This past September my colleagues (S.A. Enzler & A. Treves) and I published an article arguing that the public trust doctrine could provide a legal means to force protection of wolves were state policies found lacking (Bruskotter et al., 30 Sept. 2011, p. 1828). This article prompted two recent replies published by Science last month from L. David Mech and David Johns (17 Feb. 2012, p. 794). Contrary to our assertion, Mech contended that “state governments have not shown ‘hostility toward wolves’”. Johns, on the other hand, found our analysis of the delisting decision to be inadequate, and took exception with the idea (implied in our title) that “moving the issue from federal to state courts will remove politics from decisions about wolves.” I’ve provided an explanation of our response to these criticisms (here).

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About The Author

Jeremy Bruskotter

Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter is an associate professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University where his research interests are centered around the human dimensions” of wildlife conservation and management. Jeremy is passionate about wildlife–at one time or another, he has called himself hunter, angler, and wildlife photographer. Most of all, Jeremy is concerned with bringing the tools and techniques of the social sciences to bear on pressing issues in wildlife management.

156 Responses to Can the Public Trust Doctrine be used to Protect Wolves?

  1. Paul says:

    Has Dr. Mech not been paying attention to what has been going on in Idaho, wyoming, Wisconsin, and Montana? If what they are doing is not hostile to wolves, I would hate to see what his definition hostile is. So I guess what they are doing now is the equivalent of a scratch behind the ear?

  2. Louise Kane says:

    I had some very disturbing correspondence with Dr Mech about wolves and hunting effort. I know that Dr Mech is revered in some circles, and has a huge reservoir of experince, but his clinical detachment when refrencing killing and hunting wolves is chilling. I can’t figure out how someone who spent so much time observing wolves can be so cold blooded. I watched some video testimony he gave to Minnesota, and shortly after that testimony Minnesota decided to forgo the 5 year waiting period that they had previously subscribed to after the deslisting. I do not feel that Dr Mech is a friend to wolves, at all. After watching him, the thought that came to mind was that Herr Mech finds the wolves of the world as nothing more than subjects in his personal lab.

    • aves says:

      Mech’s passion for wolves is clearly evident from looking at his life’s work. Mech’s ability to maintain his composure when talking about wolves has been a tremendous asset to wolf recovery. Had he ever been a jackass and used a Nazi metaphor then wolves would have lost perhaps their greatest champion.

      The main reason Minnesota decided to forego the 5 year waiting period was because they had recovered biologically and should have been delisted about 8 years ago. Hence the 5 year waiting period would have elapsed by now had those opposed to wolf hunting not sued and won on a technicality.

  3. Savebears says:


    By definition, scientists are suppose to be unemotional on their studies, they are suppose to gather the data and render findings to be reviewed based on that data. You are not suppose to be a friend or an enemy to the subject being studied you are simply the person gathering information and data. Because you pursue and execute your job correctly does not make you a Nazi.

    • Brian Ertz says:

      scientists need not be unemotional ~ their data and conclusions ought not be influenced by it. big difference.

      • aves says:

        Really, Brian? As a moderator/main contributor that’s what you want to dispute, not Louise’s Nazi metaphor?

  4. john says:

    Ouch!! there Save Bears!! that was such a unemotional response.

    • Savebears says:

      John and Brian,

      I was not trying to infer any emotion with my post. I know Dr. Mech personally and I can assure you he is not a cold person, working in a similar field, I can say when I have done my work, I was quite detached during the process of processing the data and reporting it. My specialty concerns Bison. I was quite happy this evening about with transfer of Bison to the Native Americans and quite tickled the way it was carried out, but when questioned about this transfer, I was not emotional, I was factual, as Dr. Mech has been on his testimony about wolves.

      Brian, I am well aware there is a big difference, obviously you did not think I knew this. Being detached when testifying about your conclusions, does not make you a Nazi. Which is what Louise implied with her comment.

  5. Louise Kane says:

    Savebears, I don’t need to have the definition of a scientist explained to me. In addition to completing a master’s program that was a combination of policy and science in the marine studies field, I completed a law degree with a focus in environmental studies (my law dissertation on the Oil Pollution Act). I also have a great many friends that were and are involved in fisheries managment, coral reef ecology and restoration, and others that work in universities as well as in federal agencies.

    My comment about Dr. Mech comes from my personal observations about many of my colleauges who often become (even more) passionate, as time passes, about conserving the subject of their studies whether it be corals, lions, elephants, salicornia, marine mammals, groundfish or some particular endangered species. In my experince, the scientists I so often admire seem to gain even greater respect for the subject of their studies as time passes. Dr Mech’s clinical detachment from his very engaging subjects (wolves) is unsettling to me. Its so sterile. And please as far as scientists having no role in policy or advocacy, there are plenty of individuals who are scientists but who are also fierce advocates for a cause, species or conservation intitiative. Just think, Rachel Carson, Sylvia Earle, Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall. These women easily come to mind when I think of scientists who are also effective policy advocates … as well as some of the most compelling contemporary scientists. And then there was Albert Einstein…and let’s not forget Aldo Leopold. So please don’t lecture me on science and the myth that the only true scientist must be detached with no interest in advocacy or policy. My point being how can one study a species for so long and be so blase about the terrible policies that the states are implementing? here is a link to something you may want to read.

    • Savebears says:


      I have read it, perhaps others have not, it is a good read. I also have completed my Masters degree, but when presenting my findings on my specialty it was/is not emotional, I am factual, that is one of the problems we have with many of the issues that face this country, far to many emotional arguments, They should be factual scientific based arguments.

      Both sides play the emotion card and it skews the issue to the side that is more emotional and screams the loudest.

      I was not lecturing you, I would appreciate the same courtesy.

      • Savebears says:

        I will add, what you consider terrible policy, is not terrible policy to other scientists in this country.

  6. Patricia Randolph says:

    It is always interesting to see the “detachment” and excoriation of emotion from those who rationalize and justify extreme cruelty to other species. As a whole human being, I appreciate that humans were given emotions for excellent evolutional completion – to bond with others, empathize, understand their suffering, pain, and physical pain. To see them fully and love them entirely.

    Tools and techniques and mechanized detachment are patriarchal grandiosities that accompany that oh so prized “rationale” that humans have used to SEPARATE their animal selves from other animals. Giving reasons for why humans are ABOVE or SUPERIOR or DIFFERENT or BETTER than other animals. My cool observance tells me otherwise. I have never seen a more destructive and unjust and irrational species as is the human species. No other species ravages their environment, wages war wholesale against other species (spinning it as “MAN”agement)or hoards other species by the billions to slaughter in holocaust after holocaust. No other species despoils its water systems, destroys its oceans, threatens the entire world by digging and blasting into the ground, creating weaponry to destroy the entire world, and pollutes the air like the human species.

    No other species aspires to be detached.

    And frankly, I have never seen any human being more emotional than those who want to kill wildlife for ego, farm animals for profit, and trap for sadistic pleasure. VERY EMOTIONAL.

    So I look at the process by which humans “judge” and compare and find them arrogant and deceitful. “Not being a friend or enemy” to your subject is like claiming there is such a thing as impartial journalism. We are all colored by our life experiences and bring them to whatever we perceive.

    The rise of the feminine and intact whole human beings who bring their emotional fullness to redress the well documented injustices and abuses of animals and their innocent, friendly, loving natures will prevail. As my 80 year old American Indian neighbors says, “Any animal, when not afraid, is a delight and a loving beautiful sacred friend.” The abuse of animals must be ended not rationalized.

    • Nancy says:

      Totally agree Patricia Randolph!

    • MJ Graham says:

      I concur with your observations, Patricia. Frankly, homo sapiens seems to be one of the least evolved species intellectually and spiritually. Far too egocentric even for its own good.

  7. Louise Kane says:

    I did not mean to imply that Dr Mech is a Nazi. I meant that the way he comes across is extremely cold. For politicans looking for a means to justify their over the top predator killing policies, they seem to have found a source to rely on when it comes to Dr Mech.

    • Savebears says:

      If you meant he comes across cold, then simply state that, without the Nazi reference.

  8. Louise Kane says:

    I am human… all this blood thristy killing has left me angry at the apathetic reponse by some scientists.

    • Savebears says:


      There are many scientists in many fields that are considered apathetic when they testify about the subject matter they are concerned with, it only strikes a cord when it concerns the subject you are interested it, but as you must know it is common in the scientific community.

  9. Louise Kane says:

    well you and I really disagree about terrible policy. The outright war on wolves is terrible policy to me, especially when the states policies call for immediatly killing as many wolves as they can. The only fear being the potential for a relsiting. This kind of “policy” flies in the face of science. Wolves and other predatros are neccessary and beneficial animals need for healthy ecosystems. It defies common sense to “manage” a species for its least viable population number.

    • Savebears says:


      I have made no statement on whether I agree or disagree with the policies of the states that have wolves, I was simply stating there are other scientists that disagree on what constitutes terrible policy. You need to actually read what I wrote.

    • Doryfun says:


      “This kind of “policy” flies in the face of science. Wolves and other predatros are neccessary and beneficial animals need for healthy ecosystems. It defies common sense to “manage” a species for its least viable population.”

      Just curious here. How does state policies fly in the face of science by managing a species for its least viable population.? What do you mean by least viable? If animals are managed at a minimum level, yet do not drop below the established legal number to get re-listed, why is that bad science?

      Isn’t it more an argument about which ratio (pred/prey) state policies decide to manage for? Since hunters and anglers foot most of the bill for management, it is understandable why policies lean that way. I didn’t say right, here. As it is apparent, by evidence of various support from other scientist, that funding changes need to be made, so more weight might be given to alter that ratio to reflect those who value more of the predator side. Until then, most likely, the squeakier part of the wheel will probably continue to get most of the oil.

    • Mike says:

      There is a war on wolves right now. No doubt about it.

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Along the lines of legal arguments… Would there be any possible success in arguing that taxpayers have a moral disagreement with funding the killing of animals with their tax dollars i. e. Wildlife Services arm of the Dept of Ag.? While this is not directly related to this thread, I’ve often wondered this. The legal discussion here reminded me. Anyone have any info to offer on that?

    • Savebears says:

      First you would have to show there is a majority of the tax payers that disagree, which would be difficult, because you would have to poll tax payers all over the country, not just in the states with wolf populations. Polling the entire tax paying public would be an almost impossible undertaking.

    • WM says:


      Not quite sure where you were going with your comment. But, most everyone has a disagreement about where their tax dollars go, or don’t.

      If you were suggesting a moral disagreement as a means of not paying taxes (which you believe are earmarked for activities with which you disagree), I will suggest that doesn’t work. Recall Henry David Thoreau tried that avenue without success, over 160 years ago. The penalty for not paying minor taxes was Thoreau’s punishment, which he credited as an act of civil disobedience. Today, you would just get nasty letters from the IRS, maybe forced federal withholding, garnishment of wages, attachment of assets, etc.

      If your are bold, try it and see what happens. It will likely mess up your financial life for several years, and then haunt your financial history for a decade. If your tax evasion antics are bad enough to be classified as a felony, it may haunt you forever, especially when you apply for a job, a loan, and a bunch of other stuff.

      • WM says:

        Sorry, the sentence above should read:

        ++…Thoreau’s penalty for not paying minor taxes was jail for a couple of days,…++

    • Salle says:


      I’m thinking that polling really isn’t impossible, a but expensive, maybe, but worth it. with that info a petition to some judicial entity… perhaps?

  11. Louise Kane says:

    A question here that someone may be able to answer.
    Essentially, the public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources, including wildlife, have no owners and therefore belong to all citizens. When the ESA is no longer applicable or does not offer protection to a species, the public trust doctrine imposes an obligation on the states to conserve that species for their citizens. Wolves and predators (especially coyotes) in particular however, present a problem. They are maligned and victims of a politcial tug of war. If states do not provide adeauate protections for a species and or the policital atmosphere prevents invoking the public trust doctrine, what then? Does anyone know of any past or present pending legislation that proposed to provide specific protections to predators using a public-trust like concept but on a federal level, (and I don’t mean the the ESA).

    • WM says:


      If you, indeed, have a law degree, some legal experience, and have some knowledge of the complicated state/federal relationships involving wildlife, you know those powers not specifically granted to Congress are reserved to the states. Wildlife management is one of them, unless Congress has specifically chosen to step in (the ESA being just one). You also know the “public trust doctrine” has been applied sparingly at the federal level, and only reached states through constitutional avenues like the commerce clause.

