The Idaho Department of Fish and Game issued a press release this afternoon stating that in early February, USDA Wildlife Services killed 14 wolves from helicopters in the Lolo Zone. They say that it was done in an attempt to reduce predation on the elk herd.

The press release goes on to say that “[i]n the Lolo zone, hunters have taken 11 wolves, trappers have taken 11, control efforts earlier in spring 2011 took six, and the most recent control effort took 14 for a total of 42 wolves.” And “[t]he cost of the action is estimated at $22,500 in license funds.”

Elk have been in decline in the Lolo for decades due to changes in habitat, but it has only been in recent years that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has tried to implicate wolves as the reason that elk have not rebounded even though the forest canopy has continued to limit the amount of forage and open areas needed for good elk habitat.

About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

170 Responses to Idaho Department of Fish and Game Spends $22,500 to Kill 14 Wolves in the Lolo Zone

  1. Mike says:

    What a nightmare. I wonder how many other animals have suffered for their crazed behavior.

  2. Peter Kiermeir says:

    Is Mark Gamblin already preparing a sermon in defence of this airwar?

    • Salle says:


      Rest assured that Beetlejuice, I mean IDF&GMark will be here to add the agency spin in defense of their senseless killing spree, once again. That is, as soon as he feels he has enough bluster to withstand another session of scrutiny…

  3. somsai says:

    If you have any factual basis for the last sentence you should probably site it. Saying a government agency is attempting to “implicate” a species seems to point to a falsifying of data or other gross misconduct. By making such a serious allegation with absolutely no link or reference I have to assume it is you who are making false allegations.

    Welcome to the fact based community.

      • somsai says:

        Thanks. Reads like a well thought out scientific plan.

        In general Fish and Game Departments are staffed with the best in the business.

        • Mike says:

          That’s why many species were removed from their control…

          • somsai says:

            species were removed from their control? You mean they were listed as endangered I think, which automatically places them under federal control. A species they were managing?

            It seems people wait years and jump through hopps to get on with F+G. Those that do get on work all the time. Down here being a Fish and Game officer is extremely respected, and the entire department works together very closely, they have a lot of scientists on staff. I can’t imagine a F+G in the west not doing an outstanding job, it’s in their DNA.

          • Mike says:

            Yes, species are/were removed from their control all the time. States fail miserably at protecting the more difficult species. Hence, they don’t do a very good job.

          • Mike says:

            Mik –

            I think there’s a bit more than “hiring” of relatives going on over there in Idaho….

        • CodyCoyote says:

          somsai claims: “In general Fish and Game Departments are staffed with the best in the business. ”

          – not in Wyoming these days.

          Maybe a couple decades ago, but certainly not today. That , plus a civilian G&F Commission made up of political appointees, is why our game herds are so F#$@ed up in much of Wyoming.

          Wyoming manages simultaneously for politics and money , not ecology and what’s best for wildlife. Sorry to have to say it , but it’s true

          • mikarooni says:

            somsai also claims: “…it’s in their DNA” and that’s because they tend to hire their relatives.

    • John litt says:

      The one and only species to blame is the human animal. We are very limited in our ability to see the whole picture and very short-sighted when comes to finding the right solution. Often times the human agenda and money are the two factors considered. Just look around you and notice the environmental destruction our species has caused. It isn’t hard figure out where the problem lies. We are trying to control mother nature and it is not working.

  4. WM says:

    I suspect as much as anything IDFG believes the expenditure of $22K in killing wolves in the Lolo will come back to it, and the state generally, in the form of increased non-resident license/tag sale and the multiplier effect of money spent by the hunters in ID for goods and services. It is also a publicity campaign of saying, “see we are doing something about the wolves, increasing elk hunting/population where wolves are or would be.” IF they can generate another 15-20 non-resident license/tag sales state wide that would easily cover the expenditure.

    I bet somebody from IDFG is on the phone to MT GFP asking them to do something about the wolves coming in from MT to the Lolo to fill the territory void.

    And doing the math, 60 wolves out of the coombined Lolo game management units (which some vocal wolf advocates boldy said weren’t there in the first place – guess that assertion was not correct) means many of the elk those wolves were eating, apparently mostly calves, will grow to be big elk for hunter harvest, or to bear even more elk.

    • JB says:

      “…means many of the elk those wolves were eating, apparently mostly calves, will grow to be big elk for hunter harvest, or to bear even more elk.”

      Or killing those wolves might just make more space for their competitors–leaving a few more elk calves for the bears, coyotes, and cougars to pick off. (Of course, they could always break out the helicopters to remove some of these carnivores as well.) Seems like a lot of cost and effort all in the name of hunter opportunity…

      • WM says:

        ++…leaving a few more elk calves for the bears, coyotes, and cougars…++

        I think their past and present management prescriptions for some/all of the Lolo units call for at least bear and cougar number control measures (mostly expanded hunting seasons?), along with some habitat improvement, like controlled burns, which will benefit most wildlife in the long term, and increase wildlife diversity.

        • JB says:

          Well, we can agree that burns will benefit the grazers and the carnivores that feed on them–assuming IDF&G leave some of the latter alone.

          I don’t think the carnivore control actions benefit anyone except *maybe* elk hunters–and those benefits are debatable. Honestly, given the cost of an elk tag and the bad publicity, I don’t see how such actions are worth it (maybe if they only sell Lolo permits to non-residents?). 😉

          • Salle says:

            I think this benefits the political careers of many whack-jobs who are only in it for money and power over the lives of others with impunity, especially in the zealously bedazzled state of Idaho.

      • william huard says:

        Maybe MT can shoot the wolves with the use of helicopters or maybe use bazookas. If you kill wolves that kill elk only to then have hunters kill the elk you must be in Alaska…..No- you could also be in Idaho…….

        • WM says:


          You do realize there are no elk in Alaska, yes? (except for two very specific locations where they have been transplanted 90 years ago, one being Afogonak Is.)

          I get the analogy, though. Perhaps you were thinking of moose in AK. And, killing a predator or any other animal/plant is often done in the field of wildlife management or agriculture. If you think about it, every field of corn, radishes, lettuce, or grass for livestock was once some form of native vegetation. We manage the environment, for better or worse, for human habitation and benefit. Think about that next time you pull out the can of Raid to snuff out that colony of ants in your house, or wasp nest in the eave of your roof.

          • william huard says:

            You get my analogy. My head is spinning from this wolf slaughter to satisfy hunters and ranchers. It’s not right.

          • william huard says:

            And it’s dishonest. The premise that wolves decimate ungulate populations and wreak havoc on livestock have been proven false.

          • Elk275 says:


            Forty two wolves have been killed in the Lolo zone. A wolf eats approximately 20 elk a year or the equivalent poundage of ungulates. Therefore, theoretically 840 elk or its equivalent should have killed by those 42 wolves. That is a lot of elk or deer and moose. Whether one likes it or not, the hunters, landowners and outfitters (which I dislike) run the state fish and game departments in the Northern Rockies. The state game departments are not running a balance eco system, never has, but is managing for the maximum amount of elk that a management unit can support with the surplus ungulates killed by hunters each year. One can call it animal husbandry or elk farming but that is what the majority of the state populous wants, maximum hunting opportunities. Predators will be managed accordingly. Learn to live with it.

      • Salle says: opportunity that, apparently, needs to be created at the expense of ecological concerns.

        • william huard says:

          We live in a time where facts are always trumped for political gain

        • Mike says:

          $10 a gallon gas. That’s what is going to change this Motors ‘n Guns Carnival of Stupidity.

          • william huard says:

            Nothing will change Mike until we take wildlife management away from politicians, the hunters and ranching special interests and put the reponsibility with biologists and fish and game depts with the goal of healthy ecosystems not dead animals and happy hunters

          • Elk275 says:

            $10 a gallon gas is going to change Mike everyone else on this forum and not for the good.


            ++Nothing will change Mike until we take wildlife management away from politicians, the hunters and ranching special interests and put the reponsibility with biologists and fish and game depts with the goal of healthy ecosystems not dead animals and happy hunters++

            In your dreams William, if it could happen, it would have happen by now.

          • Mike says:

            Elk –

            in the end, that change is going to be necessary for everyone.

          • Mike says:

            William –

            Check out this new Mark Fiore video called “Dominion”. It goes into the whole Santorum “we own the earth” nonsense:


          • william huard says:

            Hilarious. These “flat earthers” are a riot. At least Santorum does not disguise how much of a lunatic he is. Too bad Kasich, Walker, and the Rick Scott types weren’t as honest about their intentions before they were elected. Chances are they wouldn’t have been elected….I guess they knew that huh.
            They’re not embarrassed.

          • Daniel Berg says:

            Santorum made a play to attract social conservatives because it was the only way he could gain any momentum.

            He’s made some comments that are flat out bizarre. He’s unelectable and these primaries are shedding light on the gaping wound that has developed between republicans who consider their highest political priorities to be either social or fiscal in nature. In my opinion, social conservatives seem to be the more anti-environment of the two groups. With social conservatives, it has actually turned into a social value to be anti-environment.

          • william huard says:

            The secret service better be on their game. The flat earth party knows they are in trouble. I wouldn’t put it past them to try to kill Obama. It’s happened before. I was stunned when the Gop audience booed when the birth control question came up. As if the public doesn’t have the right to know what these airheads have for positions on these issues!!!!!

    • Mike says:


  5. I would like to know how much of the $22,000 used to kill these wolves came from non-game monies derived from the sale of Bluebird/Elk/Trout license plates.
    I would suggesst that all buyers of those plates follow my lead and stop buying them. I stopped 10 years ago after observing a IDFG game warden shoot a Black Bear yearling off of an open dumpster at the Burgdorf Junction. He dumped the carcass on the bank of the Secesh River.

    • WM says:


      What would YOU have done in this warden’s place with a food conditioned yearling bear, and then if it involved a lethal control, what would YOU have done with the carcass?

      And, while you ponder something like a relocation of the bear to some remote area, maybe at substantial cost, I can tell you from personal experience they often come back to where the meals are easy, seek out new opportunities based on the smell if they can, and then get in trouble again. And, yeah I think it is a sad ending for the bear; prevention would have been the better course, but the warden apparently didn’t enter the matter until after the fact. So stopping the license plate purchase doesn’t seem to have a nexus, unless the warden could have stopped the dumpster diving.

      And, doesn’t IDFG segregate its hunting/fishing license revenue streams/expenditures from the non-game species wildlife vehicle license plate purchases? The answer to your question seems like a no brainer to me.

      • WM-
        Oh great Guru WM. Afraid to post using your real name? Sheep man JC called you and others like you cowards. I have to agree. You and others like you should post as NB (No Balls).

        • Jeremy Bruskotter says:

          I too would like to know what you would have done with a food-conditioned bear, Larry? And while you’re at it, perhaps you could enlighten us on how your not purchasing a non-game plate actually helps prevent food-conditioned bears from getting shot?

          • Mike says:

            A yearling bear can be tranqued and removed from the area. If Idaho can spend 22k shooting a few wolves, they can spend a few $ moving a bear. But again, it’s easier for simpler folk to press the magic trigger and make complicated thing go bye-bye.

          • Jeremy Bruskotter says:


            Food-conditioning is by far the most common form of conflict with bears, and it has been implicated in numerous attacks.

            So you would move a food-conditioned yearling bear into already occupied, unfamiliar territory? Recall that Idaho has ~20,000 black bears.

          • Mike says:

            I understand how this all works. It’s not rocket science, although some people act like it is.

            It’s possible the young bear could’ve changed its ways. I’ve seen that first hand in the rockies with several bears. It’s possible the bear could’ve been sent to a zoo.

            Shooting and killing another life form is always the easiest, laziest way to “solve” a problem.

          • JB says:


            You might be surprised to learn that a recent study found 75% of state agencies relocate problem bears. However, only 15% believed that relocation was an effective tool. So why do it if it isn’t effective? Almost half of agency representatives “indicated that ‘public pressure’ was the primary reason for relocation; others (41%) had a 3-strike policy.

