So that’s twenty individual wolves, are there that many in that area? Did they have a viable and clear rationale for this decision that shows any real scientific data indicating this area could withstand such a sudden population decline?
or that there is any need for such a high number?
Here’s my experience in the Lolo. I have posted it before, but why not again?
There aren’t elk. We all should know that. I believe it from personal experience, the method too many people trust more than a professional survey.
My experience there during hunting season 2008 was a lack of wolves too. I saw no sign of wolves in 5 days.
I saw no elk, and I saw just a few droppings and few tracks. I drove and hiked the low elevations such as along the North Fork of the Clearwater and Weitas Creek. I drove and walked logging roads on the western edge. I hiked to the headwaters of the North Fork. I hiked the Stateline trail (high elevation). I drove Lake Creek and hiked mid-elevation trails there
A year earlier in 1997 I spooked one elk cow in the brush near the Lolo Road (August).
There were whitetail deer, but I didn’t see a lot. It’s not like here in SE Idaho. If wolves are hanging on there, I think they live mostly on deer.
I think you are right that they will have a hard time killing 20 wolves. If they were there, they are now gone. This hunting unit was the farthest from meeting the wolf quota in last year’s wolf hunt. Idaho Fish and Game blamed it on poor access. In fact there is pretty good access to much of the unit. There is thick vegetation from low to mid-level in many places.
Idaho Fish and Game’s well known graph showing elk hunt success decline shows a tremendous drop in elk, but it was all before wolves were even reintroduced in unit 10 and before there were a significant number of wolves in unit 12. In unit 12 elk bottomed out first in 1997, 2 years are reintroduction.
This is all politics. You can see by the attitude of local hunters they aren’t going tolerate Idaho Fish and Game having any other viewpoint. Fish and Game has to do something like this or their heads will roll in Boise.
At some time elk numbers will increase again. A lot of the country has burned, and it will be good elk habitat in ten years unless it is all taken over by knapweed. Some people will say it was because they shot all the wolves.
Si’vet is a nice guy. I’d take up his offer. It’s pretty country, too, especially in late September. You won’t see elk or wolves or very likely bears.
Ralph’s point about the decline in elk numbers starting to decline before wolf numbers even got going is correct. If you take all of Idaho’s charts showing elk numbers and wolf numbers and overlay them with the same date line across the bottom, you see an almost perfect “V” shape where the elk populations numbers drop to a relatively stable low point at the time that wolf numbers are only beginning their climb. Something was hitting the elk hard long before the wolves got going; it could have been any combination of drought, CWD, bangs, loss of habitat to development, disruption from off road nonsense, poaching, excess tags; it could have been any number of things; but, it clearly started before the wolf population was even remotely significant. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not completely against shooting wolves, for the right reasons, with the right attitude, and as long as the long term sustainability of the overall wolf population is protected. It could be that the wolves are now holding the population down, although they may just be cleaning up the leavings from other negative factors on the elk; but, they did not cause the original drop.
This fact supports three points about the situation. First, the ranting public has no credibility, based on their stupidity; the data are there and quite clear and anyone with half a brain can decipher it at a glance. Second, Idaho Fish and Game has no ethics whatsoever, as evidenced by their willingness to go along with this charade despite the fact that they must have someone in that fake department who can read a couple of graphs. The same goes for SFW; they are spewing this crap and have to know its spurious. Third, the fact that Idaho Fish and Game, the very state agency charged with “scientific” management of these species, would go along with this nonsense instead of asking the more important questions about what caused the original elk decline is proof that these backward states have no business in wildlife management.
Science? We don’t need no stinkin’ science..certainly not in Idaho.
Expect more as we get close to Malloy’s decision time. The more they can kill now, despite evidence that Lolo has been in trouble as elk habitat long before the wolves came, the fewer that are around later to be a sustainable population. Montana is following suit with increased hunt numbers of their own.
nOW i GOT IT- the wolf reintroduction was a communist socialist criminal enterprise administered by wolf-loving hippie liberals- quick call in the national guard! call sara palin! she will help! Oh no- not tapeworms! We are doomed!Call the outfitters!!!!!!!!
Depending on who you ask, it could be as high as 24 elk each.
Ron Gillett says: “Each wolf kills up to 24 game animals a year, kills twice that many for the sport of it, and also follows elk herds, killing calves immediately after birth.
Ed Bangs says: “Each wolf kills the equivalent of 12 cow elk a year. In Idaho, that would be about 16 ungulates, elk and deer. Wolves very occasionally kill more than they eat, but sport killing is a popular myth. Some wolves are killed each year by being kicked by elk.
If you do environmental law these days, you HAVE to deal with and master science of all sorts. So, let’s see, I have dealt with solid and hazardous waste, toxic substances, oil pollution, air pollution, water pollution, cement kiln issues in addition to the Interior stuff. So, ALL of it requires reading and understanding the various science aspects of the statutes.
One of the wonderful things about law school is that they teach you the skills of comprehending large amounts of disparate material and analyzing it in a cogent fashion.
But, it really doesn’t take a scientist to see the stats on Lolo from the IDFG, and realize that habitat is the issue here, not wolves. Wolves are just a convenient red herring for folks like you who want something to blame.
Oh yeah, I was pre med in college, BS degree. So, yeah, I dealt with biology, chemistry, zoology extensively.
These are not biologically based decisions, Layton. You know that. These are politically based decisions that rely on cherry picked, and often erroneous conclusions to justify a decision already reached. In terms of science, that is ass backwards.
Thanks for your very informative answer — but I’m a little confused.
I asked about your qualifications for judging the science that the trained biologists use to make decisions about wolves.
Which part of your answer do you consider as addressing that qualification?? Was it the toxic waste part, or the cement kiln issues, or reading or maybe your pre med studies equated to studying wolves effects on ungulates.
“One of the wonderful things about law school is that they teach you the skills of comprehending large amounts of disparate material and analyzing it in a cogent fashion.”
Are you trying to tell me that only lawyers can do that?? Seems to me that most scientists do that all the time.
Could you explain the connection??
Hate to tell you this JimT, but your THEORIES that all this is politically based are just that — theories.
Thanks, JimT. Another well educated and experienced blogger here, from reading your response to Layton.
And Layton, you’re always confused, so what’s new about your red-herring inquisition this time around? Surely you’ve come up with a new pitch line or excuse for your lack of will to try to understand someone else’s point by this time… or are you still sitting there with your horse blinders and earplugs on spewing your tired-old-lack-of-knowledge-but-I’m-just-sayin’-FauxNews rationale just one more time?
Speaking of “spewing your tired-old-lack-of-knowledge-but-I’m-just-sayin’-FauxNews rationale just one more time?”
Why don’t you get a new story line?? Your old crap of putting someone down rather than coming up with something substantive is just that — old crap.
I asked JimT what his qualifications for putting down the biologists at Idaho F&G were — pray tell just how is that spewing some lack of knowledge? I would submit that his (supposed) answer was the “spew”. Everyone that deals with anything technical has to master “skills of comprehending large amounts of disparate material and analyzing it in a cogent fashion.” What the hell would make him think that this was a skill that only lawyers possess??
Then comes Salle, on the big white mule, lance in hand, defending poor JimT — give me a break!!
I guess you didn’t take that walk in the woods…too bad. All that inner vitriolic energy is going to take a toll on you someday.
I have dealt with many scientists in my years, in the context of litigation, Federal rule-makings, legislation advocacy. Most don’t really care to become legally competent to read a series of cases, and then come up with a strategy to blend precedent, theory, practicality, and supporting science to present before a judge, ALJ, or a group like the IBLA. And I think they show wise judgment…VBG. Frankly, I think most reasonably dedicated people could handle law school IF they wanted it badly enough.
The beauty of law school is not necessarily the specific knowledge of law; that changes all the time and what you memorized for the bar is old hat in 3 years. It is the mindset, the analysis skills to take virtually any set of materials you may run into in the course of a case, and be able to comprehend them well enough to blend it into the use of the law to accomplish your goals. I can’t really explain it more than that; you would have to go to appreciate the hellishness of the process, and also the benefits and gifts it bestows. You don’t necessarily have to be as good a biologist as Doug Smith; that is impossible without years of study and field experience. BUT ,you do have to read the science, and understand it well enough to have a conversation with Doug, to know what questions to ask, and be able to spot BS when you see it..like the IDFG and others’s spin on the Lolo charts.
Theories? Nah, it is folks like you and IDFG who are spinning theories all the time to justify killing wolves, or cherry picking facts. I just looked at the lolo stats over time, and it is all there for any reasonable person to see.
A somewhat civilized reply from JimT — a red letter day!! 8) Really, I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way at all.
“All that inner vitriolic energy is going to take a toll on you someday.”
Nothing “vitriolic” about it, simply pointing out that you are taking trained scientists to task for something that is out of your specific field of expertise. It isn’t out of theirs.
They look at the data with expertise that you yourself admit only comes with years of experience. Yet you flatly say they don’t know what they are talking about – either that or that they have political motives.
Wouldn’t you think that, as professionals in their field, that they would put out reports with an eye toward the PEER review process? I would, and I believe that their peers would be shouting loudly to anyone that would listen if what was being said could not be backed up.
I spent 30+ years in the computer support business and in R&D labs, believe me when I say that I understand “collecting disparate date” to come to a conclusion. Many times I was able to prove that a theory was wrong, but not without iron clad evidence. In this case however, it seems to me that you are simply advancing the idea that you know more than they do — WITH NO PROOF.
1) ID takes matters into its own hands now, with free and very willing labor, before Judge Molloy rules, with substantial probability of relisting that stops harvest season (“killing” by hunters, just for you JimT), and makes most lethal control everywhere more cumbersome.
2) ID waits for Molloy’s ruling, and if adverse, makes the case (science based, with long public review, and maybe a slow-down with legal challenges, during which time wolf populations increase) as a federal regulatory 10(j) control measure when FWS has responsibility once again.
Path 1 gets outfitters and hunters off their backs, allows for perceived immediate control, and is entirely a state action. If there are not that many wolves in the Lolo, then ID will wind up with egg on its face, the assertion of degraded elk habitat as the cause for lower elk populations will be self-proving, and critics of their actions will have one more issue to publicly throw at them. This strategy is not without risks.
My theory, as I have stated before, is that the the easy pickings elk in the Lolo have been cleaned out, and wolves are already on the move to adjacent units in ID and MT, where pickings are better, then they will rotate through again if Lolo elk populations come back up. Just look how quickly the Elk City-Dworshak wolf quota was met.
I spoke to a USDA Federal Trapper, and he said it’s impossible to trap these wolves easily. They have been experimented with so much by our State wildlife wolf biologists, working hand in glove with Defenders of Wildlife, and USFWS; collaring, darting, and monitoring, that the wolves avoid the leg-hold traps.
What do you think about this Ralph? Do you think wolves will be hard to trap?
Hello Ralph. I felt I needed to reply to your last comment. I can’t speak to Wildlife Service’s “trapping skills” but I think the folks that I worked with on the Nez Perce Tribe were all pretty darn good trappers. Jim Holyan is fine trapper and is unfortunately the only team member left with the tribe that I worked with. Jason Husseman started with the NPT and has been with IDFG now and I think he’s also a fine trapper. Carter Niemeyer also helps out IDFG with their trapping and you would be hard pressed to find a better trapper in North America than Carter. So as far as “trapping skills” it would be a little off to say they’re down in terms of skills or ability.
I think the topic of conversation here, as originally stated in the comment, is certain packs can become trap savvy and can make life difficult for trappers. The Chamberlain Basin pack in the Frank Church certainly is/was a good example of this.
