No quotas (limits) are expected for hunt except along part of the Idaho/Montana border-

Idaho to offer looser wolf hunt rules. By John Miller and Matthew Brown. Associated Press

Ever since Butch Otter became Idaho’s governor, it was clear to me and the conservation groups that understand Idaho politics that at some point this would be the end game if wolves were ever removed from federal protection in Idaho.

Butch Otter made this goal clear in his inauguration speech. Now we see what should have been obvious.

This doesn’t mean they will kill all the wolves, of course. That is because they can’t by hunting alone. In addition, interest in buying wolf tags is down. The Associated Press reporters report that most of the dead wolves in Idaho will likely come from federal agents using high tech gear. Without federal protection, however, wolves will always exist on the thinnest margin in Idaho.

Fortunately Idaho’s backcountry is too rough to kill all the wolves, but the days when seeing or hearing a wolf in Idaho other than a rare event are going to disappear.

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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.

95 Responses to New Idaho wolf hunt likely to propose no limit on number of wolves killed

  1. Mike says:

    Hateful, unhappy people need something to kill. That’s the way it is, and the way it’s always been.

    It does a real disservice to society to label these folks anything but.

  2. SEAK Mossback says:

    Just looking for a bright side — maybe if this gets carried to an extreme it will actually become a solution of its own. In Alaska, there have been cases where it was decided there were too many wolves in an area and the hunting bag limit was raised from 5 to 10. It makes absolutely no difference on the ground because who shoots 5 wolves, let alone 10? At the point where individual Idahoans are empowered to shoot 10, 20 or even 50 wolves, and a rancher has full legal power to shoot every wolf within an area 4 times the size of his grazing allotment, how will conservative politicians who rail against entitlement programs argue that Wildlife Services is anything but pure welfare? At that point ranchers will have to decide whether they want to become full-time recreational wolf hunters or deal with the predation problems that arise in the way that makes most sense, whether it be trying to target actual habituated guilty parties or maybe better yet find a less labor-intensive way of keeping wolves away from their livestock. One way might be to not graze them in ecologically sensitive areas on the margins of wilderness.

  3. matt bullard says:

    Only 3000 tags sold so far. Still plenty of time to go before the season starts, but they sold 30,000+ in 2009. I think the quota isn’t the main concern, clearly the 09-10 hunt went a long way in proving that hunters are not going to be what causes large declines in numbers. If large reductions occurr, it will be because of Wildlife Services, but they are even having a hard time at that in the Lolo.

  4. timz says:

    I can’t wait for our resident IDF&G lackey, (that would be you Mark Gamblin) to explain this one.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      timz –
      Explain what?

      • jon says:

        Hello Mark, is this no quota plan based on science or politics or both?

        • Jerry Black says:

          Waiting for your reply to jon and timz, Mark Gamblin
          “Hello Mark, is this no quota plan based on science or politics or both?”

      • timz says:

        How this is managing wolves “just like our other big game animals” On second thought, never mind. I really don’t want to hear your toady F&G company line.

    • IDhiker says:

      This is going to be a classic, “the belief comes first, the rationale to support it comes second.”

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        timz,jon, Jerry Black, IDhiker –

        The structure of the 2011-2012 wolf hunt is founded in politics and science. Every single human endeavor, action, decision is ….. political in nature. Science provides accurate information to guide decisions and outcomes that society desires and pursues – through political processes. Yes, the Fish and Game Commission system that is the foundation of wildlife management in Idaho and (in varying forms) the rest of our country, is part of our political process and wildlife management in every state is and should be part of the polictical process because that is how the desires of our society are realized. Science is imbedded in the 2011-2012 wolf season proposal because it is science that describes the status of the Idaho wolf population (numbers, genetic health, movement, distribution, etc.)the effects of wolves on other valuable state resources and options for balancing societies desires for a wolf population and for those other valuable resources.
        Science provides the basis of certainty that the 2011-2012 wolf season proposal that includes measured efforts to achieve wolf population management objectives that are well within the Idaho committment to a viable, sustained wolf population.

        • timz says:

          I don’t know if I should laugh or vomit after reading your response.

          • Alan says:

            Wonder if an unlimited elk hunt would achieve elk population management objectives “that are within the Idaho committment” to a viable, sustained elk population?
            Problem is the Idaho’s “committment” is to zero, or at best absolute minimum, wolves. That has been made clear many times.
            I almost wish them success. That should guantee them returned to the ESL. Once again the perception that much of the country has of Idaho, as home to a bunch of rednecked, uneducated troglodytes, is proven true.

        • truthbetold says:

          Mark, excellent response!

        • Jerry Black says:

          Mark ……this might interest you.
          Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores

          Craig Packer1*, Margaret Kosmala1, Hilary S. Cooley2, Henry Brink3, Lilian Pintea4, David Garshelis5, Gianetta Purchase6, Megan Strauss1, Alexandra Swanson1, Guy Balme7, Luke Hunter7, Kristin Nowell8

          1 Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America, 2 Wildlife Demographics, Logan, Utah, United States of America, 3 Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, Kent University, Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom, 4 The Jane Goodall Institute, Arlington, Virginia, United States of America, 5 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, United States of America, 6 The Zambesi Society, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 7 Panthera, New York, New York, United States of America, 8 Cat Action Treasury, Cape Neddick, Maine, United States of America
          Abstract Top

          Sport hunting has provided important economic incentives for conserving large predators since the early 1970’s, but wildlife managers also face substantial pressure to reduce depredation. Sport hunting is an inherently risky strategy for controlling predators as carnivore populations are difficult to monitor and some species show a propensity for infanticide that is exacerbated by removing adult males. Simulation models predict population declines from even moderate levels of hunting in infanticidal species, and harvest data suggest that African countries and U.S. states with the highest intensity of sport hunting have shown the steepest population declines in African lions and cougars over the past 25 yrs. Similar effects in African leopards may have been masked by mesopredator release owing to declines in sympatric lion populations, whereas there is no evidence of overhunting in non-infanticidal populations of American black bears. Effective conservation of these animals will require new harvest strategies and improved monitoring to counter demands for predator control by livestock producers and local communities

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Thanks Jerry. I will order a copy of the paper. Note the emphsis on risk to infanticidal predator species and the study emphsis on African cat species.