            Well, we can agree that shooting bears is easier and cheaper too. However, it is also more effective–if your goal is to remove the source of conflict. In Idaho, with 20,000 bears, you can imagine why they would put public safety ahead of the bears. Here in Ohio, with only ~100 bears, they would take a different tact. It’s about weighing the potential costs and benefits–which requires one to be able to see all those wonderful shades of gray between the black and white.

            Source: Ursus 18(2):217–229 (2007)

          • Mike says:

            I’m stil waiting for the day when you advocate for an animals welfare, JB.

          • JB says:


            I have and will continue to advocate for wildlife populations and wild places. I also am happy to advocate for animal welfare (for my own part, I’ll spend close to $1,000 on a sick cat for the second time in my life this week). However, if you’re waiting to see me put an individual animal ahead of human safety, then I’m afraid you’ll wait a long, long time.

        • WM says:


          And you would need my name for exactly what reason?

          Even Samuel Clemons had a nom de plum.

        • Daniel Berg says:


          What’s worse, using a pseudonym, or posting links & trying to peddle your wolf plates? Perhaps you’d like to use this as another opportunity to boast about how lucrative that endeavor has been for you? As an aside, they are nice photos.

          I get the pseudonym thing. Some of these guys are/were professionals and have valid reasons for wanting to share valuable information, experience, and opinions, but not wanting to float their name out for all the world to see. For some it might be a safety issue.

          Neither you or I have that kind of skin in the game. Pseudonyms have been used for valid reasons since the inception of this country.

          It’s an interesting observation that I see the accusation of cowardice made on the internet much more often than I hear it made in everyday life.

      • Mike says:

        Funny how you have no problem with “substantial costs” when it comes to killing things (Lolo wolves), but we should avoid costs when it comes to keeping them alive.

    • Mike says:

      It’s always easier to shoot things. Many simpler folk don’t understand that. To them, problems dun go ‘way when the gun comes out.

  6. IDhiker says:

    If IDFG is correct, and after killing this many wolves, then in the next few years we should see a big rebound in elk numbers on the Lolo. Time will tell…

  7. Dan says:

    How did they kill that many wolves so cheaply? Only 22K? Wow!

    Assuming a hunter spends about $1000 in Idaho per hunting trip (conservative numbers based on USFS studies) and these simplified numbers only assume 1 trip per hunter.

    In 2003 1537 hunters harvested 276 elk in the Lolo making each elk harvested worth about 5500 to Idaho’s economy

    In 2010 895 hunters harvested 124 elk in the Lolo making each elk harvested worth about 7200 to Idaho’s economy

    Averaging 2003 and 2010 makes each harvested elk worth about 6000.

    It’s generally accepted a wolf requires about 10 elk/year.

    Taking 14 wolves out eliminates the need of 140 elk for those wolves in the first year alone.

    About 8% of the elk population is harvested annually by hunters so out of the 140 elk not going to wolves the first year about 11 would be available for harvest.

    11 * 6000 = $66,000 more dollars contributed to Idaho’s economy the first year alone. For 22K that is an awesome ROI.

  8. CodyCoyote says:

    That’s actually roetty cheap. The last time I checked a Wyoming state predator control budget, they spent nearly $ 1000 .00 per coyote , allt hings considered.

    Wildlife Services was trying to eradicate a pair of dispersed uncollared wolves in the Big Horn Mountains about three years ago that had hit some untended sheep flocks. They spent months and got off no shots, but burned thru a lot of money doing it. Ditto the two dispersed uncollared wolves in central Wyoming west of Casper way out in the Sweetwater Rim country away from any other concentration of wolves or packs .The pursuit of those two likewise cost the taxpayer a small fortune.

    Bottom Line: without radio collars to home in on , chasing down wolves with the intent of eradicating them can run up a big bill in very little time. For what ?

    Wyoming already loses money on its elk hunting, at least when you consider the license fees cover only 2/3rds the cost of managing the elk hunting program , which requires subsidies from other Game & Fish revenue streams. Only one big game species in Wyoming covers its own costs with license tags, that being Pronghorn. I really get tired of hearing how hunters are paying for game conservation for all of us, when in fact they can’t even cover the costs to the public of the hunts themselves.

    In the meantime, wolf ” control” has proven in nearly every case to be a cost that exceeds any implied or proven damage from said wolves , in terms of overall populations of predators and prey — but not necessarily so in a particular microcosm conservation area , such as a particular tributary or distinct game subherd.) Problems arise when trying to extrapolate ( read : exaggerate ) the impacts a few wolves might have on a small herd unit or a few cattle and make a case over a much larger region or generalize the circumstances. That expansion model fails rather quickly.

  9. Valerie Bittner says:

    Just WHO is the federal point man (or woman) who has replaced Ed Bangs monitoring “recovery” and (I say this with a great deal of cynicism) “genetic diversity”, as pack structures are randomly ripper apart, for the requisite five-year post-delisting period?

    Would be very helpful to know for my law review/journalistic research.


    • Salle says:


      I am not certain and now that you ask I feel I need to investigate. It may be that since Ed was the program leader for the NRM DPS and they have become delisted, it’s possible that, like MT did with Carolyn Sime’s job, they just eliminated it. The USFWS did that with Bud DeFazio’s job in NM…

      I’ll be back.

  10. Valerie Bittner says:


    Thanks! Much appreciated. If your are correct, then there must be a state agent in order to carry out the ESA post-delisting monitoring and this agreement must be in writing. But in the Alice-In-Wonderland world of Idaho enviro-politics, who knows. Maybe Mark Gamblin could help us secure the answer.

    Best regards,


  11. Immer Treue says:

    I mean this with nothing but respect, but with the hubub in both Idaho and Wisconsin, both Mark Gamblin and ma’iingan have been conspicuously absent from this forum as of late. I’d really like to hear what they have to say on both matters, as both are so close to the issue at hand. Whether we agree, or disagree with their opinions/takes on what is happening, I hope a certain amount of respect is given to them, in particular with that they will undoubtedly be caught between “someones” rock and a hard place.

  12. They should have the money deducted from their pay checks, or raise the price of an Elk tag to $500.- until it’s paid off. They’re serial killers who shouldn’t be employed in government. Everyone who eats Elk should have the same punishment as the wolves had. Why the double standard??

  13. Mary Branch says:

    I do not understand this type of legislation or practice from a “wildlife” department, an arm of the government. I understand these killings were on a national forest which is even more disgusting. Our tax dollars are going to support these “departments” as well as our national parks. Then, they spend that money to pollute and disrupt the very land we support as a national park. This delisting has been bad. It has allowed these states, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, to create gruesome bills for big game hunting. Live bait traps? Aerial hunting? All against one species that has BARELY recovered from near extinction due to this very type of slaughter. Denning season is approaching for crying out loud! Some of these wolves might have been pregnant. Good job Idaho! I sincerely question the compassion, soundness and sanity of this action. I am outraged.

  14. Justin says:

    people go to and learn howmany have been murdered by the same people, the number recently was over 480 wolves killed since november10 of 2011

  15. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    Ken, all –
    I’ve been on the road this week, just now catching up. I’ll try to be brief, point out what should be obvious. First, the summary of this thread lead-in, repeats a couple of mis-characterizations that refuse to go away.
    1) “Elk have been in decline in the Lolo for decades due to changes in habitat…”

    Partially correct, but misleading in a very imortant way: Yes, elk habitat has been senescing since the great fires of the early 20th century. The IDFG and USFS documented the decline of forest and elk population productivity for years. After the 1997-98 winter kill, elk calf predation bottle-neck created by bears and lions and subsequent arrival and predation bottle-neck caused by wolves – the most important limiting factor for elk survival, production and recruitment is …. wolves – NOT habitat.
    2) “… it has only been in recent years that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has tried to implicate wolves as the reason that elk have not rebounded even though the forest canopy has continued to limit the amount of forage and open areas needed for good elk habitat.”

    This is a factually incorrect statement. Wolves are clearly limiting elk production and recruitment and therefor elk numbers well below the productive potential of CURRENT, EXISTING HABITAT. The Department has consistently described the current Lolo Zone elk population dilema as a contemporary elk production/recruitment bottle-neck caused by wolf predation holding elk numbers below the potential of the habitat – TODAY. The IDFG has been clear that elk production will not return to the levels seen at peak habitat productive capacity – until habitat regains that historical level of productivity.

    Hyperbolic invectives describing a pogrom to “eradicate” wolves from within the Idaho border NOT WITHSTANDING, this removal of wolves in the Lolo Zone was a measured action to sustain a reduction of the Lolo Zone wolf population, adequate to allow the elk population to increase within the potential of CURRENT, EXISTING elk habitat to support.
    I hope that this will quell the silly argument that somehow, the low success of wolf hunters and trappers in the Lolo Zone was somehow evidence of very low numbers of resident wolves, despite the well documented and verified MINIMUM estimates of wolf packs and overall wolf numbers in the Lolo Zone. It should now be obvious to ALL that the early, low success of wolf hunters was not evidence of substantially fewer wolves that the CONSERVATIVE IDFG wolf population estimates.
    The IDFG will continue to closely monitor the wolf population and elk population in the Lolo Zone (and other key geographical portions of Idaho). The strong and ROBUST Idaho wolf population is not threated by these management actions. It will continue to thrive as a stable and viable population for the forseeable future, albeit managed and controlled closely to balance the diverse needs and desires of Idahohoans for our wildlife trust resource.
    The IDFG is equally committed to improving elk production, recruitment, abundance and elk hunting opportunity in the Lolo Zone, Sawtooth Zone and any other geographical manaagement areas where wolf predation is substantially limiting elk numbers.

    • william huard says:

      There he goes again with the strong and robust wolf population…..Good grief. I bet he can say it with a straight face

    • Jon Way says:

      To gain credibility Mark,
      I assume that IDFG is going to collect data and submit the supposed benefits of killing wolves to peer reviewed journals. Or is it just a killing contest with potential benefits…

      Also, please, please stop using the term “robust” wolf population. It infuriates many in the context that IDFG wants to limit its wolf population to minimal levels yet you call them robust. Furthermore, it makes many of your valid arguments a non-starter for many folks after reading that…

      • Ken Cole says:


        There are a lot of things you have left out of your defense of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s actions and rationale for them.

        First, maybe I should admit that I was lazy in trying to explain what I think is horribly wrong with what the Idaho Department of Fish and Game did in the Lolo.

        One of the big questions I have that has still not been answered is one about habitat and the Lolo. I believe, and documents that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has removed from their website seemed to say, that there are specific qualities about the structure of habitat that make elk more vulnerable to predation now that the area has reverted back to a state of maturity that existed before the great fires in the area. We all know that elk can persist in a continuum of different types of habitat, from arid landscapes, to grasslands, patchy forests, to, as in this case, dense forests with a closed canopy. Within that continuum, all other things like predators aside, there are habitats where elk thrive and the habitat is at an optimum. Again, all other things like predators aside, I dare say that habitat like that of the Lolo is not even close to optimum and more likely should be classified as marginal.

        When you factor in predators, this habitat becomes even more marginal because it makes the elk more vulnerable to predation, a natural and predictable part of an ecosystem. As we all know, elk calves are very vulnerable to bear predation. We also know that bears are onmivores and can maintain healthy populations in these types of areas without requiring healthy populations of elk but, since they are good at seeking out very young calves, can take a big proportion of an elk crop during its first few months. I also presume, but have no real basis for this, that, because the structure of vegetation – such that elk would have a more difficult time detecting bears and other predators until it is too late- that bears might actually be more successful and end up taking a higher proportion of elk calves than in other, more open situations. I imagine this situation alone could lead to declines in elk populations in the Lolo.

        Next, let’s factor in cougars. Cougars hunt differently than both bears and elk. Since cougars tend to be more of an ambush predator, with greater complexity to the vegetation, they might benefit from the habitat conditions in the Lolo.

        Finally, let’s add wolves to the equation. Wolves are coursing predators that tend to openly test their prey and try to find the weaker individuals when they can. When we evaluate the habitat in the Lolo zone, I think it might be safe to assume that it is marginal at best. Forage conditions are not optimum and winter habitat is virtually non-existent. A situation like this seems likely to play a role in the health of the remaining elk there. When elk are not in their prime they become more vulnerable to predation of all sorts but particularly that of wolves.

