Montana’s Wolf “conservation” Stamp A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing 

Recently the Montana Dept of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MDFWP) commission approved a new “Wolf Conservation Stamp”. The purpose of the stamp is ostensibly to get non hunters to pay for wildlife “management”, especially the “management” of wolves.  The stamp would be voluntary.  Despite the fact that I support the idea of non-hunters/anglers paying to support wildlife agencies, I do so only with the condition that the agency changes their entire philosophical approach to wildlife.

In theory the wolf stamp is a good idea. It could demonstrate that keeping wolves alive is more valuable than killing them. And there are ways I could envision how such a wolf stamp might lead to greater appreciation for wolves as a valued part of Montana’s heritage. However, as now presented, I am very skeptical that positive outcomes will result.

The details of this wolf stamp proposal demonstrates to me that MDFWP still has the same unscientific and unethical attitude towards predators as it has always demonstrated. Without a change in its overall philosophy, all this stamp will do is help the Department perpetuate the same old myths and misinformation about predators that it currently dishes out—only wolf supporters will be helping to fund it. According to MDFWP, funding from the stamp would cover the following three areas.

  1.  One third would be made available to Montana livestock owners to help pay for nonlethal ways to protect their animals from predators like wolves, bears and mountain lions.  By keeping both livestock and large carnivores alive, this would be a good deal for ranchers and wolves alike.
  2. Another third would be used to pay for studying wolves, educating the public about wolves, and improving or purchasing suitable wolf habitat.  This would benefit everyone, by increasing our knowledge about wolves, ensuring the public has access to accurate information about wolves, and securing habitat in which wolves and other wildlife can thrive.
  3. The final third would be used to hire additional MDFWP wardens—essentially, wildlife police—in occupied wolf habitat.  This would enhance enforcement of our wildlife management laws as they pertain to wolves and other species, and reduce incidents of poaching, trespassing, wasting animals, unlawful use of or failure to check traps, and other violations.  This is something every Montanan and every American—hunters, non-hunters, property owners, public land users, agency officials, recreationists, and wildlife enthusiasts alike—should encourage and support.


One has to ask what is MDFWP thinking. Let’s see, we will help ranchers with non-lethal means of protecting livestock so we can allow hunters and trappers to blow away more wolves? That is essentially what they are suggesting. As long as MDFWP has a vindictive and unethical attitude towards predators, there is no reason to “save” any of them—just so someone else can shoot them. Asking predator supporters to pay ranchers to adopt non-lethal means of protecting livestock is analogous to asking those who cherish clean air to pay for air pollution devices on coal fired power plants.

Ranchers have EXTERNALIZED the cost of their operations through predator control.

Ranchers should pay to protect their own herds—it is part of the cost of doing business—a cost that they have successfully avoided for a century because they were able to get the government to kill off most predators from the landscape. Just as the coal power plants must install pollution control devices or get out of business, ranchers must practice better animal husbandry. It is not the responsibility of wildlife supporters to subsidize their business. Ultimately the additional costs should be borne by those who want to eat beef, just as the users of electricity from coal-fired power plants should pay more per Kilowatt Hour to reduce air pollution from power generation.

The last part of this is that wolves are simply not a big deal for ranchers. Last year in Montana fewer than 60 cattle out of 2.5 million in the state  were killed by wolves. If MDFWP were truly interested in educating the public it would be countering the myth that wolves are “destroying” the livestock industry.

Basically livestock depredation is a non-issue and even giving it credibility by pretending that wolves are somehow a significant cost for ranchers is nothing less than deceptive. I think the real reason MDFWP wants non-hunters to pay for non-lethal livestock protection is to reduce ranchers’ hostility towards the department so that more ranches are left open to hunting, not because MDFWP has any goal of helping wolves.

Worse, the livestock industry has many negative impacts on predators besides simply lethal killing. Every blade of grass consumed by cows is that much less for elk, deer, and other wildlife.  Not to mention that the mere presence of cattle, often socially displaces other wildlife like elk. In effect, there are numerous “costs” to livestock that the ranching industry externalizes.


The second part of the proposal to use stamp funds to study wolves, educate the public about wolves, and purchase suitable wolf habitat I seriously object to the way MDFWP has “educated’ the public about wolves already.

The problem is that MDFWP doesn’t even use the existing scientific information it has available to ecologically and ethically treat predators. So why should I or anyone else believe more studies would result in “better” outcomes.

Although Tom Dickson’s recent piece in Montana Outdoors that provided some more factual information about what wolves were doing and weren’t doing to Montana’s hunting opportunities (wolves are not destroying elk herds), it is a small effort.

Indeed, I fear giving MDFWP more funds to “educate” the public about wolves. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they are unwilling to counter mythology and misinformation. And they will promote the idea that we “need” to “manage” predators. Predators do not “need” management. They need to be left alone. They are perfectly capable of self regulating, primarily because of social intolerance among packs helps to reduce and limit wolf numbers.

Paying MDFWP to “educate” the public about wolves is like handing over more money to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to educate the public about wolves. For those of you who are unfamiliar with RMEF, they promote the idea that wolves are “destroying” elk herds, and “need to be managed like other wildlife.”

If MDFWP were using science, it would be “educating” the public that wolves pose little threat to big game herds as proven by their statistics. For instance, elk numbers have risen in Montana from 89,000 just prior to wolf restoration to 150,000 animals now. Most elk management units are “over objectives”.

They would manage for social stability rather than having kill quotas based on nothing more than the idea that fewer wolves will mean more elk and deer—as if that should be the goal of wildlife management. MDFWP like all agencies has a mission to promote all wildlife not just the ones that hunters like to kill. But the philosophical bias of the agency, like all state wildlife agencies, is grossly skewed towards promoting animals that hunters like to shoot.

