The Grim Numbers of Idaho Wolf Killing

With two weeks left of wolf hunting and trapping left in Idaho, with the exception of the Lolo and Selway zones, the number of Idaho wolves is down significantly from the 746 number published in the Annual Wolf Report.  At the present time the population is at about 574, if the estimate in the annual report is correct, and by the end of the month will likely be at about 550.

As you know, I have been keeping a spreadsheet which I update with the numbers taken in the hunt. I’ve also recently added the published numbers for other sources of documented mortality.  There are likely many more that have not been documented.  With these numbers I’ve been able to construct a graph which illustrates what wolf mortality in Idaho looks like.

In making this graph I also added a total population estimate by using the end of the year estimate of 746 as landmark so that I could backtrack and estimate the total number of wolves after pups were born in April of last year.  Presumably the total population after pups were born last year was higher than shown because there is a significant amount of undocumented mortality that I can’t estimate without knowing basic information.  Also, it is hard to say how accurate the year end estimate really is.  Is it high or low?  Nobody can say for sure.

The graph essentially shows, based totally on documented mortality and taking for granted that the year-end estimate is correct, that the population of wolves, including last year’s pups, went from about 1036 to 574 now.  In April more pups will be born and the effect of the hunt on that number is totally unknown, especially since some breeding females have undoubtably been killed since wolves bred in February.

2011/2012 wolf mortality.

The next exercise I did was to figure out a very rough estimate of where the wolf population could possibly go if the rate of wolf killing remains essentially the same and another 50% of the population is killed in subsequent years.  This is total speculation but you have to consider that IDFG is proposing even greater wolf killing opportunity for next year.  To calculate an estimated number of pups that will be born next month I  multiplied the number of remaining wolves by a factor of 1.341 to get a total population of 770 or 196 pups.  I again did this for the following year and came up with 144 pups born to 420 wolves, making a total population of 564.  If mortality continues at the same rate, then, by the end of March of 2014, there would only be 303 wolves in Idaho.

Three year wolf mortality.

Because I don’t have all of the information available to me, this exercise is only an educated guess based totally on publicly available information.  As I mentioned, the publicly available information is missing a lot of information that could be used to estimate illegal killing and other sources of mortality.  There are many factors which could change these graphs such as a change in hunting regulations and impacts to breeding females after they have bred.

Nonetheless, the numbers are grim and I don’t think wolves have a very good future in Idaho.  I have to say that I am surprised at how many wolves have been killed in this year’s hunting and trapping season.  I underestimated how bad it would be.



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  1. Mike Avatar

    So much damage done and so much energy spent on this symbol of wilderness.

    I wonder how many animals have been maimed and destroyed in his fevered, fatuous pursuit.

    What it all comes down to, time and time again, is chubby white guys in the woods with wittle bitty peckers trying to control something because their lives lack it. That’s all this is. It’s all it ever was. Turkey-necked, gibbering, pale ghouls crying out for mommy.

    1. mikarooni Avatar

      Mike, that was so eloquent.

    2. EastCoast Hunter Avatar
      EastCoast Hunter

      Do you have anything productive to add to the discussion?

  2. topher Avatar

    I have been reading the aticles and comments on this site for several years and learned a great deal from some of the people who comment here.I rarely comment because my views are pretty well represented by people who already comment on the site. After today I will no longer frequent this site. It has changed from a great place to learn to a sounding board for same tired comments and arguments we have heard a thousand times.My suggestion to those who wish to be heard is to speak with your voice not your keyboard. It is better to be news than to complain about yesterdays news.

    1. cirque guy Avatar
      cirque guy

      For Topher: I think we do also speak with our voices not only with the keyboard. At least that’s my method. I believe the real benefit message boards like this have is to provide a springboard for ideas on how we can better articulate ourselves when we do use our voices. Reading is the best way to exercise our minds and when we ponder what we read ideas spring forth. I don’t think there is any of us that read TOO much and don’t talk enough. The more we know the better we sound. Hope you keep coming back for a refresher now and then. We need your voice out there.

