Of Wolves & Wilderness

Idaho Department of Fish & Game Moves to Collar Wolves in the Frank-Church Wilderness

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

On January 17, 2008 I attended an Idaho Department of Fish & Game Annual Commissioner Meeting in which Commissioner McDermott of Idaho’s Panhandle region expressed the commission’s desire to capture and collar wolves in the Frank-Church Wilderness.

Steve Nadeau explained to the commissioners that the IDFG had “beat that dog perty hard” but that the environmental analysis alone needed to land a helicopter in a wilderness area would cost as much as $250,000 to land once or twice.

McDermott expressed that the commission had an idea about how to deal with that, at which point Nadeau suggested the commission might not want that conversation on the public record.  The commissioners laughed, and the topic was dropped from the public record – until now.

The Salmon-Challis National Forest has announced scoping comments for its proposed NEPA analysis of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game’s requested permission to land a helicopter up to 20 times to support radio collaring of up to 12 wolves in the Frank-Church Wilderness :

Authorization to Idaho Department of Fish and Game for Helicopter Landings in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

Within wilderness areas, we strive to restrain human influences so that ecosystems can change over time in their own way, free, as much as possible, from human manipulation. In these areas, as the Wilderness Act puts it, “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man”.

Questions :

Is landing a helicopter in a federal wilderness area to exercise man’s most invasive and domineering influence on the wild, the capture and collaring of wild wolves, consistent with that ideal ?

Why is the IDFG commission so agitated by the idea that wolves in wilderness would be allowed to be beyond man’s purview ?  beyond the commission’s control ? Is the Salmon-Challis National Forest contributing upwards of a quarter million dollars of your tax-dollars to do so, or has Idaho had a sudden change of heart from its original decision that this would not be a responsible use of public funds ?

What did the Idaho Department of Fish & Game Commissioners talk about in their “off the public record” conversation?

Opportunity for Public Comment :

Scoping comments should be sent to: Salmon-Challis National Forest, Attn:  William Wood, Forest Supervisor, 1206 S. Challis St., Salmon, Idaho 83467.  Although your comments are always welcome, comments are most helpful to us if received by October 16, 2009. Electronic comments may be e-mailed to:  comments-intermtn-salmon-challis@fs.fed.us

81 Responses to “Of Wolves & Wilderness”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Is there any precedence for a non-emergency permit to land helicopters in wilderness areas? Other species manaement specifically? At what level does the authority exist to permit this?

  2. kt Says:

    Beat that dog pretty hard, eh Steve? A quarter million dollars??? So that they can eventually contrive to hunt down wolves in Wilderness in the name of elk enhancement? OR: How convenient, having Transmitter Info so the Comm’rs or Wildlife Services can get the transmitter info and “sell” or “trade” it to their Buddies or something??? Maybe Buddies with big bucks associated with the groups that have gotten the Wolf Tags to Sell for fund-raising??? I would put nothing past the current IDFG Commission. These are the same fellows that want to eradicate white pelicans.

    Flash forward a couple years from the Video to now, and IDFG sure appears to be feeling cocky … Let us hope: Pride (and cockiness) goeth before a Fall …

  3. Salle Says:

    I don’t believe there is/has been. Apparently F&G seem to think they have some real purpose in changing the rules of wilderness protection for monitoring wildlife that doesn’t require monitoring. I could see it if a dinosaur had come to life and needed to be monitored because of some major hazard to thousands of lives but this wolf monitoring is trivial compared to any real need to be allowed such an exception. It makes no sense and they were told so back in 2004 when they first proposed such and abomination of logic.

  4. Salle Says:

    kt, Good points, I wouldn’t doubt that you could be right. I heard from a reliable source that F&G have recently purchased about 40 GPS collars for wolves and they have a low rate of proper functioning, ie they malfunction a lot ~ like as many as half of them, perhaps… This makes me wonder just how much actual data they have and how much they are making up as they go along. Which also begs the question; What real value would landing in the Wilderness have and how will the F&G/WS folks be held accountable to the American public for tainting the Wilderness with their poorly planned/ ill conceived actions?

  5. Ken Cole Says:

    To my understanding IDFG has already done this once in wilderness. Did they get permission to do it or did they just do it?

  6. Leslie Says:

    Last Feb I watched them helicoptering elk for a study. They had to be extremely careful not to dart these elk in Wilderness, as the herd was close to the boundary. If not elk, why wolves? Collaring is the easiest way to locate to kill. Can they change the rules for just one species?

  7. kt Says:

    Ken:

    Where was this, and when? Was it last summer?

  8. Salle Says:

    Perhaps it’s time for an investigation by the Dept. of Interior. Violations of the wilderness by the state are unacceptable and need to be appropriately addressed.

    Interestingly, ANY object that hits the ground in wilderness, including darts, bullets or humans with parachutes issuing from aircraft are considered a “landing” in the language of the legal documentation for wilderness designation. None of this is acceptable.

  9. Wolfy Says:

    Back in 2006, the US Forest Service made a major change to its wildlife manual direction (Forest Service Manual 2600). The change was actually quite small and insidious, but the ramifications could be disastrous. The Forest Service removed the Regional Foresters’ authority to give emergency permission to operate motorized vehicles, including helicopters, in wilderness areas. The old manual direction was replaced with new text allowing “wildlife population surveys, including threatened and endangered species management” in wilderness areas based on the consent of undefined persons. Its not clear who has the authority to allow these activities in wilderness.

    It could very well be up to the state wildlife biologists themselves can determine whether they have authority to enter the wilderness to dart wolves from a helicopter. The list of allowed activities was also updated to include: aerial gunning for predator control, poison baits, and snowmobile or ATV or motorboat use in support of these activities. Manual direction does not override laws and regulations, but someone could take it that way. The push for this underhanded breach of wilderness law was clearly the work of the western states to seize more control wildlife and wilderness.

  10. Salle Says:

    Wolfy,

    If that is true then I propose a letter writing campaign to the two Cabinet members who are able to clarify the terms of activity in wilderness.