      The public trust doctrine has its roots primarily in the water resources, and the right to fish area. If I understand JB’s papers, he and his colleagues, with a few authors which have preceded their work, advocate a “wildlife trust doctrine,” based in state law.

      It is a novel idea, not without its critics, as is noted by the published letters which are the topic of this thread.

      You may also benefit from an earlier discussion of the topic on this very forum, where JB’s original paper was discussed, with comments from an environmental lawyer who goes by the moniker “Dude, the bagman, and myself.

      I think you will find the “public trust or more specific to the wolf topic, a “wildlife trust” to contain untested concepts, at the state level (and states do vary considerably in their recognition of a trust duty of some sort), and subject to considerable policy and legal debate. Much of it has to do with practical implementation and consistency.

      This is a topic worthy of discussion for science, legal and policy implementation issues it presents.


      As for your specific comments about Dr. Mech, let me say I am shocked at the aspersions you cast in his direction. He has decades of wolf advocacy under his belt as he has, in effect, lead the repopulation of the Western Great Lakes wolves, established the International Wolf Center in Ely, MN (a repository of research and education on wolves). He was also instrumental in the NRM reintroduction, and lead FWS scientist in that effort. His extesive writings have a smattering of wolf advocacy philosophy, which are often quoted by some here.

      He is first, and foremost, a scientist, and most in the field recognize him as the top wolf scientist in all of North America. We have also on this forum, talked about how scientists should go about their work. Lack of emotion toward study subjects probably results in better scientific work, because it tends to promote objectivity. On the other hand there are “advocacy scientists” who are constantly subject to bias criticisms, and they should be.

      As for your calling the foremost wolf scientist in North America, “Herr Mech,” it is a total lack of total respect by someone who doesn’t know jack shit about wolves, the NRM reintroduction, or wildlife law. And, that, Louise, you can take as a rant.

    • JB says:


      WM’s comments are spot on regarding the law, with one exception. The public trust doctrine (or wildlife trust doctrine) is actually the key component of the North American model of wildlife conservation. That is, the Supreme Court cases that recognized states rights to regulate wildlife relied heavily upon the doctrine, which was carried over from British common law. However, there has been little application of the PTD in the way we advocate and, as Johns pointed out, state courts are not immune from political influence. The extent to which the PTD can be used to protect species is, as we noted, largely unknown.
      Re: Mech.

      I believe he largely misinterpreted our original paper as a condemnation of delisting–a subject we purposefully tried to avoid. I have some other knowledge of his thinking, but to be honest, I am reluctant to speak on behalf of another. However, to WM’s larger point, it seems fitting to leave you with a quote from Mech’s 1970, The Wolf:

      “Once blinded emotionally bu such hate, the antiwolf people fail to see that the wolf has no choice about the way it lives; that it cannot thrive on grass or twigs any more than man can…These people cannot be changed. If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of natural processes. Finally, their hate must be outdone by a love for the whole of nature, for the unspoiled wilderness, and for the wolf as a beautiful, interesting, and integral part of both.” (Mech, L.D., 1970. The Wolf, p. 348).

      • Mike says:

        ++These people cannot be changed. If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of natural processes. Finally, their hate must be outdone by a love for the whole of nature, for the unspoiled wilderness, and for the wolf as a beautiful, interesting, and integral part of both.”++

        Bingo. I’ve been saying this for years on this forum. Their behavior, their stance must be ridiculed, admonished, and shouted down at every available opportunity because it is the behavior of madmen.

      • Immer Treue says:


        If the wolf is to survive, the wolf haters must be outnumbered. They must be outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude based on an understanding of natural processes. Finally, their hate must be outdone by a love for the whole of nature, for the unspoiled wilderness, and for the wolf as a beautiful, interesting, and integral part of both.” (Mech, L.D., 1970. The Wolf, p. 348).

        Two things.

        The antis will say that Mech wrote this many years ago, and it no longer applies.

        Also, the anti’s have done all the others: outnumbered, outshouted, outfinanced, and outvoted. Their narrow and biased attitude must be outweighed by an attitude… to the detriment of the “wolf movement”.

        • Mike says:

          Not outnumbered. Far from it. Outshouted? Yes.

        • JB says:


          I have no desire to argue with you about who has outshouted or outfinanced whom. It really doesn’t matter anyway; I only quoted Mech for Louise’s benefit.

          Regardless, while I would agree that the “antis” have probably done better from a grass roots (or local) perspective, groups like the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife have done far better at fundraising and litigation on the national level.

          The removal of wolves from ESA protections is a “game-changer”. It means that after a long road trip, the antis now have home court advantage.

          • Immer Treue says:


            Comment not made as a point of argument. I’ve used those Mech quotes before and had them thrown back in my face.

            I believe they are as relevant as ever, yet, I submit that Mech also knows what he is talking about in regard to wolf management.

            It’s just odd that he has been slapped around by the anti’s and now by the pro’s, when his advice in terms of seasons and harvest of wolves is pretty much spot on.

      • WM says:

        To be understood properly, one maybe needs to consider the context of this particular statement of Dr. Mech in 1969-70.

        Has his view changed over the last 40+ years? Possibly. I don’t know what he would say, but here is a possible explanation.

        The 1973 Endangered Species Act had not yet been passed. Wolves had not been ESA listed (I don’t think) under the 1966 act), the population of wolves in Northern MN stood at about 700-800 (no good reliable estimates to my knowledge), MN did not have a wolf management plan (no state did other than to kill off what wolves remained), the International Wolf Center was not even a twinkle in Mech’s eye (1986 or so was the magic year), and again wolves were being persecuted wherever they existed on the landscape (NRM or anywhere else likely killed on sight).

        Dr. Mech was at the early stages of his career (age mid 30’s?), deeply engrossed in his study subjects in the US and elsewhere throughout the world.

        Yes, the question is one of context. His comments and writings have tempered over the years as wolf recovery has been accomplished, much to his personal credit and those of his students and collaborators.

        Maybe some here would benefit from taking the time to watch and carefully listen to his 30 minute testimony before a MN House legislative committee on the DNR plans to hunt wolves.

        Maybe then it will help you understand his views today.

        • JB says:

          Funny, I had the opposite reaction in revisiting Mech’s words. By the time Mech wrote those words (1969-70) most of what he called for had already taken place. The environmental movement really started in the late 1950s and took hold in the early 1960s. Never Cry Wolf (though fictional) was published in the same year as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1963), and a year later (1964) the Leopold Committee issued its report lambasting the federal predator control program. Two years later the Endangered species Preservation Act was passed, and wolves were listed shortly thereafter (on March 11, 1967). And of course, nearly all of our federal environmental laws were passed between 1965 and 1975.

          Today, however, it is a different story. The people who have come out against wolves have momentum on their side (though they don’t have numbers). More importantly, their anti-intellectual, anti-government, xenophobic views have been made mainstream by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and the Murdoch and Koch-funded media that support them. Meanwhile, the US population increased from 200 to 300 million and suburbanization and exurbaniztion continue to suck up habitat. In some respects, Mech’s (1970) words are more relevant today than ever.

          • Doryfun says:

            Nice boil-down, JB .

          • WM says:

            I confess to not knowing the early wolf listing history in MN. But, it was my understanding based on the content of references noted in the MN petition for delisting to Secretary Salazar, dated March 15, 2010, MN believed its wolves were not protected until 1970 (citing a paper by Wydeven), and then listed in 1974 under the 1973 ESA.

            And, of course, there were no wolves in WI and MI, where Mech and other scientists wanted to see them in 1970. This was his pet project area, so why would he have not made his advocacy comments about then and there? I think that background give his statement proper context. Wolves didn’t start showing in WI and MI until the late 1980’s (See Table 1, 2009 WGL delisting rule).

            Incidentally, referencing your second paragraph, we could have held that 300 million to about 275 if we had the cojones to do it, but that is a topic, por un otro dia.

            • JB says:


              See Fed. Reg. 32, No. 48, p. 4011 (11 March, 1967). Wolves (specifically the “Timber Wolf”) was first listed under the Endangered Species Preservation Act at that time. You’ll get a kick out the simplicity of the document. It reads merely…

              “In accordance with section 1(c) of the Endangered Species Preservation Act of October 15, 1966…I find after consulting the States, interested organizations, and individual scientists, that the following listed native fish and wildlife are threatened with extinction.”

              It then goes on to list ~70 species, including the wolf. Simpler times.

      • Salle says:

        Thanks for that quote, JB. That’s the one I remembered Dr. Mech by. It seems that lately, several years now, he has a different view from what the quote might imply that he held. I met him many years ago and admired his work. I was rather disturbed when I started to hear some of his comments in recent years.

        That being said, I never got the impression that he was really big on social issues. Maybe, also looking at that same quote, he may have become discouraged with the social aspects of the subject of his work and retreated somehow. I wonder about that.

        I think the point JB makes regarding the North American model of wildlife conservation… I wonder if the time is ripe to test it. There’s a pile of dead wolves, oops I mean, evidence and research to support the argument by now… n’est ce pas?

  12. jon says:

    Did not know where to put this, so here is as good as any place I suppose. These comments made by the president of the Montana trappers association are disturbing.

    “We trappers do cause pain and suffering to animals and apologize to no one” Dennis “Foothold” Schutz, Vice-President West of the Montana Trappers Association (MTA)

  13. Louise Kane says:


    perhaps I should have started the first comment I made on this particular thread by questioning why a scientist, when in the unique posiiton to testify could not have made the effort to testify that the state of Minnesota mightt want to excercise restraint instead of rushing to hunt wolves in a state where they population did remain stable and the ungulate populations also were stable. The state also had predator control methods in place that were taking care of the “problem wolves”. Making a short statement of this kind could have easily been done and easily have been done using facts only, thank you.

    I’ll stand by my statement that it defies common sense to rush out and kill as many wolves as possible especially when its entirely possible as some biologists/scientists and other commentators have made… that the numbers the states use as the basis for their managment plans are most likely flawed (Jay Mallonee on Montana).

    When states set quotas and then propose to extend the seasons, increase hunting effort and expand hunting methods… This is not science its politics.

    “What do you mean by least viable?” By least viable I mean least viable. Some of the states are using the target recovery goals that were set by a working group many of whom were ranchers, state and federal representatives with only two conservation groups (who did not approve the reovery plan by the way). While the wolves did indeed reach their “recovery goals” we might have just been seeing their populations reach ann equilibrium like in Minnesota, Wyoming and as Ralph argues in Idaho.

    This from a past post by Ralph
    “According to the official records Idaho’s wolf population pretty much stopped growing by the end of 2008 with 856 wolves. The actual peak was in 2009 at 870 wolves, within the margin of error. So for practical purposes it was the same as 2008. By the end of 2010 it had fallen to just 705. This is surprising because there was no wolf hunt in 2010. It is possible the 2009 hunt disrupted the breeding condition for 2010. It is also possible that wolf growth was coming to its natural end just as it did in Yellowstone Park with no hunting. ”

    You asked “If animals are managed at a minimum level, yet do not drop below the established legal number to get re-listed, why is that bad science? ”

    I ask you what does being relisted have to do with good science? The number at which an animal is relisted is a polictical process. Surely you can’t beleive that allowing animals to be managed at their minimally viable populations, especially when it comes to animals that rely on intricate social structures, is good science. I’v read your posts and I think not.

    “Isn’t it more an argument about which ratio (pred/prey) state policies decide to manage for? Since hunters and anglers foot most of the bill for management, it is understandable why policies lean that way. I didn’t say right, here. As it is apparent, by evidence of various support from other scientist, that funding changes need to be made, so more weight might be given to alter that ratio to reflect those who value more of the predator side. Until then, most likely, the squeakier part of the wheel will probably continue to get most of the oil.”

    I don’t disagree with this statement at all but it is not good science to manage the way the states are doing period.

    here are parts of two previous posts
    From Mark Gamblin
    “Idaho does indeed have a pre-determined wolf population management objective: To manage the Idaho wolf population as close to the 150 wolves/15 breeding pair ESA criteria as possible, without risk that unintended factors, beyond management control could push wolf numbers below that minimum desireable objective. That means that the Idaho wolf numbers will be managed for a threshold above the 150/15 breeding pairs to ensure that the Idaho wolf population remains robust and sustainable.”