Furthermore, MDFWP when it does discuss wolves sees them only as a “problem” instead of educating the public on the many benefits associated with wolves and other predators like a reduction in disease spread in ungulates, reduction in some herbivory pressure in some places due to a reduction in elk numbers and/or changes in habitat use, and changes in predator effects on other species like a reduction in coyotes that in some cases has lead to an increase survival of pronghorn. And these are only a few of the benefits that the department could be extolling.

As far as buying wolf habitat, there is nothing special about wolf habitat. It’s basically anyplace where there is sufficient prey for wolves to eat. You don’t buy “wolf habitat”, you buy wildlife habitat. I have no problem with buying wildlife habitat, and if this stamp only did that, I would support it. But I fear this will be a minor effect of the stamp.


Finally, the third part of the stamp receipts would go to fund more wardens to enforce wildlife management laws. The problem isn’t with poaching or any other illegal activities. The problem is what is legal. MDFWP legal actions towards predators are archaic, vindictive and unethical. The agency says its new wolf stamp will prevent, among other things suggested, the “wasting” of wildlife? Huh? What is more wasteful than shooting predators just for fun, or worse, out of vengeance?

If the Department were truly interested in avoiding “waste”, it would call for the ethical treatment of wildlife and outlaw the killing of all predators except for very special situations like when an animal that is habituated to humans.

As for poaching, much of the poaching of predators is done because hunters and others believe that wolves are “destroying” hunting opportunities—a perception that MDFWP does little to counter. If MDFWP were doing its job, and using scientific findings to educate hunters, it would at least be saying to hunters that wolves haven’t caused the sky to fall.


We don’t need more management of wolves and other predators. What we need is to leave them alone. There is simply no reason to “manage” predators. The science is clear on this—they have many ecological benefits to ecosystems. The idea that we should manage predators is a throwback to the early days of wildlife management—it’s time for MDFWP and other wildlife agencies to enter the 21st Century and start treating predators as a valued member of the ecological community instead of a “problem” that needs to be solved—usually by killing them.

If a wolf stamp is developed with good sidebars that guarantees a better outcome for wolves than I would be happy to support it. Here’s a couple of ideas that could be the beginning for discussion. MDFWP would eliminate all hunting and trapping of wolves if a certain threshold of annual funding support were generated.  Alternatively, MDFWP would reduce the wolf quota by so many animals for every $100 generated by the wolf stamp. Or to reduce livestock conflicts, Wolf Stamp Funds would go for permanent buyout of grazing permits on public lands in areas inhabited by wolves. These and other concrete changes would definitely benefit wolves, and I could endorse the Wolf Stamp concept. However, at this point in time, as outlined, the terms are too vague and there is too much room for mischief to be done at the expense of wolf supporters.






  1. paul edwards Avatar
    paul edwards

    Another solid, sound, wise piece from Wuerthner who knows chapter and verse on predator behavior and the consequences of “management” of species by humans who can’t manage themselves.

    The Montana FWP is a collection of cynical whores put in office by and for the Department of Livestock, which hasn’t the least interest in ecology or wildlife, and whose sole purpose is to be the muscle for a small cadre of wealthy throwback Welfare Ranchers who contribute next to nothing to ordinary Montanans well-being while maiming, degrading and fouling our land and water.

    Montana needs to get rid of them and their four-legged methane and feces machines.

  2. Karen DeBraal Avatar
    Karen DeBraal

    I would be agreeing with this. Can’t trust ’em. Every reason not to. Thanks for laying it out, George.

  3. CJ Avatar

    I grew up in Montana and earned a B.S. degree in Economics from MSU Bozeman. One of the first things I learned–Econ 101–was the idea of the ‘true cost’ of an item. The example in class was a coal fired powered plant where only the costs of plant operation is passed on to the consumer. The cost of polluted air and health problems created by the plant are absorbed by everyone. Such is the case of beef production. Beef is no longer a luxury item to be enjoyed on special occasions; instead, a MacDonald’s burger is a staple food for those at poverty level. Why? Because taxpaxers are subsidizing the destruction of our prairies, the loss of native species, the killing of predators, and the supply of BLM (public) land for cattle grazing at ridiculously reduced rate. Thank you for your great post, George. Keep ’em coming.

  4. Nancy Avatar

    My thanks also George.

    This comment sums it up:

    “it’s time for MDFWP and other wildlife agencies to enter the 21st Century and start treating predators as a valued member of the ecological community instead of a “problem” that needs to be solved—usually by killing them”

    Of course the bigger problem will be getting the “knuckle draggers” to also enter the 21st century 🙂

    1. ernie meyer Avatar
      ernie meyer

      Washington State and Oregon are slowly getting their knuckles off from the ground. Their example should be copied and applauded.

  5. Helen McGinnis Avatar
    Helen McGinnis

    Is there any way that nonhunters can contribute to wolf conservation financially, beyond supporting wolf advocacy groups?

    1. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L


      1. Maska Avatar

        There’s something to be said for voting, as long as there are candidates in the race for governor who hold more 21st century views of predators(or who care about the votes of those who do). In New Mexico Governor Richardson appointed to the Game Commission members who supported Mexican wolf reintroduction—or at least they upheld the governor’s position on wolves in the state. The upshot was that once Richardson began opposing excessive wolf removals and refusing to sign off on removals in New Mexico, the stagnant population began to increase again.

        Alas, the current governor, Susana Martinez, appointed the usual suspects to the commission and put the arm on them to take NMDGF out of the status of cooperator.

