Government Plans to Kill the Messenger

The Idaho Fish and Game Department’s plan to poison or shoot up to 4,000 ravens in the state is appalling. It’s a preposterous proposal to kill native wildlife under the guise of protecting sage-grouse from raven’s eating their eggs. With the blessing of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho will spend over $100,000 dollars to kill the iconic raven, a bird long seen as a messenger of the gods. Meanwhile, the agencies seem to ignore threats to sage-grouse, including the loss, degradation, and fragmentation its habitat caused by livestock grazing.

The raven slaughter is being disguised as a study on Greater sage-grouse protection. However, a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report ranks predation as 17th of the 18 top threats faced by sage-grouse, and ravens are just one of a number of species that prey on the eggs and hatchlings. Despite this, the government claims that poisoning and shooting raven adults, hatchlings, and nestlings will protect sage-grouse although a field biologist with IDFG admitted that their theory emanates from “anecdotal information.” This is insufficient evidence with which to kill thousands of wild animals.

Ravens are complex, emotional beings, and their careless annihilation through a government program is deeply disturbing. Expressive birds, ravens communicate happiness, surprise, anger, and tenderness through their calls. Ravens even persuade other wildlife to assist them in acquiring food.

Ravens and sage-grouse have co-existed in the West for thousands of years. If the populations are out of balance with each other, the government should look at the causes tipping the scales. Ravens are attracted to livestock infrastructure like corral and water tanks, and have an easier time hunting ground-dwelling birds like sage-grouse after cows and sheep have removed hiding cover. The government has decided to slaughter thousands of intelligent creatures rather than address the real threats to sage-grouse. It may be easier to kill ravens than to limit livestock grazing, oil and gas development, exurban growth, and the spread of invasive weeds, but that doesn’t make it right, and it won’t bring back the sage-grouse.

Upwards of 20,000 people have signed a petition opposing this irresponsible waste of public resources that will kill valuable wildlife. Other such “raven control” programs are active and proposed in other western states within the range of Greater sage-grouse. Ravens aren’t the problem, and killing them isn’t the solution. It would be better to listen to the message ravens bear about unstable ecosystems, and work towards restoration, rather than destroy our wild heritage.

Raven killing areas in Idaho.
Idaho raven killing areas outlined in blue.

NOTE- The photos on this post were all taken by Katie Fite of Western Watersheds Project within the last two weeks in the areas where Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Wildlife Services plan to do the raven killing. Click for larger image.

Livestock denude riparian habitat that is important for sage grouse chicks leaving nothing for sage grouse.
Livestock disturb nesting sage grouse and remove nesting cover making it easier for ravens to find nests.
Livestock compete directly for forbs and destroy riparian areas.
Dead livestock subsidize ravens with food.
Dead livestock subsidize ravens with food.
Livestock water developments provide perches and subsidize ravens with water.
Livestock water developments provide perches and subsidize ravens with water.
Livestock concentration areas kill sagebrush and leave waste that promotes weeds.
Livestock concentration areas kill sagebrush and leave waste that promotes weeds.
Livestock fencing provides perches for ravens and cause sage grouse collisions. Note sage grouse feathers next to camera.
Livestock fencing provides perches for ravens and cause sage grouse collisions. Note sage grouse feathers next to camera.




Feathers from yet another fence collision just a mile away from the above photos.






  1. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    This is very distressing.

  2. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Once again, anthropogenic effects are not addressed. The killing will have to continue as new ravens will move into vacated territories. Sounds all too familiar,eh? Don’t try too understand it, just kill it.

    Ravens up here are nesting with young. I’ve been able to draw one in with old butter and bread. Such a fascinating creature to observe.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      As Travis Bruner indicates one of the most important reasons why raven numbers have increased in sage grouse habitat is because of cattle. The fences built in places where there was no perch became thousands of perches. Livestock water developments favor ravens. Dead livestock feed ravens.

      Idaho Fish and Game might kill enough ravens to cause a tiny uptick in sage grouse in a small area, but it is like shooting coyotes. The next year there will be difference at all.

  3. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Back in the last century when the Idaho license plate had ” Famous Potatoes” as its proud banner, we in nearby states thought it was humorous, but wholly descriptive.

    Today it needs to read ” The Bloodlust State “. Not humorous, but wholly decriptive.

    1. jerry collins Avatar
      jerry collins

      I agree completely. I used to summer there with my RV buddies, and listen to the wolves around Stanley. but the area has become so depressing, that we don’t go there anymore. We go on to Oregon, but might start summering in Western Maine.

    2. Barbara Moritsch Avatar

      I live in Idaho–I call it “The Stupid State.”

      1. alf Avatar

        I live in idiot-ho too, and am as often as not embarrassed to admit it to out of state friends. I think “idiot-ho” is a pretty good descriptor. My experience here leads me to believe that a quite high percentage of the state’s residents are low information and low awareness, incurious, provincial and parochial and worse, proud of it.

