US Fish & Wildlife Solicits Comments on 10(j) Proposal to Slaughter Lolo Wolves

From the USFWS Press Release 2/10/11:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s request to manage gray wolves in the Lolo Elk Management Zone in north central Idaho in response to impacts of wolf predation on elk.

The Draft Environmental Analysis and supporting documents are available at the USFWS website here.

Feds OK hunting of 60 wolves in north Idaho – AP

23 Responses to “US Fish & Wildlife Solicits Comments on 10(j) Proposal to Slaughter Lolo Wolves”

  1. Diane Bentivegna Says:

    It is clearly obvious that the 10 (j) Rule and all its revisions already allows wolves to be eliminated if they are having an “unacceptable impact” on livestock as well as the number or distribution of ungulates (i.e: elk, deer, etc.). These “eliminations” are now permitted on PUBLIC lands, as well. The fact that drought, shrinking habitat, other predators, and human hunting have been found to be primary causes of ungulate (i.e.: elk, deer, etc.) herd changes became irrelevant under this rule. In effect, wolves can already be exterminated for doing what they are supposed to do – maintain a healthy ecosystem by preying on animals to maintain the balance of nature. WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT???

  2. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Folks should make sure to read the comments of the 3 peer reviewers. Dr. Val Geist loved it, of course, but the other two😉

    • JB Says:

      Agreed, the peer review is enlightening. I found this passage particularly relevant:

      “Second, because of the controversial nature of wolf control, the specifics of the data are likely to be thoroughly scrutinized and challenged. At present, the material presented in the proposal does not make a particularly convincing case that wolf predation is having an “unacceptable impact” on wild ungulate populations. Methods for establishing elk population objectives appear highly subjective and it seems plausible that the current demography of the elk herd is largely a consequence of habitat conditions. The proposal notes that historically 35-45% of the landscape was in early seral stages whereas only 14% is currently. Although there have been recent attempts to increase prescribed fire, the area burned is a small fraction of the landscape. The proposal fails to provide specific targets for forage:cover ratios or acreage necessary in early seral stages to ensure sufficient high-quality habitat to achieve elk herd objectives. The rule of thumb is usually 40:60 forage cover ratio for elk, and 14% in early seral stages is far from a reasonable habitat target. Surely we should expect that habitat targets would be met first, before using wolf control. We face a similar situation in Alberta where the provincial government is using wolf control to correct for their failure to manage habitats for woodland caribou. Clearly wolf control is only a temporary fix and will be ineffective in the long term without proper attention to habitat management.”

      • JB Says:

        Question: Why would you spend significant amounts of money to reduce wolf populations if the present habitat is incapable of supporting a substantial elk population. Let me rephrase: I could see spending the money to reduce wolf populations where there was good habitat (i.e., good potential return on investment); but why spend the money if the carrying capacity is relatively limited to begin with?

      • Ralph Maughan Says:

        JB,

        This proposal has been around for about six years now. It has become like a statement of a creed that wolves are responsible for low elk numbers in the Lolo. It is faith-based biology.

        No state or county employee is allowed to question it.

        Reducing the number of wolves in the Lolo is like a quest for the Holy Grail. So that makes me an iconoclast. I am doubtful there are even close to as many wolves in area as they want to kill.

        Given the likely lack of wolves, perhaps this proposal is no longer worth opposing. They want to have a ritual kill to appease their mythology. After performing the ritual, maybe they will feel better.

      • JB Says:

        I should be clear that I support this action (or its attempt). Here’s why:

        First, given the prior attempts (i.e., 2009 hunting season, the outfitter “challenge”), I would be surprised if they can find 50 wolves in the area, let alone kill them. In any case–even if they are able to kill all 60–there will be no discernible impact to wolf populations statewide.

        Second, I think this action will help take some of the pressure off of policy makers, and *possibly* result in some increased tolerance for wolves (though I am increasingly doubtful about the latter).

        Finally, unlike some people who post here, I do not oppose wolf harvest or wolf control–so long as these actions are done sustainably and responsibly. If wolves are going to be removed/killed/harvested, I would rather see this type of “targeted” action, which still allows wolves to increase their range, while allowing states to take some “control”. In my view, the best way to ensure long term recovery of wolf populations is to increase wolves’ distribution. This action will have no impact on wolf populations, nor their distribution, thus I can see no reason to oppose it.