  11. Ralph Maughan Says:

    This is an intolerable breach of the idea of Wilderness and goes far beyond collaring wolves.

    This really has to be looked into and fought.

  12. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Here are the current regulations on predator control in designated Wilderness areas.

    There were adopted in 2006 after 74,000 comment were received, mostly against the new regulations. I think there needs to be a lawsuit testing the validity of these regulations.
    – – – –
    2323.33c – Predator Control. Predacious mammals and birds play a critical role in maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems. Consider the benefits of a predator species in the ecosystem before approving control actions. The Regional Forester may approve predator control programs on a case-by-case basis where control is necessary to protect federally listed threatened or endangered species, to protect public health and safety, or to prevent serious losses of domestic livestock. Focus control methods on offending individuals and under conditions that ensure minimum disturbance to the wilderness resource and visitors. Poison baits or cyanide guns are not acceptable. Poison bait collars may be approved.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or approved State agencies shall carry out control programs. The Forest Service is responsible for determining the need for control, the methods to be used, and approving all proposed predator damage control programs in wilderness (FSM 2650).

    Only approve control projects when strong evidence exists that removing the offending individual(s) will not diminish the wilderness values of the area.

  13. Ralph Maughan Says:

    When you comment on this proposal, it is important to remember than a huge project counting grizzly bears in Glacier National Park and the surrounding wilderness areas was done. The project did the most accurate population survey ever using DNA of bear fur. You might remmber this from the 2008 election because Senator McCain kept talking about this project as a waste of money, but a great deal was leaned.

    Idaho Fish and Game claims the current methods of counting don’t work — snares, howling surveys, etc. They do work; it just takes physical labor on foot or horseback.

    Idaho Fish and Game can count Wilderness wolves the same way. There is hardly anything more intrusive than seeing a wolf with a radio collar on its neck in the a Wilderness area.

    Also remember the radio collars are how wolves are tracked down and killed because livestock depredations with one radio collar usually costing more than any livestock killed.

    Livestock have been eliminated from the central Idaho wilderness areas . . . thank god!

  14. Brian Ertz Says:

    A collared wolf is a dead wolf – whether it be the wolf with the collar, or another wolf displaced by the IDFG’s ability to count extra wolves in wilderness toward their baseline.

    Having attended these meetings, I believe that the commission would be content to allow 100 wolves in wilderness areas, but cull wolves on other public landscapes everywhere else. In order to do that, they need to be able to demonstrate an adequate count of wolves to fulfill their baseline numbers for the state in wilderness alone.

    Wolves counted in wilderness free up the state to kill them elsewhere.

  15. Lynne Stone Says:

    We need legal advice on this one. What are the best points for people to make when writing the Salmon-Challis Forest? Their scoping document is more thorough than the last time around on this issue.

    One aspect of this issue that has not been mentioned, is the pressure from big game outfitters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness to reduce or eliminate wolves. I’ve never heard one speak for wolves.

    KT’s comment on how the whereabouts of collared wolves can (and certainly will) be given to wolf hunters is on the mark.

  16. Lynne Stone Says:

    Two of the five wolves killed to date since Sept. 1st in the Idaho wolf hunt have been collared. One was a 3-year female from the Archie Mountain Pack, who was nosing around a barbecue grill a couple of miles from Bull Trout Lake. I’ve heard her death was about a $5000 loss to IDFG.

    I don’t know the details of how the 2nd collared wolf was taken, but am told it was the only collared wolf in the HooDoo Pack in the Middle Fork hunting zone. In the 1st instance, it was a case of bad luck for the Archie Mt female. For the HooDoo Pack wolf, I don’t know whether the collar made it easier for the hunter to make a kill or not.

    A third wolf, a pup, was shot by a hunter standing on a road near McCall, in an area not open to wolf hunting yet.

    So far, wolf hunters are showing their arrogance or ignorance, by ignoring IDFG’s suggestion that collared wolves not be killed, and/or poaching a wolf pup.

  17. Lynne Stone Says:

    Brian – I don’t always agree with you – but believe you have nailed the #1 reason of why IDFG is pushing so hard to collar Wilderness wolves: “Wolves counted in wilderness free up the state to kill them elsewhere.”

  18. Brian Ertz Says:

    the legally contestable points will be dealt with. the lawyers are already on it.

    people should comment about how they feel, what they think, the ideas that strike them, etc. ~ just comment ~ it’s important that people comment.

    i disagree with the suggestion that these wolves will be targeted for kill.

    if the commission is smart – these collared wolves in wilderness will not be shot. these will be sanctuary wolves — these will be the wolves protected to maintain the baseline count so that wolves elsewhere, on other pubic lands – can be eradicated without dropping Idaho wolf population numbers below the minimum number.

  19. SR25Stoner Says:

    What is to keep wolves in Wilderness when the prey leaves the Wilderness due to pressure from wolves ?

    If the arrogant ignorant hunter at Bull Trout Lake told the truth about his wolf he killed, the horse stomping and throwing a fit, all that dust in the air and the adrenaline rush of the moment, fear, what have you, perhaps he did not know about the collar until after words.

    If he was going to invent a story about his wolf harvest, I think a long stalk through the brush tracking the wolf, over hills, across rivers, finally catching the wolf in and open rock slide, would sound a whole lot more fascinating.

    As we all know wolves will never bother a horse.

  20. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Stoner,

    Because the Frank and the Selway/Bitterroot are nearly complete elk ranges due to the elevation differences and size, a pack’s territories will be mostly contained in them. For those wolves that wander outside, ID Fish and Game is free to use aircraft to collar them.

  21. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Send a copy of your comments and maybe a separate letter to Representative Raúl Grijalva.

    1440 Longworth HOB
    Washington, DC 20515

    He chairs the national parks, forests, and public lands subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    He should have been made Secretary of Interior.

    http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=58

    http://grijalva.house.gov/index.html

  22. ProWolf in WY Says:

    Wolves counted in wilderness free up the state to kill them elsewhere.