        When you combine all of these factors in an area that is marginal habitat I think you are misguided in blaming the poor recovery of elk primarily on wolves. Yes, wolves play a part in that but, really, the underlying problem is still that it is marginal habitat that makes elk vulnerable to all kinds of forces.

        I don’t think that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is going to see any significant recovery now that there have been so many wolves taken in the Lolo because the underlying habitat issues have not been addressed or honestly acknowledged.

        There is a long list of other problems that I have with the Lolo wolf killing that I won’t expound upon here but I think that it sets up a paradigm that elk have a higher value than any other values on our public lands. And, I don’t think that the Department has been honest in it rationale for this program. I think it is bending to political pressure to do something even though there really isn’t anything that can be done short of burning down the forests again even though that is unacceptable too.

        The Lolo is not good elk habitat. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game should accept it and move on.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          Ken –
          Your hypothesis for the relationship between habitat change, elk security cover and predation mortality is reasonable and could have merit. It would, however, require investigation to know if the relationship exists and if so, how that would/should relate to wolf and elk management priorities and strategies.
          Let’s assume the relationship is there. HOW should that affect mangagement priorities and strategies? Ultimately – wolf, then bear, then lion predation remains the most important limiting factors for elk production and recruitment. The habitat/secrurity variable represents a compounding factor for the predation mortality variable. Until habitat improves (most likely through fire), predation will remain the most important factor limiting elk numbers – significantly below the capacity of elk habitat (forage, thermal cover, etc.). Important public wildlife values and wildlife management preferences for the Lolo Zone will not be addressed by simply acctepting that “The Lolo is not good elk habitat” and moving on.

        • Salle says:

          Good response, Ken. I’m with you on these points entirely.

        • Dan says:

          The Bitterroots are marginal habitat for elk and elk have a higher value than wolves – DUH!!!! I’ve been saying this for years and have asked over and over that this being the case, Why do we need wolves?!
          If it’s marginal for elk then it’s marginal for wolves is exactly my point! Which lends to the question who is the idiot that thought wolves and elk would be a good mix in the Bitterroots!

          The Department is taking the right course of action – eliminate the wolves!

          Yellowstone – Now there’s a place tailor made (by humans of course) for wolves!

          • Jon Way says:

            Why is Yellowstone tailor made for wolves – because other humans than just hunters have a say in how wildlife is managed and therefore they appreciate all species on a landscape?

            On a different note: One thing that always amazes me when I visit Yellowstone is that, given that elk populations have been reduced by a number of factors (incl. wolves) – is just how many elk I still see… I am too young to remember how many elk used to be there (pre – early 1990s) but I know now that there are still plenty around…

            • Dan says:

              It’s tailor made because Yellowstone can sustain a top rung super predator to the delight of human observers.

          • Justin says:

            We need wolves for the ecosystem. Then the elk numbers will not increase so high that they cannot stay in their habitats, and also the numbers are at record high. You hate wolves and that is that.
            For the wolves and all who love them,

      • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

        Jon –
        My earlier emphasis on continued, close monitoring of both wolf and elk populations was to emphasize assessment of managment prescriptions. I can’t say if additional peer reviewed publications on Lolo Zone elk predation interactions will be prepared or not. The monitoring data and staff assessments will be public records available for indenpendent review.
        Jon and William – Yes, I understand that the term ROBUST, applied to the population status of the Idaho wolf population, engenders disapproval by many here. My use of the term isn’t to goad, it is to remind everyone that the term – ROBUST – has a specific, technical connotation for animal populations: that a population is sufficiently abundant and diverse to withstand environmental challenges and other stresses to the population, such that it can be confidently expected to persist into the forseeable future …… PRECISELY the current and future status of the Idaho (and NRMR) wolf population.

        • william huard says:


          Just say that Idaho will maintain a population of 151 wolves because the Feds require us too. We ALL know you really don’t want any wolves in Idaho Mark, and that it makes you feel better about yourselves to have the power to kill wolves by snare, trap, helicopter, and other creative ways not yet employed. You are killing wolves through denning seasons which only proves your state has no sense of decency

          • Mike says:

            William –

            I am very sad to see what this blog has become. At one point, this was a great meeting place for those passionate about wildlife. Now it has become a propaganda springboard for predator’s haters. It’s a shame. I can’t see myself spending much time here anymore. “The Wildlife News” is becoming like all those other anti-wildlife sites with guys talking about “sharpenin’ their aim” on prairie dogs, etc.

            Sad to see it’s come to this.Every day that Gamblin and his ilk are allowed to come on this forum and preach their wolf-extermination ignorance is another loss for wildlife and for those who truly love the outdoors.

          • WM says:


            ++I can’t see myself spending much time here anymore. ++

            Promise? Don’t let the keyboard hit you in the butt on the way out. And, take william (who really needs a timeout after a couple of his last posts) with you.

          • JB says:


            Too often, we let the people who have the most “extreme” views define how issues are discussed. I was attracted to this site because I saw intelligent people making arguments that were not ideological–but quite rational. In fact, this is one of the few places people can have logical, well-reasoned discussions about wildlife without resorting to name calling (at least most of the time). From my perspective, it is a shame that you (and a few others) cannot seem to see the value in this type of discussion and debate. Yeah, the extremes often define how issues are framed, but it is the people in the middle who decide which way the policy pendulum swings.

        • Mike says:

          There’s nothing “precise” about the term “robust”.

          You’re not talking to fellow Idahoans at the local food mart, Gamblin.

          • Mike says:

            JB –

            I see the value in such discussions. But you reach a certain point (such as Obama during the health care issue where he lost control of his presidency) where when you try and be everyone’s friend, and they’re laughing at you behind closed doors and defeating you.

            Don’t confuse calm discussion with good discussion. Nothing has been resolved here. No consensus has been met, nor will it ever be. What has happened though is that anti-predator groups use Wildlife News as a platform to further an eradication agenda.

            Gamblin is not having a discussion. He’s simply repeating platitudes.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Mike –
            You seem to be mixing definitions, but correct that precision has nothing to do with robustness. That said, the definition I offered for the term, is fairly precise: resilience, ability to withstand environmental and other stresses, etc….

        • Jon Way says:

          Thanks Mark…
          Please just state that without using the term robust. Your point will be made without the unnecessary addition of a subjective quote into a very debatable population figure.

        • Jon Way says:

          By the way Mark,
          My definition of robust would be for a species (wolves in this case) to establish populations/packs throughout the landscape and live at ecological carrying capacity which would probably be 2000-3000 wolves in ID alone. That is why I personally dislike your use of the term for how IDFG is managing them. While I agree with you that IDFG won’t let them go below 151 wolves (even though you never give us a reasonable pop. estimate) our definitions of robust are dramatically diff’t.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Jon –
            You offer a curious personal definition of the term that is at odds with it’s conventional use in the field of wildlife science. Carrying capacity? How exactly would you determine where the Idaho wolf population is – on a stock-recruitment curve and more to the point HOW does K relate at all to the conventional use of the term – resilience, stability …… environmental/reproductive/genetic fitness? It doesn’t.
            The term robust does not describe HOW wolves are managed in Idaho. It does provide a measure success for the Idaho management plan — a resilient wolf population with fitness to maintain stability within the stochastic range of environmental stresses and to maintain reproductive and genetic fitness.
            If the Idaho wolf population plan maintains a stable and viable wolf population for the forseeable future, within the range of variable environmental stresses, with reproductive and genetic fitness, regardless of population density or it’s stock/recruitment relationship – then the wolf population will be, by definition …… ROBUST.

          • Jon Way says:

            That is your definition Mark. Remember it is the business of state game agencies to manage everything. I find it curious that your robust definition is basically the same for ID as for relatively small Yellowstone – there I would describe they have a robust population (100-150 in an area much smaller than ID). I define robust in terms of ecological effectiveness and it is more than clear that ID goal is to manage wolves so they are virtually ecologically ineffective (minimizing predation, etc). I personally don’t buy “your accepted” definition of robust like I said at the outset of this discussion.

          • Jon Way says:

            PS – of course we will never know what the carrying capacity of the wolf pop in ID is b.c of intense “harvesting”. So I don’t know what that is. I took an educated guess earlier based on habitat occupancy. By the way, I would accept the 3 NRM states as a robust population of between 1500-2000 – which is what it was when they came off ESA listing. Of course, the goals of those states is to have less and minimize their ecological effectiveness as described earlier…

          • WM says:

            This discussion is yet another example of a continuum. The term “robust” as used by Mark G., as I understand it, is to describe a wolf population which is sufficiently genetically diverse, and sufficiently numerous in an NRM metapopulation to continue to safely protect the species (albiet at minimum levels with a +50% safety margin) for the purpose of meeting the legal requirement of the ESA as determined by the FWS, and affirmed the sitting US Congress and President.

            That is all ID, MT, WY, and for that matter the WGL states signed up for, and apparently all they want as represented through their respective duly elected state goverments.

            So, Jon Way, while your is an interesting query, it makes little difference what your desired definition of robust is from a legal perspective, especially when you couch it in terms of carrying capacity, which is at the other end of the continuum.

    • Salle says:


      “Partially correct, but misleading in a very important way: Yes, elk habitat has been senescing since the great fires of the early 20th century. The IDFG and USFS documented the decline of forest and elk population productivity for years. After the 1997-98 winter kill, elk calf predation bottle-neck created by bears and lions and subsequent arrival and predation bottle-neck caused by wolves – the most important limiting factor for elk survival, production and recruitment is …. wolves – NOT habitat.

      Citations, please. (Because I think this is absolute BS).

      “This is a factually incorrect statement. Wolves are clearly limiting elk production and recruitment and therefor elk numbers well below the productive potential of CURRENT, EXISTING HABITAT. The Department has consistently described the current Lolo Zone elk population dilema as a contemporary elk production/recruitment bottle-neck caused by wolf predation holding elk numbers below the potential of the habitat – TODAY. The IDFG has been clear that elk production will not return to the levels seen at peak habitat productive capacity – until habitat regains that historical level of productivity.”

      Yes, and therein lies the rub… the “know it all” IDF$G has determined that wolves are the devil and that anything indicating otherwise is just wrong. So where are the citations for this official determination? I think that you guys wouldn’t admit it if the sun started obviously rise in the west because it is beyond your myopic core beliefs that wolves are the evil component that keeps elk from inhabiting unsuitable habitat that for decades has been ninhabitable for elk… long before the arrival of wolves.

      What I see here is a determined effort to scapegoat all lack of hunting success to wolves because the hunting community finds them easier to blame than their own hunting practices and the lack of elk in the hunting unit to begin with. I wonder just how there was some magical indication, other than invective posited at a specific species that was not a problem for the elk in the past has now suddenly been a contributor to the lack of elk in a habitat that doesn’t support them in the first place. Gosh I wonder what the poaching community’s impact is in that zone.

      Wildlife will migrate to where the food is. If there aren’t many elk in that zone because there isn’t adequate food supply to sustain them, it would naturally follow that you aren’t going to find the wolves that y’all claim ate them. You guys sound like the wolves eat elk like potato chips and that they can’t just eat the number you recommend… so you have to kill them, of course.

      Give me a break… and some citations to back these silly claims you harp on all the time… because I find your comments disingenuous at best and outright propaganda (state sanctioned lies) otherwise.

  16. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    William –
    You repeated another mischaracterization – with respect to Idaho wolf management population objectives. No…. the IDFG does not propose to reduce the Idaho wolf population to 150 wolves or 15 breeding pairs, as explained numerous times on this blog and in press releases and other public venues – under the Idaho Wolf Management Plan, wolves are being managed to achieve a population size significantly ABOVE 150/15BP, to ensure that the Idaho wolf population will not to or below that listing/de-listing criterion. Doing so commits the Idaho wolf mangement program to an additional level of secrurity that ensures long term persistence of a stable, ……. wolf population for the benefit of society.

