Oregon Rep. Cliff Bentz Cries Wolf

Recently, Rep. Cliff Bentz discussed wolf management in a forum in Pendleton, Oregon. Bentz represents Oregon’s second district, which includes nearly all of eastern Oregon.

During his presentation, Bentz is reported in an article in the East Oregonian to have made several misleading statements about wolves and their impact on game animals.

For example, Bentz is quoted as saying: “I was told the day before yesterday that the population of moose in northern Idaho is now zero, where there used to be a significant population,”  

Moose have declined in some parts of Idaho, including northern Idaho, as well as in other western states, such as Utah, which lack wolves. Moose numbers in north Idaho are a guess because the Idaho Fish and Game hasn’t done a moose population count since 2000. However, Idaho Fish and Game believes the most significant factor in the decline in northern Idaho is fire suppression policies.

“Recently burned forests with new growth are great moose habitats. But wildfire suppression reduces good moose habitat. We need wildfire to open up dense forests. Old-growth forests are too dense for moose,” says wildlife biologist Kara Campbell in a Salt Lake Tribune article on Idaho moose.

Cow moose and calf. Photo George Wuerthner

Nevertheless, moose are not scarce in Idaho. Even with 1337 wolves, the Idaho Fish and Game Department says there are 10,000-12,000 moose in Idaho, up from about a thousand a half-century ago. Maybe the presence of wolves is why Idaho now has so many moose compared to the past.

Bentz also claimed the wolf population in Minnesota has grown like weeds in July, and “populations of deer in the Minnesota area have been dramatically reduced.” Again, Bentz needs to do his homework.

Wolf Photo George Wuerthner

In a 2022 paper by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the state had an estimated 2,691 wolves. The agency reports that from spring 2020 to spring 2021, the average weighted deer density within the pack-occupied wolf range increased by 16%. In other words, Minnesota’s deer population has increased even with thousands more wolves than Oregon.  

 In fact, despite the thousands of wolves in the state, Minnesota has nearly a million deer. By comparison, in 2022, Oregon had an estimated population of 178 wolves and 438,000 deer.

Bull elk during the rut in Montana. Photo George Wuerthner

We see the same situation with elk. When wolves were reintroduced into parts of Montana in 1995, there were an estimated 89,000 elk in the state. Today, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the state is home to 143,310 elk and about a thousand wolves.

Elk in snowstorm, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming. Photo George Wuerthner

The same situation has been observed in Wyoming. The Wyoming Game and Fish estimates there are 109,000 elk in the state. Indeed, elk are so numerous in some parts of the state that Fish and Game sells unlimited elk tags to reduce the herds. Wyoming has about 330 wolves.

All this suggests is that you will likely have more game animals with wolves than without them. In nearly all these examples, game numbers are stable or increasing across most states, even in the presence of wolf predation.

 And to the degree that wolves do influence game numbers, other factors like other predators (bears, cougars, coyotes),  habitat loss, disease (Chronic Wasting Disease), and insects (ticks and parasites), even collisions with vehicles are often more critical in determining game population numbers than wolf predation.

Bentz needs to learn a bit more about wolves. He needs to stop crying wolf.


  1. D.Cooke Avatar

    When it comes to doing homework, environmental or otherwise, Clif Bentz the cow lawyer is an empty vessel. He has stood against the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument in direct contradiction to the overwhelming sentiment in Jackson County. On the national level, well, let’s just say he’s cowering behind tRump’s fascist skirt. “Owned by the con.”

  2. Martha S Bibb Avatar
    Martha S Bibb

    I wonder when the moose count was done in Idaho? Or in any NW state? Seems accurate counts don’t actually exist. Or recent counts?

  3. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
    Jeff Hoffman

    This isn’t about Bentz not knowing the facts. Shills like him just outright lie for the industries they represent, and that’s what he’s doing for the cattle industry. Furthermore, the only reason that Bentz would care about elk, deer, or moose is if he wants more of them for his trophy-hunting friends. These people are the enemy, and while I hate to say that anyone is beyond redemption, they’re as close as it gets.

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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