Department of Interior Puts Peer Review of National Wolf Delisting on Hold

After the California Wolf Center posted a YouTube video of a phone interview with Dr. John Vucetich, who was blacklisted from being part of the peer review because he signed a letter that opposed the nationwide delisting of wolves, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has halted the selection of peer reviewers.  According to E&E News, a subscription news website, the USFWS decided that it had “improper knowledge of the scientists who would be participating in the review.”

The USFW contracted with outside groups to conduct the review and wasn’t given the names of the reviewers but they were able to determine who the reviewers were by looking at the resumés of the scientists.  The USFWS then contacted the contractors and sent them the letter signed by Vucetich and other scientists.

It is clearly problematic to blacklist experts in the study of wolves just because they have formed an opinion on a proposal to delist wolves nationally.  Very few experts have never expressed an opinion on the subjects they study, purging them would leave these decisions to be examined only by those with lesser experience and would serve to silence public debate by experts.

Dr. Vucetich, is a professor at Michigan Technological University and leads the study of wolves on Isle Royale National Park.



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  1. Kristi Avatar

    John Vucetich and Dr. Rolf Peterson were both completely discounted, dismissed in their testimonies in MI explaining wolf behavior, pack structure, what changes in wolves would occur if subjected to a hunt. A friend of mine tried to call the USFWS in Washington, DC to see who the scientists are they would be using in this “peer-reviewed” report, no answer. It seems USFWS want only the scientists who agree with them in the federal delisting.

    1. jimt Avatar

      This is more of the fallout from the Tester Amendment that essentially made it ok to mess with the ESA for political reasons. This whole issue with the scientists is just more of the same. They got caught, but it won’t stop anti wolf folks from trying the same thing again and again.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    I would like to think that the comments on The Wildlife News and PEER’s original article caused this to happen as well. Good work guys exposing this…

  3. Norm Mackey Avatar
    Norm Mackey

    So, the USFWS took an anonymous list of peer reviewer qualifications, analyzed it to determine who the peer reviewers were, and objected to those it determined might give their plan bad reviews.

    The FWS seems to have not understood the list was anonymous to keep them from thus meddling with the outcome of the review.

  4. april lane Avatar
    april lane

    Thanks to everyone who signed, called, yelled and screamed about this! One small victory in this war. Keep the pressure on.

  5. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Just another corrupt branch of our government.

  6. alf Avatar

    I wonder if Valerius Geist made the cut ?

    1. WM Avatar


      Dr. Geist likely was not on the short list. He is not a wolf biologist, or a numbers/genetics guy. He is an ungulate biologist – behavioral ecologist, which means he understands the prey side of the predator-prey relationship a whole bunch better than most of the wolf guys studying Yellowstone. And, where scientists like Vucetich have 20 years experience, he has fifty, and some of it in lands where there are often more wolves than people, and many different prey types, other than a few moose on a small island with 20 +/- wolves.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue


        Perhaps he should have said Will N. Graves, also not a wolf expert. But then wait a second. The childish (in terms of writing and presenting his information) in the just plain horribly written book “Wolves in Russia” was EDITED by Valerius Geist.

        There is no editing in this book. Have you read it, or even attempted to wade through the tripe? Read it, then go to Amazon and see if you agree with my critique of this supposed eye opening book. Val Geist should remain with ungulates.

        1. WM Avatar


          I have not read the Graves book, mostly because of the negative recommendations/critiques of those commenting here. Now you have given me yet another reason not to spend the money, and unless I can get it through our library system, it will likely go unread by me.

          Not many Amazon reviews, by the way. You are one of only two who gave it 1 of 5 stars, yet it has an overall rating of 4/5, so who is to say? Do folks with a point to make about content on either extreme carry the day? Don’t know whether you were looking for a Pulitzer caliber writer or just something interesting and controversial to read while on the can. Regardless, I do respect Dr. Geist’s lifetime of academic work, whether he chooses to endorse or edit for Graves or not. From what little I have heard from others, it wasn’t written as a scientific piece, in the first place. I expect this was written for entertainment, much like Larry Kanuit’s “Alaska Bear Tales” (1983)- anecdotal encounters with grizzlies (and a few nasty black bear) that turn out badly for both humans and bears. I read it before my first trip to AK, and took heed. All of that, of course was before bear spray, and the author’s intent was to scare the crap out of you. 😉

          By the way, heard a rumor that Graves has now teamed up with some lawyer from TX, to write another book about wolves. This TX guy apparently has some history with drafting the Congressional Rider we all found so distasteful.

          1. Immer Treue Avatar
            Immer Treue


            Thanks for the reply. I like to read, and I was really looking forward to reading “Wolves in Russia”. After reading Geist’s introduction, I thought it might be some good reading. Then the book began. Even if for the purpose of entertainment, the book is just so indescribably poorly written, I’d wager that some of the higher rated reviewers never completed reading the book. At least Cat Urbigkit was able to present material in her book in a logical and readable fashion. Though I don’t agree with her central premise, the book was like that of a master compared to Grave’s “Wolves in Russia.”

  7. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Hey Alf who is that I admit I am in the dark

  8. Kevin Avatar

    Alf, Val Geist is not by any stretch of the imagination a wolf expert (or maybe that was your point?) His research was into the behavioural ecology of hooved animals. He just likes to consider himself an expert on everything (including how evolution favours humans from northern climates…hmm). His writings and talks make it pretty clear that he is unabashedly bigoted against wolves based on pseudo-scientific arguments and exaggerated anecdotes. So, yeah, I suppose they might want him.