  17. Paul says:


    So I take it that you view the live bait bill as not being another threat to the wolves? How many other species are allowed to me hunted/trapped with no quotas for close to year? How many other species are assaulted from the air as if they were Al Qaeda? You call this “robust” and “sustainable?” What species can withstand that pressure year in and year out? Over 300 wolves have been killed in your state with months more to go. That total does not even include poachers, and the WS assassins. I understand that you have a job to do, and are answerable to the livestock barons that run your state, but come on. If your state was truly committed to maintaining more that a token population of wolves it would not allow the killing of them during breeding and denning times. Even the bastards in Wisconsin plan on giving the wolves a break during the denning season. If you really believe the propaganda that you are feeding us then I pity you. What your state is allowing is shameful, and I hope that it backfires in every way imaginable as more word of this gets out.

    • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

      Paul –
      The legislation you refer to is a proposed bill that we don’t have an outcome for yet. If it becomes law, Idaho wolf management objectives will not change. The Idaho wolf population will not be jeapardized. The ESA remains the law of the land. Idaho will manage this wolf population within the criteria established to ensure a stable, viable wolf population.

      “What species can withstand that pressure year in and year out?”

      Wolves can easily sustain this level of mortality – year in and year out – without jeapardizing sustainability, viability or any other measure of population persistence. The total population off-take this production year will almost certainly be less than 50% of the true population. Again, the population estimates provided by the IDFG are conservative – MINIMUM – estimates of the true total population. A sustained total mortality rate of over 50% is necessary to affect a permanent reduction in a wolf population.
      Philosophical disagreement with, distress over – this wolf management plan and these management actions is not evidence of a threat to the Idaho wolf population misrepresentation of the desires and interests of the Idaho public.

      • Salle says:

        “The legislation you refer to is a proposed bill that we don’t have an outcome for yet. If it becomes law, Idaho wolf management objectives will not change. The Idaho wolf population will not be jeapardized.”

        B f’ing S, IDF$GMark!!! And you call yourself a biologist.

        I agree with Paul, you are so full of the propaganda you spew that it’s hard to even read you sickening misinterpretations anymore.

        • Savebears says:

          Got up on the wrong side of the bed Salle?

          • Salle says:

            Nope. Just tired of the BS that this Otter schill continues to spew.

            The more he makes these state sanctioned tirades of BS the more I feel compelled to challenge him on it… because it is BS, pure and simple. Apparently science and dogma don’t intersect at any point.

          • WM says:

            …either that or maybe too much coffee.

          • Salle says:

            The caffeine level isn’t a factor, nor is the time of day… It’s a matter of misinformation coming from a state agency in order to promote/justify a dogmatic ideal that eschews science for ideology.

          • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

            Salle –
            “a dogmatic ideal that eschews science for ideology” This could be a starting point for a reasoned discussion. Can you rationally explain what you mean by that? What is the dogmatic ideal you refer to and how does it eschew science for ideolgy?

          • Elk275 says:

            Salle –

            “a dogmatic ideal that eschews science for ideology”

            It is science Salle. Predators kill and eat ungulates, the less ungulates, the less hunting opportunities. The more predators the less ungulates until the prey population comes into whatever balance that today’s ecosystem will allow i.e. roads, cities and towns, agricultural interests, mines and other infrastructure that disallows a Pre Columbian ecosystem. It is up to the people of that political jurisdiction to decide what they want. If you do not like the current management of fish and wildlife in the Northern Rocky Mountain states then I would suggest either you move to a different state, accept the status quo or introduce and implement change. Change will come, change takes time.

            The Northern Rocky Mountain states are controlled by the “hook and bullet” voters regardless of their party affiliation. If legislation is introduced that will adversely effect there hunting and fishing opportunities “hook and bullets” will defeat that bill. It happened many times last legislative secession. If you do not like the way things are done then work with the system.

            My cousin called me the other night. His biggest concern is the privatization of fish and wildlife and the gutting of the stream access law, a law held dear by the citizens of Montana and a law other western states have been unable to enacted. Tom has for many years work on access and fish and game issues. The purpose of the call was to engage a large number of people in any adverse fish and game legislation. Any bill that is considered adverse all legislators will be email and if the bill comes to committee then we testify again it. If a bill passes and is signed by the governor then they plan on immediately getting enough signatures to nullify law and put it before the voters two year later.

        • Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

          Salle –
          For the sake of this ….. discussion. Colorful invectives do not constitute a reasoned position. WHAT exactly do you disagree with – regarding the issue(s) being discussed: the future of the Idaho wolf population expressed as the fitness and resilience of the population; i.e. the sustained (managed) presence of a well distributed wolf population for the foreseeable future?

          • Phil Maker says:

            Mr. Gamblin,

            The State of ID has shown at every turn that they are committed in word only to maintaining more than the minimum number of wolves that will keep the species from being re-listed (aside from a slight buffer). The 2008 Wolf Species Management Plan had set reasonable population level objectives (~500-700); even saw Mr. Rachael defend that on ID public tv’s “Dialogue” program. But that plan was suspended when wolves went back on the list the most recent time by judge’s order. I have not recently reviewed the YouTube video of that Commission conference call, but recall a comment being made that once management returned to the state the Commission would direct the dept. to devise an updated wolf species management plan “more in line” (paraphrased) with the 2002 legislative- and USFWS-approved plan. This is the officially sanctioned document that holds ID to keeping only 100 wolves/10 breeding pairs statewide. Is this robust? I’d say a review of the conservation biology literature and population viability analyses would suggest it is not. The USFWS should be held accountable as well for this too low level- best science indicates an effective population size (the actual breeders) for a total population of 100-150 is not sustainable in the long-term. And let’s not forget that the state also has official legislative direction, House Joint Resolution 5, calling for 0 wolves. ID has moved away from each population target that has been above the absolute minimum, so it is not convincing on your part to claim that ID is going “to achieve a population size significantly ABOVE 150/15BP.” An unlimited harvest season running for almost 1 yr., aerial gunning, proposals to allow private citizens to use night-vision equipment/live bait, powered parachutes/etc. (will IDFG testify before the legislature against this?) cannot be taken to mean anything other than a very serious attempt to reach the lowest allowable wolf population that prevents re-listing.

          • Salle says:

            Okay IDF$GMark, I’ll bite…

            How about this claim you made above for a starting point:

            “the most important limiting factor for elk survival, production and recruitment is …. wolves – NOT habitat.”

            Really? As soon as I stop laughing… I want to see the study that shows that and then some citations where you can honestly dispute the claims that debunk yours.

            And then, immediately following you said:

            “Wolves are clearly limiting elk production and recruitment and therefor[e] elk numbers well below the productive potential of CURRENT, EXISTING HABITAT. The Department has consistently described the current Lolo Zone elk population dilema[sic] as a contemporary elk production/recruitment bottle-neck caused by wolf predation holding elk numbers below the potential of the habitat – TODAY.”

            So, like many others here – including those of us who have been paying attention to the actual research conducted for over a couple decades now – I want to see where there are actual studies backing those claims. Who’s calling whom silly and positing invective here?

        • Mike says:

          ++It is science Salle. Predators kill and eat ungulates, the less ungulates, the less hunting opportunities. ++

          Ah…you seem to want it both ways, Elk. Hunters kill and eat more elk than any wolves in the Rockies. They are the ones who dictate the population, not the wolves. Any drop off is the result of over-hunting, period.

        • Mike says:

          Each day I click on this forum, I’m amazed that Ralph let’s the King of Platitiudes continue to post.

          What a bunch of baloney.

          • Savebears says:

            Well Mike it is not any of your business who Ralph lets post, so I would suggest that you actually practice what you said earlier and not be such a frequent visitor to this forum, lower you blood pressure and just leave..

          • WM says:


            So now you also want to be the gatekeeper on who posts here (or question the judgement of the forum host), in addition to your dubious credentials in wildlife biology, policy and law, and rather poorly thought out opinions? You never cease to amaze.

            Whether you agree with Mark G. or not, he is the avenue to know what is going on in IDFG. You need not agree with him, but he does provide valuable information, continues to try to respond for data requests by others (even the really stupid or condescending questions, provide policy clarifications and some insight on what ID believes it is doing.

            You also forget Mark G. does not make policy. Elected and appointed officials do.

          • Mike says:

            WM –

            I’ll take your criticism as a compliment. I can only take pleasure when an anti-wildlife goof such as yourself takes issue with what I have to say.

            Right now, out there, sadists are killing predators for fun. That deserves a swift, harsh condemnation.

            I’ll continue to do my part, and my influence in that context continues to grow, and you’d be surprised to learn at just how much.

  18. Paul says:

    Can you really say this crap with a straight face? Really? This “proposed” bill is bought and paid for by the welfare ranchers of your state. It will pass and will add even more pressure to your “robust” wolf population. Bills like these and the attitudes behind them are exactly why this issue has been fought in court for the past couple of decades. They are a slap in the face to the “law of the land” ESA and the livestock barons and your governor will do everything that they can to make sure that no wolf in your state is ever free from threats or ignorance. You guys should really think about adding dogs and night hunting. You wouldn’t want Wisconsin to be more cruel than Idaho, would you? But in your eyes I doubt that is cruelty, it is just good “conservation,” right?

    I came to accept that there would be some “management” of wolves nationwide. I was naive to think that it wouldn’t be all out war within months of the delisting. Idaho, Wyoming, and Wisconsin have proven me wrong. If no quota hunting/trapping, almost endless seasons, followed by aerial attacks, and more killing by the feds and poachers are not a threat to wolves then I guess I just do not understand the meaning of that word.

    “Noun 1. threat – something that is a source of danger”

    I guess that all of the actions that I mentioned are nothing more than a little scratch behind the ear, right?

  19. JB says:


    How is it possible for either side to judge the “robustness” of a population goal when no numeric goal has been provided? The population goals provided in the 1994 EIS were, to be frank, a best guess. If you disagree, I suggest reading the paper that provided the number (i.e., Fritts & Carbyn (1995) Restoration Ecology 3(1):26-28). Here is the applicable quote:

    “Clearly no one really knows the MVP of wolves or the size and design of reserve that can guarantee long-term survival” (p.35).

    If we’re going to discuss robustness of the wolf population, it is extremely important to understand how MVP’s are calculated. A MVP is generally expressed as the MINIMUM number of organisms needed in a population to provide a probability of persistence over a given time window. The fundamental issue with the MVP concept is that it requires two value judgments that profoundly impact the outcome of the analysis: (1) what is an acceptable probability of persistence, and (2) what is the appropriate time window (See Wilhere (2008) Conservation Biology 22(3):514-517). The fact that these highly subjective judgments underlie ostensibly scientific decisions has apparently been known for 35 years (again, see Wilhere 2008)–though many in wildlife management seem unaware (or unwilling to acknowledge).

    Thus, one reason we disagree over whether the wolf population in the NRMs is “robust” is that we all have different perceptions concerning the risks wolves face, as well as different tolerances for these risks.

    I also believe it is relevant to point out that despite “vetting” by several wolf biologists, the recovery numbers continue to be questioned by others. I recently went looking for a source on the issue of population viability from outside the “wolf world” and found a book chapter by Mark Shaffer and colleagues (Population Viability Analysis and Conservation Policy, in Population Viability Analysis (2002) Beissinger & McCullough, editors). Interestingly, they start the chapter by lamenting:

    “…despite a general consensus that populations of less than a few thousand individuals are of questionable viability, the median population goal to consider a species recovered under the Endangered Species Act is about 1,500.”

    Personally, I’m with Fritts and Carbyn–I have no idea what the MVP for wolves is. However, I find it disconcerting that states seem so willing to abandon the precautionary principle in the name of political expediency, all in the hopes that they will increase elk hunting opportunity.

    • Jon Way says:

      Thank you JB,
      That was my main point to Mark G. He doesn’t know what long term MVP is so I requested that he please stop using the term robust. I agree that the 1500 you put for is eerily close to what wolves were when coming of ESA. Of course, that number appears to be heading down so saying “robust” is subjective and misleading and turns many folks off when used in the context of ID current wolf plan.

