process somewhat as a stacked monolith, when “Fish and Game” in most states consists of a department that provides support and implements management of fish and wildlife and a board or commission that is where decisions are made on the things you might like to see changed. One thing to keep in mind is that a state agency is there to serve the entire public, regardless of their funding source. You should be able to expect that and not feel that the system is stacked when you come in the door. A key to that is to have a transparent public system that shields the agency from all allocation questions. That culture is as strong as it could be in the agency where I work. A primary reason is that in pre-statehood times the salmon fisheries were managed by the federal government but heavily controlled by a few big companies based outside the territory that kept most local fishermen somewhat in the role of serfs and exerted a lot of influence on management from outside the state in the interest of their primary management goal (achieving a case pack objective for the season) over achieving spawning escapement goals or socio-economic goals within the territory. Statehood was practically a blood-less revolution centered around outside control of the salmon fisheries and rebuilding salmon runs, and the result was a very transparent public process for setting regulations, but at the same time empowering local fishery managers with the emergency authority to directly use their best information and judgment in achieving conservation (i.e. spawning escapement) goals. I think a similar system with a board or commission addressing allocation issues exists in most jurisdictions with both fish and wildlife.

            Although my experience is not entirely analogous to someone with a positive interest in predators becoming involved in wildlife management, I think it probably bears some similarity. The species I deal primarily with is of great interest to both sport and commercial fishermen and to several distinct gear groups within the commercial sector. It is researched and managed cooperatively by both a Sport Fish Division and a Commercial Fisheries Division, using distinctly different funding sources. However, while allocation issues have often been quite intense between the groups, the culture of us staying clear of allocation questions is so strong that it is extremely rare to encounter anybody from the public who expects to be treated differently at either division — it would be someone entirely new to the system. It would be sort of like entering a state office expecting racial vibes. Some visitors arrive on fire about allocation issues, and often conversations ensue about whether those concerns also have conservation implications, but they are provided the information they want and are directed to the board process where they can submit and support a proposal for addressing whatever they want to change. We listen to them to answer their questions and because members of the public have valuable insight, but they know we are not who they need to convince to achieve what they want on questions of allocation. Neutrality is essential to public trust and support for management. Without it, there would be no trusted source of information and expertise to resolve management issues and the agency would waste a huge amount of time being lobbied by people who think they can shake something out of it in their particular interest.

            I’ve also had one very positive experience on the other side of the process as a member of the public, representing consumptive use on a workgroup under the local fish & game advisory committee, solving an extremely divisive local issue over wolves and deer hunting. Besides determination and good will, a key to our success in putting forward a broadly agreeable and workable management plan was a regional wolf and predator-prey expert from ADF&G who was widely trusted as a neutral resource. Ultimately, our proposed management plan was passed unanimously and with great relief by the local fish and game advisory committee and then the Board of Game with testimony in favor by the major local and state-wide sportsmen’s groups, the local group with in support of wildlife viewing (with 130 members) and Defenders of Wildlife.

            Anyway, that isn’t to say that you won’t find initial difficult going in the public or political processes where your proposal will be considered, particularly if your interest group has not been historically engaged there, but expect to be treated without bias by the state management agency regardless of funding source — and use it as a resource.

    2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

      Brian- I agree with you that our wildlife is being studied to death. The IDFG has been putting radio collars on wolverines in the McCall area where I live like they think every wolverine needs one of these intrusive devices.
      I would support other means of funding fish and wildlife such as using general fund monies that are derived from the sales tax on cameras and wildlife guides.
      I don’t hunt much anymore, but I still buy lots of fishing equipment that is taxed and I have been buying an Idaho fishing and hunting license since I got my first .22 way back in 1953. I have a current Idaho combo license in my wallet at this time.

      1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
        SEAK Mossback

        Larry –
        I agree the idea of putting colars on powerful, gnarly animals like bears and wolverines gives me pause — even though I think the best possible practices are usually applied. With wolverines, it seems a lot can be done with non-invasive methods. Check out these trail cam shots, mostly from here in Southeast, particularly the one by Audrey Magoun who conducted wolverine research out of Petersburg and has been working on perfecting non-invasive research including snagging DNA and inducing the animals into positions favorable for very informative photos.
        Using these methods, she also recently identified the two individual wolverines in the Wallowa Mountains referenced here recently.
        Many of these trail camera photos were taken in one of my favorite bays north of here that has a rather startling abundance of both brown bears and wolverines. They show the challenges of trying to lure or capture wolverines while bears are not hibernating (and martens are about).