  3. cirque guy Avatar
    cirque guy

    The grim wolf report by Ken certainly has some speculation in it but then so does numbers from IFG. I think the speculations are with educated reasoning by Ken. One place that I have experience with is the illegal kill numbers and if I read his graph correctly those are represented at less than 25. Certainly the illegal kills will go down as the population decreases but I think 25 or less underestimates the resolve of those that have the time and money reinforced by wolf hatred to wage war. It has been documented that some sheep men have created their own bounty system within their employees for such wildlife as eagles, coyotes etc. Mostly it has been a token amount paid to herders for ears or feet but the herders also benefit by being on the owners good list when they turn in predator drippings. I have no reason to believe this type of operation doesn’t go on today and in fact it probably has been revitalized with a focus on wolves. This is a broad brush stroke and I temper it saying not all livestock owners do this. But where it used to be prevalent mostly with wool people I would expect it to be well embraced by cow people nowadays also. Then there are the freedom county type guys that would be considered locals and not out much gas money to spread a little temic or its equal. Not all of those acts come to light because of remoteness. The magnitude of just one such act can destroy an entire pack especially a household of new pups. Never underestimate the imagination of wolf haters. I offer these speculative remarks based on a 34 year career of wildlife law enforcement in the west including Idaho.

  4. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue


    By all means share your thoughts and ideas. Bitching about the same old tired retorts makes you no better than those about who you complain. Interject some new ideas, some new energy and direction. Otherwise, Bye.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      I have never read one of your comments before your goodbye above so I guess I won’t miss you, but what do you expect in a discussion forum other than discussion?

      . . . . some people!!

      1. topher Avatar

        I don’t think the constant generalizing and name calling contribute anything towards intelligent discussion.While there are a few people who comment here who almost always have something intelligent to say there also exists the polar opposite of this.I have been an Idaho sportsman for thirty some odd years and take offense to some of the comments posted by people who neither understand or wish to understand any point of view but their own.I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand others positions and would appreciate the same consideration without all the name calling.
        I know I said I was leaving but this is the best place to find wildlife news for the western states.I also find this place strangely addictive.

        1. Daniel Berg Avatar
          Daniel Berg

          You’re not alone in feeling that this site is strangely addictive.

          1. aves Avatar

            Or in feeling that insulting rants (see the very first comment on this post)and the moderators allowance of such rants contribute nothing productive to the conversation.

  5. JB Avatar

    Applying some critical thought, and knowledge about canid ecology…

    I would expect the harvest rate to decrease with the population, as fewer wolves will mean fewer encounters with hunters and fewer opportunities for hunters to kill wolves. Also, previous studies suggest that wolves may respond by having more offspring and/or survival may be higher. Perhaps Jon Way could help you make an educated guess at these numbers to come up with a more realistic model?

    1. Jay Avatar

      In line with what your saying, hunting may very well spur increased reproduction by fragmenting large packs that turn into multiple, smaller breeding packs, or packs having multiple breeding females. And catch-per-unit-effort is going to decrease as the population decreases. Like Ralph points out, this is a very simplistic model and probably represents a worst case scenario.

      That said, IDFG said they were going to reduce the population, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        On the other hand, the killing of pregnant females might depress pup production because the death of the pregnant alpha female may leave the pack with no other impregnated wolf as the mating season ends.

        1. Jay Avatar

          I’m sure some pregnant females will be killed, but if you look at wolf harvest from other areas, it is alway pup-heavy, so it stands to reason that proportionally few pregnant females will be represented in the harvest. Also, you can’t discount the fact that wolves may respond with multiple breeders to compensate for the loss of pregnant females. Reading Bob Hayes book, they had to eliminate entire packs to buy a little bit of time to allow prey populations to rebound, but wolves backfilled so quickly he determined the monetary and social costs just weren’t worth the small responses they observed in prey numbers. The point being, wolves are very resilient and will find a way to compensate.

          1. Jon Way Avatar

            I am just getting back from 8 days in Yellowstone so sorry for the late post. Jay, it is important to keep in mind that even rural ID is much more accessible than most of Canada and Alaska making wolf pops more vulnerable esp with seasons that go up to and beyond wolf pup whelping (mid-april). It is certainly possible, JB, that litter size and/or wolf pup survival will increase over time but pack dynmaics in wolves will probably play a big part too… More intact packs would likely have larger litter survival. It will be interesting to see both the biological mechanisms in how wolves respond and if ID ever shows it has an interest in maintaining a significant and viable population over time.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Thanks Ken,

    This is the real stuff, not the figures published at the end of the year. It is impossible for wolves to be added to the population between year’s end and early April 2012 when new pups are born.

    I would have thought that some of those news articles saying the hunt had not depressed the wolf population would realize that you cannot make such conclusions until the hunt/trapping season actually ends plus when new pups are born for the year.

