Wolf controversy is personal and cultural, not over biology-

Except for the few people “on the fence” — those who have not chosen sides — the controversy over wolf restoration in the West is not really about wolves.

When the wolves were first reintroduced beginning in 1995, there was some genuine debate over whether it was the best way to restore them, whether the population would grow or wither and die, whether they would greatly reduce, or maybe even increase prey populations, and the effect of wolves on other animals and the ecosystems.

Much knowledge has been gained. There are scores of scientific studies about the reintroduced wolves: their behavior, effects, prospects, etc.

While there were those dead set against wolves or completely for them regardless right from the start, many were genuinely open to information. The militant anti-wolf narrative didn’t develop and spread until about 8 – 10 years had passed. At first, extreme anti-wolf rhetoric was led by a few prominent politicians like Republican Senator from Montana Conrad Burns (the wolves will kill a little girl before the first year is over) and later, Democratic Governor of Wyoming Dave Freudenthal who argued that the 30 or 40 wolves in the state were literally destroying the economy there.

The real drive against the wolves that was effective seemed to be related to, or at least paralleled, the rise of tea party and similar thinking. At the time, pro-wolf groups were taken to task by some of their friends for making mistakes both tactical and strategic, but there is a good argument that the current situation of a slowly declining wolf population due to human mortality along with very unpleasant controversy would have happened regardless of any moves the pro-wolf groups made.

The wolf issue fit very well into the quiver of anti-government arguments at large at the time and wolves served too well as a scapegoat to take folks’ minds off the terrible economic disruptions of the Great Recession.  While the pro-wolf argument was and remains about the beauty of wolves, the need of ecosystem for wolves, and their general lack of negative impacts; the anti-wolf position tends toward apocalypse. The wolves are claimed to be the very worst thing that has ever happened to big game, the elk and other herds are said to be in great decline, the ranching economy has been delivered a blow to the gut.  Worse still the entire wolf  project is a giant conspiracy to bring a huge non-native beast to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming from the far away country of Canada instead of restoring the timid, little seen, and small native wolf of the Rocky Mountains, canis lupus irremotus. The purpose of the great conspiracy is to end hunting, bring more federal control (or perhaps United Nations control) for its own sake, destroy gun rights, and the like. All these things are supposedly based on malice.

Arguments over the issue are quickly personal and based on stereotypes of what one side thinks the other is like. Here is a good example from a recent letter to the editor that argues that most of the time the State of Montana claims wolves have greatly hurt the elk population, but quickly turns to the opposite argument (too many elk) when that argument is convenient. The comments about the letter are abrasive, and they don’t deal with the writer’s argument. In other words, we see cultural conflict rather than any true argument over wolves themselves.

Wolf advocates traditionally relied on the federal government to offset what they saw as the backward policies of the Northern Rockies states. Unfortunately for them, after friendly President Bill Clinton, there came two Presidents who were of no help or aided their opponents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Neither President was personally involved with wolf policy, but their appointments and nominations to key Department of Interior positions were unfriendly to wolves.

Despite setbacks to those who want more than a bare minimum recovery of wolves, the wolf population is spreading to Washington, Oregon, and perhaps California, which are more friendly states. They are also “blue” states.

While this is very speculative, perhaps twenty years from now we might see wildlife distributed not as much by geography and habitat as by politics. Red states might have big populations of a few large animals, designated as “game,” plus varying numbers of other animals, viewed as varmints. The game would be managed much like livestock, e.g., cows are “slow elk.” Elk are quick cows, good for targets.

Blue states might have a much larger variety of kinds of animals. They would be treated as wildlife as well as game.  The category of varmint would be abolished.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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

180 Responses to Western wolf issue is mostly not really about wolves

  1. JimT says:

    As usual, Ralph, you cut to the heart of the matter. The whole Tea Party, bring down government (again) has raised the Sagebrush folks into activity again, and the wolves suffer for it…again. Sad to see the amount and depth of non interest by not only the White House, but the Western Dems as well. Udalls, Benett, Polis…shameful non engagement on their part even, especially Mark Udall given his family’s history in the environmental field. Tom Udall has at least tried to be supportive of Mexican wolf issues in his state. If an issue doesn’t affect their electability, seems to me like it doesn’t matter to them. And there in lies the nub of another issue…the utter dysfunction of DC on environmental issues.

    • WM says:

      Jim T,

      I think I said before, possibly even in a direct comment to you that Mark Udall wouldn’t step to the front of the line for wolves – the interests of the West and keeping the D agenda moving forward from the middle, are a whole bunch greater than wolf advocacy, even if his wife’s name is Maggie Fox, http://blip.tv/the-uptake/maggie-fox-riles-up-the-crowd-1398170

      • Jimt says:

        I have known Maggie and Mark since the mid 80s. Never in a million years did I think that Mo Udall’s son, and Stu Udall’s nephew would morph into this apologist for the ranching communities through his consistent refusal to take a stand on this issue. I will not be working for him next time around; I know many enviros who feel the same way. Profound sense of disappointment and betrayal. He will not win his next election without the support of the “Greens”, trust me. What we get in return…well, maybe we need to send a message to Western Dems that we are enviros and we vote. And maybe it will be easy to rally support for our causes if we have a clear enemy in the Senate rather than a pretend ally.

    • cobackcountry says:

      Udall won’t be in office in Colorado after the next election. Regardless of the stand any of them do, or do not take, our natural resources policies in this country need to be about resources. We make them a weapon that gets used like an ice pick to poke holes in issues that really don’t apply to the policies, or resources (including wildlife). While we do that, we cause irreparable fractures in the foundation of resource management. Those fractures have weakened our system. We now manage for handful of people instead of current and future generations. We forget to manage for the value of the resource instead opting to manage for the value of special interests. We lose the purity and integrity of the intent of our laws an policies. We forget that we aren’t managing ‘for farms, cattle or Lookie Loos. We are managing for the benefit of ‘the public’ preservation for future generations.

      Political agendas have already turned America upside down, and I doubt it will take 20 years before we manage all wild ‘game’ like bison…as an ag industry. That sucks to type, but feels utterly correct.

  2. Mark L says:

    If the coyote is known as the trickster, then the wolf should be known as the teacher because the more we are around it, the more we seem to learn about ourselves (not always pleasant). It doesn’t really matter which wolf we are talking about either…
    we are both fairly consistent in our actions.

  3. While I agree with much of the post, and certainly that it’s not just about wolves, I think the anti-wolf sentiment goes much deeper than politics, touching on a visceral fear instilled from childhood. The Tea Party has given a voice to those who live by fear, fomenting anger rather than educating and reducing the fear. The only solution is to keep attempting to educate, so keep up the good work!

    • cobackcountry says:

      I wouldn’t give the The Tea Party too much credit. Some people have used fear to rule the landscape for millennia. Culturally, boogie men abound in various forms, as a means of using fear to elicit a certain behavior. Wolves have been lumped in to with the likes of vampires, banshees, witches, dragons and demons. It is historically relevant. Not out-growing the tactic is a perversion that has been capitalized upon by various special interests, like ranching and certain ill intended sporting groups.

      The Tea Party may feed off of the mentality, but it existed before Sarah
      Hockey Mom with Beauty Secrets who must have failed geography’ Palin made the party media relevant.

  4. This is an excellent summary and analysis of the wolf situation, Ralph. I think though that you are overly optimistic about the wolf’s future in blue states such as Washington and Oregon.

    The anti wolf people in those states have already had negative effects, such as the killing of an entire wolf pack for one putative livestock depredation. The sad fact is that the anti wolf movement is much better organized and motivated in these states than the pro-wolf groups. I believe this is due to their ranching and hunting traditions as well as their intense feelings over the matter.

    Christine has hit the nail on the head about the deep “visceral” feelings that also drive these groups. Until we organize ourselves better politically, we are going to continue to lose ground to them.

    I believe that our best opportunity lies in educating the uncommitted and the younger generation. Hope for the wolves’ relisting in the present poltical atmosphere is little and none.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Ken Fischman,

      I am not pessimistic about WA and OR per se. In Washington the Wedge Pack was killed, but already a new pack is in its territory.

      In Oregon there has actually been no lethal wolf control for a year now. The future will now see some mortality because a settlement has been reached with the Fish and Game department and livestock interests, but the number of wolves to be killed is only two and only if the Imnaha Pack kills some more livestock.

      This will not negatively impact Oregon wolf numbers and the population growth of wolves.

      It is true that anti-wolf people are better organized because they have tied into the political leadership in Red states. If wolf advocates want to prevent that from happening in Blue states they need to get better organized. They must expand beyond wolves to embrace other conservation issues. Even more important, they must embrace non-conservation alliances too.

      Wildlife groups cannot continue to win against a field of what are now not just anti-carnivore groups, but groups with backing from the livestock industry and other resource extraction groups, right wing religious groups, anti-education, and anti-worker, anti-middle class politicians.

      Wildlife conservation groups are going to have to ally with progressive groups if they want to prevail.

      There is presently a large, mostly rural-based backlash against essentially all of the advances of the 20th century. It is being fed in part by money from right wing billionaires and foundations.

      The anti-wolf groups already dance to this tune. Notice how they don’t argue about wolf behavior anymore as much as they demonize those they oppose as “liberals,” “socialists,” etc. They are already recruited.

      This is not normal American politics. Instead there is a cultural struggle for the soul of America going on, and that in turn is supported by a portion of the top economic elites. Not all of them, however. There are many disagreements, and the super rich do not necessarily want to live in some kind of corporate/anti-scientific/religious feudalism.

      • Rancher Bob says:

        “The anti-wolf groups already dance to this tune. Notice how they don’t argue about wolf behavior anymore as much as they demonize those they oppose as “liberals,” “socialists,” etc. They are already recruited.”

        Seems to be a bit of “demonizing” being done by both sides. Got to love it when the pot calls the kettle black.

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          Rancher Bob,

          When a conflict is cultural one or both sides will almost always call each other names rather than discuss issues and how to come to a positive solution for both.

          I am not sure why you would love unnecessary conflict. In cultural conflict one or both sides will sometimes accept an unnecessary loss to themselves just so the other side will hurt.

          • Rancher Bob says:

            What I said was, got to love it when the pot calls the kettle black. I’m talking about how one side is always bitching about being labeled all the while doing the same thing. You talk about demonizing with name calling while you do the same thing. So instead of posting solutions you go to the name calling, could it be you found wolf behavior less successful?
            You must be right I must like conflict I’m still here as a rancher, hunter and proud Montanan.

            • Ralph Maughan says:

              Rancher Bob,

              You are under the misperception that I think name calling is of benefit, that is unless a person wants an escalation of conflict. Then it works.

              I have been careful to say that I am not anti-hunting. I approve of hunting done according to a set of ethical principles.

              Once and a while I do use the term, “welfare rancher” when I think someone is collecting a lot of government benefits while they talk about how they are self-made, rugged individualists.

              In my long reply (or commentary) above to Ken Fischman, I did lay out what I thought wildlife conservation groups need to do to achieve greater political clout. It might not be achievable though. It is true I am on the side of diversity of wildlife instead of the side of large numbers of a few kinds of game, managed like livestock.

              I do not value wolves over elk. Different wildlife species are equally important to me.

              Those are my values.

              • cobackcountry says:

                Ralph and Rancher Bob,

                I have read many solutions proposed here.

                Maybe we forget about all the many voices who have spoken up for compromise, because all we can hear is people shouting hate or demanding their way or no way?