      Thanks for the references here…

    • Rancher Bob says:

      “despite a general consensus that populations of less than a few thousand individuals are of questionable…”
      My question is how much area must we measure, for that magic number, a drainage, a county, a state or a land mass?
      The problem is not the number of wolves it’s currently the number of predators, and do we let nature manage it’s self or do we involve ourselves? As I see it, that’s the biggest friction point should man manage?
      Most believe nature balances I find it’s always trying to find balance but never is in balance. Any thoughts?

      • Ken Cole says:

        I think that the answer to your first question is that it varies by species and depends on their biology and importance ecologically.

      • WM says:

        ++My question is how much area must we measure, for that magic number, a drainage, a county, a state or a land mass?++

        That is what the whole NRM DPS for gray wolves is all about. The 2009 delisting rule centers on this geographically defined area, sets minimum population thresholds, and general management parameters for delisting.

        The 2009 delisting rule, in addition to speaking of the agreed minimum number for each of the states, genetic connectivity, etc., also speaks to the idea that the NRM DPS would likely be managed for a population of about 1,000 wolves, with about 450 in the GYE.

        Even with the temporary radical acts of ID (maybe MT), we already know wolves are moving beyond the wester limits of the DPS in WA and OR (CA?)outside the geographically and legally defined NRM DPS. There will be in and out migration at these boundaries, not the least of which is a continuing in-migration from Canada.

        I think this MVP, PVA analysis cannot be seriously discussed without looking at the larger geographic area beyond the NRM DPS. As well, for this particular population of wolves, the infusion of new genetics and individuals can be accomplished with translocation, at relatively low cost. That, of course, was the basis for the NRM wolf recovery with its 66 wolves inserted into Yellowstone and Central ID that have now become 15-20X that many, with human caused mortalities, in fifteen years, with some additional in-migrating ones from Canada.

        As far as wolves go, the MVP and PVA analysis is an artificial conservation biology discussion, as long as translocation of new stock with relative ease is available. In other words, it is a red herring.

        • Rancher Bob says:

          My conclusion also.
          There is a study from the Yukon which basically said unless you kill all the wolves the population returns. Must be a thing with those Canadian wolves.
          So the real debate is should man manage wildlife?

        • JB says:

          A red herring? Really? What you are suggesting–no asserting–is that as long as a “secure” population exists elsewhere (Canada), states should be able to say and do whatever the hell they want. If the concept of “recovery” does not at THE VERY LEAST meet the threshold of a minimum viable population, then we might as well just abandon the ESA right now. What’s the point? Perhaps we should just toss endangered animals around the landscape like croutons in a salad (BE STINGY, THEY’VE GOT A LOT OF CALORIES) as you suggest? Personally, I think the ESA means something more.

          • Jon Way says:

            “Personally, I think the ESA means something more.”

            I do too… Based on JB’s initial post with references on this thread above, I personally believe that the MVP of 1500 signifies a robust population in the 3 state NRM region as the point of the ESA was to recover them in the NRM (and elsewhere). I don’t think it is ironic that the numbers were there upon delisting even though that is about 5 X the recovered (and perhaps arbitrary) threshold of 100-150 per state.

          • WM says:

            Not quite what I said or didn’t say but intended, JB.

            For wolves, the MVP/PVA needs to evaluated in the context of something larger than legal boundaries of the NRM DPS. I took your/Jon Way’s discussion to suggest an MVP for just ID alone (not quite what was said, but the discussion seemed to be heading there). AND, as long as there are source wolves north of the border coming in, which there are and will be for years to come, it is not that big a deal (plus the ability to translocate if needed).

            So, to say the NRM needs 1500-2000 wolves for an MVP, to meet an academic analytical framework for all species, perhaps with less fecundity and less resiliency than wolves, is not a fair or scientifically defensible analysis, IMHO.

            Then there is Yellowstone NP reservation + buffer where wolves will theoretically not be touched at all – sanctuary of sorts.

            The ESA legal requirements will be met somewhere at around 1,000 (maybe less) I think, especially as now interpreted with the 2009 rule as a federal statute (pending whatever the 9th Circuit does with its review).

            I don’t really know what the ESA means in the context of the drafters intended. I tend to think if they knew now, what we know today, wolves might have been an excepted species regarding its application, and more flexible provisions would be present – like the DPS stuff we have discussed before (Sne state won’t play. then all states in the DPS get penalized, for example. I gotta think that one might even play out in the WGL if WI doesn’t get its act together).

          • WM says:

            And, I forgot to mention, FWS uses the word “robust” in the 2009 delisting rule, which seems to suggest they have a diffent interpretation than some here, regarding the meaning of the word applied here. Do they believe the population would be robust at 1,000 in the NRM DPS? The rule seems to suggest this.

          • WM says:

            Sorry about the bad grammar. Have had trouble connecting to the site today, and lost the text before it was published, and quickly retyped without checking.

          • JB says:


            As I said in my original post, I don’t know what a minimum viable population is for wolves. My reaction was to your suggestion that the concept is “a red herring” when discussing the NRM wolf population. If we cannot agree that, at minimum, “recovery” should equate to the attainment of a viable population of a species, then what is the point of listing and reintroducing them in the first place?

            My original post was meant to show people that the source of disagreement regarding “robustness” of the wolf population is a divergence in our risk tolerance (for extinction), and the unacknowledged, subjective judgments that were made as a part of this ostensibly scientific process.

            My post spoke to what constitutes A (singular) minimum viable population of a species (not what each state need maintain; though that would be an interesting conversation). Currently, the delisted DPS covers part of six western states. You suggested that a total of 1,000 wolves spread across six states would be sufficient to not warrant relisting (I’m willing to bet most have a lower risk tolerance). My question is why are states rushing to reduce wolf populations to begin with?
            For comparison, keep in mind that Idaho alone has 2,000-3,000 cougars–a slightly larger obligate carnivore. That’s more cougars (an animal with similar energy requirements) in one state then currently exist in all of the West. (BTW: It’s harder than hell to find cougar population estimates in the West; but, it appears that every western state likely has as many cougars as the West has wolves). And every one of them eats just as much ungulate flesh as a wolf.

            So I’m just a little confused–why again are we rushing to kill as many wolves as we can?


          • JB says:

            By the way, your response indicates that you believe it is acceptable to rely upon Canada to provide (via dispersals) a continued source of wolves? I found that curious. So in your view it is okay to purposefully manage our wildlife populations as a sink because we can always augment them with animals from across the border? In what world is that acceptable and responsible wildlife management?

            Thank heavens that not all governments manage wildlife this way.

          • WM says:


            I know you didn’t mention a minimum MVP but the direction of the conversation seemed to me to suggest at or above 1,500 at the time of delisting, which is what Jon Way stated. Of course, we have heard numbers from some wolf advocates north of 2,000 fairly frequently.

            Again, what population are we managing for over what geographic area, if MVP is part of the discussion? If an MVP is the goal, then why not consider the larger geographic area in which the species is present (regardless of international or other inter-state boundaries such as the NRM DPS). Another way to look at it would be if CO gets some, and greater parts of OR, WA, UT get more, does that mean ID, MT and WY needs as many to meet an ESA obligation?

            Managing as a sink, where there is low social tolerance (which appears to be the case in ID and MT) is not unreasonable if there is an adjacent source of in-migration sufficient to avoid extinction, and allow for infusion of new genetics (naturally or translocated) of the species where the sink management occurs.

          • JB says:

            “If an MVP is the goal, then why not consider the larger geographic area in which the species is present (regardless of international or other inter-state boundaries such as the NRM DPS).”

            Indeed, why not? Since wolf populations are now contiguous from the arctic to southern Idaho, we need only maintain one MVP, right? So that’s 300 wolves? Guess that means we’ve got a lot of killing to do in Canada! Hey, you know elk populations are contiguous throughout the West as well. How would you feel if we managed them for 300 or 1,000? And cougar? Mule deer? Heck, what do we need all this wildlife for anyway? Your approach to wildlife management (assuming you’re serious) would institutionalize the shifting baseline such that population minimization would become acceptable (well, unless big game hunters objected anyway).

            I think cougar populations make the hypocrisy of states’ approach to wolves evident. I’ve never had anyone give me a reasonable answer as to why 500 wolves is too many when when 3-10 times as many cougars is just about right. They both only eat meat, kill primarily ungulates, and cougars are larger (on average) to boot.


            Management preferences should not be equated with “tolerance” (more on this to come). As I understand the public trust doctrine, agencies’ first and most important responsibility is to ensure the corpus of the trust is conserved–only after that occurs should agencies seek to set policy based upon the whims of public opinion.

            • Ralph Maughan says:

              A man who used to be on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission told me that a lot of the difference was the visibility of of wolf kill.

              Cougar did it quietly and buried the kill. With wolves there were lots of tracks and bloody trail in the snow.

              There are a lot of things in the natural world, usually quite small, that people can’t bear to look at. As a result, they don’t see it, and get angry if they can’t avoid seeing it.

          • Jon Way says:

            sorry so late to this posting as I wasn’t on computer after yesterday afternoon… I do agree with all that JB says here, that the way states “manage” cougars vs. wolves clearly shows their bias and hypocrisy. And cougars are bigger on average so should eat more meat/ungulates per animal.

            The main context of my post is that for IDFG to (through Mark G.) use subjective terms like “robust” is problematic. Again, I strongly believe that robust would be the 1500 in the 3 NRM states upon delisting. Mark obviously feels differently. I personally don’t think that you can call minimizing a species’ numbers and then calling them robust in the literally the same post. To me and others it just doesn’t make sense. As you recall, that is where I requested that Mark stop using that term as it alienates many of us here b.c it is subjective and represents and official state wildlife agency viewpoint. Not all agree with it.

            Thanks for the dialogue though. JB’s contributions clearly articulate this debate/delimma and problem with current delisting rules. It is important to mention that wolves are the first species to be managed downward in numbers following ESA delisting. That is a very telling point….

          • Dan says:

            JB- yes, you are correct ESA needs abandoned because it’s use is being centered on marginal habitat areas for species that are anything but endangered on a larger scale….ESA was once very relevant but a new act needs created…When DDT was weakening egg shells ESA was great, but when it jumped to non-physiological damaged populations it became a political pawn…..

            • JB says:


              You might be interested to know that the ESA was preceded by two federal acts (in ’66 and ’69). Ultimately, these were abandoned for the current act because they required a species to face worldwide extinction before taking action–exploitation and even eradication were not problematic so long as some unexploited, non-endangered population existed. I don’t think anyone wants a return to such conditions.

              I always ask people opposed to the ESA to give me a examples of how the ESA is misused such that it needs abandoning. Invariably, they cite the wolf and the snail darter. I conclude that’s a small price to pay for the prevention of extinction of numerous other species.

            • Dan says:

              I think you need to go back and take another look at the act of 66 and amendment of 69 because you are misrepresenting them badly….

              As far as examples of mis-use, I think the argument can be made that on an over-all basis most of the species affected by ESA where not best served by the act. Most of the species have recovered poorly and the process of listing and recovery has caused vast rifts in groups of people while leading to negative views towards the “endangered” species.

              It’s like “catch-and-release” fishing for native anadromous fish species…Can you give me a single example where the releasing of these fish has had any significant increase in their populations? Their populations continue to crash despite “catch-and-release” I’m not saying “catch-and-release” is a bad concept but it’s definitely not a good one either….just like ESA.

            • JB says:


              Your characterization of the ESA’s effectiveness is not well-informed.

              The ESA has two purposes: (1) First and foremost, to prevent extinction of imperiled species, and (2) to provide for their recovery.

              The ESA has been wildly successful at preventing extinctions. Moreover, the more effort that FWS/NMFS put into recovery, the better species tend to do. For example Taylor et al. (2005) found that species with designated critical habitat for 2 or more years were more than twice as likely to have an improving population trend; likewise, species that had established recovery plans for 2 or more years were significantly more likely to be improving and less likely to be declining. Furthermore, the same study found that the proportion of species improving increased with time listed–meaning we shouldn’t respect recovery to happen overnight.