    3. ramses09 Avatar


  4. MJ Avatar

    It has been said that it will require a paradigm shift in current policy and current mindset to change our momentum of consumption, a mindset stating that more killing of species is required to offset imbalances, vs reining in our consumption.

    Thank you Travis Bruner for the validation that the intrinsic value of a species is important, and for digging deeper into our responsibility in causing imbalances. The first solution to problems caused by consumption should not be further consumption, they should be seeking an understanding of the full issue and ethical problem solving.

    Going to hug some trees now.

    1. ramses09 Avatar


  5. Chris Harbin Avatar
    Chris Harbin

    It seems as though the Idaho State politicians are really a bunch of thugs. When they run out of wildlife I guess they will even start shooting their “famous potatoes”.

  6. Yvette Avatar

    Who comes up with these ideas? Is this really about the sage grouse or do they have ulterior motives? Who else would benefit? Farmers?

    I know Wildlife Services kills lots of crows and probably ravens, too. The ID fish and game plan to kill ravens will be in addition to the number of ravens killed by WS? I don’t understand the benefit.

    1. MJ Avatar

      Yvette, this is Utah but a similar mindset I think

      if you have concerns with the Endangered Species Act being used as a tool to prevent the utilization of our abundant resources, then you need to pay closer attention to why Republicans united to oppose the nomination of Rhea Suh to be Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee”
      -Mike Lee

      Abundant resources!?

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        Having lived in Idaho and Utah all but 4 years of my life, I can say the notion of abundant resources is a common myth in some rural places. Many, some of them ranchers, resentfully expected federal government money to be used make these actually sub-marginal resources into economic goods

  7. Real Nice Guy Avatar
    Real Nice Guy

    Once again a state agency chooses to ignore manmade causes to justify insane wildlife control activity as “environmental” policy. This reminds me of the early days of Chesapeake restoration and conservation here in the mid-Atlantic region. Early efforts (especially in the Reagan era) tried to vastly restrict agricultural and residential runoff while ignoring industrial pollution. Even as independent analysis showed that total agricultural runoff was miniscule compared to some single industrial point sources, policy stayed bizarrely skewed for years. Eventually, federal, state, and local agencies aligned behind a more proportionate approach. There is still a long way to go to restore the Chesapeake, but at least it “feels” like there is an achievable path.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I hope they are not going to start offshore oil drilling in the mid-Atlantic? I believe the Gulf has been ruined permanently. I hope I am wrong.

  8. Jim Wiegand Avatar
    Jim Wiegand

    Slaughtering these ravens will do nothing for the grouse and will only divert resources from the real problems. In fact this plan may even be an insane mitigation proposal for wind turbine projects that will definitely be slaughtering off this species.

    Unfortunately we live in an era where everything should be questioned. My wildlife research and experience with the wind industry has proven that our wildlife agencies are disgustingly corrupt at the top levels. Thousands of Wind turbines are planned for the Western states and they will be a much bigger problem then 100 million of these ravens. This is the biggest threat facing the grouse, the eagles and every species that can fly. For an eye-opening look at the wind industry, our corrupt wildlife agencies, and the rigging of science, everyone should read this article in the Ecoreport………….. Exposing the wind industry genocide

  9. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Here is the petition site mentioned in the article where you can add your name opposing the raven kill.

    1. grousebiologist Avatar

      If you would refer to the research to confirm ravens are a problem in specific sage-grouse populations, you wouldn’t be circulating a petition to stop raven control. Ravens are also problematic for Mojave desert tortoises, especially the hatchlings before their shells harden. They are documented to be 500% increases in raven abundance in some areas. Please, do not give conservation efforts a bad name, use good, well-informed science. Otherwise, you just give conservation efforts and those involved in it a bad name.

  10. Louise Kane Avatar
    Louise Kane

    Someone else asked the question but why do these actions occur. JB and I recently had a discussion about wildlife management and corruption the focus being whether or not wildlife management is corrupted. This is one example of why I believe that it is. Corrupted meaning broken and in some instances crooked.
    Does Western Watersheds staff think that this action will be conducted? will the petition or public comment have any effect?

    1. ramses09 Avatar

      Good question Louise. While I sign a lot of petitions, do they have any effect. Not that I will stop signing, but do they do anything to help the wildlife?

      We need to ALL try & get together to chage what is going on in this horrid government of ours.
      My main concern has always been wildlife – humane treatment of animals.

      1. Carmen Northen Avatar
        Carmen Northen

        Petitions are not as effective as letters, I believe. If we flood the IDFG offices with letters they may take notice but one never knows in this state.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar
          Louise Kane

          letters and e mails are work product that should be a part of an administrative record so its always a good idea to do that. if you can call as well the calls, I am told get a lot of attention especially when there are high volumes. I sign the petitions but don’t know what effect they really have.
          Possibly a good research topic for a social/political science department with a cross over in wildlife management?