Nope, I don’t work for IDFG and have been out of the working wolf world now for several years. I pretty much just keep tabs on it through friends and a handful of web sites, including this page which I find to be a good one.
Adam, you are a wolf biologist. What is your opinion on the hunts that are going on? Do you have any thoughts on them? What are your thoughts on those claims that wolves are wiping out the elk herds and that they grow tomonsterous sizes and that they are non native? I am asking you this simply because you are a wolf biologist.
First off, I USED to be a wolf biologist and that was in Idaho only. So you’d have to take my opinions with a grain of salt as I’m not in the know as much anymore, plus I’m not very up to speed on MT wolf issues. But my personal opinion is that the hunts that took place last fall were OK. Based on the science and ground work done by the biologists, I think the wolves have done their part in terms of recovering to a healthy number and it’s time to move on to the management aspect of their reintroduction. That was part of the deal from day one as I understood it.
As far as elk herds, if IDFG says most zones are at or near the objectives they have set, that sounds good to me. I know the Lolo zone is hurting which is a bummer, but it’ll come back. I know you have to hunt harder now. I have some concerns about low cow/calf ratios in other units too. Ecology is such a broad topic and to pin low elk numbers on one thing alone is pretty narrow minded. That being said though, I wouldn’t doubt that wolves are impacting calf recruitment in some of those units.
The claims of monsterous wolves…sure there are big boys out there, but I think they are the exception not the norm. The claim of them being non-native is simply wrong.
Hope I answered your questions.
“First off, I USED to be a wolf biologist and that was in Idaho only. So you’d have to take my opinions with a grain of salt”
Adam, is your knowledge (and disclaimer in the same sentence) as a wolf biologist, akin to learning how to “unride a bicycle?”
Yes, wolves are here again because some thought they would be a benefit to control elk in areas that whined about their over populations, others wanted to see a balance back in nature, and some just wanted to see wolves back in wilderness areas that had been sterilized (and controlled heavily by the livestock industy) for way too long?
Could it be there are just too many talking heads out there (with charts and numbers) when it comes to wildlife’s right to exist, in what’s left of wilderness areas?
ummm…i can still ride a bike. just kidding.
the reason i worded that first sentence the way i did is because i do not want to advertise myself as a “wolf expert.”
i’m not sure i understand your other questions, or exactly what you’re asking more specifically.
Frank and Jon, it is just a simple matter of mathematics to figure out wolves will not be able to kill all those elk. I also think it’s interesting how Gillette says “game animal” in his rants. Just some annoying little ploy.
Layton, when you talk to a lot of people about wolves like this some of them do make it sound like William is saying.
And that is just one reason why wolves will never kill every single elk there is. Wolf haters try to portray wolves as these killing machines that kill everything in their path, but if they only knew that wolves have to make many attempts before successfully taking down an elk and killing it. Hunting is not easy for wolves at all!
Wolves are pack animals. One single wolf is going to have much trouble trying to take down an elk on its own. One elk will feed a whole pack of wolves depending on how many they are, so I don’t think much of that each wolf will kill 16 to 24 elk each year argument. You have to look at wolves as pack animals.
Then I guess you don’t think much of some of the more respected biologists in the wolf arena, they are the ones that come up with the number of elk taken estimates..yes, wolves are a pack animal and if we look at a pack of say 5 wolves, that means your looking at 80-120 elk taken a year…
I don’t see how anyone can come up with those #s. It is nothing more than a guesstimate. Different factors factor in on how many elk each wolf pack kills each year. Wolves operate on feast and famine mode, so they clearly aren’t killing an elk every single day given the fact that elk are hard for wolves to kill. I’m sure they certainly try, but they aren’t successful on most attempts in my opinion They make several attempts at killing an elk before they successfully kill one. I would like to know where that 16 # came from. I would also like to know where Gillette gets his 24 elk for each wolf comes from. Probably just another lie. He even said who cares about science in a video I saw of him on youtube.
Jon, I don’t know where Crazy Ron gets his numbers, but the YNP researchers published a paper of winter kill rates that worked out to around .05-.06 elk/wolf/day (I don’t recall the exact range of numbers), which works out to around 18-22 elk per wolf per year. Those aren’t just wild-assed guesses–they have field crews watching research packs every single day during their study periods.
Jon, yes, they are statistical averages–just like Lebron James averaging 29.1 points per game. He isn’t going to put in exactly 29.1 points every game–in fact, that would be impossible–but over the course of the year, that’s what he averages. Same concept with kill rates.
SB, I do, but I don’t buy into those #s. To say that each wolf is going to kill 16 to 24 elk each year is nonsense and isn’t accurate in my opinion. Maybe each wolf pack will kill 16 to 24 elk each year, but not each individual wolf. Wolves are pack animals, not solitary with the exception of some lone wolves. Also, wolves don’t eat every single day sb. Feast and famine.
A pack of wolves could not survive on just 16-24 elk per year.
Jon, even if we just look at the wolves in Yellowstone, we can illustrait higher numbers than 16-24 elk per year, a pack of 5 wolves can consume a full grown cow elk in 24 hours or less, and say they are successful on an average of every 3-4 days, lets do the math..365 / 4 = 91.25
that means they would be successful 91.25 times over the course of a year, that equates 91.25 elk per year /5 wolves = 18.25 elk per wolf per year…
Pro, I don’t have any links close at hand right now, I will dig around, if I remember right even Smith has acknowledged number in this range
SB,I can safely say that no one knows for certain how many elk each pack of wolves kill each year. Unless you are psychic or you follow a wolf pack for a year watching their move each and every day, you will not know for certain how many elk each wolf pack kills each year, an depending on certain factors, that # of elk kills by wolves can up and down. It is a guessing game for the most part, that is all people have even wolf biologists.
I know that the numbers will vary, but things are based on averages of the animals studied, this is not a guessing game for biologists, before they can published numbers it is reviewed by more than just themselves, there is a coordinated effort by many different people and agencies to show the numbers so we can get a good handle on what is going on. When I was working on Bison studies I spent a year, that is 365 days in the field observing and gathering information so we could come up with good numbers on different aspects of what happens. And I am not looking at this from a anti or pro stance, I am looking at it from a science stance. That is how information is gathered..
The nutritional requirements of wolves in the NRM have been studied – alot.
Once more, just for you. The standard research year that most biologists use for this type analysis is the period November thru April. The generally recognized average is 8-23 ungulates/wolf/year for this period, with an average of 16.
Wolves do eat ungulates, the remainder of the year, May thru October, but it is harder to do reliable research because it is more difficult to find the evidence in the absence of snow, AND small mammals comprise some of their diet during this timeframe if available, but it has not been researched that much.
There are also studies available that look at nutritional needs and caloric requirements of the wolf depending on where it lives. Think of a small Mexican wolf at lower latitude with warmer temperatures that won’t eat as much as a larger wolf in very cold temperatures. Our NRM wolves are larger wolves and live in a cold climate during winter.
The disparity in the numbers of ungulates/wolf/year one sometimes sees is that elk do not all weigh the same. One mature cow elk might equal three, four or even five calves, depending on the age of the calves. DO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS SENTENCE, jon.
Don’t get wrapped around the axle on exact numbers. Think biomass requirements to sustain life.
Foraging and Feeding Ecology of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus): Lessons from Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Daniel R. Stahler, Douglas W. Smith, and Debra S. Guernsey. Yellowstone Center for Resources, Wolf Project, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, found in Jnl. of Nutrition 136 (7): 1923S (2006).
You can see the abstract and open a PDF file for the text (look for the download instructions) at this website:
This is a good paper that summarizes some of this. If I recall it doesn’t come out and say exactly how many elk per year. There is alot of other documentation out there which does state this, including the Ken Hamlin & Julie Cunningham, Montana Wolf-Ungulate interaction report published in 2009. I have posted it before. He says 8-23 elk per wolf per year. Sorry I don’t have the cite for it at hand, but it is available on the Montana GFP website if you look hard enough. Use the search term Hamlin
Jon, read the Stahler paper above. You can learn alot about how and what wolves eat – lots of calves and even mature rut-weakened bulls.
WM, I was told 12-20 elk/deer per wolf per year. I did get wrapped up on exact #s, but the 16 to 20 # sounds alright to me. Some people are going to have different #s. The 16-20 # comes from the Idaho fish and game. You mentioned 8-23, so different people are going to have different #s, but that is ok.
Yes, it is, that is why, they do a segment study, then apply formulas and come up with numbers, Jon, you have little grasp on how science and biology work, your ignoring the science just as much as people like Gillette do, your pro wolf, and he is anti wolf, but you both are ignoring years of study that is documented and peer reviewed..
Jon, if your questioning the numbers then you have to care, logic not speculation…your not being logical based on the amount of data collected from around the world, this is not just a tri-state data set, these numbers are observed basically everywhere in the world that wolves and large ungulates exist together..that is a lot of data and science…this is not a pro or anti issue, it is a science issue..
Jon, on what basis are you questioning the numbers? What are you basing your doubt on? I am just curious, because if we can’t trust the science, then it is a moot point to try and do anything
Jon, I am not trying to be hard with you, but I would just like to understand what information you have come up with to refute what has been accepted for many years now..if it is your opinion and only your opinion, then that is fine, but it is not inline with what is accepted by many in the scientific community..
All I am saying is those 16 to 24 #s are not definite. I am sure even wolf biologists know this. Wolf biologists are not perfect and have made mistakes. Science is not perfect and can be proven wrong sb.
I never said it can’t be proven wrong, what I am saying, is there is over 15 years of data on just the Yellowstone wolves, then there is data from Finland, Canada, the great lakes region, that is a lot of data, to just say “In My Opinion” the numbers are wrong…
What are you basing your opinion on Jon? Have you spent time in the field studying this to come up with the idea it is wrong..
See the biggest problem with the wolf issue, is many on both sides continue to say what we actually know is wrong, there is to many studies and to many years of data to simply say it is wrong, there has been no data to prove it is wrong, unless your aware of something I and many others have not seen, if so please post a link to it..
Fair enough. As I said, I have nothing against those 16 elk for each wolf #s, but my main gripe is there is no way to say for certain that wolves are going to kill that particular amount of elk each and every single year. That is all I was trying to say.
In wildlife studies, there is no 100% certain way to say anything, kills, populations, mating habits are all open to variables…the science world looks at many different factors to come up with averages based on what has been observed over years of study..
That website has been posted many times, I often use it when I am arguing with an anti wolf person over the issue of alien larger Canadian Wolves being introduced…even in the little quote from Bangs, he says the equivalent of 16 ungulates a year..I think the real point of contention is Gillette claim of 24 and twice that many for sport..which of course we know is wrong and a baseless claim, as is much of what Gillette claims..you have to understand, most hunters don’t agree with Gillette…
SB & Adam, what worries me is how do those of us trying to understand the data being presented, know what’s truely accurate? You only have to look at what goes on in our own judicial system to realize paid experts can look down right convincing depending on which side they represent.
You bring up a very good point Nancy. People care more about their agenda nowadays than actual unbiased science. You don’t know who is telling the truth and who is not. Everyone seems to have an agenda nowadays especially when it comes to the wolf issue. Hunters will often ignore science that doesn’t support their agenda and the same way for us pro wolfers.
I guess at some point one has to take a leap of faith about the integrity of some of the people doing the research. Much of the research material that is selected for publication goes through a peer review process, in which scientists in the field, who are not directly involved in a particular study, but very familiar with the field of research, critique the work of the scientists/authors, before it is published. I would like to think that most who are affiliated with universities, research foundations, and governmental organizations, who often collaborate on and co-author studes together, have integrity.