  7. WM Avatar


    Your projection model is a good starting point, to begin to understand how a methodical effort on the part of IDFG would/could reduce numbers fairly drastically in a short period of time. I wonder if it should be labeled a “worst case” scenario. Net population changes should first be framed analytically in the context of:

    Population Year 2 = population year 1 + births – deaths + (net in-out migration).

    A couple of things to consider.

    1. Dr. Mech and others have suggested the longer wolves are hunted/trapped they will get smarter and avoid people, and thus fewer likely to be killed in this manner. Is this year’s hunt/trapping representative of future harvests?

    2. At the common border with MT (for now), as in the Lolo, Selway etc., there are a number of MT border packs (maybe as many as 12-20 packs) which could IN-MIGRATE to ID where wolf density would be lower. They or their progeny should probably be accounted for as a means of increasing wolf numbers. Will there also be out-migration of GYE wolves as their denisty increases, particularly in Yellowstone (those wolves will be reproducing as well).

    3. With lower wolf density in some areas, wolf on wolf mortality will likely decrease. Will this be a meaningful factor relative to total numbers?

    4. Maybe you now more, but to me it seems improbable that ID will repeat in the next couple of years the $20,000 helicopter gunning in the Lolo, or engage in other major forced expenditures to decrease numbers for the purpose of mitigating alleged impacts on elk, particularly if they achieve their desired results from hunter harvest and trapping. I could be wrong on that, but intuitively it seems not so likely, which may allow those areas to have net increases in population during the time they are left alone.

    5. Will illegal take be much of a factor in the future as wolf density/perceived impacts to livestock and elk are decreased (this may be a function of diminished opportunity and/or willingness to engage in this behavior)?

    6. How accurate are your current population estimates/projections and take-offs? All the agencies seem firm in their belief that the numbers represented in reports are conservative, minimum verified (or in a couple units estimated) wolf numbers? You could be under estimating by as much as 10-20% or more, if Dr. Mech and others are to be believed.

    There are probably more factors to consider. This discussion is important, but so is balance in the way numbers are projected, and an assessment of the sensitivity of the variables used in population projection.

    Maybe ma’iingan or someone knowledgeable in wolf population projection can weigh in on some of the concerns raised.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      This is a reasonable first approach given the information but it is true that a lot of these variables like pup recruitment, are difficult to quantify. Deviation in any one could change the outcome a lot. I suspect illegal kill is somewhat higher than documented but also suspect recruitment rate will be higher also, in a reduced population. Wolves may become more difficult to hunt and trap, reducing the exploitation rate some, as JB points out. Idaho is somewhat different, but I imagine that given just the hunting and trapping seasons that it will turn out to be sustainable like documented in a recent study in Alberta where the population that these wolves came from is heavily hunted and trapped over a pretty long season. However, Wildlife Services is clearly pretty effective when they focus on wolves and probably have the potential to be an added factor making it unsustainable, as far as maintaining distribution across suitable habitat. When you are dealing with a heavily hunted population of a canid species that also has a fairly high reproductive rate, it is very difficult to accurately predict a trajectory out of the strong opposing variables.

      Over time, in a rational system based on information feedback (not driven by mostly politics), information both on the effect of exploitation on wolves and the effect of wolves at different levels of exploitation on their prey and livestock will feed back into management. I suspect that the cases where exploitation is found to be needed and effective (without extraordinary effort) in maintaining reasonably abundant prey populations, or even in being able to significantly constrain predation, may be pretty limited unless the government is willing to throw lots of resources at it on an ongoing basis. If that were found and agreed to be the case, then in most areas management of opportunity on wolves would eventually revert to seasons based on providing opportunity at reasonable times of year rather than trying to increasingly liberalize with the ongoing goal of holding down numbers in the hope of benefit for prey. But, that hasn’t really been the case in this region where trapping seasons on all animals that are managed just for sustainable fur value (marten, mink, weasel, otter, lynx, wolverine,etc., even coyote) tend to be pretty short in the height of the winter (December to mid-February) whereas the trapping season in most of the same areas for wolves is November 1–April 30. Not that anyone would likely run a trapline just for wolves when they are of little fur value, but it shows the long-held rationale.

      I certainly can’t predict what will happen better than others — am just another interested observer of NRM wolves.

