Yellowstone bears and wolves fight over carcasses

Their ancient struggle apparently has little effect on their populations-

That’s the conclusion of Dr. Doug Smith who heads the Park’s wolf program.

I think that might well be true overall, but Yellowstone Park is a small place when it comes to major predators.  With the wolf population in the Park as small as it now is, random fluctuations of predatory effects might, in my opinion, have an important effect on the wolves as far as the Park alone is concerned. . . RM

Bears butting in on Yellowstone wolf kills. Battle of carnivores ultimately has little effect on population. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Poop Reveals an Immigrant in Isle Royale Wolves’ Gene Pool

The population of wolves on Isle Royale was formed when a pair of wolves crossed frozen Lake Superior in 1949 from Canada. Since 1958, one of the most important and longest studies of wolf/moose interactions has taken place there. The wolves and moose have fluctuated up and down due to many causes such as tick infestations, genetic inbreeding and fluctuations of forage for moose and prey for wolves. These interactions are seen as a microcosm of wolf prey interactions and demonstrate the many influences on populations.

In the course of this study researchers have found that another male wolf crossed the frozen lake and joined the population. His genes are now represented in 56%, or 9 wolves, of the population of 16 now present on the island.

Besides genetic inbreeding, there is another issue which could eliminate wolves from the island and that is the possible loss of the two remaining female wolves. That has prompted a proposal to bring a few new wolves from the mainland to supplement the population’s genetics and increase their fitness. This runs counter to the National Park Service’s policy to allow natural processes to take place so there will surely be debate about this in the future. has an interesting graph showing the historical wolf and moose population fluctuations that you can see here:

Poop Reveals an Immigrant in Isle Royale Wolves’ Gene Pool
Michigan Tech News.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Lords of Nature presented by WWP at the Idaho Outdoor Association

Tonight, March 8 · 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Idaho Outdoor Association
3401 Brazil Street
Boise, ID

Wolves and cougars, once driven to the edge of existence, are finding their way back — from the Yellowstone plateau to the canyons of Zion, from the farm country of northern Minnesota to the rugged open range of the West. This is the story of a science now discovering top carnivores as revitalizing forces of nature, and of a society now learning tolerance for beasts they once banished. Narrated by Peter Coyote.

After the film Ken Cole and Brian Ertz of Western Watersheds Project will present their views of wolf management, the agencies that manage them, and the present political climate in which wolf management exists.

The event is FREE.

Visit the Idaho Outdoor Association website

To find out more information about the film visit: Lords of Nature

Visit the Western Watersheds Project website:

View on Google Maps

Judge’s ruling could threaten state’s ability to kill wolves

This is a very important case

Judge Molloy has issued a order asking the defendants and plaintiffs why the 10(j) lawsuit “should not be dismissed as moot due to the absence of a population meeting the statutory requirements for 10(j) status.”

If the lawsuit is dismissed wolves in all of the Northern Rockies could lose their status as an experimental, non-essential population or 10(j) status and receive full protection under the Endangered Species Act.  This would be because wolves from the Central Idaho and Greater Yellowstone populations have bred with those in the Northern Idaho/Northwest Montana population which came from Canada on their own and enjoy full protection of the ESA because they are not part of the 10(j) population.  To receive 10(j) status, a population must be “wholly separate geographically from nonexperimental populations of the same species.”.

This would surely heat up the debate about wolves and would make it much more difficult to kill wolves for protection of ungulates and livestock in all areas where wolves exist in the Northern Rockies. This would also change the whole dynamic at play with Wyoming’s intransigence. If wolves remain listed in Wyoming and this lawsuit is dismissed then wolves there would be much more difficult to kill. This would provide ample motivation for Wyoming to come up with a management plan that is acceptable to the USFWS.

As soon as we get a copy of the order we will post it.

Judge’s ruling could threaten state’s ability to kill wolves
Lewiston Morning Tribune.

Judge’s ruling could put new limits on wolf hunts
Associated Press

Wildlife Services revises Idaho Wolf Environmental Assessment

Drops gassing of pups in their dens and sterilization but continues heavy handed killing of wolves.

Public Comments accepted until January 3, 2011

Basin Butte Wolf Spring 2006 © Ken Cole

Basin Butte Wolf Spring 2006 © Ken Cole

In anticipation of Monday’s federal court hearing of a case brought by Western Watersheds Project, Wildlife Services has revised its Idaho Wolf Environmental Assessment. While the new EA drops gassing of wolf pups in their dens and use of sterilization, the preferred alternative does not consider exhaustive use of non-lethal methods to prevent wolf conflicts by intimating that it would be too expensive for ranchers to use proper animal husbandry techniques to avoid such conflicts.

Wildlife Services [sic], formerly Animal Damage Control, is an agency under the Department of Agriculture which responds to wildlife threats to agriculture. They are not related to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is under the Department of Interior and who manages endangered species, enforces the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and manages National Wildlife Refuges.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wyoming elk population is large despite dire predictions in the past

As Freudenthal leaves office, a reminder of reality-

Freudenthal is on to other things. We don’t know what Governor Mead will do, but over a year ago Wyoming outfitters Tory and Meredith Taylor wrote an excellent story for WyoFile on the true state of affairs with wolves and elk in the Cowboy Energy State.

Barstool Mountain Myths: Wolves & Elk Numbers Strong Despite Dire Predictions. By WyoFile on April 6, 2009

Montana FWP and Idaho Fish and Game submit wolf reduction proposals

Idaho and Montana have submitted proposals to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for approval to kill up to 186 wolves in Montana and up to 80% of the estimated 76 wolves in Idaho’s Lolo hunting zones.

Here is the IDFG proposal:

IDFG proposes an adaptive strategy to reduce the wolf population in the Lolo Zone. Wolves will be removed to manage for a minimum of 20 to 30 wolves in 3 to 5 packs. The level of removal will be dependent on pre-treatment wolf abundance. Using the minimum estimated number of 76 wolves in the Lolo Zone at the end of 2009 (Mack et al. 2010), a minimum of 40 to 50 wolves would be lethally removed during the first year. Removal during subsequent years would be lower, but variable, depending on wolf abundance. However, IDFG will maintain a minimum of 20 to 30 wolves annually in the Lolo Zone for a period of 5 years.

We’ve covered the Lolo wolf issue in detail over the last several years.
Read the rest of this entry »

Elk, aspen & wolves: a complicated food triangle

What about willows?

One of the main criticisms I’ve heard is that the story fails to mention studies indicating measurable changes in willow growth. Willows, a riparian species, have really made a comeback in many areas where wolves are present and have increased the habitat for birds, beavers and fish.

Elk, aspen & wolves: a complicated food triangle.
BRETT FRENCH – Billings Gazette

Brief for 10(j) Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court

The 2008 10(j) rule violates the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Now that wolves have been placed back on the list of endangered species a lawsuit, which was filed before delisting was proposed, is now able to proceed. The groups are challenging the 2008 10(j) rule change which lowered the bar to allow states to kill wolves for causing “unacceptable impacts” to ungulate populations if they can show “only that a wild ungulate population is failing to meet state or tribal management objectives – however defined by the states – and that
wolves are one of the major causes for that failure.” The previous 10(j) rule defined “unacceptable impact” as a “decline in a wild ungulate population or herd, primarily caused by wolf predation, so that the population or herd is not meeting established State or Tribal management goals.” The USFWS felt that the states could not show that to be the case and, without proper review, changed the regulations to give the states more flexibility to kill wolves.

10(j) Brief

The plaintiffs’ brief was filed on August 20, 2010 and there are two basic claims in the litigation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Arthritic Moose Offer Insights into Nutrition

The classic studies of Isle Royale moose and wolves reveals more than predator/prey relationships.

Arthritic Moose Offer Insights into Nutrition.
Audubon Magazine Blog

2010 Wyoming big game hunting prospects look great

Rocky Mountains Elk Foundation’s CEO David Allen’s annoying hysteria about wolves causing the “biggest wildlife management disaster since the 19 Century buffalo slaughter” is discredited-

2010 Big Game hunting forecast. By Christine Peterson. Casper Star-Tribune staff writer Posted at the trib: Thursday, August 26

Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs

Did a cow get your elk?

George Wuerthner has written another great essay about how ranchers are asking us to pay for the protection of their livestock on public lands by killing predators. They are also asking us to give up elk production on public lands when their cattle are using up vast amounts of forage needed to maintain healthy elk herds.

Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs.
George Wuerthner, NewWest.Net

Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal

IDFG claims wolves are having “unacceptable impacts” in the Lolo Zone

Now that the US Fish and Wildlife calls the shots again on wolves, the Idaho Fish and Game is proposing to kill all but 20-30 wolves in the Lolo Zone for a period of 5 years. Of course the current 10j rule was weakened so that the states didn’t have to prove that wolves were the major cause behind the inability of the ungulate population to reach their objectives, rather, they only have to show that wolves are a major cause. Because of this, the IDFG says that wolves are a major cause for the failure to meet objectives which conveniently allows them to ignore that the major cause is habitat, not just its reduced carrying capacity, but the changes which have made elk more vulnerable to predation.

It could be argued that given habitat succession, habitat potential may have declined more rapidly than elk abundance, and thus, habitat potential might be below the level necessary to sustain the elk population at objectives in the Lolo Zone. Given the rate of succession (USDA 1999), it is inconceivable that habitat potential might decline at such an aggressive rate.