                I have always found Ralph to be very open to suggestions. I have rarely found a pro-wolfer who agrees to a hunt, or an anti-wolfer who agrees to more numbers. There are a few of us though. I think we are more a majority than minority, We just have twice as many people hurling insults at us, so we spend a lot of time deflecting when we could be solving.

                It is kind of like trying to fight a fire when someone has a can full of gas and someone else is threatening you with a match. You either spend all your time talking people down, or waiting to see what blows up next.

      • SAP says:

        Ralph wrote that “the super rich do not necessarily want to live in some kind of corporate/anti-scientific/religious feudalism.”

        I believe that’s true in many instances — that many extremely rich people actually care about helping their fellow citizens fulfill their potential.

        In other instances, I’d have to say there’s a deliberate effort to make Americans stupid, angry, and distracted by phantoms. Works out pretty good for them to convince the rest of us that we should accept our lot in this life, waiting patiently for our reward once we die, too. Complete and utter exploitation of people. George Orwell wrote the playbook (1984) two generations ago.

        It’s kind of sad and silly to hear people talk about firearms as a bulwark against tyranny. Not only does this notion line the pockets of the firearms and ammunition industries, but it makes people blind to the many other ways our freedom is being eroded daily. I know people who firmly believe that unfettered firearms ownership and tyranny are mutually exclusive. They can’t even let themselves imagine that most of our freedom could disappear while they still have all the firearms and ammo they could ever dream of.

        Corporate interests are buying all three branches of government and working to turn us into slaves, or maybe worse. Stay tuned: the property rights zealots may someday soon start promoting the repeal of the 13th Amendment, arguing that it’s better to be owned than left to fend for oneself. At least someone has an “incentive” to take care of a slave, would be the argument . . .

    • jon says:

      the anti-wolf people operate on emotion and hatred. You are right though. The anti-wolf voices are louder in states like Idaho and Montana only because you got anti-wolf commissioners on the fish and game commissions, but if you look at nationwide, the pro-wolf movement is much bigger than the anti-wolf movement. Hunters in Montana and Idaho represent a tiny % of the population.Most people in Idaho and Montana don’t hunt. The anti-wolf movement is a tiny fringe movement is does to get louder than the pro-wolf movement in states like Idaho and Montana.

      • Rancher Bob says:

        Once again if you represent the majority in your state, how come there are no wolves in your state? If the majority of the people feel like you why no wolves? Seems odd to me.

        • jon says:

          I never said I represented anything in my state. I do know there are people in my state that would welcome wolves back with no problems. I happen to be one of those people rb. What I want and what my state legislature is willing to do are two different things. I have a republican governor unfortunately. I do believe in time, wolves will naturally migrate into my state and I hope wolves will get federal protection if they do happen to find their way into my state.

        • Jimt says:

          Because, RB, we are no longer a democratic republic whose governing bodies reflect the will of the majority of citizens. Instead, we have become, certainly at the national level, a system of oligarchy run by plutocrats. The lid came off Pandora’s box with United Citizens, and I am afraid there is no putting the lid back on unless there is a change in the First Amendment’s language on what the nature of speech is. And sadly, the state governments are falling into that same model of rich lobbying groups controlling legislative agendas, and therefore the conduct and realities of everyday life.

          • SaveBears says:

            Well Jim, if you are depending on the “Federal” Government to protect what is important to you, then bend over, because you are going to be greatly disappointed!

          • Rancher Bob says:

            I would call your comment a bunch of BS whining. I hear the same BS put forth here every day by those who would rather spend their time blogging. People who say they represent the majority yet can’t prove the fact. People with full bellies living in very nice conditions bitching about how the government does nothing for them. Maybe some of you should try life in a third world country.
            Funny you should mention Pandora’s box, we talk the same way about wolves. Speaking of our government not listening to it’s citizens. They gave us these wolves now they don’t want to pay the cost of wolves on the landscape now that they are delisted. Bitch bitch.

  5. Denise Boggs says:

    A similar situation exists regarding the bison in YNP. It really isn’t about bison, but a dying cowboy culture and livestock industry hanging on for life and legitimacy. Ralph, I had to laugh when I read that Gov Freudenthal in WY said wolves were destroying the economy in WY. It’s likely the opposite. I sincerely wish the American people would wake up to these issues and make a conscious decision to boycott WY, MT, and ID, AND write the Governor of these states and their tourism boards and tell them why they are choosing to spend their time and dollars elsewhere. The three states combined bring in multi millions, if not a billion dollars in tourism revenue. The only language these politicians understand is money. Please don’t visit here until the tyranny against wildlife stops. Finally, the wolf issue has taught us once again that democrats are not true friends of the environment; they only vote for the environment if they personally gain something by doing so. Both Ds and Rs are driven by money, not environmental ethics or even a desire to protect the planet and the life it holds. The exception perhaps is Grivalja in AZ.

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Denise Boggs,

      I agree with you. I watched and studied the bison issue for years. The brucellosis issue, the confinement to Yellowstone policy, the bison slaughter instead of a hunt never made sense to me until I came to understand that it was, as you say, about cowboy culture not disease. If brucellosis did not exist, something else would be found or invented.

      The livestock folks have been a bit slow doing it, however. The best they have come up with lately is bison harming fences and stomping children at bus stops. Why are children always said to be threatened by wild animals at bus stops? Why too are the threatened children never hurt? Couldn’t they at least claim that bison will stomp old people walking to church? It angered me not just to be lied to, but their overconfidence that they didn’t even need to think up a good lie. 😉

    • Robert R says:

      Denise wildlife watching may bring money but it don’t create the jobs that are needed to run the economy.

      • CodyCoyote says:

        -not where I live, Robert. I can easily name a dozen folks who are employed as wildlife tour operators and guides for same. I used to get $ 400 / day plus tips for it. The money came to Cody Wyoming from a long ways off, too. France, England, Texas, California, NYC…and so forth. new money in the local economy thru and thru. That’s not irrigator, sheepherder , haymaker and itinerant cowboy wages at all….

        • CodyCoyote says:

          I should also mention that the University of Montana did a broad survey of the economic contribution by various outdoor industries and sectors. They quantified the hunting and fishing operators and next level businesses like restaurants and motels and came up with the expected sums in the hundreds of millions. Big game outfitting came in at a few hundred million in revenue. As did snowmobiling and skiing , and pleasure boating even made a good contribution .Then to everyone’s surprise in the same study , up came ” Wolf Watching, Yellowstone region ” at $ 35 million per year. That ain’t barnyard feed.

          So here’s your choices… you either have to dismiss all the abovementioned outdoor rec sectors as being w-a-a-a-y overvalued and overstated in the money they bring in , or you have to include wolf watching right there with them on the same page using the same methodology.

          • WM says:


            ++Then to everyone’s surprise in the same study , up came ” Wolf Watching, Yellowstone region ” at $ 35 million per year. That ain’t barnyard feed.++

            I don’t know there was any “surprise” as Dr. John Duffield predicted the impact with some level of confidence. But, how much of that $35M do you suppose remains in the local economy (he and his co-authors didn’t address that aspect in the original study done for the 1994 EIS, or in a follow-up survey)? How much of the wolf tourism dollars actually displace dollars from other sectors of the economy? How transferrable are the data from the wolf tourism dollars in the nation’s largest and most visited national park, to other areas where wolves might provide “viewing opportunities?” And, as more places might provide viewing will that displace some of the historic revenue from the YNP study of Dr. Duffield, et al?

            These are a few of the questions that wolf advocates need to have answered before that blanket wolf tourism brings in upwards of $35M a year, that benefits the region, should get much traction.

            Otherwise the argument is just a blowhard’s assertion. Where is the real net benefit, and how much to the local economies to convince them there is value? Only thing I can see so far is maybe some state tax revenues on the sales of goods and services (minus, of course, the loss of revenues/ taxes on displaced goods and services from other vendors). What do you think?
            And before answering, how much of that $35M goes to business jobs and shareholders of the big corporate out of state YNP contractors that run the concessions, as compared to the minimum wage seasonal help that makes the beds, serves the meals, and pumps the gas?

            I say, until those numbers and net economic benefit are proven, it is a weak (read as horseshit) argument!

          • Rancher Bob says:

            If one reads parts of the U of M report it states Montana had 3,190,000,000 dollars from tourism with 35,000,000 dollars from wolf watchers. So wolf watching around Yellowstone make up less than 1% on Montana’s tourism dollars. Funny how those numbers will bite you in the …

        • Robert R says:

          Most are not year around jobs. The country cannot run on part time employment.

          • jon says:

            Robert, when I was a young kid, I had many part time jobs. With the economy being the way it is, having a part time job is better than having no job at all.

      • jon says:

        You saying that wildlife watching doesn’t create job? Hunting will be the past and wildlife watching will be the future. Only a small % of Americans hunt.

        • Rancher Bob says:

          You act like it’s one or the other. In Montana people have been watching wildlife and having a hunting season for many decades. Why can’t you grasp that idea.
          The number of people paying to watch wildlife is growing slowly, the tourist industry is changing, but I don’t see anyone in the wildlife watching business getting rich yet. When and if that starts to happen people will meet the demand.
          As I said above less than 1% of Montana’s tourism dollars are related to wolf watching.

          • jon says:

            They make a ton of money wildlife watching in Africa. Why can’t the same be done here in the US? It will happen to where people notice it’s happening.

        • ma'iingan says:

          “Only a small % of Americans hunt.”

          And their license fees and P-R surcharges go directly to wildlife management. In my state, they fund the bulk of management and research on 1.6 million acres, spread over 200 state wildlife areas.

          • cobackcountry says:

            It is the majority of funding in many states. People don’t always grasp that the things they wish to conserve are by and large funded by those who they are opposing having any in-out on matters.

            • cobackcountry says:


              As for the above economics argument…keep in mind that those numbers can be used both ways. That is what statistical data is all about, an artful way to use numbers to win an argument….but it doesn’t always mean you are correct.

              You can’t trace dollars spent on wildlife watching to the same degree you can trace P&R type of dollars. Until you can, you can neither prove nor disprove with great certainty that there is more or less money being of benefit because of wildlife watching as a singular contribution. Some hunters are watchers, how do you divide those bino’s? Some watchers buy habitat stamps, how o you declare that separate from other tag related monies?

              You don’t put animals in an ecosystem for money….you put them in for balance and preservation.

              Managing them after that is this political “I know more than you do” back and forth. It is being treated as a personal issue. It’s a scientific issue. People deal with their emotional investments by using what ever they can to back up heir view. It doesn’t matter what the view is. You can use information to mislead, or you can use it to understand….but frankly most of the time it is just used to get someone’s way no matter the cost or consequence.

            • SaveBears says:

              Unfortunately, many posting here and on other blogs, don’t quite understand how much money PR and Ding contribute to preserving the wildlife they want to see, then look at the state levels, here in Montana, every single person that buys any type of tag or license also has to buy a conversation stamp. There is a lot of money being contributed by hunters, fishing and gun owners.

              • cobackcountry says:

                Most of the money contributed is from hunters, anglers and gun owners.

                It’s the same way in CO. A habitat stamp goes a long way.

                I think before people throw stones, they should really explore where money comes from, how research is funded, who really does the work and how much of that would stop if all us “evil barbaric hunters” dropped out of the funding pool.

                I have no desire to hunt a wolf, or really any other predator. I also don’t NEED an elk in my freezer. But I get really tired of the assumption being thrown out there that because I hunt, I am less ethical than someone who doesn’t.

                All the arguments being thrown about by extremists are smoke and mirrors, designed to keep both sides from realizing there are real life people who are rationally rooted in the greater good.