That being said, there are scientists who reach different conclusions sometimes, and the debate goes on. But, I doubt that is the case for how many ungulates an NRM wolf eats during the peroid November thru April.
yes on both extremes you will find conflicting conclusions, some will be based on different observations and some will be based on agenda driving motives, which is why you have to read a lot, learn about those presenting the data and look at how the information is peer reviewed, and when it comes down to it, often times as WM says, you have to take a leap of faith, but base that faith on what you have learned by your own research about the people involved…
You and SB have been discussing alot in the last few minutes. Do see my lengthy post above, that may answer some of your questions.
The cite to the Hamlin report:
Hamlin, K. L. and J. A. Cunningham. 2009. Monitoring and assessment of wolf-ungulaten interactions and population trends within the Greater Yellowstone Area, southwestern Montana, and Montana statewide: Final Report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Wildlife Division, Helena, Montana, USA.
++I thought this was outdated material, non-peer reviewed, and a rushed job (a brain dump by Ken H. is how I recollect you characterized it)? ++
I believe the previous limitations are still the case, since much of the report was done on data that was several years old (a lifetime in an area where wolf population and geographic distribution doubles about every three to four years), it was not peer reviewed (Hamlin’s own statement in the report, at page iii) and it was “a brain dump” by Hamlin before he retired but ran out of time to do the last reveiw (again, see page iii, and as stated by an in-the-know MTFWP biologist in a personal conversation with me).
However, it is apparently the best MT has, so lets just get beyond this. Do you specifically have issues with the data on how many ungulates a wolf will eat, Jay?
You are always quick on the draw to criticize, but never offer alternative sources with references that people can check and critique for themselves. Come on, Jay offer up or shut___.
If you go back to look at the first thread that started our little “tet-a-tet,” you will see I raised the core issues that are at the heart of the Hamlin report, and its apparent self described limitations.
I also said during that extended dialog that one needed to look at the specific published reports of the MFWP and the Wolf-Ungulate Research Project. These are listed at page v.
In addition, I said that one looming problem over this entire topic is that collection of data, analyzing it and publishing it is way behind what is happening in real time. One need only look at how fast the wolf population has increased (net) and their distribution over the landscape to see this. This is huge.
Then you started blindly shooting at Hamlin’s replacement, K. Proffitt, and other scientist with whom you did not agree, Scott Creel, Mark Hebblewhite and a host of others.
I have repeatedly asked you for sources for assertions you make, but you make some sort of flip comment about my not believing them anyway. It’s not about me, or you, Jay. It is about the conversation itself, and many others who participate or just read the comments here. Facts are good. Theories are good. Opinions are good, if they are well stated and supportable. And, so are notable limitations on facts and theories from whoever offers them.
Do us all a favor and make a positive contribution to the conversation, Jay.
Positive, as in, cherry pick sources for items that support my assertions, then discounting anything else presented within that don’t?
I blindly shot at Kelly Proffitt? Really? Is that what your high-powered reading comprehension brought you to believe? You don’t think it was sarcasm directed at you for your comment about how it shouldn’t be taken too seriously? Particularly in light of my comment about how you would predictably discount any of the authors conclusions that did their MS and Ph.d work on that same project report that you labeled outdated and poorly written?
++Particularly in light of my comment about how you would predictably discount any of the authors conclusions that did their MS and Ph.d work on that same project report that you labeled outdated and poorly written?++
I think what I generally said then, and restate now, is that any researcher (MS or Ph D candidates included) should expect that their work should stand on its own. They should expect that their work will be examined and re-examined. If they cannot adequately place qualifiers and limitations on their approach, support what they find, or equally as important what they don’t find (if it differs from their hypothesis) based on the work they do, they should expect questions and critisims.
And as for Hamlin’s report, I do find parts of it difficult to read, particularly as I was trying to retrace the conclusions he made in the Ex. Summary by seeking the detailed text to support the conclusion, but that is my problem.
I also made simple reference to a newspaper article announcing a new study that was being undertaken under Kelly Proffitt’s direction (as Hamlin’s successor), in affiliation with Mark Hebblewhite at U of Montana. If I recall correctly, and I believe I do, you then made a stupid (numb witted sarcastic) statement in retort, which is not unlike you Jay.
I can’t tell whether you are a wet behind the ears budding scientist or an entrenched junior bureaucrat. In either case “man/woman up” and make a substantive contribution to the conversation. Or, are you just afraid, and find it distasteful to defend a position with authority to back it, and allow others to challenge you – cherry picking or not?
“In addition, I said that one looming problem over this entire topic is that collection of data, analyzing it and publishing it is way behind what is happening in real time. One need only look at how fast the wolf population has increased (net) and their distribution over the landscape to see this. This is huge.”
And yet you continue to cite the MT report when it suits you. Are you really that oblivious to your constantly contradicting yourself, or do you just not care?
“I can’t tell whether you are a wet behind the ears budding scientist or an entrenched junior bureaucrat. In either case “man/woman up” and make a substantive contribution to the conversation. Or, are you just afraid, and find it distasteful to defend a position with authority to back it, and allow others to challenge you – cherry picking or not?”
Questioning my manhood…that’s rich! I won’t bother to debate or discuss anything with you because you’ve demonstrated time and time again logical discussion is above you. You are the one that’s not man enough to admit you are a blatant hypocrite. At this point, my main goal is to expose you for the fraud you are.
I’ve demonstrated numerous examples of this, but if anybody reading our back-and-forth were bold enough to weigh in, I’d be more than happy to leave it to an impartial jury as to whether my assertions are spot on, or out of line.
WM, SB, Jon, others:
While the number of prey killed per wolf could be important to assess the effect of predation by a population of wolves on a population of, elk e.g., the IDFG elk, wolf and wolf predation data being discussed is a direct estimate (rather than an inferential estimate), that precisely describes the impact of wolf predation on elk production and recruitment. Several key points make this issue much easier to understand:
1) Habitat has been changing since the great fires of 1910 and later that created the productive brush fields and elk herds which peaked in the 90’s. IDFG has monitored the Lolo Zone elk herds for decades and documented declining elk production as habitat changed. The habitat-elk production relationship was expected and is documented in IDFG reports.
2) As elk production declined, predation of elk calves became more important as a limitation to elk recruitment and ultimately the size of elk herds. IDFG documented the effects of bear predation of elk calves and additional predation by mountain lions on elk numbers. Bear and lion hunting harvest objectives were increased in the 90’s to reduce predation of elk, primarily elk calves.
3) The expansion of wolves into the Lolo Zone greatly increased predation of elk to a level that has caused a decline in elk recruitment and production and subsequently total elk numbers, well below what current habitat is capable of sustaining. The wolf predation effects on the Lolo Zone elk herds have required substantial reductions in elk hunting opportunity (hunting season length, cow hunting opportunity) and overall elk hunting quality.
4) The wolf population estimate for the Lolo Zone is based on the same wolf estimate methods used in the remainder of the state. Radio-collared wolves and aerial counts give us minimum known numbers of wolves in each wolf mangement zone.
5) The wolf population management objective for the Lolo Zone is set to reduce wolf predation of elk, allow elk production and recruitment to increase and provide more elk hunting opportunity that can be offered with current levels of wolf predation.
A few more comments. Of course this issue is “politically” influenced. Every human endeavor in our history has been “politically” influenced. Of course this issue is scientifically based. We know with a high degree of confidence (statistically) that wolves have substantially reduced elk numbers in the Lolo Zone below levels we should expect in the absence of wolves and wolf predation. The wolf mangement plan and wolf mangement objectives for the Lolo Zone are based on social (politics) and biological goals – as any sound wildlife management program should be.
Mark Gamblin (IDFG),
“4) The wolf population estimate for the Lolo Zone is based on the same wolf estimate methods used in the remainder of the state. Radio-collared wolves and aerial counts give us minimum known numbers of wolves in each wolf management zone.”
Is the wolf population estimate based on “minimum known numbers”? I ask this because a friend claims that there are closer to 3000 wolves in Idaho. How realistic is this?
Wolf estimates, by Zone, are minimum known estimates. Those estimates are primarily based on aerial counts (augmented by additional observations), which in turn are aided by radio telemetry of known packs. There are always individuals outside of known packs and there are always packs that we can’t account for. The state wolf population estimate is the sum of each wolf management zone estimate. Individually or collectively, our wolf population estimate(s) are conservative (minimum) estimates, but are the most accurate and reliable available given our resources. How many more wolves might there be? We don’t know. The true total number is speculative.
Mark, you forgot one of the most important criteria here at work..MONEY. It is clear that elk are increasingly regarded by IDFG and outfitters as cash crops, and the wolves are eating into the profits. So…hell, let’s do in the wolves, and get our profits back up.
There is a difference between the influence of politics, and the “manipulation” of political themes and issues, Mark, which is what is going on in Montana and Idaho currently.
“…wolf and wolf predation data being discussed is a direct estimate (rather than an inferential estimate), that precisely describes the impact of wolf predation on elk production and recruitment. ”
Mark: I don’t want to nitpick (again), but you need to speak with your statistical team. Unless you have collared every elk in the Lolo, you are using inferential statistics. To my knowledge, IDF&G has collared a SAMPLE of the elk population in the Lolo zone in order to estimate mortality for the entire POPULATION. The population is all elk in the Lolo, the sample is all elk with collars. This method allows IDF&G to derive an estimate for your population characteristic (i.e. mortality) based upon the animals you have sampled–which is why it would be great to see some measure of error on the estimate you all have provided.
I agree with Mark regarding the role of politics in wildlife management…nay, ANY type of management decision. Of course politics play a role! The problem isn’t that decisions are political, the problem is that under state management the deck is stacked against everyone but hunters and livestock producers.
Which zones are being managed for wolf viewing opportunities?
JB, I doubt Idaho fish and game care about wolf watchers. At this point in time, they are clearing catering to hunters who are whining that wolves are killing all of the elk herds. I often wonder, what about all of those people who wish to see wolves in the wild? They are getting that opportunity taken away from them simply because hunters are whining that the wolves are killing every single elk and want them hunted.
The Truth about the Decline in Lolo Zone Elk
When IDFG Fisheries Biologist Herb Pollard was appointed as Clearwater Region Supervisor in 1992 the Lolo elk herd was declining and he continued to deplete it by harvesting too many bulls. For several decades, Idaho biologists’ justification for continuing to overkill a big game species has been to point out continuing abundant harvest numbers to “prove” the herd is not being depleted.
Lion hunter/logger Rob Donley explained to them that a forest manager with 10,000 harvestable trees in a forest can let loggers cut 1,000 trees each year for 10 years and all looks well from his desk. But in the 11th year there are no mature trees left for the loggers to harvest.
However the concept of sustainable annual harvest appears not to be a part of the biologists’ agenda and in 1995 the phone survey reported that Lolo Zone hunters killed a record 1,759 male elk and 168 females with a quota of 150 antlerless permits in Unit 10 and 200 in Unit 12. Local residents were complaining vigorously about the Region-wide decline in elk numbers and the Commission promised to create a study committee to find solutions.
Meanwhile Pollard left the general bull elk season unchanged for 1996 and tested Peek’s theory by increasing the number of antlerless elk permits in the Lolo Zone from 350 to 1,900! The phone survey reported only 599 male elk harvested that year plus 638 females.
The fixation on single zones just amazes me. This is 2010. You can hop in your car (or pickup truck) and drive halfway across the state in a couple of hours. If elk numbers are low here, hunt elsewhere. The wolves sure as heck will.