        • IDhiker says:


          What is “measured” about no quota? The department has left you with the unenviable task of sugar-coating a dog-poop and calling it a doughnut.

          Only today, RMEF CEO Allen was quoted in the local paper that he wanted states to have “science-based” control of all wildlife. I agree your department gives those who control it scientific information, most likely well-researched. But, since political masters can override your data, in reality the final decisions may be “science-based,” but only in the initial information stage, not in the more important decision-making stage at the end of the process.

        • matt bullard says:

          Mark – well said.

  5. IDhiker says:

    This “no quota” idea is political, and demonstrates what many of us have been saying about the inability of IDFG to be making decisions without the influence of politicians, to do what is biologically-based, rather than based on rumor and superstition.

    OK, lets assume there are too many wolves for a moment, but then we allow a free-for-all that kills far too many, then we’re back to where we started from. It’s an idea to reduce wolves to “varmint” status, like Wyoming’s. I remember years ago when there were too many black bears between the lower Selway and Lochsa Rivers, blamed for killing too many new-born elk calves. Quotas were increased to reduce bear numbers, but never did IDFG say, “It’s open season, shoot as many bears as you want!”

    • jon says:

      Imo, a no quota season would be somewhat acceptable if Idaho had a wolf population like Alaska or Canada. but we are talking about only 1000 wolves. I’m sure the Idaho fish and game are heavily influenced by the anti wolf Idaho legislature. I’m not familiar with the seasons on bears and mt. lions in Idaho. Do they have no quota seasons on them? I’m sure bears and mt. lions greatly outnumber wolves as well.

      • timz says:

        there is a quota on female mountain lions.

      • Tim says:

        Only some units have quotas on female cats. no quotas in most places. no quotas on bears either. It is illegal to kill a bear accompanied by young in Idaho. lets all remember they did not even reach the quoatas in the last hunt after 7 months. Also those wolves had never been hunted before so I think they will be much harder to kill now. I would bet that there will be less wolves killed in this hunt than the last one in Idaho.

  6. Immer Treue says:

    To simplify my way of looking at things, and I stress simplify: there are three types of hunters- the first type, the most ethical of the group won’t shoot something unless he/she will eat what they kill. The second type won’t necessarily eat everything he/she kills, but will try to utIilize heads, hides, etc. The last type is the one with trigger itch, and this Idaho ruling panders to this last group. Shoot on sight and just keep walking.

    As most solid logic dictates, this will probably have small effect on the overall wolf population, but it does give one person the power to remove an entire pack (must be lucky to be in the right place at the right time) if they are so inclined.

    Yes, there will probably be a season, but in a way this all but legalizes SSS during the season, on top of how much of it already goes on. Silver lining in the dark cloud-at least no trapping, snaring, or poison, YET!

    • jon says:

      Immer, you have to wonder if Idaho will ever become like Alaska or Canada and start using poison to kill off wolves. Correct me if I’m wrong, but they are still only allowed one wolf. I don’t think the same hunter can shoot as many wolves as he wants. Does the no quota season mean that the same hunter can shoot as many wolves as he want or are hunters still only allowed one wolf like last season?

      • Elk275 says:

        Some places in Alaska one can shoot 5 wolves a day and I have seen sometimes where one can shoot 10 wolves a day. No one ever is going to shoot 5 wolves a day.

        • jon says:

          if hunters buy a wolf hunting tag, is that only for one wolf or is there no limit on the amount of wolves one hunter can kill since there is not going to be a quota on wolves?

          • jon says:

            I’m talking about Idaho here btw.

          • Tim says:

            your tag is only good for 1 wolf. in certain areas you can take 2 bears and 2 cougars but you must buy 2 tags. Id say wolves will be the same. btw there is only two areas of Idaho that allow the taking of two bears and cougars.

          • jon says:

            tim, how many cougars and bears are there in Idaho?

        • jon says:

          excuse me, meant to say no quota.

    • truthbetold says:

      Spreading a little hunting hate there immer?? Sorry but there is no “ethical” difference between group one and two! That difference is only in the minds of the majority of the people on this site. I’m sure that some on the other end of the spectrum from this site will also make a case for the ethicalness of that third group.

      How does this rule pander to the third group more than group two?

  7. CodyCoyote says:

    About the only silver lining I can see in this dark plan — and it’s a thin one— is it takes an Idaho ” Unlimited Quota” wolf depredation ” hunt” to make Wyoming’s ridiculous shoot-on-sight wolves as nuisance predators plan seem almost palpable.

    • PointsWest says:

      The “shoot on site” terminology is a little bit of sensationalism. What it really means is year round open season which is really not all that scary. Until very recently, most species of animals had year round open seasons on them including grizzles, black bear, cougar, coyote, lynx, bobcat, and badger. There were more hunters in the 60’s too, than there are now. All but grizzlies and maybe lynx are doing fine.

      Non-hunters and dudes like to make hunting seem so easy like animals are lined up arcade style along roads and trails waiting for deranged killers that call themselves hunters to come along and shoot them. They are so far removed from reality that it is spooky and yet they want to write all the game laws based on thier dreams and fantasies.

  8. Immer Treue says:

    Truthbetold/reality22/whatever name,

    I am not antihunting, nor was I spreading hunter hate. Another one of your assumptions. I’m anti-slob hunting.

    • truthbetold says:

      Hate – to dislike somebody or something intensely!

      Your attempt to make it look like “shoot on site and keep on walking” is prevalent was a hate statement. How many times have you observed this type of behavior? Do you truly believe that there is a class/group of hunters that fit this stereo type? You’re lucky if you can find a dozen in the state that with a legal way to bring down the wolf population they will resort to SSS. Yet you have them as a group and not just a group but one with influence! In all my years I have yet to see this type of behavior in the field (aside from a logger shooting a group of porcupines that were girdling his oak trees). Yet you have them as a group….and one with influence & the State of Idaho is “pandering” to! Sounds like hate to me! But, don’t feel bad. I’ve seen worse on this site.