              • SaveBears says:

                95% of the meat that my wife and eat is wild meat, with us, it is not an option, it is a necessity, it lowers our food costs, it gives us healthier meat to eat. Some that rail against hunting don’t realize it is not a recreational opportunity, but part of our annual budget.

              • cobackcountry says:

                It is a lifestyle choice for may people. It is also a tradition. It certainly is a healthier option than most. I think the average deer yields about 20-30 lbs of boned out meet? If you compare that to beef that is very lean…it runs about 4.89/lb. It adds up quickly. Now when you add in the cholesterol meds….the deer just got a lot more affordable!

              • WM says:


                If you are living in CO, a mule deer will yield closer to 60-80 pounds of boned out meat (about .5 to .6 field dress weight), and then there is the high cholesterol heart and liver for those who take them.

                To get quantitative about P-R funds, here is the allocation by state for FY 2012 and 2013. Nearly $375-400M a year in wildlife habitat improvement funds from exise taxes on firearm/archery related products. Some here would do well to check out how much money their state receives – and it requires a state matching grant in many instances, so that commits 2X that amount that actually benefits wildlife annually – and the funds are typically capital improvement and habitat acquisition, and not operation/maintenance.


                Dingell-Johnson funds are a similar exise tax on fishing equipment and benefit aquatic environments, distributed in a similar manner.

              • cobackcountry says:


                I am well aware of the funding, but am glad you shared for others.

                Your estimates on a muley may not hold so true these days. When is the estimate from? A muley from the plains, maybe. The muley in the mountains are looking kind of scraggly the past few years. Drought, fire (they’ll rebound soon, but we don’t know much about how well beyond a few years) and of course the bad state of pines are effecting things.

                I’d venture a guess that about 6-10 from now we will see stats and studies galore.

                I’d take a bigger mule deer…in fact, we are hoping to all contribute to the freezer. (Me, hubby, 2 sons, 2 daughters) The money we save on meat will pay for a day on the river in Alaska.

  6. Norman MacLeod says:

    With all due respect, I believe that the author’s argument is oversimplified and not really in the wolves’ best interest.

    The current status of wolves in the Lower 48 is a complex mixture of science, politics, socioeconomics, complicated by evolving pressures related more to the perceived need for a restructuring of the global society than it is a matter of consigning anti-wolf sentiment to the tea party. Equating the tea party with anti-governance also slips to the side of the mark. These people are not antigovernment so much as they are advocates for a different level of central government in relation to local government. Progressives on the other hand tend to see a need for a greater degree of influence at the federal and state level than rural areas have experienced in the past.

    There are influences on wolf management from both philosophical lineages, and we are living in a time where those philosophical discussions or near the top level of consciousness nationally. That said, we should not place responsibility for wolf sentiment or management wholly at the feet of either philosophy.

    While there is a perception that the more recently effective drive against wolves parallels the development of the tea party, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.

    There surely are some whose beliefs actually do reflect the author’s description, but the greater portion of the rural population in the West sit somewhere between the anti-wolf and the pro-wolf “wingtip positions”. Ignoring the rest of the broad spectrum of opinion isn’t going to be particularly helpful to the wolf.

    In teasing out the background of the polarization, I think the author brought up an important point when he said, “Wolf advocates traditionally relied on the federal government to offset what they saw as the backward policies of the Northern Rockies states.”

    In the West, the seat of the federal government is a long, long way away. In seeing the policies in Western states as backward . . . and pretty much saying so in public, wolf advocates in a sense were saying that the country bumpkins have nothing to say worthy of their consideration. It’s entirely understandable that many Westerners took offense at this attitude, and that a large portion of the resentment and opposition we see today may well have come from this. Western states developed and implemented their policies based on the needs and wishes of their constituencies and the landscapes they live and work in. They still do. That’s a political reality.

    This nation was founded on the concept that decentralized government was the better option for forming a society. Rural society was formed in managed in ways different from urban society, and Eastern urban society is at least a little bit different than that of the rural West. We all like to think that we are well aware of the needs and requirements for the best management of the place where we live. Perhaps we should also understand that it may not be wholly appropriate for us to dictate how things should be run in places far from where we live.

    Certainly, there are people living in the rural West who believe that the use of C. l. irremotus would have been preferable to use of C. l. occidentalis in reestablishing wolves in the Lower 48. Unfortunately, I believe that could have led to a situation similar to us what we see with the Mexican wolf. It would perhaps have been better to reestablish those populations using C. l. nubilus, since those are the wolves whose lineages once lived in western landscapes.

    The author also oversimplifies the political constructs of Washington, Oregon, and California. While taken as a whole these may be blue states, those areas where wolves are most likely to move into her politically divergent from the more urban populations living along the I-5 corridor. The idea that blue states might have a larger variety of kinds of animals that would be traded is wildlife as well as game and that the “varmint” category would be abolished is probably way too optimistic.

    • A Western Moderate says:

      The headline of this article really caught my attention, as it matches my thoughts exactly. I was disappointed to see the article follow the typical path into placing a glittering halo on the left while demeaning the far right as the cause of all the problems.

      I agree with Norman MacLeod’s comments. He especially hits the bullseye with this: “…wolf advocates in a sense were saying that the country bumpkins have nothing to say worthy of their consideration. It’s entirely understandable that many Westerners took offense at this attitude, and that a large portion of the resentment and opposition we see today may well have come from this.”

      Extremism from both sides is perpetuating the problem.

    • Marc Bedner says:

      The conflict between centralists and decentralists has existed since the U.S. constitution was established. The slave states favored decentralization, as did their descendants who settled the West. As a concession to the decentralist slaveholders, the framers of the Constitution gave the U.S. Senate the power to defeat majority rule.
      Senator Tester, the Montana rancher-Democrat, has done more to remove protection for wolves than any Republican has ever done. Yet the mainstream environmental lobbies continue to support Tester and his fellow Democrats.

      • jon says:

        He did it to win votes from the hunting and ranching community. Politicians will do just about anything to get elected. People in Montana hate Tester now that he came out in favor of gay marriage and supporting expanded background checks which for some reason the hunters in Montana opposed.

    • JBurnham says:

      “…wolf advocates in a sense were saying that the country bumpkins have nothing to say worthy of their consideration.”

      The “country bumpkins” make the exact opposite argument all the time. Everyone in the west hears ad nauseam that “outta staters” know nothing about the west. They just want to come in and change it for the worse. We hear again and again that the only opinions that really matter come from local “country bumpkins”. If you’re not a rancher, outfitter, logger, miner, etc. you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about and shouldn’t be listened to.

      And here’s the icing on the cake. In Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho if you advocate for wolves, grizzly bears, bison, or sanity in public grazing many of the “country bumpkins” will automatically assume you’re an “outta stater”. And we know that really means you “have nothing to say worthy of their consideration.”

      Ralph’s analysis is simplistic, this wasn’t a dissertation. But the contention that the controversy is cultural and “arguments over the issue are quickly personal and based on stereotypes of what one side thinks the other is like” seems spot on from my perspective.

    • JB says:


      You make some good points about oversimplifying the issue; of course, all models (and stories, for that matter) are oversimplifications. I don’t have any data on this subject, but I would bet (as Jim suggests, above) that the Sagebrush Rebels of yore, today describe themselves as Tea Party die hards. In any case, the ideology is the same–small government, gun rights, property rights, and a sprinkle of xenophobia.

      I disagree completely with the tired “these were the wrong wolves” argument. I have yet to meet an ecologist or zoologist who doesn’t laugh when presented with this argument. You write that the people of the West believe that “the use of C. l. irremotus would have been preferable to use of C. l. occidentalis”; I would contend that the “Canadian gray wolf” issue was largely constructed after the fact out of sheer convenience. It gave anti-wolfers a sciency-sounding argument to cling to.

      “The author also oversimplifies the political constructs of Washington, Oregon, and California.” You’re absolutely right about not accounting for the divergence between rural and urban populations in these largely “blue” states; however, the reality is that wildlife policy is set at the state level, and these states are far, far more democratic than the NRM states. And remember, California actually bans cougar hunting. So there is some reason to think they will be more friendly to the wolf.

    • JBurnham says:

      Also, the tea party is definitely anti-government. Any organization that claims taxation is theft is anti-government. No taxes=no government. And to be clear, that is not a conservative viewpoint, it’s closer to anarchism.

      • WM says:

        J Burnham,

        I have looked long and hard for a comprehensive definition of what the “tea party” really stands for as a unified doctrine. Not much luck; no official platform; no easy way to define them. It seems an easy way to catagorize people, just like we like to label D’s and R’s (except for labeling purposes the TP seems to be a radical subset of the R’s which even some of their own find distasteful).

        What I find distasteful – in a populist sense- is that our current central government is not working. We see more evidence of this every day, and have for the last several years. I have often and more recently wondered what is the wisdom of sending substantial tax dollars to a central location (the federal Treasury), when one looks to all the costs of the transactional efforts to collect it in the right amount – think the Federal Tax Code and preparers- to then to allocate and re-distribute it back to states/entitlement recipients/subsidies/etc., and then audit these transactions along the way, since somebody has to control the fraud and misdirection of these federal funds, even after Congress has their way in distrubitng to pork barrel projects, and pet legislation, because there are the obligatory reserves of tax dollars for use in the Constitutionally provided functions like providing for the common defense, minting money, and the various legitimate functions Congress has chosen through legislation in which to engage and spend those tax dollars. I would rather keep tax dollars in the state for some functions (at the same level as what goes to the central federal Treasury)where there is at least a possibility of greater accountability and use efficiency. Yeah, I know there are wack job states out there too, but some I think could be pretty responsible, like OR, WA in the West.

        Waste occurs all along the way in getting those dollars to Washington DC (collection => redistribution, and its related transactional costs like IRS collection and review, and agency bureaucrats that cut the checks to USDA subsidy recipients or personal entitlements like Medicare, Medicade, Social Security, etc.). Some of us (I happen to be mostly a D, who nonetheless thinks more in terms of decentralized government for many funtions because I think states can in many instances do a better job) think there is a better way, since what we see today doesn’t seem to be working so well. Does that make me a tea party supporter, or just a pissed off D? I like to lump those anarchists together too, but I tend to see them in the fringe ranks of the D’s as well as the R’s. Wonder if any of those present or past “EarthFirsters” are tea party sympathizers, as some are/were anarchists? I suppose you could even ask George Wuerthener, as he was reportedly an Earth First organizer in his early life.

        • “What I find distasteful – in a populist sense – is that our current central government is not working.”

          Our central government is working spectacularly well for the big banks and the big agribusiness corporations.

          Profit figures released this past week showed bank profitability had not just regained the heady levels seen before the crash but actually exceeded them, attaining new, record heights. And those huge profits were even more concentrated than before the crash, accruing overwhelmingly to just five major players who are not just too big to fail but too big to jail.

          Similarly, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Monsanto v. Bowman exemplified the dedication of the corporate state to the agribusiness interests that are poisoning us all. The decision was unanimous, and would have been solidly in Monsanto’s favor even if their former employee, Clarence Thomas, had recused himself. There wasn’t even a token concurring opinion from one of the so-called liberals, expressing regret that the law required an objectionable outcome. The outcome was clearly not objectionable.

          As for the notion that the states could do a better job, I beg to differ. I can understand that sentiment emanating from a resident of Washington or Oregon, but I live in Florida, which could indeed be characterized as a “wack job state.” Thanks to gerrymandering, we are blessed with a rock-solid Republican legislature that uses its brief annual sessions to promote the business interests of its own members. While I wouldn’t expect them to return to the good old days of hanging black people from trees, I would not be inclined to trust them with anything more important than the array of specialty license plates that is available to the motoring public.