    1. jdubya Avatar

      Humans from northern climates? Ain’t that white guys?

      1. sleepy Avatar

        That would make the Inuit number one.

        Somehow I suspect that’s not who he had in mind.

        1. SaveBears Avatar

          Actually the Inuit are considered a Native American Tribe, and not a white race.

  9. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Thanks to WM and Kevin but it still up in the air where they are going with this, unless Ralph’s article comes out big time that they just wanted to get rid of wolves in general.

  10. CodyCoyote Avatar

    – need a little more specificity on what’s really going down on this , in good time , but it sure looks like some USFWS folks have been caught with their pants down below their knees.

    1. Michael Avatar

      Yes, a complete investigation of USFWS, Interior staff involved in delisting proposal, and private contracting entities involved, must be demanded.

      Administration has claimed science-based decisionmaking, and this is an egregious and corrupt action denying the validity of that claim.

      A major shakeup of Interior, USFWS, and any other elected or appointed officials is necessary.

      We have long seen extremely corrupt decisionmaking in the USA while claiming that other governments are corrupted by $.

      A relative few special interests, either involved with making money off public lands, or promoting consumptive use of public resources and in particular, wildlife, are and have been steering ESA decisions, lobbying legislators and executives (for influencing agency decisions, placing appointees with conflicts of interest, etc) and generally using native wild species and ecosystem exploitation as political $-raising tools to subvert the democratic process, as well as is now clear, scientific input.

  11. Jackie J. Maughan Avatar
    Jackie J. Maughan

    Science is science, and tampering with a peer review panel because you want to fix the outcome like a corrupt prize fight is just that–corrupt (not to mention a step backwards for civilization).

  12. AG Avatar

    I think that the wolves, no matter what, will be hunted. If you let the population grow, they will need “management” and if you do otherwise, well, they will be managed… Sadly. Sorry for the “intrusion”!

    I may be wrong, or right but this is the way i see the future of the wolf and i am not in every way ok with that.. (Still, i think there could be a sort of “Balance”, or maybe just in my dreams)

  13. Guepardo Lento Avatar
    Guepardo Lento

    Here’s a link to the Center for Biological Diversity’s news release dated 12 August…

    I’m just sayin’…
    While I respect the science Roland Kays has performed (one of the “blacklisted” scientist), he is not a wolf “expert.” Kays has focused much of his research on research techniques and study design to detect meso-carnivores on the east coast, published a few papers on coyote-wolf hybrids, and has done work with remote cameras techniques and sampling design in central America (Panama). He has published a nice book on mammals of North America. He’s a good mammalogist, but wolf expert no.

    I can think of many others with far more expertise in large carnivore ecology than Kays. Vucetich and Wayne are both candidates with wolf experience with either genetics (Wayne)or political ecology of wolves (Vucetich).

    Although that being said, I do not agree with someone removed because of their opinion, especially when several respected colleagues come together in a group consensus and sign a letter. Let’s hope that our new secretary of interior from REI will pursue an internal review and not shirk it for more “important” matters.

  14. WM Avatar

    From the CBD news release: ++However, because each of these scientists has published hundreds of articles, it was easy for the Service to deduce who the contractor had selected. ++

    “Hundreds of articles”? Each of these scientists? Now there is a crock of poopy, typical of CBD “news.”

  15. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    Though Endangered status didnt save this particular wolf, any chance of dispersment to historical ranges will come to a halt if the USFWS delisting plan passes.

    Genetically pure Gray Wolf killed in Kentucky.

    1. JB Avatar

      “…any chance of dispersment to historical ranges will come to a halt if the USFWS delisting plan passes.”

      MM: You’re asking the million dollar question that FWS doesn’t want to address. Frankly, delisting need not affect dispersal or reoccupation of historic range; however, in all likelihood, aggressive state policies will limit wolves distribution, making it much harder to re-occupy former range. Already wolves are classified as vermin in most of Wyoming, eastern South Dakota, and Utah has made it there policy to attempt to prevent wolf recovery by removing wolves in the northern part of the state (where they no longer have ESA protections). State politicians (who can’t help but brag about their accomplishments) have noted that these policies are explicitly designed to keep wolves from reoccupy their prior range.

      1. Mtn Mama Avatar
        Mtn Mama

        JB, I cant disagree with you. Agressive State policies will limit dispersers ability to re-establish viable populations, this is why I continue to advocate for federal protections. Colorado has excellent habitat but wolves will have to dodge bullets all the way south through Wyoming or north-east Utah to get here. As worthless as the federal protections are, they “COULD” be enforceable.

  16. SuzyNorthIdaho Avatar

    I would like to know what became of the plan to reintroduce Grizzly Bear populations to their native areas (North Idaho specifically). This topic came up about 10 years ago and then nothing.

    Am I correct in understanding that if the Grizzly were reintroduced back into their native habitat that, at least for a period of time, until their populations were reestablished, it would provide some protection for the wolf also – at least regarding traps and poisoning? Thank You

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      The Department of Interior proposed it and went all the way to producing a final environmental impact statement. See

      Idaho’s then governor, Dirk Kempthorne, and many others, opposed the restoration of the bears. It was Kempthorne’s opinion that counted. He got Dubya’s secretary of interior, Gale Norton, to kill the ready-to-go-project.

      It could be resurrected


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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