The management objectives for the Lolo were set in 1999 but, given habitat changes, they are unrealistic and killing wolves will likely only have a very short term effect on elk populations here. The underlying issues of habitat are not really being addressed and possibly cannot be adequately addressed because they are out of our control.

The management objectives for elk in the Lolo Zone (GMUs 10 and 12) are to maintain an elk population consisting of 6,100 – 9,100 cow elk and 1,300 – 1,900 bull elk (Kuck 1999). Individual GMU objectives for the Lolo Zone are: 4,200 – 6,200 cow elk and 900 – 1,300 bull elk in GMU 10; and 1,900 – 2,900 cow elk and 400 – 600 bull elk in GMU 12 (Kuck 1999).

Comment on Lolo 10(j) Wolf Reduction Proposal.
Comment Deadline is August 30, 2010

I’ve written about this before numerous times:

A Whackadoodle Response to the Wolf Decision

N. Idaho outfitter reports 4 wolves killed

IDFG releases Video Summarizing Wolf Hunt

A Whackadoodle Response to the Wolf Decision

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation issues a press release.

I don’t post links to anti-wolf websites or give much credence to their clams but the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has, as with their previous news release on wolves, issued another hyperbolic press release in response to Judge Malloy’s decision to relist wolves as an endangered species.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation used to be more realistic about the effects of wolves but with their new leadership they have lost credibility by making statements like these in reference to wolves:

  • “skyrocketing wolf populations”
  • “greatest wildlife management disaster in America since the wanton destruction of bison herds”
  • “federal statutes and judges actually endorse the annihilation of big game herds, livestock, rural and sporting lifestyles—and possibly even compromise human safety”

Read the rest of this entry »

IDFG: Wolves not causing most elk losses

Habitat and hunting play big role in declines

I don’t think this is news to many people here but wolves haven’t had the effect many people claim and their role in the ecosystem is much more complex than many would like you to believe.

The IDFG has issued a public report that explains that wolves may play a role in the decline of some elk populations but habitat also plays a role as well.

You can read the report here: August 2010 – Study Shows Effect of Predators on Idaho Elk

F&G: Wolves not causing most elk losses.
By Laura Lundquist – Times-News writer

Moose declines puzzling. Habitat, malnutrition, predators play roles

I think the studies show Jackson Hole moose are slowly starving-

There is a story in today’s Jackson Hole News and Guide. Moose declines puzzling. Habitat, malnutrition, predators play roles. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, WY

I don’t see much evidence of direct population depression from predation, especially wolf predation, here.  Predators do disproportionately take animals that are starving.  Both Joel Berger and later Scott Becker found that by far the largest mortality source of female moose in Jackson Hole was starvation.  The poor condition of female moose is also shown by the reduction in the number of twins produced from 10% to less than 5%.”

As far as much quoted B.J. Hill,  local outfitter,”[who] thinks habitat loss is exaggerated and says “I’ve watched moose literally live off of pine needles,” I say everyone knows that moose eat conifer in the winter in deep snow areas.  First, however, moose need a balanced diet the entire year and second, the conifer are dying.  Article after article after article has appeared about the vast disease and beetle kill of pines and other conifers from the Yukon to New Mexico.

Hill claims to live in the mountains every day. Why then didn’t he notice that beginning in 1988 and a number of years thereafter, most of Teton Wilderness burned? The conifers are gone. I wrote two guides to the Teton Wilderness — one came out in the early 1980s and second in 2000. Many more pine have died of insects since then.  Any damn fool that has spent time there can see that the ecology of the place has been transformed.

We need wolves to be wolves

George Wuerthner responds to recent hyperbole from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation concerning wolves ~

We need wolves to be wolves ~ George Wuerthner,

If the restoration of wolves to the Rockies is really “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century” as David Allen suggests, I believe we need a lot more of these disasters across the country.

Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says

Wyoming study shows surplus killing is uncommon-

So the Jackson Hole wolves rarely engage in surplus killing. This uncommon event is morphed into “killing for fun” by hard core antis. Wolves are most likely to abandon a carcass when humans disturb it, but that is only some packs.  Another Wyoming myth dispelled is that the elk leave usually leave the state feedgrounds every time wolves make a kill.

About the study in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. . .  Wolves make few unnecessary elk kills, study says. Wapiti tend to stay on Gros Ventre feedgrounds during attacks. Story is by Cory Hatch.

Be sure to read the refusal of a local outfitter to believe the study. He questions the motives of the USFWS and thinks that they are trying to make the wolf “sound as good as they can”. This lack of acceptance  is what I’d expect. A person’s attitudes are tied together if they are strongly held. When new information arrives that does match the attitudes, a person will change their thinking in the way that causes them the least discomfort. In this case, the easiest change is to discredit the study (after all it is a federal study).  Attitude change is large topic in the field of social psychology. One conclusion is that people are not rational in the short run when they get dissonant information (information they don’t like). That is because accepting unpleasant information may make them feel silly, harm their ties to friends, require them to change a lot of other attitudes, cause them to be frightened, etc.

The newspaper story also mentions the data from the latest Wyoming wolf weekly. Here is a direct link.

Wolf count down at Isle Royale, moose hold steady

2 of the 4 wolf packs have disappeared and the overall population has dropped from 24 to 19 wolves

The interactions of wolves and moose on Isle Royale National Park have been studied for decades. In recent years the wolves, due to their low genetic diversity, have exhibited malformed vertebra and other deformities related to genetic inbreeding but they have persisted on the island.

Wolf count down at Isle Royale, moose hold steady.
By JOHN FLESHER – The Chippewa Herald

Wolf controversy polarizes

Conservationists accuse each other of distorting elk and wolf data.

This article is about the recent public fight between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Defenders of Wildlife.

I think part of the reason that the feud has heated up is because of the use of words like “annihilation” when referencing wolves and elk. I don’t want elk or wolves to be annihilated and I don’t think it will be the case with elk but I do think the states of Idaho and Wyoming, in particular, but Montana to a lesser degree, have shown great public antipathy towards wolves. Also, RMEF has adopted some of the language of the anti-wolf crowd and that riles up people too, including myself.

I stand by the notion that Idaho does not want to manage wolves in the same stated way that they manage bears and lions which number 20,000 and 3,000 respectively. There is no goal of reducing the population of those species to a pre-defined number, especially one as low as 518 statewide. Needless to say, the Legislature of Idaho can force the IDFG to manage for the minimum number of 15 packs of wolves statewide, which is what is in the Legislature’s Idaho Wolf Conservation and Management Plan that was accepted by the USFWS.

Wolf controversy polarizes.
Jackson Hole News&Guide

Study: Elk more likely to flee from humans than wolves

New study shows elk move into Yellowstone Park or unaccessible private lands.

Elk in Yellowstone © Ken Cole

We’ve all witnessed, or heard the stories about, how elk move to areas with less access or are closed to hunting, well this study basically demonstrates this. They do it more so in reaction to hunters than wolves.

Study: Elk more likely to flee from humans than wolves

If you have a subscription to the Journal of Wildlife Management you can read the study here.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Uses Hyperbole in Latest Press Release

Accuses groups of being party to may become “one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th Century.”

I’m not going to say much more about this other than to observe that RMEF seems to be adopting the same type of hyperbole that they accuse the pro wolf groups of using. They are also adopting the unfounded language of some of the most hateful and vitriolic people on the anti-wolf side of the argument.

The fact remains that wolves do impact elk herds locally but the full reason for the declines in some populations are not fully represented in their press release. They infer that wolves are the reason that “[t]he Northern Yellowstone elk herd trend count has dropped from some 19,000 elk in 1995 before the introduction of the Canadian Gray wolf to just over 6,000 elk in 2008. At the same time the wolf numbers in this same area are on a steady increase.” This is disingenuous at best and an outright misstatement of the truth at worst.

Wasn’t reducing elk part of the reason that wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in the first place? Montana FWP specifically had late season hunts on cows in a concerted effort to reduce the population of elk, the winter of 1996/97 had a tremendous impact on them, and yes, wolves played a role along with bears and other predators but the elk population has stabilized and the wolf population has drastically declined as well.

And what’s this business about the “Canadian Gray wolf”? Are they seriously buying that line of crap?

RMEF Turns Up Heat on Pro-Wolf Groups
RMEF press release.

State biologist clarifies wolf myths

They really aren’t the huge, vicious “Canadian” wolves.

Jon Rachel of the Idaho Fish and Game talks about wolves and debunks many of the myths that the wolf haters wish were true.

State biologist clarifies wolf myths
By JON DUVAL – Mountain Express

Don’t blame wolves for elk hunting woes

Editorial by the Casper Star Tribune-

Tribune editorial says wolves not decimating NW Wyoming elk, wolves were introduced in fact so they would affect elk, but wolf management is needed.

Here is today’s editorial on the day before the anti-wolf rally in Jackson, Wyoming.

Wolves Lose Their Predatory Edge In Mid-life, Study Shows

Wolves are at the “top of their game” for only about a quarter of their life-

Wolves Lose Their Predatory Edge In Mid-life, Study Shows. Trent Consultants News. ASMSU Exponent.

