Controversy over wolves and elk was predicted before wolves entered the area-

Idaho Fish and Game reports it has used a helicopter to kill 23 wolves in the north central Idaho area commonly called the Lolo.  This is the latest in a continuing effort (6 forays in 4 years) to reduce the number of wolves there by 70%. In recent years IDF&G has also had very generous hunting rules to kill cougar and bear. Here is the story from the media — Associated Press in the Missoulian. “Idaho Fish and Game kills 23 wolves in Lolo Pass area.

The point of these efforts is to try to bring back the once mighty elk herd that roamed the area. The Lolo became famous for elk in the 1940s through the 80s. The size of the herd stemmed from the regeneration of the great forest fire of 1910 and later fires. Regeneration provided perfect conditions to result in a large number of elk. Elk numbers were legendary and became part of hunting lore. Unfortunately for the elk herd, the burned forest did not only regenerate. It advanced to maturity resembling the conditions when Lewis and Clark traversed the area and almost starved due to lack of game. Predictions were this maturity would cause elk numbers to crash and remain low indefinitely (until the habitat was “reborn”). As predicted, the crash happened. The elk population peaked last in 1989 at an estimated 16,054. Then came a sharp drop, almost a cliff, but by then politics dictated a new and logically impossible explanation for the crash — wolves.

We first drove down the Lochsa River in the spring of 1976. It was new country for me — beautiful, primitive or Wilderness country just beyond Highway 12. There was, however, the interesting distraction of numerous fires burning on the slopes just north of the highway. We learned these fires were set in an effort to forestall the coming decline in elk habitat. We almost hit an elk on the highway and saw quite a few more.

In those days there were plenty of bear and cougar were increasing. Cougar had recently become a protected game animal in Idaho. No one spoke of predation as a factor. That would come later in the mid-1990s. After the first drop in the early 90s, the elk herd took another hit in 1995-6 with a big die-off in a severe winter.  Afterwards the low population recovered but little, and drifted slowly downward. Today (2014) there are only about 2200 elk.

Wolves were reintroduced to Idaho in 1995 and 1996, but none to the Lolo. Wolves eventually made their way north to the Lolo, but their numbers were not significant until at least 5 years later — about the year 2000.

See below the actual decline in elk killed by hunters by year in units 10 and 12 — “The Lolo Zone.”

Elk harvested in the Lolo Zone by year

Elk harvested in the Lolo Zone by year

We see that the huge drop in elk populations came before the wolves. Therefore, wolves could not have been responsible for the elk herd’s drop off the cliff. They could not have been, at least in this universe where a cause has to come before the effect.

At the time of the big crash, I predicted wolves would, nevertheless, be blamed. Anti-wolf groups were gearing up. They likely figured that many hunters did not have the time sequence of events clearly in mind. Politicians soon joined in and the future path for Idaho Fish and Game was set in political concrete.

From the Lolo, anti-wolf forces then took the misinterpreted data and added to it the big drop in Yellowstone Park’s northern range elk herd. This became standard fare to show how wolves hammered elk. Nevertheless in 2010, Idaho Fish and Game wrote “But elk numbers have not declined everywhere – 10 of Idaho’s 29 elk zones are above management objectives for female elk, 13 zones are within objectives and six are below objectives.”

Agencies did not bother to even name the zones where elk numbers were stable, or even growing inspite of an increasing wolf population, such as the Hells Canyon Elk Zone, the Brownlee Zone, the Weiser River Zone; or the Snake River and Pioneer Zones where there are wolves, but “too many elk,” where elk will be reduced to please agricultural interests.  Are these elk somehow less important than deep backcountry elk?

Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom became elk were almost extinct in Idaho, disinformation that IDF&G did not actively dispute even though it brought great harm to the department’s revenue when hunters shunned the state.

On the contrary, Idaho Fish and Game launched their campaign to nearly rid the Lolo of wolves and other large predators at a high monetary cost. Meanwhile in reality, in their new Idaho Elk Management Plan, Fish and Game reports a statewide elk population of 107,000 animals.

Now Idaho Fish and Game plans to go after wolves even in (especially in) Idaho’s famed Wilderness areas where natural processes are legally supposed to be paramount.

What will happen in the Lolo? After 4 years of a war on native Idaho carnivores, we should expect to be seeing an increase in elk if predators are the reason elk numbers have remained low. This is a logically possible explanation. However, the habitat for elk has not clearly improved. There have been some new forest fires and these burned areas should eventually lead to new habitat. The fires have not yet been extensive, and it isn’t clear that the fire-opened areas are growing elk food instead of the invasive spotted knapweed. This noxious invader was not present back in 1940. In the new elk management plan, weeds are blamed for lower elk numbers in a number of hunting zones in Idaho. Why not the Lolo? It might be politically appropriate to speak only of other zones.

Tagged with:
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.

165 Responses to Idaho Fish and Game uses Chopper to kill 23 wolves in The Lolo

  1. Zoe Berger says:

    Ralph – What a terrific article. Thank you – for all that information. The barbarism is sickening and I don’t know how they can live with themselves. I am equally pained and furious. Can’t something be done to stop this? Do you send your very informative articles to these very uninformed people in power?

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Zoe Berger,

      I would hope folks would send some of them, but I doubt any argument can move a Republican scared of the upcoming primary election except some facts about that election.

      • Zoe Berger says:

        Do you mean by “folks” people like me? If so, I would be happy to. But who to send to? Please advise. I understand the problem about the election but certainly human decency counts for something…

      • B. Gutierrez says:

        How about sending it not to the Republicans running but to the Democrat opposing Gov. Otter – Is it Balakof or something like that? Or to companies doing business in the area – With such a small proportion of Americans hunting surely someone would want to promote wildlife watching sort of like what’s done in Yellowstone…

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          B. Gutierrez is right. Some Democrats too voted $2-million to kill wolves.
          It is highly doubtful they heard (or listened to) arguments against doing this.

          From Wikipedia, the Democrat running for Governor against Butch Otter, unless he is defeated in the Repubican primary, is “A. J. Balukoff, businessman and President of the Boise School District Board of Trustees.”

          Otter’s Republican opponent is state senator Russell M. Fulcher. He is presently the Majority Caucus Chairman.

          • B. Gutierrez says:

            I’m happy to send it along together with a letter. Unfortunately I’m not in the state (worse yet, I’m in New York..) so maybe they’d just ignore it? Is there anyone in a position of power or some financial leverage somewhere – companies doing business? the tourism angle? large numbers of students? the ones who voted against the $2M – do they care about the wolves or just don’t want to spend the money? We don’t have wolves here, but the outright hatred for coyotes by some people is I’m sure similar – The thing is you can’t reach those people but there are others who dislike them out of reflex almost and those are the people you can reach – I’m sure other people have thought of all this already and maybe everything’s been tried but just trying to see if there’s something I can do..Also, if Earthjustice wins the suit in the 9th Circuit – does this stop future killing?

            • Ralph Maughan says:

              B. Gutierrez,

              In a word, no. Given a loss, Idaho will probably try again in a different way. Equally important, other states are likely to want to kill wildlife in designated Wilderness areas. Montana is already talking about killing elk because some have the cattle disease brucellosis. This issue seemed dead after years of killing bison just outside Yellowstone Park, but now with a sneaky congressional appropriation in hand they are talking about killing elk too!

              • B. Gutierrez says:

                So there’s no ‘grand victory’ to be had apparently…The whole approach to wildlife and the treatment of the earth in general is so short-sighted and warped that it just amazes me that supposedly intelligent people keep coming up with these same policies over the years even though they must see that they’re both scientifically and morally wrong and on a more selfish note there will be consequences. For every animal or plant removed, the balance is destroyed which sets the stage for yet more “management” and intervention to try to artificially restore balance again. The best and cheapest approach is often to just leave things alone yet that never seems to be considered. So on a practical level what does an individual do that makes a difference?