          More or less federalism is really a technicality at this point. America’s owners have got us by the balls either way.

        • JB says:


          Some info on the Tea Party:

          Title: Partisan Polarization and the Rise of the Tea Party Movement

          Alan Abramowitz, Emory University

          APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper

          At the grass roots level, the emergence of the Tea Party movement can best be understood as an outgrowth of the increased conservatism of the Republican electoral base, and especially the more politically engaged segment of that base, since the 1970s. I present evidence from American National Election Study surveys showing that Republican identifiers have been trending in a conservative direction for several decades and that this trend has been most evident among the most active partisans. I then present evidence from the October, 2010 wave of the American National Election Study Evaluations of Government and Society Survey about the social characteristics and political beliefs of Tea Party supporters. The overwhelming majority of Tea Party supporters were Republicans and supporters were much more conservative than other Republicans. While conservatism is by far the strongest predictor of support for the Tea Party movement, racial hostility also has a significant impact on support. Along with their greater conservatism, Tea Party supporters were much more politically active than other Republicans. These results suggest that the Tea Party movement has the potential to strongly influence the 2012 Republican congressional and presidential primaries, putting considerable pressure on Republican candidates to embrace issue positions well to the right of the median general election voter.


          According to this evidence, the Tea Party is simply a bunch of folks on the far right who are politically active, but otherwise are regular, run-of-the-mill, government-hating conservatives.

          • Rancher Bob says:

            Sounds a lot like some of this countries founding fathers, Tea Party, who would have thought those ideas would now be so evil. Considering those ideas have been around awhile.

            • JB says:

              Yes, I’m sure the founding fathers would be shocked at how today’s Americans consider racial hostility to be “evil”–well, most of them, anyway.

          • Immer Treue says:

            “… increased conservatism of the Republican electoral base, and especially the more politically engaged segment of that base, since the 1970s. I present evidence from American National Election Study surveys showing that Republican identifiers have been trending in a conservative direction for several decades…”

            Has been evolving since Goldwater’s defeat.

          • Louise Kane says:

            “racial hostility also has a significant impact on support”.

            This is not surprising as Immer noted ideology and increasing conservatism fomenting since Goldwater’s defeat… and Reagan’s victory….

        • JBurnham says:

          WM, it’s true that there are many different tea party groups and no unifying platform. But I mentioned the taxation as theft idea because it’s one of the more common refrains from those who self identify as tea partiers.

          To me, the fact that you identify greater efficiency and effectiveness in government as a primary goal is a good sign that you’re not a tea partier. It seems to me that tea partiers want smaller government as an end in itself, and effectiveness is not the major concern. Thus, sequestration and calls for across the board cuts.

          I doubt many earth firsters will identify with the tea party because just as with wolves, cultural factors play a big role in what side of this divide one ends up on. Anarchist earth firsters might feel more at home with the occupy wall street groups.

          Either way, I believe the live and let live west is full of anarchists. “Tea party” is a much more palatable label than anarchist, and that might explain why some of the more radical groups have started using it.

        • Mareks Vilkins says:


          a little info on anarchism:

          Answers from Chomsky to eight
          questions on anarchism


          on Tea Party

    • jon says:

      It did not matter what kind of wolf is there. The rural folks who hate wolves hate all wolves regardless of what subspecies they are.

  7. Norman MacLeod says:

    In the last paragraph of my comment, “would be traded is wildlife” should actually read “would be treated as wildlife”

  8. CodyCoyote says:

    It would be expecting a lot to dispel many centuries of myth, superstition, and mass hysterical hatred of wolves in only 18 years or so…

  9. MAD says:

    man…isn’t it amazing when you find someone who loves to hear themselves talk and ramble on nonsensically?

    Certainly, there are people living in the rural West who believe that the use of C. l. irremotus would have been preferable to use of C. l. occidentalis in reestablishing wolves in the Lower 48.

    The 2 respected scientists who came up with the ridiculous “24 subspecies” of North American in 1944 based these conclusions on the currently discredited procedures of morphological differences which generally considered weight, skull measurements, tooth placement and hair color. Obviously, genetic research, as well as detailed geographical mapping of population distributions, have resulted in a reordering and shuffling of accepted species and subspecies.

    Now, if you want to discuss the socio-political dynamic of the Western States and their residents; and their mythical beliefs in the “Cowboy Code”, distrust of the Federal gov’t while crying out for continued subsidies, and all the other malarkey which permeates states like Montana (where I reside), Idaho, and Wyoming, we can go on for days. Yes, Washington, DC is far from the Western States, and folks here resent being “told” what to do by them darn Easterners, but heck, they sure don’t mind taking the money that flows from Washington, DC. like a broken spigot. Now, if only DC could figure out how to get all that extra water from the East Coast to us in the parched West, we’d be golden!

    • SaveBears says:

      Why can’t you stick to the point, the return on tax dollars is a completely different subject than the wolf issue.

    • CodyCoyote says:

      Actually, I believe the current tally of subspecies of Canis lupus is ~ 36 to ~ 39.

      For the record, each and every breed and type of Domestic Dog—from Chihuahua to St. Bernard—comes from only one of those subspecies.

      I love the respnse that Ed Bangs had when asked this IRRELEVANT question about the alleged illegal importing the proper subscpecie of wolf from Canada to the GYE…Canis lupus occidentalis or irremotus ?

      Bangs replied , ” Canis lupus irregardless”.

      I say Canis lupus irrelevantus.

  10. Mark L says:

    –not directed to anyone–
    Sounds to me like the first requirement of a person to be defined as a ‘tea partier’ is that they are pissed at the government. Yes? Without that, can they really be a tea partier?
    (and yes I dislike government waste also but see it as an ineffeciency issue as much as a political one…much like our energy problems)
    And yes, Ralph, judging from the responses so far, western wolf issues have very little wolf content….well done

  11. Mark L says:

    True Jon, and any evidence that the original ones bred with ‘those damn Canadian wolves’ is now gone….either shot years ago and hanging on a wall somewhere or felled by disease/old age. Hmm…might be a use for those pelts after all.

    • jon says:

      Cl irremotus ate elk and livestock as well. Why someone would hate one wolf over another makes no sense to me given that according to wildlife experts, all gray wolves are the same.

  12. WyoWolfFan says:

    I agree, much of the matter isn’t about the wolves themselves, it’s about the government “intruding.” When you hear comments like “reintroduce wolves into Central Park” it’s Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana’s way of complaining about the government being intrusive. You also constantly hear people in these parts of the country complaining about it being people from California or “back east” (which seems to mean anyone outside these states) who are ruining it for those of us here. Realistically, it isn’t as much about the wolves themselves, as has been mentioned.
    I also think it’s fashionable to be anti-wolf in this part of the country. People want to fit in with the crowd and so they complain along with the rest of the populace. My theory anyway.

  13. WyoWolfFan says:

    I forgot to add, I would be curious if the “Canadian wolf” sentiment came up more often when immigration is a hot topic.

    • jon says:

      The right wing being anti-immigrant doesn’t only apply to humans, it applies to wild animals such as wolves as well. LOL

  14. BobMc says:

    In Washington State and probably others, wolves have replaced cougars as the anti-big-government predator of choice. The 8th Mountain Lion Workshop had multiple papers on the political aspects of cougars. Cougars: the controversy of politics, conflict, and conservation Interestingly enough, detractors of 1996’s Initiative 655 portray the anti-baiting and anti-hounding ban as being forced onto eastern WA by the Seattle burbs. In fact, the vote margins where I-655 failed to pass were razor thin, and Benton county in south-central WA passed I-655 without any other counties’ votes necessary.

    Nowadays, most of the howling from eastern WA regards wolves, and their devastating impact on .

    • Louise Kane says:

      Bob, sadly and despite the doomed Inhama wolves, I see the hounders keep pushing to retract the ban against hounding lions. They never give up in the quest to pursue and terrorize wild predators.

  15. Tom McNamee says:

    So perfectly put, Ralph.

  16. Tom McNamee says:

    One more comment, actually a question: Why don’t all these people use their real names?

  17. Mike says:

    Not surprised to see yet another Wildlife News wolf article devolve into inane false equivalency, that somehow both sides are to blame, that there is a “scientific middle” (LOL at that).

    The scientific truth is that wolves barely have recovered in the lower 48. They still need to have robust breeding populations in Utah, Colorado, California, and the northeast states. The best way to achieve that is to allow for wolves to occupy habit they should be occupying in the NRM, Washington, Michigan, and Oregon, and with relatively dense population figures.

    Everything else is irrelevant. A hundred years from now, no one is going to care about a “symbol of government” or weather a wolf attacked a sheep. The kids are going to ask what happened to canis lupis, not whether Rancher Johnny Douchebag lost eight sheep.

    • ZeeWolf says:

      Maybe the Rancher Johnny Douchebag could get together with the Hippie Moonbeam Granolacrunch (aka Mike) and they could have a hoedown/rainbow gathering were they could recklessly shoot guns and pet the tame wolves.

  18. Chris says:

    How come no one has mentioned that “blue” states Minnesota and Wisconsin have also started unsustainable wolf hunts?

    Only Michigan so far has suspended a hunt via citizen petition that will send the issue to statewide referendum, which the Michigan legislature partly circumvented by passing a separate law anticipating the petition’s success.

    • ma'iingan says:

      “How come no one has mentioned that “blue” states Minnesota and Wisconsin have also started unsustainable wolf hunts?”

      I’d like to hear the basis of your opinion that these hunts are “unsustainable”.

      • SAP says:

        I’d like for people to stop making vague references to “sustainability” and “viability.”

        Both “sides” abuse this term, and it completely gets in the way of having a meaningful discussion. We’ve covered this here before. It’s not an obscure technical point that folks can ignore, unless they just really enjoy having dead-end arguments.

        See this thread


        from Nov 2010.

        “Sustainable” is a subjective term, just like “wealthy” or “comfortable.” It is meaningless to talk about sustainability without specifying

        WHAT is being sustained;
        HOW LONG of a time frame you want to worry about;
        HOW MUCH RISK you’re willing to tolerate for the valued thing you’re trying to sustain.

        Science can help you define what you’re trying to sustain, can help devise ways of sustaining it, can help you measure progress toward sustainability. It can’t tell you what to sustain, for how long, and at what level of risk. The answers to these questions depend on one’s values and can’t be answered by “science.”

        • JB says:

          Well stated, SAP.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          I don’t agree. There comes a point where things become unequivocal.

          • JB says:

            Perhaps. But we are not near that point with wolves–current scientific DISagreement is a testament to the fact that what constitutes sustainable wolf harvest is still in question.

            • WM says:


              Where does one start – sustainable population or sustainable harvest? I would suggest the base population is the important touchstone, with the annual take-off dependent on the base.

              While we are on the topic of “sustainability,” it might be important to consider this. The state of WA has made it a cornerstone of its wolf management plan (and actually gone one step further):

              ++The purpose of the plan is to ensure the reestablishment of a self-sustaining population of gray wolves in Washington and to encourage social tolerance for the species by addressing and reducing conflicts. Goals of the plan are to:

              -Restore the wolf population in Washington to a self-sustaining size and geographic distribution that will result in wolves having a high probability of persisting in the state through the foreseeable future (>50-100 years).

              Their next step was to translate that to numbers of wolves/breeding pairs and spatial distribution. And, they seem to ignore what is going on around them with in-migration from Canada, ID and eventually OR.