          1. Gary Humbard Avatar
            Gary Humbard

            I worked for the BLM and I can tell you that e-mails and letters have significantly more influence on government agencies than petitions. As Louise stated letters and e-mails become part of the administrative record. If your are going to do one, I would recommend an e-mail since the receiver can respond electronically.

            Cite specific papers and other documents when you provide your comments. Leave out the emotions, generalities and criticisms and instead provide reasons why your suggestions will provide protection of the sage grouse.

  11. Angus Avatar

    Exactly right, Travis. My (former) home state is eager to spend $100,000 to kill ravens as part of “saving” the sage grouse and the logic (if you call it that) behind the proposal is very simple: “If you liberals want to protect the f’ing sage bird as part of your plan to run the poor salt-of-the-Earth ranchers off of their land [BLM/Forest Service], then we’ll start by shoving our middle finger in your face–since we can’t shoot you all, which is what we really want to do.”

    I’ll bet there won’t be any gun totin’ militias running to stave off the raven slaughter. Too bad Cliven Bundy isn’t an Idaho raven grower.

    1. MJ Avatar

      Well if they continue to flip off the feds maybe there will be consequences. Without some enabling from the USFWS they would not be as powerful as they are.

  12. Kathy Vile Avatar
    Kathy Vile

    Blame everything on anything except the livestock. What harm can a few sheep or cattle do? Nothing in their eyes. Too much in my eyes. Be responsible Mr. or Mrs. Rancher. Stop blaming the ravens and wolves, bears, cougars, whatever is naturally in your area.

  13. Dan Lynch Avatar
    Dan Lynch

    How do they propose poisoning ravens without poisoning other critters in the process?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Dan Lynch,

      The chemical they use is “Starlicide” (or DRC-1339) as poison. It is put in what appears to be a sage grouse egg in a sage grouse nest. The raven eats it and slowly dies of uremic poisoning. Any corvid that eats it — crows, magpies, jays will do likewise. It is also highly lethal to starlings, gulls, and blackbirds. It does kill some non-target birds too, but not when it is delivered this way. Because death might take several months, the poisoned bird is generally not detected, it having moved out of the area. There have been a few incidents in the news. Dead birds horrify and frighten Franklin residents.

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L

        Who eats the dead birds after they die?

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Mark L.

          I could say “the usual scavengers,” meaning I don’t know the specific fate of dead ravens. I was told by a sage grouse researcher who choose to stay off the record that mammals are not very sensitive to this poison.

          1. Mark L Avatar
            Mark L

            Agreed. I was thinking more along the lines of a bird with uremic poisoning going to a water source for relief. And dying there. I wonder what Starlicide’s effect on fish and invertibrates is. Chances are pretty small though.

            1. Louise Kane Avatar
              Louise Kane

              Introducing toxins into an environment generally seems at some point to prove damaging and to have ecosystem wide effects. I can think of many instances where poisons are used and the manufacturer or party applying the poison always argues that the poison is relatively inoffensive. Time and history usually prove those assertions false. Take pesticide applications for controlling mosquitoes for example. Here on Cape Cod we have particularly elevated rates of breast cancer that are probably related to spraying and ground water/well contamination.
              One of the few towns that does not have as elevated a cancer rate as the most of the others is Eastham. Now it can’t be definitely proven yet but Eastham could not afford spraying for many years.
              The makers of Starlicide and its proponents argue that it does;t affect mammals or many species of birds, yet on a quick search this blurb in Wikipedia points out that the rusty black bird which was prolific is not now probably due to slarlicide.

              Using any poison in any environment seems like a lazy and destructive “solution”. Not to mention the cruelty that follows poisoning. I’ve seen gulls targeted and poisoned and will never forget that sickening sight.

  14. Randy Fischer Avatar
    Randy Fischer

    I dont like Idaho (with all it’s apathy) in light of it’s retarded wildlife politics. When are they going to get run out of office? Sitting all distressed, around the campfire does nothing.

  15. Randy Fischer Avatar
    Randy Fischer

    There is a significant representation of facts in the comments here, that should be in as many “letters to the editor”.

    I checked the Idaho Statesman and saw only 2 opinions. I checked the petition site and breezed through the first couple hundred signatures…a pathetic few from Idaho residents compared to the 27,000 signatures from around the country. So I intend to send my opinion to the Idaho Statetsman.

    To all of you who follow Wildlife News and offer your comments…I appreciate all your insight and intellect. I will always be checking back here for your facts and comments on the things I care most about.

    1. MJ Avatar

      There is a significant representation of facts in the comments here, that should be in as many “letters to the editor”.

      Excellent point. Also, even if elections can’t be completely changed this time around, a vocal, well-spoken opposition should be visible. I hope there are a lot more people than we know that would vote for pro-wildlife candidates if the options were there. It has to start somewhere.