            • MJ says:

              Not that petitions do a lot but here is one, at least it is an attempt for the record to express this point of view


              • B. Gutierrez says:

                Hi – I signed your petition but just a kind of funny note…I wrote to Mike Demick a couple of days ago and this was the response…
                “I am currently out of the office and will return Friday, December 13.” The next December 13 will it 7 years from now? Anyway, some sign of how often he checks his mail..

              • B. Gutierrez says:

                ps – I forgot to write – thanks for posting this!

      • Scott Slocum says:

        Yes, enough politicians doubt the natural history that’s presented here, that they constitute a political force. There’s an ignorant political advantage in following their example, so that becomes the way to win, and history repeats itself.

    • Sharon Spero says:

      Apparently not since government funds and agencies are paying for it and supplying the equipment to carry it out, in spite of the fact the the majority of citizens do not want this done. It is a “Nobody is going to tell me what to do” issue and they will do this to teach a lesson to those who protest, with no regard for the consequences and the wolves are dying for it. These wolves are part of the planet we were given to protect and treasure by our Creator. I believe that the Creator will judge by our actions and this one will not be explained away.

  2. Immer Treue says:


    Great Lolo summary. I have an IDFG publication that states it wasn’t until 2005 that wolf impact On Lolo became pronounced.

  3. Yvette says:

    That is a fantastic article. It clarifies where the problem lies, and why the IDFG strategy is likely to fail.

    I was 15 the summer I lived in Missoula. That area has remained special to me, and I’ve always thought it was one of the most beautiful regions of the U.S. I had the fortune to take my daughter along highway 12 last summer. She had been that route before, but was too young to remember.

    It’s too bad the ID decision makers refuse to apply sound science to their management of wolves and elk.

  4. Ken Cole says:

    You nailed it Ralph.

  5. cda says:

    As you probably know, the wolf issue has really blown up here in North Idaho again, and rightfully so.

    I am kinda mentally exhausted. I’m not used to posting and something just caught me totally the wrong way in the CDA Press this last week, so I was on it like white on rice – so 70 posts later… I have stood alone for the most part against the good’ol boys. But I think I kicked some ignorant butt. They want to wishy-washy about IDFG numbers, use them to their advantage when it suits them and call em a crock when it’s not in their interests. They called me just about every name in the book, but I hung in there.

    Please, check out my comments; CDA Press – there are 5 different recent articles re: wolves. My online in the Press comment section is “downtowncda”

  6. Richie G. says:

    Ralph great article again and I do not know what will stop this nonsense, I just wish their was a real politician out their who cared. Now that I think about it he only guy I really feel would have been a good President was Howard Dean, not Hillary, Obama or anybody else. Dean speaks like a straight shooter that why they took him off the chair of the Democratic committee. We do not have the majority ,thank God for people like you and Ken and all the groups who try to help. It will backfire, but they will keep killing wolves, cougars and all predators it’s such a shame.

  7. Louise Kane says:

    Ralph another great post, thank you
    This information seems like somehow it could be used?
    I do not believe that all or even most Idahoans hate wolves, in fact I’ve seen evidence they don’t. Yet predator haters are still running the show. My questions, 1) Is it possible to use this information to a political advantage in the election? Is there any possibility that a candidate could actually run on a platform to protect wolves or to prevent the slaughter? Could the extremely aggressive actions hurt the defenders? How could this information be used against the IDFG? Their complicity and zeal in killing wolves and other wildlife is hard to fathom. Idaho is your state, your thoughts?

  8. Larry says:

    In 1965-67 our wildlife professors at U of Idaho (Hungerford and Giles) pointed to the Lolo many times as example of an elk population ready to dramatically decline. They pointed to the lush elk habitat that came after the 1910 fires and how the conifers were now becoming dominant. A perfect example of plant succession. We made several field trips to the area for further enlightenment. Later in the 1970’s at personnel meetings in IFG it was widely accepted that plant succession was the cause of decreasing elk numbers. Hence controlled burns became more common. A valid response. I just shake my head that educated and trained wildlife biologists cannot see the forest for the trees but can only see wolves, even before they were there.

    • Yvette says:

      I’m really glad you posted this information, not that I can help. But, it’s interesting and informative to know that the academic community knew decades ago the factors driving the elk decline.

      I bet there is some old, published research on it. Informative post. Thanks.

    • Jon Way says:

      Larry, good points. Maybe IDFG reps were at the local bar trading hunting stories on those days and skipped class, and then forgot to do their homework.

      The term “science based wildlife management” really others me. They should just admit it is “ideological based wildlife mgmt”.

    • Barb Rupers says:

      In 1939 Dr. A. B. Hatch, an assistant professor of wildlife management at the University of Idaho and later the first director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department appointed by the then new Idaho Fish and Game Commission, visited the Southfork of the Flathead in what is now the Bob Marshall Wilderness. After observing the situation in that area and the numbers of elk dying of starvation due to the range conditions caused by the elk he pointed out that the same was likely to occur in the Selway area if the elk numbers were not reduced. The most effective means available at that time were by increased hunting.

  9. cda says:

    Ralph, one question. You have information like this on the Lolo elk population declines prior to wolf reintroduction, why aren’t you making it public? That simple information could have stopped this last “extermination flight”.

    Back in 1999, I contacted you about conversations I had with the locals down on the St Joe about their plan to intentionally introduce Parvo to the wolf populations via infected pups “staked out” for the wolves. You advised me not to go to the media because it was a “sensitive time” and the media may go the wrong way with it.

    I did not contact the media but I did call Washington DC and report it. Minutes later I was in a conference call with Carl Neimeyer, Ed Bangs and two other F & S officials. There was alot of talk I didn’t unterstand, but there was concern. Carl asked Ed to pull up the teter data from this area and it revealed that coyotes had been carrying Parvo for some time in the area, so the wolf packs on the Joe were already exposed to it and Parvo was not a concern to the wolf packs as an introduced threat.

    Why hold this information back from the public? I don’t see sharing it in a forum with only Pro Wolf advocates…

    • Ken Cole says:

      We and others have been writing about this for years. This isn’t new information.

    • Ralph Maughan says:


      Good question. Ken and I have written a lot about this, and for a long time. Of course, new people get interested and might not know about past articles.

      Folks might use “Lolo” and search this site.

  10. jon says:

    The sob’s at Idaho fish and game did this in secret knowing there would be public backlash against this.

    • Ken Cole says:

      We’ve known this was going to happen all along. Yes, they didn’t announce it before it happened but it wasn’t a surprise. They’ve done for the last several years.

      • jon says:

        And I’m sure they will continue to do it. they didn’t even notify the nez perce tribe about this recent aerial action in the lolo.

        • Yvette says:

          That is something that might be a legal opening. With the Nez Perce being a sovereign nation there should have been a government to government consultation before taking this action. The legal status of tribal lands isn’t the same with all tribes, and law pertaining to tribal lands can be complicated, but if any of this happened on reservation land then they just screwed up. But, the Nez Perce would have to act upon it. They sure seem to be quite on the wolf’s predicament since the delisting. I’m not up there so I really don’t know what they think, or how the Nez Perce generally is on the political arena.I do know this is in their region, both their current reservation and their historical homelands. My hope is they’ve been quietly scheming in the background, but I’m not actually counting on it.

    • IDhiker says:

      It’s always easier to find forgiveness when the dirty deed is done, which is what IDFG is doing. It also quells protest with the wolves already dead.

