What Good are Wolves?

With the arrival of the first wolf in California since the 1920s, no doubt the California Department of Game and Fish is receiving many comments from the public. The quality of this support, opposition and advice probably varies all over the map (the maps in our heads).

Norman Bishop, who played a key role as a Yellowstone Park naturalist educating the public about the wolves that were coming to Yellowstone and then after their arrival until 1997, has compiled a fact-filled piece “What Good are Wolves.”  This morning he announced he had sent it to the Director of the California Department of Fish and Game.

In the current politically charged and cognitively challenged atmosphere of wolf mythology, the contents of this letter should be shared with the public because summarizes what had been learned in recent years so compactly and lucidly.

What good are wolves? Compiled by Norman A. Bishop

In 1869, General Phil Sheridan said, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.”  Others said, “The only good wolf is a dead wolf.”

Barry Lopez wrote of an American Pogrom, not only of Native Americans and wolves, but of the bison on which both depended.  Between 1850 and 1890, 75 million bison were killed, mostly for their hides; perhaps one or two million wolves.

“Before about 1878, cattlemen were more worried about Indians killing their cattle than they were about wolves.  As the land filled up with other ranchers, as water rights became an issue, and as the Indians were removed to reservations, however, the wolf became, as related in Barry Lopez’s book, Of Wolves and Men, ‘an object of pathological hatred.’” Lopez continues:  “(T)he motive for wiping out wolves (as opposed to controlling them) proceeded from misunderstanding, from illusions of what constituted sport, from strident attachment to private property, from ignorance and irrational hatred.”

In 1884, Montana set a bounty on wolves; in the next three years, 10,261 wolves were bountied.  “In 1887, the bounty was repealed by a legislature dominated by mining interests.” ***  “By 1893,… desperate stockmen were reporting losses that were mathematical impossibilities.  The effect of this exaggeration was contagious.  The Montana sheep industry, which up to this time had lost more animals to bears and mountain lions than to wolves, began to blame its every downward economic trend on the wolf. *** Men in a speculative business like cattle ranching singled out one scapegoat for their financial losses.”

Not until wolves were functionally extinct from much of the West did anyone begin to ask, “What good are wolves?” to study wolves, and to report their beneficial effects on their prey species and on the ecosystems where they lived.

Adolph Murie realized that wolves selected weaker Dall sheep, “which may be of great importance to the sheep as a species.”   His brother, Olaus J.Murie, thought predators may have an important influence during severe winters in reducing elk herds too large for their winter range.   Douglas H. Pimlott  pointed out that wolves control their own densities .

Yellowstone National Park wolf project leader Douglas W. Smith says that restoration of wolves there has added exponentially to our knowledge of how natural ecosystems work.  It has also reminded us that predation is one of the dominant forces in all of nature, present in ecosystems worldwide over millions of years.

Bob Crabtree and Jennifer Sheldon note that predation by wolves is important to the integrity of the Yellowstone ecosystem, but we should realize that, before their return to Yellowstone’s northern range, 17 mountain lions there killed 611 elk per year, 60 grizzly bears killed 750 elk calves annually, and 400 coyotes killed between 1100 and 1400 elk per year.

P.J. White et al wrote that climate and human harvest account for most of the recent decline of the northern Yellowstone elk herd, coupled with the effects of five predators: wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, and coyotes. These are parts of a system unique in North America by its completeness.

Joel Berger et al demonstrated “a cascade of ecological events that were triggered by the local extinction of grizzly bears…and wolves from the southern greater Yellowstone ecosystem.”  In about 75 years, moose in Grand Teton National Park erupted to five  times the population outside, changed willow structure and density, and eliminated neotropical birds; Gray Catbirds and MacGillivray’s Warblers.

Dan Tyers informs us that wolves haven’t eliminated moose from Yellowstone.  Instead,  burning of tens of thousands of acres of moose habitat in 1988 (mature forests with their subalpine fir) hit the moose population hard, and it won’t recover until the forests mature again.

Mark Hebblewhite and Doug Smith documented that wolves change species abundance, community composition, and physical structure of the vegetation, preventing overuse of woody plants like willow, reducing severity of browsing on willows that provide nesting for songbirds.  In Banff, songbird diversity and abundance were double in areas of high wolf densities, compared to that of areas with fewer wolves .  Fewer browsers lead to more willows, providing habitat for beaver, a keystone species, which in turn create aquatic habitat for other plants and animals.

By reducing coyotes,which were consuming 85% of the production of mice in Lamar Valley, restored wolves divert more food to raptors, foxes, and weasels. By concentrating on killing vulnerable calf elk and very old female elk, wolves reduce competition for forage by post-breeding females, and enhance the nutrition of breeding-age females.  Wolves promote biological diversity, affecting 20 vertebrate species, and feeding many scavengers (ravens, magpies, pine martens, wolverines, bald eagles, gray jays, golden eagles, three weasel species, mink, lynx, cougar, grizzly bear, chickadees, Clark’s nutcracker, masked shrew and great grey owl). In Yellowstone, grizzly bears prevailed at 85% of encounters over carcasses, and they usurp nearly every kill made by wolves in Pelican Valley from March to October.  Some 445 species of beetle scavengers benefit from the largess of wolf-killed prey.  In Banff and Yellowstone, no other predator feeds as many other species as do wolves.  Wolf-killed elk carcasses enhance local levels of soil nutrients; 20-500% greater nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Dan Stahler and his colleagues saw an average of four ravens on carcasses in Lamar Valley pre-wolf. Post-wolf, that increased to 28 average, with as many as 135 seen on one carcass. Eagles seen on carcasses increased from an average of one per four carcasses to four per carcass.

P.J. White and Bob Garrott observed that, by lowering elk numbers, wolves may contribute to higher bison numbers; by decreasing coyote populations, result in higher pronghorn numbers.  They also said wolves may ameliorate ungulate-caused landscape simplification.

Daniel Fortin and others saw that wolves  may cause elk to shift habitat, using less aspen, and favoring songbirds that nest in the aspen.

Christopher Wilmers and all tell us that hunting by humans does not benefit scavengers the way wolf kills do. Carrion from wolf kills is more dispersed spatially and temporally than that from hunter kills, resulting in three times the species diversity on wolf kills versus hunter kills. Wolves subsidize many scavengers by only partly consuming their prey; they increase the time over which carrion is available, and change the variability in scavenge from a late winter pulse (winterkill) to all winter.  They decrease the variability in year-to-year and month to-month carrion availability.

Chris Wilmers and Wayne Getz write that wolves buffer the effects of climate change. In mild winters, fewer ungulates die of winterkill, causing loss of carrion for scavengers.  Wolves mitigate late-winter reduction in carrion by killing ungulates all year.

Mid-sized predators can be destructive in the absence of large keystone predators.  In the absence of wolves, pronghorn have been threatened with elimination by coyotes.  Wolves have reduced coyotes, and promoted survival of pronghorn fawns.  Pronghorn does actually choose the vicinity of wolf dens to give birth, because coyotes avoid those areas, according to Douglas W. Smith.

Mark Hebblewhite reviewed the effects of wolves on population dynamics of large-ungulate prey, other effects on mountain ecosystems, sensitivity of wolf-prey systems to top-down and bottom-up management, and how this may be constrained in national park settings.  Then he discussed the implications of his research on ecosystem management and long term ranges of variation in ungulate abundance.  He cites literature that suggests that the long-term stable state under wolf recovery will be low migrant elk density in western montane ecosystems.  Noting that wolves may be a keystone species, without which ungulate densities increase, vegetation communities become overbrowsed, moose and beaver decline, and biodiversity is reduced.  But as elk decline, aspen and willow regeneration are enhanced.  In this context, wolf predation should be viewed as a critical component of an ecosystem management approach across jurisdictions.

Chronic wasting disease could wipe out our elk and deer.  Tom Hobbs writes that increasing mortality rates in diseased populations can retard disease transmission and reduce disease prevalence.  Reduced lifespan, in turn, can compress the time interval when animals are infectious, thereby reducing the number of infections produced per infected individual. Results from simulations suggest that predation by wolves has the potential to eliminate CWD from an infected elk population.

Wildlife veterinarian Mark R. Johnson writes that wolves scavenge carrion, such as aborted bison or elk calves.  By eating them, they may reduce the spread of Brucellosis to other bison or elk.

Scott Creel and John Winnie, Jr. report that wolves also cause elk to congregate in smaller groups, potentially slowing the spread of diseases that thrive among dense populations of ungulates.