              So, the concepts of viability and sustainability do in fact translate into management at both the state and federal (ESA mandated) recovery goals.

              In the case of WA, they did take a scientific risk by defining it. Later in the plan, they address conceptually (not numerically at this point) that once these numbers/spatial distribution are met with downlisting achieved, “sustainable harvest” would follow.

          • SAP says:

            Ida, I suppose there might be a point where most of us would say, “unequivocally, wolves are about to be extirpated again.”

            But again, we’d have to be clear as to how how soon (5 months? 5 years? 50 years?). We need to be clear whether we mean “wolves are being reduced to ecologically meaningless levels;” or “wolves are being reduced to levels where they’re dependent on lots of human intervention to prevent inbreeding etc,” or “wolves are numerically just about to plummet to zero.” These are all very different levels of failure, but most of the public seems to think we’re talking about wolves crashing to zero very soon (less than a decade?), when we’re really talking about something else.

            I would say that, if we got down to fewer than 50 wolves in Greater Yellowstone, I would agree that we’re on a greased plank to extirpation.

            Just to be clear, though, I don’t think it’s acceptable to reduce GYE wolves to 51 individuals. The reason I think that is because I value the existence of minimally-manipulated assemblages of wild creatures, and I want there to be a very high probability that they will continue doing their thing for a very, very long time.

            That’s what I mean when I talk about “viability.”

            Many people don’t share that vision (which is fine — I can’t/won’t impose my values on them). They may have a very different idea of “viability,” then. They may be focused just on keeping a few individuals around, managing any genetic concerns by moving animals or their gametes from one population to another. They may think that 50 carefully managed wolves behind a high fence would be just fine.

            We could go round&round arguing about “viability,” unless we articulate what specifically we mean, and the values that inform our positions.

            • Mark L says:

              Great post. And yes, i think that the ‘govern-ment’ will always look for ways to govern….including requiring as much effort as possible to ‘manage’ wolves, which ironically is a burueacratic’s dream. Not lost on me is the fact that wolves MAY actually be able to manage themselves a little or no cost to us, but that isn’t what governing is about.
              where’s my tea party people encouraging less government intervention in wolf politics? Where’s my canis lupus laissez faire?

            • Ida Lupine says:

              Thanks for your post. I see what you mean.

              It just really disheartens me that we consider managing them hunting and then replacing them when the numbers get low. They are a living creature, not an object for humans to manipulate at will. No other animal is treated this way, except maybe elk? It really stinks.

        • cobackcountry says:

          I agree. Unless those things are a legislated non-variant, they are just another point to bicker over.

  19. rork says:

    I think wolf impact on prey is a legitimate concern and a true argument about wolves and it’s not well addressed by this article or most other pro-wolf writings. I think we have to do much better about honestly knowing and saying what we think the impacts are, as well as what the benefits are.
    I think many on the pro-wolf side do want to curtail hunting, and bring on federal control (HSUS started new proceedings). This is not imaginary. Some folks here have called for relisting, imagining their own version of an apocalypse. We both focus on extremists in the other camp, and often more about psychology than the subject at hand, perhaps cause that’s so easy, and maybe makes us feel righteous. I’m against it.

    • WM says:


      Well said. It is also interesting to note that one rationale for the reintroduction of the non-essential experimental population of wolves (31 or was it 33?) into YNP was to reduce, let me say that again – reduce- the elk population in Yellowstone NP. If each wolf eats between 12-23 ungulates a year between November and end of April, the standard research year, plus a few more from May thru October, it is implausible that these are all compensatory and NOT additive (meaning these ungulates would not have died but for the wolves). Were those responsible for the reintroduction lying then or are they lying now (no material or substantive impact to ungulate wherever wolves are).

      Meaning no disrespect to Ralph’s assessment, I think the wolf issue is roughly equal parts science (maybe lack of knowledge of impacts perceived or actual) and politics.

      • WM says:

        continuing… and lest I be chastised for ignoring this, the remaining 30 some wolves for the 1995 non-essential experimental population reintroduction were droppped in north central ID, where IDFG would not have strenuously argued there were too many elk, that required reduction.

        Then we get to the part where the 1994 EIS done by FWS really didn’t fully assess quantitatively how an increasing population of wolves in the NRM would eat more elk as the wolf population expanded and grew. Two hundred plus wolves in YNP dropped to right near 100 after they ate their way through the excess elk allowed to increase from habitat change from the 1988 fires reduced forage, as forest succession reclaimed ground. But they did say wolves would be managed for impact to ungulate populations (and livestock).

        • Ralph Maughan says:


          Regarding Yellowstone Park, it is easy to forget the impact of bears on the elk. I even hesitate to mention it because of the anti-carnivore aggressiveness of elk hunting organizations, but it is clear to me that the decline in the number of Yellowstone elk is interactive and additive — wolves + bears (cougar and coyotes too).

          Furthermore, almost all actual studies in Montana where they have radio collared elk to obtain the various causes of the demise of elk find bears to kill more than wolves.

          • WM says:


            I think there is every reason to believe that wherever bears are (including a slowly expanding grizzly population) that bears get quite a few young of the year elk/deer. There simply are more of them than wolves, and the states can and do figure bear harvest presecriptions into their management plans for elk. In some hunting units there are efforts to knock back the bear population. Of course, that can’t be done in Yellowstone NP. I wonder if the black bear population adjusted cyclically (and naturally) in response to the number of elk, as the wolf population did?

            About seven years ago I had a conversation with an FWS field biologist who was looking into that relationship in north central ID. It was during hunting season, and she was interviewing hunters as a part of her investigation trying to understand how many young of the year were taken by bears and an expanding wolf population. Don’t know whatever happened to the data she collected.

            • Ralph Maughan says:


              Population estimates of black bears are really unreliable in my view, and you don’t usually hear much controversy over what technique is used to make them.

              The common estimate for Idaho is 20,000 !!! black bears. If so, they could eat a huge number of elk calves compared to 500 wolves.

              However, I think the figure of 20,000 is unrealistically high. Yes bears are shy compared to wolves, but not that shy. I don’t think I have seen a bear in Idaho for ten years. I see their scat and tracks. There are there bears, but 20,000? If there are that many, their effects must swamp those of wolves.

              A quick web search gave me standard estimates of black bears by state.


              • ma'iingan says:

                “Yes bears are shy compared to wolves, but not that shy. I don’t think I have seen a bear in Idaho for ten years. I see their scat and tracks. There are there bears, but 20,000? If there are that many, their effects must swamp those of wolves.”

                We have the highest black bear density in the lower 48 in northern Wisconsin, and I see far more wolf sign than bear sign. My actual random sightings of either animal seem to be pretty equal.

                On this landscape, black bear predation on white-tailed fawns is very significant but short-lived. Fawns become vulnerable to bear at around two weeks of age, when they’re just beginning to move around.

                Interestingly, some bears never seem to learn how to find fawns. Those that do can be responsible for over 20% of fawn mortality in their territories.

              • Ralph Maughan says:


                One reason why some people key on wolves as excessive killers of game and ignore bears, cougars, etc. is that the wolves usually leave a trail of blood, and they usually chase in the open. Their kills can be seen. They howl and lay around after their feast.

                Other predators are quiet about it and do not offend the sensibilities of some folks so much.

  20. Ida Lupine says:

    If people want the concept of ‘sustainable’ wolf hunting to be accepted, they are going to have to do something about the more zealous wolf haters and killers who spout their bile and post their bad exploits on the internet. It is harming their cause. Perhaps then the pro-wolf side will relax a little bit, but not while this overzealous hunting campaign and targeting park wolves continues.

    Personally, I am dismayed that compromise seems to have to come from the pro-wolf side all the time, and the anti’s keep getting more and more bold and demanding, and those in the middle (the so-called ‘decent’ hunters) do nothing but ask for compromise from the pro side. Just my thoughts.

    • Mark L says:

      Good points, Ida. And hence my comment that the ‘wolf issue’ is a mostly a set of moral issues….with a lot of implications for how we (both as areas of the country, and the country as a whole) move forward with an environmental ethics. We are still fighting, more or less, the civil war in a way
      “my hands are tied”

      There’s a lot of implications that people may not see (or want to see) including state’s rights, human (and animal) rights, civil liberties, gun control, etc. all in the ‘wolf pot’. Wolf pot….good phrase for y’all to look up. (coming from someone that’s made their own mash)

    • WM says:

      ++Personally, I am dismayed that compromise seems to have to come from the pro-wolf side all the time++

      Ida, forgive the candor here, but you are dead wrong. Otherwise how can you explain lawsuit after lawsuit trying to keep wolves listed in light of FWS proposed rules consistent with the 1987 reintroduction plan, 1994 EIS and a string of proposed rules consistent with those documents. Both extreme sides are to blame. Let’s not rewrite the history here.

      • Ralph Maughan says:


        Speaking for myself here, I could tell from Idaho governor “Butch” Otter’s inaugural statements about wolves that by “hook or crook” he meant to reduce the population in Idaho to as low as he could get away with.

        From that time my disposition immediately changed. My personal view and activities shifted to keep wolf management away from the state of Idaho as long as possible — forever, if necessary.

        I am saying, the guv started it. He probably meant to start it. Those wolf advocates who still cooperated with the State of Idaho were slow to realize the change in the situation.

        • WM says:


          You no doubt have much broader and deeper knowledge than I on the specifics of Idaho’s participation in wolf “acceptance.”

          However, from what I recall the resistance began long before “Butch” weighed in for the 2006 governor’s race. Going back to the beginning ID politicos said no we don’t want wolves, which is why the Nez Perce tribe was the first management agency, while ID stood on the sidelines and pouted. I doubt ID could have stopped the reintroduction in any event, wolves being ESA listed and all (but the state being given a co-operation role under the Act), and the reintroduction release being carried out on federal land.

          All those meetings with state agencies (not just ID, but WY and MT), with assurances from FWS that 100 wolves was all they needed to take plus a little buffer (probably brushed over the genetic connectivity and working meta-population part and 10 breeding pairs part). The meetings occurred from what the early 1990’s, through the draft and final EIS in 1994? The wolves were released in early 1995. Then the repopulation period as the numbers and range grew, conflicts with livestock began, staff trying to keep up with how many wolves and where they were (I have mentioned here before my convesations with ID wolf coordinator who as much as called me a liar when I told him there were wolves in a part of the Clearwater, where he defiantly said there were none, then the next year they were documented). Running along side this were, no doubt, were discussions with state legislators and IDFG managers, in which the topic was “Hey, didn’t the feds tell us we only needed to have a 100 wolves? Those lying federal bastards, did it to us again. They breached a promise.” Then the lawsuits began, first in WY, then the complaints filed before Judge Molloy in MT in 2008 when FWS, under pressure for the representations they made under the delisting criteria published their proposed and final rules.

          I am playing devil’s advocate, here, but I just don’t see where the wolf advocate compromises have any higher ground than the protestations of each of the three states, based on the early representations of just how many wolves each was obligated to take, the proposed delistings, the suits, including the issues chosen for litigation (my favorite claim was “you can’t break up a DPS even if the part still listed part -WY-gets better protection” and the outcomes of the litigation. Of course, running parallel to the NRM was the stuff going on in the WGL with HSUS proclaiming we never want wolves delisted or hunted EVER, so we are going to keep things tied up in litigation so that won’t happen whenever we can.