      This is not something that just happened. The director, Virgil Moore, is responsible. He’s proving to be a shrewd and duplicitous man, adept at following the machinations of his political masters. He also must believe in the policies he is carrying out, as he could easily stand up and refuse – then resign in protest, making an incredible statement. But, not many men are made that way anymore, and certainly not Virgil!

    • WM says:

      Why would IDFG “announce” ahead of their intended action? It is, from what I understand, part of an already disclosed predator management plan. That is not “secret.” This kind of thing is also disclosed in their 2014 Elk Management Plan by game management unit (and its previous drafts last year). They simply have no obligation to “announce,” particularly since whenever such disclosures are made, there is an attempt to stop them thru some sort of legal or PR action. They don’t announce whenever they do their other work, why start with this? That is what I found most…well,… annoying about Lynne Stone’s comment to the media in the articles covering this topic, suggesting IDFG was dishonest in their representations. Ya’ really think they have an obligation to call Defenders or other groups every time they undertake an action? Geez.

      • Scott Slocum says:

        They do have an obligation, though, to “consider the potential effectiveness of the proposed actions on prey populations.”

        Excerpts from the Idaho Elk Management Plan 2014-2024.
        Idaho Department of Fish and Game,

        January 2014.

        p. 32: Predation management is an important tool to aid in management of prey populations. The Commission approved the Policy for Avian and Mammalian Predation to guide IDFG’s implementation of predator management activities ( The policy directs managers to “recognize the role of predators in an ecological and conservation context. The actions by the IDFG must be based on the best available scientific information, and will be evaluated in terms of risk management to all affected wildlife species and habitats.”

        p. 33: Predator control is often expensive, logistically difficult, requires lots of staff time, and is controversial with some of the public. Therefore, managers must consider the potential benefits, the costs , and the potential effectiveness of the proposed actions on prey populations. It is important that the IDFG develop, test, and utilize appropriate tools to manage for a balance of predators and prey.

        p. 34: Table 3 . Guidelines for determining whether predator management activities can be expected to increase elk numbers (adapted from Ballard et al. 2003)…

  11. Kathy Vile says:

    Of course the wolves were not responsible for the decline, or any other 4 legged predator. But who does the 2 legged predator blame? Well, the wolves, bears and cougars of course. After all, all of the elk are theirs to kill in Idaho. Such a backward thinking bunch of idiots are running Idaho. Idaho residents should stand up for their wildlife before it is gone. As one species leaves so will the others. (Not that they are really leaving, slaughtered is the correct word.) Right on down the line. Oh and then all the elk will have to be killed for the ranchers. Idaho will be left with nothing.

  12. Ida Lupines says:

    I wish I could think of something to say, but I can’t. Where is this going to end? The elk decline excuse is wearing thin, especially when ranchers are complaining their are too many and also crying for killing. They are going to end up with no wolves and no elk. It is a habitat issue, not a killing one. Thanks for this informative post Ralph.

    What an effed up state Idaho is. I really wish they would make good on their threats to secede from the Union, so that the rest of the states could declare war on them. Just kidding! 🙂

    • Ida Lupines says:

      Oops, that should read ‘there are too many’. Everyone knew that the delisting would result in this totally out of control situation. Why are the citizens of Idaho allowing this?

      I’m glad that Chobani is standing up to the ag-gag law too, and wants to insure that milk produced for their yogurt is done so in a (relatively) humane and clean, safe plants. I know many of us don’t consume dairy products for ethical reasons, but many more do, and this is a big step that Chobani has taken and should be supported.

    • jon says:

      What is Idaho fish and game going to do when they find out killing two dozen wolves in the lolo is not going to magically bring all the elk back? They will probably do the same thing all over and again. They think killing is going to solve all of their problems.

      • rork says:

        They may see an increase at some point. Keep doing the same treatment until patient gets better can get you lots of testimonials, even when the treatment is completely ineffective. If patient does not improve, claim it would have gone even worse without the treatment. Also, patient will be grateful that something was done rather than nothing – so long as you don’t tell them it’s placebo. Here I’d guess it’s slightly better than placebo too, or at least does no harm to the primary outcome (#elk).

      • Eric T. says:

        Another part of this is that IDFG are collaring wolves and elk in the Lolo to study their relationships.

        The Lolo herd is probably going to continue to decline, forcing further tag reductions resulting in more wailing and gnashing and by the usual suspects.

  13. IDhiker says:

    I have been visiting the Lolo-Lochsa area since 1970. When I was in high school, we used to go camping on the Lochsa in the early spring, upstream from Lowell. The countryside then was all brushland with scattered regrowth of conifers. Elk were everywhere and we used to count them from the road.

    Over the years, though, as everyone should know, the pines and firs have retaken the slopes. From Google Earth, one can no longer recognize the countryside from the way it was back in the seventies. Drainages that were easy to traverse are now green with thick evergreens. The forest floors are largely devoid of grass due to the shade.

    Elk antlers were all over in the spring back then, and I still have a beautiful 5X6 from April 1970 that were dropped.

    Regarding knapweed, it is all over the place in the Selway-Lochsa-Lolo area. As far as I know, no serious effort has ever been made to slow it’s spread. Obviously, IDFG is taking the easy way out by blaming predators for the big elk decline. They don’t kmow how to attack the real issue, but need to have something to say to make it look like they are doing something.

    In the end though, this wolf culling simply shows, once again, that fish and game entities are political organizations that do not operate through biologists, but rather politics.

    • jon says:

      In states like Idaho, you can bet that wolves will always be blamed for when there are low elk numbers in certain areas. it’s inevitable. There was a recent article on statesman that had Todd Grimm and Carter Niemeyer talking about how killing more wolves in Idaho is going to be very expensive.

  14. JEFF E says:

    I believe that the politicians of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have come to love wolves.

    Anytime the very short attention span of the public needs to be manipulated away from way more serious issues facing the states, just bring up wolves.

    Works every time.

    • Wolfy says:

      Add guns, jobs, and gay rights. These topics are just side show antics by the politicos. And the real shame is that the public at large buys it hook, line, and sinker.

    • WM says:

      ++Anytime the very short attention span of the public needs to be manipulated away from way more serious issues …++

      Not a new tactic. Those who perfected the art in earlier times used bread and circuses.

      • JEFF E says:

        govt. always has to have an “adversary” to justify it’s existence. just changes with the times.

  15. JEFF E says:

    Idaho threat assessment:

    total area in state is 83568.95mi² = 53,484,128ac. Assume 50% is suitable wolf habitat, or 26,742,064ac.

    Given Idaho’s shrinking wolf population is ~600, that would be a density of one wolf for every 43983.6ac.

    Or 1 wolf for every area equal to 33,262 football fields.

    (next time you drive by a football field imagine 33,262 of them in any configuration.
    see the wolf?)

    I’m terrified, how about you

  16. Nancy says:

    Looking around on the internet this morning to see if there were any updates on that “killer wolf (s)” roaming the hills in Hailey, Idaho and found an interesting “blast from the past”

  17. The IDFG sent in a trapper to kill wolves in the Frank Church. That operation would have been secret if Izaac Babcock hadn’t reported it.
    Now they have gunned down another 23 wolves with helicopters in the Lolo area. Have they moved their trapper and their helicopters to other areas to keep on killing wolves in secret???
    They pretend to treat wolves as game animals, but in reality, they are treating them like vermin.

  18. Gary Humbard says:

    Correct me but I think Lolo Pass and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness areas are consistently higher in elevation and more forested than in other areas where elk populations are stable and where wolves are increasing. I assume IDFG used wolf and elk surveys to determine the ratio of wolves to elk was too high and in conjunction with the marginal winter habitat, decided to kill 23 wolves. These forested habitats also increase the vulnerability of elk to wolf predation.