              Importantly, you neglect to mention that for years our extremely conservative congress has refused to fully fund the ESA; indeed, they even have gone so far as to purposefully prevent FWS/NMFS from listing species. So despite the ever-increasing work load (as more species are listed and require the attention of agencies), FWS/NMFS have not been given a proportionate increase in funds. Still, the ESA’s ban on “take”, protection of critical habitat, and recovery plans have been successful at arresting population declines.

              The ESA has been less successful at actually reaching the point of recovery for species. However, it’s impossible to know if this lack of success is due to problems with the ESA itself, or its halfhearted implementation/funding. I tend to think it’s the latter.

            • JB says:

              Apologies, I forgot the reference:

              Taylor, M. F. J., K. F. Suckling, and J. J. Rachlinski. 2005. The Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis. BioScience 55:360-367.

            • JB says:

              “I think you need to go back and take another look at the act of 66 and amendment of 69 because you are misrepresenting them badly…”

              Actually, I do not believe I am misrepresenting them at all. The prior Acts had no provisions for populations of species that were healthy in one area, yet threatened somewhere else–in other words, a species needed to face extinction worldwide to be considered endangered:

              “…it was widely believed that the protection those acts [the ’66 & ’69 Acts] afforded was often too little and too late…The fact that the protections of the 1966 and 1969 Acts did not come into play early enough was not their only shortcoming. They also failed to give any protection to endangered populations of otherwise healthy species.” (emphasis mine).

              Bean, M. J., and M. J. Rowland. 1997. The Evolution of National Wildlife Law. 3rd edition. Paeger, Westport, CT

            • Dan says:

              The amendment of 69 lead to the creation of CITES, which in essence took a large percentage of the money out of trading protected animals parts…IMO and many others this piece alone has had a far greater impact than any other wildlife legislation because it eliminated a large part of the market for many at risk animals.

              I think where your information is lacking is in the economics of your views.

              A large part of ESA’s issues is the economic impacts it creates. Any piece of legislation that ignores economics is doomed to fail. Take for instance the spotted owl. The listing of the owl closed vast areas of federal lands to logging but the market for timber persisted (imagine that!). So to make up for the loss of production on federal lands private lands began over cutting. Today our lands in the U.S. are a mess. Private lands are badly over-cut while federal lands are grossly under-cut. This scenario has lead to far greater habitat problems for many other creatures. All because ESA attempted to protect the spotted owl. (I might mention too that the spotted owl population is still crashing.) You are right that ESA has temporarily stopped the extinction of a few animals but at what cost to other animals and total ecosystem health?

            • JB says:


              I agree that CITES has been integral in protecting imperiled species; however, what I originally wrote still holds–the predecessors to the ESA did not have provisions for protecting locally-endangered species.

              The ESA does allow economics to be considered, just not during the listing process. Economic impact is specifically considered during the designation of critical habitat, which is by far the most controversial aspect of the ESA. Importantly, only about 1/3 of species actually have designated critical habitat, in no small part because the FWS/NMFS are sensitive to economic impacts. In fact, the FWS has increasingly taken steps to avoid listing (candidate conservation agreements, warranted but precluded finding) because of these impacts, and they frequently grant incidental take permits so as to allow development to continue.

              I’m not one of those people who thinks the ESA is perfect; but there is absolutely no question that it has been critical to arresting extinctions in numerous cases.


              I would also take issue with your assertion that the spotted owl listing negatively impacted private lands. Here where I live (Ohio) we have seen reforestation on a large scale both on private and public lands (a few of our counties have over 90% forest cover). If market pressures for timber were as great as you assert, we certainly would have felt the impact here. Yet the area under forest cover continues to grow, which is (ironically enough) negatively impacting grassland and early-successional dependent species.

            • Dan says:

              JB –
              I don’t have time tonight (3 little girls need my attention) to put together the facts pertaining to private/public net growth but I promise I will…the stats are staggering..

            • Dan says:

              JB –
              This publication shows the status of our public forests inventories. As you can see net growth on USFS lands is quite large in many areas. The document also shows an aging forest with a large percentage of mature forests. For many on here this might appear to be welcoming stats but from a forest health perspective this means dying non-productive forests that store less carbon and produce less for humans and animals alike. i.e. habitat problems


              One of the many things this document shows (page 15) is the increase in harvest on private land and even though this document is older it already shows the large increase. In the years since the gap has increased. (somewhere there is a nice summary of this, but I could not find it this morning) This document already shows that in the south there is a negative net growth on privates lands. This trend has continued in the south and spread to other regions. What this means is that instead of having a nice golden mean of healthy forest management we are experiencing a very fragmented landscape that is both unhealthy in terms of habitat and species composition. I’m not piling this all on ESA, but ESA certainly has been a major contributing factors to this scenario.
              This is an updated version of the last document but the authors excluded some of the nice public vs. private data. What they added to this document though is a lot more data on forest health and the increased risks from dead and dying forests due to bugs and disease. Another dimension from the lack of forest management.
              My main point is that I believe on the broad landscape a golden mean approach benefits society the most in terms of forest products, forest habitats, and forest health. What I believe ESA does is swing from the mean to an more extreme side.

            • JB says:


              I can’t disagree with you regarding the status of federal forests, though the ESA is NOT the primary factor that holds up tree harvest–at least not in the Midwest. Rather, objections to harvest occur in the forest planning process (through public involvement), which usually come from locals who utilize forests for recreation.

              The spotted owl cases is a relative rarity–that is, where as species specifically requires old growth habitat. However, I would take exception to your claim that unmanaged/unharvested forests are necessarily unhealthy. Not all species have the same habitat requirements; thus, it behooves us to manage for a diversity of habitat types–including old and mature growth. We will never go back to the old days of clear cutting large tracts of land without any thought to harvest effects on watersheds, wildlife, and recreation resources. And most of us think that’s a good thing, even if it does come at the price of some private lands (which are generally more fragmented).

              Regardless, it unfair to pin all the blame for the decline in harvest on federal lands on the ESA.

            • Dan says:

              Not sure what you are saying in regards to never going back to large tracts of clearcut lands….Timber companies cut multiple squares at a time here in Northern Idaho….which is a very bad thing IMO….what I’m saying is between the two – federal and private, neither can come to a happy medium…they are both egregious in opposite directions and a share of it can be pinned on ESA IMO.

            • Dan says:

              Using google Earth, go to the St. Joe River, Idaho…Look at the lower St. Joe (compliments of Potlatch Corp.) now look at the Middle/Upper Joe (compliments of Plum Creek Timber). I call these vast tracts of clear cuts. More specifically type in Siwash Peak, Idaho. In the heart of the Joe is Siwash. About 4 squares all completely leveled in the last 10 years. No such thing as a mosaic across the landscape, compete cut-and-run. The cuts are all relatively new, since the spotted owl mess. The completely uncut brown looking uppermost lands in the Joe are USFS lands that are completely full of dead beetle/root rot killed trees. The St. Joe is a prime example of the horrible management present in our forests today. THe private lands are decimated and the public lands are full of disease and dead trees.

            • JB says:


              I’m afraid you’ve lost me entirely. You start by arguing that the ESA is bad because it doesn’t consider economic impacts and (in the case of the spotted owl) prevented harvest activities. Then you blamed the ESA for “decimation” of private woodlands. Now, you’re showing me some pictures of clear cuts and suggesting you think that’s bad too. Can we blame those clearcuts on the ESA as well?

              Here’s what I know to be factual. Over the past 40 years (the time the ESA has been in existence), forests throughout the Northeast and Midwest have actually increased. Two years ago I surveyed private woodland owners here in Ohio (the folks you contend have decimated their lands). Of 1350 woodland owners, the number one and two motivations to own woodlands were (1) to enjoy beauty or scenery, and (2) to protect nature and biological diversity (3 was for land investment; timber harvest was 10th). Nearly half of our woodland owners (44%) managed their lands specifically for wildlife; nearly two-thirds (63%) had harvested timber at some point (usually for their own firewood 43%). When we asked woodland owners why they harvested timber only 13% reported that it was for income, while 37% noted that it was to improve the quality of remaining trees, 33% said their purpose was removing damaged or dead trees. Finally, by far the number one use of our respondents was recreation (74% nonhunting, 70% hunting).

              Note: Here in Ohio we have (in the past year) seen a lot of people pulling out of lands from the CRP. However, our interviews with farmers suggest this is a function of increases in the price of commodities–especially corn.

              In short, (a) I see no (zero) evidence that private woodlands lands are being decimated here in Ohio, or for that matter the rest of the Midwest; (b) certainly there is no evidence that any widespread decimation of private woodlands is attributable to the ESA; (c) the ESA is still the best tool we have for preventing extinction, though I agree that it has been much less effective at actually recovering species–probably because Congress has refused to fully fund these activities.

            • Elk275 says:


              I have read both you and Dan’s comments. The difference that I see between Ohio and the west is the forest type, deciduous ( oak, maple, walnut) vs coniferous ( pine, fir, larch) and small parcels vs large parcels that are a legacy of railroad checker boarding and owned by timber and railroad companies. Deciduous forest maturity is longer than a western forest would that have something to do with different land useages. I have never been in an east coast or mid west forest, what is your opinion.

            • Dan says:

              JB –
              I think I see the disconnect you and I have on several levels. The lands in my area are vastly different from the lands in your area. The lands around here (Idaho) are about 64% owned by the federal government and of that 64% is 75% of the forested land in Idaho. The state owns another 10% and timber companies own another 5%, while everyone else in Idaho owns the remaining 10% of forestland. So, just from the ownership you can draw some major differences. Big chunks of land are owned and managed by a few individuals/organizations.

              “You start by arguing that the ESA is bad because it doesn’t consider economic impacts and (in the case of the spotted owl) prevented harvest activities. Then you blamed the ESA for “decimation” of private woodlands. Now, you’re showing me some pictures of clear cuts and suggesting you think that’s bad too. Can we blame those clearcuts on the ESA as well?”

              Yes, ESA is poor at considering economic impacts.

              Yes, it accelerated the huge clear cuts on private land in the west/Idaho.

              Yes, huge cuts are mostly bad for ecosystems.

              yes, we can put part of the blame on ESA.

              Yes to all of those because in the event of the spotted owl, ESA effectively took the USFS out of the responsible logging business. In Idaho we have/had concerns over pileated woodpeckers, northern goshawks and flammulated owls. USFS went from to much cutting to not enough cutting. The difference in production was made up by private landowners. The private landholders, timber companies and large forest holders, way over cut their lands. The housing bubble was built at the absolute worst time for our forests in the west/Idaho because it was built in the wake of the spotted owl. Federal lands where locked up – not enough cutting lead to rampant disease and bugs, while private lands made up the production differences – massive over clear cutting. At least in my part of the country (Northern Idaho) this is how it went down.

              IMO ESA shares part of the blame for our poor forest health. And I know people are going to say putting out fires for 100 years is to blame and yes, part of the blames lies there too.

  20. Rich says:

    February 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm
    Mark G,

    It would be helpful if you could identify the published and refereed articles in recognized journals that confirm the comments you post on this site when you state them. I am capable of understanding scientific research but tend to ignore or challenge comments that aren’t backed by scientific research. Without research, what good are actions that may or may not have the desired effect.

    The well known “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy seems to be at work within the IDFG.

  21. Doryfun says:

    Great Post JB,

    Doing a little research myself, I was pleased to find a great source on Jon Way’s website Literature sited section:
    Journal of Wildlife Management 74(2):203–209; 2010;
    DOI: 10.2193/2008-485

    A Conservation Institution for the 21st
    Century: Implications for State
    Wildlife Agencies

    It reinforced the same ideas/conclusion I reached years ago, but figured I was just a lone wolf on this, so resorted mostly to just talking to myself. Thus, I am glad a new paradigm shift for modern world relevancy is now more seriously dancing on the horizon. Potentially, anyway.

    Mark, if you haven’t already seen this, it would be worth your time.


    The wildlife conservation institution (Institution) needs to reform to maintain legitimacy and relevancy in the 21st century.
    Institutional reform is inherently slow.