John Duffield and others report that restoration of wolves has cost about $30 million, but has produced a $35.5 million annual net benefit to greater Yellowstone area counties, based on increased visitation by wolf watchers.  Some 325,000 park visitors saw wolves in 2005. In Lamar Valley alone, 174,252 visitors observed  wolves from 2000 to 2009; wolves were seen daily in summers for nine of those ten years.

Wolves cause us to examine our values and attitudes.  Paul Errington wrote, “Of all the native biological constituents of a northern wilderness scene, I should say that the wolves present the greatest test of human wisdom and good intentions.”

Aldo Leopold, father of game management in America, said, “Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; … The land is one organism.”

Leopold also pointed out that the first rule of intelligent tinkering with natural ecosystems was to keep all the pieces.  Eliminating predators is counter to that advice.

Wolves remind us to consider what is ethically and esthetically right in dealing with natural systems.  As Leopold wrote in his essay “The Land Ethic,”  “A land ethic …does affirm (animals’) right to continued existence…in a natural state.”  He concluded, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

What good are wolves?  References cited

Berger, Joel , Peter B. Stacey, Lori Bellis, and Matthew P. Johnson.  2001.  A mammalian predator-prey imbalance: grizzly bear and wolf extinction affect avian neotropical migrants.  Ecol. Applications 11(4):947-960.

Crabtree, Robert L., and Jennifer W. Sheldon.  Coyotes and Canid Coexistence in Yellowstone.  Pages 127-163 in Clark, Tim W., A. Payton Curlee, Steven C. Minta, and Peter M. Kareiva.  1999.  Carnivores in Ecosystems: The Yellowstone Experience.  Yale U. Press.  429 pp.

Creel, Scott, and J.A. Winnie, Jr.  2005.  Responses of elk herd size to fine-scale spatial and temporal variation in the risk of predation by wolves.  Animal Behaviour  69:1181-1189.

Duffield, J., C. Neher, and D. Patterson.  2006.  Wolves and People in Yellowstone: Impacts on the Regional Economy.  Department of Mathematical Sciences, The University of Montana.

Errington, Paul L. 1967. Of Predation and Life.  Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames. 277 p.

Fortin, D., H. Beyer, M.S. Boyce, D.W. Smith, T. Duchesne, and J.S. Mao.  Wolves influence elk movements: behavior shapes a trophic cascade in Yellowstone National Park.  Ecology 86(5):1320-30.

Hebblewhite, Mark.   2010.  Predator-Prey Management in the National Park

Context: Lessons from a Transboundary Wolf, Elk, Moose and Caribou System (Pp. 348-365 in Transactions of the 72nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources conference.

Hebblewhite, Mark, and Douglas W. Smith.  2007.  Wolf Community Ecology: Ecosystem Effects of Recovering Wolves in Banff and Yellowstone National Parks in  Musiani, M., and P.C. Paquet.  The World of Wolves: new perspectives on ecology, behaviour, and policy. U. of Calgary Press.

Hobbs, N. Thompson.  2006.  A Model Analysis of Effects of Wolf Predation on Prevalence of Chronic Wasting Disease in Elk Populations of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Johnson, Mark R.   1992.  The Disease Ecology of Brucellosis and Tuberculosis in Potential Relationship to Yellowstone Wolf Populations.  Pp. 5-69 to 5-92 in Varley, J.D., and W.G. Brewster, Ed’s. Wolves for Yellowstone? A report to the United States Congress.  Volume IV, Research and Analysis.

Leopold, Aldo. 1938.  Unpublished essay, “Conservation,” on Pp. 145-6 of Round River, 1953.)

Leopold, Aldo.  1949.  A Sand County Almanac.  Oxford University Press.  P. 204 and Pp. 224-225.

Lopez, Barry H.  1978.  Of Wolves and Men.  Charles Scribner’s Sons.  New York.  308 p.

Murie, Adolph.  1944.  The Wolves of Mount McKinley.  Fauna of the National Parks of the United States.  Fauna Series No. 5.  USGPO, Washington, D.C.

Murie, Olaus J. The Elk of North America.  1951.   Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa., and Wildl. Mgmt. Inst., Wash., D.C.  376 pp.

Pimlott, Douglas H.  1967.  Wolf Predation and Ungulate Populations.  Amer. Zool. 7: 267-78.

Smith, Douglas W.  Personal communication.

Stahler, Daniel, Bernd Heinrich, and Douglas Smith. 2002.  Common ravens, Corvus corax, preferentially associate with grey wolves, Canis lupus, as a foraging strategy in winter.  Animal Behaviour 64:283-290.  El Sevier.

Tyers, Daniel B.  2003.  Winter Ecology of Moose on the Northern Yellowstone Winter Range.  Ph.D. Dissertation, MSU, Bozeman.

White, P.J., and R.A. Garrott.  2005.  Yellowstone’s ungulates after wolves – expectations, realizations, and predictions.  Biological Conservation 125:141-52.

White, P.J., Robert Garrott, and Lee Eberhardt.  2003.  Evaluating the consequences of wolf recovery on northern Yellowstone elk. YCR-NR-2004-02.

Wilmers, C.C., and W.M. Getz.  2005.  Gray wolves as climate change buffers. PLoS Biology 3 (4):e92.

Wilmers, C.C., R.L. Crabtree, D.W. Smith, K.M Murphy, W.M. Getz.  2003.  Trophic facilitation by introduced top predators: grey wolf subsidies to scavengers in Yellowstone National Park.  Journal of Animal Ecology 72(6):909-16.

About the compiler

After university work in Botany, Zoology, Forest Recreation, and Wildlife Management, and 4 years as a naval aviator, Norman A. Bishop was a national park ranger for 36 years.  He was the principal interpreter of wolves and their restoration at Yellowstone National Park from 1985 to 1997, when he retired to Bozeman.

For his educational work on wolves, he received a USDI citation for meritorious service. He also received the National Parks and Conservation Association’s 1988 Stephen T. Mather Award, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s 1991 Stewardship Award, and the Wolf Education and Research Center’s 1997 Alpha Award.

He led many field courses on wolves for the Yellowstone Association Institute until 2005.  He is the greater Yellowstone region field representative for the International Wolf Center.  He serves on the boards of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, and Wild Things Unlimited.  He is also on the advisory board of Living with Wolves.

Norman A. Bishop

Bozeman, MT 59715






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  1. KB540F Avatar

    Thank you for posting this, it is essential to have the correct information and FACTS for all to read and learn. I will be re-posting this on my fb page for those willing and wanting to understand more.

  2. timz Avatar

    My favorite Leopold quote.
    ““The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

    1. Doryfun Avatar

      Thanks timz,
      I like that quote too. It describes precisely why I hate the term “invasive species.” None are more invasive than ourselves,if considered from an American Indians perspective.

  3. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    Thank you Mr Bishop for a well written piece.
    If you listened to all the wolf haters in the Rockies you would think that wolves are responsible for the moose declines in Yellowstone. The intentional slaughter of millions of bison prove how truly rotten humans can be- accomplished as a political strategy to put Indians on reservations- unbelievable.

  4. Salle Avatar

    Thanks to Mr. Bishop for writing this factual piece and the educational opportunity it offers to us all.

    And thanks to Ralph for re-posting this. I think it should be a regularly reappearing post… just because of its value to everyone in general… lest we forget.

    1. Doryfun Avatar

      I second that Salle, I really liked it the first time I read it, but mostly forgot about it. Unfortunately, my memory doesn’t seem to improve with age. So, it is nice to hit between the eyes again.

  5. Mtn Mamma Avatar
    Mtn Mamma

    “In Banff and Yellowstone, no other predator feeds as many other species as do wolves. Wolf-killed elk carcasses enhance local levels of soil nutrients; 20-500% greater nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.”

    -The Yellowstone Association Institute offers a class called “Food for the Massess” and it is an in depth look at the role of the wolf in an ecosystem.

    I am huge Leopold fan and so must post another relevant quote from Thinking Like a Mountain, “The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dustbowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.”

    1. Doryfun Avatar

      Thats a great quote too, Mtn Mamma. It is amazing to me how some people (as just one person) can come up with so many notable quotes and words of wisdom. Such wonderful human tuning- forks to the song of nature.