    Hunting and trapping are not illegal activities in wilderness areas. Wilderness is mainly defined as where natural processes are to occur and where man is only a visitor. Unless there is enough pressure put on the USFS and IDFG, wolves will continue to be killed in wilderness areas.

    • IDhiker says:

      Gary Humbard,

      The Frank Church actually has a lot of low elevation land where big game winter. These areas include the Middle Fork, South Fork, and Main Salmon River canyons, along with the lower reaches of many of these river’s larger tributaries. One of these, Big Creek, is where the hired wolf exterminator did his work.

      These areas are not heavily forested, but rather are mostly grasslands and savanna, with a mixture of pines and grass. The north facing slopes are more vegetated, but due to many fires in the last twenty years, are often brush. The higher areas of the Frank are more forested, but few animals winter there as the snow is too deep.

      I have been fortunate to have traveled much of the Frank in the last forty years, and have flown over and into it many times. A really inexpensive way to see the landscape, though, is on Google Earth. Check out Big Creek and the Middle Fork drainages.

      • Larry says:

        The eradication work done by IFG in the remote areas such as the Frank and the Selway/Lolo are in opposition to the explanation of their eradication of a couple of packs in Gem County in 2010 or 2009. On 2/23/2010 it is written on their website, “One of the goals of Idaho’s wolf management plan is to allow wolves to persist in areas where they do not cause excessive conflict with human activities. But in areas where wolf depredation on livestock is chronic or losses are deemed unacceptable, sterner measures are used.” I know there are numerous contradictions from IFG but this is one that seems to stand out. The only answer is forget what is scientific or what we said in the past, just follow the money.

      • Gary Humbard says:


        Thanks for the info regarding the Frank Church. IDFG hired the trapper to bolster elk populations in part due to wolf predation. After reading recent research on elk populations, wolf predation accounts for a higher % of mortality in the winter than the summer but overall is not a significant factor. Weather, habitat loss and diseases are the main causes with hunters and other predators accounting for the remaining mortality losses.

        Is my assumption why IDFG killed the wolves in the Lolo Pass area valid?

        • WM says:

          ++ … higher % of mortality in the winter than the summer but overall is not a significant factor.++

          If a wolf eats between 12-23 ungulates between November and April (not all of which are old,sick or injured), the standard research year, and then a bunch more young of the year May into early summer, that isn’t a significant factor? Do the math.

          • rork says:

            WM: “Do the math”
            You are suggesting simplified thinking the same as hunters in MI do about wolves, and many places with respect to coyotes. I hate to think you are being disingenuous rather than naive. In MI, with maybe 600-800 wolves I rather expect 20-25K deer to get eaten, but to know what effect that actually has over years I need to know about the recruitment rate and how compensatory the deer deaths are. Compensation is complicated, since a deer killed here not only could have died by other means, but could permit other deer to survive – observing what actually happens is just about the only solution. 25K deer eaten can be disaster or can-hardly-tell, or anything in between.
            I get to see “it’s obvious” arguments almost every day, couched various ways.

            The math is tricky, few people understand it, many do not want to understand it. No doubt this same comment has appeared dozens of times on this blog.

            • Immer Treue says:

              As the fawns of last year begin to starve I NE MN, with two months to go before any appreciable chance at green-up.

            • WM says:


              I do understand the math is complex- the concepts of additive and compensatory mortality (from college graduate wildlife classes and reports I read all the time). But, some folks just can’t get past the idea that wolves eat elk (or deer) beyond the number that would/could have died anyway from some other means. That part is a simple concept really. A lot are young of the year get eaten. I have friends in WY who have witnessed multiple young of the year pronghorns and elk calves taken by wolves (when they were out shed hunting) in an area where these animals birth their young in Spring. I recall a paragraph in a book (American Bison) by behavioral ecologist,U of California professor, Dale Lott, speaking of the depredation of a bison calf. His explanation, the otherwise healthy calf was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the wolf hunting pack worked the calf away from its mother and other protective cows. One example of many instances he witnessed.

              Another, case in point, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone NP was partly sold on the idea that they were needed to regulate the out of control increase of elk after the 1987 fires. So, if these elk would have died from some untimely other cause (compensatory mortality relative to wolves), there would have been a huge lack of justification for the reintroduction. Nobody was even talking about top down terrestrial “trophic cascade” in the early 1990’s. At least I don’t recall it from the 1994 EIS on NRM wolf reintroduction.

              The state of WA has predicted in a backhanded fashion its elk population of about 53,000 could be impacted locally by as much as a 10 percent REDUCTION in the presence of the number of wolves contemplated in its management plan, though they say overall population won’t be affected (these are not natural compensatory mortality but additive), thus potentially reducing hunter opportunity to maintain the population management objectives.

              I know for a fact wolves have impacted the area I have hunted elk in ID for the last 25 years – numbers and age structure, since about 2006 (lower calf recruitment – we have not seen many spikes, which also means there are fewer young of the year females), about two years after the wolf sign was abundantly present on the ground. Of course, my anecdotal observations, and those of others, or even the studies and control actions by wildlife agencies, get pooh-poohed by armchair generals on this forum, some of whom have seen more asphalt than they have trees and mountains outside of national parks.

              It may be hard to say EXACTLY how many elk/deer/bison/pronghorn are additive mortality at the fate of wolves, but there does seem to be consensus that there is quite a bit. And the simple math is that more wolves eat more prey that would not have been eaten but for their presence. This is the hypothesis that wildlife agencies have been working from in each and every state that has wolves, or will have them in larger numbers. So, are they all wrong, relying on the simple math?

              • B. Gutierrez says:

                I tried to decipher what you’re saying and I’m no expert here but I’d like to say a couple of things :
                1. Anecdotal evidence is always weak because for each person that will assure you based on their observations that something is one way there’s another person who’ll assure you things are the opposite.
                2. If you want simple math – there’s a study done recently in Michigan which I don’t have in front of me right now where deer mortality by various means was studied. Human hunters were responsible for 51% with cars responsible for another 9%..Wolves? I think it was 7%-9% – I can’t remember.So, if you really want to increase the deer or elk population, simple math would say that you’d want to decrease the largest source of mortality which is humans. Do you even consider a moratorium on hunting as an option?

              • Immer Treue says:


                Study from Wisconsin, small sample size, in area of no wolves, 13% od deer shot by hunters never found, by said hunter, which of extrapolated over entire state is more deer than wolves kill in WI.

              • WM says:

                B. Guttierez,

                ++So, if you really want to increase the deer or elk population, simple math would say that you’d want to decrease the largest source of mortality which is humans. Do you even consider a moratorium on hunting as an option?++

                Human takeoff is already managed. That is why there are hunting seasons of limited duration; quotas; prescriptions on which animals (does/bucks; bulls/cows; antler specifications; quality hunt areas, etc.). The human impact is already managed (theoretically at least) in conjunction with weather, predator impacts and changes in habitat.

                A moratorium, as in completely stopping human takeoff most everywhere is not politically feasible, especially in the West; Midwest not so likely either.

                And, if the intent is to increase young of the year, hunters do not impact that segment of the animal population. It is mostly the predators, and with increasing presence,…..wolves.

              • rork says:

                I do agree there is likely some effect cause it’s unlikely to be zero (that it’s probably not zero is the limits of your simple math – and even that could theoretically be false). Near me (where I know the numbers fairly well) I think it’s fairly small. Estimates of the effect size are scant. I know of none from MI studies, which is why my DNR never complains about wolves impacting deer densities, but it doesn’t stop my fellow hunters from claiming that “it’s obvious” that deer will crash or have crashed.
                Maybe this year will perhaps be classic north of me – essentially every young of the year for 2013 will die. The sooner they die, the better for the others.