    That does make sense.

  23. jdubya Says:

    A few misc articles:

    on solar energy development in the desert
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/19/science/earth/19mojave.html?_r=1&hpw

    on wolves, they had two today, one for the hunt, one against. the one for the hunt is, oddly, not on line

    http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_13368261
    – – –

    Thank you. I put up the solar energy story as a post.
    Ralph Maughan

  24. nabeki Says:

    I would love to hear the “off records discussions” I”m sure it was nothing good for the wolf.

    Someone mentioned poaching of wolf pups during Idaho’s hunt. In Montana “young of the year’ are allowed to be taken legally. Sickeining. Who kills a puppy?

  25. Jeff Says:

    SR25Stoner “As we all know wolves will never bother a horse.”
    although there were two confirmed horse predations in Montana 2008 and one in Idaho 2008. These are only the confirmed wolf kills, there were others reported.

    Lynne Stone: “So far, wolf hunters are showing their arrogance or ignorance, by ignoring IDFG’s suggestion that collared wolves not be killed, and/or poaching a wolf pup.”
    Actually the IDFG “encourages” hunters, not suggest. More importantly there are no limits on sex or age, please read the regs and be accurate in your statements if you hope to gain public trust for your views.

    As for the topic, I fail to see any reason for any intervention in the wilderness, including collars and tags. The point of the wilderness is for it to be as close to wild as possible.

    Being a hunter and knowing many I can assure you that most who would be interested in harvesting a wolf do NOT want to get one with a collar. Why? for the simple reason that most want to mount it and the collar leaves the fur in undesirable condition.

    As for collars leading to dead wolves, this is only true when they predate on stock and other methods don’t work, then the FWS does use the signal to quickly locate the offending wolves. This is all very clearly documented by both the Fed FWS and the states. Read the FWS daily archives, they are quite detailed and interesting reading. Too bad they quit updates in April when the delisting occured.
    http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/

    There is no indication that the public (hunters) have any access to the data or signals or have used them to hunt wolves. Obviously the contention that it could be used is valid, if people can hack your accounts and steal your identity then someone could certainly get to the data and use that to have an advantage when hunting. That said, there’s much easier ways to find wolves and all legal.
    I don’t see hunters having much interest in going to the wilderness to hunt wolves, although I’m sure some will kill through incidental contact while big game hunting. The reason is that there are far more wolves outside wilderness and besides better access there is also lots of public data to aid in locating the packs and their range.

  26. Phil Maker Says:

    It’s interesting, in the USFS’s collective mind, what constitutes incompatible uses in the wilderness. A couple I am acquaintated with had to jump through the beaureacratic hoops for months before they were allowed to take their video camera into the Frank to make a documentary film (selling movie footage is considered in violation of the Act). Two people, backpacking and shooting video, seems completely innocuous to me, yet there is apparently serious consideration of letting helicopter landings take place. The State of ID is poweful indeed if they can get the federal gov’t. to bend over and sanction/consider this proposal.

  27. smalltownID Says:

    Poor Idaho. If only other states in the west had someone with a website that could bring up meetings from almost two years ago when “hits” are low. The other state agencies would get so much more done if more “lawyers were on it.”

  28. Brian Ertz Says:

    smalltownID,

    the NEPA scoping letter on this came out September 14, 2009. That means the public was first made aware and asked to comment on the official intention to collar wolves in wilderness last week.

    That’s why the post was made this week ~ it’s timely.

    it just so happens i had posted the video to youtube 2 years ago that first alluded to the intention to land helicopters in the Frank-Church, so I re-posted it, it being relevant to last week’s scoping notice (and it being so creepy).

    I hope this helps …

    as for ‘getting things done’ ~ it seems to me if it takes a state agency 2+ years to figure out how to approach using public resources to land helicopters in wilderness, then the environmental advocates are doing something right ~ landing helicopters in wilderness doesn’t need to get done.

  29. Larry Thorngren Says:

    I agree with everyone who is opposed to landing helicopters for managing wildlife in a wilderness area.
    I am in Teton National Park and will be soon traveling into Yellowstone, where helicopters are used routinely for darting , drugging and collaring wolves and other wildlife.
    This violates every concept of wilderness in our National Parks.

  30. Dusty Roads Says:

    So does managing wildlife in the wilderness. I’ve heard wolf opponents, form ID and MT claim that “we can’t just have wildlife running wild in the wilderness, you know…”

  31. Cris Waller Says:

    “we can’t just have wildlife running wild in the wilderness, you know…”

    Yeah… the same crowd that insists that we must “manage” all wildlife, everywhere.

  32. John d. Says:

    “Who kills a puppy?”
    My guess is there are a few who don’t care about the age no matter the species, I know Australian hunters don’t:

    dingo ears & tail anyone ?

  33. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Larry Throngren,

    I pretty much agree with you, but there is one important legal distinction here.

    Yellowstone National Park backcountry is not designated by Congress as Wilderness, so aircraft landing, wolf darting, etc. is legal inasmuch as it obeys the Park Services’ own rules.

    The designated Wilderness areas of central Idaho allow no landing of aircraft at all except at several grandfathered grass airstrips, no low overflights, and no darting.

    Recent FS rules changes, however, might seem to give Fish and Game a loophole, but I think the Forest Service’s new rules violate the Wilderness Act. I also think Fish and Game’s request does not meet the new rules anyway.

  34. kt Says:

    Phil Maker:

    One explanation may be that the NEPA Scoping notice came from the Salmon-Challis Forest. An office that annually vies for the Most-Rancher-Controlled-and-All-Around-Backwards National Forest in Region 4.