  8. Louise Kane Avatar

    How can wolves sustain this pressure? If the pups are born in April, then they are hunted starting in November with no restrictions on age, sex, etc. Then pups that are just 6 months old with no experience to avoid hunters will be killed more easily or may lose their mothers and pack leaders. The whole “management” plan is designed to annihilate wolves and keep their populations at the lowest number allowed. As many point out here, there are probably many more deaths than reported. Now that its open season on wolves and they are not protected there is little to no risk from breaking the law. And the law promotes killing wolves. These wolves have taken 17 years to reproduce from 66 to about 1800 in all three states. In less than one year more than a third of them are gone. Its disgraceful.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Louise Kane,

      I understand that of the wolves killed, a disproportionate number were probably pups By the time the wolf hunt began pups were about 50 pounds and by the end March 31, 2012 essentially full grown.

  9. Valerie Bittner Avatar
    Valerie Bittner

    Ralph, Ken, pro-wolf folks,

    “On the other hand, the killing of pregnant females might depress pup production because the death of the pregnant alpha female may leave the pack with no other impregnated wolf as the mating season ends.”

    Just FYI: Earlier this morning I contacted the National Desk at the Washington Post by phone (202-334-6000) and the managing editor (via e-mail) about the disastrous situation going on in Idaho (including the gunning and trapping of pregnant females)in connection with the Obama campaign’s response to the WP’s feature about the Romney “Dog-on-the-roof” story (for those who haven’t had a chance to pick up on the WP feature now gone virulent on late night talk shows about the fact that Romney had his pet dog ride in a roof-top crate for 12 hours on a family trip with the dog vomiting and Romney continuing to transport the dog despite this) that “President Obama’s re-election campaign has signaled it would use the story against Romney”.

    In my conversation with the national desk manager and in e-mail, I pointed out the patent hypocrisy in the campaign’s response in that the Obama admin. is ultimately accountable for choosing to unleash the pro-ranching, anti-enviro Sec. of Int. Salazar and the authorized bloody aftermath. The national desk manager promised me he would follow up with the writers/researchers (Lucy Shackelford/editor Alice Crites) on the WP feature.

    In my e-mail I ended with the famous excerpt from Sec. Bruce Babbit’s speech at the reintroduction ceremony in YNP and ended by opining that wolf by wolf, the Obama admin. is destroying a national gift.

    Notwithstanding cynicism attaching to my idealism like a cancer of sorts, I remain always hopeful that our messages will produce positive results — especially in the company of so many dedicated and insightful contributors to this site.

  10. Louise Kane Avatar


    thank you for calling the desk and managing editor at the Washington Post. The best way that any change will happen is for the media to get ahold of the story and to make an issue of it. I have worked as a producer for commercial advertising campaigns for a long time, while also working at other jobs including a post in DC for NOAA. It always amazes me how much money gets spent on the trivial BS that people worry about like clothes, fashion, detergent, beer, and jewelry. The advertising budgets are more reasonable now but for many years it was not uncommon to have million dollar budgets to produce a five day tv spot or even still campaign. It always irked me how little there is to go around to call to attention the big things… like wilderness destruction and targeting a species for extinction. What is even more bizarre is that so many people are opposed to this wolf massacre yet without the correct media attention its likely to go on for a while. Like you, I contacted the media, in my case, the Wisconsin NPR to send them information about the wolf plan. I asked the station to look into a story and to run a story prior to the vote and provided a number of resources. Wisconsin NPR did run one story the day of the vote and another before. If you go to the Wisconsin NPR site and look at archived stories you will find it there.

    Its so important for people to contact their editors, the federal government and any possible media sources. Thank you so much for doing that.

    I have an idea to submit a story line to Discovery…I have a friend with a lot of experience producing for them and she and I have co produced some work on coral reef restoration. We keep looking for a project to collaborate on. I’ll keep you all informed as the idea foments.

    1. Doryfun Avatar


      Seeing your background in the advertising world, have you read:
      In The Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations = by Jerry Mander. (himself coming from a marketing background and worldview). It is a great read. Highly recommended.

  11. Louise Kane Avatar

    thank you for letting me know about the pups. I suspected as much. How could any immature animal avoid the kind of hunting pressure that is being inflicted on them? For that matter, its a wonder any wolves survived. These are animals that had not been subjected to hunting pressure, and did not have to learn to avoid guns, traps, snares and everything else now ready to kill them. I would think it would take a couple of generations to learn avoidance techniques. What a shitty way to treat wolves or any wildlife. Its so disturbing I can not sleep at night.