  6. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    There is another predator still missing from Yellowstone: Native American Hunters. I know of places in Yellowstone where there are arrowheads and spear points which testify to the past presence of those hunters. It is obvious that Wolves can not control Bison numbers and without a predator to keep the Bison numbers in check, they will soon do as much damage to the vegetation as the elk did. Some thought needs to be given to allowing native americans to hunt in Yellowstone.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      I’ve generally thought along similar lines. Even if elk are constrained by predation well below what they were from the mid-1970s through the 1990s, most of the same forage will go to bison that have had their natural predator removed. And they will continue to increase until they pressure the forage and move over the boundaries in large numbers. Unfortunately, as much as people fight to allow them outside, there will not be that much room, so beyond very limited numbers that have long been campaigned for (and paid for dearly to CUT), there will be concentrated reductions of some sort — DOL style roundups or hunting. I’ve always thought the solution was to acquire enough lower elevation public range outside the park to let them distribute well outside and allow controlled, distributed hunting as needed that does not cause large herd movements or bottle them up near the boundary. But that may be completely dreaming. Even in the 60s and 70s, when the government had money for all kinds of grand projects, it did not manage to somehow pull the trigger on the Forbes Ranch purchase and we know how that went. The only hope in that direction now would be to capture the imagination (and a small piece of the pocketbook) of one of the 1%. I’ve mentioned land acquisition north and west of the park before, and nobody among the many like Elk275 who currently reside in the region and understand it better than me, have provided any indication that they thought it is still realistic, if it ever was. Therefore, your idea about hunting inside the park probably is more realistic and could be much better distributed spatially as needed. And, obviously, native Americans tribes from the general region would likely be the only potential hunters to have a chance of overcoming national opposition to hunting in the nation’s first national park. Maybe the time is approaching to return the last natural predator.

      1. william huard Avatar
        william huard

        Once you allow one special interest to hunt inside the park- the integrity of the park as the last bastion of wilderness would be lost. First the Indian tribes….then SCI and the sportsmen groups would be lobbying for a “conservation” hunt….That’s what SCI preaches isn’t it-

      2. Elk275 Avatar

        Unforunately, most of the land north and west of the park has been divided into 20 arce parcels. It may not look like it been subdivided but it has and each 20 acre parcel has a separate tax code. One could purchase each 20 acre tract at current market value or value all the tracts of a single ower and do a bulk discounted purchase. Either way it is going to be very expensive at $10,000 an acre or $5,000,000 per section. Some of those 20 acre tracts have been purchased and homes build on them.

        The Forbes ranch was to be purchased in 1980 by the Forest Service. Ronald Regan was elected president and decided that the forest service/public did not need more land and cancelled the sale.

      3. Robert Bunch Avatar
        Robert Bunch

        Personally I am against any hunting in Yellowstone. Animals are hunted almost everywhere and I think they need a few refuges where no one can hunt them in this totally human dominated world, but if they do allow native americans to hunt in Yellowstone they should have to use bows and arrows and spears not high-powered rifles.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          +they should have to use bows and arrows and spears not high-powered rifles+

          Robert Bunch – personally, I think thats how hunting ought to be conducted…… period, if you want to make the field of “play” level for all the players (wildlife especially) involved.

          Buts thats just me 🙂

          1. Savebears Avatar

            Well Hell, then I am in like Flynn, I have not used a rifle to hunt an animal for over 15 years now, just my recurve and wood arrows!

    2. Mike Avatar

      ++There is another predator still missing from Yellowstone: Native American Hunters. I know of places in Yellowstone where there are arrowheads and spear points which testify to the past presence of those hunters. It is obvious that Wolves can not control Bison numbers and without a predator to keep the Bison numbers in check, they will soon do as much damage to the vegetation as the elk did. Some thought needs to be given to allowing native americans to hunt in Yellowstone.++

      This would eventually open up all parks to hunting.

    3. CodyCoyote Avatar

      Larry- I’m skeptical that the numbers of Native Americans using Yellowstone in any season prior to the White Man had much significant impact on resident game populations. It only seems like Yellowstone has lots of wildlife these days, when in fact in the time before the fur trappers first laid into it, Yellowstone was realtively low in wildlife populations compared to the region around it. Like when the frontier photographer L.A. Huffman got stranded somewhere around Miles City MT when it took three days for a single Bison herd to move by him and his wagon. Yellowstone was mostly this far off isolated empty place exploited by rogues and scallions after the Native Bannocks, Shoshone, and Mountain Crow/ Sheepeaters had been displaced. It’s just a shifting temporal perspective that makes Yellowstone seem bountiful of big game these days.

      Yes, I was surprised then enlightened to find obsidian arrowheads on Frank Island in the middle of Yellowstone Lake this past summer. There was one coyote living on the island…he forgot to go back across the ice in the spring and got stranded out there, having to live on ducks ( good day ) or veggies ( all the other days). In September he was eating raspberries , rose hips, and other berries and left piles of bright magenta scat on the beach .

      We can always learn new stuff about Yellowstone and surrounds.

      1. Salle Avatar

        A really good book to read:

        Searching For Yellowstone: Ecology And Wonder In The Last Wilderness Schullery, P. 1997. (ISBN: 0-395-84174-7 and 0-395-92493-6 for the paperback) Includes vintage photos.

        I read it when I was in college. It’s a great, easy to read and comprehend, compilation of the park’s history, management policies, and why/how the policies came into being. It works as a complement to Cody Coyote and Mr. Bishop’s words.

        Knowledge is a powerful tool.

      2. DT Avatar

        Coyotes eat veggies too?

        1. ma'iingan Avatar

          “Coyotes eat veggies too?”

          Wild canids can be quite omnivorous at times. Coyotes eat berries readily, and I’ve observed wolves eating significant amounts of fallen apples – to what benefit, I’m not sure. They came out looking a lot like they did when they went in.

          1. DT Avatar

            Interesting! Well, not the part about it coming back out looking like it went in. Ok, that was kinda interesting too. We had a dog once and he ate just about anything, meat, veggie, anything. Even onions and celery. I think he just liked to see what he could get away with.

          2. Savebears Avatar

            One of my dogs used to love carrots, apples, celery, basically any vegetable that we ate.. The other one, would not touch any of it, she liked her dog food and dog cookies!

      3. SEAK Mossback Avatar

        CodyCoyote –
        I hope you went out to Frank Island in something larger than a canoe. Crossing over there from Wolf Point, I believe, in a 17 foot canoe with two other people on board in wind and seas from the north still ranks among my top 5 closest calls. I canoed the entire roadless perimeter of the lake, but would not go out there again.

        1. SEAK Mossback Avatar

          As far as Indian bison hunting, I don’t know about the park proper, but there certainly are prominent buffalo jumps on the west side of Paridise Valley, quite visible from the highway that bison (probably including those that summered in what is now the park) were driven over enmass. Both the winter range and the predator are gone, only ranches and MT DOL remain.

          1. Salle Avatar

            The Nez Perce conduct an annual “tribal rights” bison hunt, usually up along the northern border of the park. Some years they several, some years not. I don’t know of any other Tribal groups who hunt bison there, maybe some Shoshoni from Wind River or Fort Hall…? I’m not sure when they started it. I became aware of it a few years ago when I encountered one of their game officers.

          2. SEAK Mossback Avatar

            Salle –
            Thanks for the information, actually now I also remember hearing something about limited Nez Perce hunts north of the park. I am generally not in favor of racially based rights and think the Feds took the better path for the long-term in Alaska, basing subsistence rights on local rural residency (still not recognized by the state) rather than race as in Canada. However, the history of industrial slaughter and injustice to the tribes in the west is compelling. The image, as frequently portrayed in hunting magazines, of the returning invasive that nearly eliminated the bison from the planet, nostalgically dressed in his faux fringed buckskins and cradling a new replica Sharps (historic tool of industrial slaughter) is certainly a painful one. Those guys can pay their $5K and walk up to an old bull on a bison ranch and dream they’re back in the 1880s. Give descendents of the wronged first chance to fill their old niche.

  7. Doryfun Avatar

    Do we have to continue to believe that all things are essentially always a gateway, or a first precedent to something else? Why does allowing Indians to hunt, have to lead to allowing other groups to hunt?

    Since the dominant culture likes to use terms like, invasive species – like in keeping at bay all things pesky – why not just fess up to being an invasive species? Thereby, allow only native predators back in for killing buffalo, not non-native?

    Precedences live only as much as we allow them to live. To change ways, change thinking. All things in the universe are natural by virtue of being a part of it. Man made constructs ,well, we have a choice in where we wish to project/affect potential outcomes.