          Maybe for a time the state (or anti) position was not a voluntary compromise, but a legally forced one. Nonetheless, it was in their view a change over what they believe they were unconditionally promised by FWS in the beginning. That is still a compromise – if they believed they were only in the game for 100 wolves each plus a buffer.

          By the way, according to the FWS summary report on NRM wolves,”During 2006, biologists documented 76 resident wolf packs in Idaho and 72 of those remained by the end of the year. A minimum of 415 wolves was observed, and the minimum population was estimated at 673 wolves.”

          So, for simplicity – ID says it was promised it only had to have 100 + buffer, and the reported number was 673 in 72 packs. Seems there is some pretty good evidence for them to say THEY compromised in a very big way (and then had their feet held to the fire by Judge Molloy with his pro-wolf rulings based on misrepresented facts on genetic connectivity, then later the can’t break up a DPS ruling. Now the states are taking back the lost ground, with impunity.

          Butch was served up a home run pitch for his campaign, by the way.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            But that’s just it. There should be no taking back of any ground. That is irrational. It isn’t a game. The wolves were deemed recovered and delisted. End of story. There shouldn’t be a ‘going back to the way it was before reintroduction’. The reset button was hit to repair previous damage, and it is an entirely new landscape now. They were reintroduced to right a terrible wrong.

            Wolves are still one natural disaster away from extinction in their areas if their numbers are kept to a bare minimum.

          • JB says:


            I don’t see any place where the State of Idaho (as represented by their legislators and governor) compromised? There was a time when delisting was expected and IDF&G briefly said they would manage for ~500 wolves; but of course, that’s the general rule for maintaining genetic diversity, and its an order of magnitude less than they have of bears or cougars (so not really a surprise). But of course, the lawsuits persisted and then the legislative retributions came en force (i.e., we’re not going to tell anyone what the population goal is, but it is significantly greater than 100/10BPs). Still, Ida has a point. Population goals should be set based upon such objectives as the maintenance of genetic diversity, provisioning of hunting opportunities, reduction of complaints, etc.; that is, if wolves were being managed ‘like any other species’. But now wolf populations are being minimized–reduced to near their RECOVERY MINIMUMS (never meant to be a maximum, just one trigger for delisting) solely to punish the people who advocated on their behalf. I hope you’ll pardon my “French”, but that’s some messed up sh|t.

            • WM says:


              My definition of “compromise” includes any change in a negotiated position which requires you to accept something different from what you thought you agreed to. Like it or not the history is there for each of the 3 core NRM states to argue. They thought they would get one thing as represented by the FWS, then they had to accept positions further and further from where they thought they were. Then the congressional rider changed things back closer to where they were, and now they (at least ID and MT) are reclaiming what they perceive as lost ground and time. WY is doing the same thing to a certain degree, leapfrogging off the rider even though not covered by it, and then their spatial quirk to confine wolves to a certain small part of the state as long as they met their numerical/connectivity requirement.

              And, I sure do agree with your French! 😉

              • Brian Ertz says:

                My definition of “compromise” includes any change in a negotiated position which requires you to accept something different from what you thought you agreed to.

                The states agreed to recovery, that’s the law – the numbers were but one element as to what might constitute recovery, at the time understood to perhaps be sufficient to constitute viability – “viability” and “recovery” being the standard – that was the agreement as a matter of law.

                Perhaps the states should express such vitriolic anger toward their own lawyers who, if this line of ‘being duped’ reasoning is to be entertained, clearly misadvised their clients. If the science changed as to what constitutes a viable population – then the number would change, as a matter of law.

                Perhaps they weren’t misadvised at all, perhaps the idea that the states thought wolves would be delisted at a number-certain is just an opportunistic way for politicians to skirt their own accountability for agreeing to a plan that increasingly became a lightning-rod issue with their base.

                I suspect it’s the latter.

                Regardless, Ralph’s anecdote about changed attitude being in reaction to Otter’s bloodlust remarks is likewise legitimate. The NRM Recovery Plan identified local enfranchised social stigma as a primary threat to wolf viability historically – and into the future, one with which the Recovery Plan specifically identified and sought to rectify to ensure as a matter of recovery. When wolves became increasingly a hot-button issue – used as a political whipping-boy in reaction to increasing visceral response from localized interests – enfranchised interests – an explicitly identified condition precedent of recovery had been breached – and continues to be breached both as a matter of attitude and as a willingness/demonstrated ability to dramatically execute huge numbers of wolves.

                The very thing responsible for the historical eradication of wolves has been reignited. That threatens recovery. Everyone knew that was a line, it had always been a line.

                Any implication of deceit from wolf-advocates on this issue is disingenuous.

                Any suggesting that anti-wolfers thought that recovery happened hard and fast at the initial numbers is likewise disingenuous.

            • Louise Kane says:

              JB, while I agree that the management of wolves is messed up shit, I don’t think its accurate to argue that the current state of wolf management can be solely attributed as retribution. Its even more F’d up then that (excuse my french. There is an awful lot of inexcusable treatment of wolves and other predators by some real sick people, these people seem to relish killing things and they love to hate wolves. The delisting of wolves seesm to have brought the sickos out in droves. And special interests are a real driving force behind bad policy. Organizations like Big Game Forever and Rocky Mountain Elk F, Safari Club International etc are staffed with directors, who should and must know better, but are paid to spread lies about wolves. These people specialize in fear mongering, in making small people feel large, and in pushing for backward policies that are ecologically destructive. They create agendas to keep money flowing into their coffers, and they appeal to those would like to hate, are prone to pettiness and live in fear. Groups like these highly influence policy. They are a big part of the problem. Special interest money buying politicians and policy. I do agree that there is a punitive component as well but the whole mess is very complicated and merits more consideration of all the factors underlying the issue. Its a real mess. Today someone who is cataloging images (in order to document atrocities) sent me an image of a coyote being dangled from a helicopter. This is posted on a hog hunting site. I received another image of a dead mangled wolf. I think the wolf was run over and then a winch was used to mangle the animal. Another image came in showing 400 dead coyotes after a coyote killing contest, and finally someone posted a 1300 pound Mako shark killed as a trophy with a note that it was also a western carnivore. In addition to the need for a national carnivore conservation act, I think this country needs a declaration of basic rights for wildlife. The types of atrocities taken against wild predators defy categorization, logic, or sanity. There is no justification…The delisting of wolves, proved that the poisoned attitudes that once eliminated wolves from the western states is still prevalent. These attitudes and misconceptions must be squashed before wolves or other predators will ever be safe from persecution or managed fairly. where to start?

              • Louise Kane says:

                Brian, ” The NRM Recovery Plan identified local enfranchised social stigma as a primary threat to wolf viability historically – and into the future, one with which the Recovery Plan specifically identified and sought to rectify to ensure as a matter of recovery. When wolves became increasingly a hot-button issue – used as a political whipping-boy in reaction to increasing visceral response from localized interests – enfranchised interests – an explicitly identified condition precedent of recovery had been breached – and continues to be breached both as a matter of attitude and as a willingness/demonstrated ability to dramatically execute huge numbers of wolves.

                The very thing responsible for the historical eradication of wolves has been reignited. That threatens recovery. Everyone knew that was a line, it had always been a line.”

                I think your argument that these wolf hating interests are once again enfranchised via the delisting is one of the most compelling arguments for relisting. Especially since the NRM recovery plan did identify attitudes against wolves as a primary threat to their recovery.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                Yes, so do I.

              • Louise Kane says:

                Delisting wolves and expecting fair management…is akin to eliminating civil rights act protections in the heart of Klu Klux Klan territory and expecting racial equality as the result. White supremacy and racial intolerance dictate the need for civil rights law. the same holds true for wolves and predators where ignorance and intolerance persist, federal protection must be maintained.

              • Louise Kane says:

                argg ku not klu! typo

              • SaveBears says:


                The Feds are washing their hands, they ain’t going to protect them anywhere much longer, I worked for them for 26 years, and for the life of me cannot understand this undying love and trust in the Federal government and their protection of wolves.

                Get it through your mind, they don’t want anything to do with them any longer!

              • Brian Ertz says:


                It just ain’t enforceable, not without the backing of USFWS.

              • JB says:


                You’re right–my use of the term “solely” is misleading. There are some who have never wanted wolves and would likely have pushed the agenda of eradication either way.

                I agree with SB and Brian regarding re-listing: it will never happen. FWS doesn’t want anything to do with wolves and the current threats are not compelling enough to get a judge to consider relisting.

                I think there are some compelling reasons to consider a carnivore conservation act, but I don’t think it has a prayer in the current Congress. Also, while it might be useful for altering state regulations, I don’t suspect it would effect the behavior of the worst offenders at all.

      • Ida Lupine says:

        I think that people tried to keep the wolves listed because they knew what we have today would be the result.

        Since the delisting, there has been ever-increasing killing, longer hunting seasons, no limit to method, no public input or public input tossed aside, no respect for the reintroduction or the science behind it. It’s almost as if they are challenged to see just how far they can go with it. Ranchers near to the park are creating a livestock and wolf problem deliberately, and getting sympathy in the local press. Then you see that all created a video to celebrate the downfall of Yellowstone Park, with their names plainly associated with it. Not a reasonable, logical management plan of a recently recovered species.

        At the very least, hunters should show some personal integrity by leaving collared wolves alone where possible. I’d love to see a buffer zone to as a ‘gesture of their goodwill’ also (fat chance). They’ve got the entire state(s), so what more do they want? That’s what I meant by refusal to compromise, since the delisting.

        On the other hand, you’ve got wolf advocates more than willing to compromise such as the plan developed for Oregon. State and Federal wildlife agencies have always erred on the side of the ranchers whenever there is a depredation complaint.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          I forgot to add the most importan thing, ever increasing takes as well.

          Perhaps keeping to this magic number of 150 no longer applies in light of current research?

          • Ida Lupine says:

            Also, many believe that hunting was initiated too soon after the delisting. Why couldn’t recovered wolves be left alone, and why did they have to be hunted so soon after delisting? It looks like a grudge match.

      • JB says:

        “Personally, I am dismayed that compromise seems to have to come from the pro-wolf side all the time.”

        Really? Can you point to a recent example? The “great” compromises I am aware of are: (a) the establishment of a compensation fund (by Defenders), and (b) listing wolves as an experimental population. Else, wolf advocates have been pretty unyielding. On the other hand, Ralph’s point is a good one. Idaho and Wyoming have consistently made it clear that they do not wolves, and their acts and declarations date back to before wolves’ reintroduction (recall that Idaho refused to let their agency take part). More recently, but before wolves reached recovery objectives, Idaho passed HJM5 (2000) which sought the removal of wolves. Couple these actions with the rhetoric of their politicians and it is easy to see why advocates for wolves were not keen to have states manage wolf populations.

        There is simply no trust. Every time some wolf-lover claims that wolves should be immediately re-listed someone on the opposing side says “ah-ha! I knew they were a bunch of extremists”. Likewise, a number of folks who post here consistently mis-portray hunters using the rhetoric of wingnuts that call for wolves’ complete removal by any means.

        Reality: The people who want total protection and total elimination probably make up less than 1% of the population; yet, they dominate the political dialogue. What a mess.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          What is the answer then? It would appear that it would be a stalemate – has been and always will.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            I’m not anti-hunting, nor am I pro-hunting. I could accept it and tolerate it if it were conducted in a rational way, but it has devolved into a total free-for-all.

            Examples of non-compromise: refusal to leave the collared park wolves alone, refusal to consider buffer zones, refusal to give up hunting with dogs when it is totally unnecessary if your true goal is only to reduce numbers, refusal to consider overwhelming public opinion.