To my layman’s eyes this is the same as here in the valley where I live. Rancher A allows hunting, rancher B does not. Guess where all the elk and deer are during hunting season.
Doesn’t mean that hunters (human or otherwise) have killed all the ungulates on rancher A’s property. Nor does it mean that elk and deer numbers are “in trouble”. Just means that they have moved on to greener pastures. Most of the hunters do the same; but there are always some who just stand around and complain. Later, when habitat improves (hunting season ends in this case), the elk and deer return.
You guys know a lot more about this than I do, but am I wrong here?
++You can hop in your car (or pickup truck) and drive halfway across the state in a couple of hours.++
What a simple-minded comment. Don’t know which state(s) you are referring to, but I suspect it is ID. Make that comment to someone who has hunted a particular area for years before wolves showed up, and returns a day before season opens to set up a camp (usually takes the better part of a day) to find the elk gone, or a non-resident hunter who must purchase a tag for particular units in some parts of the state as much as 10 months ahead of time. Tell that to an outfitter whose business is limited to a particular area by the terms of his/her outfitting license. And last, if you can drive across the state, and access high country where you hunt in a “couple of hours” you must be in a transporter – beam me over Scottie. What a bunch of crap!
Don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but it’s just not that simple.
Idaho is broken up into hunting “zones” for elk hunting. A hunter must make a choice as to what zone he will hunt. Because of the decreases in elk counts in some areas, some of these zones are “capped” at a certain number of tags to be issued. Since there is a cap on tags, some of the units sell out quickly. It’s first come first served.
If and individual decides to hunt in a particular zone and makes that choice in May, then finds out in Sept. or Oct. that the population is down – for what ever reason – he can’t just make another choice, he’s screwed.
Layton, I think it is time for hunters to stop their whining. If you hunted a particular place before and there is no elk to be seen in that particular place now because of wolves or whatever excuse you want to use, simply hunt a different area. As for the we, I mean everyone who is concerned about wolves or hunting. Whether I live in Idaho or not, it does not matter. I still care about wolves, so I will speak my opinion. If you don’t like what I have to say, too bad.
I think you should have to work at hard at seeing wolves as we do at seeing elk. There are lots of places to view wolves in Idaho but you can’t just drive around and see them from the road all the time.
Many of us that hunt in Idaho do so to save money on the grocery bill. Taking off work and driving around the state looking for new elk country isn’t an option.
No one said anything about viewing them from the road, although I am sure some attempt to view wolves from the road with no such luck. There are actual people that hike and do other sorts of things in the wild while trying to catch a glimpse at the beautiful animals the wild has to offer. idaho fish and game are clearly catering to hunters without thinking about the opportunities lost for those who wish to view wolves in their natural habitat.
++But they do eat other things besides elk…keep that in mind.++
But they do indeed prefer elk, if in their territory…….they prefer them much more, as most studies confirm (See previously referenced Stahler study). As Bangs stated in an earlier quote referenced by jon, it seems the equivalency standard is a cow elk. Great choice. A wolf will eat the equivalency of 12-13 average size cow elk per year. Important is this number.
So, doing some back of the napkin math, here is my equivalency guess, but I claim no “peer reviewed” scientific accuracy:
Elk equivalent: 1 cow elk = 3 to 5 young of the year calves = .75 mature bull = 1.5- spike bull.
Deer (in Western mule deer, a white tail would be about 0.8 mule deer) equivalent : 1 cow elk = 3- 5 does = 5-6 fawns = 2-3 mature bucks
Small mammal equivalent (and this is just a wild but somewhat educated guess): 1 cow elk = 7-10 beaver = 40-50 snowshoe rabbit/jack rabbit = 800-1000 mole/gopher/pica.
So 1 cow elk (Bangs says a wolf gets the equivalent of 12 per year) = Do your own math with the equivalencies above. It is going to be a mix and match because packs or portions of a pack kill whatever they can find. And, do remember, not all wolves are the same size; a mostly mature but growing youngster or lactating female will eat more; caloric needs of all wolves is dependent on its size, age, and energy expenditure including ambient weather conditions – in winter they eat more, and summer less. Not all of the prey is consumed by the wolf, as we know, since they share with coyotes, ravens etc., and not all of the prey is consumable by animals; hide, some bones, rumen contents, etc.
I guess I ought to repeat an earlier comment. Ralph and several others have posted comments about the timing of these elk declines versus the timing of the actual rise in wolf numbers. These comments about elk numbers starting to decline before wolf numbers even got going is correct. If you take all of Idaho’s charts showing elk numbers and wolf numbers and overlay them with the same date line across the bottom, you see an almost perfect “V” shape where the elk populations numbers drop to a relatively stable low point at the time that wolf numbers are only beginning their climb. Something was hitting the elk hard long before the wolves got going; it could have been any combination of drought, CWD, bangs, loss of habitat to development, disruption from off road nonsense, poaching, excess tags; it could have been any number of things; but, it clearly started before the wolf population was even remotely significant. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not completely against shooting wolves, for the right reasons, with the right attitude, and as long as the long term sustainability of the overall wolf population is protected. It could be that the wolves are now holding the population down, although they may just be cleaning up the leavings from other negative factors on the elk; but, they did not cause the original drop.
This fact supports three points about the situation. First, the ranting public has no credibility since the data are there and quite clear and anyone can decipher what it says at a glance. Second, Idaho Fish and Game has no ethics, as evidenced by their willingness to go along with this charade despite the fact that they must have someone in that department who can read a couple of graphs. The same goes for SFW; they are spewing the garbage about wolf predation being the only or even primary driver and have to know its spurious. Third, the fact that Idaho Fish and Game, the very state agency charged with “scientific” management of these species, would go along with this nonsense instead of asking the more important questions about what caused the original elk decline is proof that these backward states have no business in wildlife management. So simple, even a redneck loudmouth can get it….. ooops!
I prefer wild caught salmon, but if there isn’t any around, I will go eat something else rather than starve. I think that sort of survival instinct is even more true for wolves, WM.
Again, it is just sophistry and insults you bring to the table with this response. Bottom line…no one ever guaranteed that elk would not decline or move. Two, no one every guaranteed that habitat would stay ideal forever for elk. Three, wolves have just as much “rights” to exist and thrive as elk do from a ecosystem perspective, and I have yet to see any convincing science on this or any site that says wolves or any predator will kill every single prey animal in a specific ecosystem. Long before that happens, the prey animals will scatter. Or..maybe the fact that elk have been treated as managed livestock for the convenience of game hunting has really dumbed them down, sort of like cows. Fourth, the decline in LOLO started before wolves entered the picture and the biggest declines in that zone were pre wolf. Actually if you look at the years of wolves, the rate of decline has been relatively steady. If the wolves were as bad as you and Bangs and the other folks who are hung on up on this 13 number, they should be gone years ago, especially when you add in other mortality factors. But then, it is just easier to ignore the complexities and blame it all on wolves. Been that way for humans for a long time, animals or humans.
Lawyers don’t do simple; we leave that to folks like you.
Now, you want to continue the insults, or do you want to cease and desist.
I would just point out what may appear obvious – that the above observations of low numbers of both elk and wolves are certainly not exclusive of wolves being an important factor. It sounds like both a multi-predator system (bears, lions and wolves plus hunters) as well as multi-prey with whitetails. The more predators, the more likely to settle into a prolonged low dynamic equilibrium situation with low numbers of both wolves and elk – and wolves increasing as elk try to recover (also, per capital consumption is inversely related to pack size). The problem with going after just the wolves is there may not be that many, i.e. smart and few, while they might have to be taken down about 80% and held there for 4 years to really change elk numbers given other predation losses. Very difficult with wooded terrain and high reproductive and immigration rates. You can also try to reduce other predators, bears and lions, but at some point that can get to be a pretty ugly business outside of managing normal hunting. So the conclusion could be, yes the wolves are the “additional factor” that is causing this – but trying to address just wolves with special seasons in a timbered remote area may not accomplish much at all.
I should point out that I really don’t know or have a strong opinion on what’s driving the elk population in this area except for information that’s been presented that elk declined well before wolves could have been a factor and there have been long-term habitat changes – also that Lewis and Clark didn’t find much there, suggesting there may have historically been a low predator-prey equilibrium. However, a different cause for the decline certainly doesn’t preclude the possibility of wolves being part of what’s holding the herd down now as Si’vet’s believes. It’s just that if that’s the case, trying to intervene with any lasting effect may not be easy. Nature has ways of compensating. There are certainly cases where you can pile up a lot of predator bodies and not accomplish much – coyote control being a prime example. Not arguing against it, just pointing out some issues.
No one seems to mention the four outfitters . . why are four outfitters blessed (or cursed) with the job of killing wolves in this area. Why now? How many outfitters are in the area? Are there only four and if not how did they pick them? Without knowing the area having only driven through it once or twice, the story sounds odd in it’s general theme somehow.
First of all I am not a greenie, bleeding heart, or tree hugger. In fact I belong to the NRA, have a good deal of firearms, am a very strong supporter of the 2nd, not anti
hunting in general, all for Arizona illegal alien laws, think Idaho should have a Florida type Castle law, would bring back the electric chair, and probably five steps to the right of Gengis Kahn on most things.
Having said that if the right takes a position I disagree
with I will fight that position and align myself with whomever
I feel is correct on that issue for that specific issue even if I am against most everthing else they stand for and positions
This is the case with wolf hunting in general and in particular with IDFG approach in the Lolo and Selaway
First of all wolves are not decimating elk. According to IDFG’s own data elk numbers are either up or holding steady in all of the 29 zones except two, Lolo and Selaway.
There are over a million elk in Idaho.Both of these zones however are below IDFG objectives.
In both zones there is a very high wolf density and also another high predator density, humans. So I can accept the
possible thinning of the wolf population until the elk recover
within management objectives but only if the other
major predator density is thinned as well. Human hunting
should be prohibited in these zones until elk density is again
within objective. When this is reached then wolf hunting should cease when human elk hunting resumes.
There is no logical reason, based on scientific data however to have wolf hunting in the other 27 zones or stop human elk hunting.
I am concerned with the survival of both species and if
we humans insist on messing with nature then lets not
try to wipe out one species simply to increase the density of
another so we the master predator can kill it.
Unfortunately it appears IDFG is only concerned with that
and the revenue elk hunting brings. Once again it’s all about the “almighty dollar”. So I hope the Feds, and here
again in most areas I want much less federal governmemnt,
Judge Malloy, step in and relist the gray wolf as endangered as Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming seem bent to
recklessly exterminate that species.
reading the comments on the article I see the threat of tape worms again. . . but I have been doing some research on deer ticks lately and lyme disease. . . seems like you can use information any old way to want to to argue anything because we never get to look at the whole picture. http://webpages.charter.net/balplanman/Interests/DeerTick.html
WM and Layton: Thanks for your input. As I said you guys know more about it than I.
One thing I do know, though. As a photographer I do my research before I go anywhere, even local. I find out as much as I can about what I can or cannot expect to photograph, realizing that just because an area was good for this or that a few years ago does not mean that it still is. Even I, a non hunting, non resident layperson, know that this herd has been depressed for years. That it has been getting smaller and smaller and that folks have been complaining about it for a very long time. It is almost impossible to escape this knowledge if you have even a casual interest in the outdoors in the Northern Rockies. I certainly wouldn’t go there to photograph elk, or wolves for that matter because wolves are where the elk are. Why would I, as a hunter, buy a tag for there? Because I had success there five or ten years ago or because dad hunted there?