Cougar are much better evolved for predation than wolves.

Why top predators matter

An in-depth look at new research

Top predators such as wolves, lions, and jaguars play very important roles in the ecology. From control of mesopredators like coyotes and hyenas to control of ungulate populations and how they use the land.

Why top predators matter: an in-depth look at new research
Jeremy Hance

Rocky Mountain Front, wildlife, and other projects get funded in Montana in Interior Appropriations Bill

Bill includes funding to reimburse for wolf kills, but may also contain money for proactive measures-

From what I’ve read, this sounds pretty good to me for wildlife and outdoors in Montana. Great Falls Tribune.

Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves

Strong evidence that aspen groves are becoming healthier with presence of wolves.

Healthier aspen groves support more bird species, which may in turn help the overall health of forests. One thing mentioned in the article is that the pine beetle infestations seen throughout the west could be impacted with greater diversity and larger populations of birds. This has been well documented in Yellowstone Park, but it is interesting to see it happening in other wolf range too.

Discussion about wolves often focuses on how wolves impact elk populations and behavior and how that affects hunting.  Should wildlife management agencies focus solely on this or should they focus on the ecological benefits of wolves as well?  One could argue that the focus on wolf management is too narrow and that people should look beyond their narrow interests and look at systems as a whole.

Here is another question to ponder.  Can these benefits be realized on public lands impacted by heavy livestock grazing?

Aspen grove with new growth © Ken Cole

Aspen grove with new growth © Ken Cole

“Her findings: Wolves increase biodiversity; wolves affect elk behavior more than elk populations; and aspen growth in elk winter range is directly related to wolves.”

Tracking science: Biologist’s findings show forest diversity, health influenced by wolves. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian.

Most wolf occupied country, however, shows such a great impact from cattle, it is probably hard to sort out indirect effects of wolves on the vegetation. Cattle eat from half to 90% of the forage on most grazing allotments, leaving little for the elk, deer, pronghorn. As a result, the effect of changed elk behavior due to the wolves will probably be hard to document.

Idaho again wants to land choppers in wilderness

Landing helicopters in wilderness violates the Wilderness Act

This article contains more information about something I posted a while back.

I don’t think the rational behind this plan is to kill wolves inside the wilderness but rather to document the minimum number of 150 wolves the state thinks is required so that they can kill more OUTSIDE of the wilderness.

Jon Marvel has the same perspective.

Idaho could use information gleaned from wilderness helicopter missions to accelerate wolf killing where conflicts with ranchers and hunters are more common, he said.

“If all of those breeding pairs are found inside the Frank Church, then you can kill all the wolves outside the wilderness with impunity,” Marvel said.

Idaho again wants to land choppers in wilderness
John Miller Associated Press

Montana FWP study finds multiple factors in wolf-elk relations

Multiyear Montana study shows the relationships between elk and wolves are not simple-

FWP study finds multiple factors in wolf-elk relations. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian

Nowhere are data adequate to ‘scientifically’ assign cause(s) for any declines that may occur,” author-biologists Kenneth Hamlin and Julie Cunningham wrote in their conclusion.”

However, this conclusion certainly does not mean that wolves do not affect elk in many ways, as do wolves and bear together, and each other as well.

The effect of wolves also varies in different parts of Montana despite there being similar densities of wolves, e.g., NW Montana versus SW Montana and Yellowstone.

This is an important study and you can read the 95 page report and/or save as a pdf file.

On collecting wolf scat in Yellowstone

Wolf poop is gold for a variety of studies of wolves-

Yellowstone study collects, examines wolf scat for clues. By Brett French. Billings Gazette.

This time tested activity was partly replaced by radio collar-based research, but with the development of sophisticated DNA and hormone analysis, it now has new importance.

ID Fish and Game/outfitter ad campaign to drive hunters from Idaho yields success

Survey of non-resident hunters shows perception of wolf impact biggest factor in not buying elk tags-

As early as nine years ago, Idaho elk outfitters begin to tell the world that wolves had killed almost all the elk in the state. For the last two years Idaho Fish and Game Department honchos have joined in.

Today in an article* in Pocatello’s Idaho State Journal by Cody Bloomsburg, discovered an ID F & G survey of 2600 non-residents told that of those who did not return this year for an Idaho elk tag, 28 % blamed wolves, 13% blamed the recent non-resident fee increase, and just over 11% the bad economy.

This is the second year in a row that non-resident elk tag sales have declined (25% in 2008). A likely hypothesis is that the negative advertising barrage by the outfitters was not as effective as the ID Fish and Game officials following orders to poor mouth the state’s elk and deer prospects. ID Fish & Game did not begin to bemoan the supposed effect of wolves until two years ago.

The actual effect of wolves on Idaho elk populations is hard to measure. It is suspected that wolves are depressing or suppressing elk numbers in just two of Idaho’s 29 hunt areas. Most recently the Idaho elk population was estimated by Idaho Fish & Game elk surveys at 103,160 animals, at or slightly above the statewide objective.

– – – – –

*The article by Bloomsburg is not on-line.

Wolf reintroduction proposed in Scottish Highland test case

Wolves have been absent from Scotland for more than 250 years

In an effort to change the behavior of red deer in Scotland so that the ecosystem can recover from their overgrazing, researchers are recommending wolf reintroduction to an island or major fenced area to see how the land, vegetation and other inhabitants respond.

Wolf reintroduction proposed in Scottish Highland test case
Science Codex

Study of falling elk population looks at food

Study of falling elk population looks at food

Wolf predation may not be as much a factor as was once believed

BRETT FRENCH Of The Gazette Staff

Too many missed meals may be the larger cause of the decline of elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – not wolf predation or the elk’s fear of being eaten by wolves, according to a newly published study.

IDFG’s plans to manage wolves includes killing 26 packs as well as 80% or 100 wolves in the Lolo

250 to 300 Idaho wolves could be killed if delisting occurs.

On May 2nd wolves will be delisted leaving a window of at least 30 days before the decision could be enjoined by a judge. During this time, assuming an injunction, a number of things could happen at the hands of the Idaho Fish and Game Department and Wildlife Services.

Based on what is in the written record it appears that anywhere from 250 to 300 wolves could be killed in a very short period of time through means other than hunting by individual hunters. Earlier I reported that Wildlife Services was seeking the flexibility to kill 26 packs for “chronic” depredations and now it appears that Idaho Fish and Game is on board with this plan. In the event of delisting, these plans will likely go forward and the result will be the death of 30% to 35% of Idaho’s 846 wolves.


To develop and aggressively utilize all available tools and methods to control wolf-caused depredation of domestic livestock.

• Staff have worked with Wildlife Services to identify 25 wolf pack territories with chronic livestock conflicts (>3 occurrences in 2008)

• Staff will implement aggressive and efficient control measures, including entire pack removal, for wolf packs with chronic histories of livestock depredation

• Staff will work with the Office of Species Conservation to request a Department of Interior Solicitor’s opinion on the 45-day window

Idaho Fish and Game Department commonly states that it will manage wolves in the same way that it manages bears and mountain lions but this seems to be a falsehood. There are no plans underway to reduce the number of Idaho’s 3000 mountain lions or 20,000 bears by a third nor is there the hysteria surrounding those species. The State legislature has not stepped in with crazy legislation regarding bears and mountain lions either, and the director of the Idaho Fish and Game has not attended meetings where illegal activities are promoted to exterminate wolves from the state as happened this weekend.

The Idaho Fish and Game also continues to perpetuate false information. In this video you will see that IDFG claims that the growth rate of the wolf population in Idaho is 20%. This is incorrect. Their own report shows that the rate is actually 16%, which is higher than last year’s 9%, but in line with trends showing that the growth rate is declining. This is a strong indication that wolves have filled the available habitat and natural regulation is taking place as anyone with a biology background would expect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hunters vent wolf concerns

Mountain Express story on the Hailey ID wolf meeting the other night-

“Hunters vent wolf concerns. Foes of Canis lupus threaten ‘grassroots uprising’ if delisting delayed.” By Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer

Idaho mulls shorter elk hunting season

Weather plays biggest role in elk populations

Idaho mulls shorter elk hunting season
Associated Press

“Hunters have blamed growing numbers of wolves. Hayden acknowledged that wolves are a factor, but he said the winter of 2007-08, which was colder and longer than normal, was the primary reason for the low calf numbers.”

Idaho hopes to target Lolo wolves

Officials will seek federal permission to kill wolves to protect Clearwater elk herd-

Story by Jason Kauffman. Idaho Mountain Express Staff Writer.

The story says this will be a multi-year effort because new wolves will quickly move in to replace the wolves killed. This raises the question, why would this happen if wolves have killed most of the elk?  Wolves are not vegetarians.

I notice the story refers to “Idaho could be losing as much as $24 million annually in hunting-related revenue due to wolves’ killing deer and elk, the report states.”

This is only one part of Idaho. Earlier I wrote the following comments about the report mentioned above.
– – – – –

This is the most simplistic analysis. Idaho Fish and Game assumes that every elk killed by a wolf is 1/5 fewer elk for hunters (they assume a 20% hunter success rate). Read the rest of this entry »

NW Montana hunters at local rally complain predators are wiping out elk

They’ve been saying the same thing for years. How many times can elk be wiped out and their numbers stay generally the same? 😉

Wolves in the sights: Hunters complain predators are wiping out elk. By Michael Jamison of the Missoulian

Idaho looks to remove wolves

Anywhere from 104 to 120 wolves will be killed in the first year under the weakened 10(j) rule.