    If you aren’t a cow, or don’t want to kill things ranchers and now reactionary elk rack hunters don’t want to exist, or if you don’t have a serious Forest Health issue that can only be cured by conflagration, you don’t rate in their eyes …

  35. Brian Ertz Says:

    To give an idea of the malfeasance on the Salmon-Challis Forest:

    The Lost River District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest just got schooled (last week) on mis-appropriation of RAC dollars to benefit ranchers there. The Forest had successfully distributed $11,000 of Title II funding of the Secure Rural Schools Act to hire range riders for private welfare ranchers on the Pass Creek Allotment.

    That’s your federal government pulling $11,000 from the Secure Rural Schools Act to hire range riders so that ranchers wouldn’t have to tend their own private livestock on your public lands !

    The Forest had determined that the rider was necessary because of extensive resource damage that livestock were inflicting upon the public landscape – damage which the Forest’s own biologists deemed would bring it out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act. The livestock were pummeling Bull Trout habitat (PHOTO), as well as so many other wildlife species’ habitat.

    So rather than reduce or eliminate livestock from the allotment in response to what is clearly just too many livestock for the landscape – the Forest paid for an employee to ride with the cattle, claiming it’d help.

  36. kt Says:

    Too funny Brian – They got schooled!

    Yes, and then there was the Salmon-Challis’s recent withdrawn Weed EIS – begun in 2001 or so (it takes a while up there), that wallowed in the glories of Oust and hinted at some strange Weed Cooperative that serves to give ranchers access to free biocides (likely for re-sale and profiteering – or something).

  37. Virginia Says:

    I am not sure if this is a good place to post this, but just wanted to pass along that Douglas W. Smith, project leader for Yellowstone’s Gray Wolf Restoration Project, will be speaking at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center at 12:15 p.m. on October 1. The title of the discussion is “The Real Story, No Politics.” More information can be found at: bbhc.orgdmnh/lunchExpedition.cfm.

  38. mikepost Says:

    http://www.adn.com/244/story/940618.html

    Ralph, check out this story of an attack on a human by a rabid wolf in Alaska. The area is a hot-bed of rabies in the red fox (invasive species) population.

  39. ProWolf in WY Says:

    I would love to hear the “off records discussions” I”m sure it was nothing good for the wolf.

    Can you imagine the fallout if anything like that leaked out?

  40. Larry Thorngren Says:

    Ralph-
    Using helicopters to chase wolves and other wildlife to exhaustion, for any reason, violates everything a National Park or wilderness is supposed to be.
    The mentality, that says that every wolf pack in Idaho’s wilderness and in our National Parks needs to be radio collared, is obscene.
    India is in the process of banning radio collars on it’s wild tiger population because they have determined that tiger deaths from collaring are second only to poaching.

  41. gline Says:

    That story in Alaska sounds ludicrous to me and I did post that opinion online in the Alaskan newspaper.

    And Larry Thorngren I agree with you. Collaring a wild wolf is very off… (even if for research) goes against the Wilderness act. My own dog has a problem with wearing his collar.

  42. mikepost Says:

    gline, rabies in that area is very common although not in wolves as the article states. You can’t make real life events go away because they don’t agree with your perception of the world. Reality is that any member of the canine family can get rabies, wolves included. In fact much of the negative streotype of the wolf in literature comes from well documented rabies outbreaks in European wolves in past centuries. It is what it is.

  43. Phil Maker Says:

    kt,

    It was the Salmon-Challis that put up objection to the filming proposal! I guess, as you state, priorities are different.

  44. smalltownID Says:

    Virginia. Thanks for the post about Doug Smith. he walks a fine line. It will be a good talk I guaranteee it.

  45. smalltownID Says:

    If it is like his last one, there will be some awesome video.

  46. SAP Says:

    Brian – can you elaborate on the RAC-range rider thing? Did the project get shot down as a case of misapproriation? Also, decisions on project funding under Title II are made by appointed RAC members, not USFS; however, the vast majority of project proposals that come before FS RACs are directly from the agency itself.

  47. Brian Ertz Says:

    SAP,

    yes – a range con from the Forest applied for the RAC dollars.

    a lawyer for WWP identified the fact that the central Idaho RAC panel had approved the project, but had done so in the absence of a quorum – which was why it is a misappropriation.

    so – it’s a technicality, but enough that a few elbow-jab phone calls shut the project down. the riders will get paid to the point at which Salmon-Challis Supervisor Bill Wood called the project off – given the Forest had signed a contract to reimburse the grazing association permitted to use the Pass Creek Allotment.

    the RAC panel convenes again I think in October, during which time they could re-approve the project ~ if they pull together a quorum 😉

    does that answer your question ?

  48. SAP Says:

    Yep! Thanks!

  49. Lynne Stone Says:

    Jeff – FYI – I have read the IDFG wolf regs many times. Excuse me for saying that IDFG “suggests” rather than “encourages”, wolf killers not to shoot collared wolves. I am well aware that IDFG has no problem of hunters killing wolf pup. Nor, the killing of pregnant wolves that are within days of having their pups.

    SR225Stoner – re. the GPS collared female Archie Mt wolf killed a couple of miles from Bull Trout Lake, just off Hwy 21. I visited the site. The wolf was shot 100 yards from his camp by the old cabins. The guy drove out and stuffed her into his ATV basket, drove back to where his horse was, and started shooting his video. He skinned out the wolf, chopped off the head, left the paws attached to the carcass, then dumped the carcass in the nearby woods for all to see. If you look at his lame video, there is a barbecue setting on the stump next to where his horse was tied. He said the “wulf was gonna eat my hawse”. More likely, it was nosing around the barbecue.

  50. Ralph Maughan Says:

    I think it’s likely we are going to see a lot of videos like this and hear tall tales during the wolf hunt.

    Hunters, fishers, rock climbers, people in every sport tell tales. It is just that most of them don’t get any attention beyond their circle of often skeptical friends.

  51. Craig Says:

    Lynne Stone Says:
    ” Nor, the killing of pregnant wolves that are within days of having their pups.”

    Since when are wolves breeding so early and having pups between Sep 15 – Dec 31? The latest hunt is Lolo (10, 12) Sep 1 – Mar 31.