        Now AZGFD is pushing to wrest control of the program from the USFWs and effectively call the shots with the help of the USDA Wildlife Services. This will take us right back to the days of removing a wolf if it’s tagged with three depredations in 365 days and will likely result in a de facto cap of 125 wolves in the Blue Range population. (There’s much more to the story. You can follow the ins and outs at

    2. Madravenspeak Avatar

      Support reform of the state agencies through the legislature to replace killing licenses as the main funding structure with general public funding. We all have a right to be involved and a duty to pay. We already bring 10-40 times the revenue of hunters directly to state agencies through wildlife watching. Add in their killing license fees and wildlife watchers still pay 3-4 times their self-funded killing business. It is just not directed by an organized majority to any power for the 90-95% of us who do not kill.

      ORGANIZE. The legislature has the power to replace killing licenses with general public funding even if we all have to chip in another $20 . 90% of us are excluded by structure.

      Also Pittman-Robertson tax on guns and ammo is primarily ( about 60% ) from home protection and gun collectors, not the minority of hunters – but dished out to the states by who kills the most – and dedicated to fund more recruitment of killing and purchase and dedication of public lands to killing.

      1. Elk375 Avatar

        Madravenspeaks with a forked tongue: The 2011 budget for the MFW&P’s was 72.5 million rounded, 57 million is from hunting and fishing licenses and 15.5 million is from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingall-Johnson act. The state budget for 2103 is 3.7 billion.

        ++We all have a right to be involved and a duty to pay. We already bring 10-40 times the revenue of hunters DIRECTLY to state agencies through wildlife watching.++ If that above statement is true then wildlife watching pays 725 million to 2.9 billion directly to the State of Montana. We all know that is false.

        There is no way that the residents of Montana are going to tax there selves an additional $52 million. The state is currently trying to raise the cost of hunting and fishing licenses and it is becoming a tuff sell. If every resident of the state pays $20 it would generate an additional $20 million. This is not going to happen either.

        State fish and game departments are going to be funded by the sale of hunting and fishing license. Something things never change, the ranchers and hunters will control the fish and game.

      2. Marc Avatar

        As you point out, Pittman-Robertson taxes are paid by all gun owners. But I don’t see any demand for school shooters and bank robbers (or at least the subset who get their guns legally) to get their “fair share” of representation on the Game Commissions.

        I don’t accept the idea of “no representation without taxation.” Hunter license fees and Pittman-Robertson taxes are an attempt to compensate the public for damage to wildlife habitat. We don’t use cigarette taxes to promote smoking. We don’t use pollution fines to encourage oil spills.

  6. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    Great post George, and going over the three important areas of the proposed wolf stamp. It is a great idea, so I am torn between hope and scepticism, and now skepticism has won out. I wish people could surprise me once in awhile.

  7. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    Great article George, when will these government agencies enter the 21st century, IMHO I do not see it happening soon your article proves that, very sad.

  8. rork Avatar

    I found the argument about more wardens being a bad thing to be based on just changing the subject.
    The crowd here is so easily pleased they may not notice, so I point it out.

    1. Madravenspeak Avatar

      If this state is anything like Wisconsin, wardens are chosen from the killing elite so that they “give the boys a break”.

      In Wisconsin, we have one warden per 300 square miles and even 15 dead coyotes hung in a tree is not considered a health violation.

      Anything goes no matter how many wardens when it is all one homogenous killing biz.

      1. ma'iingan Avatar

        “If this state is anything like Wisconsin, wardens are chosen from the killing elite so that they “give the boys a break”.”

        That is unmitigated and unfounded bullshit.

      2. rork Avatar

        In Michigan, I am used to the opposite complaint. The DNR officers ticket us for any minor violation they find, even if no evil was intended and just the letter of the law was violated. (Example from my group: must get the bow back in the case promptly when you get back to the car at dark.) Folks complain lots. (Not me.)

  9. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    “As for poaching, much of the poaching of predators is done because hunters and others believe that wolves are “destroying” hunting opportunities—a perceptive that MDFWP does little to counter. If MDFWP were doing its job, and using scientific findings to educate hunters, it would at least be saying to hunters that wolves haven’t caused the sky to fall.”

    Same problem here in MN, even with a wolf hunting season. MDHA hunters wants more deer for, well, hunting. We continually hear the droning that wolves are killing all the deer. But then, emergency feeding measures were taken this winter to prevent starvation among deer. Zone in which I live is a moose zone, so no emergency measures were taken, yet deer feeding is rampant. Deer that would starve are barley strong enough to hang on till green-up, then wolves find them and people get angry. Nature is not a petting zoo. Sorry for the rant.

  10. rork Avatar

    I’m not an expert at MDFWP, but argument about point 1 approaches doing no good unless it can be done perfectly.
    Getting cow eaters to foot the bill is impractical. Getting ranchers to foot the bill means they use whatever means they wish.
    In Michigan, we help wolf-hassled ranchers with DNR monies. If you are OK with hunters getting most of the say then by all means contribute nothing. (I hunt and am not OK with it.) I immediately admit that the citizens can help by funding wildlife departments with more general funds and no license monies, but where has that ever happened?

    1. Ed L Avatar
      Ed L

      In California, my understanding is that the Fish and Wildlife budget is split about 50/50 between hunting/fishing licenses and the general State tax funds. Hunters and fishermen have much too much say in most states that’s for sure.

    2. Madravenspeak Avatar

      Absolutely – by organizing. Everybody is part of the citizenry and has the obligation to pay and have a say equally. But killing licenses exclude the majority. General public funding is the answer – if tied to fair representation on deciding boards. The legislators will make the changes only when the general public cares.