The current version of the 10(j) rule reduces the burden of proof on wildlife managers so they don’t have to demonstrate that wolves are THE MAJOR cause of elk declines.

Wildlife Services is also seeking permission to kill an additional 26 packs of wolves in Idaho. This could amount to killing 200+ wolves.

Presently there are an estimated 824 wolves in Idaho and agencies seek to kill as many as 300 wolves overall.

The Idaho Fish and Game study to justify killing wolves in the Lolo area is yet to be released to the public.

Idaho looks to remove wolves
Ravalli Republic

Report estimates revenue loss from Idaho wolves

Study uses 1994 data-

Report estimates revenue loss from Idaho wolves

The Associated Press

The report relies heavily on a 1994 environmental impact statement related to the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, and then extrapolates those numbers.

*Update: Read the Report

– – – – – –

Additional commentary by Ralph Maughan.

This is the most simplistic analysis. Idaho Fish and Game assumes that every elk killed by a wolf is 1/5 fewer elk for hunters (they assume a 20% hunter success rate).

1. Wolf predation can be both additive or compensatory. Idaho Fish and Game is assuming it is all additive. This is known to be false. Compensatory predation is when is wolf kills an animal that would have died regardless before spring calving.

2. It is also well known that in many areas wolves almost stop hunting on their own during human hunting season. The gut piles are much more attractive to them. Moreover, wolves take down the wounded animals. Most of these would die without predation.

3. With outfitters telling how wolves have killed all the elk, beginning in about 1998 when there were not very many wolves in Idaho, with Idaho Fish and Game now joining the poormouthing chorus, is it any wonder elk tag sales are down? The numbers in a state could actually be up, but if the outfitters and the state wildlife agency says, “the hunting in our state has gone to hell,” what do they expect?

Montana FWP study finds mixed impacts of wolves on ungulate populations

Finally, a real study, and released to the public-

Not surprisingly (to me anyway) the effect of wolves on elk populations varies by area and presence of other predators such as grizzly bears. In addition hunters affect elk more than wolves. When considering wolves and ungulates alone, I take this report to be generally quite positive for the effects of wolves on ungulates.

Here is the news release, but there is the much larger report available to for those interested. Here is the 90+ page full report. Ralph Maughan

Added. Notice how the MSM immediately gives the results of this an immediate spin by means of the headline. Wolves tied to elk decline in parts of state. By EVE BYRON – Independent Record

Contact Ron Aasheim, 406-444-4038; Justin Gude, 406-444-3767; or visit FWP’s Web site

Study Finds Mixed Wolf Impacts On Elk Populations-
Not all elk populations respond in the same manner when faced with sharing the landscape with wolves, a new report by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks suggests.

Researchers who spent the past seven years measuring the populations and behavior of elk in Montana found that elk numbers in some areas of southwestern Montana have dropped rapidly due mostly to the loss of elk calves targeted by wolves and grizzly bears that inhabit the same area. The same study, led by FWP and Montana State University, also suggests that in some areas of western Montana elk numbers have increased while hunter-harvests of elk have decreased, with little apparent influence by local wolf packs on elk numbers.

“One-size-fits-all explanations of wolf-elk interactions across large landscapes do not seem to exist,” said Justin Gude, FWP’s chief of wildlife research in Helena.
The 95-page report contains two sections. The first section summarizes research efforts in the Greater Yellowstone Area and southwestern Montana, with a primary focus on wolf-elk interactions. The second section summarizes FWP data collection and monitoring efforts from the entire range of wolves in Montana. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Wolves Restore An Ecosystem?

This seems to be a reasonable conclusion made by Dr. Bechta and Dr. Ripple who studied the Lamar Valley’s rehabilitation of cottonwood and willow following wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone NP. These researchers feel that wolves, if returned to the Olympic Peninsula, would help restore the flora as well as a balance in the fauna in the national park. They claim that elk are an obstruction to forest health by feeding on the young trees which appear to be unable to thrive there.

Can Wolves Restore An Ecosystem?

State seeks to kill N. Idaho wolves

Plan is out in the open-

Although they wanted to just do a quick kill, under the 10j rules Idaho can kill off wolves in an area if wolves are making it so that ID F and G objectives aren’t being meet. They have to perform a ritual first, however.  A delisted population could have just been killed.

Updated story (much longer). State seeks to kill N. Idaho wolves. AP

Idaho Fish and Game says they have done a study that proves this, but they haven’t released the study. There was an article about it in the Idaho Statesman where some figures were given. Ken Cole critiqued it, but if they have proof, let’s see it, or is it a secret?

Norm Bishop on wolves and the northern range elk population-

Bishop, below responded to Montana State Sen. Joe Balyeat who has proposed legislation cut off relations between Montana and the federal government on wolves.
– – – – – –
Sen. Joe Balyeat [Bozeman Chronicle Dec. 30] proposes legislation to sever Montana’s ties with federal agencies on wolf management. He fears that allowing the wolf population to keep growing will doom the northern Yellowstone elk population, and elk throughout the state (where elk populations are 14% over goal).

Montana wolves increased to 394 in 2007, but the mid-year 2008 estimate is down 9%, to 360. Northern Yellowstone’s wolf population is down 21% 35% from 81 in 2007 to 64 53 in 2008. As the density of wolves increased in past years, interpack killing joined disease as a limiting factor.

Sen. Balyeat’s rationale for his bill appears to be based on a one-time count he made of the ratio of calves to cows of the northern Yellowstone elk herd. From dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles on the effects of restored gray wolves on their prey in Yellowstone, we can pick two to enlighten us on these complex issues.

Vucetich (2005. Influence of harvest, climate, and wolf predation on Yellowstone elk 1961-2004. OIKOS 111:259-270) studied the contribution of wolf predation in a decline of elk from 17,000 to 8,000. They built and assessed models based on elk-related data prior to wolf reintroduction (1961-1995), and used them to predict how the elk population might have fared from 1995 to 2004 had wolves not been restored. Climate and hunter harvest explained most of the elk decline. From 1995 to 2004 wolves killed mostly elk that would have died from other causes.

Wright et al. (2006. Selection of Northern Yellowstone Elk by Gray Wolves and Hunters JWM 70(4):1070-1078), documented that hunting exerted a greater total reproductive impact on the herd than wolf predation. The article’s authors were university, federal, and state wildlife biologists working cooperatively. No legislation is needed to improve on that.

Norman A. Bishop
Bozeman, MT

Note: Bishop was a leader and supporter of wolf restoration interpretation in Yellowstone.
He has received numerous awards for his Park Service work with wolves. Among other
organizations, he is a director of the Wolf Recovery Foundation.

Yellowstone Park sees major loss of wolf pups, adults this year

Yellowstone wolf population is hit hard this year. Reasons not certain-

Back in 2005 after years of major population growth tapering off to stability, the Yellowstone wolf population suddenly crashed when all but 20% of that year’s wolf pups died. While the cause was not determined for sure, most think it was due to canine distemper.

The next two years, however, saw a rebuilding of the wolf population with high wolf pup survival rates. 2008 began with what appeared would be more growth with reports of very high pup counts, e.g., 24 pups in the Leopold Pack.

The first signs of trouble came, however, from the Slough Creek Pack which had a number of pregnant female wolves, but only one pup was seen. As the summer wore on, many packs seemed to have lost all of their pups and most at least some. Currently only the Gibbon Pack has a large number of pups left — ten — and it is the largest wolf pack inside the Park with 25 or more members. Despite its size it is not commonly seen. Its territory is not close to the Park roads.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wolves of B.C. Coast prefer salmon over deer

Wolves prefer fishing to hunting. It is easier for the wolves to catch salmon than track deer. BBC News.

“Wolves in western Canada prefer to fish for salmon when it is in season rather than hunt deer or other wild game, researchers have found.”

Easier? Why I thought wolves from Canada were killing machines that took down anything — the bigger the better.

Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone

Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Staff.
“It’s not easy being a bison-eating wolf in Yellowstone National Park.”

Mollies Pack has become a rugged bison-killing wolf pack. They are a pack ideal for this with their big brawny male wolves. It’s no accident. With elk, big males in a pack are superfluous as long as their is one big guy, but not so with bison. So the big males born to Mollies tend to stay with the pack and others sees to join it.

To some degree the Cougar Creek and Gibbon Meadows Pack have become bison killers too.

The Wolf and the Moose: Natural Enemies That Need Each Other

The Wolf and the Moose: Natural Enemies That Need Each Other. Scientific American. By Adam Hadhazy.

This is about the 50-year study of moose and wolves on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. The wolves have not wiped out the moose despite the island being a very simple ecosystem, and in fact should the wolves perish, the moose population will be destroyed by overpopulation.

External environmental effects are creeping onto Isle Royale, and I would not be surprised if these two species do vanish in the near future.