  16. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    We really have to stop using poisons in the environment. In today’s world with all the pressure on wildlife, these methods not only are outdated, but causing harm. We talk about progress and the future, but hang on to these lethal and outdated, and unregulated, activities.

    Somebody posted a link to a story about a once beautiful mountain lion who had been exposed to anti-coagulants. This must go on all the time and nobody realizes it or cares. How much poison is sold in the name of lawn care and ‘pest’ control? I’m always amazed when I go to a garden or farm supply store and see just how much grub killer, crabgrass control, etc. is on the shelves and how much people buy, probably without proper pesticide application instruction or certification. Another time I saw a man with an expression on his face like he wanted to declare WWIII on something, buying rat poison. It’s got to me regulated and controlled, and I’m glad CA again is taking the lead on this (someone posted a link).

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      Here’s the link, I believe someone already posted it. But it is very important, I believe.

  17. Logan Avatar

    Bad Livestock practices = unnatural raven population growth.

    It seems that we all agree that bad grazing practices are to blame for two things based on this article:

    1. Too much cover habitat for the sage grouse has been removed, leaving the nests and young grouse exposed to predation and reducing the number of nests that can be produced in a year. “Ravens are attracted to livestock infrastructure like corral and water tanks, and have an easier time hunting ground-dwelling birds like sage-grouse after cows and sheep have removed hiding cover”

    2. The curent concditions that “subsidize” the raven and probably other predatory birds have caused the population of these birds to exceed what the land would naturally support. “If the populations are out of balance with each other, the government should look at the causes tipping the scales. ”

    It sounds like killing the ravens may have a short term benefit to the Sage Grouse by reducing predation on eggs and young. However, without better grazing practices and a reduction in grazing, any short term gains will quickly dissapear as soon as the raven population grows to its current inflated numbers.

    My point is that if the IDFG wants to go forward with this idea, it should just be the first part of a multi-step program to improve grouse habitat by first short-term removal of predators and second long term changes to grazing. But IDFG has no control over the grazing practices, to make changes there would require an interagency agreement with BLM land managers.

    Since the IDFG has no control over the grazing part of the equation they are just doing the part that they can do, is this not better than doing nothing?

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I don’t know – it seems like it really isn’t doing anything. Someone posted that it might make a small uptick in sage grouse numbers, but is it really worth it to keep adding poisons to the environment? If some or most don’t care about wildlife, what about our water supply and food supply? Why not pursue the real reason for the sage grouse decline, which is habitat loss, and not all of it due to ranching activities. I wish the ranchers and environmentalists could get together and work it out. Nearly impossible?

    2. Johanna Duffek-Kowal Avatar
      Johanna Duffek-Kowal

      FACT is that predation is NOT the sage grouse’s number one problem – JUST as wolves are far from being the number one cause of livestock losses. Unfortunately, it’s also fact that Idaho’s Government and IDFG tend to chose slaughtering the scapegoat instead of addressing the REAL problems, trying to find solutions. Like clogging the leaking kitchen fawcet instead of repairing the broken water pipe in the flooded basement…

  18. Mark Bailey Avatar

    The crows did it. I have not heard that one. Thanks, Travis. The pictures really tell the story. Our land is cow burnt and hammered by livestock.

  19. smalltownID Avatar

    Please don’t form your opinions regarding IDFG and Idaho in general based on what you read here. You will be misguided. Let me give you some examples of facts that are contrary to the perception given in this article. First, I agree that the Idaho legislature (not the IDFG) was wrong in not consulting with IDFG scientists to include what could have been considered a “treatment” in a current 10-year collaborative study that began last year. (This is a collaborative study between the IDFG, University of Idaho, USGS Wildlife Cooperative Unit, and other wildlife scientists to investigate grazing effects on sage-grouse).

    The 500% increase in raven numbers is directly related to humans. I agree that we should focus on reducing anthropogenic (human-caused) subsidies for ravens in the long-term. However, I have no problem with killing ravens in the short-term in the context of sage-grouse conservation. It is a fact that raven control is not only effective at reducing numbers in the short term but also at increasing nest success of sage-grouse by at least 30%. See…… file:///C:/Gifford/General%20Science/Colleagues/Coates%20and%20Delehanty_RavenRemoval_2004.pdf

    So please quit saying there is no evidence to justify killing ravens.

    The problem I have with the Idaho legislature (again, IDFG researchers did not make this decision) allocating money to kill ravens is no UI scientists, IDFG scientists, etc. were consulted about how killing ravens could confound the current ongoing study to examine the effects of grazing. In fact, including the “treatment” of killing ravens could have been a nice study design to determine if killing ravens is both worth the cost and increases sage-grouse productivity and even answer the question, What has a greater impact, controlling livestock or ravens?! That would be a cool study if people on both sides of the aisle could stomach it. This similar situation of controlling predators without consulting with scientists has happened with wolves. In most of these cases scientists don’t have a problem with killing wolves/ravens as long as we can track whether it is an effective management technique.