  12. Valerie Bittner Avatar
    Valerie Bittner


    It was incredibly heartening to receive your reply. I must confess, I had to summon up a little extra courage (though I am fearless most of the time) to put myself out there, so to speak, not knowing what kind of flack I might receive from Obama lovers.

    However, I reminded myself of the hour-by-hour suffering of the wolves caught right this minute in IDFG’s, Wildlife Services and private snares — with some no doubt gasping for air, starving, chewing off their limbs, or worse.

    With respect to your project idea I have spent thousands upon thousands of hours researching the scientific and legal issues involved with wolf “recovery” since the late 80’s.

    From this work I spoke at the 20th Annual Wolf Conference (sure would like to be at the 21st in the not-too-distant-future) and have written an article for the Univ. of California – Hastings Law School West- Northwest Journal of Environmental Law & Policy entitled “Wolves in the Crosshairs: A Scientific Case Against the Final Rule of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Removing Northern Rocky Mountains Gray Wolves From the Endangered Species List (published May 2009) with emphasis on the legal and naturally functioning population requirements mandating conservation management for the “life-history strategies” of wolf packs.

    At the same time I have been working on a feature length script for a docu-drama. If you wish to contact me regarding ideas and research for your collaboration or about my docu-drama, please ask Ken Cole or Brian Ertz to release my e-mail address to you.

    Again, thank you for your encouragement. I am, of course, hoping that contributors to this site will take the time to contact the Washington Post (or other media) while the Romney dog story is hot and point out the hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s tragic treatment of wolves — referred to by Ed Bangs as “really just big dogs” — while Obama’s dog rides around in the comfort and protection of his limousine (as asserted by Obama’s campaign) in the Washington Post article.

    1. Doryfun Avatar


      Thanks for that review of your background, I was curious about your history. I have enjoyed your previous posts and impressed with your depth of knowledge. Do you possibly have a link to the article you wrote:

      “Wolves in the Crosshairs: A Scientific Case Against the Final Rule of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Removing Northern Rocky Mountains Gray Wolves From the Endangered Species List (published May 2009)


  13. Louise Kane Avatar


    I would very much like to correspond with you. It is crazy hypocrisy and tragic that the Obama administration allowed this to happen, and that it was a key agenda for Salazar. But its not so surprising to me considering that the administration continues to allow Monsanto to introduce and promote GMO foods while Mrs Obama raises an organic garden at the white house. I guess its ok for the people who don’t have the time, money or resources to buy organic to eat GMO food. Then again since most food does not even have to be labeled what we don’t know won’t hurt us. As for the dog, the Obamas chose a fancy breeder dog rather than a dog needed a home from rescue even though there are hundreds if not thousands of pure breds available on sites like petfinder. As you point out, while his dog is taking the cushy ride, the wolves are being clubbed, stomped, trapped and tortured. Its a disgrace.

    I call myself a democrat but the democrats now are more like the old moderate republicans. And neither party has an ounce of integrity when it comes to managing wildlife and fighting for environmental issues.

    When will we get a leader with a responsible environmental and socially progressive ethic at the core of his/her agenda. I was hoping it would have been Obama.

    sorry to be off the topic.

    I will ask Ralph for your e mail. Thanks so much

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      ++And neither party has an ounce of integrity when it comes to managing wildlife++

      Wildlife is managed by the states, always has been and will be for the forseeable future. Wildlife is managed by the state fish and wildlife departments and is managed for fishing and hunting with non consumptive uses considered this will not change in the forseeable future.

      1. Ken Cole Avatar

        Always defending the staus quo. It’s a comfortable stance to defend I’m sure.

    2. Jerry Black Avatar
      Jerry Black

      Louise….I read the comment you submitted to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks about extending the wolf hunt. It was, by far, the most articulate, fact based comment submitted, and I read all 105 of them.
      Easy to spot the comments from out of state…they actually had substance to them.

      1. Mike Avatar

        ++Easy to spot the comments from out of state…they actually had substance to them.++

        And that’s a big part of the problem. Education.

  14. Joe James Avatar
    Joe James


    We often forget that there is no need to “manage” wildlife. What we are managing is human take of wildlife. Given a enough space, healthy land (no cows, sheep, etc.) and a mix of predators and prey the wildlife does just fine on its own. Predators will never eat themselves out of house and home. What has happened to wolf and elk populations in Yellowstone is evidence of that. After initially spiking to nearly 200 wolves around 2005, they have stabilized around 100 or so. Likewise, elk initially dropped and have since stabilized.