Posted in Moose, Wolves, Wolves and prey. Tags: . Comments Off on The Wolf and the Moose: Natural Enemies That Need Each Other

Idaho Fish and Game commissioners spite department biologist’s own recommendation – raise limit 100 over

It’s higher than the initial proposal, giving some indication of the commission’s temperament. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game Commission has set the limit at what the Statesman claims might mean the killing of 500 wolves :

Fish and Game commissioners set limit for 2008 wolf huntIdaho Statesman

As is noted in the article, the commission went higher than Department biologists recommended – wanting to assure the goal of just over 500 wolves in Idaho is made – because the politically appointed commission, “did not believe that hunting would bring the wolf population numbers down to the levels they wanted to see.”

No word on Wolf Watching areas.

Added : Hunting Season Announced for Once Endangered Gray Wolf – LocalNews8

Wolf de-listing: A look at both sides of the issue

Research? Central Alberta wolf reduction planned to “balance” wolf and elk populations

Alberta gives the wolf no protection to begin with. Elk populations in the area are high, and it is questionable whether this is research. This is not a huge wolf killing/sterilization project, but it could devolve into such a project.

The major newspapers don’t like it.

Wolves targeted to boost elk hunt. Sterilization part of Alberta experiment to shrink packs. Cathy Ellis, For the Calgary Herald.

Editorial. Culling wolves so hunters can cull elk. The Edmonton Journal.

Keep researchers at bay. Calgary Herald

– – – –

The first wave of wolves to Yellowstone and Central Idaho (1995) came from this area.

Wolf advocates say predators, not sharpshooters, best for Rocky Mountain National Park

The better to hunt elk, my dear. Wolf advocates say predators, not sharpshooters, best for national park. By Bill Scanlon, Rocky Mountain News.

WildEarth Guardians will sue over the plan to shoot 200 elk a year to control elk overpopulation in Rocky Mountain NP rather than introduce wolves to keep the elk population in check.

Arctic wolf photographed swimming after waterfowl prey

This has never been observed before.

Story. Elusive wolves caught on camera. (bad link fixed) By Rebecca Morelle. Science reporter, BBC News.

This an interesting story about Arctic wolves on Ellesmere Island.

One sentence bothers me — “The team was also amazed by the wolves’ boldness.” When wolves don’t run but come and examine something new, they are often called “bold.” This is a completely anthropocentric view. We don’t if wolves they haven’t seen humans (or who have, but haven’t been harmed) are fighting an urge to flee or not.

Aerial wolf hunt clash goes underground

Aerial hunt clash goes underground. Ads from conservation group back proposed federal prohibition. By Erika Bolstad.

“Alaskans voted twice to ban aerial hunting, and the vote has been overturned twice,” said Jessica Brand, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Defenders of Wildlife. “The only way to end this once and for all is to close the loophole in federal legislation.”

Posted in politics, Wolves, Wolves and prey. Tags: . Comments Off on Aerial wolf hunt clash goes underground

Idaho’s increasing wolf population doesn’t appear to be hurting other wildlife.

Elk, deer survival high despite prowling wolves. Idaho’s increasing wolf population doesn’t appear to be hurting other wildlife. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

“Elk and deer survival remains high despite the growing wolf population in Idaho.’

Barker’s story is old news. This has been reported time after time, but it is in the Idaho Statesman (Idaho largest newspaper), and some hunters and groups will continue to say elk, deer, whatever have “been decimated.”

Wolves and elk population/hunting in the Upper Clearwater (N. Central Idaho)

The supposed highly negative effect of wolves on the elk populations in the upper Clearwater River area of North Central Idaho has long been a talking point by Idaho Fish and Game and a number of local hunting organizations and public officials.

I predicted wolves would be blamed when the elk population dropped off in the early and mid 1990s. There were very few wolves in the area until about the year 2000, however. They certainly got blamed, however, as well as all other carnivoires. The non-agency biologists I knew said the problem was a severe winter, maturation of the habitat (back to like when Lewis and Clark came through and almost starved to death) and the spread of the noxious non-native pest plant, knapweed onto what winter range remained.

I got this information today from the Wolf Education and Research Center.

As far as the Lolo goes – unit 12 has had a population problem since 1985 – Wolves did not have a foothold (according to IDF&G reports) in the area until 2000
Unit 12 Total Elk Pop 1985 = 4767
1997 = 2667
2006 = 1658
Unit 10 on the other hand has had an increase in elk since 2003 with an increase in c/c ratio to boot.
Total Elk 1989 = 11507c/c = 29.9
1998 = 5079
2003 = 2643
2006 = 3452 c/c = 29.4
This is from IDF&G 2007 Sightability Report that I got out of the Lewiston [Idaho] office from Clay Hickey.
There has been an increase in hunter harvest in the entire zone (units10 &12) since 2000. IDF&G W-170-R-30, 05/06 Elk Survey
1998 total hunters = 1533 total harvest =277
2005 total hunters = 1590 total harvest = 329
Note that “the Lolo” is the part of the area which has been perhaps the most controversial. It is in Unit 12. Unit 10 is adjacent to the west.
Elk today numbers are not anything like the 1970s (when it was predicted this elk decline would happen). However, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious “wolf appearence” effect on harvest or numbers (both have increased).
I understand the South Fork of the Clearwater (Elk City) shows even more improvement for elk.

Drought is wolves’ ally in hunt for park elk.

Drought is wolves’ ally in hunt for park elk. Lack of precipitation is a big factor in Yellowstone’s declining wapiti numbers. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

“The range [condition] in Yellowstone going into this winter is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Smith said.

Western Watersheds Project’s comments on Idaho wolf population management plan

Many folks will like to read this, find a lot of good information and see how thoroughly political, rather than scientific the plan is. There is great information placing wolf caused livestock mortality into context with other kinds of losses.

The due date for comments was Dec. 31, 2007.

This  is an 8 page pdf document written by Debra Ellers, WWPs Western Idaho Director.
The comments.

Idaho elk, deer survival rate high despite growing wolf population

Idaho elk, deer survival rate high despite growing wolf population. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

The survival rate for radio collared deer and elk females was over 85% and it increased in 2007 over 2006 despite the growing wolf population.


The same piece, with some editing and anecdote the day after.

Elk, deer survival high despite prowling wolves. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. Edition 01/01/08


Dubois, Wyoming, hunters split on losses to wolves

Dubois hunters split on losses to wolves. AP.

This article says “Charles Kay, a Utah researcher who specializes in wildlife ecology, said there have been no comprehensive studies of how wolves impact big game because such a study would be complex, time-consuming and costly.”

In fact there have been many studies, although Kay may not think they were comprehensive enough. Then too, “big game” is a lot of different kinds of animals, all of which might respond differently.

Report: Despite Mexican wolves, elk OK

The number of elk in the part of New Mexico where the Mexican wolves have become reestablished has increased.

Of course the number of wolves is trivial — only 59 in the entire recovery area due to the defective recovery plan, and the many mistakes and political blockages placed on the Mexican wolf restoration program.

Story: Report: Despite wolves, elk OK. By The Associated Press as published in Las Cruces Sun-News.

Idaho big game outlook: Expect stable deer and elk populations this year

Big game outlook: Expect stable deer and elk populations this year. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman. This is a detailed look for all the areas of the state of Idaho.

If wolves were destroying Idaho’s elk and deer population, the populations should be declining. In fact, they should be declining at an increasing rate as the wolf population has grown.

Yellowstone Park: Northern range packs are all large. Winter may be interesting

As autumn begins, for the first time not only are all of the packs on the Yellowstone Park northern range large, they are all almost equal in size.

The Park pup count for the year is quite accurate and pup survival was high, but it is harder keep track of the adults, so with the possibility of being off 2 or 3, basically the situation is this: Druid Peak 20 wolves, Agate Creek 20 wolves, Oxbow Creek 20 wolves, Leopold 20 wolves, Slough Creek 20 wolves.

The Slough adults are all females except for one male born to the pack some time ago, and a brand new alpha male who came from the Agates. The previous Slough alpha, now decreased, had seized the opportunity to became the pack’s leading male while he was just a yearling because of the sex ratio imbalance. He killed about a month ago by a vehicle in the Park. He was quickly replaced by another yearling male from the nearby Agates. He is also uncollared and unnumbered. The older male in the Slough Creek pack is likely the son of the alpha female so that is why he has not advanced to alpha status. Field studies and especially genetic studies of Park wolves show they strongly avoid inbreeding. This was confirmed in the findings of the recently released ‘The genealogy and genetic viability of reintroduced Yellowstone grey wolves.” VonHoldt, et al. Molecular Ecology (2007).

To the south a bit, the Hayden Valley Pack remained visible to people all year with its 5 adults and 4 pups. Nine wolves is a substantial pack, but they have an overlapping territory with the larger Gibbon Park of 10-12 adults and 2-4 pups (good pup sightings were never made for this hard-to-see-pack). The Haydens are also in contention with the brawny bison-killing Mollies Pack (8-9 adults and 5 pups).

The Hayden Pack alpha pair have become about the most photographed wolves in the Park’s history. They are now both relatively old. In their territory they need to be able to kill bison to make it through the winter. In the summer there are elk plus a convenient carcass dump in the vicinity (for animals hit on the Park roads). I learned about the dump while wolf watching this summer from folks who had been following the pack.