  8. Savebears Avatar

    There is no law preventing hunting in National Parks:

    “TITLE 36–PARKS, FORESTS, AND PUBLIC PROPERTY CHAPTER I–NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR PART 2–RESOURCE PROTECTION, PUBLIC USE AND RECREATION–Table of Contents Sec. 2.2 Wildlife protection. (a) The following are prohibited: (1) The taking of wildlife, except by authorized hunting and trapping activities conducted in accordance with paragraph (b) of this section. (2) The feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities. (3) Possessing unlawfully taken wildlife or portions thereof. (b) Hunting and trapping. (1) Hunting shall be allowed in park areas where such activity is specifically mandated by Federal statutory law. (2) Hunting may be allowed in park areas where such activity is specifically authorized as a discretionary activity under Federal statutory law if the superintendent determines that such activity is consistent with public safety and enjoyment, and sound resource management principles. Such hunting shall be allowed pursuant to special regulations. (3) Trapping shall be allowed in park areas where such activity is specifically mandated by Federal statutory law. (4) Where hunting or trapping or both are authorized, such activities shall be conducted in accordance with Federal law and the laws of the State within whose exterior boundaries a park area or a portion thereof is located. Nonconflicting State laws are adopted as a part of these regulations. (c) Except in emergencies or in areas under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, the superintendent shall consult with appropriate State agencies before invoking the authority of Sec. 1.5 for the purpose of restricting hunting and trapping or closing park areas to the taking of wildlife where such activities are mandated or authorized by Federal statutory law. (d) The superintendent may establish conditions and procedures for transporting lawfully taken wildlife through the park area. Violation of these conditions and procedures is prohibited. (e) The Superintendent may designate all or portions of a park area as closed to the viewing of wildlife with an artificial light. Use of an artificial light for purposes of viewing wildlife in closed areas is prohibited. (f) Authorized persons may check hunting and trapping licenses and permits; inspect weapons, traps and hunting and trapping gear for compliance with equipment restrictions; and inspect wildlife that has been taken for compliance with species, size and other taking restrictions. (g) The regulations contained in this section apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within a park area that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States. [48 FR 30282, June 30, 1983, as amended at 49 FR 18450, Apr. 30, 1984; 51 FR 33264, Sept. 19, 1986; 52 FR 35240, Sept. 18, 1987]”

    1. WM Avatar


      The regulation you quote, as you probably know and understand, is that hunting is allowed in a PARTICULAR national park if Congress, with the concurrence of the then sitting President, says it is, and makes it a statute.

      Since NP’s are created in each of their own bills, which become statutes, Congress can say whether hunting will be allowed or not in a particular NP. And, of course, those statutes can be amended in the same process.

      A more curious aspect is whether Native Americans can hunt in a particular national park if it was at one time part of their ancestral hunting ground, and they reserved general rights under treaty to hunt those ancestral lands if on “open and unclaimed lands of the US. At least one federal court has said, no, because national parks, unlike national forests are not “open and unclaimed lands” of the United States, since a purpose of national parks is to conserve/preserve wildlife. These are “claimed lands” of the US. See U.S. v. Hicks, 587 F. Supp. 1162 (W.D. Wash. 1984).

      It is, however, apparently not settled law. See http://www.peer.org/docs/nps/8_11_10_Indian_Plant_Take_from_National_Parks.pdf – See footnote 14.

      1. Savebears Avatar


        I know the statute. And yes there are certain hoops that must be jumped through in order to allow hunting. However precedence has already been set with the approval of Grand Teton National Park and the Elk reduction hunt.

        I was not taking a side, I was simply posting the information, it can happen and it would not be that difficult.

        1. WM Avatar

          Agreed. The problem of hunting in NP’s would probably just go away if there was more winter range for animals in and outside the problem park.

          1. Jon Way Avatar

            I for one would be devastated if hunting was allowed in Yellowstone, even by Native Americans. This is what makes yellowstone Yellowstone to me. With human hunting even the bison would act diff’tly. I know this is mostly rhetorical conversation, except maybe Larry’s original comment, but I for one believe there aren’t enough places that prevent human intrusions onto a landscape. More winter range and maybe buying land to the North of Yellowstone to be incorporated into Yellowstone would be much more attractive to me. I’ll take the hands off approach that humans have with most national parks any day…

  9. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Thanks for reposting this. Says a lot in a few words.

    The deduction from Bishop’s short summary here helps explain why I believe the North American Wildlife/Big Game Conservation Model preached by the sport hunting community as gospel , is in fact fundamentally flawed , or at least only a partially useful model. The NAW/BGM’s primary reliance on human hunting as a game manager failed to allow for predators— especially the apex predators but also failing to factor in mesopredators such as coyotes, ravens, eagles. When wolves were eradicated, coyotes got promoted up the predation side of the food chain, for instance, way above their weight class and job description . But coyotes, being opportunistic, were more than willing to accommodate. However, the North American model was flawed from the get-go. Yet it is still upheld today as the major driving principle of dynamic game conservation when it should be just one mechanism in a larger more inclusive wildlife model.

    What Bishop so succinctly reminds us of here is that without saying so is that the hunting public and the state game agencies still have a lot to learn about the on-the-ground dynamics of wildlife populations.

    My own opinion goes a bit further: that the policy makers in the sport hunting organizations, and the policy makers/ administrators int he state game agencies, really do not want to accept what wolves and grizzlies are teaching them ; do not want to accept the ramifications of accelerating climate change ; do not want to ” unlearn” their flawed NA model and begin the work of version 2.0 of the North American WILDLIFE Conservation Model. Teddy Roosevelt and his ilk did a very good thing in marshaling the forces of rich eastern elitist hunters to bring back big game herds across all of North America from the Yukon to the deserts and Adirondacks and get most serious hunters on the same page for a few decades. The North American model accomplished its goals by the middle 20th century- the restoration of sustainable huntable game populations. But it had no adjustment or expansion mechanisms as the science and working knowledge of the wildlife dynamic became clear.

    Fifty years ago, Yellowstone was grossly overpopulated with starving elk and the range was in terrible shape , requiring the Park Service to do the unthinkable: mass slaughter of elk at the infamous Gardiner Firing Line. In the absence of apex predators and the adoption of North American Big Game Conservation model that encouraged wholesale increases in elk herds as feedstock for the surrounding states’ hunting opportunity, the NABGCM worked too well. It distorted and eroded the very thing it was trying to conserve.

    Today we know better. But the old mindset and the even older bigotry and hatreds towards wolves and grizzlies is still prevailing. The scientific community appears to have the necessary new paradigms ( I hate that word but it works here), but the elitist hunting clubs and the state game departments are still rooted firmly in the past , in a world they only partially understood.

    The livestock producers won’t change regardless. They are the most anachronistic and misguided of all the stakeholders. Norm Bishops shows us why we need wolves, but the stockgrowers won’t hear a word of it. Their calendar still says ” 1890 ” even though the months and days are displayed accurately.

    I wonder if the hunting clubs and state agencies will ever have that Come To Jesus B. Lobo meeting…

    1. Salle Avatar

      Cody Coyote,

      Your comment very succinctly describes my perception of the situation and its problems.

      And I have yet to find a topic on which I disagree with Mr. Bishop. I’ve known him for years and he always has a “binder of info” with citations and first-hand knowledge “off the top of his head” in nearly every conversation we have. I never leave those conversations without a basketful of food for thought.

      As for the huntclubs and state agencies, I’m with you, still wondering if…

    2. Jon Way Avatar

      Great points Cody,
      In my experience self proclaimed “sportsmens” clubs are anti-predator no matter where you are in the country: we all know of the many vocal ones around yellowstone and the Rockies, but the Sportsmen Alliance of Maine is rabidly anti-coyote and seem to make sane suggestions for managing wildlife until discussing predators. The various rod and gun clubs on Cape Cod, MA hate eastern coyotes/coywolves and hate any suggestion of doing nothing but killing as many as they can.

      This culture needs to stop and a dramatic reorganization of state fish and game depts needs to happen b.c, as we all know, these groups have a disproportionate impact on state game depts and wildlife mgmt in general… I could go on with this but won’t aside from one example: I am learning that people are baiting eastern coyotes/coywolves from their houses on Cape Cod and are blowing away many a year most likely from the comfort of a window of their house with the bait a distance away (outside). The fact that this essential crime has not been prosecuted to my knowledge speaks volumes about how Environmental Police prioritize wildlife investigations…. This stuff doesn’t just happen in Idaho.

      1. Savebears Avatar


        Just curious are there laws in place to make it a crime? I am not familiar with the game laws in that area.

      2. WM Avatar


        Since you are the coyote expert here, do you have any idea if there is a state by state annual summary of coyote populations and numbers killed by WS, state agencies or privately?

        My sense is there would be quite a few in many states in the lower Midwest and the South, as well as the West and the urban areas.