I would do my homework well ahead of the hunt. I would check with Fish and Game, other hunters, check success rate in the zone the last couple of years, elk populations, habitat conditions etc.; check whatever other sources I might have….I have plenty as a photographer. In today’s world I can do most of this sitting right here at my computer. No one should have to buy a tag blind.
I just does not work that way. It has taken me years to find a certain honey hole. It has taken me years to find a legal way aroung private property. You and Jon and a number of people on this board do not hunt and do not understand. Because of wolves I am not going to be hunting in Southwest Montana anymore and will move north of Bozeman and into the Crazy Mountains( they were sure beauiful today all snow covered coming back from Red Lodge) it is going to take some time to find access points, trails and fence lines. It is hard to explain some of the difficulties and time constrains, one of the most difficult things is what will the human hunting pressure be.
My apologies for an earlier post that was a bit testy. Alot of people do the advance planning you suggest. Some people scout the areas they hunt right up until a week before season starts. As has been noted in other comments to you, it is not that easy to just uproot quickly and find a new spot. The transition period from some areas being good to becoming very tough to find elk is much quicker than say 5 years. It can happen within a year or two. The wolves show up. The elk population goes down, and the behavior changes in the elk which remain, making them more difficult to find even if they do not move to higher ground, steeper slopes and thicker habitat, where they eat browse instead of graze. The hunting gets tougher and remains that way. The herd demographics change as fewer calves make it to maturity. Those are cold hard facts.
Not every area experiences this, but some do.
Back to advance planning in the Lolo Units – I just looked on the IDFG website and saw that nearly half of the non-resident A & B season tags are still available; 285 to be exact. I don’t look at this stuff that much, but it seems in past years those tags are sold out by late February or March. If the remaining tags are not sold, that represents (tag + license) a loss in revenue to the IDFG of about $147,000. There are other quota units which have been impacted by wolves that have also not sold out (some have historically sold out by end of January). I think the non-resident outfitter tags are separate, and who knows whether these outfitters are beginning to fill up. Based on how much they are whining, probably not. Some of this is the economy, but not all. I will submit that perceived impact of wolves on elk is having some negative effect on hunting license revenues. How much is difficult to say.
“The wolves show up. The elk population goes down, and the behavior changes in the elk which remain, making them more difficult to find even if they do not move to higher ground, steeper slopes and thicker habitat, where they eat browse instead of graze. The hunting gets tougher and remains that way. The herd demographics change as fewer calves make it to maturity. Those are cold hard facts.”
WM: That paragraph is downright irresponsible. “The wolves show up. The elk population goes down…”?! Sure, in SOME places; in others, no measurable effect. A few months back Mark Gamblin was chastising me for asserting that the behaviorally-mediated “trophic cascade” witnessed in Yellowstone could be achieved elsewhere. He was right, we simply don’t know. But I think it is a pretty safe bet that it won’t be achieved if wolves are managed for minimum numbers, as the states intend.
Look, the problem with these conversations is that they always center around wolves, when, in reality a host of factors are at play. Habitat quality–I think most of us agree–is first and foremost, then you have interaction effects of multiple predators on the landscape. Take, for example, an interesting study from a few years back that compared hunter harvest in the late season elk hunt around Gardiner with wolves’ “harvest” in the same area. The study found hunters targeted prime-aged females in the height of the reproductive capacity, while wolves killed primarily old cows and calves. Neither approach is problematic for elk populations in and of itself, but the combination of hunters harvesting cows in their reproductive prime, and wolves and bears killing calves *COULD* potentially hold the population down.
Wolves are but one factor in a complex suite that scientists are really only beginning to understand. It would be nice to see some of the complexity reflected in the rhetoric.
++WM: That paragraph is downright irresponsible. ++
Did you read the next one-sentence paragraph that followed the one you quoted. It says, ” Not every area experiences this, but some do.”
SHOULD I HAVE SAID THAT IN BOLD AND ALL CAPS? LOL
I will also ask you, when was the last time you spent 10 straight days in the field, from before sun up- until sundown, with the specific and sole purpose of seeing elk?
I am going to bet you have not ever done this, recently anyway.
I have done this every year for the past 20 in the same location. The habitat, as I have stated before, has not changed signficantly that much in this general location because there is active logging. The only variable that has changed – and pay attention here- is that wolves have arrived and apparently in signficant and increasing numbers. We have gone from seeing lots of elk to seeing few and the harvest has been affected since the wolves showed up. We have adjusted our “technique” to account for these changes, which so far have not been very effective. OK, so this is anticodotal evidence. But it is what I have seen, along with three other very experienced and usually successful hunters. It is apparently a shared experience, consistent with what some others have shared, as well. And, that is what some of this fuss is about. Shared experiences, and some of them are posted here, by others who actually spend time in the field.
You are correct, I didn’t acknoweledge the complexity issue in a number of areas. You know that I know, and agree, that there are a number of complex variables.
++Take, for example, an interesting study from a few years back that compared hunter harvest in the late season elk hunt around Gardiner with wolves’ “harvest” in the same area. The study found hunters targeted prime-aged females in the height of the reproductive capacity, while wolves killed primarily old cows and calves. ++
Hunters randomly select a cow from the herd and shoot. There is no way to age a cow elk one hundred yards in front of you. You get what you shoot; it is random.
If one is shooting cows, then one should shoot the last one in a herd. This prevents multiple deaths from not shooting 2 with one shot or thinking one missed and shooting again only to find two dead elk a hundred yards up the trail. This is from 40 years experience.
Sorry, I wasn’t completely clear what I found objectionable with your original statement. You depicted a scenario, summarizing results from a number of studies, and made it sound like it is the norm. In reality, these studies don’t always occur in the same place and time. So we know that under SOME conditions elk change their behavior around wolves; we know in SOME areas wolves are having localized effects on elk populations; and we know under SOME conditions that wolves can change elk demographics. But we don’t know under what conditions these factors co-occur. Your paragraph makes wolves sound like a pestilence with several inevitable effects. My point was and is that there still are more “unknowns” than “knowns” with wolves.
You’ve asserted that the only thing that has changed in the area that you hunt is the presence of wolves. I’ll take your word for it; however, even if your anecdotal experience is dead-on, that still completely avoids the complexity issue. It may not be the presence of wolves, but the combination of wolves, human hunting, bears, and cougars (what statisticians call an interaction) that has led to the changes you’ve witnessed.
As to my own personal experience, I have logged a lot of hours in the field with elk (mostly Tule elk, in northern CA). However, I’ve never been in a position where I could dedicate 10 straight days to observing any one species–that’s a luxury I can’t afford. 🙂
– – – –
Your point about hunters not being able to identify elk at distance is right on, but that does not mean that hunters take elk randomly. Older/more vulnerable elk may behave differently affecting rates of contact with hunters and harvest.
The paper I cited was: Wright et al. (2006) Journal of Wildlife Management, 70(4):1070. Here’s an excerpt from the abstract:
“The mean age of adult females killed by hunters throughout the study period was 6.5 years, whereas the mean age of adult females killed by wolves was 13.9 years. Hunting exerted a greater total reproductive impact on the herd than wolf predation. The combined effects of hunters killing prime-aged females (2–9 yr old), wolves killing calves, and predation by other predators has the potential to limit the elk population in the future. Yellowstone is unique in this regard because multiple predators that occur sympatrically, including hunters, wolves, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), lack bears (Ursus americanus), cougars (Felis concolor), and coyotes (Canis latrans), all prey on elk.”
I believe MSG is a composite administrator brim full of symptom management. Until wildlife managers figure out how come there were both lots of wolves and lots of elk in frontier times, all the “managers” will be doing is Whistling Dixie (as said by Wade Gustafson of the cult movie Fargo).
Cause and effect means more than what one sees with your eyes or what you can statistically record on paper. God, those “biologists are such Simple Jack RETARDS!!!
You “field” professionals, please open the unlock the chains to your brains. Please think just maybe there are protections in place for any species. After pondering this then think of how these defenses are employed and deployed….. And to put this into herd perspective you get a big fat F- if you say elk are flee species and then you look no further.
Think of how each herd has maybe, just maybe, indirect and direct defenses. Then throw in the mix how this herd structure has been changed by “modern” hunting regulations …. to skew these populations and herd infrastructures. Ah, now we are getting somewhere.
Now for possible impact, take the direct cause and affect and jump out of the college box a bit and think of how these kind of regulations would hamstring any human herd if hunting seasons were placed on them. Think of what would happen if you killed off most all males of any human tribe and then afterwards sent in the Gengus Khans (wolves) hordes. Rape and pillage of those women an children, right?
Now for “indirect”, think of defenseless remnants, refugees, fleeing helter skelter whenever these hordes appeared in those dust clouds of pounding hooves on the horizon. Naturally the mothers pick up the kids and run to areas not familiar. So even if they don’t get killed, like elk do by hunters, their stress levels go way up and it becomes much harder to live.
One ends up with an Ishi type family situation, of course, holing up in figurative caves and living on acorn mush (oh, thank you grandma for another fine meal) for just about every minute of their miserable lives.
I ask you “biologists”, you composite administrators, to think beyond your scholastic chains and actually think.
Just like Idaho F&G’s placement of skunks and badgers where all they thought of …where they limited thought to, ,”duh, both eat eggs, why don’t we put some of each on a little island and see if it works.” SUCH RETARDS!!!
They actually could have had them stick around a bit longer if they understood a skunk or badgers extended emotional and physical needs. But of course it would have meant putting together some social structure for each species well before dumping them off a boat. What was Idaho’s F&G response to failure…”well it was worth a try”?
I think “they” all need to watch the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, those badger types….you know, where Sir lancelot and a few other of the F&G Hitler youth look alikes put together a trojan rabbit and then forget to pile in . Their answer….. build a badger.
Ya thats it, all the MSG’s can learn from their trial and error symptom management and nail together another wooden badger ….. and then all can watch it be wheeled by the french across the draw bridge onto those little islands. Of course lack of thought actually might produce some results. Tunnel vision labor (sitting at the desk too long does that to you) means one of the wheels might collapse. Then the badger falls over and squashes a couple pelican eggs. Then everyone at the regional office cheers.
You know, My two brothers and I watched the movie, Fargo together. My younger brother and I laughed and laughed. Older brother, Bill, finally started laughing just after we did…and got better and better at it until it was just a split second, and almost indiscernable, that he was keying in on our laughs…not that he ever got the humor of this movie….which he didn’t.
Different stokes for different folks. Still got lots of respect for brother Bill. He stuck to it and taught biology in college…and he is by far the best biologist of the three of us.
Yes, humor is subjective, just like “old time”, should I say archaic? interpretation of animal behavior. I do have a lot less tolerance, I guess, for those herd biologists ….and especilly if they go on to administrative positions ….. where their Aryian principles (my subjective thoughts here…or is it?) so adversely affects the wildlife they “manage” for “healthy sustainable populations”.
What kind of humor do you prefer, Layton? give me a movie and that will clue me in better. Difinitely not Zoolander or Jim Carey’s Dumb and Dumber I suppose?
Bob it was funny to me and I think you should keep up the good work. . . there is definitely something wrong with “animal management” as we know it today. It seems like everyone knows a small part of the story, a small number of statistics which support a theory which was arrived at by personal observations. Instead of trying to convince each other that they spend more time in the woods than others, it would be helpful if all the parts could be put together to form more of a complete picture of the world. This doesn’t happen in the world of working biologists but why can’t it work with people on this blog. Most of the posters here do spend a good deal of time out . . could they be willing to merge their observations with those of others. . . like maybe learn something new? Like how to make a wooden badger fall over on a couple of pelican eggs. . I like that.