      2. JB Avatar

        Technological advances (e.g., camera traps, hair snags) certainly have increased our ability to study wildlife, but they will never replace radio or GPS collars, as the they produce entirely different types of data (which are useful for answering different types of research questions). If you are looking to understand movement–especially at a fine scale, then these techniques won’t suffice. Moreover, these techniques are not at all useful for studying species that occur at extremely low densities–at least not without extremely intensive trap setting efforts.

        More importantly, I am not aware of a single study that has shown a population level effect of radio/gps collars, and while individual animals are sometimes negatively impacted, these incidents are relatively rare. The last time Larry brought this up I asked a researcher who has been radio/gps collaring coyotes at the same location for 10+ years about problems with collars; in that time, this researcher has never lost an animal.

        1. WM Avatar

          Also, the last time the collar issue was brought up, I also asked a well respected ungulate researcher who has collared many different types of animals on the North American and African continents who also indicated there were no negative impacts to the subject animal, such as being “different” to a predator and thus more likely to be tested and singled out as the evening’s meal.

          Collaring for some wolves, in the near term, will continue to be essential for verification of range as they expand in all directions. Also, it would seem, for the near term inquiries that seek answers to “connectivity” will be aided by collaring. One also has to suspect it will be more economically efficient for location purposes, for lab tests, and, yes for lethal control or translocation (recall the WA plan seeks lots of translocation opportunities).

          I think I have already related my conversations with ID’s then wolf coordinator Steve Nadeau, who didn’t believe me when I told him we had seen wolves and alot of sign in a certain area. A year later, after collared data had been analyzed it showed the area we had identified previously was being utilized by three different overlapping packs. So, much for the theory they stay out of each other’s territory.

          1. Brian Ertz Avatar

            a collared wolf is a dead pack anywhere near livestock that die for any number of reasons.

            this has far greater implications for wolf conservation efforts than any amount of data such collaring may provide “managers”.

        2. timz Avatar

          “and while individual animals are sometimes negatively impacted, these incidents are relatively rare”

          Like the last Jaguar in Arizona?

          1. JB Avatar

            As I understand it, Macho B’s unfortunate death was the result of the stress associated with his capture, not the collar itself (our original discussion). Furthermore, it is a poor example of an animal “studied to death”, as it really wasn’t part of any study, but rather, trapped opportunistically. There is a big difference between university-led research (i.e., scientific study), which has go through multiple reviews including review of all capture/handling protocols by that university’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (usually a panel of board-certified vets) and opportunistic captures that are done by state agencies, without such oversight.

            Per usual, the situation is more complex than the rhetoric indicates.

          2. JB Avatar


            I guess it depends on the research question. For estimating the population, I don’t think it would have made much of a difference at all. But for understanding movement, estimated home range sizes, or assessing habitat use, collars would be key. Perhaps well-baited culvert traps would have been more effective for actually capturing bears, but who knows? It takes a fair bit of trial (and associated error) to determine the method best suited to the study objective, species, and the geographic location.

            My point is that hair snags and camera traps are not a replacement for radio and gps collars.

          3. Phil Avatar

            Macho B was also pretty old for a jaguar. I do wish that there would have been less capturing and collaring of Macho B, this may have helped him stay alive another couple or so years.

            I agree with you JB. I am currently volunteering with one of my professor’s on his field research projects on amphibians and local coyotes, and he mentioned something pretty similar to what you stated in there being a difference between research led by university professors and ones led by state agencies. Although it has been a little more then a year ago, when I worked with Dr. Rolf Peterson his research was pretty similar in methods to that of the professor I am currently working with.

            I will be going back to Isle Royale from Aug 5-13 with Dr. Peterson, and hopefully see the two remaining females with healthy pups.

          4. JB Avatar

            That’s some great experience, Phil. Say “hello” to John while your up there, will you?

        3. SEAK Mossback Avatar
          SEAK Mossback

          JB & WM-
          I agree that the data provided is very different and that radio collaring and non-invasive sampling/photographing of animals at stations don’t give the same data. However, I disagree that this type of information is not useful for very sparsely populated animals like wolverines. I think the value has already been determined recently in Oregon and earlier in the Sierras in California where the method revealed the basic presence of animals where nobody could see them.