Dr. Doug Smith told me that studies have shown that the ability for a wolf pack to kill bison is different than killing elk (where speed is an advantage, something more typical of female wolves). Successful bison-killing packs are like Mollies. They have a number of large, strong male wolves.

While I don’t have a run down on the rest of the Park’s packs, I want to mention the Bechler Pack because I had no information about them this year until today.

They continue to inhabit the SW corner of Yellowstone (Bechler Meadows), but they do sometimes leave that vicinity. Two weeks ago they were tracked near Lewis Lake. That’s interesting because an Idaho State University student trip to the backcountry in that area heard wolves howling. This is not usually a place you hear that.

The Bechler Pack has 10-12 adults and 4-5 pups.

The Park population is up for the second year in a row after the big crash, although the mid-year estimate of about 175 is probably an overestimate because the adult wolf count for mid-year was mostly based on that of late last winter.

Factoring in the Yellowstone Park wolf increase, we see that it accounts for much of the Wyoming increase at mid-year as reported by ED Bangs the other day.

Update: In one of the comments below Kathie Lynch adds detail to the 20-20-20-20-20 breakdown of the wolf packs on the northern range. She also adds detail about the Slough Creek Pack males and other Park wolves.

There’s plenty of game out there in Idaho this season — you just need to find it

There’s plenty of game out there this season — you just need to find it. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

I guess this contradicts, “the-wolves-have-killed-all-the-game story” told by unsuccessful hunters. Of course, every year more and more ride ATVs up and down the roads and the trails looking for a shot. I suppose the folks who do this think that elk, deer, pronghorn, etc. can no longer hear very well.

post 1538

Biologist Boyce discovers the landscapes where elk are most likely to be killed by wolves

It is this kind of information that is very useful in judging the ecological effects of wolves. Human hunters too should take notice because elk learn what kinds of areas are safe and which are not.

Story from Science Daily. [Silly headline] Wolves Find Happy Hunting Grounds In Yellowstone National Park.

Are prey hard-wired to fear predators?

Preliminary data about predators and large ungulates indicates that fear is learned rather than inherent, although not all scientists agree.

Story: Are prey hard-wired to fear predators? By Brodie Farquhar. Casper Star-Tribune

Yellowstone’s Wolves Save Its Aspen

This was nice. The New York Time’s does a piece on “The Basics” with wolves and Yellowstone’s aspen. I like the cartoon as well.

Posted in Wolves, Wolves and prey, Yellowstone National Park. Comments Off on Yellowstone’s Wolves Save Its Aspen

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves and salmon

In recent email Jim Robertson wrote the following (see below). It was so interesting I decided to post it (with his kind permission). My, but he has some great photographs!

Ralph Maughan

Read the rest of this entry »

Wolf predation in the summer: Yellowstone Park study

In the latest “wolf weekly” report from Ed Bangs at USFWS, Ed wrote: Yellowstone Park researchers report that the summer predation study is going well. Approx 31 kills have been found May-mid through mid-July and they are 20 bulls, 5 cows, 5 calves, 1 mule deer. These data support the results of research done by following tagged elk calves [wolves killed few] and generally, but less so, scat analyses (scat analyses show more mule deer used in summer). Collar locations decrease from one every 30 min now to 8/day starting Aug. 1.

– – – –

I should say a bit more about this study. It is very important because all the quantitative data on wolf prey comes from winter observations when wolves generally have more of an advantage, and the ungulate composition in the Park differs somewhat from the summer when a lot of mule deer enter the Park from the Gardiner and some other areas.

Read the rest of this entry »

Boise hearing shows backers/opponents true colors – and numbers

Once again, the Fish & Wildlife Service’s attempt to undermine the integrity and contribution of science in the wolf recovery process was met with a diverse and vociferous outcry of wolf, and science, supporters.
Read the rest of this entry »

Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming

Freudenthal is gearing up to defend the indefensible, — Wyoming’s winter elk feed grounds, the continued source of brucellosis transmission in elk and the place where chronic wasting disease will first show up in the Greater Yellowstone elk and deer.

If you are going, defend something so wrong, it might just pay off to say just the opposite is true. He does. “Feed grounds are a vital part of the state’s elk management and brucellosis strategy and will be a part of that strategy for the foreseeable future.” That’s what he said in Jackson, WY on Monday.

By defending the feed grounds as vital in preventing transmission of brucellosis, he can then accuse the wolves who come to the feed grounds to hunt in the winter just as naturally as bears come to backyard birdfeeders, as something menacing that needs to be killed. In fact the feedgrounds is one of the two major reasons for the proposed new 10j rule that will be argued in Cody tonight. The new 10j would allow the states to kill wolves if the wolves if they are a major cause preventing the state from meeting “herd objectives,” a term that the Federal Register says means the movements of herds, not just desired population size.

Freudenthal then gives the real reason for the pro-feedground, anti-wolf policy. The Jackson Hole News and Guide writes, “Freudenthal said the only thing that could possibly reduce the state’s dependence on supplemental feeding programs would be significant state investment to secure more wintering habitat for the animals.” [emphasis mine]. However, he said winter range would be too expensive to buy.

He is right, but not the way it seems. Wyoming state government is rolling in money from the mass industrialization of state for gas development. They have plenty of money to buy the land, but the political support for it isn’t there with a governor like him.

The expense the governor is talking about then, is political. To eliminate the feedgrounds, he would have to oppose the influential, old guard ranchers who have for a century, opposed using the successful method of Idaho and Montana — use natural winter range for wintering wildlife.

In Wyoming, it takes a lot of courage to oppose the old guard ranchers, and Freundenthal will allow disease to spread and the wolves south of Yellowstone to be killed because he has no courage. That’s what the wolf killing program is about.

Story: Governor: Feed grounds necessary in Wyoming. By Noah Brenner. July 17, 2007

post 1334

Deal [with Wyoming] removes obstacle to wolf delisting

I’m not sure what it means, but if it actually means wolves will be protected only in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks, and adjoining Wilderness areas. This really means wolves will be protected ONLY inside Yellowstone Park, and then only as long as they don’t step outside unless it is into a designated Wilderness. No packs live full time inside Grand Teton. In addition, Not a single wolf pack has its territory totally inside a Wyoming Wilderness area, much less those Wilderness areas adjacent to Yellowstone. Therefore, even Mollies Pack, the Bechler Pack, and even the Druids might be subject to being shot for fun because they sometimes leave the Park, and they leave in areas where a wilderness does not adjoin.

On the upside, this “deal” probably makes the delisting to contrary to law and the regulations that following, included changes in them that were procedural violations, that a federal judge has an increased change of slapping this down.

Story in the Idaho Statesman by Rocky Barker on the Deal.

Here is a link to a pdf map of the Greater Yellowstone wolf packs. Do you see a pack that lives entirely inside a designated wilderness area? Do you think that a judge will notice that there is no safe spot for wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone Park?

Update (May 27): Here’s a report on the latest view from Wyoming’s agricultural political eliteState eyes ‘ultimate’ predator. By Whitney Royster and Jeff Gearino. Casper Star Tribune.

The number of wolves in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park jumped by 31 percent in 2006, going from 134 to 175. With that increase, 123 cattle were reportedly killed by wolves, more than has ever been recorded in Wyoming since wolf reintroduction. In response, 44 wolves were killed, which is also a record for that time period

All the “ultimate predator” could do was kill 123 cattle?

This is unsaid, most of “the cattle” were calves and almost all reimbursed. Recall that in recent weeks too, the supposed decimation of Wyoming wildlife has suddenly turned into a big surplus of elk. As a  result the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission wants to increase the take by human hunters.

More news from Wyoming where wolves have killed all the big game. Not!

Of course, wolves haven’t and these recent articles indicate. This new info is just short of incredible given all the ranting and raving by Wyoming politicians and some hunting organizations over the last ten years about how the wolf had decimated the elk.
April 26. Wyoming Game and Fish proposes additional hunting licenses to offset forage shortage. By Brodie Farquhar. Jackson Hole Star-Tribune correspondent.

The drought has greatly reduced the forage and so the number of animals needs to be reduced, but the elk and most other ungulate populations are well over objectives. Of course, the drought is not a happy situation because it will reduce the number of elk and deer, and pronghorn, but the point here is the problem is not wolves. We can imagine, however, that once drought and hunting have reduced the numbers, wolves will be blamed for the reduced numbers.

May 12. Wyoming Game and Fish predicts good hunting. By Ben Neary. Casper Star Tribune. “”Elk are probably at an all-time high historically,” said Bill Rudd, assistant chief for of the wildlife division for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Cheyenne.”

New. May 17. Elk numbers soar as hunting seasons set. Wyo. population grows to 99,867 animals, 17 percent above objectives. By By Angus M. Thuermer Jr. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Weather, fuel costs favored the lives of hundreds of wolves in Alaska

Alaska didn’t come close to killing the number of wolves it wanted. What a pity.

Weather, fuel costs favored the lives of hundreds of wolves. FEWER KILLS: State’s goal was 664 dead; reports put number at less than a third. By Alex deMarban. Anchorage Daily News.