    Also, a minor point, the last picture with “feathers” are not sage-grouse or even avian. Looks like rabbit hair to me, but the truth doesn’t really matter to the author does it? Sage-grouse do run into fences but it rarely causes direct mortality a fact demonstrated by Stevens in “Survival and Detectability Bias of Avian Fence Collision Surveys in Sagebrush Steppe”.

    Loss of habitat is the main factor influencing sage-grouse populations and grazing has played a role in that. Similar to how changes in the predator community (ravens) have played a role in declining populations. It should also be noted that livestock grazing can have positive impacts on sage-grouse habitat though. This is an important fact to consider in the discussion of grazing and grouse. See Beck and Mitchell 2000 “Influences of livestock grazing on sage grouse habitat”

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      I have numerous other photos of the sage grouse feathers pictured here. They are sage grouse feathers despite your false accusation.

      1. Logan Avatar

        The presence of those feathers does not mean that a sage grouse collided with that fence, as the photo caption implies.

        All of the other photos appear to be more direct and supportive of the article and their individual caption.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      “Although predators were the proximate factor influencing nest loss, the ultimate cause may relate to the vegetation available to nesting Greater Sage-Grouse.[12] Tall dense vegetation may provide visual, scent, and physical barriers between predators and nests of ground-nesting birds. Greater amounts of both tall grass and medium-height shrub cover were associated collectively with a lower probability of nest predation.[46]

      In a series of Nevada studies, artificial nest predation experiments were conducted. Artificial nests experienced 100% mortality with the loss of 1,400 eggs in 200 simulated nests in two weeks in one study, 84% of the nests were destroyed in three days in another study, while just 3% of the nests were destroyed in ten days in an area of significantly better cover (t test, P < 0.05)"

    3. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      “This similar situation of controlling predators without consulting with scientists has happened with wolves. In most of these cases scientists don’t have a problem with killing wolves/ravens as long as we can track whether it is an effective management technique.”

      Hayes “Wolves of the Yukon” and Niemeyer have already said it’s not effective, because it never ends. Same with ravens. Kill them by the thousands and create new territory for new ravens.

    4. MJ Avatar

      “I have no problem with killing ravens in the short-term in the context of sage-grouse conservation. But others do.

      It is a fact that raven control is not only effective at reducing numbers in the short term but also at increasing nest success of sage-grouse by at least 30%.. This logic is analogous to killing wolves to boost elk numbers, where the elk were then slaughtered on demand by ranchers. We know this causes a disruption of the trophic cascade, and more harm than good.

      The problem I have with the Idaho legislature (again, IDFG researchers did not make this decision) allocating money to kill ravens is no UI scientists, IDFG scientists, etc. were consulted”

      “In fact, including the “treatment” of killing ravens could have been a nice study design to determine if killing ravens is both worth the cost and increases sage-grouse productivity and even answer the question, What has a greater impact, controlling livestock or ravens?! That would be a cool study if people on both sides of the aisle could stomach it.” This standard is not an acceptable treatment of our shared wildlife and natural resources. Our resources belong to all, not a few.

      “This similar situation of controlling predators without consulting with scientists has happened with wolves. In most of these cases scientists don’t have a problem with killing wolves/ravens as long as we can track whether it is an effective management technique.” Yes they do, but they do not work for the state, and they have been objecting loudly. Again, this logic of killing wolves to boost elk numbers, where the elk were then slaughtered on demand by ranchers is not our best available science.

      The word scientist can refer to anyone from a wildlife recovery biologist to one hired by the state with strong political incentive to support consumptive use of animals, to an animal testing lab vet working for cosmetics companies or vivisection, to the veterinarians at the Copenhagen Zoo. Cool this is not.

      The idea that experimenting with manipulations of nature by killing more and more animals is not the intellectual high road, it is anything but. We are cutting off one limb, then the other, then the other until we have a corpse. We are not all ok with this. We are already paying for this mindset with damage done to the environment.

      If we applied lessons learned from medical ethics to the way that we treat nature things would drastically change, and for the better. Culturally we don’t take animals or nature very seriously because in the past we have had “abundant resources”. We are financially driven, not ethically driven and not even scientifically driven. Science is influenced by money for research and salaries.

      Nature knows more than we do about restoring balance, and if we don’t take her seriously we could eventually be at war over her resources. This is very real, and a focus of the United Nations Environmental Programme for many years. But we don’t take them seriously either.

      Our understanding of nature is infantile, not superior, and our abuse of nature is anything but cool.