      • WM Says:

        JB,

        You and I are in agreement. And, a point for objectors, which I have made before, is that if the elk herds of the Lolo do not respond in a manner consistent with the reasons for the lethal removal (sorry I can’t bring myself to say it is a “slaughter” as Brian’s lead to the article states), IDFG gets egg on its face, and critics can point to it as a failure.

        I have also said there are units adjacent to the Lolo which might benefit more from a little wolf density thinning (and had their hunt quotas filled very quickly), as they do not have the elk habitat constraints which seem to be cropping up in the justification for this action.

        A reminder, that these wolves were introduced as a “non-essential experimental population,” and this type of control action has been documented from the 1994 EIS and evolving regulations under the law.

        To not allow the states to do this, assuming good reasoning behind it, will be yet one more broken promise by FWS, and another nail in the coffin for justification of treating wolves differently under the ESA or removing them entirely, as is the goal of federal legislative proposals that are being introduced almost daily.

      • Salle Says:

        JB,

        Second, I think this action will help take some of the pressure off of policy makers, and *possibly* result in some increased tolerance for wolves (though I am increasingly doubtful about the latter).

        As has been proven again and again, killing wolves in Idaho will never result in some increased tolerance for wolves. It’s more about bigotry than anything else. So, if you kill a person of color do you think a member of the KKK will be more tolerant of other persons of color after the one has been killed to appease or alter the KKK members’ level of tolerance? I think that could only result in the concept that it’s okay to kill them and to keep doing so since it was acceptable when the one was killed…. It’s pretty much the same thing.

        You can’t make people with blinders on change what they think or feel or believe or the change their direction of travel by killing some wolves in the hopes that they will stop wanting them killed. It’s been done in a piecemeal fashion since the reintroduction and look what we have now, an emboldened bully faction that wants ever more killing done to appease them until all the wolves are dead or removed from “their” state.

        Your idea is a nice one but it doesn’t work around here. (And I admire many of your opinions and comments here but I have to disagree on this.) These folks just have to grow up and face reality, pretty or not, nothing else will be of merit in the long run. Children who throw temper tantrums have to be dealt with in a manner that shows them they will not get what they want with that approach… know any children who totally lose it when they can’t get what they desire? That’s what these folks rely on, they have found in the past that the temper-tantrum/ignorance by choice method works for them and that anyone else is SOL because the tantrum throwers see themselves and what they want as the only things that matter. When western politics can function in an adult manner, then and only then can cooperation and consensus be a viable tool.

      • Brian Ertz Says:

        killing wolves to release political pressure is not science-based management. killing wolves to show that killing wolves doesn’t work isn’t science-based management.

        if managers are given the green light to kill 60 wolves in the Lolo with such a sketchy scientific justification that’s unable to demonstrate that 60 wolves exist in the area, and with such sketchy ability to demonstrate wolves’ unique culpability to reduced elk numbers as is demonstrated by peer review – then what will that say about their next proposal ? where does that leave the bar ?

        it leaves the bar at political tolerance – which in the state of Idaho, doesn’t leave much … fine – if that’s where people believe it ought be – but it shouldn’t be characterized elsewhere.

      • jon Says:

        These wolf hunts don’t make a lot of sense. Common sense would tell you that if you kill 60 wolves and there are 20 wolves left, that is less competition for those 20 wolves and they will have more elk to kill for themselves.

      • jon Says:

        Less wolves, more elk to kill for the remaining wolves. These wolf hunts won’t be effective as some want them to be imo. Any excuse to kill wolves though.

      • JB Says:

        Salle:

        I agree with you to an extent. The people who are screaming about wolves are unlikely to be more tolerant of them because of a rather small population reduction in one area–that seems quite clear. But the reality is that the majority of citizens’ views lie somewhere in the middle of the extremes that we see expressed so often in letters to the editor and on internet blogs. Demonstrating to these folks (i.e., the silent minority)–especially the hunters among them– that the ESA can be “flexible” may be enough to sway their opinion, and keep public opinion in favor of wolf conservation.