      And as for the money, U.S. Fish and Wildlife surveys show that the majority wildlife watchers ( have you seen the price of sunflower seed?) bring 10-40 times the revenue of hunters directly to state tax coffers – the public just has not demanded it be put to power in state agencies tied to fair representation.


  11. Brett Haverstick Avatar

    George–It would be great to have you talk about the social dynamics of predators and the ridiculous notion of “managing” them at Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014.

  12. Taz Alago Avatar
    Taz Alago

    I’m cynical like George about the intents and purposes of any predator “conservation” plan put forward by any state wildlife agency, but this is the first time (that I know of) an agency has proposed a pro-predator stamp enabling non-hunters to show support for animals like wolves. Doesn’t this offer the opportunity to exert leverage over MFWP, and might not it also allow a louder voice for conservationists if they perceive MFWP failing to live up to the (albeit cynical)tenets of the wolf stamp?

  13. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    I basically agree with all of George’s points. However, we are not going to get there in one fell swoop. I think we might be a little more empiricist on this issue and give this idea a try to see how it actually develops. It might prove to be a step forward.

  14. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    I disagree with Georges arguments for the following reasons:

    1. Providing funds to ranchers to offset costs for non-lethal measures is a win-win situation. There are numerous conservation organizations (Defenders, WWF) that provide funds to reduce wildlife/human conflicts that ultimately reduces wildlife deaths.

  15. Elk375 Avatar

    My question on a wolf stamp is how much money is it going to raise? $10,000….$20,000….$30,000. I doubt that it will raise more than $25,000 at the most. Yesterday was the final day for applying for the antelope and cow elk tags drawings. My nephew and I spent $147 for application fees.

    So what do the purchasers of the wolf stamp want? A seat on the fish and wildlife commission for a pittance.

    1. CJ Avatar

      “Hey, I did my part. I bought a stamp!” Now I can sleep at night, and MDFWP has quelled a potential rabble-rouser.

    2. Ed L Avatar
      Ed L

      Elk375: You are making the exact point that all Montanans should contribute to the wildlife authority — Funding must come from the general fund as well as hunter/fishing fees on at least a 50/50 basis. This will cost non-hunters some funds, but the price will be worth it in the results coming out of the Commission.

    3. Madravenspeak Avatar

      More propaganda. Even in Wisconsin, a heavy hunting state with 10% hunters, their real money contribution directly to state tax coffers is $10 million and their killing license fees which do not even pay for their killing business – the wardens, license stations, stocking, killing rationalizers, and registration and phone stations…is $40 million. Wildlife watchers in Wisconsin bring in $111 million and rising. It just is not pushed to organized power in the department of nature killing and destruction but goes into the general public funds for ZERO power.

      And in Wisconsin the kill any creature you want fee is $165 for a patron license. The trappers however can kill hundreds if not thousands of animals mangled and bludgeoned in traps for $5 first time – then license the 2 year old for another $5 license fee the next year and rape out the entire state.

      It’s all in the structure of how the money is directed and utilized for power. Fund the agency on killing licenses and kill out natural predators like wolves – trap out mid-range predators to farm for more deer and moose, elk and ducks and ground-nesting birds for easy kill and killing satisfaction.

    4. Louise Kane Avatar

      How much does a wolf tag cost? how much money is raised by wolf tags. Its such a gross thing to think about.

      1. Elk375 Avatar

        Nineteen dollars. There have been selling about 20,000 a year. The total revenue should be about $380,000. A Montana wolf stamp will bring a fraction of that amount. These are figures that I have read about in the past so things could be slightly different. Nothing gross to think about.

        1. Louise Kane Avatar

          I thought I remembered seeing a very low cost associated with the NRM wolf tags? It’s gross to me to think about “tags” or licenses to kill wolves that belong to family units with no consideration of them as individuals or as members of their families. To kill any animals for fun is obscene to me but for wolves that are so connected to their families it really bothers me. I’ve seen many stories of families that loose their breadwinners, or sisters, or sons or daughters, these incidents are without exception reported in the media as the tragedies they are, yet randomly hunting and killing members of animal families for fun elicits no remorse from sports hunters and little attention in the media. I’m hoping that will change.

          1. Yvette Avatar

            +++++ Louise Kane. Well stated.

            There is something off about recreational killing. Those that truly enjoy the kill have a psychological imbalance, IMO.

          2. Ida Lupines Avatar
            Ida Lupines

            Nobody outside of a few enlightened scientists and activists think animals have feelings, emotions or ties to family and community. This is a prejudice that goes back centuries, whether due to self-serving, religious beliefs that may just be a perception and creation of the human mind only and not reality, or just being legends in our own mind, or because animals have been useful to us as food sources or threats, and so our minds devalue them. Even we aren’t as great as we think we are, if the crime news is any indication. Destroying animals because of our own perception of what may not be real is a scary concept.

            1. Mark L Avatar
              Mark L

              “Nobody outside of a few enlightened scientists and activists think animals have feelings, emotions or ties to family and community.”
              Nah, I disagree. I think most people deep down know they have feelings (and no doubt family ties) because they know their dogs do, as physiologically they are virtually the same. That you both point out this reality says a lot about how enlightened you are, but most won’t acknowledge this as it causes some uncomfortable questions, especially regarding hunting.
              So be it.
              Some on here don’t want to address the moral implications, only the legal issues because that’s what they are good at. Are you suprised that politicians do this too?

              1. Ida Lupines Avatar
                Ida Lupines

                Not at all, I don’t think I have ever been so disappointed with our leadership.