      1. rork Avatar

        “This standard is not an acceptable treatment of our shared wildlife and natural resources.”
        Feed me no wolf analogies – elk and deer are not endangered. I’m not in a good position to say if the situation is dire enough to warrant raven killing, but it’s not off my table. I want increased deer killing experiments to see what happens to ruffed grouse, and ground nesting birds in general. Yes, the deer need killing every year. I’m ready to exterminate brook trout in some streams to do experiments about grayling survival if it’s still in doubt. I kill all kinds of invasive plants, and we kill natives too if we think them bad – there’s no clear line I can draw for when it’s forbidden to hammer an abundant species hoping to increase another one that’s in danger of disappearing. Being too ideological can be infantile.
        I’m fine with saying that cattle and other practices need changing, and even that raven killing may be a method of distracting folks, but I’m not sure it is actually ecologically bad from what I’ve read here. Maybe folks don’t like the kill them part is my guess, which is why I mentioned a few other examples. If you know the size of the effect of a change in raven numbers, you’d know more about what bang you get for the buck for any method of reducing them, be it poison, gun, or habitat alterations. (PS: I’m aware that hammering predators famously often has unintended and complicated bad consequences.)

        1. MJ Avatar

          Smalltown ID was making wolf-raven analogies in his statements, and it seemed that his logic flowed from assuming analogous wildlife policy would work for both, kill the predator to boost the prey.

          As far as ideology being infantile, I think that is counter-intuitive, babies don’t philosophize that I have witnessed, maybe I need to observe them more often.

          Minimizing of those who have ethical objections to a practice which is proving itself to be harmful really rubs me the wrong way. Ethics do matter in the overall outcome, though our business-oriented system rewards poo-pooing it. Our policy is weighted in favor of the best financial outcome, not the best science. We continue to abuse nature and then kill more as a bandaid. We are in a momentum of “tradition” which often isn’t tradition but habit, and harmful.

          If due to our actions, an overpopulation of a species is so severe can we relax and say it is ok to then use lethal solutions and feel we are being grown ups about it? If we truly had “maturity” we might have been proactive and not damaged our surroundings and wildlife to begin with, for often silly consumptive use.

          Our current policy is anything but scientific and adult, it is political with very childish over-consumption and lack of planning.

          1. rork Avatar

            “proving to be harmful” needs evidence here, and should be weighed against the benefits. Infants don’t perform risk/benefit analyses.
            I do think I agree with your main points here and in other comments: if we planned better (maybe meaning “our way”) we could avoid these particular decisions entirely.

          2. MJ Avatar

            Rork, I suspect that I agree with a number of your thoughts but have to disagree with what I think you are saying, where the “traditional” thought is that having a social conscience is perceived as a sign of weakness, which I think is part of a business model. (For those who haven’t seen Wolf of Wall Street, where we blame the poor wolves for unscrupulous business ethics)

            I have to disagree with the term infantile to describe the application of problem solving to apply a better ethical standard to our policies as they stand, vs letting over-consumption and poor planning run unchecked. I refer to Maslow’s hierachy on that one.

            Science, especially recent studies support the holistic concept of protecting our ecosystem. I think an important aspect of decision making is that we are confusing risk-benefit analysis (scientific) with cost-benefit analysis (business). The short-term goals are being met for financial gain to corporate interest at the expense of the environment. We are in danger of losing valuable predators globally, with overpopulation of other species and deranged ecosystems throughout.

    1. MJ Avatar

      Eeeeeeyuk,.. I think it is upsetting that in this day and age with our knowledge of the trophic cascade that something like this got funding. It appears to be a way to justify the same logic of killing off all the wildlife to see what happens. More fuel for the wolf hunt.

      I like the comment by Chris above, what will people kill when they run our of wildlife, the famous Idaho “potatoes”?

      I did not have previous negative impressions of Idaho before but the politics are way out there. Again, a reflection of how science is still subject to funding and politics, and true science has always been a battle of the true thinkers who thought ahead of their time.

  20. Zoe Berger Avatar
    Zoe Berger

    All of this official money going to all of this official killing just makes me sick. I almost don’t care about the science…although I realize how important it is. There is just too much of it – and far too much in Idaho.

    1. MJ Avatar

      Zoe that isn’t science, it’s politics funding one research study. Real science is the result of observation on a grand scale over time.

      1. Zoe Berger Avatar
        Zoe Berger

        MJ Thanks for your response. My wording wasn’t very well thought out – I’m so disgusted by all the killing it was more of an emotional response I wrote. I meant there was too much money going to too much killing – not that there was too much science. And yes, it’s politics, for sure. Otter is like a crazed killing machine. I know he’s not the only one…

        1. MJ Avatar

          Thanks Zoe, I thought your response was heartfelt and thought out, unfortunately the image of science is ambivalent. Depending on the specialty, ethics can be preferred and not required unfortunately.

          In the business model of policy, I think this is something we need to begin to address. Why AREN’T we demanding a higher level of ethics in decision that affect all of our futures?