        1. Jon Way Avatar

          Yes and no. Some states total hunting kills incl. trapping, others probably have no regulation. By law I would think that WS would have to report all kills by state. It is just digging up all of the info (from what source) that would be the issue…

    3. Elk275 Avatar

      Coyote, I am not willing to accept reductions and limitations on my rights to hunt because of wolves. I like wolves and grizzlies and they are needed in the ecosystem, but when wolves and bears start to limit the number of hunting days and licence numbers then it is time to manage them. I am not willing to give up my 5 week hunting season and 1 or 2 elk tags because of predation. Mule deer populations are down in the west; I have a rancher friend who has about 13,000 acres of fee lands. Twenty plus years ago mule deer were very plentiful and mountain lions were unheard of, today they see 4 or 5 lions a year and many lion killed deer. They do not want lions, they want deer to hunt.

      Everyone that I talked to this year has noticed that the populations of deer and elk are trending downward. This downward trend can not be fully blamed on predation. Predation has to have an effect on elk populations in Southwest Montana. In the last 5 years, I have had wolves several times disrupt my elk hunting, never saw the wolves but the tracts were less than 5 minutes old.

      Off the National Forest lands, land ownership become a checker board of private and federal and state lands. Most ranchers have leased there lands to outfitters and state lands by law must produce maximum revenue. Your thesis does not work with private lands or checker boarded lands with landowner attitudes objectives that different from yours.

      You can push it just so far. If they can put a wolf delisting rider into a bill, they can and will modify the ESA. You were a guide at one time, don’t miss getting up in the mornings, saddling and feeding the horses, eating breakfast in the cook tent, gathering the hunters together in the darkness, bridling the horses, slipping the rifles into the scabbards and riding out of camp in the darkness not to return until after dark. I miss it but I dislike outfitters.

      Wolves and grizzlies are part of the wilderness, but in the front county they need to be managed

      1. Jon Way Avatar

        you said: “If they can put a wolf delisting rider into a bill, they can and will modify the ESA.”

        Then they could also put bills/laws into place to more formally protect predators such as the laws that protect marine mammals, burros, eagles and so. Because of the national interest in bears and wolves I don’t see this as a stretch in the future… And with all of the discussion of the vital ecological importance of these predators. Politicians can only listen to the sap stories for so long of people that had a hunting trip interrupted by wolves when elk kill numbers are still at all time highs in the Rockies….

        1. Elk275 Avatar

          I do not seeing that happening in the next 20 to 30 years. The western senators would kill the bill, you know that. There are 13 western states or 26 senators at least 20 senators would oppose any bill protecting coyotes and that is enough votes to kill a canine, bear or cat bill.

          Nebeki said on this forum that it would be 2050 before attitudes in the west changed enough to accept predators. Saves Bears says that if we kept fighting politically that in 20 to 50 years this country is going to look very different. Two of the best comments on this forum

          I am very pro wilderness and would love to see millions more acres permanently protected, but I am very pro state management of all non migratory wildlife within a state. Regardless of the New Mexico court ruling if the federal government tried to control wildlife on federal lands, congress would immediately stop it.

          I have drawn a mountain lion tag west of Missoula to Lookout Pass south of Interstate 90. A outfitter has offered me a mountain lion hunt for $500 down from $3000. The hunting district is 202 and it is managed for trophy mule by draw only. The outfitter sees up to 10 lions a year without dogs and multiple lion kills including many 160 to 190 bucks. If the mountain lions are not effecting the mule population he would not offer a money losing hunt.

          I have not decided whether I am going, but it is an option for the next 4 months. The reason: he wants to be able to call me at 2:00 a.m. when the conditions are perfect and have me at the lodge by first light, find a fresh track and run the lion and have it treed by noon and me out of there by dark. That is not hunting, that is not something that I would do for free, the next two months will tell.

          ++when elk kill numbers are still at all time highs in the Rockies….++ are elk numbers at all times high in the Rockies, some places they are some places they are not and some of those places predation is a major reason for the decline.

          1. Nancy Avatar

            Interesting story Elk.

            Seems there was a big cat hanging around up the valley recently. A long time resident discovered tracks just outside their cabin one morning, they freaked out and got F&G or WS (not sure which) on the phone. Dogs were called in, the cat was tracked, located and shot.

            A sad ending since evidence of mountain lions (tracks, sightings, stc.) are pretty rare around here.

            This winter doesn’t hold a candle to last winter (snowfall averages) so I have to wonder if it’s prey (mule deer) hung out longer, but lower, in elevation levels.

          2. Jon Way Avatar

            OK then, to put it a different way: the rider delisting the wolf in ID and MT really opened eyes to many people and many people (say the easterns) got their eyes opened to how wildlife is treated on our public land. Many people know that while westerns say that they should be in charge of wildlife mgmt on nationally known land, that a disproportionate amount of their tax dollars goes to those people. Note that a bill couldn’t be passed for wolf mgmt so western senators had to literally slip it in. I am not so pessimistic that folks like your outfitter won’t be able to kill in a seemingly eye for an eye manner in 20-30 years.

          3. Mike Avatar

            ++Seems there was a big cat hanging around up the valley recently. A long time resident discovered tracks just outside their cabin one morning, they freaked out and got F&G or WS (not sure which) on the phone. Dogs were called in, the cat was tracked, located and shot. ++

            What the hell? You can have a mountain lion shot for no reason at all? Where was this?

          4. Savebears Avatar


            Nancy lives in Montana, but it can be done pretty much everywhere that lions live, including California, if there is even the slightest perception of a threat to humans or pets, the game departments will come out and take care of them.

          5. Mike Avatar

            SB –

            The lion didn’t do anything.

          6. Mike Avatar

            I’ve had animals come up to my tent in numerous locations across the country, ranging from the wilderness of California to the Bridger-Teton National Forest to Porcupine Mountains State Park in the U.P. and paw it, growl at it, piss near it, and not once have I ever called wildlife agencies.

            I guess I understand that it’s their land, too. And as long as they leave me alone, I’ll do the same.

          7. Mike Avatar

            On this same subject, I had a moose bed down a foot from my tent in Glacier this year. I almost had a heart attack. Imagine getting out of your tent, headlamp on, because some gigantic thing is breathing and moaning right next to you at 2 a.m., and it’s so close you can hear the noises its stomach makes.

            As I got out and rose, the moose rose on the other side. It looked at me and then bolted into the brush. My sister, who was camped in the tent next to mine (in her first visit to Montana) was scared out of her mind. I told her not to get out right away, that it might make the moose panic and so she stayed. Needless to say, we were wide awake the next hour, hanging out at the picnic table.

            We fell asleep, and at 4 a.m. I woke to a giant animal sniffing my tent. This time I assumed it was a grizzly as this area has the highest densities in Montana. I got out of the tent with bear spray in hand, and the moose was back. It looked at me, snot coming out of its nostrils, an arm length away. Then it turned and walked over a fallen tree. My sister and I (she was of course horrified at this point) watched the shadows as it crunched through the trees. Finally we heard it enter the lake inlet and cross.

            I did not call the rangers even though moose are far more dangerous than mountain lions. I did not call a wildlife agency. This moose wasn’t bothered by me, I guess, as most animals tend not to be. It’s weird.

            But I understand that moose was likely raised on that lake, and probably had an attachment to the area, as we all do to places we were raised. She was just doing her thing.

            Tolerance is a wonderful thing, Save Bears. It’s how we move on as a species.

            For my sister’s first camping trip to Montana, that was quite the experience.

            I did mention this episode to the rangers the next day, and they were shocked. But like I said, I have this weird thing with animals. That wasn’t the only incident on the trip. I had a bizarre encounter at the Bison Range, one which I’ll never forget.

          8. Savebears Avatar

            Mike it does not matter that the lion didn’t do anything. I am not saying it is right, I am simply telling you how it is in all of the states that lions live in. Heck I had a lion in the driveway the other day when I went to town, didn’t kill it, didn’t do anything to it, we simply looked at each other and it was done with.

            People have a great fear of lions, they are one of the few animals that will actually hunt humans for food.. Not a common thing, but it has happened before.

          9. SEAK Mossback Avatar

            Elk275 –
            If licenses are limited and you had to draw for a mountain lion tag, it sounds like maybe MTFWP has a different opinion about the balance between the cats and their food supply (deer) in that area than your outfitter? Or is there that much potential hunting pressure on the cats?

          10. william huard Avatar
            william huard


            Tolerance is in short supply. You wouldn’t want these wildlife services and wildlife officers sitting around with nothing to do would you?

      2. CodyCoyote Avatar

        E: in my corner of Wyoming, both Elk and Deer numbers are steadily increasing as they have for most of the past 15 years since the wolves arrived, with a few blips due to what passes for severe winters or cold springs these days. Elsewhere in Wyomiong—primarily in the enrgy development zones—Mule Deer populations are falling, in some cases dramatically, but not due to wolves or griz, just man-caused collateral loss. Taken as a whole, Wyoming’s statewide population of Elk is nearly 30 percent above the Game & Fish’s objective.