                I hope you are right about people loving their dogs’ wonderful qualities, and seeing that their wild ancestor had them too. 🙂

              2. Mark L Avatar
                Mark L

                Well, look at how we saw ‘some humans’ 200 years ago, whether they were African or North American. Remember there were a lot of arguments about some groups not feeling pain/keepnig community the same way others did. Have we really changed in that view? Most yes, some…maybe no.
                If so, how different is this from seeing the wolf/dingo looking out for it’s family, while the family dog (or a working dog) is held in high status for it’s actions? Same actions sometimes, just a different canid doing it.

          3. rork Avatar

            Louise: “yet randomly hunting and killing members of animal families for fun elicits no remorse from sports hunters”. I think most sports hunters don’t go wolf hunting, and some apply ridicule to those that do.
            Yvette: “Those that truly enjoy the kill” are very few I think. But those that will kill to have a sense of accomplishment, not worrying too much about the animals involved, is common. I myself torture steelhead and bass “for fun” (angling with no intention of using them for food – they are worth too much alive), causing me dissonance.

            1. JB Avatar

              “I myself torture steelhead and bass “for fun” (angling with no intention of using them for food – they are worth too much alive), causing me dissonance.”

              +1 – For making me laugh and correctly using the word ‘dissonance’.

              1. Yvette Avatar

                ON the subject of the level of cognizance of non-human species I think we humans will continue to evolve and will learn that some species have much more cognizance than we’ve given them credit. Hopefully, we will eventually accept that some of our actions are unethical and/or immoral. (most types of laboratory testing; killing contests and other recreational hunting—-not an exhaustive list)

                There is new research indicating dogs have level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. After training domestic dogs’ brain activity was measured via MRI.

                Berns, Brooks, Spivik (2014) The Scent of Familiar: An fMRI Study of Canine Brain Responses to Familiar and Unfamiliar Human and Dog Odors.


                For those who can’t access the research article it is explained in this NYTs article, Dogs are People Too


                Because of the methods used in this research it would be impossible to repeat it wild canines like coyotes or wolves. Still, I think we can posit it is likely their brains function in a similar manner as the domestic dog. They are all canines so there will be similarities. But how much?

    5. Mareks Vilkins Avatar
      Mareks Vilkins

      How much money were raised by ranchers who have lost cattle to wolf depredation?
      More than $10,000….$20,000….$30,000?

      As ungulate numbers are just fine hunters are only themselves to blame for their failure to score – not wolves.

    6. JB Avatar


      The logic implicit in your post is that because you pay more, you should have a greater say in wildlife management decisions. Now I wonder who pays even more into the system than resident hunters… 😉

      1. Elk375 Avatar

        It is non-resident fisherman from what I have read. There are more fisherman than hunters.

        ++The logic implicit in your post is that because you pay more, you should have a greater say in wildlife management decisions.++ The state runs the fish and wildlife and we both know that is the way it is.

  16. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I think the stamp is a great idea. A wolf license plate would even be better. I go to lots of wolf meetings where the hunters claim to be the only ones funding the state fish and game departments.
    Waiting for the fish and game departments to change their predator management philosophy before stepping up to help fund wildlife departments is the wrong policy. It is easier to change policies from the inside than from the outside.
    I have purchased an Idaho hunting and fishing license every year for the past 61 years. I have hunted with just a camera for the past twenty years, but still purchase a license to help fund the department.
    It is time for everyone that has an opinion about wildlife management to step up and put some money where their mouths are.

    1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

      For those of you who haven’t, you might click on my name and see how I do hunting with only my camera. Four of the bighorn rams on my web site will exceed the world record held by hunters.

    2. JB Avatar

      For once, Larry and I agree. I find this whole argument to be tragically emblematic of the biggest problem in natural resources management–i.e., lack of trust. Here an agency finally does something that folks have been clamoring for which, in the end, could be better both for wolves and the people who want them, and the skeptics shoot it down without a second thought (and receive three cheers to boot). Why? Because there is so little trust that anything they agency proposes can’t possibly be a good idea–there must be some nefarious motive that isn’t obvious!?

      Of course, the traditional folks in the management agency are sitting back and laughing at their more progressive colleagues. They don’t even have to say “I told you so.”

      Good grief.

      1. Louise Kane Avatar

        JB I think this is a matter of distrust. as others have said, if the state agencies were doing a better job at telling the real story and at shooting down the anti wolf hysteria, they’d be more believable. Instead they seem to fan the flames….I hope its a step in the right direction also but its hard not to think the worst, well when the worst is all they have shown us.

        1. JB Avatar


          George ends his essay:

          “We don’t need more management of wolves and other predators. What we need is to leave them alone. There is simply no reason to “manage” predators.”

          But the proposal won’t use the money to “manage” wolves. It will use it to (a)non-lethal methods to prevent livestock depredation (that’s livestock mgmt.); (b) research, education, outreach (that’s people management–and it’s the stuff posters to this blog continually ask for); and (c) enforcement (that’s people management–and maybe the catch some of the poachers you guys think are behind every tree).

          Seems to me that MFWP just extended an olive branch to the community of people who support wolves, and George would have us slap the branch from their hand.

          1. Nancy Avatar

            Is it an olive branch JB or is the state realizing that “management” $$ was best left up to the feds?

            Click on the weekly report for the last week in April:


            4 months into the year (calving months) and wolf predation is hardly noticeable. Possible ranchers are starting to take some responsibility here, looking at raising livestock as an actual business and not a state funded day care for America’s beef?

            And looky here:

            “RMEF in the past has donated money that state game managers put toward federal predator control efforts”


            Without guarantees, who’s to say the same thing won’t happen when the coffers start getting low? This needs to be a Wildlife Conservation stamp with emphasis on educating the public (ranchers & hunters included) on the benefits of having predators around.