  21. WM Avatar

    I am a bit late to the party on this thread. From what I understand in other media reports it is the ID Legislature “ordering” IDFG staff to do this culling which many find distasteful. This distinction is not evident in all the comments above, except maybe one.

    So, where do the IDFG staff biologists come out on this issue, and are they even free to openly state their professional opinion, given the way the matter was presented to them? A thread or two back, several on this forum were extolling the virtues of having legislatures (in other states as well as ID) reflect the “will of the people” or whoever controls the elected state representatives, advancing legislatively popular views and poorly thought out referendums/initiatives. I think it is ill advised, and this may or may not be one striking example.

    Are there other arguably rational reasons for reducing the raven population, or other avians which may consume this poison, wherever they might be? Truly, what is the legislative push here? And, did US Fish & Wildlife really give their “blessing” to the plan, or is it deferring to a state in this tenuous dance of “cooperative federalism” which is an integral part of the Endangered Species Act?

    1. rork Avatar

      Are there any subjects where the voters are actually good at making decisions? Putting the power somewhere else is not without its own dangers. We realize that we create committees to decide things instead when being nimble is important, but how that works or not is also up to the people.
      Spell out your proposal, and tell me if the people should be able to decide if dove hunting should be allowed or not. We’ve got hunters near me that want voters taken out of game management (dreaming a rich and long delight), but it is not consistent with out principles of government.

      1. MJ Avatar

        I am medical not a politician, but raised by a political scientist.. the best possible science is absolutely NOT being reflected when political incentive is guiding the “results” and the types of studies funded, and paying the salaries of same scientists. This issue is highly susceptible to political influence.

        Our political system is based on concepts of checks and balances, not oligarchy and plutocracy, which is where we are heading on wildlife issues and the control of our natural resources. The secondary gain possible of that kind of abuse of power is endless and a conflict of interest. That’s why we have the Constitution.

        The voter needs to be educated, not disempowered. That’s how it works.

        1. rork Avatar

          I was commenting cause I thought voters should remain empowered. I thought WM was imagining committees, or lawyers, who would somehow act like perfect machines of loving grace.

          1. WM Avatar

            Sorry rork, no answers just raising questions – I don’t think legislators or voters are much enlightened on complex subjects. Such is one of the frailties of democratic societies, but certainly better than some alternatives. My best guess is that legislatures ought to set policy, BUT they should receive good counsel from their experts in various disciplines (and even listen to them) before weighing all the evidence and making general policy decisions and then letting their agencies fill in the details, though that too is often flawed.

            1. Louise Kane Avatar
              Louise Kane

              perhaps legislators would engender more confidence in their constituents if lobbying money were not so corrupting. The SC is making it easier every year to buy policy. In Rork’s state there is a long history of using a voter referendum to protect wildlife. Capserson very effectively derailed that process by writing and passing a backdoor law that circumvented the process. Most legislators spend disproportionate amounts of their time working to get reelected and seem to be fearful to legislate according to what we the people want or express in calls, letters or e mails. Legislators pay a lot of attention to who has the most money. I think this simplistic, corrupted form of legislating overlooks that sometimes the majority voice, broke ass, or not might kick you in the ass. People in Michigan seem to be fairly educated in contrast to other states. I’m hoping that some of those legislators that voted against their constituents wishes will be ousted. Rork I’m sure has a better grip on the reality of Michigan politics.

    2. MJ Avatar

      Analogy – If the expert opinions being sought were in a medical setting, and we were relying on say a specialist’s opinion for treatment of an unusual condition, then we ask for an educated opinion and receive informed consent. Even in that case we have the checks and balances of weighing all the options and refusing to part of any of it if it is in opposition to our values. So the common voter still gets a vote, but an educated vote.

      What we are doing to the world we need to be able to continue live in does not seem to have that level of ethical choice or method to resolve conflict of interest. Clearly politics have corrupted the science in wildlife management, and vying for control of natural resources is an incentive.

      It is imperative that we have an educated and empowered voter. Nothing is perfect but that’s still the best system we’ve got. The onus is on those with an education on the issues to try to educate, and that is happening.

      Sorry is that is a corny analogy it was the best I had.

  22. jdubya Avatar

    Once you all end up killing all of your ravens, Utah crows will fly north to evade persecution in the beehive state.

    The relentless campaign to kill everything that ain’t a elk, deer, cow, etc. continues.

  23. smalltownID Avatar

    Ken, look at your picture, clearly that is a mass of hair (mammalian)right next to the camera. You are telling me that is a spherical mass of feather? As is often the case, in a wildlife enclave when pictures are used to test identification of animal groups or species this would be the easiest question during a wildlife enclave because 99% of undergraduate students would correctly identify that as mammalian. Again, just a minor point about facts, but if you can’t correctly identify that as mammalian you certainly aren’t an expert on wildlife issues.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Word of the day: enclave.