      To some Immer – trapping is a form of hunting; which in essence it is. Hence your comment was anti-hunting. No chance (I guess) that my earlier question from my last statement above will be answered?

      • IDhiker says:

        I too have never seen this behavior in the field, but hunters around here in Western Montana sure talk about it a lot. Perhaps it is a lot of hot air, but then if they were ethical, they wouldn’t say it in the first place. I’ve even heard this type of SSS talk from law enforcement people. Possibly this impression of hunters comes from the loud mouths out there, and hopefully these types are a minority. I hope you are right, truthbetold.

  9. JEFF E says:

    I would not get too excited about this. The state has only sold ~3000 tags compared to 30,000 for the first go around, with only 188 killed. And if the recent Lolo zone keystone cops routine is indicitive, ol’lupe’ has little to fear. It is the state legislature and Gov. Clem that needs to be brought to heel.
    Anyway here is an excellent read.

  10. PointsWest says:

    Back in the day when I lived and hunted in Idaho, there were no regulations protecting black bears. Killing a black bear did not even require a tag and could be done any time of year. There were more hunters in the 60’s and early 70’s than there are now.

    The black bears survived somehow. I’ll bet few here even knew that there was once year-round open season on black bear.

    • Dude, the bagman says:

      Right, and back in the 1700’s a person could pretty much shoot whatever they wanted and not make a dent in the animal population.

      Even if your premise of “more hunters back then” is true (and I’m not necessarily saying it’s not), that’s not really a fair comparison.

      A lot of logging roads were built into the boonies in the interim, and a fair number of houses went up as well. Overall, there are a lot more people deeper in bear habitat now then there was then. Idaho in 1961 isn’t the same as Idaho in 2011.

      • PointsWest says:

        I agree it’s roads but it is more than just roads. Development, logging, ATV’s, snowmobiles, and increased grazing all have played a part. Roads have also made it much easier for stockmen to get their cows into what was formerly backcountry. Elk and deer tend to avoid roads too so roads can significantly degrade habitat. Fences degrade habbitat. Deer and elk can jump them but they don’t like to. Hikers, campers, and fishermen degrade habitat some. Roads also signigicantly increase poaching.

  11. Marc Cooke says:

    I knew that Idaho’s wolf hunt was going to be more severe then Montana’s hunt. However, not in my wildest dreams did I suspect this pending slaughter. Its ironic that I recall vividly Asst Attorney General for Idaho Steve Strack reassuring Judge Donald Molloy in court that Idaho can manage wolves. Furthermore that wolves would be maintained at “Nearly the level they are at now.” It is apparent to me that Idaho’s politicians, attorney generals office and F&G department leadership have sold their souls to manage wolves their way. What a disturbing, pathetic bunch.

    • IDhiker says:

      I read today in a small local paper, The Bitterroot Star (Stevensville, Montana) that CEO David Allen of RMEF seriously fears that Judge Molloy will hold the Tester rider unconstitutional.

  12. Immer Treue says:

    Truth stops (r22; nowolves),

    Another assumption on your part. I said nothing about hate, this is your realm. All it is is another chance to kill something (again for you, this is not an anti-hunting statement, although I have no control over what you think). Do those who sit and literally vaporize prairie dog colonies hate them, probably not, but I have heard them rejoice amidst laughter at what they did.

    Here in N MN SSS is alive and well. Same mantra, the’re killing all the deer. The deer are thick up here, thick, and many of the locals do indeed hate wolves. Do I believe there are mor than a dozen Idahoans who will SSS. Yep.

    • jon says:

      Wherever there are hunters and wolves, you better believe there is a good sized group of hunters that hate wolves and that preach “sss”. I’d like to think some states are better than others, but it’s going to be the same hate filled feelings against wolves by the hunters no matter what state they are in. Some places are worse than others. States like mn, mi, wi, etc all have good sized wolf populations and going by the numbers of deer killed by hunters and by wolves, it’s obvious that hunters indeed kill more deer than wolves, but like you would expect, they complain about the wolves killing all of the deer. The problem is you have hunters who are selfish and want the deer for themselves.

      • truthbetold says:

        hey Jon, Immer didn’t step up on that first hand experience of people practicing sss. Please enlighten us on your wealth of knowledge and 1st hand experience in that regard.

        In Wisconsin we average less than a dozen animals found each year & a half a million hunters in the state, doesn’t sound like a organized influential group to me. And that is when you cannot harvest them legally. For you two hype up this non-existence group of people & for immer to insinuate influence on state agencies is the typical things you find on this site & makes the site what it is.

        • JB says:


          Isn’t the whole point of the last two Ss, to avoid being caught? It seems disingenuous to argue that because few poached wolves are found, that few wolves are poached.

          I suggest you watch the documentary “Killing Coyote” and then come back and assert that this mentality is not alive and well. I am pro-hunting and pro-hunter; but I despise poachers.

        • jon says:

          I’m sorry, but I believe you are wrong. That group of people do exist and I’m sure you would find quite a few of them in places like Idaho and Montana. Just because you aren’t finding many animals killed does not mean that some aren’t practicing “sss”. The reason why you might not find many dead animals is because they are practicing the last 2 s’s of the “sss” method which is shovel and shutup. Immer doesn’t have to step up for anything. I’m certain that everyone on this site knows there are people in places like Idaho, Montana. Wyoming, etc that practice the “sss” method when it comes to wildlife they don’t like or want in their state.

          • PointsWest says:

            jon…I have a deck of cards and pulled a card from the deck and am holding it in my hand. What card am I holding?

        • Dude, the bagman says:

          Yep, the old “prove/disprove the existence of the incredibly sneaky/improbable” fallacy.

          Hey – prove to me, to my standards, that the coelacanth isn’t just a government conspiracy. Or how about the moon landing? Were you there? Did you see it firsthand? Then it doesn’t exist/didn’t happen.

          I’ve never seen a KKK member either, but that doesn’t mean the KKK never existed.