    Given time and space, the same would happen outside the park with predator/prey populations reaching equilibrium. Yes, that will mean fewer elk to hunt and more importantly, more difficult elk to hunt but there will still be plenty of elk.

    A good example is a place with some of the highest predator densities in the world, Kruger NP in South Africa. Granted, a subtropical savannah and riverive forest habitat in Africa is going to br far, far more produvtive in terms of biomass than the Northern Rocky Mountains but the analogy holds. They don’t manage predators in Kruger which is roughly 4.5 million acres yet there are over 1,700 lions, 1,000 leopard, 300 wild dogs, 2,000 hyena and about 250 cheetah. That’s a lot of predators. The prey base is immense, with over 110,000 impala (think deer), 31,000 buffalo, 25,000 zebra, 10,000 wildebeest, 9,000 kudu (think elk), 10,000 white rhino, 6,500 giraffe, 3,000 hippo, 3,000 waterbuck (like a deer), 500 black rhino and about 3-4,000 other antelope of various species. Not to mention about 13,000 elephant.

    They used to control predators in an attempt to increase the prey populations but discovered the same phenomena we see in North America, habitat degradation resulting in boom-bust population cycles. Big increases in wet years followed by crashes in dry years. Since allowing predator populations to fluctuate naturally, the total population of both predator and prey has reached carrying capacity and stabilized. The mix of abundance between species fluctuates with weather as some do better in wet years while others prefer dry but the total stays the same.

    The only exception has proven to be elephant because they truly have no natural predators and being herbivores, their populations don’t rapidly stabilize to balance with their food source like predators. Lion will only hunt elephant as a last resort which in Kruger means never. Historically, local elephants migrated great distances which kept thei local impact to a minimum because they were only present at the peak feeding season then moved on but they can’t do that anymore.

    The bottom line is that if left alone, predator population would find a balance with available prey and since hunting of said prey helps keep total numbers depressed, predator populations would adjust. What we don’t understand yet is the social impact of hunting predators, especially ones with complex social structures like wolves. Hunting may actually increase impacts on livestock because fewer experienced wolves are around so they turn to sheep and cattle as easy prey. They have seen this behavior in Africa with lions, creating a feedback loop where more hunting creates more problems, leading to more hunting.

    A good friend of mine who hunts all over the world has a simple rule. He won’t hunt any animal with complex social structures like wolves, lions, elephants, etc. Everything else as long as it’s legal, sustainable and is done via fair chase is OK. I like that philosophy myself.

    1. WM Avatar

      Joe James,

      I can’t disagree with what you have said specifically to Kruger NP. It is a highly productive wildlife area, among the most elite and largest in the world. And you allude to some differences between there and our much smaller Yellowstone NP and adjacent areas.

      But, let’s be candid, here Kruger and the greater Limpopo Transfrontier wild area (proposed and existing parks) which abutt it, is absolutely huge, maybe five times the size of Kruger itself, which is twice the size of Yellowstone/Teton. So, what, maybe this area is 10 times the size of YNP?

      Then there is Kruger’s tropical latitude, incredible biomass production capablity on a relatively uniform and nearly entirely useable habitat for the animals there. Compare Yellowstone/Teton’s UNUSEABLE, much less productive lands due to its northern latitude, harsher climate with seasonal temperature and precipitation fluctuation. Less suitable plant growing climate means less habitat, which means fewer mammals in total (I presume you listed species and numbers of them for some illustrative purposes).

      Then there are the unusable parts of the Yellowstone landscape whether barren rock, Yellowstone Lake itself, or the alkali/mineral ladens soils adjacent to active geothermal properties, which are themselves unable to grow plants (think the spray and compaction zone around Old Faithful for example). Or the fact that the YNP lacks sufficient winter range for ungulates, resulting in conflict at the fringes requiring control (bison killed or or restricted access) and artificial feeding (elk at the refuge)

      I don’t know about adjacent land uses abutting Kruger and its associated wildland properties in the Greater Limpopo, but it would be important to know if cattle or sheep are raised there in any numbers, and what the ranchers think of the predator base, and whether there is depredation on those lands by the predators within, or the predators outside the park/natural area complexes, and whether they are managed any differently than what we might find in the NRM. Also, what is the human population base for these areas, and do they value the predator’s prey base for sustainance or recreational hunting (including the economic benefits derived from it)? Maybe their income, is derived from providing goods and services to Kruger visitors, year round.