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      That’s disheartening that 99% of undergraduate students would identify these feathers as mammalian. They are sage grouse feathers. See the new photos and compare the times and locations in the EXIF data if you are that desperate to discredit us.

    3. Ken Cole Avatar

      Smalltown must have eaten one of the poison eggs.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        I don’t know Ken, I thought it was Jackalope fur 🙂

        1. Nancy Avatar

          Oh and what’s up with that fence line (in the one pic with the feathers) Travis, Ken? Certainly not your mandatory fence line (5 strands of barbwire) designed to keep livestock out or in, that I see in my neck of the woods.

  24. John Avatar

    I agree with Ken, they are feathers. If you zoom in further you can tell they are feathers. Further, examine the bottom center and to left to see additional feathers laying in the sage.

  25. smalltownID Avatar

    WM, in truth, Idaho is one of the last states to jump on the raven-killing band wagon. It has been rampant in the Great Basin for at least 5 years and among neighbor states. You ask a great question about where scientists stand on this issue of legislative action to kill ravens/wolves. There are currently no research scientists that are administrators in the IDFG that I know of (maybe in the fisheries arm, Dan Schill?). IDFG administrators (the bosses of research biologists) ultimately answer to the IDFG commissioner who answers to the governor/legistature. I’m simplifying the hierarchy but I would like to see researchers in administrative positions because scientists are currently at least one step removed from ANY bargaining power on these legislative actions. Unless you consider bargaining power telling your boss what to tell his boss to do. 🙂 The answer to your question is any good scientist (IDFG has many) is annoyed by actions that confound an experiment, but not having administrative responsibilities they (research biologists) are too far removed to bargain. I wonder what Idaho University professors could do though. It is certainly a dilemma for IDFG research biologists because what good scientist wants administrative responsibilities even if it increases your pay scale? A fundamental component to conducting good research is forming an umbrella to keep the crap (administration) off scientists. These are my opinions based on close interaction with IDFG research for almost 10 years. Perhaps there is a hierarchy in a western state that allows scientists a role in administrative duties???? I doubt it, because most western state wildlife agencies lack a strong research arm. In that way, Idaho is “progressive” to even have state-sponsored research!!!! Of course you would never be given that impression here, that is reality and not opinion.

  26. smalltownID Avatar

    John, tell me, what types of feathers do you see? Flight feathers, contour feathers? Certainly no primaries, secondaries, or rectrices that birds use for flight in that picture. The only types of feathers those tiny hair masses could be mistaken for are plumulaceous feathers which sage-grouse have very little of. Just coincidence there is a giant hair ball next to the camera/ 🙂 John, Ken, don’t ever participate in a wildlife enclave with expectations to win. 🙂

  27. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    Sage grouse fall under the purview of the Office of Species Conservation which is housed in the executive branch i.e.the governor’s office. The governor’s office is calling the shots and giving IDFG their matching orders.

    There was a $50k appropriation in Senate Bill 1297 RS22778 that was routed from the general fund to the OSC for the monitoring of leks.

    House Bill 587 RS23012 appropriated $13,522,800 to fund the OSC for the upcoming year. $200k of that was a line item for sage grouse management, specifically to fund the Governor’s Greater Sage Grouse Conservation Alternative aka Alternative E.

    The link above has more info on the alternative.

  28. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    I forgot to mention that Alternative E does address predation, that is covered in the 2006 management plan.

    This brings up an interesting, to me, question. If alternative E specifically doesn’t address predation and the line item for the appropriation specially calls for support of Alternative E, just where did the $100k for 5 he raven killing come from? There were no appropriations for this task and other sage grouse appropriations were very specific.

    1. Eric T. Avatar
      Eric T.

      Does not address predation.

  29. snaildarter Avatar

    A raven’s brain in relation to its body weight is about the same as a chimpanzee. You might as well be killing great apes, whales and dolphins. Not that it would matter to Idaho.

  30. Ken Cole Avatar

    Todd Tucci, an attorney from Advocates for the West sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack saying in part:

    “Wildlife Services’ proposal…fails the most basic principles of scientific investigation; ignores the central threats to Greater sage-grouse…fails to fully examine the…impacts of using [poison] across the southern Idaho landscape; and will fail to achieve any replicable and tenable scientific conclusions on the impact of raven control on sage-grouse nest success.”

  31. Tim Chervick Avatar

    I am a wildlife biologist in Utah. I invented a product that will haze the ravens without trapping, shooting, or poisoning the birds. It is a fence tag and power line diverter – Firefly Bird Diverter product. The Elko Nevada BLM is currently using the fence tags on livestock fence top wire and also on a 10 penny nail to haze raptors and ravens from perching on the fence posts. Email me for pictures and more info.

  32. Rick Boufford Avatar

    To see what a raven does with a hard boiled egg.


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.

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Ralph Maughan