        To the best of my knowledge, there is no loss of hunting opportunity of elk in northwest Wyoming that can be pinned on predation . Also, Cow tags go unclaimed. and late season hunts are far from crowded . There are plenty of elk for man and wolf and bear.

        Loss of opportunity to bag a 6x-7x point trophy bull?—well, that is in the eye of the beholder and the windbags of the outfitter. There you may have a talking point or two, but be darn sure the guy you are talking to allows that the trophy bull elk hunts have been vastly distorted by poor hunting practice, overpressure, outfitter shenanigans, and circumstances beyond anyone’s control, like global climate change. It’s simply too easy to scapegoat wolves for the shortcomings of trophy hunts whose cause and effect dynamic lies with that most avaricious of wholesale predator, the Hominid, the bipedal hunter who has come to wrongly believe that big game are there for his exclusive use firstly and all other predators have to get in line behind that.

        Your 5-week 2-elk season that you live for is a privilege, not an entitlement, and the nonhuman predator-prey relationship takes precedence. How could it possibly be otherwise ?

        Wolves have not had unacceptable impacts on elk hunts in my domain in Wyoming , but other humans sure do.

      3. JB Avatar

        “…I am not willing to accept reductions and limitations on my rights to hunt because of wolves…I am not willing to give up my 5 week hunting season and 1 or 2 elk tags because of predation.”

        Isn’t it enough that you have the opportunity to hunt? Do you really believe that any reduction in hunting opportunity is a cause for management? The sense of entitlement expressed in this statement is astounding to me.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          +The sense of entitlement expressed in this statement is astounding to me+

          Thanks JB. You put my thoughts, into words.

          Hunter rights” Rancher “rights”

          Kind of sums it up out here in the west when it comes to wildlife… and THEIR “rights”

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

            Nancy –
            Wildlife, as a human resource, has/have no rights. Wildlife are an integral part of the environment we inhabit, enhance and enrich our lives – but are managed for the benefit of human society. Persistent insistance of animal “rights” contributes nothing to the pressing and legitimate needs for wildlife conservation – as a need and benefit for human society.

          2. william huard Avatar
            william huard

            At least Elk 275 is honest. He represents that selfish “hunter entitlement mentality” which would put the “game farm mentality” represented by the Gamblins of the world over a healthy ecosystem- a predator free ecosystem……

          3. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            William –
            The “game farm mentality” you refer to is not one I subscribe to nor does it represent the tenets of the North American Model. I understand that you and others mean to demean the principles of wildlife management, as they relate to objectives designed to benefit human needs and desires. The trite reference to “farming mentality” represents a philosophical perspective and management preference rather than a relevant critique of wildlife management policies and programs. Perhaps you would be more honest and transparent by saying – “I prefer a “hands off” approach to wildlife managment – let nature take it’s course without human intervention or “management”- to achieve objectives desired by human society.
            BTW – ALL human objectives for natural resource allocation, including non-consumptive preferences are inherently “selfish”.

        2. Savebears Avatar


          Not trying to start anything, but in Montana, we don’t have opportunity, we have a guaranteed right to hunt by our constitution…

          1. JB Avatar

            Save Bears:

            Montana’s constitutional amendment only specifies a right to:

            “harvest wild fish and wild game animals, thereby preserving the heritage of Montana.”

            It does not specify which species can be harvested, nor how many of that species can be harvested per person. If it did, it would hamstring wildlife managers.

            Basically, Montana’s constitutional amendment guarantees citizens the right to purchase a hunting and fishing license–period.


            I generally agree with Mark’s assessment concerning the animal rights perspective–at least as the philosophy is represented by TWS. However, I think TWS largely misrepresents animal rights activists as believing that animals should have the “same basic rights as humans”. Certainly some people believe this, but I find when you talk with many who self-classify as “animal rightists” what they really want is for wildlife to be killed for what they believe is a “legitimate” purpose–which, ironically, is one of the “tenets” of the NA model of wildlife conservation.

            Thus, TWS’s position conveniently allows the society to cast animal rightists as “extremists”, and provides justification for ignoring this growing segment of society.

        3. JB Avatar

          Just finished reading my son “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, and I couldn’t resist the following quote, which seems appropriate:

          “All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
          Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
          I intend to go on doing just what I do!
          And for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering on biggering
          and BIGGERING
          and BIGGERING
          and BIGGERING.”

          Instead of turning Truffula Trees into Thneeds, we’re turning elk into household decorations (which “everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”). 😉

          1. Nancy Avatar

            🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Jon Way Avatar

    Good question SB,
    I am actually looking into it now. Baiting is currently legal for coyotes but not for any other animals (voters in 1996 made it illegal in MA for bears and bobcats but didn’t incl. coyotes on the list).

    There are restrictions from shooting within 500 ft in a residential area but I’m not sure about your own house (say you live in a dead end area with no other houses nearby). Obviously if it is not illegal (the double negative) they are skirting around the laws …. and I would estimate that half of the “coyotes” killed in my area are killed this way. Pretty sad and most people just look the other way… But I am looking into this with officials.

  11. Doryfun Avatar

    Happy 2012 all.

    I couldn’t find the general interest page for posts, so guess this topic is as good as any to put the following.

    Looking back over the past few days, weeks, etc. it seems this site has had a proponderance of persnicketiness bewteen various posters. As much as the subjects contained herein, are often higly controversial, and inspire heated passions, we all probably want pretty much the same thing: a healthy planet. In celebration of such, and in kicking off the new year, I offer the following:

    For some of the most amazing photography that helps bring forth the magic of this planet, get yourself a cup of something, sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy this youtube video. It is an award winning visual synopsis from Planet Earth, and is simply awesome. A real magic show of the best kind. A famous biologist once said: “Real magic in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic.” Such is the profound beauty of science.


    1. Nancy Avatar

      Thanks for the video Doryfun, Happy New Year!

      Found it fitting this morning that CBS’s Sunday Morning, ended their program with a short video clip of wolves in Yellowstone, on their minute of nature.

    2. Salle Avatar


      First, Thanks, I needed that. A great meditation for the first day of the new year.

      Second, this is a spectacular partial inventory of our brothers and sisters with whom we share the biosphere, who make it possible for us to survive and who deserve our respect.

      Happy New Year.

  12. Elk275 Avatar

    SEAACK Mossback

    ++Elk275 –
    If licenses are limited and you had to draw for a mountain lion tag, it sounds like maybe MTFWP has a different opinion about the balance between the cats and their food supply (deer) in that area than your outfitter? Or is there that much potential hunting pressure on the cats?++

    I just got back from a New Years in Red Lodge.

    Here is the way I understand it: At one time there was a quota and when the quota was reached the season was closed on 48 hours notice. Mountain Lion season traditionally opens on December 1st several days after the close of general big season. Outfitters immediately had their non-resident clients in the field and the quota was quickly reached. The resident hunters generally only hunt on the weekends due to work demands. Most if not all of the lion harvest was taken by non residents.

    The residents started to complain and in my district they went to a 30 tag draw with the season between 12/1 to 4/31. Under Montana law in any district on draw non residents are limited to 10% of the quota in this district 3 tags.

    Most residents draw a tag and only half pruchase a license which I have not yet done and very few hunt. The lion kill now is below the old quota. This is the reason that the outfitter is going to discount the hunt for residentss many times. He wants to increase the lion kill and continue lion hunting. Maybe Save Bears has more information.

    This is going to happen in Alaska with Dall sheep, the resident hunters are unhappy with the amount of sheep taken by guided hunters. I do not blame them.

  13. Nancy Avatar

    +Wildlife, as a human resource, has/have no rights+

    And that concept/statement, given what the human species knows about other species and their impact on OUR lives on this planet, doesn’t bother you just a “tad” bit Mark?

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

      Nancy –
      Does it bother me that given the value and importance that wildlife (animals) lend to our human lives – have no “rights” in nature or the fabric of human society? No, not in the least. That reality is simply the natural world we live in and the rules we have instituted to guide our societies.

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

        ….. Ralph, I’ll assume that you exagerate for the sake of making your point. None-the-less, should you be seriously suggesting that

        “We need to conserve more than deer, elk, and maybe one or two kinds of fish, waterfowl, and game bird. We all need a say in this.”

        accurately describes contemporary wildlife managment in Idaho or any other state of the country, please explain how you come to that conclusion.