    What the hell is robust or sustainable about managing wolves at the “minimum desirable objective” . This objective was set as a political compromise by people brought to the table with serious conflicts of interest.

    • Doryfun says:


      How does managing at minimum populations translate to bad science? I still don’t catch your drift? While I may wish to see a different pred/prey ratio to aim for, that is just my bias, not indicative to bad science because departments chose a different level. At least, as long as animals are manage so they do not get re-listed. To me, the line of demarcation for healthy ecosystem services does not always equate with optimum. An ecosystem is in a constant state of flux. Health is relative, with a wide range, from minimum, to optimum, to maximum, Humans like certainty so usually opt for stability, at which ever level of mgt they choose.

      Challenging the state level is for is a different issue. If it is wrong, or does not support science, then yes, it needs to be changed. It may be poor policy, in terms of an imbalance of satisfying proportional pieces of the pie divvied up to user groups. But that is not the same ting as bad science.

      Also, NGO’s took to the legal arena over such perceived imbalances, and based a lot of their case on new science. My question is, how valid was the new science, and was it enough to base a change in management or law?

      While science is based on peer review and consensus, we all know there will always be those contrarian scientist, whom sometimes do come up with new solutions, new discoveries. But for each one of those there are a lot more who do not come up with new viable answers.

      If you were scouting a rapid with a group of ten guides, getting ready to run a class V rapid with two choices between two potential routes, both very difficult, which guide would you choose to get in the boat with: the only guide who chooses route A, or one of the nine guides whom choose route B? If your goal is to be in a “right side up” boat at the bottom of the rapid, which choice offers the best chance for success?

      I am a bit of a non-conformist myself, (part of why I like George Wuerthner’s perspectives). So I often side with those that buck the system, even though if may be the harder road. But, I try to align myself with good science, best I can, and have compassion for the underdog or those whom challenge the status quo. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be on this site. And even though I champion the potential for finding solutions by collaboration and compromise, I often have to do so gritting my teeth and muttering bad things under my breath.

      Back to JB’s idea about the PTD as potential legal pursuit to state agency directions that may be lacking, I think the idea is warranted, do to the potential it has for agencies to re-examine who they are managing for, and by what mix. And thereby hopeful a means to determine different strategies for funding to better represent a more balanced user group interest. Specially, since wildlife professionals have been calling for such, as evidenced by their articles in scientific journals.

      As far as the science goes, I still have a high confidence level in what
      Mech and Johns have had to say, as there reputations still carry a lot of weight. But, I am still open to considering other ideas, too.

  14. Louise Kane says:

    To repond to Paul who asked has Dr Mech not seen what is going on in idaho…..This is what I would consider a mid range hostile site (if there were a hositility measure). This is not an isolated or extreme site by any means and these are the people pushing for and applauding wolf “management” in Idaho. Its a terrible time for wolves. But this is what wolf advocates are up against. I hope people do start to take a grassroots approach to advocating for wolves. Its way beyond due.

    • Mike says:

      There’s no question there’s outright hostility towards wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. That’s not Mech’s specialty, so I wouldn’t quote him on any of that, or expect anything other than a cold stance as a scientist. Yes, many do show passion for the animals they study, but not all.

  15. Immer Treue says:

    As Dr. Mech’s nma ehas been brought into this fray, let it be said that Dr. Mech has little patience for fools, on either side of the issue.

    We have a large, social carnivore that has the “potential” to be dangerous to livestock, pets, and people, even though the people quotient has been all but nonexistant. They do impact elk and the socioeconomics associated with elk harvesting.

    ut they are certainly not the creature of myth and he has said as much countless times. Thewhole E. granulosus thing he has referred to as a tempest in a teapot. And in terms of the giant Canadian wolves brought into the NRM states, a nonissue. The antis like to cherry pick every thing he says.

    He is also on record as saying that environmental groups law suits have been one of the biggest hold-ups for wolf dispersal to other areas. He may seem dispasionate about wolves, but he is anything but dispassionate. I have met and spoken with him, and listened to his presentations at the IWC and at different Wolf Symposia. I have witnessed his debating Creel’s and Rotella’s studies. He has forgotten more about wolves than most of us will ever know.

    Odd that he has given testimony in regard to wolves, in respect to recovered populations, genetic connectivity, the few comments he makes about Isle Royale, that the states ans anti’s rally behind; and the pro’s think that he has caved in, are incredulous about his remarks… yet no one will listen to the man in terms of establishing wolf policy.

  16. Louise Kane says:

    I think the issue Paul brought up is how can Dr Mech argue that what the states are doing to wolves is not hostile or perhaps more appropriately the states are allowing wolves to be managed via hostile sentiment, anti wolf rhetoric and politics that dictate and sway policy.

    • WM says:

      ++how can Dr Mech argue that what the states are doing to wolves is not hostile ++

      He does not have to argue the negative.

      He has been asked for his professional advice whether wolves managed at a particular numberical level with a genetically connected metapopuolation (and harvested with certain means) is biologically sustainable for purposes of ESA compliance, either as determined by FWS, or by Congress (in the case of the NRM rider).

      And, of course, if individual states, or those collectively in a defined DPS, do not manage and administer wolves within the permissible limits they would go back on the ESA list for good cause shown, following court proceedings and a finding on the facts.

      I thought you were a lawyer.

  17. Louise Kane says:

    A big question to me is whether we want populations of animals to be managed at their minimal viable populations as a wildlife management model. I think we have an obligation to update our management practices to reflect impacts that cause declines in species such as the loss of habitat, environmental degradation, natural fluctuations of particular populations due to disease and or predation and other factors and yes human overhunting. It would have been appropriate to see Wisconsin, Idaho and Montana apply an adapative management approach to wolves. Washington seems to be the only state so far that are are using some of the techniques of adaptive management.

    This brief summary points out that applying adaptive management in a conservation project or program involves the integration of project/program design, management, and monitoring to systematically test assumptions in order to adapt and learn. The three components of adaptive management in environmental practice are:

    Testing Assumptions is about systematically trying different actions to achieve a desired outcome. It is not, however, a random trial-and-error process. Rather, it involves using knowledge about the specific site to pick the best known strategy, laying out the assumptions behind how that strategy will work, and then collecting monitoring data to determine if the assumptions hold true.
    Adaptation involves changing assumptions and interventions to respond to new or different information obtained through monitoring and project experience.

    Learning is about explicitly documenting a team’s planning and implementation processes and its successes and failures for internal learning as well as learning across the conservation community. This learning enables conservation practitioners to design and manage projects better and avoid some of the perils others have encountered (Stankey et al. 2005).Learning about a managed system is only useful in ccases where management decisions are repeated (Rout et al. 2009).

    If you want to argue that the states are using adaptive management to achieve the desired outcome of killing down their wolves then you would be correct, I would argue argue that the the states have discarded any modern approach to wildlife management as they have proposed many of the same short-sighted knee-jerk reaction wolf killing techiniques and agendas that they did in the past. Short of allowing poisons…there have been proposed predator derbies, bounties, dog hunting, trapping and snaring, electronic wolf calls, no wolf quotas, killing on sight, etc. Where is the adapative management in this? What have they learned? Can we really rely on people who revert back to the same “management” techniques to manage something they have already extirpated once? Can they really only live with minimal numbers of these animals? As predators become more and more inconvienent due to our own expansion, we will need to adopt some major changes in our policies. I think its appropriate and neccessary for scientists to promote better, more inclusive, scientifically defensible, progressive, whole ecosystem, and tolerant policies. Scientists are a segment of society aptly poised to affect change. I just don’t buy that a naturally stabilized population of wolves in these huge states is too much of an imposition, too great a threat to livestock or human health and safety or too much of a burden, despite the arguments (science based, political, moral, and knee jerk) on both sides. Humans are “managing” wildlife and ecosystems to death. Some scientists believe that the loss of predators is one of the greatest threats to global ecosytems. So can predators be made to sustain heavy handed hunting (harvests, I love that euphamism)? or should we adapt and allow predators a more natural prescence in a landscape that allows them to develop to maturity, pass on genetically preferable traits, to have the impact they they were designed to have on their ecosystems and to have enough of them so we might be able to catch even a fleeting glimpse one day.

    • Jon Way says:

      I total agree with your points here that why are we managing predators at minimal levels. Overwhelming science indicates the importance of them and I too do think it is foolish to manage this way.

      However, Mech did not testify on this. His was more that wolves will survive with this kind of management. While I also don’t agree with how wolves are being managed (like you), Mech makes valid claims to wolf survival, etc, given the 100-150 threshold. I don’t think he was asked about a given pop. number (say 500) but rather given current conditions will they survive.

      I am going to disagree with WM’s comment to a degree: Impassioned scientists can certainly produce credible data (as you know WM, I have been accused as such both here and elsewhere). It is only your (and other) opinions that they (say Goodall) don’t produce good science. For one, I am accused to be impassioned b.c I care for a controversial species (coyote/coywolf) yet I produce non-biased scientific papers and am very up front with the data that I publish. Even in science, there are always diff’t interpretations to a subject/finding: coywolves vs. eastern coyotes (same thing) are a perfect example.

      In my opinion however, the only way to produce change (e.g., respectable hunting seasons for coyotes) is to rock the boat a bit – ie, in my case, to show the personal side of these animals and why they should be treated/managed/killed in a proper manner rather than most states having hunting seasons that more resemble the past eradication phase of most carnivores (except coyotes) rather than sound wildlife managment.

      • Jon Way says:

        Sorry: when I say current conditions in terms of Mech’s analysis: I mean current federal delisting standards (100-150 per state). While I don’t personally agree with a number that low, I believe that Mech wasn’t asked either way and simply testified toward those numbers and in that way (ie, toward the agreed upon standards), his comments are perfectly justified…. I don’t think I could do that (testify) given how the NRM states are managing them but Mech has done a lot (an understatement) to get wolves to where they are today in the lower 48. And that can’t be forgotten….

        • WM says:

          Jon W,

          To my knowledge Dr. Mech has generally spoken to the entire NRM DPS population. And, that number seems to be near the 1,000 level, even with current take-off from hunting. We were certainly not there yet, and as mentioned before he has discussed the fact that the longer this goes, the more uncounted wolves there will be on the landscaape adding to the real total, as opposed to the minimum estimated that some on this forum tend do go with, and then try to reduce even more when it fits their agenda.

          There is reason to get impatient when folks talk about the minimums per state at 100-150, without acknowledgement of the buffers intended by the 3 core states, Yellowstone’s contribution, and the expansion of range to eastern WA and OR.

  18. Dan says:

    “We argue that, given the substantial societal investment in recovering endangered species, the state/trustee’s obligation is heightened when a species has recently been removed from federal ESA protections.”
    To use the public trust doctrine to defend wolves or newly delisted animals you must submit to this logic. The Federal Gov’t has given control of wolves to the states. Following court precedent, it is unclear who truly controls wildlife. More recent decisions have tilted the balance towards federal managers but it is clear states have substantial right. More importantly, if you apply the public trust doctrine or a more refined wildlife doctrine you could use it in another way. You could use the doctrine to greatly restrict wolves due to the public’s reasonable use and value for elk. Elk populations are greatly impacted by the wolf and harm the resource for man’s use. So, I would invoke that, “surrendering that right of protection only in rare cases when the abandonment of that right is consistent with the purpose of the trust,” implies that if the value of elk where greater than wolves to man’s resource then control of the wolf would be to the greater good because elk are economically of greater significance.

    • JB says:


      Generally well-reasoned; however, you rely on factual assertions that are hotly debated and not likely to stand up to any sort of scientific scrutiny. Specifically, outside of areas where there is no wolf control (i.e., YNP) there is near zero evidence that elk populations are “greatly impacted” by wolves as you contend. Oh certainly there is an impact, but no reasonable scientist would call this impact “great” where wolves are managed (which is everywhere outside of the park). Moreover, a fair amount of existing evidence suggests that elk are taken more frequently by other predators (i.e., cougars and bears), which makes sense given their greater numbers.

      Finally, the science assessing the relative value of wolves and elk is incredibly sparse; however, there is no question that both species positively impact state economies in the NRM region. So in the end, there is little justification to kill wolves to boost elk populations (especially given that the science that established minimum viable wolf populations is also hotly debated).