            1. JB Avatar


              One of the realities of government is that those elected are responsible for representing the interests of diverse groups, with a variety of agendas. That means you’re not going to always get what you want–especially when your views are in the minority, or are underrepresented in government (as in this case).

              What I see in George’s response is what has become “politics as usual” in recent years–that is, if you don’t get everything you want, exactly as you want it, take your ball and go home. Fine. Act like a petulant child if you like. But don’t be surprised if you end up isolated from the rest of the class in ‘time out’.

            2. JB Avatar

              Folks here might also be interested in an academic controversy that arose more than a decade ago. In a paper published in the journal Animal Conservation, Woodroofe (2000) analyzed historic patterns of extinction of large carnivores in Europe and North America and found that extinction was strongly associated with human population density. However, John Linnell and colleagues noted that much of the data came from a time when eradication of large carnivores was the purpose of public policy. They noted that when policy changed, carnivores began to recovery. They repeated Woodroofe’s analysis and found that patterns of carnivore extinction were better explained by carnivore policy and enforcement.

              Woodroffe R. (2000) Predators and people: using human densities to interpret declines of large carnivores. Animal Conservation 3, 165-173.

              Linnell J.D.C., Swenson J.E., Andersen R. (2001) Predators and people: conservation of large carnivores is possible at high human densities if management policy is favourable. Animal Conservation 4, 345-349.

    3. rork Avatar

      In Michigan we have a additional mechanism than just buying licenses. Our non-game wildlife fund.
      “Since 1983, over $10 million has been raised for these important management efforts through voluntary check-off contributions on the state income tax form, sales of specialty license plates, and by direct donations. ” The plates display a loon, and are a badge of honor. 6 million of it is in a trust (endowment). Wish it were 600 million. My university’s is about 8 billion, demonstrating what is possible with such tools.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        It’s not helping wolves though, is it, in Michigan.

          1. Louise Kane Avatar
            Louise Kane

            This signature collection process was done 1) by paying people to collect signatures and 2) by creating the sense that out of town animal activist crazies were trying to manage wolves when science should be the dictating factor and that the professionals in DNR are the correct way to go about it. It was a very twisted and underhanded move. BY now they have confused the issues so much most people have no idea how to interpret the info. They keep fighting a vote that in itself tells you something! If it went to vote as it should have initially I think there would be no hunting of wolves in Michigan. Rork might have opinions also

            1. Ida Lupines Avatar
              Ida Lupines

              Yes, I think that wolves and predators need something extra, to educate the public and to address their special vulnerabilities. The trouble with checking off a general box on a tax return is that it doesn’t make these differences clear.

            2. rork Avatar

              I’m really not sure how the citizens will/would vote. Might be close. I’m glad we waited long enough for 2 things to happen: wolf numbers stopped increasing and depredations went down, neither thanks to sport hunts. Against that is greed, about deer, and the subject being too complex for most folks. Most people haven’t thought or read about it much. People near me seem to think and talk about team sports that can be seen on TV mostly – I don’t get it.

        1. rork Avatar

          Actually wolf studies did get non-game funding in the past, but it takes a lawyer to know if they are or aren’t game any given month lately, as you know.
          Short list also mentions trumpeter, osprey, peregrine, bats, amphibians:

  17. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    ooops hit the wrong key. Here is the rest of my opionion.

    2. If nothing else this stamp would provide proof that wolf advocates are willing to fund wolf conservation. Many of the anti-wolf advocates argue that their hunting license and fees pay for a predator that was shoved down their throat. This stamp will not silence them, but it will quiet them. Pro hunting organizations(RMEF) have mechanisms where individual donors can support their mission. This stamp would allow individuals (who have long requested this type of action) to voluntarily support wolf conservation.

    3. His analogy that we should pay for clean air on coal burning plants and that ranchers should pay for proper husbandry is inaccurate. Coal burning plants MUST abide by the Clean Air Act and in actuality we the consumer do pay for clean air in our electric bills. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and central Idaho and whether we agree ranchers should accept them as part of doing business, reality is ranchers are not REQUIRED to use proper husbandry techniques. If Ranchers are willing and it saves wolves then its a win-win situation.

    4. Sure, we would all want MFWP to change their management and attitude regarding predators, but it takes time. There is some ongoing research regarding predator-prey dyanimcs but there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Additional research will substantiate how best to “manage” wolves. Like it or not, as long as humans are part of the equation wolves will need to be managed and the more information we have the better able to make the best decisions.

    5. There are state conservation officers who are doing excellent work in protecting our wildlife. Providing more wardens may reduce poaching of all kind (wasting of wildlife).

    In a perfect world hunting and trapping of predators would not occur, state agencies would use science instead of archaic methodoligies, wolves and other predators would not need to be managed and the list goes on and on.

    We can either not support a wolf conservation stamp and continue the status quo or we can support it and hopefully see some changes from the agencies that manage our wildlife. Insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Enough of the finger pointing and time to put our money where our mouths are.

    Lastly, I have seen ranchers labeled as “welfare” ranchers numerous times on this site. If you want to blame someone for the mismanagement of public lands, blame the BLM and USFS. Ranchers do not set the AUM fees, nor do they decide where, when, and how many livestock they can graze, the federal agencies make these decisions.

    1. Madravenspeak Avatar

      The ranchers have heavy and entrenched lobbying power and our public lands since the Taylor Grazing Act – more entitlement of the white patriarchal exploiters.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      “4. Sure, we would all want MFWP to change their management and attitude regarding predators, but it takes time”

      Takes time? Hello? Its been 20 years Gary, since wolves were reintroduced, lots of studies have been done in that time (and before that) with good, hard evidence laying out facts that there are benefits to having predators on the landscape.