              • B. Gutierrez says:

                “And, if the intent is to increase young of the year, hunters do not impact that segment of the animal population. It is mostly the predators, and with increasing presence,…..wolves.”
                First off – hunters do impact the number of young indirectly as it takes two adults to produce each young elk or deer. It stands to reason then that if you kill the adults – they’re not going to produce young.
                Second – the high mortality rate for young in the wild applies not just to ungulates and other “prey” species but to predators as well. I believe the mortality rate for young wolves is 50-70% depending on where you look.
                To me, if you are a hunter and this is what you want to do – you take nature as you find it. Otherwise, what’s the difference between a wilderness and a game farm?

              • Mike says:

                ++Of course, my anecdotal observations, and those of others, or even the studies and control actions by wildlife agencies, get pooh-poohed by armchair generals on this forum, some of whom have seen more asphalt than they have trees and mountains outside of national parks.++

                Ah yes, I’m sure you spend a great deal of time outdoors.

                There are two WM’s: The one who spends all day, month after month trolling this forum, and the mighty hunter hero making his way through the treacherous Idaho backcountry.

                I’ll let the readers here decide who the real WM is.


              • topher says:

                There is only the one. Easily distinguished from some on this site by his thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate comments.

              • Mark L says:

                interesting that you brought up ‘compensatory breeding’, as I don’t think many have addressed that issue. Also, as the choice of ‘better’ males fades due to selective hunting, some females may feel the remainders are not ‘up to snuff’ and decline breeding. Is this always addressed through novel hunting methods, or not? Are we missing something? Wolves aren’t picking for the same criteria. Which makes healthier elk?

        • Ralph Maughan says:

          Gary Humbard wrote:

          “Is my assumption why IDFG killed the wolves in the Lolo Pass area valid?”

          I am guessing on the basis of rumor and more that what IDF&G did will not stand public scrutiny, and was kept secret for damnable reasons, such as working again inside designated Wilderness (the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is just to the south).

        • Eric T. says:

          This is the IDFG prey management plan for the Lolo:

          • topher says:

            ” The first major changes in hunting seasons to reduce bull elk harvest were implemented in 1992. Prior to 1992, GMUs in the Clearwater Region were open to hunting by all regular season tag holders. Beginning in 1992, hunters were required to choose to hunt in either the less accessible Mountain units or in the remaining, more accessible units. In the Clearwater Region, GMUs in the Lolo and Selway Zones were managed in the Mountain Group. This season structure change was implemented to reduce hunter densities. In addition, the opening day of rifle hunting season in GMUs 10 and 12 was moved back to October 10 to move the rifle season out of the rut. These changes reduced general hunt bull harvest within the Mountain Group GMUs in the Clearwater by 45% between 1992 and 1993. Harvest decreased from 2,037 bulls in 1992 to 1,116 in 1993 and the number of hunters declined from 8,944 to 5,093 (-43%) while hunter success remained stable (Kuck 1994).” Charting elk numbers by using harvest numbers should include changes in elk seasons otherwise total population estimates would be a better figure.

        • IDhiker says:

          Gary Humbard,

          The Lolo area does not, any longer, have the winter range it used to, thus less elk. To me, it is as simple as that, although there are other, more minor factors,too.

          The Lolo area is different than the Frank Church. Much of the Frank’s winter range is naturally so. In other words, was always grass and savanna and a stable environment for game populations.

          The Lolo, however, is much wetter and the reason the recent huge elk populations were there was because of massive wildfires in the twentieth century. These fires cleared out the forests that grew there. Unlike the Frank, this winter range was naturally forested and has returned largely to that. This regrowth is the “elephant in the room” to IDFG.

  19. Ken Watts says:

    What role does logging play in improving elk habitat? There has been a profound reduction in logging in Idaho. The Forest Service sent all those jobs to Canada!

    • Ken Cole says:

      Logging increases road density and increases hunting pressure on elk.

      • Ken Watts says:

        The State of Idaho logged a track near my home the last two summers. Wilmore Lumber obliterated the skid trails when they were done. Access remained the same.

    • Ken Cole says:

      First thing to come up in a google search. Easy to do for yourself.

    • rork says:

      Search for “Some effects of forest management on elk hunting opportunity”. URL is very long. It might help answer the question more directly. It’s an interesting subject, partly cause it’s complicated.

      Near me (in MI) it has always been a debate without data wrt deer. Everybody can see there are more deer after a clear-cut for about 10-15 years, but after that, it can turn into a desert for many more years. Does the old-growth win long-term? Might depend on just what “logging” means, and just where you are (roads required, species of trees, fire frequency).

      PS: Maybe citizens in the US thought western logging on public land was overdone, and were tired of sometimes subsidizing it. The Canadians have not got to that point, yet. They have more trees, and the damage is harder to observe by virtue of remoteness.

    • WM says:

      Perhaps a more comprehensive and objective
      look at the larger (than Ken’s reference to the Starkey study on logging roads) database on elk habitat and effects of logging (look at Logging section).

      • Ida Lupines says:

        So we are saying that there really is such a thing as sustainable logging – in our modern world, creating these microhabitats would seem to benefit elk and other wildlife. Better idea than killing everything. Fascinating.

        • Larry says:

          In the old days (my days) it was taught that, “cow, plow, fire and axe”, were the standard ways to manipulate wildlife (ungulate) habitat. You can imagine the different ways on different geographic ecosystems that any of the 4 ways could be applied. Nowadays “cow, plow and axe” would be mostly unacceptable. Fire on the other hand is still acceptable because it is natural, with hot and cold spots, islands and plant succession approved. The others are artificial and especially cow is the least beneficial, if ever. I don’t know nowadays what the standard is that is taught but we are wiser now if only we would use the wisdom.

        • WM says:


          The concepts of sustainable logging and other multiple use aspects of federal (and state) forests have been in place for decades. Terms like sustained yield, multiple use (wood/water/forage/recreation/wildlife) have been a part of US Forest Service management policy for years. The part they missed, was how long recovery took from harvesting trees, and reproduction either through planting of commercially valuable tree species, or natural ecological succession. In some places they thought an 80 year rotation age, would do it, but they were wrong, and it has taken longer, especially in the interior West. Trees grow faster in some places than others. They have utilized mathematical formulas and computer based optimization techniques called linear programming and operations research to model this stuff.

          In ID and elsewhere, places logged in the early 1900’s are being logged again. Logging, whether anyone likes it or not, is utilization of a renewable resource, thus sustainable forestry.

  20. Ida Lupines says:

    He argues that “saber-rattling” and calls to kill more wolves serves mainly to agitate national wildlife groups. Those groups then support more campaigns protesting Idaho and its policies and overwhelm agencies like Grimm’s with Freedom of Information Act requests and lawsuits.

    • Ida Lupines says:

      I guess I’m a little confused by this new take by Idaho in playing the victim. The states that had wolves have clamored for years to have them delisted and to take on the management themselves with full assurances that they could do it, and they took it on very aggressively. They passed ‘middle ground’ a long time ago. Now they are claiming they are overwhelmed by the responsibility? I wonder what they will come up with next in to eradicate wolves.

  21. Logan says:

    I definetely have a wait and see attitude towards the Lolo. If the wolf reduction increases the elk population then we will finally have hard evidence that wolves are limiting elk in the Lolo. If the wolf reduction does not result in increasing elk numbers then we will have hard evidence that wolves are not limiting elk. Either way we can finally stop arguing theory. The predation versus habitat debate should be settled.