      If we could go back in time a hundred fifty years, maybe the result would have been different. But until YNP is enlarged to include winter range, people are removed from the landscape (except as visitors) and no longer live and make a living there raising livestock, building megamansions in the valleys, and recreate including hunting, there will be no real world comparison of the much larger Kruger and Yellowstone.

      So, this predator prey thing in equilibrium is a great concept to achieve, but in the real world in that area much more difficult. And, you do realize the elk in Yellowstone were artificially high due to the early 1980’s fires, creating new habitat, and the reintroduction of wolves was one way to fix that problem, yes? Wildlife management even in YNP, and at its fringes will always be.

  15. Valerie Bittner Avatar
    Valerie Bittner

    Joe James wrote:

    “We often forget that there is no need to “manage” wildlife. What weare managing is human take of wildlife. Given a enough space, healthy land (no cows, sheep, etc.) and a mix of predators and prey the wildlife does just fine on its own. Predators will never eat themselves out of house and home”.

    Right on — a “naturally functioning population” as Brainerd describes (this contributed by a writer to this site) — is what the ESA drafters wanted in terms of a species interrelationship with the ecosystem.

    Respecting “wildlife management”, the late conservation biologist George Haber (who died in a mysterious airplane crash)opined that the gray wolf, owing to its superlative intelligence and other special characteristics (i.e. exceedingly rare cooperative breeding behavior) should be placed in a special conservation category whereby the species would be given adequate critical habitat/corridors in the first place, necessitating mostly monitoring (i.e. akin to YNP) and free from standard “wildlife management” protocols.

    Of course, as most know, the experimental population/10-j rules came about as a quid pro quo for foregoing critical habitat. With re-listing, I believe critical habitat would come into play.

  16. Louise Kane Avatar

    Its interesting to note that similar agumeents about predators are made in reference to marine populations of predators. They eat too many fish that the fisherman want the exclusive right to kill, they are junk fish, they cause disruption to fishermen’s nets. Kill them all. Every time the fishermen are allowed to kill off a species like dogfish there is a ripple effect and the groundfish and other species suffer and crash. The fishermen (my Dad was one) like to RANT (for WM) about the effect these junk fish have on the valuable gorundfish. They used to have bumper stickers too about dogfish, sharks etc. As the sharks or dogfish came up in the nets they killed them as fast as they could.

    While its a far cry from being anywhere near perfect, the crucial amendments of the magnuson fisheries act had to do with protecting essential fish habitat that was critical for breeding, feeding, reproducing etc. in an attempt to protect various species of fish. As Valerie suggests hopefully critical habitat will come into play for wolves. The fishermen, like the ranchers, want to be able to manage “protect” the species that they value, at the cost of damaging whole ecosystems. And its not working in fishery managment councils where fishermen are part of the process any more than its working by allowing the ranchers to largely determine and manage the future of predators.

  17. Louise Kane Avatar

    To elk,
    we need a new wildlife management model, the current paradigm is not healthy. I beleive most people do not support the way wildlife are managed by the states or federal govt. I think if people were more educated about what was happenning to wolves, they would be very opposed. What the states are doing to wolves seems so incomprehnsible that most people have a hard time beleiveing it. Try telling someone outside of Montana, Idaho or Wyoming that there were 1700 or so wolves and the states aim to kill all of them but 400 (plus or minus) and they look at you like you are nuts. When I tell people, many are incredulous. Valerie I love what you posted about George Haber and his thoughts. Wolves are special. Predators are special, they should not be treated as game animals or varmints. They should not be subjected to traps and snares and allowed to have people club and stomp them to death. We need new laws and a whole lot of exposure about the issue.

  18. Valerie Bittner Avatar
    Valerie Bittner

    Louise Kane wrote,

    “Wolves are special. Predators are special, they should not be treated as game animals or varmints. They should not be subjected to traps and snares and allowed to have people club and stomp them to death. We need new laws and a whole lot of exposure about the issue.”

    Agreed. As others have suggested, we need a national canid conservation act. In the interim, as I have repeatedly pointed out on this site, there are a handful of ESA interpretative cases (albeit dealing with endangered anadromous salmon, but nonetheless invaluable by analogy) which hold that the conspecific “life-history strategies” of the species MUST be considered in any population analysis — particularly where there has not been an actual, on-the-ground MVP study.