  52. Lynne Stone Says:

    Craig – I don’t understand your post. Your last sentence says that the Lola zone goes to March 31st, so obviously that’s within days or a few weeks of denning and new pups. The Sawtooth zone hunt also goes to March 31st. My observation of the three packs that I monitor closely, is that they den in the 2nd week of April. One pack’s alpha female has disappeared from the rest, right around tax day for the past three Springs.

  53. gline Says:

    “You can’t make real life events go away because they don’t agree with your perception of the world.”

    Mikepost- I readily know that very well. That is a bit of personal statement don’t you think?

    I know about rabies. Did you listen to that story? It sounds ridiculous. The amount of hatred that exists for wolves leads me to believe many will make up stories to feed their hate for wolves. You know that.

  54. Ken Cole Says:

    gline,
    I’m not sure why you are so skeptical. The story is real. There are several news stories online about it. The carcass was sent to a lab and was found to have rabies. I didn’t get any sense that the hunter had a problem with wolves other than he was attacked by one that turned out to be rabid.

    I’m as pro-wolf as anyone but I think that this is a true story.

    Could you explain your skepticism?

  55. Ralph Maughan Says:

    I’m glad the fellow escaped and pray that the rabies vaccine works.

    A rabid wolf is one of the nightmare themes anti-wolf people like to conjure up, and rarely there actually is one.

    I’m amazed that even a rabid wolf didn’t succeed in killing a person.

  56. ProWolf in WY Says:

    The amount of hatred that exists for wolves leads me to believe many will make up stories to feed their hate for wolves.

    People will do that. Like last summer I heard a coworker tell me that there was a pack of wolves that attacked a campsite in Yellowstone and the “victims” were able to shoot them because they had permits to carry guns in national parks. Interesting how not only did the Casper Star Tribune, Missoulian, and Billings Gazette not report this, but neither did newspapers in Livingston, Cody, Jackson, or any other place near the park.

  57. Ralph Maughan Says:

    People make up stories and they get passed around. It’s important to their perpetuation that the news media don’t report them, because then they become silly sounding.

    Someone tried to tell my wife that he had a friend who saw a pack of wolves wait for a pregnant elk cow to begin giving birth. The wolves then ate the calf as it emerged!

    What a horror!!

    I’ve heard other versions of this. I think Ron Gillett makes this part of his dog and pony show.

    But if you think for 5 seconds, you realize any wolf pack would just take down the pregnant cow.

  58. ProWolf in WY Says:

    Ralph, I have heard the same thing said about coyotes. Once it was in Outdoor Life. I would think that would be a pretty ballsy coyote.

  59. JEFF E Says:

    There is another facet of this situation that is chafing my butt so I need to clear it up.
    Mark has said a number of times that the main reason for the increased kill season in the sawtooth and lolo zone is because of the lower numbers of elk in relation to the habitat in those two zones respectively.
    Here is some breaking news. Habitat is a condition that includes all the flora AND FAUNA present. So I would submit that the true carrying capacity of these two zones are probably closer to reality now than what has been true in recent history.
    Elk and wolves evolved together for millennium. It’s not their first date.
    The fact is that it took the state of Idaho 14 trys to get a plan that is minimally acceptable under the ESA and the still official position of the legislature is to remove wolves from the state.
    I have set in a few meetings of the commission and a couple public comment meetings. The (IMO) position of the commission is that the only good wolf is a dead wolf, their being forced to act under the law of the ESA notwithstanding.
    The recent politically correct verbiage expressed in the media and on this blog is nothing more than political expideancy.

  60. Eric T. Says:

    an uncollared wolf is an uncounted wolf (pack)

  61. ProWolf in WY Says:

    Thank-you Jeff E!

    Have you read Rex Rammel’s position on wolves? Straight out of “Little Red Riding Hood” and the “Three Little Pigs” (or maybe Three Little Elk).

  62. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

    JEFF E –
    Without arguing the definition of habitat, to be clear, I said in the absence of wolf predation (should be – the current level of elk predation by wolves), elk production and recruitment is below what existing habitat and recent hunter harvest is capable of sustaining. Carrying capacity is a dynamic limit for each species that constantly shifts depending on a wide number of variables, predation in general or wolf predation being only one. Management by definition is human intervention to achieve a desired outcome. That is, has been the norm in human history and I believe is at the heart of this controversy. Should humans intentially manage for a desired outcome in “nature”? I think I hear you and others are arguing no, at least in some instances. If so, should we attempt to remove all possible influence by humans on the landscape – at least in some areas, or would you argue for a different suite of human influences?

  63. Tilly Says:

    Jeff E: Fantastic comment. IDFG doesn’t care about what is natural or what is wild, but what is good for maximizing elk to hunt.

    Mark: Yes, management is human intervention to achieve a desired outcome. How about, for central Idaho, one of the wildest places in the country, the desired outcome being what is natural or wild?

  64. gline Says:

    Should humans intentially manage for a desired outcome in “nature”?

    ? This is already being done (humans intentionally managing nature) with the notion that it is right and just, ie manifest destiny.

    However the nature of the logic is changing now that we enter a modern era: it is obvious now that one of the main points of the wolf argument is: elk numbers are fine, wolves don’t need to be “controlled”. Outfitters have been outwitted??

    Wolves have been “controlled” all along for preying on livestock. They have been controlled. This current hunt seems to be a desire to get to the 100 number of wolves, which science shows is not viable. How did you come up with 100, Mark et al.? And what happens when the number goes below 100? What about the science from MN showing the negative effects of low gene pool on wolves?

  65. gline Says:

    Wilderness areas should be left alone -untrammeled. Not “managed” by us.

  66. JB Says:

    “Management by definition is human intervention to achieve a desired outcome.”

    Mark: You and I have found another point on which we agree! One of the reasons I have argued so hard against F&G commissions is that–to a great extent–they determine what this desired outcome is and who it serves. When the commission is dominated by one interest group (whether it is hunters, ranchers, or any other), decisions about what constitutes a desirable outcome will be biased in favor of that group (or at the very least, will be perceived as biased).