    Unfortunately without widespread fire to improve habitat, any gains in the elk populations will only be temporary. I read a study from Canada, although I don’t have the link and I apologize for not providing documentation, that showed that fire regenerated habitat is not enough to rehabilitate ungulate populations in the presence of wolves unless aggressive wolf reduction is undertaken.

    As far as the benefit/non-benefit of logging on game populations. As long as roads are made inaccessible after logging is complete, I find that logging is beneficial to wildlife, especially in fire-suppressed areas. I typically see more deer, elk and bears in logged areas than anywhere else. Logging done right is a great use of renewable resources and benefits wildlife.

    • Immer Treue says:


      Only problem is, kill wolves in one zone, and others move into the void.

      • topher says:

        Even with others moving to fill the void shouldn’t we see a reduction in overall density for the area?

        • Immer Treue says:

          Somewhere in the train of comments, there is something along the lines, if this type of control is not continued, within a year, new wolves move in and the past years control actions are moot.

          Bob Hayes “Wolves of the Yukon” reinforces the short term effectiveness of such control actions. Either those who advocate for wolves must get accustomed to these control actions, or, if habitat is also an issue, controlled burns and knapp weed irradiation must occur.

          • WM says:


            I don’t think anyone involved in wolf control suffers from the illusion (delusion), that control is a one time thing. The simple math of rapid reproduction which has been proven time and time again in ID, in the presence of a adequate prey base, and other wolves moving in to occupy newly voided territory has always been a part of the equation.

            That is why those who argue ID wolves are sure to go back on the ESA are, woefully misinformed.

            So, the upshot of all of this is that these “unannounced” control activities will become a regular part of managing for numbers of wolves in various game management zones in ID, as they should be.

            • JB says:


              What happened to the call for thoughtful cost/benefit analysis? I’d sure be interested to know that it will cost Idaho to continue to send in government helicopters year after year to control wolves. And what of state spending priorities? Should Idaho really be spending 2 million to kill wolves to benefit (how many?) hunters, while its schools suffer?

            • IDhiker says:

              I would change, “as they should be,” to, “as they will be.”

              • Immer Treue says:

                What’s the bottom line. If succession in Lolo has moved into mature forest, and spotted knapp weed is becoming prevalent, it appears habitat is an issue. One can kill all the wolves they want, but the glory days of Lolo elk appears over. The precipitous slide began far prior to wolf reintro. What’s the solution?

              • WM says:


                Controlled burn = prescribed burn. Benefits far beyond “elk farming,” a term which is much over-used on this forum.




              • JB says:

                Immer, WM:

                I understand that there are additional ‘benefits’ to controlled/prescribed burns. I don’t object to controlled burns (a means), nor do I object to the ends they bring about (e.g., decreased fuels, increased understory, etc.). I do, however, object to the idea that the goals of federal public lands management should be determined by the state. States–as we have seen time and again–bow to a few powerful interests, and so tend to implement ‘dominant use’ policies. Federal agencies are not immune to such pressures, but are generally better about looking out for diverse interests (read: multiple use) than states–especially western states. Perhaps you meant something different in your original post, Immer? I was responding to the following:

                “… IDFG intentions are in “good faith” for both elk and wolves, habitat in form of burns and knapp weed eradication become a must. Probably less expensive than helicopters. Anything less, it’s game farm mentality and the pressure from pro-wolf groups continues.”

              • Immer Treue says:


                OK, I understand. My view point is narrowed by the whole elk/wolf thing. I guess I was just yawing in the direction that IDFG’s tool box to help elk “recover” must contain more than ‘just’ killing wolves.

              • Elk375 says:

                I have never heard of the term elk farm, when referring to elk that are not high fenced, until I was on this forum. Elk outside an enclosure are free roaming animals. Just because there are people who want predator control does not therefore make the great outdoors an elk farm. Far from it!

              • JB says:


                Leopold (1933), who is widely recognized as the father of wildlife management, called game management the ‘art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use’ (p. 3). He went on to differentiate game management from ‘other forms of agriculture’ based essentially on the intensity of effort. Likewise, “game farming” was simply an “intensified form of game management” usually conducted in confinement.

                Game management (and game farming) proceed through five types of environmental “controls”:
                (1) Restriction of hunting,
                (2) Predator control,
                (3) Reservation of game lands,
                (4) Artificial replenishment (i.e., stocking,
                (and 5) Environmental controls (i.e., control of cover, food, etc.).

                The federal government worked out #3 for the IDF&G, and they’re doing a fine job of #1. To a lesser extent, they (and the FS) are also doing a bit of #5, and now we’re adding #2 (predator control). As the intensity of their efforts increase, the ‘game farm’ (or more broadly, agricultural) analogy becomes more and more apt.

              • JB says:

                “I guess I was just yawing in the direction that IDFG’s tool box to help elk “recover” must contain more than ‘just’ killing wolves.”

                Certainly. And increasing habitat is always going to be a better (though not faster) method of increasing elk populations. The problem is that they (the agency and hunters) seem to want an elk behind every tree. That’s not ‘balanced’ management; and frankly, it isn’t responsible management–especially where federal lands are concerned.

            • Immer Treue says:


              My intent was more along the lines that those who advocate for wolves would be delusional to believe this type of control action is a one time thing. However, if IDFG intentions are in “good faith” for both elk and wolves, habitat in form of burns and knapp weed eradication become a must. Probably less expensive than helicopters. Anything less, it’s game farm mentality and the pressure from pro-wolf groups continues.

              • JB says:


                I understand where you are coming from; however, I for one do not believe that burning federal forest to make more elk for hunters shows any less of a game farm mentality than killing predators. Moreover, the federal government has already chosen to abrogate its responsibility for wildlife on federal lands to states–will we now let them do the same with federal lands?

              • wolf moderate says:

                Controlled burns are no different than the forest service’s policy spending billions of dollars fighting fires that occurred naturally. They are both controlled by man on public lands for the perceived public good.

              • Ida Lupines says:

                I don’t know JB, I think it does show at least a better mentality. In our modern times, it appears we do want to provide game for hunters and that takes a kind of precedence, so that game farm mentality isn’t going away, it’s a given and here to stay. This way, there’d be less killing of predators, and perhaps wildfire control as well, which is needed, and of course saving nature’s place for dead trees.

                It’s working with and not against. I wonder what George W says or has said?

                But, controlled burns and invasive plant removal would be us taking nature’s role for the better, something that nature would do on her own anyway – with the changes we’ve made to the environment, we need to take positive steps to make up for what we’ve taken in habitat, where natural fires can no longer do the job nature intended. We can’t have it all without giving a little back. I’d be interested in learning more about this method.

              • Scott Slocum says:

                +Ida Lupines: “controlled burns and invasive plant removal would be us [cooperating with nature] for the better, something that nature would do on her own…”

              • IDhiker says:

                If helicopter gunning is not a “one time thing,” and will have to be done every year, then something better must be arrived at.

                If not, this means IDFG will have to be doing this forever, thousands of years into the future. Is this reasonable? How about 10,000 years from now?? Still helicopters every year?

                Clearly, from what people have said on this site, wolves will reproduce and migrate into the vacuum created by these killings, necessitating a repeat of management actions.

                This method is shortsighted and clearly can’t go on into perpetuity.

                Serious work must be done in habitat restoration. Along with this, an acceptance of wolves in their natural habitat must be achieved, with a natural balance of prey and predator.

                Unfortunately, hunting in the Lolo will probably never be like it’s heyday after the great burns, with or without the wolf.