          • Mark L says:

            AN answer (not THE answer) is to demonstrate that a certain species is capable of existing in proximity to populations with little significant clashes. Mountain lions in California are doing a decent job of this (yep, some exceptions). Actually Nebraska’s and Florida’s are too. Come to think of it a lot of them are….hmm…
            I’ll draw the (odd) parallel to the Tuskegee Airmen when they weren’t accepted by whites until they proved themselves in war (seperately). Several years later bomber crews were asking for the ‘redtails’ for escort. Why? Demonstration. Not theory, praxis.
            Eventually a state will get a decent ‘midway’ between 2 pendulum points and demonstrate where both were wrong, and both were right. Just a matter of time (and space).

            • Ida Lupine says:

              Yes, good points.

              But just what is the difference between a mountain lion and a wolf? Why do wolves inspire such fear and hate, and mountain lions don’t? WM mentions that wolves are ‘eating too many ungulates’. Isn’t that what they eat? Humans no longer need to subsist on hunting, it is a choice. We have cattle that take up a lot of lands. It’s absurd to compete with a wolf for ungulates.

              Yes, it is amazing about the mountain lions. But as long as there are the Rockholm, Peay, and Bridges types I don’t know if there will ever be compromise. The history of the treatment of wolves in this country is the best indicator, like a resume.

              • Ida Lupine says:

                When you have seven billion people and counting on this planet, it is absurd to say that a handful of animals are taking all the resources.

            • SAP says:

              Excellent idea – practical projects to explore the potential for sharing landscapes with wolves (or other “inconvenient” species).

              There are a number of on-going project out there that ought to be evaluated, preferably by someone besides the implementers.

              From projects I’ve been involved in, I can say that some of them have suffered from unclear objectives, or lack of agreement on objectives. A lot of eagerness on the part of conservation groups to say “look at us, we’re working with cowboys!” has led to stifling of disagreements and too many concessions.

              Other problems include lack of money/technical expertise for doing quality work, and no communications strategy for telling the story of the project. This last piece is hugely important. “We” — all of us who, like it or not, have responsibility for making this work — need to be co-creating a new story of how we live on the land. What that story looks like is going to be very different in Lamar Valley, in the North Absaroka Wilderness, on the rangelands of western Montana.

        • Brian Ertz says:

          Flat Top Ranch for one. There are innumerable examples of compromise being proposed by pro-wolf interests throughout the recovery and delisting process – not a single of those efforts that I’ve been privy to have ever promised a net movement forward for preservation.


          When the goal of those who appreciate and advocate for the wild becomes pacifying absurdly irrational interests, we’ve already let go of that which is necessary to accomplish preservation. Preservation will always piss people off.

          The problem is not controversy among human beings – the problem is a depauperated wild.

          Be proud of the conviction you have for that which you value ~ especially when what you value is the wild ~ it’s the only way anyone of importance will ever take you seriously.

  21. jon says:

    Why is the wolf treated different from other wildlife? The wolf is the only carnivore that I know of that has to be brought down to the lower hundreds. Every other predator like the cougar, bear, coyote, etc are in the thousands when it comes to their populations.

    • Ida Lupine says:

      Yes, that’s the other question. And they were able to recover in more of their natural ranges also. It is absolutely ridiculous (or it would be if it weren’t such a tragedy) in today’s day and age.

      • jon says:

        You can’t have a sustainable wolf population if your goal is 150 wolves. In Idaho there are I think around 3000 mountain lions. Why can’t they be 3000 wolves in Idaho? Oh, that’s right, we can’t have wolves killing the game that hunters want to kill. Idaho fish and game putting the needs of hunters ahead of wildlife.

      • Rancher Bob says:

        Why is the wolf treated different?– Because the wolf is different in so may ways, what other predator has around 6 offspring every year. What other predator has a depredation rate of more livestock per predator than the wolf.
        Why was the wolf hunted so soon after delisting?– Mostly because it took about 12 years after the population reached the magic number of wolves to delist them and as you can tell reading here there’s still a strong effort to relist wolves. All the reasons we manage wolf numbers had to wait many years before hunting started.
        Lastly managing for a population goal of 150 wolves in a state like Idaho without poison is just that a goal. What’s the closest Idaho has been, maybe 450. Idaho has 3000 lion over 500 wolves, so 3500 predators of that class. What other state supports 3500 wolf/lion 12 months of the year class predators, Montana? Look at how we manage lions, bears and coyotes.

        • Ida Lupine says:

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought the ‘managers’ were sincere about maintaining the population, I wouldn’t oppose the delisting. I don’t think they are sincere. When an animal is deemed recovered enough to be delisted, ordinarilly it is a cause for celebration. Like with the bald eagle – I think the USFWS posted a statement about their recovery. I don’t think they did that with the wolf.

          • WM says:


            To what population (number) do you refer?

            • Ida Lupine says:


              The one immediately after delisting – except in the event of livestock depredation. Immediate, heavy and continued hunting would seem to defeat the recovery. It isn’t sustainable. I’m no biologist, but the 150 numbers seems too low. Noone hunted the bald eagle immediately after delisting. Who knows what will happen now with the carte blanche incidental take for the wind industry.

          • Rancher Bob says:

            Considering the number of times wolves have been delisted and relisted in RMA the celebrating got a little old. As for a statement from the USFWS, well every time they did make a statement another law suit dropped on a judges desk. Living here, it got old fast we could shoot wolves chasing our cows, then we couldn’t, then we could, then we couldn’t. Then we got tired of all the lawsuits and went to our congress people, over a decade of BS was finally ended. I’ll look for a old statement for you so you can celebrate.

            • Ida Lupine says:

              You seem like a decent enough person RB – but the very ‘vocal’ minority who want to wipe them out I worry about.

              • Rancher Bob says:

                Don’t let me fool you, and don’t worry about the vocal minority you got to be quiet to kill wolves. It’s the quiet ones you should worry about. 🙂

              • Ida Lupine says:

                🙂 That’s true.

              • Ralph Maughan says:

                Rancher Bob says it’s quiet ones you have to worry about. That makes sense, but I’n not sure it is true because the noisy ones made extremely hostile anti-wolf cause politically important.

                I think a number of politicians were shocked that they seemed so angry and yet so unhinged, so dangerous politically.

        • jon says:

          That doesn’t justify keeping the population near the 150 number. If there can be thousands of bears and cougars, why not wolves? You know very well that the wolf is treated very different from any other wild predator rb.

          • Rancher Bob says:

            Yes it’s treated different because the wolf is different. Reread my statement above and find the answer to my questions.

        • Immer Treue says:


          • Rancher Bob says:

            So what was the Minnesota count on wolves this year? never heard.
            Also how many lions do they guess there are now?

            • Immer Treue says:

              Still waiting for the count, and age breakdown of wolves taken during hunting/trapping seasons.

          • Immer Treue says:

            Sorry, misread. 3,000 +/- wolves, perhaps a few lions, and I believe around 20,000 black bears.

            • Rancher Bob says:

              So 20,000 bears eating fawns for how long? and how old are the bears before they get good at hunting fawns do they figure?

              • Immer Treue says:

                Rancher Bob,

                I’m putting the info together, with sources. Sample sizes are small but show bear predation on deer fawns running from 10 to 49% of tagged/collared deer. Yearling bears are ca

              • Immer Treue says:

                Rancher Bob,

                I’m putting the info together, with sources. Sample sizes are small but show bear predation on deer fawns running from 10 to 49% of tagged/collared fawns first 2-3 weeks of fawns life, then drops off precipitously. Yearling bears are capable of finding fawns. Another study, with again rather small sample sizes demonstrate an increase of fawn predation by bear if the doe was young.

                I believe ma’iingan will attest to the success of black bear fawn predation in Wisconsin. I’m also sure he will correct me if I’m wrong.

              • Rancher Bob says:

                Thanks, I’ve seen work on elk calves but no deer studies, just needed some idea of the impact of bears on fawns.
                I get to watch the white tails near the ranch as both fawns and does disappear through the year. Some of those I find and can determine who made the kill. Bears just are harder to notice.

  22. Ralph Maughan says:

    A note about the statement in lead to the story — “Except for the few people “on the fence” — those who have not chosen sides . . .”

    This is not to be read as about everyone in the population taking a position on wolves. We are referring to those who might care about the issue. On most issues, significant portions of the population are unaware, don’t care, and likely nothing in that issue could stir them to form an opinion.

  23. Larry says:

    Does anyone have an update on the WS employee that shot a Mexican wolf “by mistake”? Wondering if a watchdog group down there has filed for information release to know if an investigation is ensueing?

  24. Ida Lupine says:

    From Immer’s post:

    22. What do wolves die from? (top)

    The natural causes of wolf mortality are primarily starvation, which kills mostly pups, and death from other wolves because of territory fights. Diseases such as mange, canine parvovirus and distemper can be killers both in small and recovering populations and in some established populations as well. Evidence suggests, however, that large wolf populations build up a resistance to canine parvovirus. Lyme disease also infects wolves, and heartworm can reduce a wolf’s endurance by restricting blood flow to the lungs. Injuries caused by prey result in some deaths. The large mammals that wolves hunt and kill can inflict mortal injuries with antlers and hooves. Human-caused mortality including legal (hunting and trapping in some locales) and illegal (poaching) activities can be high in some populations. Wolves are sometimes hit by cars in areas where road density is high. Pup mortality rates are highly variable, but approximately 40 to 60% of wolf pups die each year.

    This is what I care about.

  25. Valken says:

    See that Wyoming cut tags way back on wolves. I don’t believe the wolf in the GYA is in any danger of being “hunted” to extinction. I am a big game hunter, along with most of my extended family. All of us like seeing wolves in the wild. Talking to those who spend a lot of time afield, wolves are no easy prey for the human hunter. It is my belief they (wolves) will become increasingly wise as to avoid being shot. Happened before, and will be the same way again. A wolf will not be an easy animal for hunters to take, and will become increasingly smarter at avoiding such a dire fate as time goes on. If some catastrophic event happened, such as a deadly disease, there is always the Canadian reservoir to go back to. Wolves are here to stay, one way or the other. Just please keep them away from my beloved horses, my well fed ( and tasty) cattle, and irreplaceable canine companions out here on the desert.

    • susan says:

      valken, my heart literally jumped when you said you were a large-game hunter who loves to see wolves in the wild. this indicates–to me–your acceptance and understanding of a healthy ecosystem, and your desire for authentic experience. I’m working on a project regarding wolves and our experiences with them and would love to hear more about your thoughts and position. let me know if I may contact you.

    • CodyCoyote says:

      Valken- when Wyo G&F came back with a 2013 wolf hunt quota of only half what last year’s take was set at, the principal reason was factoring in the number of wolves taken for control due to livestock depredations (real or imagined) by Wildlife services on behalf of livestock producers. Ranchers get to shoot first. The hunter gets in line behind that.

      By the way, 62 percent of the wolves taken for ” control” in Wyoming came off public lands last year, not private ranch land. Draw your own conclusions on that.

    • Louise Kane says:

      Valken, if wolves become harder to hunt it won’t only be due to a heightened level of wariness, it will be because there are less of them. Wyomings population was less than 300 before the hunts. Thats a damn small population of any animal in state so large as Wyoming. This wolf hunt is a national disgrace.