Just a personal observation/anecdote: egos become problematic in any type of collaboration among highly educated and/or opinionated people. Moreover, scientists–in my experience–tend to want to interpret events according to their disciplinary training (while discounting others’ training). Thus, biologists simply view cause and effect relationships differently from ethologists and ecologists.
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Several comments I want to respond to:
I’m not sure what your point is regarding the reported estimate of wolf numbers in the Lolo Zone. For 2009, there were 8 confirmed wolf packs inside the Lolo Zone; 1 confirmed Idaho wolf pack on the border of the Lolo Zone; 1 suspected (unconfirmed) wolf pack in the Lolo Zone; and 4 confirmed Montana wolf packs that border the Lolo Zone (pg. 31, 2009 Annual Wolf Status Report). It seems that you are suggesting that there are not/could not be enough wolves in the Lolo Zone to explain the elk population response we are measuring. I don’t want to read into your comments something you don’t intend, but understand that the estimates of wolf predation rates on cow and calf elk are direct estimates (as opposed to an estimate derived by correlation analysis or other inferential estimates) for the entire population. Because the wolf mortality rate for elk is based from on-the-ground confirmation of wolf predation on those radio-collared elk, those wolf predation estimates are very reliable and not subject to speculation about the number of wolves in the Lolo Zone.
Yes, statistics again. We should be able to get beyond this more quickly this time. I can agree that an estimate of a population parameter has inherent uncertainty. In my last post, I distinguished between direct and inferential estimates. The Lolo wolf predation study is based on a straight-forward direct estimate of total mortality imposed on cow and calf elk by wolves – as opposed to an estimate derived by inferential statistics such as correlation analysis, common factor analysis or some other metric estimator. Both statistical methods, direct measures or inferential measures, have inherent uncertainty. The strength of these estimates is that they are derived from direct observations of wolf imposed mortality – not an inferred relationship from dependent or independent variables. We should be able to agree that the radio telemetry derived predation rate estimates are just that – estimates, not the true population mortality rate. The confidence intervals for those estimates can easily be calculated by several formulas for binomial data.
The Idaho Wolf Management Plan does provide for wolf viewing opportunities. Under the 2009 wolf hunting season framework, wolf watching opportunities, exclusive of hunting activity, were available for the entire state. During the wolf hunting season, wolf watching opportunity remains. I understand your point is that year-round exclusive wolf watching zones have not been established. None-the-less, the current wolf management framework does provide an abundance of wolf watching opportunity. I agree completely that how the wolf management plan represents the desires of the Idaho public is central to its success. Without accommodating all of the desires of any single Idaho user group, this plan provides benefits from Idaho wolves for the broad public.
To anyone reading this, the comments (my comment) Mark Gamblin refers to are the 2nd in this thread (a reply to Salle).
My points were (1.) everyone should know and no one should doubt that the Lolo elk population is low. (2.) Once it was high. (3.) Idaho Fish and Game figures show conclusively that the great tumble came before there were any or just a few wolves in the area. (4.) I am hardly convinced that the wolf density is currently high in the Lolo. For example, with so few elk, what do so many wolves live on? If I am right, you will have a hard time killing 20 wolves. (5.) Nevertheless, Commission politics and local perceptions dictate that you go after what they think are the problem with the failure of the elk population to increase — wolves.
Yes, thanks for the clarification. I see you mean that your estimates of mortality are based upon direct observations, rather than modeling (of course, there is always inference involved when estimating a population characteristic based upon sample data, that was my point). Regardless, it would be nice to see CIs placed on these estimates so that the general public understand the uncertainty inherent in these figures.
In asking where IDF&G is providing for wolf viewing opportunities I was attempting to point out the dichotomy in management philosophy when it comes to elk and wolves; that is, elk populations are being managed to maximize hunting opportunities statewide, while wolf population objectives minimize wolf viewing opportunities statewide.
This dichotomy in approaches is why you never gain any traction with your argument that IDF&G is managing wolves for all of its citizens. Any wolf viewing opportunities you provide are simply a byproduct of management that is attempting to lower wolf populations everywhere.
The issue of catastrophic elk elk predation – eradication of elk across Idaho or Montana or Wyoming or everywhere – needs more discussion. The IDFG does not maintain that elk are being eradicated from Idaho. Elk populations are healthy in many parts of the state. In several very important regions of Idaho, elk populations are in poor condition with wolf predation confirmed as the primary cause of elk population decline or suspected of playing a key role. The confirmed regions are the Lolo Zone and Sawtooth Zone. Our winter aerial elk population estimate for the Middle Fork Zone documented very low cow-calf ratios, an strong indication of low calf survival and subsequent recruitement – as we have documented in the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones. We don’t have the elk radio telemetry data for the Middle Fork Zone to verify the cause of low calf survival, but this is a large concern. Wolf predation could be an important factor for low elk calf survival and recruitment.
Wildlife management occurs by objective to meet the needs of society for healthy, productive and sustainable wildlife resources. It would be neither responsible or acceptable to the Idaho public for the IDFG to manage for a statewide elk population objective, ignoring the status of large regional elk populations in the Lolo Zone, Sawthooth Zone or Middle Fork Zone. Wolf numbers in the Lolo Zone are being managed to achieve a more responsible predator-prey base to meet the needs and desires of Idahoans for wildlife resource benefits in that large mangagement zone.
I certainly agree with you that elk are hardly being eradicated from Idaho, Montana or Wyoming. That clearly needs to be said.
JB discovered this chart on the Idaho Fish and Game website. This is the one we have long been looking for because it gives details beyond the mere statement that elk populations are doing poorly in some Idaho areas.
The chart shows elk cows below objectives in 3 areas. Only the “below objective” Lolo area is said to have a high wolf population, which I doubt (see my comment to your comments posted at May 17, 2010 at 10:26 PM).
Is there a bull elk chart somewhere?
You say the latest winter elk surveys (these surveys are not on the chart) show low calf to cow ratios in the Middle Fork Zone and Sawtooth Zone, and you think maybe wolves are the reason. Well, maybe, maybe not. You did meet the wolf hunt quota in the Middle Fork. You set a very high quota in the Sawtooth Zone and killed a lot of wolves, but didn’t meet the quota.
That’s how I interpret your comments above. The last paragraph is fluff.
I’ll rephrase my message. Your doubts about the wolf population in the Lolo Zone being “high” have little meaning to this issue. Of course, “high” is a relative term that I only hear you using. I’m not aware of statements by myself of other IDFG representatives characterizing the Lolo Zone wolf numbers as being “high”. We do know with certainty is that the ongoing recruitment failure for the Lolo Zone elk population is explained by a cause and effect relationship of wolf predation on elk cows and calves and is unrelated to habitat limitations. To repeat previous IDFG summaries of the history of the Lolo Zone elk population crisis – habitat was identified as a limiting factor for elk production nearly twenty years ago and the effects of declining habitat productivity in the Lolo Zone were monitored, documented and reported. The severe winter of 1992-93 caused a precipitous decline in Lolo Zone elk numbers that the population has not rebounded from. Before wolves expanded into the Lolo Zone, elk calf predation by bears and to a lesser degree, lion predation on elk, was found to be limiting elk recruitment and recovery of the elk population following the severe winter kill. Management of bears and lions was adjusted to reduce bear and lion numbers to increase elk recruitment. Since wolves arrived, wolf predation is by far the most important source of mortality for cow and calf elk and is holding the elk population a level well below the capacity of habitat to support. Without a reduction in wolf predation of cow and calf elk, we should not expect a recovery of elk production, recruitment and population size close to what habitat is capable of supporting. The same cause and effect relationship between elk recruitment, elk population size and wolf predation has been documented in the Sawtooth Zone, independent of habitat limitations. We don’t have the radio-telemetry data to confirm a cause and effect relationship between wolf predation of cow and calf elk and serious declines in elk recruitment in the Middle Fork Zone, but the pattern is similar to what we’ve documented for the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones.
Ralph, your comment about the last paragraph being “fluff” is interesting. What is “fluffy” about managing the public’s wildlife resource for the needs and desires of the public?
You will see the wolf density in the Lolo Zone is said to be “very high.”
It is possible, as SEAK Mossback wrote the other day here, that a small wolf population keeps a small elk population from recovery. However, what is the effect of bears? I see your department misses that, at least in the chart. No doubt it is because elk calves are taken by bears well before they can be collared.
I think the elk future for the Lolo looks bright as the burned areas grow elk food and more fires start. However, if they get covered with knapweed instead of food, a bright future might not happen.
As far as fires go, there is a big downside. To me the Lolo was great because it was so beautiful and the waters of Kelly Creek, Cayuse Creek, etc. so clear and full of trout. Folks need to think of more than wolves and elk when they think “Lolo.”
As far as “fluff” goes, I mean they are vague nice words. . . . sort like a business saying “our commitment to our customers for quality service never wavers.”
You are right on the mark Jimt. I would like to ask Mark what about those people who wish to view wolves in the wild? You are taking those opportunities away from them simply by catering to hunters and farmers. I understand that Idaho fish and game caters to hunters because hunters have to pay in order to kill an animal, but you can’t blame wildlife watchers since wildlife viewing is something you don’t have to pay for as far as I know. I think maybe in the future in order to have a say in what is going on (wolf issues and such), maybe Idaho fish and game should start charging those who wish to view wildlife, but I am not sure how this would really work out if it does become a reality. Just a thought.
I have suggested this several times over the years….
Now I know it may rub some the wrong way, but you do know, you don’t have to be a hunter to buy a hunting license…You can buy a license and show up to the meetings as a license holder and have your say, really when it comes down to it, it would be a very inexpensive way to make your voice heard, just pick up a license and don’t use it, but when questioned, you can say! YES I have a hunting license, so I want to have my say!
This to me, seems to be a far better solution that trying to get new taxes in place, just buy a license and show up to the meetings, if your writing letters, remind them you are a license holder, it would be the quickest and most effective way to supplement the Game and Fish depts and ensure people don’t keep up with this “you have no right to say anything”
If it is true that money drives the system, the game depts are not going to care at all who buys the license…
Almost the entire state of Idaho is open to wolf viewing, just get out and do a bit of hiking and you may have a chance at seeing wolves. If you would like to see them other ways may I suggest Yellowstone or the city zoo.
Save Bears gives good advice on this, in my opinion. A license doesn’t cost much.
It be very, very good, however, if there was a way that those who don’t hunt or fish, for whatever reason, could help support the state wildlife agency and make it rational for the state folks to listen equally to all viewpoints.
I think for some of us who really really disagree with the myopic focus of most state wildlife agencies on game issues, it feels like the same issue as giving money to the ranchers for kills..and then being in the same position we were before…not at the table, not respected, our agendas rejected. If turning around the focus of the agencies were that simple, hell, I think every green would gladly pay the fees.
I see NO indication from the statements and actions of fish and game departments to change their fundamental focus, not just in Idaho or Montana, but in most of the states in which I have lived or dealt with in some advocacy role.
So, maybe it is a chicken and egg thing? Do the fish and game agencies proactively start managing the lands and resources for more than just hunting and fishing, and to protect ranchers in order to convince those of us with a broader agenda to give them credibility again? Or do we hand over tens of thousands of dollars, hoping that the traditional powers will grant us a seat at the policy setting table?