At our North American wolf conference recently in Flagstaff, the Keynote Speaker was Dr. Victor Van Ballenberghe, a professor in Biology and Wildlife at the Univ. of Alaska. He has twice served on Alaska’s Board of Game. He explained the fundamental problem with the Board is their belief that the historical high populations of moose, caribou, etc. recorded in many areas of Alaska are the normal, usual and expected number. This problem is compounded by 1990s state legislation that mandates “intensive management” for certain “depleted” populations of ungulates deemed important for consumptive use by humans.

What the Board does is play on the natural sympathy for Native consumptive use in setting ungulate population targets, and then adds another generous portion for non-Native hunters.

These ungulate population targets are impossible to obtain. In an effort to do it anyway, the Board is now not only targeting wolves but black bears and brown bears over an increasing portion of Alaska (now 60,000 square miles).

Despite the reprieve for wolves this winter, the Alaskan campaign against all large predators is only going to get worse.

Wolves & Elk: The overriding issue in delisting

Rocky Barker has a major story in today’s Idaho Statesman. “Wolves and Elk: The overriding issue in delisting.

The wolves-killing-livestock-thing has never amounted to much despite efforts by some to make 30 to 50 dead cows (mostly calves) a year in a state look like a unparalleled catastrophe.

The real issue is the perception that wolves are reducing elk herds. Ace Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker looks at this and as most, finds it isn’t really true. However, wolves do change elk behavior, and human hunters have to adapt. That is something many don’t like to do because, in my view, they aren’t real hunters — for them the hunt is just the shot, not the planning, the stalking, the position, the waiting.

Barker’s quote of Nate Helm, Executive Director of the misnamed group “Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Idaho” is very telling:

“The reality is the wolves are competing with us,” said Nate Helm, executive director of Idaho’s chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. “Hunters’ visions are they can return to the same location year after year and have a positive experience with elk. Wolves threaten that.”

I don’t really have to explain the quote. Helm believes, probably correctly, that some (does he think all?) “hunters” don’t want to hunt very hard and don’t want to do anything new.

Helm is further quoted:

“But for hunters, the numbers are misleading,” Helm said. “Wolves have changed elk behavior. They have pushed elk out of traditional haunts and made them harder to find.”

He is right. That’s the main reason wolves were reintroduced, to change things. It wasn’t just to put an extinct animal on the ground. It was too make elk and deer more wild, and to shake-up the whole ecosystem which has been wolfless for about 80-90 years.

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife did not join with other sportsmen groups to try to shut down the elk shooting farms growing all around Idaho. I think it’s significant. That’s the next step for the lazy shooter, just drive to a farm and shoot as big an elk as you can afford. Mount the rack on your wall, and the bigger the rack the richer you are. Elk antlers are just another symbol for having money.

Hunting is one of many outdoor experiences. A lazy elk hunter doesn’t want a real outdoor experience, and that why he or she doesn’t like wolves, and doesn’t care about other animals, and doesn’t know much about biology. This kind of hunter really doesn’t like the outdoors.

post 1048

Slim Pickings for Wolves on Isle Royale

Moose and wolves have been studied on Isle Royale for 50 years now. It is of great scientific interest because the number of variables affecting predator and prey are much smaller than on the mainland (Isle Royale is a large island in Lake Superior, and a national park). Wolves are the only large predator and moose are they prey, and the populations of each have gone up and down many times of the fifty years. They do not move in in exact concert.

Now unusually warm summers have increased the tick population that debilitates moose in the winter on the island (and pretty much whereever moose live). Moose numbers are declining due to their weakness, and the wolves are getting hard pressed for food with interpack strife and they are declining in numbers too.

There are fox on Isle Royale too, and they are suffering as well.

I can’t help but hypothesize that some elements of this are present in the elk number decline and wolf number decline on the northern range of Yellowstone.

Story from the International Wolf Center. Slim Pickings for Wolves on Isle Royale

Post 1002 

Wolves said to disrupt winter elk feeding in Wyoming

“Wolves are causing a variety of problems on state elk feedgrounds, from spooking the elk and causing them to move from one area to another to killing work animals,” the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said. From Billings Gazette News Services. Read Article.

The entire premise of the article is wrong. There should not be elk winter feedlots! If the wolves disrupt the operations and chase the elk, so much the better, especially in the Gros Ventre River drainage (disruption may be a problem further south near Pinedale, Wyoming where the elk feedlots are near ranches and roads).

The article mentions that the wolves killed a feeder’s dog as though that was unexpected and terrible. Several weeks ago Ed Bangs sent out a much longer description of the event.

Bangs wrote: On the 23rd [Feb], Jimenez [WY FWS] examined and confirmed that a 8-month old male Catahula hound was killed by wolves on one of the Gros Ventre elk winter feedgrounds near Jackson, WY. The feeders stay at the feedground and had 5 pet hounds sleeping outside the cabin. The dog was killed about 200yds from the cabin. The other dogs are fine. The feeders had been previously advised that a wolf pack was visiting that feedground and their dogs might be at risk. No control is planned.

Did the feeders care about the dogs ? They were left sleeping outside next to an elk feedlot frequented by wolves, coyotes, and no doubt cougar as well. This is way back in the mountains, east of Jackson Hole, untamed country.

Wyoming Game and Fish is just plain irresponsible, and these “problems” are to be expected.

The wolves seem to be the only ones in Wyoming actually doing something to reduce the prevalence of brucellosis (by scaring elk off of the diseased feedlots).

Do supporters of wolf recovery hate elk?

This should be so obvious, but I has finally dawned on me that many elk hunters think that those who have supported the wolf restoration, hate elk, or at best are indifferent to elk.

Because wolves eat elk, deer, moose, etc. it should be obvious that wolf supporters have a great interest in the health and vitality of ungulate herds, but apparently not!

As for myself, I became interested in wolves after many years of concern how the livestock industry and timber industry made it so we had to exist with a poverty of elk, antelope, moose, and bighorn sheep. I, or groups I was an officer with, had signed onto many appeals and lawsuits against timber sales and range “improvement” projects.

It may be plain to most of us, but we would do well to pointedly to speak favorably about elk and other ungulates, and publicize it when you do something to help them and send the news release to hunting organizations.

Of course, much of the opposition to wolves is based on other matters and the misinformation is stirred up with malice, but this disinformation is picked up in routine conversation.

One again I want to remind folks of this website which is a good summary to what is know about wolves and elk, livestock, etc.

Photos of “wolf killed” game?

Mike-S sent me a number of photos of killed elk, also a deer buck, and a bighorn ram. There were several other photos of the same event, taken from different angles and some others too small I thought to tell much at all. I didn’t put these up.

I created a special web page for the photos.

Note several “Mikes” post to this blog, and I hope they will all use a last name initial or something to distinguish themselves.

So what do folks think?

Northern Yellowstone elk herd stable at relatively low numbers

The annual count of elk on Yellowstone’s northern range is in. It remains low compared to years past, but is about the same as a year ago — 6,738 elk compared to about 6600 in the last count, 9 months ago.

The Northern Range herd has always been controversial with its numbers called wildly excessive in the past. It reached at record high of 19,359 in late 1993. It was 17,290 in late 1994. Wolves were reintroduced 3 months later. Then, unfortunately were no elk counts until Dec. 1997 when the population was 13,400. It was known there was a great winter die-off in Jan-March 1997, but there no count made in 1996 or spring of 1997. Since then the population has had its ups and downs, but mostly downs, to the present.

By late 1997 critics had changed from saying the herd was excessively large to alarmed critics saying that wolves were killing off the herd. Some of the decline in the period 2000-2005 has been blamed on a multi-year drought. It is also pretty clear that predators are keeping the herd down in size

The herd has a greater variety of predators that any in the lower 48 states: grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, cougar, coyotes, humans (there is a hunt outside the Park), and the herd is not just a Park herd, despite the name. One elk was even killed by a wolverine. A 3-year study showed the major predator of elk calves in the herd was grizzly bears.

This is one herd probably limited by predation. The size of the human take was been reduced greatly in recent years by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Here is the story by Mike Stark from the Billings Gazette.

This northern range herd is one of 8 elk herds that use Yellowstone Park. Some people seem unaware of this.

Idaho Wolves, Myths and Facts [please link to this]

I would urge everyone with a conservation related web page to link to this website which just went up. Idaho Wolves Myths and Facts. I think it pretty much destroys all of the mythology being propagated.

Posted in Idaho wolves, Wolves, Wolves and Livestock, Wolves and prey. Comments Off on Idaho Wolves, Myths and Facts [please link to this]

Colorado fears blizzard may kill thousands of cattle.

This is just in from the Denver Post.

Effort to save cattle begins. By Steven K. Paulson. The Associated PressIn October 1997 a Colorado blizzard killed 26,000 head of cattle. It cost the owners over $28 million dollars. I said at the time, it would be a one week story. It was. Now something similiar may, unfortunately, be underway. It too will be a short story despite the immense cost.

That brings us back to wolves. I bet the death of 30 cattle by wolves will generate more media attention.

Everyone should use this story and the story of 1997 when some politician starts talking about how ranchers can’t bear the enormous toll of wolves.

Update Jan. 3. The new estimate is that 340,000 !! cattle are threatened by this blizzard.

Latest update. Bailing out trapped herds. Ranchers, Guard rush food to snowbound livestock in S.E. Colorado. State agriculture officials worry the toll may outpace the blizzard of 1997, in which 30,000 animals were lost. By Erin Emery. Denver Post Staff Writer

Wyoming G&F chief: Wolves threaten hunting (for sure, or well maybe not right now)

The article is in today’s Jackson Hole Star-Tribune.