        – – – –

        Brian: You and I both know that management is not based upon science, but rather, informed by it. Science can suggest that if you pull a lever X amount you will get Y effect–but it cannot tell us when it is appropriate to pull the lever. In this case, IDF&G wishes to pull the lever before some people think it is appropriate (though others say that lever should have been pulled years ago). From a scientific perspective (judging by what the peer reviewers mentioned) the uncertainty here is whether pulling the lever will have the desired effect; however, it is clear that pulling this particular lever will not adversely impact wolf populations, wolf distribution, nor wolf recovery.

        *Note: I certainly understand opposing the proposed action because you don’t view it as a good use of public resources–frankly, I would agree.

  3. william huard Says:

    I agree Ralph, and maybe they can smear their faces with wolf blood to feel better about themselves. They want to kill 60 wolves- remember when they sent in the crack outfitters last year to save the LOLO, how many wolves did they get- ten?

  4. Immer Treue Says:

    I’ve read up to McNay, which means I have read Geist, who brings in Will Graves “Wolves in Russia”. The Amazon review under Mike is mine. It pretty much sums up my feelings for the book. Bob Fanning talked about Graves in a dialog between us, that was very civil, therefore I have nothing bad to say about Bob in terms of the discourse between us. He said Will is in his 80’s … It doesn’t matter how old Will is, his book should have no impact on the wolf management in the NRM states. It is not peer reviewed, and is largely a loose collection of possible fact and an awful lot of folklore. I can go on about and the response to Graves’s concerns in the EIS prior to wolf reintroduction and will, if challenged.

    Everyone who is anyone understands the inverse predator prey relationships between any predator and their prey. That is why anybody who is pro-wildlife in general, and pro-wolf in particular must voice their opinions on this matter. In human “time” the 5 years of wolf impact on the Lolo herd might seem significant, but in terms of natural ” time” it is grossly insignificant.

    Arguments exist on Lolo habitat. Which one is true? Bottom line, and I will come right out and say, wolves will require management, and this means hunting, however, I will do everything within my limited powers to oppose poisoning.

    But, if the wolves are to be managed, then do it correctly, and correctly is not just driving their population down. Reading the peer review responses would indicate that there are other means,and habitat restoration/control, as well as reduction of wolf population are required to return elk to sustainable levels to appease those who would hunt them.

    Just killing wolves to artificially restore elk numbers will do nothing to help the situation.

  5. Immer Treue Says:

    Other than Geist, all peer reviews find flaws in the plan, which reinforces the theme of NRM states desired wolf “management”.

  6. Jay Barr Says:

    Dr. Garton, Univ. of ID, was recently interviewed for a story in the Moscow newspaper, in which he, too, states that the problem in the Lolo is habitat and not wolves. Perhaps Ken or Ralph could find a link to it

    • Ken Cole Says:

      I read the article but unfortunately it is behind a pay firewall so I can’t post it.

      This whole issue is so obviously politically driven, especially when you read the peer reviewed comments and are informed as to what the IDFG said for years before this proposal was made. The habitat is not able to sustain as many elk as it once did. It’s not that hard to see.

      It’s driven by the people who want the same high numbers of elk in every area all the time but that’s just not how it works.

  7. dave Says:

    The crux of the problem seems to be that people consider a reduction in ungulate populations to be a bad thing. I prefer to side with Aldo Leopold on this one (“…just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer.”)

  8. Doryfun Says:

    If you are standing by the river with four driftboats, each with a guide ready to take you fishing, which one are you going to pick. Lets say 3 of the guides tell you your chances to catch steelhead is very good, but the last guide tells you your chances are pretty poor. Chances are pretty high you won’t be climbing into the boat with the guide who tells you the wolves are getting all the fish.

    While contrarian scientists are sometimes right, it doen’s happen often enough to warrant jumping into their boat. So I certainly wouldn’t jump into Geists boat, when it comes to his analysis (if you can call his brief brown-nosing letter, a professional analysis, that is.) I’m all for heading downriver with the biologist whom suggest more attention to habitat modification, rather than wolf removal.

  9. Richie G. Says:

    Just a comment people in Minnesota,Wisconsin,and Michigan
    have a different mentality than the people out west. I know I said this before,just thought I mention it again.

    • Moose Says:

      There are A LOT of people in the northern parts of the Midwest that share the anti-wolf feelings of those in the West…..however, for MOST living there, wolves just aren’t on the radar…the biggest difference between the two areas concerns the “states rights” mantra…its not anywhere as near strong in the Midwest as it is out West.


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