      • Elk275 says:


        “Generally well reasoned”, but in the last 20 years how many days have you spent afield in the NRM? I have noticed that the number of elk in Southwest Montana in the last 10 years deceasing. I have spent hundreds of days in Southwest Montana in the last 25 years each year there are fewer elk seen daily during hunting season. I am a very good elk hunter and I can find elk. With a mule and a horse I am able to cover many more miles than a foot hunter or a non consumptive wildlife user. I know what is out there there are fewer elk.

        The majority of elk hunters from their field experience are noticing fewer elk slighted daily and more wolf sign every year. Fewer elk and more wolf sign is there a correlation, I think so.

        • JB says:

          Correlation is not causation, Elk. As I have mentioned many times before, each of the NRM states has 1,500-5,000 cougars, which are obligate carnivores with roughly equivalent energy requirements; so who do you think consumes more ungulate flesh in the NRMS?

          What is intriguing to me is how you (and so many others) persist in the assumption that it simply must be wolves.

          • Elk275 says:

            Cougars are a huge factor. I have had them follow me while hunting and never knew it until I back tracked and discovered tracks. One time I followed my tracks back to my truck and the cougar walk right up to the truck in mid morning.

            A friend of mind had most of the mule deer killed on his 1000 acres and sees cougars four or five times a year. Cougars and bears are a huge factor in predation.

            • Mike says:

              Hunters cause elk declines, not wolves.

            • Savebears says:


              Hunters did not cause the decline of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, it is a documented fact that wolves and bears can be linked to the large decline in this herd

              • Ralph Maughan says:


                I haven’t been following this thread, but I just happened to read your comment. It is a documented fact that wolves, bears, plus Montana’s elk hunt which continued on at the usual level after the wolf reintroduction, and a decade of drought 1998 – 2008 caused the decline in the northern range elk herd.

            • Mike says:

              Savebears –

              Hunters cause the largest mortality in elk in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, year in and year out.

            • Savebears says:


              I would like to see where the herd would be now, without the increase in wolf and bear populations, it would make for an interesting study. I am not against either species. I am also well aware that the northern herd was in distress.

              Mike, you know where you can go.

            • Mike says:

              Savebears, your thoughts on this?


              Your fellow sportsmen.

            • Savebears says:


              Those are trappers, I have never trapped an animal in my life and have no intention of doing so, I don’t identify with those people, why do you continue to try and group everyone that hunts into the same category?

              And again Mike, you know where you can go.

            • Savebears says:

              I guess, that I should go out, search the web and start posting stories and pictures of what people like you have done, they are called eco-terrorist, one of them resides on the the FBI 10 most watched list and many of their members are considered high security targets due to their activities, I consider you in that classification Mike.

            • IDhiker says:

              Unfortunately, all of the trappers I know and am aware of also hunt. Yes, I agree that trappers are different than the hunters that do not trap, but trappers are still hunters. I would imagine their ethics are the same in both hunting and trapping.

            • IDhiker says:

              I would classify the Idaho commissioners as “legal” eco-terrorists…

            • Savebears says:

              IDHiker, that is your prerogative to label them terrorists, but remember one thing, they have the law on their side right now, that is not to say I agree with their position, but I do understand the system and how it works.

            • IDhiker says:


              I do understand the system and how it protects those in power, even though they make irresponsible decisions.

              But, being legal does not necessarily make ones actions any less disgusting or more moral than someone outside the law. Having been to West Point, I know you are well aware that throughout history many legal powers, with the passage of time, are seen to have been wrong, while those that opposed them were right, sometimes being elevated to the status of heroes.

              By the way, your statement, “that is not to say I agree with their position,” implies that you possibly do not agree with the direction the commission has taken. Is that the case, and if so, what is your opinion of their action?

            • Savebears says:


              In my opinion, I think they are making many mistakes on this issue, but that said, I think the other side has made many mistakes along the way as well, the pendulum has swung their way right now, I do believe that it will eventually come to rest in the middle.

          • Salle says:

            What is intriguing to me is how you (and so many others) persist in the assumption that it simply must be wolves.

            And especially cuz you cain’t find ’em. I have no problem finding elk most places I go in SW Montana, big bunches of them. They might not hang around like cattle anymore but they’re there. Maybe they know you’re gonna shoot them.

            Heck, the deer around Ennis know when it’s huntin season, they all go hang out in town and among the cattle and real close to houses in the valley til it’s over… maybe the elk are hip too.

            • Salle says:

              ..and weren’t there a whole string of years with extended elk hunting in the Madison Valley in the past ten years?

            • Mike says:

              ++Mike, you know where you can go.++

              A picnic lunch on the banks of the Northfork? Why I’d love to, Sunshine.

      • Dan says:

        Outside of YNP, the near zero evidence is only due to the lack of up to date data. I can only speak for the St. Joe River Drainage, as it is my field of view. The cow to calf ratio the last three years has 16,12 and 9 respectively. The snow pack data during these years does not support adverse winters. The bear harvest has been consist with years far before these years. The mtn lion harvest has been consistent. The USFS has burned brush every spring of those years. The corporate timberlands within the subject area has been cut to promote browse….i.e. clearcuts. The major difference in the last three years is the numbers of wolves in the area. Five years ago I found the occasional wolf track. The last two years I have found wolf tracks on every forest road and in every major tributary in the area. I have encountered wolves on several occasions in the last two years. I would submit there has been a major impact by wolves in the St. Joe River Drainage and it’s just a matter of crunching the data to prove it.

        The economics of wolves and elk in the St. Joe and Northern Idaho in general would be essentially a study of elk economics. People come in the spring to see the elk on the south facing ridges. People come later in the spring to shed hunt. People then come in the summer to scout for the fall hunt. Finally, people come in huge waves to bow hunt, rifle hunt and muzzleloader hunt. I own and operate a tourist friendly stop that attracts all types. I have yet to have anyone ask where they can view a wolf and I answer thousands of questions about what, where, when and how. The wolf question I consistently get is “Do I have to worry about bears and wolves camping and fishing?” To which I answer, “No, we hunt our bears so they have a great fear of humans and I have not had anyone say they have been bothered by wolves except hunters who are sneaking around near elk.” I would submit there is a high degree of justification to control wolves to boost elk.
        I have been on record for years as saying the Bitterroots, at least the Northern Bitterroots are not ideal elk habitat which does not make it ideal wolf habitat either. The landscape was far different when wolves where on the landscape 100 years ago. I contend they were numerous on the plains to the east and only occasionally visited the Bitterroots. The reason wolves are in the Bitterroots today is manmade. Not because of reintroduction but because man brought elk in on railcars after the 1910 fire. Man has created the habitat for elk to subsist in the Bitterroots, therefore, we have created the habitat for wolves. So, I see no reason to justify wolves in the Bitterroots for the fact of setting the scene back to historical composition.

        • JB says:


          A few days ago we discussed a study in Wyoming that was funded in part by groups like SFW and others who want to show that wolves are responsible for declines in elk. Not surprisingly, the study found that wolves were not responsible for the majority of predation. A 2008 study of neonates in Yellowstone’s northern herd found that 58-60% of predation was accounted for by bears–wolves took 14-17% (see link below). A recent study in the southern Bitterroot Valley–where folks were convinced that wolves were responsible for elk declines, found that out of 97 collared elk calves, 13 were killed by cougars, 4 by wolves and 4 by bears. That study was discussed on the blog (see link below). Finally, a recent study of summer predation on elk calves in YNP noted in their literature review that ALL previous studies found that bears were the primary predator (see link below).

          Now I recognize that IDF&G’s research has shown wolves were the primary predator accounting for calf mortality in the Lolo; however, even there other species played a role. And these are just predation studies, we haven’t even started controlling for weather and other ecological factors.

          Taken together, the picture that emerges shows a system that is far more complex than folks would like it to be. And as the data accumulates, it is clear that wolves are not the killing machine that they are made out to be–just another carnivore trying to make a living on a tough landscape full of competitors. So if you are waiting for a paper that shows that wolves are the primary cause of elk declines in the Northern Rockies, my advise is: Don’t hold your breath. 😉

        • JB says:


          With a little more searching, I found a very recent paper that tried to tease out how a varied array of predators and climate impact neonatal elk survival.

          Griffin et al. (2011). Neonatal mortality of elk driven by climate, predator phenology and predator community composition. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01856.x


          1. Understanding the interaction among predators and between predation and climate is critical to understanding the mechanisms for compensatory mortality. We used data from 1999 radio-marked neonatal elk (Cervus elaphus) calves from 12 populations in the north-western United States to test for effects of predation on neonatal survival, and whether predation interacted with climate to render mortality compensatory.

          2. Weibull survival models with a random effect for each population were fit as a function of the number of predator species in a community (3–5), seven indices of climatic variability, sex, birth date, birth weight, and all interactions between climate and predators. Cumulative incidence functions (CIF) were used to test whether the effects of individual species of predators were additive or compensatory.

          3. Neonatal elk survival to 3 months declined following hotter previous summers and increased with higher May precipitation, especially in areas with wolves and ⁄ or grizzly bears. Mortality hazards were significantly lower in systems with only coyotes (Canis latrans), cougars (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) compared to higher mortality hazards experienced with gray wolves (Canis lupus) and grizzly bears (Ursus horribilis).

          4. In systems with wolves and grizzly bears, mortality by cougars decreased, and predation by bears was the dominant cause of neonatal mortality. Only bear predation appeared additive and occurred earlier than other predators, which may render later mortality by other predators compensatory as calves age. Wolf predation was low and most likely a compensatory source of mortality for neonatal elk calves.

          5. Functional redundancy and interspecific competition among predators may combine with the effects of climate on vulnerability to predation to drive compensatory mortality of neonatal elk calves. The exception was the evidence for additive bear predation. These results suggest that effects of predation by recovering wolves on neonatal elk survival, a contentious issue for management of elk populations, may be less important than the composition of the predator community. Future studies would benefit by synthesizing overwinter calf and adult-survival data sets, ideally from experimental studies, to test the roles of predation in annual compensatory and additive mortality of elk.

          • Dan says:

            All very interesting, however, there is currently radio collared elk in the St. Joe and I am very interested to see the results of the study. What I do know is that I am a life long observer of the St. Joe and in the recent years the elk population has dropped off precipitously. I track many factors in the St. Joe – snow depth, snow water equivalent, temperature, run-off date, first snow storm, last snow storm, etc.. The St. Joe has a large std dev for many factors but elk have dealt with these factors for decades. I also keep a close watch to hunters and we currently have an aggressive outfitter that has had tremendous success with bears and cougars. We have not had a horrible winter since 1997. The browse has been fairly consistent for decades because of the private corporate timberlands. Yet, hunter succes for elk has dropped 60% in the last five years. Once again I can only speak for the St. Joe Valley. The major difference in the last five years is wolves on the landscape. I would like to add, I am not ignorant to the scientific process and although I do not have the hard numbers to prove it I correctly predicted this drop in elk harvest over the last five based on the mass colonization of wolves into the St. Joe.
            The human elk harvest was typically about 10% or so and if the wolves take an extra 10% a year, the wolf population is essentially taking the surplus once reserved for hunters. A 20% decrease in elk populations every year is going to result in a negatively trending elk population which is grounds for a regulation change and potentially, over time, an end to human harvest. If you account for a 10% take by wolves and 10% by hunters you get 20%. A 10 to 15% take by wolves would result in a major impact if you put human hunting into the equation. Once again, I would like to mention that I don’t think elk are perfectly suited for the St. Joe and I believe adding wolves in the equation is the straw that’s breaking the proverbially camel’s back. I just do not think the St. Joe ecosystem can support three top predators and an elk population. I do love to hunt elk but I must say I am more intrigued by the wolf/bear/cougar/elk complex and it’s to bad IDFG has declared war on wolves because I would be very interested to see if wolves were left unchecked in the St. Joe if they would mostly run the elk population out of the valley as I have hypothesized a few years ago.

            • JB says:


              I confess I don’t know much about your particular location. The point I was trying to make is that the relationship between wolf and elk populations is far more complex than people are would like it to be. For example, some studies have shown that wolves reduce coyote populations, and coyotes are also a predator of elk calves; likewise, because wolves and cougars generally go after the same prey, I would suspect that cougar populations might also be affected by wolves. Grizzly bears on the other hand, seem to benefit from wolves (because they are known to steal kills). You can’t just assume that wolf predation is additive.