                • Zoe Berger says:

                  Is it not true that nature balances things out when left alone? Wolves slow down birth rates according to their environment? Elk slow down theirs when there is less food? etc. etc. Perhaps, as I suspect, we have interfered so much that nobody has any answers.

              • Immer Treue says:


                Much more complicated than that. Just the predator prey ratio itself will be dynamic. Usually peaks and valleys for both predator and prey populations on some sort of time scale measured in years… May look a bit like inverse sine waves.

                That’s just the predator and prey. Does not take into consideration man, and plant succession. We hear so much about Lewis and Clark and no game in the Lolo… Antis like to call it a predator pit, yet it most likely had nothing to do with wolves and everything to do with mature forest/poor elk habitat.

                As debate rages over trophic cascade, and one looks at arguments and counter arguments, it becomes more evident how so many variables come to play in the complexity of nature.

    • Nancy says:

      “Logging done right is a great use of renewable resources and benefits wildlife”

      If you would Logan – please define “logging done right” for those of us not familiar with past history re: logging in wilderness areas.

      • Logan says:

        I did not intend my previous comment to mean that I think logging should occur in wilderness areas, but in places like certain areas of the Lolo that are outside of roadless and wilderness areas.

        My opinion is that we should let wildfires burn and stop wasting money on putting them out, fires are the natural means of replenishing habitat. However, in areas where fire policy calls for fire supppresion I suggest that logging be done to improve habitat in place of fire. I see it as an artificial means of improving habitat where we prevented the natural process from occuring.

        If we had let fires burn in the lolo instead of putting them out for the last 80 years, the habitat would be healthier than it is now and maybe elk numbers would be high enough that wolf control would not be necessary.

    • IDhiker says:

      One problem, after logging, is the outcry over closing the roads that were paid for by “tax payer dollars.” To really be closed, the roads need to be destroyed once the cutting is over.

      • Elk375 says:

        Plus one, IDhiker.

        • Logan says:

          I fully agree the roads must be closed aferwards. Most loggings roads are not paid for by tax-payers but by the private corporations that secured the rights to log an area and built the roads to reach the trees. Destruction of the roads as suggested by IDHiker is even better, and I have seen that done also.


          Logging done right is logging that is renewable and sustainable, logging that protects streams and prevents erosion and opens up the canopy to allow sunlight for browse to grow and provide habitat.

          Moscow Mountain near the town of Moscow, is predominately owned by a timber company and logging operations are always underway somewhere. However, there is an abundance and diversity of vegetation and habitat, abundant deer, elk, bears, and I have seen evidence of wolves, mtn lions and many other animals and birds. They certainly are doing it right.

          We have the ability to cut trees and do it without damaging streams. Responsible logging also means not cutting trees in places where it cannot be done without causing harm.

    • B. Gutierrez says:

      And why do we want more elk than the habitat as it presently stands can sustain? Where do we stop interfering and at what point does wilderness management become a new type of farming? I’m always surprised that every part of the earth is viewed as fair game for some type of manipulation – I would think we could just leave some areas alone and consider them as belonging to other species. It would work better at making a sustainable wilderness and it would be a whole lot cheaper.

      • Zoe Berger says:

        B. Gutierrez – Amen! I do not understand why so few people see it that way – that non-manipulation is a real and fair option.

        • B. Gutierrez says:

          I just read your comment further down and I thought – Yaay! someone else thinks that too! To me it just makes so much sense..I’ll sign the petition – I agree I don’t know how much good they do but doing nothing seems worse..

  22. Yvette says:

    “The year was 1814 and John James Audubon watched a livestock owner torture a family of wolves he had caught in a pit trap. The wolves cowered in the corner of the pit when the livestock owner jumped in and ‘hamstringed’ the the wolves. He cut the principle tendon above their joint. He then hoisted them out of the pit and set his hounds on them. The female, at first, fought the dogs, the scuffled along, her hind legs dangling behind her.”(paraphrased) >i< Vicious Jon T. Coleman

    btw, Mr. Audubon thought nothing out of order with the torture of these wolves.

    It looks like Idaho’s politicians and a good portion of the citizens have an 1814 mentality with 2014 airplanes and weapons. Unfortunately, it isn’t only Idaho, and it isn’t just wolves.

    My best hope are the actions happening in Idaho will awaken more people. Two years ago I barely took notice of wildlife issues other than a few things in the news and a few horrific pictures on facebook. I’m awake now. I’m just a middle aged woman nearing the completion of an M.S. that occupies much of my time. With that behind me, this war on our continent’s predators, and especially the hatred and hysteria hurled toward wolves, is where I will devote my time, my money, and whatever knowledge I gain to stand against these Jeremiah Johnsons.

    This latest attack didn’t just hit a nerve with me. It cut a tendon.

  23. Zoe Berger says:

    Humans have interfered with nature so much it all seems rather hopeless. At least in “wilderness” areas we could just back off and see what happens, no? ie no burning, no trapping/hunting/aerial shooting/poisoning. I realize wildlife knows no boundaries and there will be traffic in and out of these areas. I don’t know what the answers are. I also realize hunters will not want to stop hunting. I also do not understand the concept of ranchers using public lands for their animals to graze on, where wolves should be able to roam freely, having any right to complain when the two species meet. It is all money-driven, and it has nothing to do with nature. Farming animals is such a construed activity on its own. I just want the killing to stop.

    At any rate, in my inbox I received this today – a politician actually speaking for wolves:

    Do sign and share if you care to.

    • B. Gutierrez says:

      I agree with all you write. To me as far as hunting goes, hunters should take what they find. The problem with hunting (although it’s not something I want to do) is not the activity itself, done responsibly – it’s that hunters expect the natural environment to be manipulated to provide them species to hunt in abundance. This isn’t going to be the case on its own without interference because our very presence and use of the land for agriculture, cities, drilling, mining etc has so diminished the available habitat that there are bound to be fewer animals of any kind. I agree most with your last line – I also want the killing to stop. How can the people who do this feel good about themselves knowing they’ve ended a life for no good reason?

      • Zoe Berger says:

        Thank you BG (and for signing the yes perhaps useless petition).

        I must say I have complete and total respect for all the many educated people contributing here. I have learned a lot, including from the hunter viewpoint. However, there has been so much money put into study after study, and into paying for helicopters etc. and manpower to eliminate what is seen as problematic wildlife. It is a farce to have “wilderness” areas. At least HERE an attempt to allow nature truly take an “unfettered” course should be the obvious agenda. This would require a commitment of years to see the cycles unfold. Everything does not have to be immediate. It seems consideration is never given to how precious all life is.

        • Ida Lupines says:

          I would agree accept I’ve come to think that we’ve got to ‘undo’ some of the things we’ve done and mistakes we’ve made. Letting things take their course could be harmful in some cases.

          • Zoe Berger says:

            I think I usually agree with you Ida but we have made such a mess of things I don’t think we can be trusted to come up with a plan that would improve on what nature would come up with. I think it’s time to back off and admit defeat.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            We tried to ‘undo’ the grievous mistake of deliberately killing off wolves, and yet as soon as some got the chance, they went right back to it again. Yvette, what you posted a few days ago about torturing wolves is chilling. It’s one thing to kill an animal for depredation, it’s quite another to torture it. We are very strange. I just can’t understand it.

            And the wildfire/controlled burns issue is something that might be necessary to consider in the unnatural state we’ve put our wild areas in.

            Other than than, I’d say leave well enough alone too.

  24. Ken Cole says:

    I did some digging yesterday and found that Wildlife Services received 25 Hughes Cayuse helicopters from Homeland Security that had been used by border patrol. This info was in the FAA aircraft registry that can be downloaded in its entirety from the FAA website. Most of them were transfered in 2011. There is no information about whether they are all operational or not.

