State wildlife officials had no idea what a hunt would mean for then delisted wolves

A couple of years ago, Steve Nadeau answered a question I had about the impact that a public hunt would have to wolf populations.  At that time, as the state was posturing for “competent manager” status, Nadeau spent much effort trying to reassure advocates that state managers had a good idea what effect a hunt would have:

Now, state managers are asking us to believe they need to learn more – apparently, the absence of knowledge is such that in response to the legal spanking state wildlife managers took last week on the wolf issue, state managers are looking to “research” what effect killing wolves will have to wolves.

Wildlife officials mull ‘research hunts’ for wolvesAP

Which is it ?

Did state managers know enough about the impact a hunt would have to remove federal protections via “delisting” ? … or do we now know so little that we need to remove  federal protections for “research” ?

Heads up. Commission Meeting discussing this fall’s wolf hunt set for August 16.

Increased quotas, trapping, snaring, and electronic calls are being considered.

If you want your voice to be heard this is your opportunity. Don’t be intimidated and speak your mind.

F&G Commission To Meet In Idaho Falls In August

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet August 16 in Idaho Falls.

Commissioners will consider proposed seasons, harvest limits and methods of take on gray wolves. They also will consider proposed seasons on waterfowl and sage-grouse.

Routine agenda items also include falconry seasons and limits and Fish and Game’s fiscal 2012 budget.

F&G Commission To Meet In Idaho Falls In August.
IDFG Press Release

Update: It turns out that there is no public hearing at this meeting. Only written comments will be accepted and the public may sit in on the meeting.  To comment try: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/inc/contact.cfm

IDFG adopts rules allowing trapping, snaring, baiting, and electronic calls for wolves and other predators

Inexperienced trappers will likely trap pets and other non-target animals.
Backlash will ensue

I think people should be prepared for many non-target animals to be taken with snares and traps including pets. It takes years and years for government employees to learn how to properly trap and snare wolves without taking non-target species and there have been incidents where pet dogs have been trapped even by experienced trappers.

Snares are another story altogether. Stories of pet dogs being snared around the neck are heart-wrenching and death ensues quickly. Oftentimes the owners don’t realize what is happening and are unable to release their dogs from these killing devices.

This being said, I think there will be an increase interest in wolf trapping by inexperienced trappers who will trap on or near heavily used trails and roads. I’m sure that you can imagine the bad press that will ensue if this does happen. This is a very misguided decision and it will possibly result in a strong backlash even from those who aren’t paying attention to the wolf debate.

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Montana FWP more than doubles wolf hunt quota for 2010

186 allowed to be taken in an attempt to reduce MT wolf population to between 411 and 488.

This has been in the news for a while but we didn’t report it here because we all have been traveling.

Montana wants to reduce the population of wolves to between 411 and 488. They have decided to allow hunters to kill up to 186 wolves of which 111 could be taken from northwest Montana, 34 in western Montana, and 34 in southwest Montana.

It’s still a very hot debate as was pointed out by the commissioners:

Commissioner Ron Moody of Lewistown described many of the comments as expressing a “narrow, culturally bigoted point of view which expresses an inflexible ideological” contempt for people with other viewpoints.

Montana FWP more than doubles wolf hunt quota for 2010.
By JENNIFER McKEE Missoulian State Bureau

N. Idaho outfitter reports 4 wolves killed

The outfitter shot at 4 wolves but only recovered 2 of them. Were the other 2 killed or just wounded?

The IDFG specially sanctioned wolf hunt for outfitters in the Lolo Zone has resulted in the death of 2 wolves and possible wounding of 2 others. Two of the wolves were not recovered. I guess that is good enough for some people but I think this is terribly unethical.

The IDFG is unhappy that more wolves weren’t killed, maybe this is an indication that there aren’t as many as they think there are in this area. If it’s not good elk habitat then it’s not good wolf habitat either and the numbers just don’t add up. It takes a lot of elk to feed the number of wolves that the IDFG claims are there yet they say that there are just a few elk in the Lolo. Even if the IDFG does kill as many wolves as they are hoping to do it doesn’t change the underlying fact that the habitat cannot support as many elk as it once did.

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IDFG releases Video Summarizing Wolf Hunt

Cal Groen Claims that the balance in the Lolo “is completely out of whack”

People have been discussing this on another thread but I thought it deserved its own.

Some of the same old arguments on why even more wolves need to be killed next year are being made and how IDFG will allow even greater killing of wolves in the Lolo.

One notable comment made by Cal Groen is that the balance in the Lolo Zone “is completely out of whack”.

As JB points out:

The idea of “balance” is an ecological myth; it is disconcerting to see F&G agencies perpetuate this myth. Again, ecosystems are dynamic. To imply that populations are “out of whack” when they are changing suggests that there exists some ideal equilibrium between predator and prey. This simply is not true. Populations fluctuate and that fluctuation is natural. The real reason IDF&G wants to manipulate wolves is so that they can maximize elk hunting opportunities in these zones.

The following graphs show the trends in overall elk numbers in the Lolo Zone and are different from those presented here previously which showed harvest numbers. Harvest numbers are not a good representation of what is happening to the elk population because they are influenced by management decisions.

Elk numbers in Lolo Unit 12

Elk number in Lolo Unit 10

It is apparent from the graphs that something has been going on here for many years previous to wolves showing up. The video even explains that there has been changes in the habitat here but then goes on to implicate wolves as the reason that elk remain depressed. But WHY are wolves able to keep elk populations depressed here as opposed to other areas with wolves? The video doesn’t address this. Could it be the same reason that caused the decline in the elk population in the first place. Is it not possible that the habitat here just makes elk more vulnerable to wolf predation?

Another comment made is that the hunt is responsible for halting the 20% increases in population seen in previous years. Part of that may be true, the part about stopping the growth in the population but the rate of growth has been in steady decline for a number of years as the habitat filled with wolves and the 20% rate hasn’t been seen for several years. This same phenomenon has been seen in Yellowstone but to a greater degree. Wolves don’t “overpopulate” in the sense that a rabbit might. They may overshoot their resource but like in Yellowstone, their reproductive rate or success may be impacted by nutrition or outright killing by other wolves. Disease and parasites like parvo virus, distemper, and mange also played a role in Yellowstone.

Idaho wolf population growth rate

Idaho wolf population growth rate

Year Wolves Percent Growth
1994 3
1995 14 367%
1996 42 200%
1997 71 69%
1998 114 61%
1999 156 37%
2000 196 26%
2001 261 33%
2002 289 11%
2003 362 25%
2004 418 15%
2005 518 24%
2006 673 30%
2007 764 14%
2008 856 12%
2009 843 -2%

Idaho wolf hunt finally ends

Were more or fewer wolves killed than expected?

People will ask that question, but it’s hard to answer because there were so many different predictions. I said “it depends.”

Here are some stories.

Idaho wolf hunt draws to a close. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.
First wolf-hunting season a success, official says. Betsy Z. Russell. The Spokesman-Review
new- Wolf hunt ends; state quota not met. Changes likely if second hunt allowed.
By Nate Poppino. Times-News writer

185> 187 188 wolves were killed in the hunt that lasted as long 7 months in some places. The statewide quota was 220 wolves. So the quota wasn’t reached, but the various hunt zones all had sub-quotas and many of these were filled and some filled relatively quickly. All told, 5 of the 12 hunt zones did not meet their quota.

Here is the official Idaho wolf hunt page after season’s close

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