              Regardless, returning to the issue of the public trust doctrine and your original comment…I agree that one could use the economic value of a particular species as justification for reducing another species–especially in the case of endangered species, or when invasive or exotic animals threaten native populations. However, I didn’t realize that in your original comment you were referring to one specific location. Managers need not rely on the PTD at all to guide the actions that you describe (i.e., reducing wolves to boost game locally); in fact, that is essentially what IDF&G has done in the Lolo. Only when the accumulative impacts of such actions potentially threaten a species are PTD protections called for.

  19. aves says:

    Based on Mech’s full response and not just the “state gov’ts have not been hostile” quote that’s been parroted so often here, it’s pretty clear to me that he is defining “hostile” as events leading to the extirpation or re-listing of wolves. JB and the authors may have tried to differentiate that issue from their discussion but it’s only natural to connect the dots between the paper, the wolf, and current events.

    The discussion of gray wolf recovery has moved on from biology and into cultural carrying capacity. It’s often masqueraded as biology but what it all boils down to now is that some people will always want more wolves and some will always want less. Both sides need eachother, use similar tactics, and will never, ever be satisfied.

    • JB says:

      “The discussion of gray wolf recovery has moved on from biology and into cultural carrying capacity.”

      Exactly. And the fundamental problem is that we have two distinct “cultures” that have very different ideas about what cultural carrying capacity is.

  20. Nancy says:

    An interesting read:

    THE ROLE OF HUMAN DIMENSIONS IN WILDLIFE RESOURCE ……/Bath_Vol_10.pdfYou +1’d this publicly. Undo
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View

  21. Nabeki says:


    Many people don’t understand Dr. Mech’s detached manner when it comes to killing wolves and he’s been criticized for it.
    December 16,2010
    Here’s an informative article, I had no idea he was a trapper until I read this.

    The Far Reach of David Mech
    The lifework of a Minnesota wildlife biologist circles the world.
    By Greg Breining (2004)

    • Immer Treue says:

      From above:

      Mech: I fear general public attitudes about wolves are reverting toward the negative. Since the early 1970s when wolves were the symbols of endangered species, public attitudes tended to be sympathetic toward wolves. Now attitudes are beginning to shift more toward the negative. This change was recently documented in an analysis of media pieces about wolves.

      Peterson: People tend to tolerate wolves more when they know conflicts with wolves can be managed, particularly depredations on livestock and pets. The on-again/off-again delisting of wolves and the consequent alternating state responsibility for wolf management has greatly confused and frustrated the public. Options for reducing conflict are particularly limited in Wisconsin and Michigan, where wolves cannot be legally killed following depredation even by federal agents.

      I think one of the salient points Mech and Peterson make is that we may have had more wolves by now, with less ill will if options for wolf management had been put into place earlier.

      Current Idaho and Wisconsin plans may be used as example to the contrary, but this overreaction has been predicted for years. Both pro’s and anti’s are not satisfied unless there is something to whine about, and the anti’s have made much more noise, have much more clout, and are currently calling all most all the shots.

      Ken’s thread about Idaho fish and game commission get an earful is a case in point. An awful lot of work needs be done, voices need to be heard, but the voices also need to be rational.

      • WM says:

        ++I think one of the salient points Mech and Peterson make is that we may have had more wolves by now, with less ill will if options for wolf management had been put into place earlier.++

        Bingo! You nailed it, Immer. Mech and Peterson had it figured out long, long ago. I wonder if ID would have been so aggressive (the legis/gov Butch) if IDFG had been able to continue to market wolves as a desireable big game species to be coveted in limited hunts before the first round of litigation before Judge Molloy.

        The scurry now is to get back to (and now apparently go below) 2008 levels, as was identified in the ID 2008-12 short term management plan following delisting, which the legislature saw to over-ride with the cumulative frustration, and rightfully being pissed off after the first Molloy decision on lack of genetic connectivity (which was found to be false and the plaintiffs likely knew it) and the second round of foolishness that followed with the DPS litigation when WY would not play.

        Same pent up frustration and foolishness with the HSUS litigation and long delay for MN whose wolves should have been delisted in 2002 or so.

        When will those responsible step up and accept responsibility for not reading the tea leaves properly?

        • Mike says:

          All of this is the fault of the states that caused the wolf listing. It is not the fault of those who tried to revive wolf populations.

          Your logic is severely flawed, WM.

          • WM says:


            ++All of this is the fault of the states that caused the wolf listing…++

            Maybe you would like to explain this statement. How?

            • Mike says:

              None of this current battle ever happens if the states had managed the wolves in moderation prior to listing.

              It is not the fault of those trying to revive wolf populations. Without them, there are no wolves.

              And of course, we’re seeing history repeat itself.

            • WM says:


              Two points. First, without federal government help wolves would not have been completely irradicated in the first place.

              Second. This is not about the past. It is about the present -listing and delisting- and how to allow for a “recovery” under the ESA that is palatable to the states and their democratically elected governments (even if we disagree with the power base that elects them).

              The logic in the statements of Mech and Peterson on cause and effect is crystal clear to me.

              Geez. Talk about flawed logic. I often find your post are like swiss cheese – so many holes that go nowhere.

            • Savebears says:

              Mike, then blame almost all 50 states for the original eradication of wolves, since the time the Europeans came to North America, there has been a strong effort to get rid of wolves. They started killing them the day they stepped off the Mayflower and continued as they expanded to the west.

              There may not been wolves south of the Canadian border, but there are allot of wolves in North America.

            • Savebears says:


              Mike’s posts don’t even have enough body to have holes in them, his posts have no basis at all!!!!

            • Mike says:

              ++Second. This is not about the past.++

              Yet you keep bringing it up.

              ++It is about the present -listing and delisting- and how to allow for a “recovery” under the ESA that is palatable to the states and their democratically elected governments (even if we disagree with the power base that elects them).++

              “Palatable” isn’t science. You cannot manage wildlife by “palate”. See Idaho right now. See the lower 48 prior to wold delisting.

              Geez. Talk about flawed logic. I often find your post are like swiss cheese – so many holes that go nowhere.++

              The holes do go somewhere.

  22. Doryfun says:

    Interesting aritcles Nabeki.

    Carter Neimeyer, is a trapper too. That two prominent biologists are trappers, in addition to any scientific studies which may support trapping and snaring as effective wildlife management tools, still does not necessarily justify using these methods. Other biologists may have different opinions about the use of these tools. Just because nuclear boms work, doesn mean we should use them.

  23. Doryfun says:

    Sorry about the mis-spellings. But again, my point is that very prominent scientists developed nuclear bombs, too. How we use intelligence is a challenge.

  24. Louise Kane says:

    First to WM
    that was quite an outraged rant. I understand that Dr. Mech is revered but his opinions and writings of late seem to indicate that he has substantially veered from some of the positions and comments that argued for wolf conservation that made him so revered to begin with. Just because someone has expertise does not mean that their findings and assumptions can never be challenged. I also did respect what Dr Mech has done in the past but am not so respecting of late.

    As for this rant…”If you, indeed, have a law degree, some legal experience, and have some knowledge of the complicated state/federal relationships involving wildlife, you know those powers not specifically granted to Congress are reserved to the states. Wildlife management is one of them, unless Congress has specifically chosen to step in (the ESA being just one). You also know the “public trust doctrine” has been applied sparingly at the federal level, and only reached states through constitutional avenues like the commerce clause.”

    My question was if anyone knew of any proposed federal level legislation (past or present) that might address the gaps between federal intervention like an ESA listing and the sititaion we are now in where wolves need some protection and the public trust doctrine would have to be used in states very hostile to wolves and predators and where the PTD has not been widely tested for this kind of an application.

    as for your statement about “The public trust doctrine has its roots primarily in the water resources, and the right to fish area.
    Part of this is true but it actually developed and had its roots in Roman Law (sorry JR but this is true) and was more comprehensive then just protecting water rights. The doctrine was later adopted by GB. The Romans implemented the PTD in order to explain ownership of things that could not actually be possessed by people or leaders. The doctrine applied to things like water, wildlife, air and other elements (not just water and fishing rights). They reasoned that these things were held in trust by the government for the use and enjoyment of
    everyone. This doctrine was “lifted” and incorporated into the laws of Medieval England. It was unusual because the King officially owned all the public land. Still the resources were considered so valuable that the public trust doctrine established commoners rights to use the
    King’s land. It did have its basis in fishing, trading, hunting and for ingress or egress to land as well as for some limited wildlife considerations in GB. Because US law is based on English Common law (excepting LA law which has its basis in the french system) the public trust doctrine made its way here.

    As you point out, the “public trust doctrine” has been applied sparingly but the difficulties in using the PTD are not only that there has been little testing ground to protect wildlife, its also that so far most states have shown a responsible interest in preserving their wildlife…. Thus there is not a considerable body of case law. For wolves and other predators its largely untested ground and begs the question about the need for a federal law to protect Apex predators because states have shown apathy and in fact great aversion to protecting them. Predators are treated with hostility. While there is some case law that helps to define how the public trust doctrine might work here it seems largely untested still for this kind of a challenge. Still its probably worth a a shot.

    This is a link to an article you may want to read.


    I did know that Dr. Mech was a trapper. I had also read the information that you posted. I was arguing in this post earlier that I believe that in this time in human history when so many organisms face extinction…that scientists can and should be advocates for causes that promote biological diversity, understanding of animals and the ecosystems that they reside in and in conserving our natural resources, both plant and animal. As I said earlier, the clinical detachment by which Dr. Mech discusses wolves and the hunting and killing of them was disturbing to me at best. It’s too bad he is teaching a new generation of wildlife managers to think of animals as things to harvest. As someone said… this man knows “more about wolves than most of us will forget” but how he has chosen to use that information has “set us back by 50 years” to use one of your writer’s quotes. I have written the Wolf Center to complain that the organization has done very little to provide information on the severity of the hunts and the intolerance of wolves in the western states and that this is the greatest threat to their survival.
    I think being impassioned is necessary or we will watch these states kill every wolf they can.

  25. Louise Kane says:

    a correction, how he has been using that information recently has set us back….more inflammation I expect

  26. Louise Kane says:

    “Its an organization of education plain and simple”. I guess it depends on what you consider to be educational. Is it educational to supply less information about a partcular side of the issue? Dr Mech has made it clear that he feels that wolves must be hunted and they can handle just about any type of hunting effort and means that is directed at them. This website appears to be a tool to advance that theory.

    Someone said Dr. Mech does not suffer fools lightly, then maybe the Wolf Education Center should not treat me like a fool when it consistently publishes what I consider to be subtly inflammatory articles promoting wolf hunting and trapping and the support of the highly aggressive state wolf killing plans.

    if this site is purely educational, then why then does it appear to contain so few materials that consider or challenge the states’ wolf management plans, or the ability of wolves to withstand such heavy harvesting? There are other opionions by credible biolgists about this.

    Instead there seem to be a disproportionate number of articles that dwell on trapping of wolves, hunting agendas, accepted state wolf plans etc.

    I have to admit I had not been to this site in a while because I was put off by the underlying bias that seeps through the material.

    I just went to look at the site again and don’t see the somewhat recent peer reviewed data that examines the veracity of the population of wolves that Montana based its “management” plan on, Dont’ see information on why conservation groups oppose the hunts, not here either. There has been lots written on why the rider (attached to a spending bill) was an inappropriate way to delist a species, that it undermined prior court rulings and the public’s wishes to see wolves recovered and to remain protected, and that it diminshed the ESA.

    I don’t go to this site now because I am disillusioned by it. What about a story on the insane hatred, bias and irrational fear that drive humans to torture, maim and hunt a species to extinction. Where is the picture and story of the black wolf in the trap? Thats not part of the education… The way that these animals are treated is also part of the story.

    You tell me, do you think that these stories illustrate the objectivity that some of you insist on? Seems slightly skewed to me. As they say, with friends like this who needs enemies?