It is simple, just elect a governor who has your “agenda”. During their term in office he/she will select the fish and wildlife commissioners that will promote your “agenda”. But since that is not happening then it seems to be that the will of the majority of the electorate does not want your “agenda” .
I would be for electing fish and wildlife commissioners the same as public service commissioners are elected in Montana. I would doubt that any elected fish and wildlife commissioners in the western states are going to change the status quo, in fact, I believe that it would be worst. The one with the most votes wins.
Way Way oversimplified., ELk 275. How many political campaigns have YOU worked on, or how many piece of legislation have YOU tried to get through a political body? Go out, bang your head against your wall a few times, and you will get some sort of idea of how hard it is to fight the entrenched interests in the west from a reform agenda. Not impossible, but certainly not the piece of cake you seem to portray.
As far the will of the electorate, that is largely forgotten when someone assumes office, and it becomes about staying in office, which usually means placating the largest lobbyists, the largest contributers. The only time democracy and the people’s welfare is mentioned is during the election cycle.
So, would YOU vote for a reformist governor of your state? One who said no more catering to a very small interest group (vis a vis state population numbers) to manage the state lands; that we will manage them according to regional ecosystem principles that take into account, first and foremost, the health and well being of the resource independent of its use or manipulation to the benefit of humans? I think the lands and inhabitants of those lands would benefit greatly from such a vision; I think the current powers would see their influence and sway diminish, and would do all in their power to keep the status quo, even at the expense of the resource. Just look around…it has been the history of the West for decades,, exploitation for profit as the paramount goal.
I would just like to see that basic principle realized regardless of party or self interest. If nature declines, we decline. Simple as that.
And just for the record, those folks who whined about a small dedicated tax of a penny or two per purchase of camping equipment, etc..are idiots. They had a great chance to change the direction of this issue and blew it.
++So, would YOU vote for a reformist governor of your state? One who said no more catering to a very small interest group (vis a vis state population numbers) to manage the state lands;++
Whenever a new election is held without an incumbent all candidates are reformist on both sides. Once elected they want to stay elected and that is where the problems begin; it is both parties Republican and Democrat.
When you talk about state lands are you referring to the typical section 16 and 36 or are you referring to all of the land in the state? In Montana state lands are managed according to the state constitution which can be changed by an initiative.
++ that we will manage them according to regional ecosystem principles that take into account, first and foremost, the health and well being of the resource independent of its use or manipulation to the benefit of humans? ++
Except, in cases of large tracts of national forest lands private and public lands are intermixed and a private landowners with few exceptions are not interested in managing them for the well being of the resource. Humans are greedy and they will manage land for the “highest and best use” which means maximum productivity. Everyone wants a new car/truck or a winter trip to Hawaii. States want the highest revenue from their state lands which are suppose to be used for the support of public schools. One of the foremost conservationist in this area is Ted Turner and all of his lands appear to be managed for maximum productively: buffalo husbandry and elk hunting.
Trying to manage interspersed public lands with private and state lands for well being of larger resource independent of humans is not going to be successful, there are too many others.
Well, I guess that comes down to how one defines “reform”. For me, it is changing the relationship between management of the public resource, state or federal, to one based on the health of the resource itself rather than the health of the business’ interests bottom line and shareholder dividends.
As far as the intermixing goes, there is no concept in private property rights that allows one full freedom to do harm to neighboring lands regardless of ownership. The concepts of nuisance and trespass are still alive and well and could become very important tools in which to encourage private landowners to stop practices which cause demonstrable and redressable harm to public resources. It can be successful; just requires facing the reality of what we doing to the very things we depend on for life, and changing that practice. Usually species will behave in the manner that best benefits it..But…..
If I buy your vision of humanity, then it is really hopeless. I am not saying you are not right. I think the human species of all the animals is capable of destroying itself because of the way it manages the very things upon which it depends to live. I would like to think that this generation has the last and best chance to start turning the big elephant in the right direction for the generations to come.
I would be content to see state fish and game agencies start to use their trust authority over animals to manage them for more than cash crop status; face it, that is what this elk fight is all about. If suddenly elk suddenly became a non game species, do you think you or your fellow hunters or the outfitters would give a hoot about its survival. Maybe that is where the line differs…wolf and green advocates in general want the animal’s status to improve for the sake of the animal regardless of benefit to humans. Hunters, big game outfitters want the elks’ health to improve to be able to find them more easily and kill them. Now, as I have said here many times, I have no quarrel with folks who NEED to kill elk for their families to survive; that is the predator’s way. The game folk, the kill for thrill or bragging rights or trophies to drink with the friends under…I don’t get it, and never will. I find it the height of irony for a person to be holding up a 12 point buck in a parking lot in the back of a pick up truck, saying how beautiful the animal is…with those dead black eyes.
JimT, you said The game folk, the kill for thrill or bragging rights or trophies to drink with the friends under…I don’t get it, and never will. I find it the height of irony for a person to be holding up a 12 point buck in a parking lot in the back of a pick up truck, saying how beautiful the animal is…with those dead black eyes.
I agree 100%. One of the problems I have with trophy or sport hunters or whatever you want to call them is that they complain about wolves killing for sport, but what the hell are they doing? Aren’t they doing the same thing they accuse the wolves of doing, sport killing? I believe so! I would also like to get Mark’s opinion on how are elk herds doing statewide in Idaho and does he believe that wolves kill for the “fun” of it or for “sport” like some claim. Also, for Mark Gamblin, there are some who claim that wolves also kill elk and just leave them there to rot without eating the elk, what are your thoughts on this claim and have you personally witnessed this?
Wolves do indeed kill in more than they will eat and yes I have seen it with my own eyes and actually have pictures. The hard winters we had a couple years ago there were quite a few elk found that had not been eaten. This winter however was very mild and all the carcasses we found were fully consumed. Hard winters make killing easy for the wolves so they’re more apt to take more than they need. Easy winters mean it’s a lot harder for the wolves to catch prey so I think they make better use of their kills.
Ralph – thanks, I had not looked at the cow elk survival research update. I should have been familiar with those rankings. With that, my point remains. We have a good understanding of the role wolves, and bears, play in elk predation. In the Lolo Zone, wolves are responsible for almost all predation mortality of cow and calf elk. From 2005 to 2007, wolves accounted for 71% of the calf predation and lions accounted for the remaining 29%. Bears did not kill any radio collared calf elk during that period. During the same period, wolves accounted for 78% of the cow elk predation mortality, lions accounted for 11% and unidentified predators accounted for the remainder of cow elk pedation mortality. Whether we agree on wolf density categorization, the reality is that the wolf-elk predation rate in the Lolo Zone has depresseded elk recruitment to near unsustainable levels.
The “fluff” issue is about about managing wildlife resources (elk herds e.g.) to meet public desires – on a geographic/regional basis, as opposed to a total, statewide number, suggested repeatedly by participants in previous threads. From a public wildlife management perspective, I hope we could agree that managing a highly valued wildlife resource like the Lolo elk population that resource for the needs and desires of the Idaho public is more substance that fluff.
Mark–how old were the calves that were collared? If you didn’t bother to collar neo-nates, then of course you’re not going to see bear predation on elk calves, since they can’t catch elk older than a few weeks at the high end. You count elk in the winter, correct? Then how do you account for losses to bears in the first few weeks of June?
Jay – the calf mortality data I referenced is for neo-nate elk. The mortality data was collected through out the season to veryify the fate of each mortality incident – cause of death; if predation, which predatory. The study design provides estimates of mortality rates for cow and calf (neo-nate) portions of the population, source of all mortality, mortality rates by predator species.
I would be curious to know the timeframe of the calf capture, as I find it hard to believe that black bears–which have been shown to be effective predators of elk calves–wouldn’t take any calves. Any chance you can research when the calves were captured (what month)?
Jay – I followed up with our research staff for more detail. I need to qualify my last response. We did study neonate survival from ’97 to ’04, immediately after the sever winter mortality event (I incorrectly mentioned ’92-’93 earlier). Bear and lion predation on neonates was significant. Bear and lion hunting opportunity was increased to reduce predation of neonate elk and subsequently elk calf survival rose from 9-10 calves/100 cows to 28-30 calves/100 cows. At that time, wolves became established and we shifted research focus to the impact of wolf predation on elk recruitment. However, our wolf predation research follows elk calves from 6 months of age (December/Januray) forward. Our Lolo Zone research indicates that wolves don’t begin taking calf elk until approximately 6 months of age. Bears and lions are taking neonate elk, but with increased bear and lion hunting opportunity, bear and lion predation of neonate elk has been reduced. Wolves are now by far the most imortant source of predation mortality for Lolo Zone elk overall.
So how can you say wolves are the most important predation mortality source, when you’re not even looking the first 6 months of a calf’s live? You admitted that bears and lions were significant prior to the wolf pop. upsurge in that area. Obviously, if you time the capture to coincide with when wolves start to focus on elk calves, then of course you’re going to see wolf predation. It is completely disingenuous to say that wolves are the primary cause, when a) your study design is set up to focus on the timeframe when wolves start to turn to elk calves; and b) you completely ignore the first 6 months of life, when elk calves are susceptible to a whole suite of predators (bears, lions, coyotes, wolves, etc.). You say bear and lion opportunity has increased, therefore it has to be wolves. that’s hardly a smoking gun…you know very well opportunity, and actual harvest are two different things. What is the bear and lion harvest in that area now, compared to when the seasons were liberalized? No doubt interest wanes after a while, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that harvest now is similar, or slightly above, what is was prior to the increased opportunity. Even if there is higher bear/lion harvest, there’s no way you can say that bear/lion elk calf predation is not significant now, because you’re not even looking for it.
One last point: you say that the neonate survival went up after the bear and lion seasons were opened up. However, that also occurred after one of the worst winters in a long time. Doesn’t it seem pretty intuitive that calf ratios would go up after a severe winter?
“are being managed to achieve a more responsible predator-prey base to meet the needs and desires of Idahoans for wildlife resource benefits in that large mangagement zone”.
Fluff, Fluff is one thing…which is a very polite way to say it regarding MSG’s narrative….but what I see even a lot worse is superior attitudes. What the hell is “a more responsible predator – prey base? And how can that be even considered unless one includes for consideration attitudes akin to Aryians and PR men who intertwine these bias’s with what they feel are their rights over all others to dictate what the public supposedly directs F&G to do.
Who determines what is “responsible” and further more how is Idaho F&G given the god right to determine what is responsible? I doubt either the prey nor the predator of any species wants to give a human that right to say what is “responsible” in their own interactions. Both would be saying, “Get out of our lives. We can take care of ourselves, thank you maam”.
What MSG needs to own up to … and cut through the bull shit (fluff in Ralph’s nicer language) is Idaho G&F’s Aryian attutude where they think they can put a spin on this earth that is better than what was here before. The Aryians game attitudes I see here are of the same ilk as those attitudes migrating from Nazi germany…now applied to animals. What the greater MSG needs to own up to is presently feels the right to manipulate natures interactions (kill wolves) so both species are better for it. Until he can admit to himself he is only doing so to “better” his clients (hunters and exploitive outfitters) he is in la la land.
I see no way humans can determine what constitutes “a more responsible predator-prey base” here. Only the wolves and elk can do that.
It is kinda scary to think what is expressed in G&F’s quote is to see something way worse than paternalism. What I see is the worst form of superiority ….. a belief they have the right to dictate each species responsibility to another species….and I don’t belive any of them even “get it”.
I don’t find Mark’s comments out of line at all when it comes to the purpose of wildlife management. Leopold defined game management as “the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.” To the extent that wolves and other predators are viewed as part of the “land” (i.e. the ecosystem), IDF&G’s manipulation of wolf populations to provide elk (wild game) for hunters (recreational use) is classic wildlife management.