  25. Ida Lupines says:

    Unfortunately, hunting in the Lolo will probably never be like it’s heyday after the great burns, with or without the wolf.

    Yes, this is something that people need to accept, instead of childish wants. Wiping out other predators so that we can have more elk for recreation for the most part is unethical and shocking.

  26. topher says:
    Total elk numbers for the Lolo 1988-2010 paint a slightly different picture with a less precipitous decline. Why use hunter harvest data when this is available?

  27. Ida Lupines says:

    And, if the intent is to increase young of the year, hunters do not impact that segment of the animal population.

    They do though. Every animal they kill is one less that can reproduce. Or if pregnant. We get them from every angle too, which wolves and other predators do not – from taking and changing their habitat, blocking their movement through fences and fragmenting their habitat, hitting them with cars from our roads. All of this affects any potential young. We never account for our impact on deer and elk – we assume that’s ours for the taking.

    • WM says:


      You don’t quite have that right. Not all bull elk breed. In fact a very small percentage do, and it is the most mature. Bull/cow ratios are important and they are managed. The number of cows taken by hunters is pursuant to quota which accounts for this. You may be interested to know research in Yellowstone showed the largest percentage of bull elk taken by wolves were mature ones temporarily weakened by the rut, during the period studied, even more prevalent than senescent cows. Same may well be true outside Yellowstone, too. Many of these mature bulls, left alone thru winter while they are weak bounce back and are ready to go the next fall. They are also the bulls with the large antlers that are prized by SOME hunters.

      • JB says:

        Of course, when a bull is taken, another breeder will step up to take his place. What you’re saying is that wolves compete with hunters for valued trophy animals. Of course, this research was in Yellowstone. So are you suggesting that we manage (kill) wolves in Yellowstone so that “SOME” hunters will increase their probability of bringing home a trophy animal?

        • WM says:

          ++ So are you suggesting that we manage (kill) wolves in Yellowstone so that “SOME” hunters will increase their probability of bringing home a trophy animal?++

          Definitely not. I was just suggesting that wolves, being the opportunist hunters that they are, will select for prey with similar characteristics wherever present, based on the YNP studies. So that means young of the year when available in the Spring, and importantly mature rut weakened bulls are also a favorite. It is mature bulls that are not in YNP, but elsewhere on grounds that humans hunt that are the focus of wolf and hunter competition, and thus tension. I would expect, where resident elk migrate out of the Park during winter and mature bulls are killed by wolves outside the Park there could be some tension, as well. All the more need for a buffer of sorts for wolves outside YNP because of this.

          • Ida Lupines says:

            All the more need for a buffer of sorts for wolves outside YNP because of this.

            I had to do a double take and reread this, but I agree! 🙂

          • JB says:

            WM: The mortality studies you allude to show that bears accounted for 58-60% of elk calf mortalities–wolves accounted for 14-17%. And these data were collected during the highpoint of wolf densities in the park.

            Barber-Meyer, SM, Mech LD, White PJ. 2008. Elk calf survival and mortality following wolf restoration to Yellowstone National Park. Wildl. Monogr. 169(1): 1-30.

            • WM says:

              ++bears accounted for 58-60% of elk calf mortalities–wolves accounted for 14-17%. ++

              You have broadened the topic, but why wouldn’t they? There is a combined total of several hundred (I don’t know a good estimated number, but it is a bunch, maybe 4-7X the number of wolves at their peak) of black bears and grizzlies in YNP. The bears are mostly, of course, hibernating in winter, so maybe don’t get many of those rut weakened bulls. And, they snatch the newborn young elk in the Spring. After they get a little speedier, the bears don’t take so many, but the wolves continue on.

              And, with wolf population now lower in YNP (and elk too), the percentage of elk killed/consumed by bears is likely higher today, if such studies as Baker-Mech were done now. And, by the way, if an ungulate which is old, injured or sick, I bet the bears and the other animals don’t let them go to waste, even with smaller wolf populations. They may not get them as quickly, but they ultimately don’t go to waste.

  28. snaildarter says:

    Going on my annual trip to Lamar valley wolf week, I’ll avoid spending any money in Idaho, not that MT and WY are much better.

    • WM says:

      I would give you odds ID would rather have the money from lost non-resident elk hunters than wolf watchers, generally. Not a value judgment or preference on my part, but an observation, which is supported by historic license revenue loss in charts in the very reports which are the subject of this thread (and of course they spend more than money on licenses).

      See p. 11 of the report topher references above:

      ++As discussed by the IDFG 2009 Survey of Non-resident hunters (IDFG 2009), the impact of wolves on elk would continue to be a main reason for not purchasing an elk hunt tag.++

      Do you suppose these hunters in the survey are making stuff up about wolves impacting elk hunting? Enough anecdotal data points and things begin to form discernible patterns upon which conclusions can be reasonably based.

      • Ida Lupines says:

        I don’t know, but it is certainly possible – or maybe they just aren’t interested anymore. As far as ‘elk farm’ mentality, it is the entire reason for being for F&G departments, isn’t it? And always has been.

  29. Joanne Favazza says:

    Yup, Idaho officials hate the big bad federal government—except when they need the feds to help wipe out wolves for them so they can create elk farms. “Scientific management” at its best.

  30. Mike says:

    The culture of death permeates the Northern Rockies.

    A young lad is taught that an animal’s only value is to be shot.

    Youngsters are handed rifles in lieu of a camera. Hunting is passed down as “tradition”, mostly because the men in the area are too insecure to express their love for nature in less manly, “rugged” ways.

    To love nature is to put a bullet in something’s head. That is the lesson.

    Wolf extermination via helicopter is an extension of this base insecurity.

  31. Ida Lupines says:

    I guess I was just yawing in the direction that IDFG’s tool box to help elk “recover” must contain more than ‘just’ killing wolves

    Totally agree, Immer.

  32. Mike says:

    Idaho’s wolf extermination photos have gone viral.

  33. Louise Kane says:

    Ok this was posted on wccl
    is this legal
    I don’t know
    USA has changed a lot since Citizen’s United
    but are special interests allowed to fund federal agencies?
    We were not even allowed to take a lunch on someone’s dime while I was working in DC

    anyone know the answer to this
    its perplexing and really disturbing

  34. Louise Kane says:

    Sorry above post should have been posted on interesting news! Supposedly this is a cooperative agreement, apparently cooperative meaning to fund killing predators.

  35. Scott MacButch says:

    WM states:
    “You may be interested to know research in Yellowstone showed the largest percentage of bull elk taken by wolves were mature ones temporarily weakened by the rut, during the period studied, even more prevalent than senescent cows.”
    You might be putting a bit too much emphasis on bull elk mortality by canids, “calves and aged cows, averaging 14 years of age- were disproportionately selected by wolves”- Smith, D.W., and E.E. Bangs. 2009. “Reintorduction of wolves to YNP…”

  36. Scott MacButch says:

    WM- note that figure 2 only represents November-December of 2004 where bull mortality was 43%, where as figure 1 (1995-2003)bull mortality was 20%.

    In the link you provided, Smith goes on to state: “Yellowstone wolves also select for the older, senescent elk; the mean age of the wolf-killed adult cow elk for 1995–2004 was 13.4 ± 0.2 y (range, 1–26, n = 434).”

  37. Ralph Maughan says:

    Idaho Fish and Game has announced they spent $30,000 to kill the 23 wolves in the Lolo. That is $1305 per wolf.

  38. Zoe Berger says:

    Does anyone know what they do with the $1,305 bodies?


March 2014


‎"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