    Here is the full text of the Wisconsin bill that is posted on the link you shared.
    MADISON—The state Senate’s environmental committee is set to vote on a bill that would create a wolf hunt in Wisconsin. Wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin came off the federal endangered species list last year. The states are now free to manage the wolves as they see fit. The Republican measure would establish a wolf hunting and trapping season that would run from mid-October through the end of February. The Department of Natural Resources would be allowed to limit licenses and award them to applicants who build up preference points.

    The committee is scheduled to take up the bill Thursday morning at the state Capitol. Committee approval would clear the way for a full Senate vote.”

    I guess it was not important or educational to provide information on the objections to this plan. Or to mention that this wolf “management plan” calls for hunting with dogs, the use of electronic calls, traps, snares and an unusually long season? This was the best most obejective story that could be placed on a wolf education site? I don’t buy it.

    Here is the opening sentence of another one of the “educational” articles
    “Tim Ewert, a local trapper who also does historical reenactments of fur traders from the early 1800s, said he has been waiting 50 years for the chance to trap a wolf.

    This is the opening paragraph on the Idaho story
    “BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising Idaho and Montana for successful management of gray wolves. In its 2011 Annual Report for the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Population, the service estimates the region’s wolf population at 1,774 animals and 109 breeding pairs.
    “These population estimates indicate the credible and professional job Montana and Idaho have done in the first year after they have assumed full management responsibilities,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Steve Guertin.
    He said the states’ management plans will maintain a healthy wolf population at or above the agency’s recovery goals.”

    It makes me feel ill that people that are just learning about the issues will see this on this site. Its an logical assumption to come away thinking that the benevolent state of Idaho has great and noble intentions to manage wolves responsibly.

    This is another pure and simplly objective “educational” article posted on the link you just sent me. I seem to remember a recent discussion on the Wildlife News about this very subject. Ralph’s charts do a good job of discrediting this information, at least for Montana.
    HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The wolf population in the Northern Rockies rose in 2011 despite the removal of federal protections and hunts held in Montana and Idaho, federal wildlife officials said Wednesday.

    The animal’s numbers rose by more than 7 percent to 1,774 wolves, as state officials look for more ways to reduce the population under pressure from hunters and ranchers who blame the predators for livestock and big-game losses.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials said the population estimates show that Montana and Idaho have done a good job in their first year of managing the species since Congress removed federal protections in May 2011.

    “The states have done a very responsible job of having wolf hunts and managing wolves,” said Mike Jimenez, a wolf recovery project director for the agency. “They’re looking at bringing (the population) down responsibly.”

    Most of the wolves in the Northern Rockies are in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, though the region also includes portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

    Here is another “objective educational piece.
    Trappers look foward to wolf season

    some more objective links on that site….

    Wildlife officials hope to bring wolf population down

    Idaho officials hike bag limits for 2012 wolf hunt

    Proposal would raise Idaho wolf kill rate

    Wolves kill 3 dogs near Blackrock

    Wolf warning issued in Tofino and Ucluelet after dogs killed

    Fish and Game Sorts Out Next Wolf Hunt

    Vancouver Island wolf attacks prompt warnings for pets, children

    Wolf impact has been huge’

    G&F posts draft wolf rules

    Wolf relisting debate shifts to Wyoming

    Wolf plan is acceptable, so far

    Wyoming Game And Fish One Step Closer To Management Of Wolves [AUDIO]

    DNR prepares for wolf hunt

    Gray Wolf Management Plan gets addendum 03/15/2012

    US appeals court allows wolf hunts

    Wolf hunt legislation goes to governor

    Court upholds Congress’ act that ended wolf protections 03/14/2012

    Wolf hunt, family care, sex education bills pass 03/14/2012

    It’s perspective over perception for wolf researcher 03/13/2012

    Assembly set to vote on wolf hunting season

    Hunters turn out for Eastern Washington public meeting on future hunting proposals

    Wyoming wildlife officials set wolf hunting plans in motion

    Eastern Ore. wolf pack blamed for 3 injured cattle 03/10/2012

    Imnaha wolf pack strikes again

    Wolf numbers hold steady at about 100 in Yellowstone National Park

    Planning aplenty precedes wolf hunt

    Are wolves dangerous?

    Mead signs bill aimed at ending wolf protections 03/08/2012

    Wyoming wolf management bill signed by governor 03/08/2012

    Wolf population rising in Montana, region 03/08/2012

    Domestic wolf shot by rancher

    Wolf population rising in Montana, region 03/08/2012

    Northern Rockies wolf population rose in 2011 03/08/2012

    Hunts killed hundreds of wolves, but packs still thrive 03/07/2012

    Wolf hunt appears likely

    Feds Give Thumbs Up To Idaho’s Management Of Wolves 03/07/2012

    Wolf ‘kill bill’ fades away

    Wolf sighting near Springville (Utah)

    Idaho Gov. Otter to feds: Pony up more cash for wolves

    Canine sightings in Utah may be wolf pack 03/07/2012

    Mixed reactions heard at town hall meeting on wolf season

    Montana hunters show more interest in taking wolves 03/03/2012

    California wolf is back in Oregon

    The wild gray wolf? No romance for Oregon ranchers 03/01/2012

    Wis. Committee Approves Wolf Hunt Bill 03/01/2012

    Oregon watches Idaho experience as wolves reduce elk population

    Call me crazy but this is totally objective?

    • nabeki says:



    • aves says:

      You are not crazy but you’re also not objective yourself. You’re claiming IWC is biased because they don’t share your exact opinion. Their stated mission is not to stop all killing of wolves. Their mission is to “advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wild lands and the human role in their future” (for more see

      The IWC link you copied and pasted from is not an accurate representation of all that the IWC provides. That link is only for current news headlines and as we all know most news stories about wolves are negative. Even if the text of the articles is more objective the headline will be reduced to the most simplistic summary possible. That’s a problem with the local and national media, not IWC. If the national media has a story on that photo of the black wolf suffering in a trap it will show up on the same link. How the media covers wolves is very influential in how wolves are treated so it is important to know what’s going on in that arena. The news headlines page contains the disclaimer:

      “Current News Items is a forum for airing facts, ideas and attitudes about wolf-related issues. Articles and materials listed here do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the International Wolf Center or its board of directors.”

      As for your concern about people only reading these news headlines and accepting them as the gospel truth, I don’t know how anyone legitimately searching for accurate information on wolves would only read the news headlines page and ignore the other 99% of the website. It is not the main source of educational material they provide. All the other links as well as their International Wolf magazine are there for that, not to mention the tours and educational programs they conduct in the heart of wolf country. They do an excellent job spreading the truth about wolf biology and behavior and the essential ecological role wolves play. Public knowledge about wolves and wolf recovery have benefitted greatly from the IWC’s work.

      I recognize and respect your view that wolves should not be hunted. But just because IWC or anyone else doesn’t promote your view doesn’t mean they are biased or an enemy to wolves. The impact anyone seeks to have on wolf recovery is less productive when they demonize anyone who doesn’t fall exactly in line with them. Yet that mistake happens over and over again. Explaining why you disagree with Mech or think IWC should do more to protect wolves is productive, casting dispersions on Mech’s character or deliberately cherry-picking from their website and misrepresenting what IWC provides is not.

  27. Louise Kane says:

    aves I did not cast dispersions on Dr Mech’s character when responding to Immer’s question about about whether I visited the IWC site, and whether I actually read the materials. Immer propsed they were purely educational. Using the link Immer sent me to illustrate objectivity and the purely educational nature of the postings, I asked and argued that one might reasonably conclude that these postings were not purely objective, and or educational. I do not mean to demonize Dr Mech, but I do wonder what happened to the researcher who did seem to advocate for the return of the wolf in the west and to promote an understanding of wolves. It seems lately that a sterile clinical detachment, readiness to promote hunting and especially trapping is prominent in his testimonies and writing. It seems incongruent to study such a fascinating animal that clearly depends on complex inter relationships with its family structure and then ignore those relationships when asked to provide testimony about wolf management. It would be one thing to agree with states providing specialized biologists to manage problem wolves that were recidivist livestock killers – to manage the legitimate problems that people associate with wolves. Yet it seems quite another to not even acknowledge the flaws in state plans that allow vigilate like hunters and ranchers who indiscriminatly kill, torture and maim wolves with no regard to their status in the pack, age, sex or the ability of the pack to survive when particualr animals are killed. The state plans are based in politics, not science and the public now has full permission to wage war on wolves with a preminent scientist doing nothing to object, at best. It is baffling and as the writer in the article Nabeki posted argues, “where is the heart”? It would also be quite refreshing if the states were to look first to reducing the potential for predator prey conflicts, to require hunters to take and pass educational studies that look at predators within the context of their ecosystems rather than as varmits to be destroyed using any means possible, and to stop using traps and snares which the publc is really against, on these highly intelligent animals that experince extreme fear and stress. Sorry trapping and snaring have to go and mainstream America is in support of that thinking. The story of the black wolf in the trap is far from an isolated incident as history illustrates. Trapping causes excessive suffering, allows irresponsible hate filled people to add to the torture and suffering of the trapped animal (as the black wolf images attest to) and does little to target the actual animals that impact cattle or other livestock. Its expremely hard for me to see how advoacting for trapping and snaring and therby perpetuating a culture of misery is objective.

    • Immer Treue says:


      The IWC as well as the TWA (in Wisconsin) are not wolf “advocacy” organizations. They are educational, and because of that, they try and get people to think. Thinking has become a lost art in this country.

      Yeah, you posted all those headlines. What does that tell you about media attitude about wolves at this time? What in the world is the IWC supposed to do about that, other than continue to reach out and educate people about wolves, both the good and the bad.

      For every Howling For Justice site you have one such as Lobo Watch, neither of which shows the wolf in it’s true light. There was a time when wolves were if not greatly anticipated by people, at least they had an okay, let’s see what happens outlook. Many of these folks believe they were lied to about wolf management. Louise, I sat at the Wolf Symposia, and saw the promises to Western ranchers that wolves would be managed. Outfits such as DOW dropped the ball, by continuing to hold-up wolf. Jeeze, but that’s one of the reasons you have all those negative news headlines you put out there. What, pray tell, is the IWC supposed to do about that?

      The IWC has published an entire curriculum, “Grey Wolves Grey Matter” Exploring the Social and Biological Issues of Wolf Survival. It involves all stakeholders, and it is directed at grades 4-12. I had a very small part in the seminal production of this curriculum.

      It helps kids think, and it allows them to understand all stockholders in the wolf issue. When I give presentations about wolves, I let the kids understand that there are people who either don’t like wolves, or don’t want them, and I try to help them understand why.

      It is becoming more of an issue of social carrying capacity for wolves. Without education and “proper” wolf management, wolves are going to lose. And remember, this is spoken by someone who is pro-wolf, ever since I was three years old.

      • Immer Treue says:

        should read, by continuing to hold-up wolf management.

        • ma'iingan says:

          Good post Immer. Don’t forget about Timber Wolf Information Network (TWIN), another wolf education group that attempts to get people to recognize the middle ground.

    • WM says:


      ++ I do not mean to demonize Dr Mech, but I do wonder what happened to the researcher who did seem to advocate for the return of the wolf in the west and to promote an understanding of wolves.++

      Sure you do, and you have pretty directly criticized the IWC. Go back and read what you have wrritten on this thread.

      Before you go about high marking on Dr. Mech and the IWC, you really ought to look at who is on the Board of Directors, and its advisors. There are some other esteemed research folks there, and a pretty good balance of people from the private/public sector, including those who are wolf advocates, but have to live with wolves. They know the strident view of some advocates do nothing more than fan the fires of the anti’s. That is the part you and those who cheer you on simply don’t get.

      As Immer suggests, thinking is lost on some. So, even if Dr. Mech or others of his scientific knowledge, insight and wisdom, rethink their position on an issue, is that necessarily bad?

      As for your instant knowledge of the “public trust doctrine” and “parens patriae,” and your lecture to me and JB, I have known of the doctrines and their origins for many years, beginning with the seminal law journal article by Professor Sax, who I believe was among the very first to look comprehensively on it as a legal scholar in 1970. In the law journal article you suggest we read, his paper appears as reference footnote 9, Joseph L. Sax, The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention,68 MICH. L. REV. 471. 495 (1970), [and several related papers from the same time period which appear at footnote 62].

      And, by the way, I have previously read th 1995 paper to which you direct our attention. I would not be a bit surprised if JB has, as well.