        • Marc Cooke says:

          How about tennis balls covered in bacon fat. Laced gut piles. Single shots being fired in the back country where I am camping most of the night. Predator callers sounding off during the night. Shooting a wolf and hanging it from a highway street sign. Please dont tell me this is about coyotes and other predators. Fish hooks with wire leads hanging with bait. I have a good friend who studies wolves up near GNP. He has confided in me that no less then seven wolves have been killed by ranchers. If you dont think poaching wolves is alive and well in Montana you are greatly mistaken.

          • jon says:

            Yep, I believe it. I’ve seen numerous hunters on websites say they want to bring poison back to kill the wolves. Now they found a poison that can be used on wolves and that won’t kill other wildlife species, xylitol. This is the same substance extremist Toby Bridges talk about on his website. He advised hunters to sprinkle some xylitol on a dead carcuss just so it can kill wolves. I believe all canines can die from ingesting xylitol. Make no mistake, there is a big group of hunters that want wolves gone, permanently.

        • IDhiker says:

          truthbetold, I grew up in the north woods of Wisconsin, and go back frequently to visit. I’m not disputing your contention that the SSS crowd might be very small, but your conclusion that, “we average less than a dozen animals found each year.” Considering the thick, brushy deciduous forests in Wisconsin, I don’t think there is much of anything found there, whether SSS is happening or not.

      • PointsWest says:

        Are there any scientific polls around that can give us a sense of hunter sentiment towards wolves? I no longer live in Idaho and do not have a good feel for what hunter sentiment is. I would guess that hunter sentiment is probably close to the sentiment of the general population, however, and you have the entire spectrum sentiment in hunters that you find in the general public: some hunters liking wolves and some hating them with a similar distribution.

        I have been around long enough to know that comments such as, “it’s going to be the same hate filled feelings against wolves by the hunters no matter what state they are in.” are generally meaningless and to seriously comment on them is a waste of time. I would be interested in any kind of scientific or even any objective indication of hunter sentiment towards wolves in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming, however.

  13. PointsWest says:

    I grew up near Island Park, Idaho and can remember the days when it was mostly forested or woodland and full of wildlife…black bear, lynx, moose, elk, and deer. They were everywhere in Island Park. It was renowned for its wildlife.

    What killed Island Park was the logging, or more specifically, the logging roads. There is practically a grid systems of roads in Island Park today on section lines. Today, it is rare to see a deer or elk or bear in Island Park.

    Back in the 60’s, when I was young, it was year round open season (aka shoot-on-site) for grizzlies, for black bear, for lynx and the season on deer and elk were incredibly long. I believe dear/elk season ran from October to December 31 and were for either sex…providing winter hunting which vastly increases the success rate. There were also more hunters in the 60’s and many, many more out-of-state hunters.

    This is pretty clear evidence to me that the decline in wildlife in Island Park has nothing to do with liberal hunting regulations. Hunting regulations were much, much, much more liberal in the 60’s than they are today and there were more hunters. Most animals were “shoot on site” and there were more then than now. The decline in the wildlife in Island Park is almost entirely to do with logging and roads and development all over the place…the general increase in access and general decline in the quality of the habitat. I think 90% of the yahoos on this blog just DON’T GET IT! It is the habitat stupid! Wake up! The audience is listening!

    So the Animal Righters go on and on bashing hunters while the real problem is not understood nor even discussed. That is why we are losing the battle…stupidity and expert testimony based on pure fantasy!

    The best thing for wolves is the conservation and restoration of quality habitat! It is is not bashing hunters. Bashing hunters only confuses people and diverts attention away from the real problems. We go on and on bashing hunters as new timbers sales complete and as new building are permited in places like Island Park all creating more roads and more access and degrading the habitat.

    • Elk275 says:

      So true, so true. It’s all about habitat, without, wildlife does not do well.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        I’ll third that Elk and Points West. As a hunter in Alaska, I consider the very investment of my hunting license money to be the research on the effects of clear-cut logging old-growth deer habitat here in the late-1970s and 1980s. It debunked all the information the USFS was publicizing from the lower 48 about benefits of openings, edge effects, etc. None of it applies here. You cannot improve a “decadent” (USFS term) mixed-age stand as habitat. Clear-cut a drainage and within 25 years you lose about 90% of the deer density and nearly every other wildlife value, with the possible exception of tree squirrels. The good news is that it will recover in about 300 years, so someone in the distant future may have a chance to make a different decision. It was mostly about quantifying hit-you-in-the-face obvious stuff that could easily have been done by a high school science class, but it had to be done, and is continuing in more complex studies of habitat effects on predator-prey relationships. It got communities to wake up and realize trees should be managed as more than an agricultural crop like asparagus if they want to keep eating venison from local drainages or have abundant wildlife and a forest with an understory to show eco-tourists. An awakening from the grass-roots to the national level eventually got the 50-year pulp mill contracts canceled and finally brought the clear-cutting juggernaut nearly to a stop.

        • PointsWest says:

          About half or more of the Targhee National Forest in Island Park is not growing back. You can look at it in Google Earth. Most of the logging was done in the 70’s and 40 years later Island Park still looks like a patchwork of clearcuts.

          I worked for the Targhee National Forest in 74, 75, and 76. I worked on engineering crews surveying roads but also worked on a mistletoe crew where we cut any standing trees in a clearcut that the logging companies missed since standing trees could infect the seedlings below them with the mistetoe parasite. I walked dozens of clearcuts cutting trees within a few months of the clearcut being logged.

          I can find some of the clearcuts in Google Earth that I walked and they still look like clearcuts. The imagery date is 2010 in Google Earth so they have had 35 years to grow. I believe almost all the clearcutting was done prior to about 1985 but, from the air, much of it looks more like a cow pasture than a forest.

          I can remember all those forestry Ph D’s at the Targhee and how certain they were that clearcutting was the best way to log and how certain they were that the Targhee would spring back in 50 years. They also knew where the money from their salaries was coming from…timber sales. It is now looking like much of it will never spring back.

          I don’t know why. If anyone knows why the Targhee is not growing back, please let me know.

          • Ralph Maughan says:


            I have thought a lot about the regrowth of lodgepole pine in Island Park and have a lot of on-the-ground experience observing the cutting, the aftermath, and also participating in appeals of timber sales to protect wildlife habitat including the elk migration which was badly disrupted for a decade or more.