    This is the argument I very hoped Defenders, et al. would have presented to Judge Molloy in late summer 2010. That is: beyond the value of the individual wolf (which Earthjustice bravely argued for)and the total population number, a “naturally functioning population” (recent reference: Brainerd) which interrelates with its ecosystem (as the ESA mandates)must be the cornerstone of the analysis as to whether a population is endangered or has recovered.

    Would very much appreciate feedback from other lawyers and leading conversationists conservationists re: this issue.

    1. JB Avatar


      I don’t see scientists agreeing on what constitutes a “naturally functioning” population anymore than they agree on what “sustainability”, “ecosystem health”, or “ecosystem function” mean. Courts won’t appreciate that type of ambiguity from the scientific community and so are likely to defer to agencies.

  19. Cobra Avatar

    Louise, Valerie,
    “Wolves are special”, I think that’s one of the biggest problems with what’s going on with the wolf issues. Wolves are not any more special than elk, deer, bears, cats, etc. They are, when it boils down to it, just another animal in the forest. They are all important in their own ways to us and the ecosystem. They relie on one another just as we do.
    Here we have one side putting god like status on an animal and the other side saying they’re the devil. Extremes on both side are really getting ridiculus, whatever happened to middle of the road? The problem I think anyway, is that the middle of the road has different meaning to different people.
    Middle of the road to me is about how it’s going right now, to you and others here I’m sure it’s much different.
    I like seeing and hearing the wolves but I also like seeing and hear all the other animals out there.
    North Idaho currently leads the state in wolves taken with Dworshak being a close second, even though they’ve taken about 70 plus wolves in the panhandle there are still quite a few wolves around up here. We see sign just about everytime we go out. People hear them howling on the ridges above the local golf courses often.
    The wolves will be fine and I can’t wait till both sides go silent and move on to something else that might be more important, say maybe an animal like the Wolverine.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue


      I agree with just about all you have concluded. The god-like status probably derives from it’s persecution, removal, and long anticipated return. There exists a metaphor in there somewhere that I will leave to the imagination.

  20. Louise Kane Avatar
    Louise Kane

    To cobra,
    I can’t speak for Valerie ….but part of what makes wolves and other apex predators special is that they are special or invaulable in a naturally functioning ecosytem. Apex predators play a great role in ecosystem health from helping to maintain biological diversity. This concept is defined as a trophic cascade effect, which you have no doubt read about. For me, wolves and their special status is partly a value judgment because I love their superior intelligence, the traits that they demonstrate within thier packs like bonding, and the way that they function as a cooperative society. I find them stunning and fascinating…But the reason I become so angry about wolf management, is that wolves occupy a biologically special place within their habitats and ecosystems. All animals do… yet wolves are vilified for the role they play in natural predator prey relationships. Our wildlife mangers and agencies ignore science and choose to implement flawed and corrupt management plans.

    Doryfun thank you for the article. I will look at it. also I believe that the article Valerie wrote may be posted on living with wolves site, I’ll double check.

  21. EastCoast Hunter Avatar
    EastCoast Hunter

    They are a game animal and should be treated as such. They are no different than a bear/elk/cougar/deer. They should and are being managed by The Idaho Division of Fish and Game. The wolf numbers have been going up steadily since they were reintroduced by the Federal Govt. The general theme of the comments seem to demonize hunters….who by the way pay for more Wildlife Management than any other organization. It is our license fees that account for the funds necessary to enjoy public land. It’s also taxes from ANY hunting and fishing apparel that keep the wildlife numbers stable. That’s a fact. I hunt because it’s been passed down from generation to generation in my family, not because of some of the disgusting comments from some of the “enlightened” anti-hunters posting on this site.

  22. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    I just want to say unlike sb or Jerry B. I do not have their technical expertise in wildlife management. But the films I have seen these people take pride in killing.
    This has been said over and over, but I think a dose of reality would be if they get hold in a snare or shot by accident of course, by one of their trigger happy friends.All we introduced these animals were to sell tags, and amo I said this in 2006 when I visited the wolf introduction house. The girl showed me all the different packs forming. I know I said this before!!!!

  23. Richie Avatar

    Even if they get the population down to 150, they will still say it’s 300 just to keep killing them off.


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.

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Ken Cole