  26. Snaildarter says:

    I still say most American’s want the wolf back in the eco-system wherever there is room and America’s public lands belong to everyone not just local ranchers and hunters. However this debate is much larger than the wolf. It is about the future of this country. Talk radio fueled by rich conservative funding regularly inflames people with lies and half truths. The tea party has some really irrational ideas about government. They simply can’t count when it comes to the Federal budget. They systematically try to defeat moderate Republicans in office. They don’t have a good grasp of history or the need for regulations to defend employees, consumers, the insured, not to mention clean air, clean water, and wildlife. The really sad thing is when you talk to them as individuals they are mostly nice people who are just ill-informed. at least on this blog people do exchange ideas. That’s a good start.

  27. Mark Bailey says:

    There is a terrific book waiting to be written here.

  28. Tegan says:

    While there are many who may very well fit into the stereotypes typical of the people who populate the “pro wolf’ or “anti wolf” extremes of this debate, there are also many people like myself who definitely do not. Further, although I’m certain the delisting of these indispensable, unique creatures has much political fuel, it should not because ideally, politics should not be involved. I realize I said ideally, sadly. The contradictory act of delisting wolves crosses the aisles, spanning red, then blue administrations and involving lawmakers from liberal and conservative groups alike. I think this is a terribly distracting path, as are the politically based arguments, demonizing and name calling going on at times here. It takes the focus off the real topic— protecting the wolf–a vital, valuable and irreplaceable apex predator!
    I’m in Colorado, where wolves have not be formally “reintroduced”, but there is hope that they will and have in fact reintroduced themselves. Their most powerful advocates here, other than wolf sanctuaries and rescues, appear to be found in the unlikely pairing and alliance of a rancher from Texas and a scientist/ecologist he hired. Over the years, Christina Eisenberg first found it curious that the ecosystem in a portion of the huge ranch was recovering, with aspens restored and growing healthily. Deer and elk populations were also healthier, less diseased and more aware of their surroundings, showing the healthy shyness one would expect in prey animals. Then she found an at first evidence speaking to why these things were changing in the form of what she suspected to be wolf scat. Her suspicions were confirmed by laboratory analysis—wolves were indeed on a remote part of the ranch, and to their credit, the ecosystem was directly and distinctly benefitting from their presence! Here is a link to one of the articles on this subject:

    I think when people open their minds and work together instead of stereotyping each other, great things can be accomplished and the wolf certainly and unfortunately needs us to do that!
    So what does everyone think? So far it seems the great work provided by the Dutchers’ and other wolf education efforts appear to be the most effective methods to fight the fear and misunderstanding of the wolf that goes back centuries to our ancestors from over the pond. Positive action needs to happen— any ideas that don’t involve verbal etc., assaults on those at either extreme of this debate?

    • WM says:


      The article link you post to seems to be undated. Unless there is new information out there the supposed wolves on the High Lonesome Ranch appear not to have been confirmed by the DNA test results – yet. Ranch (think employee here) scientist Eisenberg has said this before and wound up with egg on her face for the assertion.

      What better PR for this high-end, expensive, multi-purpose dude/hunting ranch owned by a Texan than to say they had wolves on the property? The first CO wolf tourism business.

      By the way, they have been saying wolves were on the property for the last three years, but cannot prove it with scat DNA analysis. Surely these wolves pass thru what they eat, as well as howl and leave tracks. Stay tuned it will probably happen in the next couple years if not sooner.

      Of course Texans are prone to exxagerate, especially if in their interests. As a former Coloradoan for many years, I don’t/didn’t have much use for Texans, on the ski slopes or as property owners, including the oil and gas leases they buy up, and all the crap the pulled with oilshale research in the 1970’s. Texans are alot like the East Coast types that hover around Jackson Hole, now, except louder and boast more.

      By the way, you can book a room at the HL Ranch for about $500 a night if you stay for 6 nights. Maybe a bit more for activities like the “Blast and Cast” or some big game hunting. And, you can pretty well bet if they had confirmed their wolves it would be in their conservation news letter, or elsewhere on their website.

      • JEFF E says:

        yes it is dated.
        the first comments are from February 2010.

        another troll(sigh)

        • tegan says:

          Looked into this and it does say the scat results were inconclusive due do degradation, but I didn’t read they were negative results. Although ZeeWolf writes they were found to be that of a coyote. BTW, I have heard of wolves near Grand Junction but thought that was only a rumor, so thanks for the hope ZeeWolf! If they are there, I hope they’ll stay safe!
          So wolves may or may not be here in Colorado, which borders WY and is part of the Rocky Mountain corridor. If they aren’t here already, due to proximity, they likely will be at some point. I would imagine that the horrid disorganization packs experience when their leaders and family members are killed would result in more dispersal—maybe to CO. Other wolves have made the trip, though their journeys didn’t end well—one death on 170 and another on No Name Ridge. Disturbingly, the latter young wolf’s cause of death hasn’t been released by Colorado Div of Wildlife officials as far as I know.

          A big cause for concern is if/when wolves do get to CO without ending up on a wolf friendly somebody’s huge chunk of leased BLM land/ private property. Even if they do initially choose a good protected spot, they will probably wander off of it like wolves tend to do. When that happens, will they end up being treated like the wolves in MT, WY, etc? Again, we people taking the time to write here that have a heart and mind for wolves need to get past warring with the “other side’ and name calling to get some positive results! Getting them re-listed seems like a dream at this point, and even if that happens, the result will be wolves’ increasing numbers, which will eventually grow them out of that protection. This is a nasty catch 22 for the wolf. There must be better, more permanent solutions and these are what I’m looking for!
          My point for bringing up the ranch was simply to demonstrate that it’s necessary to continue to educate people in the ranching community about the reality of the many benefits wolves bring to their area— even to their private lands. And WM, you touched upon a good point that could be part of a multi-faceted solution. If having wolves on a property could in fact prove to be a draw for ecotourism, it may be a way to ease the ranchers worries and claims about wolves gobbling up their profits. If they can make good money from the wolves presence, perhaps they’ll be less hostile to them? I’m not a rancher, but from what I’ve seen and heard from most sources is that the majority of them are very much against wolves. It’s nice to hear about and find a few who aren’t. Maybe they can help educate and influence the rest!
          Let’s come up with ways to actually help the wolf. Clearly, the wolf needs us to work together and help actually help these important, beautiful creatures. Posturing and name calling aren’t going to accomplish that goal!
          With this in mind, I found a link posted on the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center’s Facebook from Wolfwatcher.org that many of you may already know about. It lists talking points to include in a letter to write against the WY 2013 hunting season and it says June 12th is the deadline for comments received. They provide an online submission link— for now, drafting a letter seems to be one of the only other ways we can help these days. For anyone interested, here’s that link:

          They also have one for speaking out against the 2013 Montana season, but I’m unsure about the deadline for comments. Still wouldn’t hurt to write in, I guess.

          Seriously everyone, whether we’re rich or poor or somewhere in the middle and regardless of if we’re liberal or conservative, wolves don’t need our personal ideologies and/or political leanings. Wolves do need us to get beyond our much too divided selves to work together and save them from senseless slaughter. Let’s come up with some real solutions for them!

          • ZeeWolf says:


            I must admit to having mixed feeling regarding wolves in Colorado. Yes, I would love to see here but have reservations due to lack of habitat. Not prey base, there are certainly plenty of elk here. I do believe that for Colorado, it would be better for wolves to restore themselves rather than be the subject of a reintroduction program. Anyhow, I enjoyed your posts and perspectives. Oh, and here is a short video from 2007 regarding a possible wolf in Jackson County, Colorado – taken by a district wildlife manager from the beauracracy formerly known as DOW.

            • ZeeWolf says:

              “bureaucracy” – yeah, I know I butchered that word and had to look that one up!

          • SAP says:

            I don’t want to sound condescending, Tegan, I just hope that Colorado and other states can benefit from what we’ve learned from experience here in MT-ID-WY.

            1) “Rancher” is a contested term. Very few “Ranchers” will consider the owners of the wolf-welcoming High Lonesome to be “ranchers,” or even to consider that parcel of land to be a ranch. You’ll make more sense of this if you start thinking of “Rancher” almost as an ethnic category, rather than a label that goes along with land ownership.

            2) Ranchers (as defined above) are not going to acknowledge any benefit wolves bring to the landscape. You’re probably barking up the wrong tree if you think that will increase their acceptance of wolves. If they will acknowledge a benefit, the counterargument will be that the same benefits can be achieved with hunting (and they can point to Rocky Mountain NP as a place where human hunters stand in for wolves).

            3) The politics of Colorado may be similar to OR and WA — which is to say, you may be able to set up a policy framework that strongly encourages keeping wolves on the landscape, instead of a policy framework that ensures wolves will be eliminated at the first sign of trouble, regardless of what action or inaction a landowner may take.

            4) Wolf ecotourism outside National Parks is a very iffy proposition. There’s a market for wolf watching, and the customers want to see wolves. They’re not likely to spend their $$ going someplace where seeing a wolf is highly unlikely. Especially outside protected areas, we don’t want wolves getting comfortable with people around, which is contrary to having semi-habituated day-active wolves that folks can see through 8x binoculars.

    • ZeeWolf says:

      Here is an article by High Country News dated Feburary 15, 2010 that discusses the possibility of wolves in Colorado north of Grand Junction.


      A few month later, they did a short follow up and declared that the DNA in question belonged to coyotes and not wolves.


  29. Ida Lupine says:

    If they had arrived, Toby Bridges et al would be spitting nails.

    • JEFF E says:

      I would like to understand

      • Ida Lupine says:

        I was being a little sarcastic. There are videos and websites with their anti-wolf rhetoric. So I was speculating that if wolves had retured to CO, they’d be spewing more sharp anti-wolf garbage.

        I thought there was someone here who posted that Colorado wanted wolves back?

        • JEFF E says:

          I did not understand that as it was not connected to the above thread.
          Damn, I wish there was a functional edit function, so we could avoid the way too much reading between the lines.

          • Ida Lupine says:

            I miss that feature! 🙂 I should probably edit out entire posts.

  30. cobackcountry says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. The more we look forward, the easier it gets to see history-it lays waiting just a few steps in front of us destined to be repeated by those who have not learned from it….

  31. Alexander says:

    It seems this article is taking great pains to paint an entire wing of political thought, and by extension, all of those people, with an extremely wide brush. Do yourself a favour and don’t alienate people to pander to the larger majority of your readers. Just because someone may be “Republican” or “Libertarian” or whatever floats your boat does not mean they don’t care about the plight of animals and want to see an beautiful species restored.

    Additionally, don’t paint all hunters with that same big brush. A real hunter takes only what he can use and eat with his family, and takes great pains to coexist with their environment.

    Politicizing and generalizing is a great way to alienate supporters.

    • Jimt says:

      What I see from a broader political perspective on “labeling’ of the right is the silence of the moderate on most issues–gun control, abortion rights, Federalism, the hot topic issues. Indeed, the past several years have seen a deliberate strategy by the Tea Party and their ilk to punish moderates–Olympia Snowe, Jim Jeffords come to mind immediately. And if you espouse a moderate view on an issue, the Koch Bros groups with boatloads of money say they will run someone against you in a primary if you don’t vote their way. And money rules politics..not substantive issues, not facts.

      So, when the moderate voices from the right are silent, those of us on the left are left to conclude those extremists like Cruz who speak up and are given the lectern consistently represent the conservatives in this country. If one doesn’t want to be lumped in, one must speak up, loudly and consistently.

  32. Jimt says:

    There was a post on FB from someone named “Wolfer” that claimed that Wildlife services had been given the green light to shoot wolves with no evidence of predation issues, and to go to dens to shoot lactating females and their pups. Does anyone have any confirmation?


June 2013


‎"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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