            Of course, the statement that that the forest is not growing back is not strictly correct. The fact that you can see the boundaries of the hundreds of clearcuts does not mean they are not growing back. The differences in tree heights between the cutting blocks will remain and stay visible when the trees are 40 or more feet tall.

            In the earliest cuts, the Targhee personnel did not know that some stands were open coned (non-serotinous), shedding seeds every year, most of them quickly decaying in the shade of the forest floor. So, these cutting blocks did not regenerate after a clear cut. Selective cutting should have been employed. Clearcutting worked fine for the closed cone stands (serotonous cones). The sudden sunlight opened them as does a fire and so the seedlings were usually very numerous. After about a decade the FS realized that the cuts of the open coned pine had failed to regenerate. They had to go in and hand plant the areas. Most of these were west of the highway.

            The area known as Island Park is hardly uniform. It is a giant caldera for the most part, but the eastern third is filled with younger volcanics raising the elevation to 8000 feet or more. These lands have very thin soil over a bed of infertile cinders, and volcanic rocks. The winter is long and the growing season is short. There is just one permanent creek on top of the Madison Plateau. This plateau should not have been cut unless they were trying to create what are largely meadows in what had been thick, often stagnated lodgepole forest. These were also cut last, so the years of regrowth up there (on the Madison Plateau) are fewer than down on the flats of the caldera. On the northern end of the Madison Plateau, the huge North Fork forest fire of 1988 backed out of Yellowstone Park burning regenerated clearcuts. In this case, fire did not regenerate the lodgepole as it usually does because the seeds had become seedlings some years before and so there were no seeds on the ground.

            In a few places enough cattle are grazed that regrowth of the pine has been slowed by direct damage to seedlings. I think heavy snowmobile use might have done similar damage in a few places.

            If you compare the Island Park regeneration to the adjacent Yellowstone Park regeneration from the fires of 1988, they look quite different. A silviculturist would say many YNP areas now need to be thinned because the density of the lodgepole regrowth is creating ugly “doghair stands.” Esthetics and maximum growth rate of wood fiber, however, are not goals of the national park system.

            I would like to see a study comparing the Island Park and the Yellowstone Park regenerations.

            Finally, regrowth is slow in most of Island Park simply because this is not good timber growing country period. This is the case despite the fact that it was heavily timbered. Winters are long, the summers droughty, soils are thin and infertile even down off of the Madison Plateau.

          • PointsWest says:

            Ralph…I know a lot is growing back. I think I said about half is not…most has some regrowth but I think it is far below expectation.

            I was working in the Targhee out of the Island Park Ranger Station at Ponds during the clearcutting. The expectation for the Madison Plateau and Black Canyon was that it would grow back similar to the Bishop Mountain burn. Bishop Mountain burn was about 50 years old, at the time, and was so think that you could hardly walk through it. It was known as “dog’s hair” as you mentioned. It was great to see six point bull elk go plowing through it. It sounded like popping thunder.

            At that time, little was known of the Island Park geology. In fact, I have a story. A few years prior, I had theorized that there was a hotspot under Yellowstone similar to the hotspot under Hawaii. I came up with this on my own in about 1969 when I was about 14 years old. The theory of continental drift was becoming accepted at this time and then someone proposed that there was a hotspot under Hawaii and that Hawaii was drifting over it. I knew there was a lot of volcanism west of Island Park in the Davis Lake area and it looks fresh and young. The volcanism looks older as you go southwest towards Mud Lake and the AEC (aka INEL). I deduced that the area was drifting over a hotspot that was now under Yellowstone Park. Several years later, my father was at some conference in Denver and brought me back a scientific article that described this very same the Yellowstone hotspot theory. He got a copy of the article because he was so surprised that my theory might be correct. I was working for the Targhee in 1974 and took this article to work and showed it to all the bigwigs. They all read it and found it very interesting. They knew there was volcanism in the area. They new that Big Bend Ridge and Thurman Ridge curved and looked like a giant half a crater from the air. They had already deduced that many of the open areas, such as Chick Creek Flats and the many “Parks” in Island Parks, were created because there were once geyser basins in Island Park that coated the surface with silicates that prevented trees from growing. So I know for a fact that they did not understand the geology of Island Park at the time. No one did, but I guess that did not stop them from logging the entire area off.

            Madison Plateau, along with Pitchstone Plateau to the south, are part of the rim of the most recent caldera of the hotspot known as the Yellowstone Caldera or Lava Creek Eruption. Madison Plateau is deposits of ignimbrites thrown up by the Lava Creek Eruption and half burried the Island Park Caldera and/or the east half of the Henry’s Fork Caldera. As you probably know, vast areas of the Madison Plateau is what looks like black sand or black pea gravel. It is thousands of feet deep. Water goes right though it to the hard floor of the Henry’s Fork Caldera and flows out at Big Springs, Buffalo Springs, and Warm River Springs.

            The Lava Creek Eruption is only 650,000 years old…not a lot of time for top soil to form. Also, the deep deposits of pumice, sand, and pea gravel do not hold moisture and are unstable on the slightest of a slope.

            The timber cut from the Madison Plateau was heavy in many locations. There was some soil in many areas. They used heavy cats and skidders to pull the timber off and I clearly remember how churned up the surface was. If it is a case of thin topsoil and it is churned up with the ignimbrite deposits below, it will be thousands of years before heavy timber returns so some of these area. Or if the thing topsoil eroded off after clearcutting, it will be thousands of years. And no, the dumbasses didn’t know. I was there.

            The same goes for other areas down on the floor of the Henry’s Fork Caldera. If there were thin top soils over smaller ignimbrite deposits or over silicate deposits from geyser basins, they may have been churned up and it will take thousands of year for them to reform.

            The expectation was thick heavy timber similar to the Bishop Mountain burn in 50 years, however. What we got so far, 40 years later, is a lot of open space with thinly scattered trees in many areas of Island Park.

    • Jay says:

      How’d open season on wolves back in the early 1900’s work out for the wolves?