          On the other hand, simply collaring animals and tracking them, while revealing something about individual home ranges, isn’t always the best way to estimate a population. A year or two earlier, many of the brown bears in these photos that are checking out wolverine sets or lounging on a moose carcass would have had collars. They threw all three methods at the population in the drainage to estimate it — collaring about 45 brown bears, running a large number of barbed wire breakaway snares to collect individual hair samples and using video cameras to observe bears walking by, and their response to the hair snares. The latest I heard was that the estimate using all of those methods was about 70 bears, but there is still some question because some bears clearly were aware of the breakaway snares and tiptoed carefully around while others would plow through them. That would tend to result in an under-estimate if some animals are always more susceptible to the capture method, although that was mitigated to some extent with inclusion of animals captured and sampled (and collared) using two other methods (foot snare and helicopter darting). The collaring alone told them there were at least 45 bears but the other methods were needed to be more confident in the actual number. The radio collars did show that, unlike island bears, these ones spent very little time on mountainsides and stayed mostly in the valley bottom — so the density per area of habitat occupied is about the highest found anywhere.

          Although I support using radio collars, the mortality under even best practices is not always negligible. The foot snares have radio beacons that indicate when they are sprung, but still in a dense bear area bears will be at least occasionally killed and eaten by others by the time anybody can get there to process and release them. That’s hard to prevent without adding darkness to the other challenges of catching and collaring bears on a salmon stream. In one case, radio collaring on a Chichagof stream had do be abandoned for good even after waiting months between attempts because one fellow (nicknamed Ted Bundy) would quickly and consistently find,kill and eat anybody else who ended up in a snare. I found a dead, half-eaten collared bear last fall while counting salmon that had a newer model collar that had a combination of a failure in the auto release (so it had been on the bear a year longer than planned) and a slightly different new design that resulted in sores on the bear’s neck. I have no idea if it contributed to her succumbing to the big brute we found on her carcass but wouldn’t rule it out. Sure, there are plenty of bears for the population to absorb these losses and more and the information does outweigh the losses, but I still view it as pretty serious business not to be taken for granted under the best of circumstances. I personally prefer to handle fish . . .

          1. JB Avatar


            I agree that using a combination of methods could be more fruitful for some research questions–at least for some species. However, I know of at least one study that spent a whole summer trying to “capture” camera/snag data from a small black bear population that got 1 hit over two years. The researcher worked intensively in an area known to have bears, but either the bears avoided the “traps” (as you describe above) or the bear population simply wasn’t dense enough to encounter them very frequently (thus, my comment above). It seems each situation may call for a somewhat different approach; which would argue for keeping all of the tools (collars included) in the toolbox.

            I would also point out that the scenario you describe is seemingly problematic because of the capture method (bear caught in snare), not the collar. There are other ways to capture bears that would not leave bears so vulnerable; again, I would argue that each situation will call for a somewhat different approach, and there may be times when research has to be abandoned because of the kind of mortality that you describe.

          2. JB Avatar

            Sorry, should have written “two whole summers”.

          3. SEAK Mossback Avatar
            SEAK Mossback

            JB –
            I guess part of the issue with the case you describe is, would using collars have made any difference in the black bear study? If they couldn’t get them to come to a scent post would adding the plan of attaching a radio collar have made any difference in an attempt to estimate a population? Only if it involved use of some more effective method of contact in making a capture.

            It’s just a problem either way with populations at low density. It seems to me there is still a huge amount of uncertainty in the actual GYE grizzly population estimate (officially hovering around 600 in recent years) even after many decades of research. The one attempt in 1999 at a mark-recapture estimate using sight-resight of radio collars resulted in an estimate with a 95% C.I. range of 627─2,601 bears. Statistical error was very high but I’m not sure there is any reason to suspect positive bias. However, they have come up with a relatively consistent method of tracking the trend in the reproductive segment through sightings of unduplicated sows with cubs so maybe the actual total number of animals isn’t all that important, even though some put a lot of weight on it. However, even that method faces challenges as bears have expanded into different terrain.

  5. Alan Gregory Avatar

    Idaho, and most other states, too, continues to disregard the proven Missouri model. From a column by Ted Williams: Missouri is one state in which the sporting culture never devolved. Rather than puffing about the accomplishments of their dead ancestors while attempting to preserve their power base by fighting public funding, Missouri sportsmen built a management model for the nation. It wasn’t easy. The Conservation Federation of Missouri—which includes virtually all the state’s hunting and fishing outfits—started its campaign for increased revenue for the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1969, 32 years after it had shepherded through a constitutional amendment to establish the agency. The federation sponsored a ballot initiative that would have raised $20 million a year by levying a one-cent tax on each bottle of soda. But the drive withered under intense lobbying by the St. Louis-based Seven Up Inc.

    Smarter and tougher from that defeat, the federation launched a campaign for another ballot initiative, this time for a one-eighth-of-one-percent state sales tax, with proceeds to be allocated to the Department of Conservation for fish, wildlife, and forestry. Resistance was formidable. The Farm Bureau ranted endlessly about what it called a “government land grab.” And if there’s one thing legislators hate, it’s dedicated funding because it circumvents the appropriations process and makes them feel nonessential.