      Spend some time in the archives of Wildlife News and you will soon realize that state wildlife agencies whether in Montana, Idaho & Wyoming, are pretty much run (and controlled) by hunters and ranching/ ag interests.

      1. Gary Humbard Avatar
        Gary Humbard

        Nancy, it took over 20 years from the initial idea to the actual return of 60 wolves back into Yellowstone and it took over 40 years before bison were protected there. Today there are ~640 wolves in Montana, ~ 500 in Wyoming and ~600 in Idaho. I’m well aware that research has shown a “top down” system works best but I’m also aware that finger pointing, apathy and inaction will do the wolf no good.

        I tend to be optimistic and I’m willing to try new methods in solving problems. I’ve seen new methods that were discounted by 90% of the employees make dramatic improvements, but it does take patience.

  18. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    Thanks for an awesome essay, George. I read about the wolf conservation stamp a few weeks ago on a pro-wolf site that supported it. I commented at that time that it was a bad idea, and that wolves and other predators do not need to be “managed.” Indeed, I don’t see how anyone can support this program and still call themself a wolf advocate.

  19. Anja Heister Avatar
    Anja Heister

    Thank you, George for your analysis of this proposal. I couldn’t agree more with you.

    I have been very, very upset about this approach, which in my opinion is complete nonsense and an attempt of FWP to continue with trapping and gunning down wolves for fun, recreation and trophy. Soon we will see an increase in the overall number of wolves who can be killed during hunting and trapping season. We already see FWP’s proposal to “expanding trapping opportunity to the Fish Creek WMA,” an area as far as I know is occupied by wolves, and we have seen FWP’s recent approval for landowners to kill up to 100 wolves annually. FWP Commission Agenda Item Cover Sheet (May 22, 2014) states clearly, “Mechanisms are needed to enable non-license buyers to help support fish and wildlife management” [emphasis added]. For me, this means, tapping the general public to support “wolf conservation” which means hunting and trapping.

    Needless to say that this proposal does not make sense for those of us, who would like to support our wildlife but ONLY under the condition that they are not being tortured and killed in traps or gunned down by hunters. In other words, so long as FWP’s goals are to provide for “hunting and trapping” opportunities, why would they expect a wildlife enthusiast, who opposes killing wolves and other wild animals for recreation, profit and trophy, to PAY to support wildlife killers?

  20. topher Avatar

    More bad ideas from George. I agree that nobody should buy the stamp until their demands have been met in full. The game agencies can continue to do as they always have. It’s brilliant. Really. Why bother with an attempt at a solution.

  21. jburnham Avatar

    It’s not perfect, but I hope this wolf stamp does happen. But as someone who follows the Montana Legislature pretty closely, I see something else going on here. MTFWP (not MDFWP)got taken to the woodshed in every committee meeting they were called to testify at during the last legislative session. There’s a large faction that wants to neuter FWP by legislating limits on how FWP can spend money, buy land, etc. Our rancher/legislators aren’t just upset about wolves, but about the possibility of bison range expansion, certain land purchases by FWP, block management issues, etc.

    Pay raises for FWP and money to hire new wordens were two of FWP’s priorities that got shot down last session. FWP’s land purchases were also scrutinized and the ability to buy new habitat was limited. It’s no coincidence that these goals re-appear as part of the wolf stamp and even come wrapped with a revenue source. The only wildlife related bills with any support were those that would liberalize predator killing and expand compensation for livestock lost to predators. So it’s no surprise FWP would want to throw ranchers/legislators a bone with #1.

    Whether this stamp will raise any real money, as Elk375 says, is a good question. But FWP desperately needs a source of income that is insulated from the wrath of angry legislators. I don’t know if this would actually be beyond the reach of the legislature, but if it is, it would be a good opportunity to take a bit of influence away from them.

  22. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    I’m leaning towards giving it a chance – could it get any worse for wolves? And I do think it should be called a Wolf Conservation Stamp, and part of educating the public is to reiterate and underscore just how this poor animal has been irrationally persecuted over time and how it appears to be happening again, and the wolf could be considered one of the keys to a healthy environment and trophic cascades thus including other wildlife – a ‘father’ or ‘mother’ figure, if you will. Yes, I think the beaver and all wildlife ought to be given some respect and protection.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I guess what I am saying is that the stamp needs some kind of distinction other than the umbrella term of ‘wildlife’ to save it from becoming something people might find dull or not respond to, or dismiss as another ploy to get their money by ‘those wacky enviros’. They need to care about it.

      1. Ida Lupines Avatar
        Ida Lupines

        I’ve always loved this image, I hope Nabeki doesn’t mind if I link it from her site:

  23. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    Wolves don’t need to be “managed,” as all of the data and science shows. They are being killed to placate politicians, the livestock and hunting industries, and those with antiquated views of the Big Bad Wolf. I will never give one thin dime of my money to an agency that is treating wolves like vermin instead of the ecologically important animals that they are.

    And, I refuse to pay for ranchers to use non-lethal methods to protect their livestock from wolves. They should be paying for this themselves (it’s called “the cost of doing business”), especially since wolves are responsible for less than 1/4 of 1% of livestock losses. Seriously, aren’t ranchers subsidized enough? And, shouldn’t FWP be pro-active and make good animal husbandry a requirement for ranchers rather than allow them to kill wolves they perceive as threats?