      If I recall correctly, Buffalo Fields Campaign filed suit over a year ago against the state of MT using a the public trust doctrine for wildife in an attempt to defeat MTFWP’s effort to give a bailment or care interest in genetically pure and brucellosis free bison transported to his ranch, in exchange for ownership interest in some of calves produced by pure and disease free herd. No knowldege about where that case is right now, but maybe Ken Cole, who is affiliated with the plaintiff group, can give us an update.

    • Cobra says:

      To properly manage a forest one must have a sharp ax and a heart of stone.
      I can’t remember who said this, but it does apply in many situations.

  28. Richie G. says:

    Jerry B. I know I have not followed through with our meeting, but you have a sincere heart,and these killings are just not right. I see people take so much pleasure in this kind of thing,sounds like they beat their wives too ! They are just like the english and dutch who first came here. They had a great time in killing eagles etc, just for the sake of the kill. They forget how they were persecuted in their own homeland,it is the story of history. But I suspect if the numbers keep going down their will be an outcry to stop the hunting,and let the natural progression of inhabitance take over. Like the incident that happened a while ago, where a federal cop thought he got shot at by the farmer or the local sheriff. The judge said we will not introduce the wolves,but the migrating ones crossing in will stay.His last words were watch out what you wish for !!!!Does anybody remember this? I think something like this will happened again!!!! And again only to have a hunt again and moe senseless killing.What I find I hate about this topic mostly, people talk about trimming the packs like their cutting down corn, hey it’s not the thing same guys. Hey lets trim the sea lions their are too many of them, and like they do in the east with the geese,round them up and shoot,we had a big outcry for that one.P.S. You bet.

  29. Richie G. says:

    Hey one more thing, did not nature take care of the wolves in Yellowstone, with sickness and death, and packs not getting enough to eat, the same would happen out in the states.But the trigger happy killers could not have that,they could not tape their great kills. Just like a killer taping his own kills,sorry for the comment,but I do not find much difference.After all serial killers start out by killing animals as kids, this is a fact !

  30. Louise Kane says:

    I think that you made a good point about the social carrying capacity of wolves as a limiting factor in their recovery. Yet I storngly beleive that scientists managers and interested parties do have a responsibility to reduce the intolerance for wolves and predators and thus allow wolves to occupy more extensive areas in their original landscapes. We need to be advancing an appreciation for these animals not rolling over on our backs yelliin uncle but this is always how its been what can we do to change it? Its not 1880, its 2012. The “social carrying capacity” for wolves would be greatly enhanced by using adaptive management policies that don’t allow people to fall back on the old methods of managing predators and wildlife that promote killing as the first line of defense.

    Part of the reason that “many of these folks believe they were lied to about wolf management” is that numbers for recovery were set so low. Come on 100 to 150 with 10 breeding pairs.

    When you say you saw the broken promises to Western ranchers that wolves would be managed, how? Its my understanding that predating wolves were killed, that ranchers and farmers recieved compensation. I am researching this more but I have been told from a former rancher’s daughter that they also recieve quite substantial subsidies.

    Its not as simple as the problem being that ranchers hate wolves because the NGOs continued to hold up wolf delisting through litigation. The litigation and hold ups had their roots in the fear that wolves, once removed, would be sugjected to the same bloodthristy attitude about killing wolves that got them listed to begin with. And thats just what’s happenning. Its unfortunate that initial recovery goals were insufficient and out of step with the management of a variety of other native species. The whole process was compromised by the parties at the table with significant conflicts of interest imposing an unreasonable plan for managing wolves that still taints wolf management ideals today. I think its time to push for tolerance for wolves and predators. A change of the guard so to speak.

  31. Savebears says:

    Pushing for tolerance for wolves and other predators is happening, it starts with the younger generations, which many groups are actively involved in. Once an adult has something set in their mind, it is difficult, and in many cases impossible to change them. You have to target the children, teach them the importance of these animals!

    It does not happen quickly, it is a slow methodical process. Adult education only works on the adult that wants to learn, but remember they have to unlearn what they have come to believe about wolves and other predators, it takes a willingness on the part of the adult being taught, Not the teacher trying to change them.

    • JB says:

      Spot on, Save Bears.

    • Immer Treue says:


      The IWC says as much in terms of education.

      The mission of the International Wolf Center is profoundly simple: The mission of the International Wolf Center is profoundly simple:

      Education may not translate into immediate action, but it does result in reevaluation and change. As people gain knowledge and appreciation of wolves and their place as predators in the ecosystem, they can become concerned about wolf survival and recovery. Decades of research have unveiled multitudes of facts about this species. That research, used in public education, has motivated people to help and to allow wolves to begin reclaiming small portions of their former habitat.

      The International Wolf Center envisions a world in which populations of wolves thrive well distributed in many parts of their native range. A global system of designated wild lands supports abundant habitat and prey for wolves and other large carnivores. The Center provides useful scientific information and learning opportunities to diverse individuals and groups and supports well-informed dialogue about management of wolf­human conflict. As a result, humans adopt an attitude of respect toward wolves. As informed participants, humans create policy and act in support of ecological sustainability, which includes the survival of wolf populations. In day-to-day life, humans accept coexistence with wolves.

      Hit the site reference for more.

    • Nancy says:

      I agree with you SB but sadly, like racism or physical abuse (in families and “look the other way” communities) adults have huge impacts on children, especially their own, and if they make no attempt to break the circle/cycle of violence, abuse etc., you can almost bet a child will fall into the same sick pattern – discounting or having no regard/respect for any other kind of life that is unable to defend themselves (which pretty much covers just about EVERY other species on the planet) and in many cases, our own species.

      Clicked on the link with the pics of the black wolf caught in a trap with that “grinning idiot/trapper” in the foreground and realized…. he really NEEDED…and BADLY, to share that moment with all his pumped up hunting buddies online, who couldn’t be there, in real time, to share that very special moment of glory (or gory) depending on how you look at it.

    • Salle says:

      I’d like to add something that anthropologists understand (at least linguists do)…

      Teaching children has a full array effect. They not only learn the information, skill, languages themselves, they teach their younger siblings and their own children (two generations) but they also teach those who are their elders (one or more additional generations). If you have a child teach the elders, they are more accepting of the information, skill, languages because it was shared within a relationship that is honored. (This theory arises from observations of immigrant families who travel to a place with a different language and culture, the children teach all the generations around them, they learn information, skill, languages faster and relate these concepts to family more easily.)

    • Dan says:

      Adults are rational thinking (their prefrontal cortex is developed) and children are susceptible to indoctrination (undeveloped prefrontal cortex) Why do dictators go after “teaching” the children?
      If you want wolf tolerance you have to show a reasonable value for them. Saying they complete an ecosystem does not cut it. It is also very difficult to show their role when humans, bears and cougars have stepped in to fill their gap in the ecosystem. In business we call these things “substitute products.” It is also a hard sell to say they restored the populus tremuloides when the average YNP visitor sees thousands of them. My opinion is that you have to get wolves off the front page. If the reintroduction pros would have been using their thinking skills they would have contained the reintroduced wolves to YNP for a couple of decades where the conflicts would have been very minimal.

      • JB says:


        While you’re correct about brain development, just because (most) adults are able to think rationally does not mean they are obligated or even inclined to do so. Most people, most of time lack the ability and/motivation to wade through all of the relevant information to make a well-informed and rational decision. Rather, they employ decision shortcuts–what psychologists call “heuristics”. Further, motivational biases can profoundly affect the way that information is attended to, processed, interpreted, and remembered. Even people who take the time to learn about an issue, may come to believe things that are wildly divergent from reality; and those beliefs inform their decisions.

        I agree that advocates need to do a better job of showing people the value of species (beyond something we can eat or hang on our walls). However, if we applied the logic implied in your post to our management of ecosystems, we could justify eliminating any organism that doesn’t provide some immediate economic benefit.


        “…when the average YNP visitor sees thousands of them.”

        I assume this is hyperbole? I’ve been to YNP dozens of times, and never seen more than two packs in the same visit.

        • Doryfun says:


          Since you are very knowledgable in the socio-wildlife-dept, was wondering – it seems that most people, no matter which side of any issue, use confirmation bias to add more weight to their viewpoint. How much more difficult does that make it in trying to have a conversation and/or to find a potentially good solution to the issue?
          How much does objectivity play out in the real world?

          If we should be using objectivity (and we should)but don’t, will it only dig trenches on each issue side deeper and render ever yet poorer solutions? Where do you think we are headed in ever finding objective balanced solutions?

          • JB says:


            I think objectivity should be the goal (in both mgmt. and science), but we should be realistic about our expectations for people. None of us, scientists included, are totally objective.

            One of the reasons I have advocated for TRUE collaborative processes is that, when they are done well, they force people to deal with information that they may otherwise chose to ignore or interpret in a biased fashion. Through dialogue, conversation, and debate, people with divergent views develop a mutual understanding of the problem. We cannot “balance” management until we agree on what the problem(s) is/are that need to be addressed.

            Furthermore, without such reasoned dialogue and debate with divergent views represented, attitudes can become extremely polarized. (Witness the “group think” that can emerge on blogs such as the BBB, or at times, this site).

            Where do I think this is headed? If the people who shout the loudest continue to push for total eradication/protection, then the pendulum will swing back and forth, because their is no compromise that will satisfy both sides. For “saner” management to prevail, we absolutely NEED a vocal group of hunters and wildlife advocates to come to some reasonable compromise. My biggest fear is that this issue is being used as a wedge to drive left-leaning environmentalists away from right-leaning hunting groups. If this happens, industry will cheer and many other species will be harmed in the aftermath. (This is one of the reasons why I give Mike and others who consistently disparage hunters such a hard time.)

        • Dan says:

          the thousands were populus tremuloides i.e. aspen

        • Dan says:

          Your post is further evidence why we are a representative government. Some people do think rationally while others, for whatever reason, by choice or physiology, lack rational thought.

          However, some thoughts to why economics play a larger role in my view of wolves..

          Core to my thoughts are ecosystem dynamics of what is actually I have put forth many times…I believe elk were not entirely indigenous to many areas including the Northern Bitterroots and thus the current wolf/elk relationship in some areas is man-made…

          So, I do not see the wolf issue in some areas as a restoration but rather another naturalization…which is fine, but if we are talking two naturalized species then the elements of economics are heightened.

  32. Louise Kane says:

    I wonder if we wait if the states will leave any wolves for the next generation? Looks like they are ramping up for some more of their conservation and education programs.

  33. nabeki says:

    @Immer Treue

    “For every Howling For Justice site you have one such as Lobo Watch, neither of which shows the wolf in it’s true light.”

    Excuse me but I don’t appreciate your smug comment offering Howling for Justice as the pro-wolf version of Lobo Watch, a vile, disgusting excuse for a website. That is insulting and demeaning to myself and my blog, which I have poured my heart and soul into for the last several years, spending countless hours until the sun comes up, blogging about wolves. Thousands read my blog, what have you done, except pontificate on this site as if you have all the answers? Yes I’m passionate about wolves, I prefer that to the cold blooded approach the fish and game agency “biostitutes” and their ilk have adopted. The wolf states in the Northern Rockies are waging a war on wolves, just like we knew they would as soon as they got their icy fingers on them. I’m not OK with that. I don’t happen to condone the torture of animals, the slaughter of gravid wolves, the killing of wolf puppies not old enough to fend for themselves, the trapping and snaring. And don’t pretend you know the wolves “true light”. You couldn’t possibly know the wolves “true light” because the blind cannot see.

    • Daniel Berg says:

      It’s quite possible that you’re passion for wolves is only exceeded by your own vanity.

    • Immer Treue says:


      I guess it depends on how you look at things. I did not compare Howling for Justice as Pro-Wolf version of Lobo Watch. They are two blog sites on either end of the wolf spectrum. If you want to make the comparative assumption, then do so.

      Pontificate? I have shared my views, opinions, experiences and interactions with wolves and those who study them. I have voiced my opposition to the current programs directed against wolves in the NRM states, which includes duration, methods for taking wolves, and the situations in which pups may find themselves. I’m not OK with it either. Gosh, I was even painted as “elitist” for my opinions.