    At the time Dave Murphy, who now directs the Conservation Federation, was an Earth Day–generation activist and an undergraduate in forestry, fisheries, and wildlife at the University of Missouri. He circulated petitions that helped get the sales tax initiative on the 1976 ballot, and he was the only person in his farm-dominated precinct to vote for it, including his farmer father. “The 10:30 p.m. news reported that the initiative would fail,” Murphy recalls. “But when I got up in the morning the returns from St. Louis were in. The initiative had passed by 20,000 votes, and our world changed.”

    Indeed it did. In 2008 two-thirds of the Department of Conservation’s $172.5 million budget was generated by the sales tax. In addition to conducting all manner of progressive ecosystem management, the agency now owns 788,706 acres of prime habitat and leases 202,864 more. Most of this is in Conservation Areas. Statewide there are now about 900, and virtually all Missourians are within a half-hour’s drive of at least one. A program run by the Audubon Society of Missouri records bird species seen on each area. Typical is the 4,318-acre Columbia Bottom Conservation Area near St. Louis, where, in just the past two years, 240 species of birds have been identified by Audubon members.

  6. Mark Avatar

    Brian Ertz should do alittle homework before advocating the fact that his vision of how it all works is alittle skewed, to say the least. If it wasn’t for the conservation groups of the hunting and fishing world the resoration of the game,which by the way Brian, ALL do benefit from, they wouldn’t exist. Everyone who eats and breathes on this great earth knows that the food,water and habitat in which we live in only prevails if we take care of it. WHile the general population enjoys the wildlife supported by license and tag purchases, only 10% of the game sportsmen pay for gets hunted and less than that is harvested. SO, to the rest of you out there who enjoy the wildlife, SUPOPORT IT, BUY a license!!!! You don’t have to use it…. but if you want to play you got to pay or loose.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      +Everyone who eats and breathes on this great earth knows that the food,water and habitat in which we live in only prevails if we take care of it+

      Which begs the question Mark?

      Do populations and ecosystems deserve
      direct moral consideration? Its one of the questions put forth in the “Model” The future of conservation will require an adequate
      understanding of these and other issues that are both
      essential and under-treated (Vucetich and Nelson
      2010, Vucetich and Nelson in press).

  7. Phil Avatar

    Mark: I understand that working conservation for those species you mentioned benefit other species, but how much of that money was used directly in the wolf conservation project in its early years? Was, or has any of it been used directly for the conservation of grizzly bears?

    I know that working to protect habitats for the hunted ungulate is beneficial for the ungulate, but are there any works to protect directly for the other species that hunters do not hunt, or fishermen do not fish? It is easy to say that your works are not only helping elk, but also wolves, coyotes, etc in trying to persuade the general public, but does the agency propose plans that are forth and foremost for wolves, mountain lions, etc?

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      Phil –
      It would seem the answer is “yes” by providing them food. That’s one of the very most important things a carnivore needs . . . . If there is prey, there are wolves — why do you think wolves increased nearly as fast as they could breed when introduced into Yellowstone and have since declined with the sharp drop in the northern Yellowstone elk herd?

      1. Phil Avatar

        SEAK: That is a good point, but I do not think the Fish and Game are directly protecting ungulate to provide food for carnivores. That is something that comes naturally from the carnivores as you mentioned in being “very important”. Now, I do not work for the Fish and Game, but I believe the main purpose for maintaining a healthy population of ungulate is solely for the benefit to hunters. I do not blame the hunters on this one as they are just taking advantage to what is given to them, and, maybe I am missing the overall point, but what is the main purpose of the Fish and Game? To provide for wildlife and ecosystems? Or, to provide for hunters and fishermen? Or, to provide for both as well as the rest of the general public?

        1. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
          Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

          The ONLY reason for wildlife management is to meet the needs and desires of the human society that benefits from that wildlife resource. Those benefits can be in many forms, but it is society that defines the purpose of resource management – in this case wildilfe resources. Hunting and fishing have long been and will long remain important uses of our wildlife resources. Other values are included in wildlife management objectives. Ecosystem principles underlie all wildlife management programs.

  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Why not sponsor an Idaho license plate with a wolf on it for more revenue? I would buy one and I think you would be surprised by the large number of Idahoans that would also buy one. I would provide a wolf photo for free.
    The caption at the bottom of the plate could read: “Idaho The Wolf State”.
    Of course, those that would buy the plate wouldn’t support the current IDFG plan to grossly overhunt Idaho wolves this fall.

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Brian Ertz