    FWP said they would “manage” wolves responsibly once they were delisted. They lied, and therefore cannot be trusted. FWP needs to educate all of those who still believe in Big Bad Wolf fairy tales instead of feeding into their 1800′s mentality, and their “management” policies need to reflect the facts about wolves instead of myths and falsehoods.

    Until then, I have no faith whatsoever in the ability of FWP to responsibly “manage” wolves, or any revenue they might collect from the wolf stamp program.

  24. Brian Ertz Avatar
    Brian Ertz

    George is right. The management philosophy of the department is the problem. There need to be assurances that the resources will actually contribute to tangible results. If the idea is to mitigate conflict, then buy-outs of grazing allotments is a tangible deliverable. If the idea is that pro-wolf folk don’t have a voice because hunters/anglers fund the department (a premise that I have always argued against given the ‘public trust’ nature of the authority to ‘MAN’age wildlife), then there needs to be a threshold revenue target that once exceeded entitles wolf conservation sympathisers to a proportionate enfranchised seat with real decision-making authority. Otherwise it’s threatened with just being a shell-game that pays for more status-quo.

    1. JB Avatar

      There will never be “a threshold revenue target” that entitles any group to anything. Political capture of an agency occurs when the agency abandons (or partially abandons) its mission because some entity/interest controls that funding. Reminding an agency of their public trust obligation won’t change anything because there is no trust document that spells out that obligation (and they are meeting obligations spelled out in statute). Perhaps if the wolf population (or other species) fell below a viable population after purposeful, aggressive management, then you might have a case in court–perhaps. In any case, you won’t free an agency from capture by complaining–that guarantees the status quo.

      1. Pamela Gartin Avatar
        Pamela Gartin


        What do you think would remedy agency capture? A group here in NV attempted to diversify the wildlife commission (it is sportsmen/rancher dominated by law. The bill was heard, then later killed. There seems no other path to fair (broader) representation other than trough diversifying funding streams and decision makers. Thoughts?

  25. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    One wonders, with all the hoopla about the wolve’s return, why the whole idea of a wolf conservation stamp did not take place twenty years ago.

    At that time, it would have been nothing but proactive, rather than an almost reactive interpretation at this time.

  26. Richie G. Avatar
    Richie G.

    How much does Montana, Wyoming and Idaho get from tourism example tickets into Yellowstone Park itself, and t-shirts coffee mugs etc in the Yellowstone shop ? doesn’t this go towards the wildlife and the park and it’s employees ?

  27. Pamela Gartin Avatar
    Pamela Gartin

    GW: “One has to ask what is MDFWP thinking. Let’s see, we will help ranchers with non-lethal means of protecting livestock so we can allow hunters and trappers to blow away more wolves? That is essentially what they are suggesting.”

    I understand this concern. But, a “vindictive” attitude towards wolves exists, in part, because of wolf depredation, irrational though it may be or not. If success with non-lethal control methods can be demonstrated on a wider scale; studied further; cost-effective measures identified; etc… Wouldn’t this benefit not only wolves but all predators in the long run by eliminating one of the core beliefs that perpetuates predator persecution?

  28. Steve Clevidence Avatar
    Steve Clevidence

    Personally, I am in favor of the stamp, mainly from a conservation perspective. George’s comment about using part of the money raised to permanently buy out grazing allotments on public lands makes sense. Buying out grazing permits on certain parcels of public land inhabited by wolves would not only further reduce livestock/wolf interaction, but it would also greatly benefit the ungulate and other wildlife as a whole. Elk already are having their historical winter range reduced steadily by human encroachment as the human population increases. We are steadily seeing steps being considered to reduce our wild lands even further. The costs of keeping wild lands open and free are exorbitant and sportsman money can no longer support those costs alone. Revenue has to come from some other public sector to help finance those costs, and I personally feel accepting financial support from the non-hunting public to help sustain and preserve our wild lands is a way of doing that. At some point, hunters and non hunters alike need to put differences aside and work together for the benefit of all.

  29. Kimberley Boester Avatar
    Kimberley Boester

    “Wolves don’t lose sleep in the opinion of sheep”

    This ‘Wolf Stamp’ or a version there of has been under review (fire) for the last 20 years. Why, because of this same rhetoric every time there might be a chance for the stamp to pass. At some point, we need to try it out and see if it can actually work. Currently we have no voice, no plan, and just a lot of complaining about what is not right. Montana has no support for wolves, very little non-lethal practices, and wardens are already in the field. The Stamp will assist two of these issues. That is a much better gamble then what our current choice is…. none. This stamp will only be credible in the eyes of the opposition if some benefit is present. We first have to understand our species so we can save others…which means we have to give a little to get a little.

  30. Toni Stark Avatar
    Toni Stark

    I am surprised that George Wuerthner took such an “all or nothing” stand regarding the stamp.
    The ranchers I met in Bozeman said that they were after wolves because they lost the state funding to reimburse them when a predator killed their livestock. I was told that they would stop persecuting and killing wolves if the funds were reinstated.
    When I wrote to Federal Wildlife Services and the Dept. of Agriculture, I asked them to take a “scientific approach” to wolf management and to read the works of Norman Bishop, Christina Eisenberg, Jay Mallonee, and George Wuerthner before making decisions about wolves. That is the same thing that I have said to MT FW&P. If they are trying to change and be better informed about wolves, we should support their efforts.
    About hiring more wardens, poaching is a serious problem especially in the Bitterroot Valley and we will need more FW&P people hired to stop the poaching and fine the guilty parties. There is a squad of vigilantes that have I actually seen in action and they will kill a wolf at any time without a permit if someone sees a wolf. The wolf is killed just for existing and showing up on someone’s property.
    We need to give FW&P a chance and at least listen to what they have to say.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner