US Fish and Wildlife is accepting comments on Montana’s wolf reduction proposal in the Bitterroot Mountains

Blaming wolves for poor elk management?

Graph of information presented in Montana's Bitterroot 10(j) proposal. (Click for Larger View)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an Environmental Assessment for Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s wolf reduction proposal for the Bitterroot hunting district HD250 just southeast of Hamilton, Montana.  In the proposal to kill all but 12 wolves in the district, they claim that wolves are responsible for declines that they have seen in the district and that they are causing “unacceptable impacts” elk population there such that they can no longer meet the objectives they have set there.

While the elk population has declined it should be noted that there was a sharp increase in harvest of all classes of elk in the area after wolves were documented even though as one of the peer reviewers says “[t]here is strong evidence that female harvests need to be reduced when wolves are present (for example, see Nilsen et al. 2005, Journal of Applied Ecology)”. The elk count objectives for the area were also drastically increased to levels far above what the area had previously supported and harvest levels remained high as well.

There is also very little information about the population of bears and mountain lions which also take elk.  Bears, in particular, take very young elk and can have a very large impact on elk populations.

Whether or not killing large numbers of wolves and other predators is effective in increasing elk populations is still debatable but it seems apparent to me that the FWP is blaming wolves for their poor management of elk and that their objectives were based on more wishful thinking rather than what was actually possible.

Here are the Criteria for Proposing Wolf Control Measures under the 2008 NRM Gray Wolf ESA Section 10(j) Rule

  1. The basis of ungulate population or herd management objectives
  2. What data indicate that the ungulate herd is below management objectives
  3. What data indicate that wolves are a major cause of the unacceptable impact to the ungulate population
  4. Why wolf removal is a warranted solution to help restore the ungulate herd to management objectives
  5. The level and duration of wolf removal being proposed
  6. How ungulate population response to wolf removal will be measured and control actions adjusted for effectiveness
  7. Demonstration that attempts were and are being made to address other identified major causes of ungulate herd or population declines or of State or Tribal government commitment to implement possible remedies or conservation measures in addition to wolf removal

Year Total Elk Count Lower Objective Upper Objective Cow Harvest Calf Harvest Bull Harvest Total Harvest Wolf Estimate
1980 612 109 53 137 299
1981 513 65 14 96 175
1982 534 50 6 80 136
1983 608 74 12 124 210
1984 726 79 7 150 236
1985 739 83 19 160 262
1986 780 78 10 122 210
1987 994 62 9 84 155
1988 969 112 3 188 303
1989 715 52 8 136 196
1990 844 35 3 116 154
1991 817 50 9 76 135
1992 991 980 1062 49 7 68 124
1993 950 980 1062 42 3 110 155
1994 1197 980 1062 60 4 106 170
1995 1264 980 1062 43 4 102 149
1996 1297 980 1062
1997 1081 980 1062
1998 1277 980 1062
1999 1285 980 1062 50 5 135 190
2000 1215 980 1062 45 7 124 176
2001 980 1062 51 0 149 200 5
2002 1576 980 1062 49 12 120 181 5
2003 1703 980 1062 84 7 227 318 4
2004 1614 980 1062 252 28 380 660 6
2005 1914 1120 1680 209 21 357 587 11
2006 1462 1600 2400 181 7 279 467 11
2007 1373 1600 2400 118 14 233 365 14
2008 863 1600 2400 65 9 139 213 19
2009 744 1600 2400 70 3 122 195 24
2010 764 1600 2400 5 30

You can find the EA here on the right under “State Proposals to Control Wolves Unacceptably Impacting Ungulate Herds”

Written comments can be submitted online at

or mailed to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2011-0022
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222
Arlington, VA 22203.

The deadline for comments is 11:59 pm EST April 12.

55 Responses to “US Fish and Wildlife is accepting comments on Montana’s wolf reduction proposal in the Bitterroot Mountains”

  1. Woody Says:

    Nice graph showing herd objectives and animal numbers.

    Montana also wants a ratio of 10 bulls per 100 cows. They say it was 4:100 in 2010.

    Yesterday I was using the graphs presented to find numbers for 2004:
    Herd size 1600
    bulls desired 145 (calculated from ratio of 10:100)
    Bull harvest 380
    Cow harvest 250
    Calf harvest 25
    Total harvest 655
    So the harvest as reported was 41% of the herd in 2004 and the harvest of bulls was greater than the objective total number of bulls for that year.

    I ran it through with Ken’s actual numbers and the results are nearly identical.

    Perhaps the harvest of so many elk in 2004 and the following couple of years is more responsible for the low numbers now rather than the wolves.

    There was no evidence provided that wolves were the primary cause for the decrease in wolf numbers; only, “elk population decreased sharply in 2009 and 2010, most likely due to wolf predation “.

  2. Immer Treue Says:

    Someone tell me I’m wrong, and I’ll listen, but did not similar things happen with the Lolo elk? Over hunting (according to some) and one heck of a bad Winter drove their numbers down before the wolves had any real impact.

    There are so many variables at play, is it habitat? Is selective pressure from hunting, and perhaps wolves now impacting cow size, thus calf size, and nutrition in vivo. Someone posted something a week or so ago that put this idea forward. One of the reasons for size limitations on Walleye and Pike in so many northern lakes. You need those large mature breeders.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      We’ve written quite a bit about this issue in the past. The elk population started its decline long before wolves showed up but the IDFG blames wolves for their continued decline even though they’ve said for years that the Lolo has had serious habitat issues. wolves&submit=Search

      • Immer Treue Says:


        I’ve got a copy if the Idaho Fish and Game News, August 2010, in front of me. Lolo elk went from 16,000 to 12,000 from 1988 to 1996, then dropped precipitously to 8,000 during the Winter of 96/97, and continued to drop to ~5,000 by 2003, and then a slight recovery began. From this publication it states that 2005 marks the time when wolf depredations on both elk and livestock began to rise sharply.

      • Ken Cole Says:

        Look at the graphs in this post. I’m not sure how they can call it a recovery or even much of a bump.

      • Immer Treue Says:

        Two things many fail to understand is that as per JB’s opening comment in that link, there is no such thing, in nature as a static equilibrium. It is very dynamic. Wolves in Lolo were of little significance until 2005. There are many, many variables at play.

        Time is also a major player. Most “all” folks have a very myopic view in terms of time. 15 years rather than how long it will take to actually get the whole nine yards correct. Patience is needed, and in terms of a persons lifetime, patience is truly a virtue

        Ken, I agree that he “recovery” is more of a bump. That said, it is more than obvious to anyone who can look at and interpret a graph, something was going on in Lolo prior to the wolves arrival.

  3. Craig Says:

    F&G is into selling tags not managing Wildlife! They want to up #s to sell more tags period!
    Unfortunatly that is not how it works with mother nature!
    ” bulls desired 145 (calculated from ratio of 10:100)” most minimums should be ideally 25/100 cows, 10 is very low and below all objectives in the state of Idaho.
    The shit IFG does with Cow Elk and Doe Hunts will boggle your mind! They do some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen and I’m know Biologist, but do know better and friends who Hunt wonder WTF they are doing sometimes! It’s pathetic and sad because we could have good Hunting and steady Wolf #s all together. Why that can’t happen is all do to Politics,Greed and assholes who think they own all public land.

  4. Brian Ertz Says:

    They need to do a full EIS ~ period … this is a listed species, in order to artificially increase elk #s, they’d need to have a significant impact on wolves in the region – claiming that it won’t significantly impact the environment to try to pull it off with an EA cuts against the purpose and need … it’s one or the other – if they claim that elk is what they’re doing it for, than a full EIS is in order

    • WM Says:

      Gee, I was under the impression a wolf takes between 12-23 ungulates per year. Wolves prefer elk over other ungulates when available. Wolf population is increasing in this area, while elk population is decreasing (after increasing through natural (fire) and man created vegetation chagnes, only to be reduced by introduced wolves, so the EA states.

      A full blown EIS can take up to a year and usually longer. In the meantime wolf population increases, while elk population decreases. So, after another year the negative effect on elk due to wolves in larger numbers has been increased AND the population of wolves has likely increases, widening the gap, and making the management effort greater to control the number of wolves in this zone, and possibly adjacent.

      Actually, another way to look at it is the “significant federal action” was the reintroduction of wolves (according to the 1994 EIS, anyway). The problem is that the promises/conditions under which the wolves were to be reintroduced and managed as a “non-essential experimental population” have to date not been exercised, under Section 10(j) of the ESA, where these wolves were to be managed flexibly for impacts to ungulate populations (and livestock).

      In other words, looking at it another way, it can be argued (successfully I believe) the EIS was done in 1994, and the impact to elk population in this zone was “artificially reduced” through the result of the reintroduced wolves.

      • WM Says:

        And, Brian, I should say it is thinking like yours that is precisely why the legislative proposals to remove protections from wolves are getting legs in Congress, AND decreasing the level of tolerance of wolves by those of us in the middle, and who would tend to support the proposed settlement of litigation before Judge Molloy (notwithstanding the technical flaw of the ESA that could allow the appeal of the DPS ruling to go forward and delay state management even longer).

        One has to wonder what kind of comments Defenders, CBD and the other groups of the 10 settling plaintiffs will offer on this EA. Will they support or oppose it? It might be telling in regard to their true motivations to do the settlement.

      • Brian Ertz Says:

        this is absurd …

        10(j) has been modified since reintroduction to allow for more aggressive take for ungulate declines – prior to the Bush 10(j) there is no way a proposal like this would be taken seriously.

        even under the modified 10(j), there is nothing in that statute which pre-empts NEPA …

        and perhaps most importantly – wolves are a native species … but your suggestion that wolves may be creating a situation where elk are “artificially reduced” is extremely telling of your bass ackward anti-wolf worldview ~

        the ‘don’t use it to don’t lose it’ fear-mongering approach to environmental law that you espouse so religiously is de facto curtailment, emasculation of environmental protection that takes place without the need for the anti-reg folks to lift a finger.

        grow a spine.

  5. Woody Says:

    Immer Treue
    I do believe it is a similar situation with this area in Montana and the Lolo-Selway in Idaho. A rather close connection in space. Others with more intimate knowledge of the area please speak up.

  6. Mike Says:

    All great points, and as we all know, exposing the false info wolf haters push.
    The mere knowledge that’s lost on these people about the Human impact being ignored, or understanding the many animals and wildlife that were positively impacted by the wolves presence. The article repeats what Biologist have explained years ago; Bears had a negative impact on pronged horn and Elk to name two, due to the Bears primarily taking young Elk.
    Wolves have kept predation from Bear in check, thus both ungulates population grew.
    Humans, Lion, feral dog, and weather always play a role.
    These politicians should be exposed for the charlatans they are.
    Let’s have proper transparent wildlife management across the board.
    Otherwise, the face of the great states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming will be of gut shooting poachers who have aligned with unethical politicians.
    The rest of the Country is wondering where common sense went to out west!?

    • Elk275 Says:


      Montana manages for maximum hunter opportunities, not for maximum photographers or wildlife watchers opportunities or a balance ecosystem.

      The state manages wildlife for the residents of the state and that is the way it has been and will be. I do not think that today’s political climate in Washington will allow any change for your side. One only has to look at the budget riders on wolf delisting to verify what is going on. Yes, wolves eat elk, so do bears and mountain loins. The human impact is greater than we all realize. With a growing population the state needs to maintain their elk herds so everyone who wants to hunt elk every year has the opportunity. It would be unthinkable if a hunter had to sit out a year because the herds were declining. That is the way it is.

      • Immer Treue Says:


        Not as a point of argument, but when, then, does one differentiate wild from a feed lot? When herds rise to levels to supply an increasing number of hunters, what happens to habitat? Metaphorically, is it sliding in a giant game farm direction?

      • Elk275 Says:


        So before wolves were in the Rocky Mountain States was it a feedlot or was it wild?

        I have live here all my life and I can’t see or feel any difference either way, nor can anyone else unless they let their mind think to much. I have hunted some of the wildest area’s in the US. In 1974, I hunted the Wangrell Saint Elias by myself, I was 23. I was gone 10 days and never saw a person. The pilot told me that I was the only person between McCarty and the Yukon border. The presents of wolves or grizzlies did not make it anymore wild, it was the isolation, the elevation of the mountains and the vastness of the county.

        This was before the Wangell Saint Elias National Park. Today it is a feedlot. People have ruined it. People who are attached to national parks wearing there fleece with a Nikon hung over their neck coming from all section of the US and the world, waiting for there guide unable to even think about adventuring out there by there selves.

      • Mike Says:

        First off, I’m a hunter.., and what I see as to management in Montana specifically is less to be desired. You say my side.., what’s my side? Because I care about the ecosystem, and see with my own eyes the damage being caused by fools and politicians. I’ve spoken to ethical Ranchers, who also understand the benefits of balance, over constant failed attempts by man. They’re threatened to be shunned if they do.
        Elk numbers harvested are similar statewide every year, so how is it that all of a sudden, they’re declining solely because of the wolf. I don’t buy it!
        To your comment that Montana manages only for the state couldn’t be any more wrong. Guide businesses are plenty out west, and they cater to nonresidents more so than locals.
        This is about what’s right, not what’s our rights.
        Sorry brother, but I respectfully disagree.
        Can you explain the SSS code to the crowd, and explain why that’s excepted behavior for ANY hunter.
        That’s disgraceful.

      • Elk275 Says:

        Sorry, I have never SSS, after hunting season, I lock my guns in the case and go skiing. Around July I start shooting again. Never accuse me of SSS as I do not have time or the desire — it is illegal. Nor would I do it.

        ++Elk numbers harvested are similar statewide every year, so how is it that all of a sudden, they’re declining solely because of the wolf. I don’t buy it!++ nor do I.

        The harvested numbers are similar state wide which is correct. But the harvest is increasing in Eastern Montana and decreasing in Western Montana — there no wolves in Eastern Montana and wolves in Western Montana. Is there a correlation? Eastern Montana within the last 15 years has become populated with thousands and thousands or elk. Most of the elk are found on private land which today comes with a cost to hunt, in my day it was a nock on the door. My nephew who grew up in Eastern Montana said “uncle finding a place to hunt was no problem until the elk came. Why is it that both resident and non resident are hunting Western Montana. I is because of public lands.

        ++To your comment that Montana manages only for the state couldn’t be any more wrong. Guide businesses are plenty out west, and they cater to nonresidents more so than locals.++ The guide business is a business which is generally owned by a resident, in any business the owner better cater to himself and their profit or they are out of business. I have worked as a guide and been a client many times, I have little use for hunting guides and if a hunter is unable to hunt on his own in the US then they do not process the skills and such not be in the hills. Non resident hunters pay the large percentage of the department budget, but I think that residents should pay more and I would have no trouble paying.

        I do not care about several hundred wolves but when we are trying to balance an ungulate populations with increased predation when the hunting public can remove the needed animals then it should be hunters. Hunters are not going to be as selective as wolves but nothing is perfect.

        I was over on 24 Hour Campfire a few minutes ago reading the same rage that you have posted. The non resident hunter does not think that the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks is managing properly. I have always felt that the state fish and game has done a wonderful job. I have in the last 50 years seen the deer, elk and antelope numbers increase allowing multiple licenses and increased hunting opportunities.

      • JB Says:

        Elk says:

        “It would be unthinkable if a hunter had to sit out a year because the herds were declining.”


        “People have ruined it. People who are attached to national parks wearing there fleece with a Nikon hung over their neck coming from all section of the US and the world, waiting for there guide unable to even think about adventuring out there by there selves.”

        So reading between the lines… It would be “unthinkable” for a hunter to sit out a single season because there aren’t enough elk to go around, yet photographers encroaching on the National Parks with their wicked cameras have “ruined” the parks? C’mon, Elk?!

        The reality is that a greater number of people equates to a greater human impact, regardless of whether they wear camo or a Patagonia fleece. However, there is no question that they guy who removes an elk is having a greater impact on the herd than the guy that snaps its photo. You seem to be suggesting that hunters’ desire for a harvestable surplus should trump all other wildlife uses? To put it politely, I disagree.

      • Immer Treue Says:


        It would be more productive to sit around a table over a few beers, spirits, etc and have this sort of conversation. Electronic messaging is not conducive to tone of language….

        In terms of were the NRM states a feed lot prior to wolf introduction, to quote Alston Chase in regard to Yellowstone,”Without wolves the park had become just the place early managers had hoped for: a breeding ground for the victims of hunters, a place safe enough to be a good neighbor to sheep.”

        I think, based upon the observations of others who say the elk are now more skittish, the presence of wolves has made the elk a bit “wilder”.

        I am not anti-hunting… and I agree with you isolation, from people are one of the “properties of what makes a place wild”. My longest period of time like that is ~5 days. Funny how gabby one can become after time alone.

        One of the arguments made by the anti-wolf side has been something along the lines of land will be closed to the use of people, and this is all some sort of larger conspiracy. Your comment about what has happened to Wangell Saint Elias would not support that argument.

        Reading your, and others, comments have helped me get a better grasp on the controversy surrounding wolves in the NRM states. As a compliment to contributors such as you, and others on this site, it is a pleasure to discuss, debate, argue… without it becoming the slugfest as on other sites. This type of discussion makes me feel hopeful that a fair and equitable solution may sometime soon be welded together in terms of wolves in the NRM states.

    • WM Says:

      Elk nailed it. Any time a resource area gets named a national park or written up by the travel/recreation industry it gets more people. More people means greater impact on the resource, but likely a different kind as JB points out. National parks that support ungulate populations do not have sufficient winter range for out-migration, and that is a huge problem that gets discussion here every day when we talk about elk or bison migrating out of Yellowstone, because their winter range is in big ranches, ranchettes or motels.

  7. Nola Joyce W Slavik Says:

    Why are the wolves always blamed for everything? Wolves are used as an excuse to make more money in hunting season. The more elk, the more money. Wolves only hunt for food or kill for survival. They don’t deliberately attack anything that moves. They are family packs, so they are a well knit travel unit. Respect, spirit and honor are their makeup. They don’t have the human mind to be deceitful, greedy, cruel, bitter, revengeful and so much more. They are more humane than a greedy human. Stop killing wolves for greed and power. PLEASE!!! THANK YOU!

  8. Jerry Black Says:

    I’m attempting to gather information on a Montana legislative bill that was sponsored by Debby Barrett in 2003..(HB42).
    The bill mandated reducing elk to “socially acceptable levels” in hunting districts throughout the state from 2003 to 2009. Between 2003 and 2009, an estimated 5,000 elk of either sex were taken in the southern part of the Bitterroot.
    I’m looking for the #’s mandated in each hunting district. It just may be that ultimately, the legislature was responsible for initiating the population decline.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      That will very interesting. I will be interested to see what you find out. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

    • Elk275 Says:

      Good Luck Jerry. Debbie is not a good person.

    • Savebears Says:

      Barrett is also working on getting Elk put under the supervision of Montana Dept. Of Livestock, she is not a good person…

      • vickif Says:

        Neither elk, nor bison are live stock. That is a massive error no matter which “side” you sit on.
        I tend to agree with you on a lot of posts, but not this time. I see where you are coming from, but hunters, nor photographers, should be a motivating factor behind determining what elk levels are sufficient. Elk should, and the ecosystem they impact, period.

        Maybe they need to seperate tags. They should issue trophy only tags. (Obviously these would be few and far between.) And they should issue sustanance tags (where people either hunted, or hunted by proxy, because they can verify it is a monetarily or medically necessary means of providing food for a family)? Hey, it isn’t any more crazy than saying “we want fewer wolves so people can have recreational shooting opportunities.
        It boils down to what rationale people see behind hunting. I am pro-hunting. But times, they are a changin’, and hunting has to be seen as what is primarily is, and has been for some time. Recreation. I do believe it was you who once pointed out to me that it costed more to hunt and harvest an elk, then to buy meat at the local grocery store. You even mentioned(if memory serves) that you and your wife discussed it etc.
        I think hunting is going to happen, for a very long time. I have no issue with it. I do have issue with untipping the ecological balance to satisfy hunters.
        Maybe, the hunters in MT, ID, and WY have become spoiled? In more states than not, even those with a tiny predator base, there is a draw system with limited tags. Now those tags-are the real trophy. Even here in Colorado, which is highly known for it’s elk hunting, there are limited opportunities.
        I think we need to call a spade a spade. If we want more elk, conserve more habitat. Provide subsidies across the board to those who allow hunting on private property, for land use. (They don’t own the elk, but deserve to be compensated for people invading their space) Don’t allow individuals to charge beyond a certain amount per person-or it becomes a rich man’s game as the average hunter couldn’t afford it.

        This study has failed to show anything of substaintial consideration to me.

        I will say this again, I am not anti-hunting. I just really believe hunting, as a non-essential way of life, has to take a back seat to ecological imparitives.

        Were these place feed lots before wolves were placed back into the habitat? Well, to the extent that measures were made to feed to keep them from starving, you darn betcha! Were numbers high enough to be detrimental to the rest of the environment? Let’s ask beaver and cutthroat trout or aspen trees. Did hunters enjoy the quanity of hunting opportunities? Ofcourse they did, but having to search a bit more for an elk…well that is why we call it hunting and not shopping. Do we need to remember that habitat has been shifted so that elk no longer have the ranges they once did, causing them to have congregated in safe holds (feed lots and national parks, and surrounding suburbs with well watered flora)….until wolves and humans caused them to once again roam in fewer numbers to farther places. That was probably way over due.

        Bottom line, I think if a hunter sits out a year in Idaho or Montana, they are in the same boat as many hunters from other states, It isn’t heart-breaking to me. The idea of CWD decimating entire herds is, or never seeing elk behaving in a truly wild manner is (away from a front yard, and avoiding people who are too close), or not being able to observe wolves is, or NEVER being able to hunt is.

        God forbid, we should ever need Buffalo Field Campaign to have to change their names to Buffal Elk and Wolf Campaign.

        Until there is a study proving conclusively that wolves and wolves alone have caused elk to need protection, we need to concentrate on the real picture…..habitat encroachment and potential disease die offs.

      • cina white Says:

        Yes -we all know what “management means, netting them under helicopters and harming them in aerial lifting to checkpoints in holding pens. Not very sensitive treatment as not even sedated usually. Check the youtube buffalo field campaign videos of survelliance. Also There was a time out west where the ranchers fought BITTERLY to kill most the Elk due to competing for food for their cattle- WOW- now we are worried about conserving them? And why should a state be responsible to supply elk for free to it’s residents to eat? Buy meat from your cattlemen like the Rest of U.S.

    • Jerry Black Says:

      I’ve left 3 messages at MFWP requesting this information because legislative services “doesn’t have the numbers” I need ….no return call and yes, I know quite a bit about Debby.

  9. U-NAH-WI (Christie Leigh) Says:

    Wolves shouldn’t be blamed for the decline in the elk population. Bears and Mountain Lions hunt them also. You have disease as well as winter problems and also getting hit by cars. Sports hunting should be totally banned. If hunters are not hunting for food then they don’t need to hunt at all. You also have your poachers, who should be jailed instead of fined when caught.

    • Savebears Says:

      You do realize that the majority of hunters are eating the meat from the kill, Right? You do realize that some of the meat is also donated to homeless shelters and food banks, Right? Your never going to see hunting banned in the state of Montana, in Montana, hunting is a constitutional right… The state of Montana amended their constitution to prevent the banning of hunting…in order to ban hunting in Montana, it would have to be a change again to the constitution and as the majority of representatives in the state of Montana are hunters or have family that are hunters. It’s not going to happen.

      During this current economic situation, I know for a fact that people are hunting for food, the majority of hunters in Montana hunt for food, it is a big deal to families to be able to put meat in the freezer. Do some hunt for the largest bull or buck they can find, sure, but the meat also gets used.

      I agree with you on the poachers, I think it should be a felony offense with the loss of hunting for lifetime as well as the loss of guns and the right to own a gun. I think every convicted poacher should spend a minimum of 30 days in jail and at least a year working on weekends to improve habitat.

      • vickif Says:

        Hunters are eating the meat, but I would like to see a study about how much is spent on filling one tag? My guess is, it is not the most economical way to eat. Is it better? Well, that is a matter for the FDA to regulate….how much crap can we feed our citizens is in their hands.
        I have seen a number of hunters who DO NOT eat their kill, some donate, some waste…but you are right, most I know have elk on the table often.

        The problem with that arguement is, people by and large, do not hunt out of necessity. They hunt as a recreational activity, you may not…but most people are a heck of a lot closer to a Wild Oats store or a Kroger than they are to a hunting unit. And you are assured a meal when you shop, and you are not when you hunt.

      • cina white Says:

        Again- why is it a “RIGHT” to supply locals with Free Elk meat? It just doesn’t make sense.

      • Elk275 Says:

        It is the way it has been and will continue to be. The meat is not free one is going to pay to shoot an elk, time, money, opportunity costs, etc. Everything is fine and 99% of everyone is happy.

      • Savebears Says:

        Free Elk Meat?

        Now there is an interesting concept, even I have to pay for my tags and hunting license, of course I can hunt in my back yard and don’t have to travel..but by all means it is not free..but I am blessed that I have permission to hunt on my neighbors lands as well, which are all private lands, so my cost is much less than many, but it is still not free..

      • Elk275 Says:


        I hunt for recreation, it is my soul, always has been and always will be. The backpacker, wildlife watcher, photographer, rafter or any other outdoors person does it for recreation. I fish for recreation, return the fish and come home happy. It would be cheaper to purchase stock photos of animals than try to take your own, it would be cheaper to purchase most anything but we all have our interest and hobbies. Without them life would be boring and personal fulfillment low.

      • wolf moderate Says:

        Wow, Eva Longoria, Shaq, Avril Lavigne etc…all hunt! They aren’t doing it because they need the meat. I believe it’s to recreate.

        beautiful successful women, black successful men, rock stars, Tom brockaw all hunt.

        Hunting is popular and here to stay. Of course the management of game herds could stand to be critiqued, but nothing is perfect and hopefully things will come together once states are in charge of their own land and animals.

        Oh how it must be nice to live in a cozy little bubble.

      • Brian Ertz Says:

        i don’t necessarily agree with the ethic of a hunt – at least on public lands – being on whether one consumes the meat or not, though for my own sake it’s necessary, but not sufficient.

        i think there’s a difference between hunting to recreate in the wild and sport hunting to kill … the former emphasizes the wild, the later the kill.

        with the former, the hunter humbly enters a world largely out of his/her control and seeks to test oneself on the wild’s terms. the value is achieved in the journey – and so much effort is made bettering oneself i.e. one’s understanding/experience of the environment, of the wildlife, fitness, etc. etc. etc..

        the latter puts the success of a hunt – its value – on whether or not a kill is achieved. the integrity of the journey is minimally valued. commercialization has put too much emphasis on gear/technology, and other external things. in fact – as we see from all the whining and the direction of state game agencies – the paradigm actually diminishes the value of the competing wild, i.e. predators – and seeks to modify it to optimize kill of what amounts to an agricultural endeavor (from the perspective of managers) – too often at the expense of the wild nature/character of of what i grew up understanding the activity to be about with my grandfather, father, and brothers.

        when someone talks about killing wolves/predators to achieve management objectives – i think to myself how perverse these “objectives” have become. kill the wild to make sure the bar is low enough for those unwilling to put in the effort to compete with it – which was supposed to be the whole point of the “sport” to begin with !

        i say let’s cut the pretense and let them have their “hunt” of livestock — and if it’s livestock of the elk variety, then bus them to the game farms — leave the wild for those willing to participate on the wild’s terms.

      • vickif Says:

        I get where you are coming from. I have hunted, have no issues there. I just don’t support the idea that the liberty of a tag each year trumps the needs of the ecological environment, with-or with out wolves.
        I also understand your argument about the costs of recreation. But that is apples and oranges, IMO. A photographer will generall be a leave no trace person, appreciative of the moment and the space. Hikers excert great energies to enjoy the atmosphere and solitude. Rafters, the thrill. All of these groups, by and large, walk away without removing a viable part of the habitat. They are not taking the food out of the food chain. And there is the strong liklihood that they have paid some sort of fund toward conservation, in some way….an easement tax, a parks pass, a back country permit.
        They do that, they go home, and the elk remains in the woods. Not so with a hunter who successfully fill a tag. I admire that you owned the reason you hunt, not trying to tell me you do it for survival or food. The chances a hunter is doing that, and it is economically feasable, are slim.
        That argument rarely holds water, but saying it is for the experience its’ self, makes sence. And I have no issue there, when it is done with appropriate responibility, I am sure you excercise.
        I just think that hunting, as a recreation, takes second place to a predator in need of food for survival. It is no different than making some fisheries catch and release, or closing hiking for mating seasons of certain birds, requiring bear proof camping etc. What is in the best interest of the ecosystem is more important than what is a recreational opportunity. One is a want, the other a need. Simple math in my book.
        To remove wolves, or hunt them, without the apporiately supported science saying that wolves, and wolves alone are the problem….I oppose it. At such a time when wolves are numerous enough to stop self-controlling over population and that humans are having zero impact on the elk herds…I will continue to say the wolf comes first, want vs. need.
        The enjoyment we get from enjoying the outdoors, hunting, hiking, photos, rafting, fishing, is only going to be available if conservation is done with the motivation of conserving for all. Not if motivated by limiting one animal to make easier the human opportunity to kill another for recreation-that is selfish(ofcourse we are all selfish by nature).
        Removing wolves in the early 1900’s was a short sighted error on our predecessors behalf, done with no scientific basis, based on fear, a small amount of erroneously perceived necessity, and a whole lot of greed. (They hunted in such excess that we now have almost no bison, when they used to number in the millions-wolves never did that.)I don’t think continuing in that mind-set is advantageous.
        If people hunt now, they can stand to wait for a tag tage every two or three years. The wait is longer elsewhere, and there are no wolves there. Bottom line, we have to be thankful for what we have, acknowledge our part in what we don’t, and do what we can to keep the environment as intact as possible. If that means fewer tags, so be it.

      • cina white Says:

        There will be repercussions for this defiance in these western states HOLDING Yellowstone….I hear people are boycotting Montana Beef now and Idaho potatoes in MASS and any other product they can find they export. These two states standing defiant on the ESA and other laws along with Chemtrials will see a HUGE economic loss over all their actions. It’s spreading like wildfire on social networking sites and the web. Not too smart as they just poked their own eyes out. Yellowstone is boycotted too I hear and used to bring in approx 30million a year in tourism- kiss it goodbye locals!

  10. Mike Says:

    Too many elk are being shot by hunters. That’s the problem. Plus, I can only image the amount of poaching that goes on.

    • william huard Says:

      It doesn’t make the situation any easier when these fish and game departments cater to the dinosaurs like ELK275, who find it unthinkable that maybe hunters are killing too many elk. People are getting hip to the increase in mismanagement of these agencies and the increase in scapegoating of predators like wolves in the Bitterroot and LOLO.

      • vickif Says:

        I would not call Ekk275 a dinosaur. In my family, we would call him our elder and respect him, regardless of his differences.
        I don’t always agree, but he is always willing to provide an explaination to him opinions. I owe him respect for that. I think we owe eachother respect.
        He may have a less modern take on hunting than some people, but it is no less valide, praticullarly since his attitudes run the general party line with a lot of hunters.
        Would it not be wiser to see where he is coming from, and try to find something you may have in common?

      • william huard Says:

        I appreciate the way you are always looking for common ground with people. I have spent most of my life doing the same thing- life is easier when you approach situations in that fashion. Elk 275 and I have very different views about wildlife. My dinosaur comment is not meant to be a put down, but both he and I have gone round and round on how we view wildlife. I don’t share the view that animals were put on this planet to serve humans, to always be exploited for our pleasure. An example is how he views horses. I have owned several, and anyone that has owned them knows that they need quite a bit of care and are expensive to own. When they are nearer to the end of life he feels it is OK to send that animal to the slaughterhouse and deny the animal the dignity I think they deserve. He has made other comments the makes it apparent that he views all animals like livestock and enjoys killing animals for pleasure. He is entitled to his choices, but I am as entitled to let him know that many people do not share his views. In fact- I don’t think we could agree on the weather.

      • WM Says:

        william huard,

        Just to clarify your view on horses as they near the end of life, do you feel they should die naturally or be euthanized?

        I think we approached this topic on an earlier thread when discussing wild horses, but I don’t think we addressed it directly for horses one owns.

      • william huard Says:


        It should depend on what’s best for the animal- not the human owner. If the animal is suffering then it should be euthanized. It’s not a decision that should be based on cost, but what’s in the best interest of the animal. There are plenty of horse owners that really have no business owning them- they are very expensive. My last horse cost me over 600.00 just to be taken away, not to mention the vet bill for the euthanasia

  11. R.N.T. Says:

    Is anyone aware of any studies being conducted on the differences in behavior and herd mentalities of the elk in the introduction area compared to elk that have been in wolf habitat in the last hundred years? While it seems to me that elk are not going to forget how to defend themselves, there would be a hell of a difference between protecting the herd from a bear or lion and a pack of wolves. Especially if you havent seen a wolf in 80-90 years….which with hunting pressure could be ~30 generations in some of the harder hunted areas. I have no doubt that populations will equalize at some level, but could it be possible that wolves are and will be more successful for several generations?

    • Immer Treue Says:


      I think your question is important. The wolf variable in terms of natural selection has been taken out of the equation for so long, that elk *may* have been easy pickings. Many have stated that the elk are now more skittish, and other behaviors have changed in terms of how they feed and where and in how many they congregate.

      As per a reply to Elk 275, this will take longer than 15 years, since reintro, to sort out. Patience is required. My statement does does preclude a fair science based management of the wolf population.

  12. Dan Says:

    What lies at the heart of the Bitterroot-elk-wolf issue is that elk and wolves are not a perfect ecological match for the area. Nature has burned the landscape(with mans help e.g. homesteaders, railroads etc.) and man has logged the landscape allowing early succession plant species to inhabit great amounts of the area and then man introduced the elk. Wolves were not prolific in the heart of the Bitterroots before the euro invasion but neither were elk. We have created the scene for elk and done everything possible within financial restraints to maximize their numbers. So as I see this, the whole thing is a sham from a ecology pre-European standpoint. So as a person in the middle, I think the two sides need to quickly and nicely work a deal because neither is 100% right!!!!

  13. Woody Says:

    The percentage “harvest” of elk from the herd during 1999, 2000,2002, and 2003 was 15, 14, 11, and 19 respectively; from 2004-2008 the percentages increased to 41, 31, 32, 29, and 25 respectively.

    I doubt that the diminished elk herd was caused primarily by wolves but is more the result of over hunting.

  14. jburnham Says:

    I had no idea that the population objectives for this area had been raised so high. It looks like the lower objective has only been reached twice since 1980. Can anyone point me to more info on what was behind this huge increase in pop. objectives, what justifications were given, etc?

  15. Woody Says:

    This issue was discussed last year at the time Montana FWP announced a forthcoming study of elk in the Bitterroot. Some cows have been collared this year. At that time they said they didn’t have enough data regarding the elk to make informed management decisions, but now they fault the wolves.

    July 26, 2010 — Ralph Maughan
    “The study, green-lighted by FWP this spring, calls for the darting and radio collaring of 40 cow elk in February 2011 and the tagging of 60 calves through 2011 and 2012. By monitoring the animals over a three-year period, Jourdonnais says the agency will finally establish a long-overdue baseline of data on the Bitterroot elk population. Without a comprehensive data stream on the general health of the herds and the condition of their habitat, it’s difficult to determine how the agency should incorporate the predator population—wolves, mountain lions and black bears—in its management decisions.”

    • vickif Says:

      Wow, 3 years? That’s it. How obsurd. That data cannot possibly include viable research pertaining to behaviors of off spring etc. How inadequate!

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