      • PointsWest says:

        Open seasons are not what extripated wolves from the GYE, it was bounty hunters and other paid professional hunter/trappers that killed all the wolves. They used traps, bates, and poisions in addition to shooting them.

        • Jay says:

          Not unlike Wildlife Services? Are they not professional trappers that use snares, traps, airplanes, and helicopters to kill wolves? Not to mention, an open season where any cowboy could shoot at will. Now, in addition to WS, there will be essentially unlimited take by hunters, as well as private trappers in the backcountry. Yeah, sounds like good news if you’re a wolf.

          • PointsWest says:

            My point is that even completely unregulated hunting will not extirpate wolves from Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Unregulated hunting will make them harder to see. They will be killed off in open habitat and near human settlement. They will learn to avoid roads and humans. To extirpate them or even to reduce their population to below several hundred, however, would require a concentrated effort that would include trapping, poisoning, and professional hunting…and be expensive. It would take money. That is my point.

            Many who write in here act like unregulated hunting is the doom of a species. It is not. Most species had unregulated hunting prior to about 1970.

            I am not saying there should be unregulated hunting for wolves, nor am I on the side of Wyoming, I just think many are worrying way, way, way, too much about it. Many have vivid imaginations as to the impact of hunting.

          • Jay says:

            I’m sure everybody shooting passenger pigeons figured they’d never kill the all, either; same with bison, salmon,grizzlies, etc. Unless they bring in poison (I won’t rule that one out yet), they won’t be entirely eliminated, but Idaho is going to give it the ol’ college try. But hey, they are managing them just like all other big game species!

          • PointsWest says:

            Jay…passenger pigeons were hunted commercially for profit by professional hunters. They used nets and poisons and all sorts of methods to harvest them.

            They also suffered from habitat loss since most of the east coast forests were logged off. In fact, it was probably the habitat loss that did them in as a species. Even market hunters could not have killed them all.

            Grizzlies were hunted professionally and were trapped and poisoned because they harass and kill livestock…particularly sheep.

            Bison were also hunted commercially but there was actually an effort made to wipe bison off the planes by the federal government to force Indians onto reservations.

            Salmon…what do you mean by salmon?

          • Jay says:

            Pigeons, bison, salmon, grizzlies, wolves, etc.–historically abundant and thriving and/or commercially viable, and now gone, or severely reduced in numbers, range or commercial viability. The point is it was done before, it can be done again. When sport hunting doesn’t get wolf numbers down to the bare minimum, Idaho will figure out other ways of getting it done.

          • PointsWest says:

            …yeah. They will use habbitat loss which is responsible for about 90% of the problem, but we focus on bashing hunters.

        • william huard says:

          Did anyone think that Idaho would pursue an ethical fair chase hunting season? That’s like asking Safari Clump or the NRA (National Reject Assoc)to educate hunters not to use lead ammunition instead of gettin em all paranoid and afraid their huntin rights will be taken away

    • Dude, the bagman says:

      No doubt habitat is critical. Obviously there are more factors than just hunting at work (encroachment, competition from non-native species, conflicts with humans, collisions with vehicles, fire management, global warming, etc.). It’s complicated.

      BUT, there’s no doubt that bad wildlife/harvest management can lead to extinctions and population collapses on its own. Look at the passenger pigeon. Or the buffalo. Or a lot of our ocean fisheries.

      And add to that an entrenched and politically powerful group (or at least a fringe of it) that lobbies loudly for wildlife management that doesn’t sit right with most of the people on this blog.

      And then add the lies and hyperbole used to advance their cause (thrill-killing 200 pound non-native super wolves with their filthy diseases and worms that eat the fetus out of pregnant cows and would do the same to your wife if they had half a chance. There are at least 10,000 wolves in Idaho. The government keeps the population estimates dishonestly low. The reintroduction was a government conspiracy to destroy hunting so they can take our guns. Blah blah blah…). Add bar talk and macho bragging about gut shooting or poisoning the wolves. Add some instances of this type of behavior actually being documented in the news. Add to this some of the most vocal wolf critics being arrested for poaching/shooting out of season/in the wrong unit.

      Most sane people with any critical thinking skills would be affronted by that. As would emotionally reactive people who care about the environment. That kind of hate is a turn off to most people. The nutjobs spouting that kind of bullshit aren’t doing their cause any favors. Their hyperbole, extremism, and irrationality is breeding more hyperbole, extremism, and irrationality.

      I understand your frustration, but can you blame people on the pro-wolf side for reacting the way they do when they see the loudmouthed Rockholms of the world as the spokespersons for hunters?

  14. Immer Treue says:


    Please don’t drag me into this anti-hunting loop. I’ve got zero problems with ethical hunters. Though I don’t hunt at this time, I allow others to hunt my bit of land, and it is understood that if you don’t eat it, you don’ shoot it.

    I made a comment about my feelings of those who do hunt, and my concern was about the last group, and we know they exist. Truthbetold, alias reality 22 comes on and accuses me of spreading antihunter…

    Not true!

    • PointsWest says:

      My comments were not about hunting ethics. I too believe in hunter ethics but that is a different topic that I did not intend to comment on. I was speaking only to the issue of understanding the real problems facing wildlife such as wolves.

      I think wolves will survive just fine as long as we keep good habitat. They will never be killed out of Yellowstone Park nor out of large wilderness areas such as the River of No Return Wilderness unless there is a concentrated (and expensive) effort mounted to poison and trap them out.

      If we could channel all this hatred of hunters towards hated of habitat degradation, the long term survival of wolves would be guaranteed.

  15. Immer Treue says:


    JB ran a survey earlier in the year that I believe welcomed all
    Stakeholders in the wolf issue. I don’t know if he was able to break it down by group, but if he is able, it’s probably going to get as close to answering your question as one can get.

    Again to throw the water on this anti hunting BS, yes I know it’s the habitat! Imdo not have reply to comment ability with this iPhone, but as i sit here ‘imam overlooking one of the major unblemished wildernesses remaining in this country. I am on the very edge of one of the highest wolf population densities in the world. Man has impact up here, but the logging companies seem to have their act together, hopefully the mineral rights crowd will
    Do likewise .