    Limitations resulting from historical and resource dependencies between state wildlife agencies and hunters have left the Institution poorly positioned to meet changing ecological and social complexities. In this paper, we suggest that an ideal Institution would have the following 4 components: broad-based funding, trustee-based governance, multidisciplinary science as the basis of recommendations from professional staff, and involvement of diverse stakeholders and partners. Our suggestions reflect the fundamental tenets of the Public Trust Doctrine, which we believe is the foundation of the Institution. In bringing forth these ideas, we hope to encourage discussion about how the Institution should reform to meet the changing needs of society.”

    • JB says:


      The Jacobson et al. (2010) article is spot on in its analysis, and it provides some great recommendations for how to reform the NAM. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of folks on the blog.

      • Salle says:

        Indeed, thanks to both of you! And Ken for his earlier response to the same individual.

        I will defer my responses to IDF$GMark to the comments and points, so eloquently made by JB, Doryfun and Ken, above. (And Ken for his earlier response to the same individual.)

  22. Immer Treue says:

    Wolf predation is dynamic, and to a degree, self regulating. Over the top hunting, may have the unitended results of less inter-wolf strife, keep territories open and increase wolf numbers. One could look at this as good or bad. A conservative wolf plan of let’s see what happens and adjust accordingly is out the window.

  23. Louise Kane says:

    To Mark Gamblin who wrote” Wolves can easily sustain this level of mortality – year in and year out – without jeapardizing sustainability, viability or any other measure of population persistence. The total population off-take this production year will almost certainly be less than 50% of the true population. Again, the population estimates provided by the IDFG are conservative – MINIMUM – estimates of the true total population. A sustained total mortality rate of over 50% is necessary to affect a permanent reduction in a wolf population.
    Philosophical disagreement with, distress over – this wolf management plan and these management actions is not evidence of a threat to the Idaho wolf population misrepresentation of the desires and interests of the Idaho public.”

    First off, the biggest threat to wolves in your state is that your agency allows such irresponsible wolf managament and does nothing to dispel the myths about wolves. Secondly, if wolves can sustain hunting year in and year out (and are at such prolific numbers) how do you account for the fact that Idaho had 750 wolves (your agency told me this number but I see other reports of 705) in 2012 before it started hunting wolves. Assuming that the number of wolves, that your department used for its baseline is correct, then it took 15 years for the wolf population, after introduction, to grow from 66 to 750. That’s approximately 50 wolves per year added to the population. Hardly a rate of reproduction that is staggering. This year alone your state has killed over 400 of them. Just using simple math, it took eight years for those 400 wolves to gain a foothold. There is no telling how many other wolves died in the wolf killing frenzied atmosphere that IDFG perpetuated by implementation of their irresponsible “management” plan. There is no telling how the pack structure was affected or how the remaining wolves will survive or reproduce. It took 15 years for wolves to reproduce at 50 a year without hunting! What does taking out 400 of them in one year do with sustained hunting pressure. Its insulting to tell us that this is a sustainable plan and that wolves should and can sustain this kind of pressure. Its this kind of irrational rationale that confounds and insults common sense. Not everyone will be able to understand complex population dynamics but most of us can do simple math and think logically. We are not idiots.

    as an aside…
    To address some of the comments about state and federal wildlife managers being educated and well informed…many of the people that work in these agencies are educated but they are often beholden to political expediency as defined by the director of the program that they work within. Having worked in Washington, at a federal agency, I can attest to this fact. Occasionally employees speak out against irresponsible management or policy directives and I have seen some of those people moved and shifted to less prestigous jobs. I worked under a man who was removed. I had a huge amount of respect for him because he would not tow the party line and used credible science to define his agenda for our working group. I have other friends who work at USFWS as scientists and many of them have found the positions they must defend untenable and have moved on. Mike Gamblin, as a biologist, its got to be hard to swallow the party line on this one. arguing that 150 wolves in a state the size of New England is healthy and robust is absurd…unlimited killing with airplanes, traps, snares, and bows and arrows is unconscionable and inexcusable. Its must be getting harder to sleep at night.

    • william huard says:

      I think Mark Gamblin sleeps fine. The fact that IDFG allows wolves to be trapped, snared and killed during denning season proves these people have no sense of decency or respect for wild animals like wolves. No other animal (other than Coyotes)is treated like this

  24. Salle says:

    I have a suggestion. How about those not familiar with ~ and those who are who could brush-up on it ~ actually read the Endangered Species Act The whole thing. It’s not very long and if you don’t understand the legalese, have a dictionary near by. Take notes, ask questions of others for an opportunity discuss the finer points and how they relate to the topics we discuss here.

    To get to the PDF of the Act:

    Then select “continue…”

  25. Valerie Bittner says:

    What Mark Gamblin, et al. fail to address in their “robust population” rhetoric (and I have to surmise consider before green-lighting every kill order) is the mandate of the courts in an agency’s evaluation of population viability to manage for conservation of the wolves’ “life-history strategies” — especially where, to date, no comprehensive on-the-ground MVP study has been undertaken by IDFG, let alone a three state meta-population study. Perhaps the increase in kill order frequency and lives taken is IDFG’s idea of a MVP study?

    *See, e.g., Center For Biological Diversity v. Norton, 411 F. Supp. 2d 1271, 1288 (D. N.M. 2205)

    The ground-breaking, ten-year life-history genetics study of Von Holdt, et al. revealed that the system of mating and level of sociality, among other behavioral dynamics, “can influence fine-scale genetic structure through patterns of breeding and population assembly rules.” (Vonholdt et al, supra n. 195a, at 2 (citing RK Chesser, Gene diversity and female philopatry, 127, 437-447 (1991a); RK Chesser, Influence of gene flow and breeding tactics on gene diversity within populations, 129, 573-583 (1991b); DW Sugg, RK Chesser, FS Dobson, JL Hoogland, Population genetics meets behavioral ecology, 338-342, Ecology & Evolution, II (1996);

    Von Holdt’s findings and conclusions are consistent with other studies and findings in connection with the principle of “effective dispersal” and the principles of a “genetically effective population,” which results from the former.“Effective dispersal” refers to dispersers who are sufficiently fit upon leaving the natal territory to reproduce.

    Furthermore, according to evolutionary biologist Dan Stahler, “effective dispersal” is key to genetic “genetically effective population” that has the ability to evolve over the long term and to adapt to rapid environmental change, including global warming.

    In sum, population viability is not just about numerical totals, or even individuals — whether alpha or yearling, etc.(as Earthjustice bravely argued in the Fall of 2010 in its attempt to enjoin the first round of hunts) but the RELATIONSHIP between the two This, in my opinion, is the argument which must still be made to the courts.

    • WM says:


      ++ the principle of “effective dispersal” and the principles of a “genetically effective population,” which results from the former.“++

      Move a few wolves around through translocation, and the genes and potential reproductive capability will likely move with them. Problem solved. Ed Bangs had that covered in the 1994 EIS.

      • Jon Way says:

        It would be nice if it was so simple but I think Valerie is hinting that when you are managing a social, pack oriented animal to live under constant harassment (nearly so) you change its life history dynamics. You change characteristics like the health of a stable pack and its family members which probably does effect dispersers and their health – at least to a degree.

        I think that your suggestion of moving a few wolves around would be the antithesis of effective dispersal. Maybe we could call that “human created dispersal” or something. Why should we even have to do that if we effectively manage a robust population of wolves…

  26. Valerie Bittner says:

    First of call, any federal court would not consider that to be “solution” based on the “best available science”. Surely you must know that. Or are you trying to be ironic? If not, why do you dismiss the referenced findings of the acclaimed Von Holdt study?

    Secondly, randomly trucking around wolves is a sure-fire recipe for unintended consequences via genetic drift.

    Here then is an elementary example of micro-evolution by genetic drift:

    209 D.T. Susuki, A.J.F. Griffiths, J.H. Miller, & R.C. Lewontin, Random Genetic Drift in An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (4th ed. W.H. Freeman 1989). Suzuki et al explain: “For example, consider what would happen if [a] … wildflower population … consisted of only 25 plants. Assume that 16 of the plants have the genotype AA for flower color, 8 are Aa, and only (one) is aa. Now imagine that three of the plants are destroyed by a rock slide before they have a chance to reproduce. By chance, all three plants lost from the population could be AA individuals. The event would alter the relative frequency of the two alleles for flower color in subsequent generations. This is a case of microevolution caused by genetic drift … ’’.

    With respect to Ed’s idea of an MVP, here is what a few polled peer review scientists (with Phds I might add) had to say in 2002 about the 1994 EIS minimum target:

    “[t]he very figure of 300 wolves was was an “administrative goal” and, now with actual population numbers, that figure should probably be evaluated” (Dr. Lu Carbyn, Peer Review at 1 (undated); “[t]he Population Viability Analyses for the NRM DPS was an “ad-hoc measure” of population viability for wolves” (Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, Peer Review at 7 (May 5, 2007); “[m]y strongest recommendation for management after delisting is that states do not try to manage wolves at an extreme minimal level, to satisfy the requirements of federal monitoring and their own management plans. Managing at bare minimum levels will require much more careful monitoring, continual tweaking of management strategies, the need to response to challenges to monitoring data, contention between the states about “who” owns a wolf pack, and the very real danger of wolves being relisted under an emergency action” (Dr. Thomas Meier, Biologist, Denali NP, Peer Review 2 (May 9, 2007).

    • WM says:


      Actually I was serious about the translocation. It is afterall how YNP and Cental ID got their wolves. It is to be a cornerstone of the newly adopted WA Wolf Mgt. Plan – there gonna move ’em around if they get in trouble, or the density is too high in one area and not in another, or into discontinuous habitat, and such (you can read sarcasm into this sentence).

      I think one or more of the WGL states have moved some around with limited success, but we need ma’iingan from WI to confirm. Even Isle Royal is considering it (genetic infusion) to keep the tiny population from the die off from inbreeding and the genetic strangle hold that has caused spinal degradation.

      If you think about it, translocation is done by dog and horse breeders all the time, as well as other domestic animals. I suppose neutering is for the gene pool not much worse than the rock slide for those flowers.

      From a practical standpoint genetic drift won’t get any face time except with the conservation biologists. It surely won’t with states who are concerned about numbers and distribution, and could care less about genes as long as it keeps them out of trouble with the ESA. And we probably ought to consider from 2007 to today, we aren’t talking about 300 wolves anymore as the articles you suggest, and it will likely be about 700-1000 as range expands, and probably more genes coming in from Canada over time. So, why not give nature a little boost with a couple helicopter rides to keep the genes fresh?

      And, Jon Way, I think the harassmen, social structure thing is overblown, if what Dr. Mech says is trrue. Seems I even saw a recent video of him discussing that very aspect. Could have been his testimony before the MN legis a couple weeks back. Nature finds a way for procreation most of the time.


      Looks like a typo on the cite to CBD v. Norton above which should read 2005, instead of 2205.

      • Jon Way says:

        While wolves can survive with more harassment than most give credit for – similar to coyotes to a degree – the effect on their social structure is less clear. For example,
        Brainerd et al. (The Effects of Breeder Loss on Wolves) state:
        To minimize negative impacts, we recommend that managers of recolonizing wolf populations limit lethal control to solitary individuals or territorial pairs where possible, because selective removal of pack members can be difficult. When reproductive packs are to be managed, we recommend that managers only remove wolves from reproductive packs when pups are ≥6 months old and packs contain ≥6 members (including ≥3 ad-sized wolves). Ideally, such packs should be close to neighboring packs and occur within larger (≥75 wolves) recolonizing populations.

        To me that is pretty convincing that the social structure of wolves is important to NATURALLY FUNCTIONING POPULATIONS


        • Jon Way says:

          Sorry sent this somehow (without hitting send?). I meant to add to the bottom of my response:

          This is indeed one of the problems with the ESA which is no fault of its own. The ESA recovered populations but if wolves are managed at bare minimum numbers as discussed, is that really a recovered population? There certainly isn’t one answer to that and the logical step would be to be conservative in managing a species coming off the ESA. Clearly, without question, this is not the case despite the fact that despite the rhetoric wolves will probably never be relisted by going below 150 indiv. per state.

          • WM says:

            Jon Way,

            That is a pretty impressive group of authors. They ought to know, with their combined experience in the NRM and WGL. It does not, however, change the opinion stated by Dr. Mech that I heard. So, once again there is the battle of the experts.