        1. mikarooni Avatar

          I truly believe that Ralph’s comment does indeed accurately describe, at the very least, contemporary trout management, in Idaho and elsewhere. It is common knowledge among ethical wildlife agency personnel that the domesticated rainbows that almost every agency dumps so indiscriminately migrate throughout contiguous coldwater habitat and hybridize with and thus destroy the genetic integrity of remaining native cutthroat stocks. Yet, your agency continues to do it. And please don’t try to give us that old manure about stream barriers, stream barriers that aren’t maintained and either fail or are sabotaged within a few short years of their construction; it’s all just a game you play. You should be too ashamed to be posting your propaganda here.

          1. Doryfun Avatar

            As an aside to Mikarooni’s fish comments, in the last Winter 2012 issue of Conservation Magazine (published by Society of Conservatoin Biology) there is a story about how CA is doing an about face to their early practice of stocking high lakes artifically with rainbow trout. (the ripple effect it had on other species was grossely underestimated ecologically) So action now is for removal of rainbow in many high lakes of
            The other part of the story was about the impacts these new strategies had to businesses and people. So basically the agency is working on blueprints to balance aquatic biodrivesity with recreational fisheries with needs of native species.

            Any fisheries or wildlife mgt scheme is supposed to be grounded in data, seasoned with public comments, and determined finally by professionals hired to make those decisions. (sometimes they are contrained by handcuffs)

            For legal problems, we hire lawyers, who are versed in law. We hire surgeons, trained to cut on us. Thus, we hire biologist/ecologists, trained in their respective fields to manage natural resources. Sure politics gets in the way sometimes, and trying to satisfy public needs (who and how much is each special interest weighted or accommodated) will always be a huge challenge.

            Why is it that when it comes to fish and wildlife, everyone seems to be an expert?

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

            Mikarooni –
            You mistaken. No, Idaho does not jeapardize the genetic integrity of native trout species (this would be the three westslope, yellowstone and bonneville cutthroat trout) by stocking reproductively viable rainbow trout. Idaho has not stocked reporoductively viable rainbow trout for over a decade. The IDFG carefully evaluates the demand for fishing harvest opportunity, the risk of stocking hatchery fish, AND only stocked tripoloid hatchery rainbow trout in state waters, regardless of native trout habitation. This agency was the first to pioneer this fish management strategy to protect Idaho native trout populations. The IDFG also maintains one of, if not the, most extensive inventory of data on the genetic status and viability of native cutthroat trout populations under our management.

          3. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            The IDFG has also done a substantial amount of work with academic research staff and USFS staff to inventory alpine lakes for fish, amphibian and invertebrate communities to minimize risks of hatchery stocking programs to native species assemblages.

          4. Doryfun Avatar

            Thanks for the follow up. Glad to hear IDFG/USFS has been doing such work. It’s hard to be up on a lot of things these days, but I appreciate that IDFG has a rep (you) to anwswer questions on this blog. It may be like sticking your finger into a wall socket, sometimes, but I for one, anyway, appreciate your attendance here.

        2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Yes, Mark. I am exaggerating. I literally don’t mean 99%, but that figure has been raised in many issues to express how a small elite runs things in their own interest and the politicians and institutions cater to them.

          When it comes of the distribution of wealth in the United States the worst excess comes from not from the top 1%, but the top 0.1%. This is the multi (probably the centi-millionaires and richer). The six Walton (Walmart) heirs have as much wealth in total as the poorest 91-million Americans in total ranking from poorest to number 91,000,000 !!

          Similar disparities of privilege and power exists in other aspects of our life and access to and management of our wildlife is just one more such area. Here it is not so much wealth as it is the culture and connections of the livestock industry.

          As you know, I am VP of the Western Watersheds Project and one of our goals is to correct this grave and undemocratic imbalances that affects our wildlife, our water, our food supply, our access to the land and so on.

          I read you are having a wildlife summit in Sept. 2012. Will I be getting an invitation?

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

            Ralph –
            If you haven’t received the initial postcard announcement of the upcoming 2012 Idaho Wildlife Summit yet – I will be sure that you do within the week.
            I will emphasize here and in the future that ALL Idahoans are both welcome and desired to participate in the Wildlife Summit, which is only the first step in a long term dialog with Idaho wildlife stakeholders.

          2. JEFF E Avatar
            JEFF E

            “ALL Idahoans are both welcome and desired to participate in the Wildlife Summit”

            …which happens to fall on the same opening weekend of archery season.

            the ineptitude is staggering.

          3. WM Avatar

            ++the ineptitude is staggering.++

            Kind of like the WA Dept of Wildlife fall schedule for meetings on their wolf management plan. They were scheduled during deer and elk hunting season, and they would not mail out paper copies of their 450 page plan/EIS, assuming everyone had a computer and the $$ to print it. Yeah, ineptitude at its finest, or a cagey and conscious attempt to limit input.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    We can never settle whether animals have rights except if humans decide they do. So I guess that means they don’t in any practical sense. Our defective institutions have made certain groups lord and master of wildlife and people both.

    One thing we can settle or reverse is the fact that only a few interests, rather than the big majority of the people (I might say the 99%), are shut out of effective input when it comes of wildlife.

    We need to conserve more than deer, elk, and maybe one or two kinds of fish, waterfowl, and game bird. We all need a say in this.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Thank you Ralph. Some of us are fortunate enough to live in places that allow more of an opportunity to interact with other species to the point that its not hard at all to realize their daily lives, differ little from our daily lives.

      1. Rancher Bob Avatar
        Rancher Bob

        You must live a exciting life if your life differs little from wild animals. In the past week I’ve found a deer killed by lion and a young lion killed by another lion. Sure we kill each other but how many of us hunt each other daily. Wild animal life is quite different than American human life.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          Rancher Bob – you need to get out into the real world or watch the news more often. Humans, hunting & killing humans, especially in warn torn areas, is a daily occurance.

        2. william huard Avatar
          william huard

          Look for “Life experiences of Rancher BOB” in your local bookstore. Bob- will the first edition be a paperback?
          In the book Bob will share the “unique” view Ranchers have toward wildlife.

          1. Rancher Bob Avatar
            Rancher Bob

            I know you think you know ranchers but I enjoy all animals, it’s some humans I can do without. The first edition will be a comic not Disney but more graphic because that’s the wild animals I know all species consume other species and sometimes their own. I don’t live in yellowstone I live where humans are part of the ecosystem. I live where lions kill and eat deer and other lions, where wolves kill and eat deer and lions, and yes even man kills. It’s all good.

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

      Ralph –
      You and others, 99%??, do have a say in how public trust resources are managed. Your voice, if you choose to speak, is heard. HOW yours and others preference(s) are chosen for implementation is, I believe, the real issue you speak to. IS your voice representative of the needs, desires, expectations of Idahoans as a population of public trust stakeholders in Idaho – or Nancy’s in Montana?

      1. Salle Avatar

        IS your voice representative of the needs, desires, expectations of Idahoans as a population of public trust stakeholders in Idaho – or Nancy’s in Montana?

        Perhaps part of the problem is how that determination of representative voice is made and who makes it?

      2. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        “IS your voice representative of the needs, desires, expectations of Idahoans as a population of public trust stakeholders in Idaho – or Nancy’s in Montana?”

        Do you have data that says Ralph’s, Nancy’s and a multitude of other individuals voices are not representative?

        or are you just blowin smoke out your ass as usual?

        I here Clem callin for a water bucket, better hurry.

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

          Jeff E, Salle –
          Assessing representation is an important challenge. I asked the question, without asserting an answer. My question was, simply, does Ralph (or either or you) feel confident that your prefered wildlife managment prescriptions represent the consensus of desires of your respective states? It’s a question, nothing more.

      3. JB Avatar

        “HOW yours and others preference(s) are chosen for implementation is, I believe, the real issue you speak to. IS your voice representative of the needs, desires, expectations of Idahoans as a population…”

        One of the problems with this critique is that it assumes that there is a voice (i.e., a policy position) that is “representative of the needs, desires, expectations of [citizens of state X]”. There is not, and I do have data to show that! 😉 So the question becomes: how to devise policy with the knowledge that you will never please everyone.

        Looking at the data from Idaho’s recent mail survey, the IDF&G’s position seems to be that the majority rules. The Forest Service takes a different approach with its recreational planning–one that recognizes that some uses of natural resources negatively impact others. So, for example, ATVs are not allowed in the Wilderness, and forests are often “zoned” such that incompatible uses are separated (e.g., cross country skiing and snowmobiling). This approach allows for “minority” users to still get enjoyment out of Forests.

        My opinion: The “winner take all” approach to managing wolves is not tenable.