    Soooooo, to conclude this thread, I am not anti hunting, I am not anti gun,’though I believe we could find serendipity in agreeing that there are those who should not have a gun. I really don’t care for trapping, I know it’s the habitat, and we all know that if you give some an inch, they will take a mile as far as shooting wildlife

    • JB says:

      Immer, PW:

      The primary goal of the survey we ran was to test a psychological model of tolerance for wolves (I proof of concept, if you will). Because our sampling approach was not random, these data are not at all useful for representing specific populations. In particular, we noted that our survey link was picked up by a Washington state hunting blog that appears to have lots of predator hunters (238 of 811 respondents reported hunting bears, cougars or wolves at some point in the past). Thus, I would be very uncomfortable making the assumption that the views of the hunters that responded to our survey are representative of hunters (in general) in the West.

  16. ma'iingan says:

    “In Wisconsin we average less than a dozen animals found each year” –

    Except that our recovery of illegally-killed wolves consists almost entirely of radio-collared animals. In 2010, around 10% of our collared wolves were killed illegally – assuming that the opportunity to kill a wolf illegally is similar across the population, the sum of all illegal kills works out to be a sustantial number of animals.

  17. Alan says:

    How, in the real world, does an unlimited hunt differ from Wyoming’s shoot on sight which disqualifies that state from de-listing? Seems to me that an unlimited hunt would be a de-facto change in the approved management plan which Idaho is required to follow. I would think that such a change would, could and should be challenged in court.

  18. Craig says:

    Now that the Wolves have been delistised, there is a calm! No call to arms we need to get rid of them. No panic the antis are gonna screw us again!There will be so much less intrest in Wolves now than before it will be unreal what happened before. Just watch, give a 25 Wolf limit to everyone for $2.00 it will not matter. Since 1997 I have seen many Wolves while Elk and Deer hunting. I never could have shot any Wolf I seen because of distance and movement. You could make the limit 100 per person per day and it will not matter. The more you fight it the worse it makes it!

    • mikarooni says:

      “The more you fight it the worse it makes it!” Gosh, Craig, you piece of work, isn’t that exactly what rapists always tell their victims?

  19. Immer Treue says:


    I enjoy your posts. You have great things to contribute to many discussions. We all know that habitat is the most important variable for any species. We also all pretty much realize that hunting, if carried out ethically, and managed as per other “big game” will have little overall impact on the wolf population.

    I’ll say it again, I’m not anti-hunting, and I am pro-wolf. A hunting season
    Last year would have gone a long ways in cooling anti-wolf tempers and providing valuable statistics that could have been adjusted up or down.

    You keep bringing up this bashing the hunters BS. I picked a small select group of people that I consider the least ethical of hunters. One has that type of individuals in every walk of life. Ralph has come on a number of times since I have been posting here and has reinforced that this is not an anti-hunting blog.

    That said, wolves have made a wonderful comeback, and there are those of us who would like them to remain. In that respect, education is almost as important as habitat. Folks need to understand what has happened to so much of the wildlife in this country, whether it was habitat destruction, market hunting, destroying bison herds to bring the native Americans into submission, or the grim historyof a bureaucracy that exceeded the perceived viciousness of the wolf in it’s policy of irradication.

    I wasn’t as involved in the issue prior to the Winter of 97 when the Lolo herd was devastated, but were elk hunters that concerned about the Lolo population prior to that Winter while hunting was good? Overhunting was most definitely an impacting variable at that time, not wolves. Did anybody raise any concerns prior to that/those seasons?

    With all due respect, that is what I have been trying to do. I openly apologize to any hunter that has taken my comments as anti-hunting. That was not the intention. I’m prowolf, and Due to the past history, fables and fairy tales mixed in with the truths about this animal, I’ll continue to argue for as level a playing field as possible for the wolf.

    • Immer Treue,

      Elk hunters and Idaho Fish and Game were concerned about the Lolo long before the winter of 1997. The decline in elk due to maturing forest had long been predicted and, in fact, most of the decline in the absolute number of elk had already taken place before the winter of 1997.

      I knew though that wolves would eventually get the blame. I even predicted it at the time (when the first pack there, the Kelly Creek Pack, came into being).

      • Phil says:

        I thought I read somewhere that the concern of the Lolo elk began sometime in the late 1970s, but I could be wrong on this.

        • Phil,

          Yes, as I sort of wrote above.

          The first time I ever drove down the Lochsa River was in 1977. Idaho Fish and Game had many “prescribed” fires underway with large info signs telling how the fires were to conserve and restore elk habitat against the encroaching mature forest.

          • jon says:

            Ralph, what are your thoughts on Virgil Moore as the new Idaho fish and game director? Do you remember Jerry Conley? Was he a good fish and game director in your opinion?

          • SEAK Mossback says:

            I am not familiar enough with the Lolo elk situation to comment on the wolves/predation versus habitat limitation argument, but it seems that either way it’s a difficult nut to crack given that you mention habitat improvement was tried using fire (apparently without great success) and now wolf removal has been tried (without much initial success and surely no lasting success). Sometimes intensive management of wildlife and habitat to achieve human goals is elusive, if not from having the science wrong then maybe from being unable to achieve effective scale or effective duration at any reasonable cost. It can work well on a small scale, putting a field of food next to woodland for whitetails or a woodlot for cover in the middle of farmland, but becomes elusive in the expansive landscapes of the west and the north.

            • Ralph Maughan says:

              Seak Mossback,

              I think the size of the fires in the “Lolo” area from 1910 until the 30s, when effective forest fire suppression told hold was so transforming of the landscape, and created so much fine elk habitat, that nothing humans could feasibility do by plan could turn around the great elk crash. Fortunately for elk there were some quite large fires in the period from 2000 until 2009 and the habitat should get at least a bump upwards. Because Idaho Fish and Game has so reduced the bear population, the most significant predator of elk (elk calves) in an area where elk are not doing well, that I think we will see elk begin to increase unless there is some other factor in the way (such as poor mature bull: cow ratios).

