Hunters angry over dwindling elk need historical perspective

A historical perspective on the Gallatin Canyon elk “decline” controversy-

The following is by Norman A. Bishop of Bozeman, a member of our Board and long time naturalist in the Greater Yellowstone area of Montana.

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Hunters angry over dwindling elk need historical perspective

“Hunters vent anger over dwindling elk” in Gallatin Canyon (Chronicle, Dec. 4) took me back a few decades to an insightful 44-page Montana Fish and Game Department report by Allan L. Lovaas, “People and the Gallatin Elk Herd.”  In that 1970 report, Lovaas chronicles the history of the area, its elk, and the many factors affecting their numbers. The factors he lists include hunting (including for the market), trapping and feeding (elk), eliminating predators, removing Indians, grazing of livestock, controlling wildfires, creating wildlife preserves Yellowstone), and, mostly, through permitting the herd to burgeon out of control on its depleted range.

FWP biologists Kenneth Hamlin and Julie Cunningham compiled comprehensive report in 2009, “Monitoring and assessment of wolf- ungulate interactions and population trends within the GreaterYellowstone Area, southwestern Montana, and statewide.”  Item 4 in their Executive Summary is: “The number of grizzly bears in Southwest Montana and the GYA has increased more than 3-fold since 1987, concurrently with the increase in wolf numbers, affecting the total elk predation rate.”  And item 8, “In areas with high predator (grizzly bear and wolf) to prey ratios, …elk numbers have declined…”

In a 2003-2004 study, researchers noted that predation, hunting, and drought contributed to a decline of elk in northern Yellowstone.  They traced 151 newborn elk calves for 30 days, and found that predators caused more than 90% of their deaths.  Bears killed 55-60%; coyotes and wolves each took 10-15%.  The authors said it remains to be seen if wolf predation is additive to other mortality sources.

Lovaas saw the larger picture in 1970, and so do astute wildlife managers today.  They recognize the rarity in natural systems of single-cause effects, and don’t just blame wolves.

Norman A. Bishop
Bozeman, MT 59715

Federal officials [said to] look for ways to make Mexican wolf recovery a success in the Southwest

A lot of this article is just blue sky exaggeration-

This article’s URL was emailed to me by someone familiar with the Mexican wolf program. Federal officials look for ways to make wolf recovery a success in the Southwest. By Susan Montoya Bryan. LA Times.

My email friend wrote: “I read these stories and I can’t keep a straight face.  Mexican wolves have killed hundreds of cattle in the last decade?  At best they got 52 of the “little buggers” so any talk of hundreds of dead cattle is absurd.  I certainly hope that someone . . . makes a stand on this kind of misinformation.  If any ranchers have gone out of business or plan to in the future I would think they could come up with a believable story rather than a laughable one………..”

Timber law becomes vast entitlement for some states

Law to help logging communities after the spotted owl-induced logging reductions now pours money into areas where there have never been spotted owls-

Timber law becomes vast entitlement. By Matthew Daly and Shannon Dinninny. Associated Press Writers