Montana FWP has is having 44 (!) public meetings about their state wolf hunting plan — a plan more cautious (probably) than Idaho or Wyoming.
Last night at the meeting in Bozeman, Norm Bishop was one who testified. Bishop was a legendary figure as an intepretive naturalist at Yellowstone before his retirement (he still is!).
I thought folks would want to read his testimony because these points needs to be made by more than one.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks January 8, 2008
Attn: Wildlife Division
P.O. Box 200701
Helena, MT 59620
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks tentative regulations for hunting wolves. I am fully in accord with the citizen-developed Montana Wolf Management Plan, and commend FWP for engaging the public in the planning for wolf management.
In a 1944 review of Young and Goldman’s Wolves of North America, Aldo Leopold observed that the authors had written that wolves should be allowed to live somewhere, but that they had, during their decades of work to eliminate wolves from cattle country, NOT allowed wolves to survive anywhere. He said they should have been restocked in Yellowstone. Now that has been done, and hundreds of thousands of park visitors revel in seeing wolves in the wild. Those visitors are spending nearly $80 million in greater Yellowstone annually.
In planning for wolf hunting in Montana, I hope that we can think as Leopold would suggest, that wolves be allowed to live undisturbed in wildlands where there are no conflicts with livestock grazing. With elk populations soaring, I see no current justification to kill wolves just to enhance hunting. By the way, I was a big game hunter from my teens in Colorado to Wyoming in the 1980s and the 1990s to several years ago in Montana. I’m 75.
The downside, biologically, of hunting wolves is that hunting destroys pack integrity. This could actually increase depredation on livestock. Wolves are highly evolved socially, and killing pack leaders may lead to a higher dispersal rate, with more young wolves experimenting with new prey, and with wolves dispersing as far as other states. Studies now under way in Yellowstone suggest that the composition of packs subject to heavy human predation will be qualitatively different than those that are left alone.
Further, hunting wolves, at any percentage, has a very high potential of denying them the possibility of ever being restored to their natural functioning as keystone predators in wild areas. Wolves have been present in North America for 800,000 years, and are an integral part of intact ecosystems.
One of the intriguing functions of wolves could be to save deer from chronic wasting disease. Their mode of taking prey that show weakness is unlike human hunting of deer and elk, that is more indiscriminate. A better known function, observed in greater Yellowstone, is to alter the behavior and habitat use of elk, to the benefit of heavily browsed woody plants, upon which other mammals and birds depend. Thus, they promote biological diversity.
If wolves can sustain 25-30% mortality from humans and still maintain their numbers, but all packs are being hunted, will this preclude the presence of nearby source populations to augment the wolf population? I support the most conservative harvest until questions like this are resolved.
Adaptive management is widely recognized as a process for flexibility in managing wildlife. I hope FWP will begin wolf hunting as an experiment, with robust monitoring, so they can learn from the results of the hunts.
I¹ve been studying and educating people about wolves and their recovery for 25 years, as a Park Ranger in Yellowstone, and as an instructor at the Yellowstone Association Institute. I helped compile data for the 1994 EIS on wolf reintroduction, and helped carry the first wolves into the park. I served on the FWP Wolf Compensation working group in 2005. I¹m a board member of the Wolf Recovery Foundation, which co-sponsors annual interagency wolf conferences. I also serve as the greater Yellowstone field representative of the International Wolf Center.
Thank you again for the opportunity to comment.