    Thus, while you may find that commissions buffer agency scientists and managers from having to make the “wicked” policy decisions (i.e. what do we manage for), when they are monopolized by a single interest group they open agencies to criticism that decision processes are biased in favor of said group. A more “representative” commission could increase the legitimacy of policy decisions in the eyes of a diverse group of stakeholders.

  67. ProWolf in WY Says:

    Gline, 100 wolves is to make sure they don’t get ESA protections as that was the original population goal. Each state had to have 100.

  68. JEFF E Says:

    Mark says,
    “elk production and recruitment is below what existing habitat and recent hunter harvest is capable of sustaining. ”

    Mark,
    That is an impossible statement without having a base definition of Habitat.

    What is the legal/Idaho State/ Idaho State Fish and Game Commission definition. Are they the same, or does it depend on the day of the week?

    I can quote any number of dictionary’s (In different languages), to include the etymology, that will support the inclusive definition of flora and fauna as the components of a complete picture of “Habitat”.

  69. JEFF E Says:

    Mark Say’s, “…Should humans intentionally manage for a desired outcome in “nature”?….(and) If so, should we attempt to remove all possible influence by humans on the landscape – at least in some areas, or would you argue for a different suite of human influences?”
    Mark,
    The nature of the beast is that humans will manage for desired outcome. The question becomes is should that be the only option in all cases? Why should there be a kill season in every part of the state.
    Your own statement “Carrying capacity is a dynamic limit for each species that constantly shifts depending on a wide number of variables, predation in general or wolf predation being only one.” would seem to preclude the statewide season as being a rational, science based approach which also confirms my first hand eyewitness instances of the commission plus supporting statements from various arms of government.
    your second statement while being a sometimes daydream is also probably not feasible for any number of reasons, however why should human “management ” not be kept to an absolute minimum in such areas as those designated as wilderness. Would that not meet the definition of such? What possible advantage does it give to purposefully try to find loopholes in the Wilderness Act so that aircraft can be landed to collar wolves if not to drive the population to the minimum?

  70. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

    JEFF E –
    “That is an impossible statement without having a base definition of Habitat”
    Not at all Jeff. We know what current habitat is capable of supporting with varying levels of wolf predation, because we know what elk production and recruitment were as wolf predation increased, within the same habitat conditions. A precised description of habitat components and how each component contributes to elk production/recruitment is not necessary to understand the effects of wolf predation within the same habitat regime. Putting it another way, in an experimental analogy, we are monitoring a new elk mortality factor with other elk production/recruitment factors held constant.
    “The nature of the beast is that humans will manage for desired outcome. The question becomes is should that be the only option in all cases? Why should there be a kill season in every part of the state.”
    Jeff, yes there will be some form of management, the real issue and question is WHAT management? That is the purpose of the Fish and Game Commission and now we are back to the basic issue JB and I have been discussing in numerous threads. DO Idaho F&G Commission decisions balance the input and desires of non-hunters with the input and desires of hunters? OR is the Commission listening to, sincerely considering and making balanced decisions based on the input and desires of all Idahoans who engage in these issues? MY message has been YES they do. The fact that some/many believe they have not been listened to or that their preferences don’t matter is not evidence that is so. The Commission decisions in fact do balance all public input and desires. Wolves are being managed to sustain healthy, sustainable numbers for future generations of Idahoans. A variety of public benefits are provided for that include wolf viewing, wolf, elk and other big game hunting opportunities and protection of private property from unnecessaryly high levels of wolf predation. Exclusive wolf viewing areas are certainly a desire by some Idahoans, but not all, and accomodating those desires is not the most balanced solution to meeting the broad suite of public desires for wolf management in Idaho. In this regard, advocates of exclusive wolf viewing areas are in the same position that some hunters are in when they don’t get exactly what they prefer for their hunting opportunities and experiences and complain that they aren’t listened to. In fact in both cases those advocates were heard very clearly. Their preferred management alternative simply was not selected as the most responsible solution for meeting diverse and broad public desires.

  71. JB Says:

    “The fact that some/many believe they have not been listened to or that their preferences don’t matter is not evidence that is so. The Commission decisions in fact do balance all public input and desires.”

    Mark,

    You could easily turn this statement around: Just because you believe the Commission’s decisions are balanced does not necessarily make it so. At which point, we’re essentially arguing like children…or Congress, for that matter: Was so! Was not! Was so…[ad nauseum]

    The fact that many perceive your agency’s decision-making as biased, IS the point. Let me put it to you another way: does believing you are right make your job any easier? Certainly constantly telling people that they are wrong doesn’t make it any easier.

    “In such a polarized world, it’s easy to take pride in being ‘in the middle.’ But the ‘middle’ is a pretty big place. Exactly where in the middle are [wildlife] managers? Is our middle the same as ‘the public’s’? Or do our biases put us someplace other than where we think we are?” (Brunson, 1992, p. 292).

    I would be much happier if there was some indication that the Commission and IDF&G were asking these questions; instead, all we get are claims about an unbiased process.

    Brunson, M. 1992. Professional Bias, Public Perspectives, and Communication Pitfalls for Natural Resource Managers. Rangelands, 14(5), p. 292-296.

  72. gline Says:

    Mark: As a citizen of Montana and common tax paying consumer, I am planning on going to the Sawtooth wilderness next summer. Will I be able to see any wolves Mark? I’m worried about the Galena Pack not being there- dispersed due to hunting, death by natural causes, or death by whatever reason.

    I am asking that you think about many of us who are “wildlife watchers”, what it is like to wake up to daily news and pictures of hunted wolves? It is painful.

    And yes, I have put in many many comments to the Forest Service on this subject, for years. I do not feel listened to. The science says this hunt is not viable and yet it is still allowed to go on. On this website, videos of Steve Nadeau and discussions of aerial hunting and jokes about being off the record?? On the latest wolf killed in Montana- the hunter says that he found the pack napping. so he shot one. Is that hunting? Now, what happens to that pack? I would think seemingly stressed. what happens if another from the same pack is shot? Was this thought about at all before the hunt was allowed to be??

    For all the talk that it is legitimate and “fair” hunt- is just not true.

  73. gline Says:

    Pro wolf I think that was a matter of opinion isn’t it? 100 permanent- so we would be culling any newborns every year? that is the matter of contention – the 100 wolves Idaho said they could deal with. Conservation groups want more for healthy gene pool. I remember at the time the only way to get wolves reintroduced was for the Feds to be able to “control” them.

    So, non lethal means of control were not a priority “tool” from the beginning…

  74. Save bears Says:

    gline, I am not condoning or condemning, but I have never heard the claim that shooting a legal animal in its bed is not hunting, I know of quite a few deer, elk and moose that have been shot in the bed by legal hunters during the act of hunting…

  75. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

    JB –
    Actually I think you and I are progressing toward middle ground, perhaps glacially, but progress none-the-less.
    “does believing you are right make your job any easier? Certainly constantly telling people that they are wrong doesn’t make it any easier.”
    Believing I am right? I would say I’m trying to articulate, accurately and responsibly the Department’s and Commission’s findings and explain why we have the system, policies and programs we have. In that effort, I am trying to explain how we (IDFG) assess the interactions of wolves, elk and humans AND I’m offering my assessment of Commission decisions and the Commission process. I have no illusions of being right on everything topic or issue I speak to. And I do not mean to tell you or anyone else that you are wrong. I see a difference between that kind of arguing and the sincere sharing of differing points of view. If I’m coming across strident or as a know-it-all, thank you for pointing that out. That is not the effect I want have on anyone.
    ““In such a polarized world, it’s easy to take pride in being ‘in the middle.’ But the ‘middle’ is a pretty big place. Exactly where in the middle are [wildlife] managers? Is our middle the same as ‘the public’s’? Or do our biases put us someplace other than where we think we are?” (Brunson, 1992, p. 292).”
    JB – I’m not speaking for the Commission now, but as a wildlife professional and public servant, I believe those are important, valid questions I have a responsibility to consider. It is our responsibility to understand the concerns, desires and preferences of the public we serve AND do our best to accomodate those public “needs” as thoroughly as we can. I think you and I have been disagreeing whether the Commission is committed to the same.
    BTW, thank you for the references you’ve consistently included. Frankly, I’m way behind, but I will catch up as soon as I can.

  76. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

    gline –
    “As a citizen of Montana and common tax paying consumer, I am planning on going to the Sawtooth wilderness next summer. Will I be able to see any wolves Mark? I’m worried about the Galena Pack not being there- dispersed due to hunting, death by natural causes, or death by whatever reason.
    I am asking that you think about many of us who are “wildlife watchers”, what it is like to wake up to daily news and pictures of hunted wolves? It is painful.”

    I spoke to the common wildlife user desire – for certainty of satisfaction – a couple of times earlier. No wildlife management agency can or should give assurances to the public that harvest or viewing desires are in some way guaranteed. Wildlife management agencies (wildlife stewards) are responsible to make sure those populations are healthy, viable, sustainable and that the public uses for those resources are available to the public – reasonably. Neither I or anyone else can say if you will have the veiwing experience you hope to have, under any management sceario. I can assure you that there will be wolves in the Stanley Basin when you travel there the view them.
    ” I am asking that you think about many of us who are “wildlife watchers”, what it is like to wake up to daily news and pictures of hunted wolves? It is painful.”
    How to respond to your heart-felt statement without sounding trite or uncaring? – I understand that you and many others have a sincere emotional investment and bond in the fate of these wolves. I respect that. At the same time, I accept that it’s a harsh impartial ecosystem we and they live in, yet we are all a part of the same ecosystem. The roles of humans and wolves are similar, both being top predators, and our predatory interactions with wolves are not unlike the predatory interactions with wolves and their prey. Each of us (individual humans) is responsible to come to terms personally with those realities. The emotional struggles we may manage are for different reasons, at different levels and have no role in public wildlife management policy or programs.
    “I have put in many many comments to the Forest Service on this subject, for years. I do not feel listened to.”
    I think you must understand this, but in case not, I should emphasize that the Forest Service has no authority or rolee to formulate wildlife management policy or programs outside of their consultation role with the state agencies who are responsible for wildlife management. The Forest Service is responsible for land management, including wilderness administration. Their are overlapping responsibilities with the state agencies and the USFS, but not for wildlife populatation management.

  77. I love wolves AND elk Says:

    1. I have been watching the elk herds in the S Fork Payette drainage for 12 years, since just after wolf re-introduction. In the winter, when herds are forced down into the valleys, there is ample evidence of healthy cow herds. The impacts of weather (remember the spring that wasn’t?), the weeds replacing nutritous forage, and the forest regenerating will all have a much larger affect on elk populations than any one individual predator. IDFG studies have shown that in this area with “high” wolf population, 4%, let me repeat that, 4% of cow elk were killed by wolves. 3% were killed by hunting even though you can only hunt cows with archery or a muzzleloader permit. That leaves 93% of the cow elk that were killed by other factors.

    2. RE Landing helicopters in the wilderness. This is contrary to everything about Wilderness. They just denied a cell phone tower on Galena that would be in view from a part of the wilderness. Now it is OK to land a helicopter in the wilderness and collar wildlife? Not only is this not WILD for the wilderness itself but also this would mean that hikers lucky enough to see a wolf would have to see a collared wolf. As they say, disneyland style management.

  78. JEFF E Says:

    Mark,
    Thank you for your answers however I would still like your opinion of my statement; “your second statement while being a sometimes daydream is also probably not feasible for any number of reasons, however why should human “management ” not be kept to an absolute minimum in such areas as those designated as wilderness. Would that not meet the definition of such? What possible advantage does it give to purposefully try to find loopholes in the Wilderness Act so that aircraft can be landed to collar wolves if not to drive the population to the minimum?”.
    first let me clarify that when I question a state wide kill season it is not because I want wolf viewing areas per se, but rather what advantage in regard to habitat does killing 5 wolves in all of southern Idaho south of the snake river give?
    Or, in wilderness areas is it not the concept that human interference or, if you prefer management,
    be kept to an absolute minimum? That was always what mine and many others thought when these areas were designated such. So is that true or not. If not why have those areas at all, and if so why, again is Idaho looking for loopholes in the regulations to dart and collar wolves using aircraft. Does the state do that with any other animal within wilderness boundaries?
    JE

  79. Cris Waller Says:

    Mark-
    “The emotional struggles we may manage are for different reasons, at different levels and have no role in public wildlife management policy or programs.”

    Wildlife management, in the end, is almost always based on “emotional decisions.”

    Any decision to hold a hunt on a species or in an area when no firm scientific mandate for “control” on that species has been established *is* “an emotional decision” in that, if scientific data that does not *dictate* any particular management action, choosing the consumptive over the non-consumptive option is a decision based entirely on values. Whenever any non-native species, like pheasants, are stocked for hunting, that is also an “emotional decision.” Favoring human hunters over other predators is also an “emotional decision.”

    By these standards, very few hunts are justified by science alone. For example, wiping out feral pigs and goats in Hawaii or on other islands is certainly something that science *does* mandate (although, curiously, it was Hawaiian hunting groups that opposed the total removal of these animals; they wanted some left to hunt!) Killing wolves to boost elk numbers is not a scientific mandate. As you yourself have said, the elk are in no danger of extinction. Therefore, the decision to hunt wolves in Idaho is *entirely* an emotional decision. It’s entirely valuing one set of beliefs and assumptions over another.

    I know that this is a very difficult concept for many to understand. The way that I have put it is that scientific data, itself, is value-neutral. The decisions made based on that data are not.

  80. gline Says:

    Mark, thank you for answering, and I do appreciate you being on this blog, although I’m not really sure why you are. It does demonstrate that you are listening. And, believe me I have seen your answers to previous questions akin to mine, as I am reading this blog almost daily. It is obvious that I am not a biologist or expert in anyway, but my opinions as a “layperson” still matter.

    “I accept that it’s a harsh impartial ecosystem we and they live in, yet we are all a part of the same ecosystem. The roles of humans and wolves are similar, both being top predators, and our predatory interactions with wolves are not unlike the predatory interactions with wolves and their prey.”

    As I see it, we don’t live in the same harsh ecosystem wolves live in. They live in the natural state, we live in houses with cable, Pabst beer and trucks to drive to work everyday. We don’t work for our food like wolves do. They work harder.

    As I see it we(you) are their stewards, not their equal or dictator out in the field.

    There is the financial component of course, which wolves are not aware of. This financial component has and always will effect how ranchers negatively view wolves and other predators, hence the wolves’ extirpation earlier this century. However, when millions of cattle are grazing on Federal wildlands, and statistically low numbers of them are killed by wolves per year, I don’t feel much sympathy for the rancher. When I see ranchers complaining that they have to “take care” of their livestock 365 days a year, I don’t feel much sympathy. I think many ranchers do try non lethal means with wolves, but get frustrated and give up. And then it is easier to give up as time goes on. (There doesn’t seem to be any science behind the “control” methods we have used- I have always wondered why we kill the most efficient wolf after predation? wouldn’t that lead to more predation???). Then, there is the embedded culture of hate and manifest destiny behind us all the time. Yes, the economy is bad now, and it will be bad again in the future. Is that reason to scapegoat the wolf again and more so?? When do we change?

    “Each of us (individual humans) is responsible to come to terms personally with those realities. The emotional struggles we may manage are for different reasons, at different levels and have no role in public wildlife management policy or programs.”

    Mark let me just say your role is bigger than mine with reference to wildlife management- you are the appointed official steward. I just live here.

    Moreover, if the emotions are here on the part of the public, don’t they play a role in your job? Do the emotions of angry ranchers not effect your policy then? what about the opinions of the livestock industry? Do their emotions/needs not effect your policy? Which emotions don’t play a role?

    Let me say that I feel emotion for the many other endangered species here in the U.S. For example, the Wolverine, with less than 500 left in the lower 48, I feel powerless to stop that demise. I would hope that you feel some urgent emotion on that topic to motivate you and your office to implement wildlife management to maintain that species. Seems logical to me.

  81. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Says:

    Chris Waller, gline –
    You are right that emotions are an important part of the social side of wildlife management. I should have said – it’s important to distinguish between social and scientific considerations and consider them within their appropriate contexts when establishing wildlife management objectives.

    gline –
    “As I see it, we don’t live in the same harsh ecosystem wolves live in. They live in the natural state, we live in houses with cable, …. ”
    We and wolves live in one ecosystem. There are different components, different participants in our ecosystem but this is one ecosystem with humans as the dominant species. Each species exploits ecosystem resources to it’s benefit. In that regard, wolves are no different than humans. Wolves have a role in this ecosystem that we share and humans decide how we will tolerate wolves as a competitor and use wolves as a resource. Those decisions will be based on what humans decide is best for humans. Every species is inherently a selfish entity and functions in and relates to our ecosystem accordingly. HOW we manage wolves will be determined by what our society deems to be in it’s best interests. Hunting, livestock protection, wolf viewing, affection for wolves or animus towards wolves are each based on societal desires for benefits and cost control of the wildlife resources we manage and enjoy.

    gline –
    “I do appreciate you being on this blog, although I’m not really sure why you are.”
    I chose to participate in this blog because I am a public servant, responsible for understanding public attitudes, concerns and desires for wildlife management and explaining IDFG and Commission decisions, policies and programs. This blog gives me and the public access to each other, I hope in a positive way.


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