            I don’t have access to the full paper, so only read the abstract. One does wonder what is the range of “negative impacts,” and which are most important to avoid and why, when states or WS engage in managing lethally outside the recommended parameters? Which are minor and which can be overcome if there is lethal management outsidethe guidelines, as compared to which are integral to survival, propagation and bad behavior avoidance over the long term. Therin lies the tension and challenge for the states which will manage for (minimum?) numbers.

            It also creates conflicts if applied to dispersers that start getting in trouble like the Imnaha pack. OR may have started out within the guidelines, but had to go outside once they continued their preference for livestock. What then?

            • Jon Way says:

              I think your thoughts on the different perspectives is also a difference in perspective in wolf pops. I think that one thought is that given that poison and aerial shooting are not allowed by humans (except gov’t [and state in ID] aerial shooting) that wolves will never get endangered again esp. in the GLR which is more wooded and remote (northern MN). However, this paper says that there is more to mere numbers. So both perspectives might not be mutually exclusive. For example, wolves would probably never be endangered even with year-round hunting in MN…. But of course that doesn’t make it right, desired by citizens, or part of the great North American Model of Wildlife Mgmt… But it could happen. But then we have to heed Brainerd et al.’s suggestions for social (wolf-wise) reasons.

    • Salle says:


      Getting back to you on who may have replaced Ed Bangs… all I could find was the new regional director, I think they eliminated the position since all but the Wyoming wolves in the region have been turned over to the states.

      I do apologize for the delay and lack of info (I’ve had a busy week).

      Perhaps someone else, maybe Ralph, Brian or Ken have the most updated info on that…?

  27. Valerie Bittner says:


    Thanks! You’re right on. Only I hoped that I came across as more than hinting. Conservation of the conspecific “life-history strategies” of wolves, in particular (because they are situated in a very rare class of cooperative breeders akin most closely to humans and mole rats –see groundbreaking study of Linda Thurston) are integral to their genetic viability over the long-term. Again, in my opinion, this must be the legal position of wolf advocates should the Tester rider be overruled by the 9th Cir. (decision pending) or in the case of an emergency re-listing.

    To be perfectly clear, “in its assessment as to whether the NRM wolves are endangered in the context of genetics, IDFG, et al. have failed to work out properly the genetic implications of effectively isolated small sub-populations of NRM gray wolves because it is has omitted evaluation of factors that scientists have long identified as being critically important: maintenance of quantitative genetic variation, inbreeding depression, MHC genetic variation, founder effects, environmental stochasticity, and avoidance of heuristic assessments of risk.” (Craig M. Pease, Professor of Science and Law, RE: RIN number 1018-AU53, 10-11 (May 8, 2007).

    “Basically, the goals of the USFWS’s wolf recovery plan aren’t in sync with the latest thinking in conservation science. Biologists have moved away from the idea of a minimum viable population to a more comprehensive population analysis. That 300 figure reflects old thinking.” (Dr. Carlos Carroll, Wolves at the Door of a More Dangerous World, 319 Science 890, 892 (2008).

    • Jon Way says:

      Great points Valerie,
      I also add a reference (and comment) above this thread in response to WM. Please check it out.

      I love how we can provide all of these citations and figures yet state game agencies do what they want and call it “science based” b.c they have models that predict wolves won’t go below 150… pretty amazing.

  28. Valerie Bittner says:


    Thanks anyway for your attempts. For some reason the name Brian Kelley comes to mind as Ed’s replacement for Idaho.

    Surely, some one knows. Perhaps Mark Gamblin would be kind enough to let us know.

    • Salle says:


      Funny you should mention Brian Kelley:

      ##Brian Kelly, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s state supervisor in Boise.##

      I found him quoted in an article about the caribou just this morning. Man, that guy gets around. I met him back when he was involved in the start-up of the Red Wolf recovery effort on the east coast back in the 1990s and then he went to the Mexican Wolf program in NM, then I thought he was in Alaska… last I’d heard a couple years ago.

      I suspect that Ed’s position was eliminated and any peripheral wolf issues would be handled by “staff on hand” when needed. (At least that’s my guess.)

  29. Valerie Bittner says:

    WM and others with mindset,

    Addendum re: the preceding Suzuki wildflower genetic drift example.

    In a practical sense (not just as an obscure Phd study) regarding wolves, an allele for the color white could be lost. This allele would likely be a survival advantage in winter when Wildlife Service’s gunships are carrying

    Addendum re: the vital importance of maintaining intact packs:

    Fit individuals in the context of the conspecific life-history strategies of Canis lupus means those wolves with superior genes which delay dispersal from intact natal families until they are sufficiently fit from the standpoints of nutrition, hunting training, and socialization to travel long distances, escape extirpation, and reproduce in new territories. The correlate, of course, is that the entirety of the natal pack must be protected from indiscriminate culling while juvenile wolves receive all of the benefits of delayed maturation 292 and until such time as the gray wolves’ biological (as opposed to sociological) carrying capacity is realized in the species’ encompassing ecosystems.

    • WM says:


      Like I said to Jon Way, Dr. Mech doesn’t think its a big deal. Your argument should be directed to him, not me.

      • Salle says:

        Dr. isn’t the all-time only valid investigator on wolf and wildlife genetics. He’s provided some valuable info but, like any researcher, not the end all in the conversation since science is an evolution of ideas and findings.

        We used to think that asbestos was a super find and boon to humanity too.

        • Salle says:

          Ooops, I meant that Dr. Mech…

        • Immer Treue says:

          I know you are not disguarding Mech, but one must be careful as he is still the voice of wisdom when it comes to wolves. If not for him and those who studied under him, there would be no wolves in the NRM states.

      • Jon Way says:

        please see my comment in the thread above this one regarding this question and my addition to the dialogue.

    • WM says:


      ++In a practical sense (not just as an obscure Phd study) regarding wolves, an allele for the color white could be lost.++

      Not to detract from this assertion, one more thing to consider regarding translocations. There are lots of other white color allele donating wolves in Canada. See, that is the thing about wolves or dogs, this mix and match thing can happen pretty quickly, as we have seen with the breeding of dogs (roses, orchids,race horses and whatever). Just how many AKC breeds are there now, in how little time? I am not saying it is good, but the power of genetic knowledge and the ability to track it has opened many doors, some to good things others not so much.

    • WM says:


      ++In a practical sense (not just as an obscure Phd study) regarding wolves, an allele for the color white could be lost.++

      Not to detract from this assertion, one more thing to consider regarding translocations. There are lots of other white color allele donating wolves in Canada. See, that is the thing about wolves or dogs, this mix and match thing can happen pretty quickly, as we have seen with the breeding of dogs (roses, orchids,race horses and whatever). Just how many AKC breeds are there now, in how little time? The power of genetic knowledge and the ability to track change, and make modifications has opened many doors, some to good things, and others not so much.

  30. Valerie Bittner says:

    Salle and Jon,

    Salle, thanks for confirming Kelley’s position. Will try to get ahold of a USFWS spokesperson and see what I can parse out.

    Jon, great follow-up citation and comment re: what constitutes a “naturally functioning population” — the kind that can actually have the inter-relationship with the ecosystem the drafters of the ESA envisioned.

    Mr. Gamblin, any comments to add to two days discussion about the genetic diversity implications of indiscriminate pack destruction?

  31. Valerie Bittner says:


    Your comments (below)equating NRM wolves with Canadian wolves and AKC breeding:

    “++In a practical sense (not just as an obscure Phd study) regarding wolves, an allele for the color white could be lost.++

    Not to detract from this assertion, one more thing to consider regarding translocations. There are lots of other white color allele donating wolves in Canada. See, that is the thing about wolves or dogs, this mix and match thing can happen pretty quickly, as we have seen with the breeding of dogs (roses, orchids,race horses and whatever). Just how many AKC breeds are there now, in how little time? The power of genetic knowledge and the ability to track change, and make modifications has opened many doors, some to good things, and others not so much.”

    prompted me to revisit Secretary Babbit’s tribute to reintroduction:

    “The reintroduction of the wolf is an extraordinary statement for the American people. It enables us to come closer to restoring, in one specific area, conditions resembling what Lewis and Clark would have seen as they made their way across the West in 1803-07.

    It reconnects our historical linkage with the wilderness that is so central to our national character. It admits to past errors and asserts our willingness to correct them. It offers a new vision of a developed society living in harmony with its magnificent wilderness endowment.”

    Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit, on the reintroduction of wolves into YNP, 1995.

    • WM says:


      Secretary Babbiit certainly said fitting words for the reintroduction to wolves to Yellowstone.

      But you switched topics. In our earlier discussion we were talking genetics, and whether questionable or indiscriminate culling/harvesting of the range expanding and increasing number NRM wolves would affect sustainability of the population (and result in genetic drift), and whether it would damage social structure so breeding/rearing could not occur. Obviously taking too many won’t be good, but not completely irreversible, even if they approach the minimum ESA goal number.

      In response to your assertion that it would be essentially devastating (where you cited conservation biology studies, and the loss of an alelle for white color [unlikely anyway, I suspect]), I suggested the genetic thing was not insurmountable because of the availability of more genetic material from the very place of origin of the NRM experimental population wolves and others naturally in-migrating from southern Canada. I used the AKC dog example only because of the similarity, and to illustrate conscious genetic manipulation (animal husbandry is another term for it) can result in changes quickly to advance or suppress particular characteristics. As a lawyer you should understand the value of comparisons to illustrate a point.

      I expect some animal husbandry in the form of pick and choose is going on right now with genetic exchange between the very few Mexican wolf individuals, and thus genetically similar animals, that are in discrete holding/breeding facilities across the country right now. Possibly even exchange of genetic materials with the Mexican government’s wolf program. Maybe Maska or someone more familiar with that program can offer insight.

      And while I admire the words of Secretary Babbit, recounting the awe and wonder of the landscape and wildlife which Lewis and Clark found in 1803 (I personally wish it were that way today, too and without people), the very purpose of the expedition was the beginning of what was later to be called “manifest destiny,” and the Westward expansion of America following on the Louisiana Purchase.

      It was because of President Jefferson’s vision, Lewis & Clark, other explorers, trappers and families who followed the settlement of the West occurred. The outposts, became towns and territories, and eventually states were founded and became part of the Union. Indeed mistakes have been made all along the way.

      Every civilization makes mistakes, some of which can be rectified, and others which cannot, sometimes to their detriment. I have to think of the high tech employee living in Denver/Boulder, who has plenty of water for a lawn, and who hops on I-70, then zips through Eisenhower Tunnel to Vail for a ski week-end. They don’t think for a second about transmountain diversion of water, a superhighway through a massive mountain and then through sensitive at-risk ecosystems at 10,000 feet elevation where that freeway travels, to the logged over forest for the ski area, and the valley filled with condos, big houses and golf courses. Yet, he/she might grouse about how screwed up the environment is, and maybe drop a check in the mail to Defenders for wolf advocacy. In conversation they might confirm a philosophical desire to return the West to its natural state, but you can bet they don’t want to move back to Boston or LA by returning the Front Range to a prairie, and the ski area to subalpine forests and the valley to native riparian vegetion and alluvial aspen.

      Turning back the hands of time anywhere except Yellowstone/Teton or other large parks is kind of difficult, and filled with conflict. There are people in these once pristine areas now, trying to make a living, recreating, and unavoidably growing in number. Some even come and populate at the fringe of these ameneities. The people speak through their state governments, the same ones that sought admission to the Union.

      I wonder if former Secretary Babbit advocates today for the re-establishment of the Mexican wolf in his home state of AZ, where he was once governor? I suspect he does. But, would he have done so during the days when he was governor representing the people of his state, including those nasty welfare ranchers grazing on public lands, hunters and the large and small communities who eye the future seeking growth and economic prosperity for their young people?

      These are not always easy questions to answer, and philosophy is cheap at dedication ceremonies.


      You might also know Secretary Babbitt once championed a cause to reverse some uses of land in the West (may still does), and to seek broader protection for federal reservations, including expansion of powers under the ESA.


February 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey