Montana wolf biologist is skeptical of Montana hunting quotas and population in paper

Hunting Wolves In Montana – Where Are The Data?

Jay Mallonee says Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks annual wolf report clearly shows defective math.

The story about his paper “Hunting Wolves In Montana – Where Are The Data?” came out in the Missoulian. I received a copy of his paper. Mallonee told me it was peer reviewed, but Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said the paper was only published on the Internet. I think they are saying it may be peer reviewed but it was published on the Internet, so it lacks rigor.

Montana’s data for the hunt is based on a mathematical model published in a paper about a year ago. The lead author is Justin Gude is chief of wildlife research at FWP in Helena. Mallonee is not the only critic. An alternative model wolf population changes in response to mortality was published by Montana State University researchers Scott Creel and Jay Rotella.

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Here is the link to Mallonee’s paper.  I didn’t see it earlier. There is no charge. A link I had earlier led to a fee version. So now folks can read it and decide for themselves.

and here is the Creel and Rotella paper abstract.



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  1. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I have often asked who will be doing the counting that will prove Idaho’s wolf population is above federal minimum.
    I have also had the same questions about Montana’s population estimates. seems like it has been ~500 for ever, regardless of the amount of kills, births, or dispersal. curious.

    as for you, Toby, you saying you have seen 16 wolves is like you saying that “100’s will show up to some demonstration some where. Just does not match reality”

  2. CodyCoyote Avatar

    First paragraph of Missoulian story:
    “If you have 497 wolves in January 2009, kill 280 of them, and add back 166 new pups, does it add up to 524 wolves in December 2009? Or do you get 446?”

    I ran these numbers and came up with 383….

    Wolf Math in Montana is voodoo.

  3. CodyCoyote Avatar

    P.S. – the same Missoulian article quoted Toby Bridges (?!?!) and his perturbatory math . Toby claims as many as 2,000 wolves inhabit Montana. Not less than 1600 anyway.

    Maybe T.B. was counting wolf legs and forgot to divide by 4 . Whatever., you have to consider the sources here.

    Mallonee’s dart is closest to the center of the target , I beleive.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      The article immediately loses credibility by putting the Toby Bridges section in there. It was a pretty good academic debate using peer reviewed scientists from a couple of different journals – then they throw statements from a self-per claimed anti-wolf person. It just doesn’t make much sense to include this, yet the paper probably thinks they put in a fair and balanced article by including “all-sides”.

      And we wonder what is wrong with the disconnect between science and society. Even an article about science includes non-science – or should I say non-sense…

  4. WM Avatar


    Does anyone know Jay Mallonee’s qualifications for weighing in on this? I have been to his website, but couldn’t find anything there on this topic. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place.

    It would also be nice to see Jay’s paper, if it is available, rather than speculate based on a news reporter’s interpretation, or that of an agency.

    Also important to know who the “peers” are, if it was reviewed.


    Bridges’ comments always turn my stomach, and it is easy to agree with Jon Way.

    1. ma'iingan Avatar

      Jay Mallonee raises some good points, but he’s no wolf biologist. He’s a former college professor with a Master’s in neurobiology. His paper was published in an online journal called “Nature and Science”.

      1. jon Avatar

        Jay is an indepedent wolf biologist.

        1. Savebears Avatar

          Having an interest in one particular species, does not make you a knowledgeable biologist in that field, even if you say your an independent biologist..currently he holds no credentials in the field he is talking about.

          1. mikarooni Avatar

            I gave my daughter a call and asked her about this topic. She certainly has ample academic and NAS credentials in conservation biology and genetics, although not specifically with wolves. Having an interest in conservation, she had already looked at some of the material discussed here and wasn’t ready to comment on population counts; but, she did remark that there is so much new science emerging on gene pool size versus population size and using statistical modeling to assess long-term survivability as a function of genetic variability, gene pool size, population size, and expected mortality in any given habitat or environmental scenario that she isn’t sure what the accepted credentials should be in these situations.

            She isn’t convinced that the old models, north american this and north american that, are either state of the discipline or even adequate anymore. Some species that seem to have ample genetic variability deteriorate and show the signs of inbreeding surprisingly fast, which means they require surprisingly large populations, larger than the old models would indicate, to ensure sufficient gene pool size to support long-term sustainability; but, other species would seem to have highly diminished variability and need far larger populations than they have and still show no signs of problems …yet. Old-style biologists just aren’t consistently up to speed on this new science and, although she doesn’t see any glaring problem with the wolves in Montana yet, she isn’t seeing this new science coming into play in this debate …yet.

            It isn’t limited to wolves. She told me that, for nearly two hundred years, the best taxonomists in the world, with credentials out the kazoo, had described Nile crocs as one species. But, a couple of months ago, they were genetically sequenced and, voila, they’re two morphologically identical, but genetically completely different, coexisting species, including a smaller species that never grows to nearly full size that taxonomists swore were simply juveniles and another species that continues to grow on past their smaller, very distant, cousins.

            She opined that neuro-biologists she’s met have all been damn smart, well attuned to new science, and that, today, a neuro-biologist who focuses on the new science might be a more credible source than a wildlife agency guy who is still quoting from 50 to 100 year old texts.

  5. ma'iingan Avatar

    The paper can be downloaded from near the middle of the home page.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Thank you, so now I have put this link up in the original post.

      Folks can read it and decide for themselves whether it is academic or more like Toby Bridges.

  6. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    believe this is the Creel and Rotella paper.

  7. WM Avatar

    I think Jay Mallonee raises some interesting critiques and questions regarding the MT wolf numbers, to which the state should respond with thorough answers.

    If there is to be an honest dialog about wolf distribution, numbers and alleged impacts, in MT, ID and WY (as well as Yellowstone NP) well documented estimates should be the cornerstone for it now and in future years. Estimation techniques, should withstand scrutiny.

    If one reads the annual reports carefully, and the way the numbers are tallied, the states are very careful to say these are MINIUMUM numbers and there are likely more. How many more? Well, give us a range, including an upper range and document how you arrive at it.

    Dr. Mech has stated that there are about 20 percent more than official estimates in the NRM and that there will be a tendency to undercount by an even higher percentage as time goes on, with range expansion and less monitoring effort (the state motivation to spend money on doing the estimates with expensive collaring, etc. is lessened once regulatory objectives for ESA purposes are achieved).

    The NRM is not the only place where this is important. I strongly suspect, based on good information, the current WA wolf count is underestimated. The GL states also have their challenges. MN only does an estimate every 5 years, and has little collaring. They have little incentive to spend alot of money on their monitoring efforts. If and when the GL states start hunting wolves after delisting, this may become more important.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Minnesota, perhaps does not require incentive to spend money on collaring. The Boundary Waters, in absence of any over the top culling of wolves, if and when the season begins, will always be a great reservoir for wolves. Enough collaring does occur in Superior National Forest for monitoring of wolf pack territories, for both DNR, and educators and their classrooms (via the IWC). MN, up until recently, has also done a great job in culling wolves that have caused problems.

      The long history of wolves in MN plus the International Wolf Center(which stresses education, but not advocacy) on the edge of perhaps one of the highest concentrations of wolves in N. America also helps. I would assume, if a season begins soon, MN will embrace the guidelines stressed by Dr. Mech.

    2. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      How badly underestimated would you guess the WA wolf count is? You have the WDFW numbers at somewhere less than 50 and then the informal Hunting Washington wolf count mostly based on hearsay that is above 100.

      1. Daniel Berg Avatar
        Daniel Berg

        There is a pretty solid looking sighting of what potentially could be another pack in the Clark GMU (Chelan County).


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

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