              As for the wolves, they mostly left the area for the more abundant hunting in all directions. Cougar hang on by taking an occasional elk and whitetailed deer (I am saying that the solitary cougar can make a living in country which will not support more than a transient wolf pack)

      • JEFF E says:

        There has been “liberalized” hunts on bear and cougar for years prior to wolf re-introduction in the Lolo/Selway zones to reduce the numbers of those species due to suppose negative impacts on elk populations.
        Curiously the restrictions on age restrictions and female with young were kept in full.

        As they still are today.

        however wolves, a species just kicked out of the protection of the ESA by the cowards Crapo and Tester, et alia, receive no such consideration.

        When confronted with that fact the F&G mouthpiece scurries back into his hole.

        Curious, that.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          Ah Yes, the Lolo predator-prey relationship mischarcterization that refuses to die. Thanks Jeff E for bring back this oldie but goodie. And now, once more into the realm of another inconvenient truth.

          Yes, the great 1910 -1930’s forest fires in north Idaho white pine forests created decades of very productive secondary growth that allowed elk herds to explode. That productivity declined as forest succession occured and elk production followed. The IDFG and USFS studied, documented and reported on that predictable phenomena for years. After the severe 1997-98 winter, with heavy winter kill loss of the Lolo Zone elk herd, predation of elk calves – by bears and lions – strongly limited elk production and recruitment and consequently the size of the Lolo Zone elk herd such that previous levels of elk hunting opportunity, especially cow hunting, could no longer be sustained. The Fish and Game Commission approved and IDFG implemented staff recommendations to increase harvest/kill/take opportunities for bears and lions to reduce the predatory inertia on elk production and recruitment. Bear and lion harvest/kill/take was significantly increased and Lolo Zone elk production and recruitment did begin to re-bound. Wolves arrived in the Lolo Zone at the same time the elk population was responding – apparently to reduced bear/lion calf predation – and quickly replaced bears and lions as the limiting factor for the Lolo Zone elk population to achieve the production potential of existing elk habitat. This history is well documented and substantiated by years of radio-telemetry research following the fate of radio-collared elk cows and calves that allow researchers to precisely and accurately account for all sources of cow and calf elk mortality. Bear and lion predation was first far and away the most important factor limiting the elk population. Currently, wolf predation is far and away the most important factor substantially limiting the size of the Lolo Zone elk herd.
          Responding to Ralph’s earlier (July) post that: 1) the Lolo Zone elk herd should be expected to re-bound because bear numbers have been reduced; and 2) wolves have mostly left the area – well….. NO on both counts. Bears are no longer the principle limiting factor preventing the Lolo Zone elk herd from achieving close to the production potential of existing Lolo Zone elk habitat – wolves are. And, wolves have not mostly left the area. I’ll refer everyone, again, to the IDFG and Nez Perce Tribe annual wolf status reports that include a state map of known, verified and monitored wolf packs and their territories. Wolf abundance and distribution does change over time, but the Lolo Zone has not experienced the changes Ralph speculated about. The number and size of Lolo Zone wolf packs has remained relatively stable over time in the Lolo Zone and continues to account for the majority of elk cow and calf mortality.
          Jeff …. again, the “age restrictions” on bears, lions and wolves are structured in each case to achieve specific management objectives. First, to achieve population objectives for each species, in each case to reduce the number of bears, lions and wolves in the Lolo Zone; Second, to minimize the potential for leaving orphaned bear and lion cubs and wolf pups, unable to survive without parents. The 2011-2012 wolf season will not expose wolf pups to “death by starvation” any more than will the rules of lion and bear hunting. It’s been explained by others and by me that the likelihood of Idaho wolf pups perishing due to loss of a both breeding adults is extremely low. So low as to make this another red herring issue with no relevance as a legitimate wildlife managment issue. I do acknowledge that the prospect of the Idaho wolf population being reduced in size, albeit well within the bounds of a healthy and sustained wolf population, is personally discomforting to you and others. That is a legitimate issue, as is the desire by many others in Idaho that wolves be managed for more balance with other highly valued wildlife and personal property objectives. The debate will continue ….. if only it could be based more on facts and less on perpetuated mischaracterizations.

          • timz says:

            Do you cut and paste this same old drivel from the IDF&G propaganda manual?
            Please go away and stay away, we’ve heard it all from you upteen times, enough is enough.

          • Immer Treue says:

            No problem with the first two paragraphs in regard to the rise and fall of the Lolo elk. Well documented that wolves had limited to no impact on Lolo until about 2005.

            We will find out about the “age restrictions…” soon enough.

          • timz says:

            “It’s been explained by others and by me that the likelihood of Idaho wolf pups perishing due to loss of a both breeding adults is extremely low. So low as to make this another red herring issue with no relevance as a legitimate wildlife managment issue.”

            Because you say so? We all know what your statements are worth. Who are these “Others”, where is their peer reviewed scientific and research papers on this?

    • Nancy says:

      “I’m prowolf, and Due to the past history, fables and fairy tales mixed in with the truths about this animal, I’ll continue to argue for as level a playing field as possible for the wolf”

      My feelings also Immer. And those feelings extend far beyond the wolf to other predators that have been persecuted relentlessly for years out here in the west to satisfy a few who feel priviledged AND entitled to services and subsidies because “thats the way its always been done”

      About 15 years ago I had a beautiful stand of Aspen over on the meadow (on a neighbor’s ditch) across from me. Came home one day and all but one of those Aspens was still standing. Seems they were interfering with the ditch and had to come out.

      Last week, that old remaining Aspen – keeled over, had some high winds, guessing that was what did it in. It was pretty much dead…. but still standing.

      Over the years I’ve watched many different types of birds – magpies, crows, ravens, raptors (of all sorts) use it as a hangout, roosting spot or a gathering point for newbies just out of their nests in the willows.

      A little piece of habitat…. gone just like that and not missed, unless you’re intimately familiar with the “locals”

  20. Immer Treue says:


    Thanks for answering that question about hunter concern about Lolo elk prior to that bad winter.

  21. hi there, I’m from holland (NL) and interested in the discussion about wolves. I wrote a song about wolves living in the year 2469 (that they are all gone then). Is there anybody who can bring me in contact with Ralph Maughan? Perhaps I am going to release this song on my new album but I’m not sure about it.


June 2011


‎"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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