        1. WM Avatar

          ++My opinion: The “winner take all” approach to managing wolves is not tenable.++

          It seems the act of creating geographically defined zones for certain types of activities (snowmobiles/skiing/no ATV) is fairly easy, from defining who wants them to where they are laid out.

          Wolves on the other hand, move around, consume ungulates and reproduce at a phenomenal rate. I think the idea of majority rule is probably more applicable in this instance, for most places. That being said, it would not preclude defining some geographic area where wolves are left alone, for the most part unless the population gets too big for the prey base, and they start wondering out, or eating too many ungulates. Oh, wait, don’t we already have this situation in Yellowstone and the GYE? Could such areas be more numerous? Maybe. Let the people decide through their elected and appointed officials – majority rule, but with concessions for minority values.

          I would say if ID manages for about 400-500 wolves, rather than 150, that is a start.

          1. WM Avatar

            By the way, I prefer the ski & snowshoe only/no snowmobile areas, just for the record.

          2. JB Avatar

            “It seems the act of creating geographically defined zones for certain types of activities (snowmobiles/skiing/no ATV) is fairly easy…Wolves on the other hand, move around, consume ungulates and reproduce at a phenomenal rate.”

            Agreed, for the most part; however, I would argue that the only relevant difference from a planning perspective is scale. Wolves require thinking/planning on a larger scale than most species.

            “Could such areas be more numerous? Maybe. Let the people decide through their elected and appointed officials – majority rule, but with concessions for minority values.”

            That’s exactly what I was suggesting. The relevant question is HOW (i.e., via what process) elected and appointed officials make such policy determinations? The Forest Services increasingly uses a process called “Collaborative Learning”, as opposed to a typical, “top-down” agency-expert approach (or worse, a legislative approach).

          3. jon Avatar

            Mark, is IDFG investigating the 4 wolves illegally killed in the panhandle? Why are hunters allowed to kill wolves with collars on them?

          4. IDhiker Avatar


            “I would say if ID manages for about 400-500 wolves, rather than 150, that is a start.”

            We’re in total agreement here. I also agree with you that decisions should never be “majority rule,” but rather minority opinion should be given some representation also.

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

          It’s not a critique JB. As stated above, it’s only a question to better understand Ralph’s and others perspective and assumptions. I agree that a “winner take all” policy towards wildlife managment would not best serve the needs of stakeholders, nor would it best meet the responsibilities of government.

          1. JB Avatar

            Thanks for that clarification, Mark. I, for one, welcome Idaho’s attempts to be more inclusive when making wildlife policy. I sincerely hope that you are given the decision space to adapt policy accordingly.

      4. CodyCoyote Avatar

        MARK- when incoming GOP Governor Matt Mead began wrestling with the wolf issue here in Wyoming, he hired a specialist to be his personal liaison to the state. That person was a former director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Steve Ferrell. Maybe you know of him. Ferrell’s job was to coordinate Wyoming wolf policy and get everyone on the same page under the Governor’s initiative to break the legal logjam on wolves with respect to Wyoming’s contentious management plans. This began about the time of the Simpson-Tester Wolf Rider budget imbroglio of late 2010 ( seems like a century ago, doesn’t it).

        Immediately after Mead took office the firstw eek of January , a year ago, Ferrell began travelling the state representing the Governbor on wolves. Behind the scenes, Ed Bangs and his staff had drafted a plan to resolve Judge Molloy’s admonition on Wyoming not allowing wolves to propagate…the so called Flex Zone that opens a corridor into your Idaho from Wyoming for lone wolves to travel in the early winter. This was Ed Bangs’ swan song. Wyoming’s ridiculous Predator-Trophy bipolar plan remained largely intact.

        Ferrell organized 12 meetings statewide . The attendees at those meetings were state legislators, county officials, and those directly involved with the wolf issue. It is not clear to me how one got invited to Ferrell’s meetings, but the guest list was ” exclusive”.

        When the 10th meeting was happening in my town of Cody , in late March, an enterprising news reporter was tipped off about it. That was the VERY FIRST inkling that Wyoming folks had these meetings were happening at all. Ferrell conducted them behind closed doors, no notes or records, and the press would’ve been barred had they known.

        WHO attended these meetings , besides elected and appointed officials ? Pretty much the remaining places at the table were ranchers and wolf haters ; e.g. outfitters and elite hunting organizations. Tghe Cody meeting was heavbily populated with members of the local Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife chapter, which is stridently anti-wolf and leading the charge politically against wolves in Wyoming. As it turns out, the Cody meeting was not exceptional; Ferrell was meeting only with outside interests and stakeholders who were predisposed against wolves. period.

        Who was NOT at these meetings ? Environmentalists, genuine wildlife conservationists, and anyone representing nonconsumptive users of wildlife, or the General Public. They were purposely excluded. At the very last meeting, in Jackson Hole , after the subterfuge had been exposed, some greens and outside stakeholders not involved in ranching and hunting were in fact at the table. But by then, Wyoming’s plan was set in stone and the process was over. That last meeting was a throwaway. The Enviros were there as appeasement.

        The Wolf issue is by far the most strident political issue in Wyoming, the one generating the most interest, the most opinion , the most heat and the most friction.The one issue that everyone seems to have an opinion on or is betting on a dog in the fight. It has been thus and so for 15 years.

        Yet when our new Governor holds forums to discuss such a serious public policy as wolves, and hires a former Wyo G&F to facilitate and stagemanage these forums, but EXCLUDES a huge portion of the poublic and some very important stakeholders , what does that say ?

        And YOU are trying to tell us that people have some good input into wolf policy ? That when it comes to wildlife management , democracy is alive and well ? The 99 percent are actually stakeholders and have a say ?

        I don;t think it’s any better in Idaho than what happened overtly in Wyoming beginning a year ago. Wolf policy is plotted and ployed by special interests. In Wyoming. in Montana. And in your Idaho. With only token exceptions and a modicum of appeasement but a whole lotta rhetoric. QED.

        1. Salle Avatar

          “Ferrell organized 12 meetings statewide . The attendees at those meetings were state legislators, county officials, and those directly involved with the wolf issue. It is not clear to me how one got invited to Ferrell’s meetings, but the guest list was ” exclusive”.

          When the 10th meeting was happening in my town of Cody , in late March, an enterprising news reporter was tipped off about it. That was the VERY FIRST inkling that Wyoming folks had these meetings were happening at all. Ferrell conducted them behind closed doors, no notes or records, and the press would’ve been barred had they known.

          WHO attended these meetings , besides elected and appointed officials ? Pretty much the remaining places at the table were ranchers and wolf haters ; e.g. outfitters and elite hunting organizations. Tghe Cody meeting was heavbily populated with members of the local Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife chapter, which is stridently anti-wolf and leading the charge politically against wolves in Wyoming. As it turns out, the Cody meeting was not exceptional; Ferrell was meeting only with outside interests and stakeholders who were predisposed against wolves. period.”

          That’s exactly how it went/still goes down in Idaho… and after some significant squirming over the past several years in Montana… it’s kind of hard to tell when you cross a state line on that issue now-a-days.

  15. Rancher Bob Avatar
    Rancher Bob

    Yes, but you referred to your life as I did so do you kill for your food or is something going to kill you for food? If so you lead a interesting life.

  16. rork Avatar

    As a rank newbie, first my complements to the mostly polite and rational folks here – much better than any similar discussion I’ve encountered in Michigan, my home (but I’ve seen allot of western wildernesses).

    Beavers: I thought I had seen reports suggesting that we might expect wolves to knock down the beaver numbers rather than increase them, but can’t find that now. There are certainly several reports of wolves eating fairly many beavers in the great lakes area (scat studies). I was hoping that at least where I am, it might lead to a “wolves make trout” benefit. I realize what happens near the Lamar valley may not be the same as here. Generally I am a bit sad at not finding many reports of wolf effects from Michigan’s upper peninsula – I’ve been drooling over the prospects of how many unexpected things, both “good” and “bad” for various users, are happening. I think we don’t know squat, excepting ofcourse some of my fellow hunters, who, knowing that predators eat deer and turkeys, think they therefore know everything.

    My rights: I kill and eat allot of deer, but the ecosystem comes first. I fully expect to pay for wolves (bear, coyote) with deer, and may get less deer tags in future because of that. That will damage me economically, but I will accept that – maybe because the damage will not be so large, and I may win other benefits, but also cause I expect some winnings for others, some as yet not born. Others may conclude differently, if they are more harmed and less generous, cause its complicated.

    Aldo Leopold: “In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf.” Hope you’ve seen that bit of writing recently. It is my favorite story of his.


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

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Ralph Maughan