      Perhaps I have found another posters comments about the IWC (an organization to which I have contributed in many ways unknown to you and her), to which you applauded, rather smug. The IWC and it’s board of directors have done more for wolves than any other independent organization in the United States. So, rather than some getting too full of themselves, think before you write. I have found some of the comments made about David Mech as rather insulting. Without the foundation set by this man, I have doubts if there would have been a wolf reintroduction, or for that matter a Howling for Justice.

      Blind, phaw! Myopic with a bit of astigmatism, yes. But my knowledge about wolves, and how I communicate with others about wolves is anything but blind, and is not based on extremes, fantasy or fairytales, but in the animal itself. I commend you for the heart, soul, and time you have put into Howling for Justice. Before we begin eating our young, I’ll say this. You and I crossed each other a bit once before, and I assured you we were on the same side. We still are. It’s just a matter of how we go about it.

    • JB says:

      “You couldn’t possibly know the wolves “true light” because the blind cannot see.”

      Unfortunately “truth” is in the eye of the beholder–something that advocates for and against wolves seem to fail to grasp. Truth is the realm of philosophy, Fact the realm of science. I think wolf management policy–and wolves–would be better off were “truths” to play a less prominent role in our decision making.

  34. Louise Kane says:

    Immer, “Without the foundation set by this man, I have doubts if there would have been a wolf reintroduction, or for that matter a Howling for Justice.”

    It would be very nice if the foundation that was set for wolf recovery was strong enough so that it did not now require a site like Howling for Justice. The foundation that was set, unfortunately included extremely low recovery goals (in the context of other native species occupying the same territory) as part of a political compromise and has brought us right back to where wolves have always been. That statement also ignores the efforts by many many others that set wolf reintroduction into motion.

    This foundation and a great many factors left the wolves in a very bad place… unless you consider this new post- desliting place to be a constructive, healthy, or scientifically defensible place. My comments did not come from a place of smuggness, just extreme sadnness, frustration, and wonder that people can still be so ignorant, cruel and wrong about wolves.

    I am also angry that one of the world’s most respected wolf scientists appears in record to be so clinically detached about the manner by which wolves are killed, the numbers being killed and has not spoken out about the state’s inability to manage them without bias and catering to special interest groups. (if he has then please point me to that information I would be very happy to see this. I know the argumnet is that scientists don;t advocate, yet some do so can we just agree to disagree on this. As for trapping wolves, wolves suffer tremendously in traps. I find it baffling and incongruent to have been fortunate enough to be able to have spent so much of one’s life studying such a magnifient animal to be able to promote trapping of them. Again this is probably a value judgment but where is the humanity in having wolves reintroduced only to be hunted relentlessly?

    And finally if Dr Mech’s work was the foundation for wolf reintroduction then perhaps Nabeki and others like her are the foundation for a grass-roots movement that is intended to help turn aorund thinking about wolves, to open people’s eyes to the horrors that wolves endure (and they do), and to get people to do somehting about it. Mos people will not take the time to read about population dynamics, trophic cascades, or the inconsistencies in the numbers used as the basis of the wolf managemnet plans that no one here can even begin to decipher or make sense of. But they can and will digest informmation that clearly shows that wolves are once again being targeted for persecution and are being slaughtered for political expediency. I know its a lot more complicated than that so don’t get all worked up.

    What has not changed for all the science, studying and apathetic presentations of that data is that for centuries wolves have been maligned, persecuted and relentlessly killed. They were extirpirted here at the behest of the same special interest groups for the same erroneous reasons and now they are being mis managed again. Under these new management plans, how can any wolf live out a “normal” life, how can any pack maintain stability or be left unfragmented? If you look at the plans, hunting starts at or when pups are 6 months old, most pups wil never see adulthood. The states keep ratcheting up their efforts, seasons and methods to kill wolves. Wolves quite simply will be hunted and killed relentlessy with no relief. Anything goes at any time for any reason. I hate it and I hate it enough to yell about it. Facts and science don’t seem to help the bigots that hate wolves, they certainly did not help the tortured black wolf in the trap with the barbaric stoning-like audience taking pop shots at it. And thats just the tip of the iceberg.

    I am sure its going to be multi-pronged approach that will hopefully end the persecution of wolves but I also think that scientists, biologists, responsible and progressive ranchers and farmers and hunters as well as activists will all need to play a part,

    is apathy something we can afford right now as everyhting wild is being annhilitaed. I am not saying calm reasoned debate is not necessary but apathy and the old status quo is not working.

    Nabeki’s site has close to a million visitors and many thousands of followers. If you are both on the same side then don’t be so quick to judge the method. As she points out, she is doing somehting.

    • Immer Treue says:


      +++I am also angry that one of the world’s most respected wolf scientists appears in record to be so clinically detached about the manner by which wolves are killed, the numbers being killed and has not spoken out about the state’s inability to manage them without bias and catering to special interest groups.+++

      Then contact Mech and take it up with him rather than continually criticize him here.

      From one of my earlier posts:

      Mech: I fear general public attitudes about wolves are reverting toward the negative. Since the early 1970s when wolves were the symbols of endangered species, public attitudes tended to be sympathetic toward wolves. Now attitudes are beginning to shift more toward the negative. This change was recently documented in an analysis of media pieces about wolves.

      Peterson: People tend to tolerate wolves more when they know conflicts with wolves can be managed, particularly depredations on livestock and pets. The on-again/off-again delisting of wolves and the consequent alternating state responsibility for wolf management has greatly confused and frustrated the public. Options for reducing conflict are particularly limited in Wisconsin and Michigan, where wolves cannot be legally killed following depredation even by federal agents.

      I think one of the salient points Mech and Peterson make is that we may have had more wolves by now, with less ill will if options for wolf management had been put into place earlier.

      +++is apathy something we can afford right now as everyhting wild is being annhilitaed. I am not saying calm reasoned debate is not necessary but apathy and the old status quo is not working.
      Nabeki’s site has close to a million visitors and many thousands of followers. If you are both on the same side then don’t be so quick to judge the method. As she points out, she is doing somehting.+++

      Judge the method? I stated my opinion. I passed no judgment. Nabeki is doing something, in some respects she is helping, and some believe she may be further polarizing the situation. And again, you have no idea what I have done, or the plans I have for the future. Please don’t even cast the possible aspersion of apathy in my direction.

      Come in with guns blazing, and expect some return fire in regard to both an individual to whom, and organization in which I hold in high esteem.

    • nabeki says:

      Louise…you have every right to question WHY one of the premier wildlife/wolf biologists in the country writes a paper like this. It’s shocking and many anti-wolf zealots now quote him.

      “Considerations for Developing Wolf
      Harvesting Regulations in the
      Contiguous United States
      L. DAVID MECH,

      Maximizing public acceptance of wolf harvesting will be hard no matter what taking techniques are used. Nevertheless there are some considerations that can reduce public opposition. The primary consideration is to open the season only after most pups have reached adult size and are no longer readily identifiable as pups, usually about November.
      Killing animals that are obviously pups will invite much revulsion, even by sportsmen. Referring to these grown pups as young-of-the-year would help, and not opening the season until November would minimize possible harvest of obvious pups.

      Delaying wolf-harvest seasons until November also minimizes pelt-preservation problems and would have 2 other public-relations advantages. First, pelts would then be prime and, thus, worth more, pre-empting claims that wolves are being killed when their pelts are economically
      worthless. Second, wolves will have left rendezvous sites. Although wolves will be harder to hunt then, this approach would prevent a hunter who happens to find a rendezvous site from informing others who could then kill the entire pack, even if each hunter only had one tag or permit.

      A similar consideration that can be made toward the end of any annual hunting or trapping season would be to end the season before fetuses in gravid females are obvious. In
      most northern states that would be by 1 March, which also coincides with when wolf fur has lost its prime. Allowing harvest through February, however, would assist with wolf
      control by increasing chances that gravid wolves would be taken.”

      Read more:

      • Paul says:


        That sounds more like a “how to” guide rather than scientific input. I can see why the antis quote him. If I could eliminate one word from the English language it would certainly be the word “harvest.”

        • WM says:

          Nabeki, Paul,

          And yet scientist, Dr. Mech’s article first appears in a scientific journal, written in scientific reference format, and was probably reviewed/previewed by his peers. The problem that you simply do not understand, or choose not to accept, is that this was ALL contemplated as the “The Plan” in each and every state where wolves are, or will be.

          Reintroduction/repopulation of wolves >
          Reach recovery goals (whatever # that is, and where within the state) >
          Begin necessary control actions to maintain, but not exceed, goals.

          It is happening now in ID, MT, MN, WI, MI. It will soon happen in WY, followed in a few years by OR and WA , and then likely followed by CO once they get wolves, and maybe many years from now UT, AZ and NM.
          It makes no difference what the recovery number is, wolves will be killed in fairly large numbers, and it will continue on year after year, after year.

          Dr. Mech is just giving a scientifically derived and PR sensitive prescription for “Maximizing public acceptance of wolf harvesting,” which he knows is inevitable. It is practical and based on science, and quite frankly good advice.

          Question: Would you rather he not do so, and let the state wildlife agencies figure it out for themselves, making mistakes in the process (not that some aren’t/won’t be making mistakes anyway)?

          You should actually be thankful he did so, because it sets a standard for good management. If a state goes outside the prescription, as apparently ID has chosen to do, you have an argument which starts out on the moral high ground – with published authority.

          • Jon Way says:

            It is important to reiterate that the Rocky Mtn states have ignored Mech’s own advise which is pretty flexible (Nov-Feb), 4 months. Many pro-wolfers would say this is too much while the states have said this is too little. Look how MT increased the season b.c not enough wolves were killed.

            Also be aware that JB and I responded to Mech’s paper by agreeing with his comments to make wolf “harvest” acceptable by responding with “Additional considerations of wolf management following ESA removal”. This paper was accepted and is appearing (as we speak) in Journal of Wildlife Management. We put forth additional ideas such as wolf watching and expand upon Mech’s paper.

            I agree, Paul, I absolutely hate using the term “harvest” for an animal like the wolf. I think it is a stupid term. But to get our paper accepted JB and I decided to stick with the term as JWM accepts the term and we wanted to make our point without the word “harvest” affecting the paper’s acceptance. I would’ve preferred to use Wolf hunting season or simply “kill” instead.

            • WM says:

              Jon Way,

              Would you anticipate ID and MT would re-evaluate and reconfigure their (kill/harvest) prescriptions in future years to be more aligned with Dr. Mech’s (and your/JB’s supplemental suggestions), once the wolf populations and distributions reach their desired management goals?

            • Jon Way says:

              Good question WM,
              Flat out – no. That is why I think there will be eventually some type of federal protection for them b.c wolves are not just any species. The fed protections might just be on federal land or something like that.

              I hope i’m wrong but I don’t see them being moderate in their wolf “harvest”.

          • Immer Treue says:


            Thank you for so eloquently putting forth the rationale of David Mech’s suggestions. There was no if, and, how, or where about it, wolves were going to be taken by hunters and unfortunately by trappers.

            He put forth parameters that would meet wider “social” acceptance, thus establishing that moral “high ground”. With great hope, acceptable numbers can soon be reached, where Dr. Mech’s suggestions can be implemented, and this entire issue can be put behind us. Perhaps the outliers on either side will not be satisfied, but the bell shape curve will include an ample majority.

      • Immer Treue says:

        This has been posted many times, and was used as an example as what Idaho “should” do rather than what they did and are doing.

    • Savebears says:

      Having a million visitors is not hard, I have a blog, that believe it or not many that post on this blog visit quite often, we record well over a million unique visitors a year..

      There is a fine line between passionate and obsessive.

      Before hand, I am sure I will be criticized on my statement.

  35. Jerry Black says:

    SPORTSMEN FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE is dismantling the very idea of a public wildlife resource.

  36. MJ Graham says:

    I think in all this we must remember, some wolf populations were delisted not as a matter of science but as a matter of politics (Tester Rider). Science-based or not, the real solution to this issue is election campaign reform. Until we ban the influx of private and corporate money into election campaigns, the influence of the far out-numbered haters will prevail. This is how they out-shout and out-spend. The majority of well established wolf defenders are non-profits with limited funding and limited ability to vocalize on a political level (campaigning, etc.). We need to insist on strict publicly financed elections so that in the end the legislators and judges answer only to the people, the vast majority of whom do not hunt, trap or ranch. They are also VERY leery of inhumane methods of wildlife control, which seems to be part and parcel of the recent state management programs.


March 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

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