Of course, a few things have changed since Leopold wrote Game Management (including his own stance on killing predators to provide more hunting opportunities). Recently, in a 2002 article in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Riley and colleagues defined wildlife management as “the guidance of decision-making processes and implementation of practices to purposefully influence interactions among and between people, wildlife, and habitats to achieve impacts valued by stakeholders.” Aside from removing the overt reference to agricultural production, the only substantive difference between Riley et al.’s and Leopold’s definitions is that Riley et al. define the audience of wildlife management more broadly (i.e. beyond hunters/reacreationists).
What IDF&G is attempting to do with wolf populations is quite consistent with Riley et al.’s definition, with one important caveat: the “impacts” they are attempting to “achieve” (i.e. minimization of wolf populations, maximization of elk hunting opportunities) are really only “valued” by big game hunters and (to a lesser extent) livestock producers. What is lost in IDF&G’s approach are the voices of other stakeholders–people who want more than a token population of wolves.
Mark’s past retort to this criticism has been (and I’m paraphrasing here): just because people don’t get what they want doesn’t mean we aren’t listening to them. No argument there. Of course, if you listen to people’s complaints and then do the opposite of what they suggest, you shouldn’t be surprised to find they’re upset by your actions.
In my view, IDF&G could have largely diffused the situation by managing likely dispersal corridors and areas adjacent to YNP as “wolf viewing” zones (i.e. areas where there is no harvest). This type of action would’ve served two purposes: first, it would’ve shown the courts that they take the genetic connectivity issue seriously, and second, it would’ve shown wolf supporters that at least some of the state was being managed in accordance with their desires. When IDF&G chose to essentially harvest wolves in rough proportion to their abundance, they essentially chose to cast aside the “impacts valued” by non-traditional stakeholders. The net effect has been to increase the intensity of the conflict, when they could have *PARTIALLY* diffused concerns from both sides.
JB – I think you are right on about the focus of this issue.
“What IDF&G is attempting to do with wolf populations is quite consistent with Riley et al.’s definition, with one important caveat: the “impacts” they are attempting to “achieve” (i.e. minimization of wolf populations, maximization of elk hunting opportunities) are really only “valued” by big game hunters and (to a lesser extent) livestock producers. What is lost in IDF&G’s approach are the voices of other stakeholders–people who want more than a token population of wolves.
Mark’s past retort to this criticism has been (and I’m paraphrasing here): just because people don’t get what they want doesn’t mean we aren’t listening to them. No argument there. Of course, if you listen to people’s complaints and then do the opposite of what they suggest, you shouldn’t be surprised to find they’re upset by your actions.”
Are the “other” voices really disregarded in the management plan and actions being implemented and if so, how so? Obviously, you and others adamantly believe your voices/desires are not being accomodated by this plan. The lack of wolf security corridors/zones or wolf viewing areas case in point. I’ll ask, does the current management plan and hunting season NOT provide at least 5 months of exclusive wolf viewing opportunity and the remaining 7 months available for sharing the field with hunters – to view wolves? Recall that the Centennial Mountain range on the eastern side of the state has lower wolf harvest limits – specifically to reduce a potential hinderance to wolf movement across that corridor between Idaho, Montana and YNP. Is there more accomodation of the desires of wolf watchers and other non-hunting wolf advocates that is being acknowledged here? Is there any middle ground that we can work from?
Why can there not be a region in Idaho where wolves are not hunted during any month – like the connectivity corridor of the Centennial Mountain range to Yellowstone? Lower the wolf limit there to zero. How much would that interfere with wolf hunters experience?
” Is there any middle ground that we can work from?” Yes, don’t have the entire state open for the taking of wolves.
I used to hunt that country all the time. Twice in one day I have had wolves ruin my hunting. I worked very hard at finding several good honey holes that always had elk in them, the last time I was there there were wolf tracts all over the place and no deer or elk tracks.
The centennial Valley is approximately 40% private land and 20% state land and there is a very large number of cattle. My father is a retired rancher/real estate broker commented on the amount of cattle and no hay base.
My desires are largely irrelevant, as I don’t live in Idaho. Implementing what I’ve described above could have helped diffuse the situation (it is the middle ground).
I’m afraid I can only take your comment about “5 months of exclusive wolf viewing” as sarcasm. Wasn’t one of the points of hunting wolves to “put the fear of man in ’em”? Given their low densities and the fact that they’re hunted everywhere (how many wolves are in southern Idaho, anyhow), I think I’m rather safe in asserting that IDF&G’s management plan does nothing to promote wolf viewing and everything (short of exterminating wolves) to inhibit it.
“Recall that the Centennial Mountain range on the eastern side of the state has lower wolf harvest limits – specifically to reduce a potential hinderance to wolf movement across that corridor between Idaho, Montana and YNP.”
Several comments; First, Jeremy, I do not believe if Leopold were alive today he would ever term wildlife production as “recreation”. Maybe I am giving too much hope in the man, but I feel he would have had enough time to develop more of an equality amoung species philosophy.
Taking any life is very serious business. And for anyone to not work it out for themselves….to come to peace with that taking of life ….. means they are destined to a superior attitude…and thus the abuse of others…and the resultant psychological degrading of their own life. I think Leopold would have, given the time to transcend his own era’s bias, looked back and said there is no recreation involved in any killing.
Of course I believe the same for “sport fishing”. I feel catch and release is the most Aryian of all fishing (to put back so they grow bigger is not the same). The only way it can be morally justified is for fishermen to argue fish do not feel pain….which is a total state of denial.
I kill my brothers, my buffalo, and I can tell you when I shoot 6 or 7 calves and their guardian grandmother…and I have the successful plan, based on their emotions, in place for doing so…to kill each calf one by one while gramma huddles the rest around her, then pull the trigger on gramma then that last calf clinging to a dead body…and they are all dead in a fifeteen foot diameter area in the middle of a pasture…you better believe I have to have the my position in life figured out.
Second, you need to ask MSG point blank if he was being being sarcastic. Ask for a lawyers yes or no answer and don’t allow any weaseling out of it. Idaho F&G administrators, just as my former employers administrators, YNP, actually start believing their “spin”.
Yes, as WM says I do sometimes, I am baiting in this case…waiting for that composite G&F response. You, Jeremy, can be my facilitator. Of course you learn something out of at the same time. Go ahead, be my howdy doody…unless you want to believe in utopia.
You may be right about Leopold…who knows? My point was simply that IDF&G’s management philosophy is consistent with traditional wildlife management (circa 1933)–i.e. make land produce wild game for hunters. This view of wildlife management as game production has been slowly changing to incorporate a more “holistic” understanding of ecosystems and pay attention to the desires of other (i.e. non-consumptive “users” of wildlife), but, as you know, it has been particularly slow to change in the West.
I understand the position Mark has put himself in by posting here, and I respect him for it (though I am sometimes frustrated by the way he “spins” the agency’s plans/actions/agendas). My goal is simply to have an honest dialogue about wolf management in the West.
In my view, debates about wolves too often focus on scientific “facts” (e.g. how much do wolves weigh, how much do they eat, what are their effects on elk/deer/moose/cougar, etc.). While these facts are important for informing policy, debates that center around them fail to address the fundamental issues: (1) What are the GOALS of wolf management; and (2) For whom are wolves being managed. We can argue about the science until the cows come home, and it will never get us anywhere until we have an honest discussion about, to paraphrase Leopold, what we want the land to produce.
Of course, I think it is pretty safe to say that people have extremely divergent views regarding what the goals of wolf management should be. We consistently hear anything from total eradication to total protection; thus, you will never find a management plan pleases everyone. So the policy quandary is how to meet the letter and intent of the ESA, while showing all groups that IDF&G is at least attempting to manage for their desires. The action I advocated (above), though not at all my personal preference, would have allowed for this political expediency. It would’ve shown the courts that IDF&G was serious about protecting wolf populations, allowed the agency to reduce the wolf population in much of the state, and shown that they took seriously the views of people who wanted more (not less) protections for wolves.
Returning to the questions I posed (above): IDF&G’s management suggests to me that their primary goal is to reduce the state wolf population as much as they can without returning wolves to ESA protections. Their actions strongly suggest that this plan is driven by the desires of traditional stakeholders (i.e. hunters, livestock producers).
Regarding the role of wolf predation in the recruitment collapse of the Lolo Zone elk population: Wolves are clearly the most important source of predation mortality (total mortality) for this elk population. Recall that elk calf survival increased by three fold following management measures to reduce bear and lion numbers. Prior to the bear and lion management changes and wolves becoming established in the area, when neonate predation by bears and lions was much higher, elk production and recruitment was keeping pace with total elk mortality, including bear/lion induced mortality of neonates and human hunting of cow elk. Neonate telemetry based mortality estimates were conducted from 1997 to 2004. If you are suggesting that since 2004, bear and lion predation of neonate elk could have risen to a rate the would or could exceed the influence of documented wolf predation rates of elk age 6 months and older and play a significant role in the recent collapse of elk recruitment – that would not be a reasonable conclusion.
I’m not sure what your line of reasoning is for cow/calf production increasing following the severe 1997-98 winter and winter mortality event. Are you suggesting compensatory production following the population reduction? Neonate survival did not increase immediately after that sever winter. Bear and lion predation of neonate elk was documented as the limitation to recovery of elk recruitment immediately after the winter kill. It was not until several years following 1998, with management reductions of bears and lions that cow/calf ratios increased.
Mark, that is junk science, and I think behind closed doors you would admit it.
#1) “Recall that elk calf survival increased by three fold following management measures to reduce bear and lion numbers.” First of all, you have not provided any information to show that bear and lion numbers were significantly reduced, only that opportunity was increased. Second, you are claiming correlation is causation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this was not an experiment–there was no control, so you don’t have anything to compare the results to. If you can look me in the eye (figuratively) and tell me there haven’t been similar fluctuations in calf:cow ratios in areas NOT primarily influenced by predation, then I’ll have to say that you’re lying. Calf:cow ratios fluctuate due to lots of things, so without a control, you have absolutely NO BASIS to say that fluctuations were caused by changes in bear/lion harvest OPPORTUNITY.
#2): 6 years later, you are looking at elk calf predation by wolves, and you have NOTHING!!! on bears and lions (not to mention coyotes, golden eagles, and every other source of calf mortality that occurs to neonate calves), because the “study” doesn’t bother to record predation for the first 6 MONTHS!!! You are trying to argue that calf mortality is primarily wolf caused, yet you have no concurrent data for all predators in the system? You’re using data that ended 6 years prior and comparing it to current conditions? Nor have you shown that bear and lion harvest was effective at reducing those populations, not to mention sustained since the seasons were liberalized.
Mark, I appreciate your coming on here to discuss this, but if you took this information to a wildlife professor, these conclusions would be dismissed out of hand. Its absolutely ludicrous to say that wolves are the primary cause, when you’re not even looking for other sources. The “study” you talk about is clearly intent on focusing on wolf predation, while ignoring pretty much all other sources. You imply this yourself, when you mentioned that wolves tend to focus on calves around 6-months of age, and thus you only collar 6-month old calves.
For the sake of argument, lets say F&G has been effective at reducing bear and lion numbers. Even with that, wolves killed 71% of calves, and lions 29%. That leaves 6 months of lion predation that you’re not documenting, and virtually all bear predation. So considering all that, to claim that “clearly wolf predation” is the main cause is one hell of a leap. Good luck getting that published in a wildlife journal.