The Game and Fish Commission had a big meeting in Sundance, Wyoming, Thursday and they commanded all the wolf biologists to attend.

Read the first three paragraphs of the story about the meeting. In them “G&F Chief” Terry Cleveland contradicts himself three times.

P1. He says so far things are well. “Wolves have a taste for elk in the greater Yellowstone region, which has worked out well for both species — for the time being.”

P2. If Wyoming Game and Fish doesn’t get it away, things might not turn out well. “However, if there’s no resolution to the state’s dispute with the federal government over removing the animal from protection under the Endangered Species Act, the wolf’s taste for elk may diminish hunting opportunities, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland.”

P3. If WY doesn’t get its way things definitely will not turn out well. “Let there be no doubt: If we don’t get wolves delisted, the elk hunting opportunity in this state is going to decline,” Cleveland said.”

Idaho game commissioners frustrated over delays in wolf delisting

Idaho game commissioners frustrated over [delisting] delays. AP in the Helena Independent Record.

Regardless how folks feel about wolves, this is another example of the political trend of recent years to reject science in favor of cultural prejudice, and should be opposed on that basis alone. Recall this recent story, In Idaho wilderness, researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

Hopefully Idaho’s next governor, regardless of his stance of wolves, will nominate Fish and Game Commissioners who know something professionally about wildlife management. Other than commissioner Gary Power, at the present they are simply politically prominent individuals with some interest in hunting and fishing. For example, the article states “Commissioners said they continue to hear from angry hunters who see wolves and wolf tracks, but few elk.” That is hardly good evidence (other than political evidence). Satisfied hunters do not contact the commission. Many hunters still need to adjust and hunt differently than before the wolf restoration. Wolves are a good scapegoat for poor hunting technique and bad luck. Finally, even if wolves were seriously depleting elk herds, it is essentially impossible for there to be more predators of elk (wolves) than elk.At lot depends on the next governor of Idaho.

The latest polls show Democracy Jerry Brady surprisingly ahead of long-time GOP office-holder Butch Otter. Hard to believe a Democrat could win in Idaho. Otter is running anti-wolf commercials in an effort to cover up his support for selling off the public lands. Brady hasn’t shown any support for wolves either, but his editorial record at the newspaper he runs, the Idaho Falls Post-Register, is that he comes down consistently on the side of conservation (a word closely and legitimately related to conservative).

Update. The Idaho Statesman (largest paper in Idaho) endorsed Brady from Idaho governor today. One of the things they liked was Brady’s willingness to talk about breaching the four navigation dams on the Snake River in Washington state that are killing off Idaho’s salmon runs. They also liked his support of CIEDRA and the Owyhee Initiative, both very controversial among conservationists. Nevertheless, Otter doesn’t support them because he thinks the development interests didn’t get enough!

Montana study shows bears are the biggest predator of elk calves

The study was conducted in the Garnet Range, east of Missoula, MT. However, a study reported over the last several years in Yellowstone Park showed the same thing, although there it was grizzly bears, not black bears.

If we look over at Idaho, one of the criticisms of Idaho Fish and Game’s “science” in their proposal to reduce the Clearwater wolf population by 80% for 5 years, is the fact they they are already heavily controlling the bear population there. Scientific observation requires that you change one variable (such as number of wolves) at a time, not several.

Read, Study reaffirms bears biggest predator threat to young elk calves. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Outdoor Writer.

As a sidenote, this study has a lot of other interesting aspects, including the effect of private lands on human hunting take.

Posted in Bears, Wolves, Wolves and prey. Comments Off on Montana study shows bears are the biggest predator of elk calves

In Idaho wilderness, researchers say wolves aren’t decimating elk

University of Idaho researchers Jim and Holly Akenson have been living at Taylor Ranch Field Station, deep in the Frank Church Wilderness, since at least 2000. It was in 2001 that I heard them present their first research results at our annual North American wolf conference.

While this article does not cover all of their research, it tells how they found wolves have changed elk behavior in the vast central Idaho Wilderness. Wolves have not decimated the elk. The elk are more wary now, and they don’t come out on the meadows as much.

With all of the recent burns in central Idaho, I would expect that the place to find elk is in the partial burns where, as in Yellowstone, the elk can see out but the progress of wolves is noisier and impeded by all the burned, deadfallen logs.

Hunters need to use new tactics and maybe move to another place in the wilderness. For example, a drainage that has a near total burn (no hiding cover for elk) may seem too dangerous for the elk to hang out in unless there is really a lot of new forage.

Here is the AP article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Changing weather patterns drive dramatic changes in Yellowstone Park wolf predation

‘ “I’m not looking at whether this is connected to global warming,” said Doug Smith, lead biologist and team leader of the Yellowstone wolf project. Yet wolf and prey behavior is different from what it was at the beginning of wolf reintroduction to the park in 1994, because the weather is different,” he said.’

Brodie Farquhar has really put together what Doug Smith has been saying for a number of winters about the plight of the bull elk, something totally different than back in 1995-6-7-8.

Read Farquhar’s article in the Jackson Hole Star Tribune.

This is important stuff, and not discussed widely in the wildlife management literature I have read. Wildlife managers, especially those in key positions, don’t consider all the variables. Often politics prevents them from doing so.

For example when you don’t consider these likely future changes, the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear looks plenty ready to be delisted as a threatened species. When you consider global warming and the spread of diseases like whirling disease and whitebark pine blister rust, the future of the Yellowstone Country bear looks grim.

When you look at many politicians, with their narrow focus of hanging onto power, and compare them to the wildlife managers I just criticized, it is all of us for whom the future looks grim.

Clearwater River area wolf killing plan withdrawn by State of Idaho

Although it hasn’t been officially announced, I understand the recent plan to reduce the wolf population by 80% for five years over a large portion of north central Idaho has been withdrawn. I regard this as one of the biggest victories in a long time.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission proposed it as a way of regenerating the large elk herds that have declined in the last 15 years in much of the upper Clearwater River drainages.

The plan was immediately met by massive negative public comments, both within and outside of Idaho.

It was probably obvious too, to the Fish and Game Commission, that the plan could not pass scientific muster. That is required until the wolf is completely delisted, although I think that science should play a much more important role in all aspects of wildlife management.

The sample size of wolf-killed elk was far too small to draw conclusions about the impact of wolf predation. There was no plan in place to monitor the elk population each year in project area as the plan was carried out. The rival hypothesis that the population decline of elk was due to habitat succession is well documented. It requires much evidence to shoot that hypothesis down. Idaho Fish and Game didn’t have it.

This will come up again when the wolf is delisted because the Commissioners are politicians of sorts, and they know that the appearance of doing something matters.

– – – –

Update Sept. 23. I was wrong believing that the Idaho Fish and Game Commission came to their senses and withdrew their scheme. Instead, the federal government rejected it, as this story from the AP by John Miller indicates.

Plan to control lots of Western Idaho wolf packs is greatly scaled back

Several days ago I posted “Wildlife Services plans major Western Idaho wolf removals.” A lot of people read it and 20 comments were posted. I have now closed that discussion thread.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of talking behind the scenes about this wolf control plan. Now the plan has been greatly scaled back.

I understand only the Danskin Pack, near Boise, will be wiped out. A few wolves will be removed from the other western Idaho wolf packs.

So good news!

Yellowstone wolf watching update

I get a lot of email about wolves in Yellowstone. Is this a good time to see them? NO

Dr. Doug Smith told me that the only viewing action is off and on in the Lamar and lower Slough Creek Pack and in Antelope Creek (that’s on the road between Tower Falls and Mt. Washburn).

The Slough Creek Pack is visible off an on in the Lamar Valley and the mouth of Slough Creek. The Agate Pack is moving around a lot, but they still pass through Antelope Creek.

All of the packs except one have left their rendezvous sites (Swan Lake has not yet). The pups are travelling with the full packs as they hunt.

Some have asked me about grizzly bears, wolves and the elk rut (which is in full swing). Both grizzlies and wolves know about the rut and to look for wounded bull elk. Unfortunately for wolf watchers much of the rut is up high away from roads, and packs like the Druids are still up high.

Outside Yellowstone Park, the elk hunting season (for humans) is on, and that means full bellies for wolves (and grizzlies) who know plenty about gut piles (their favorite) and about wounded deer and elk.

There seems to have been an escalation of small scale attacks on livestock by wolves lately (see the controversy on the planned Idaho Wolf Control). The elk hunting season helps stave this off by leaving plenty of food for hard pressed packs (this is the hardest time of the year for wolves to get food in settings where they have to chase down their prey).

Archery hunting season opens in Idaho, a great benefit for wolves

August though November is the toughest time for wolves. Their prey are fleet and strong. Wolf pups are big, hungry, and no help in the hunt. Wolf packs are nutritionally stressed and are most likely then to sample mutton or beef. The hunting season, however, is a gift for wolves — gut piles and wounded deer and elk — just the thing hard-pressed wolves need.

The archery hunt begins in Idaho Aug. 30. One reason why Idaho has more wolves than any other Rocky Mountain State is very likely its huge backcountry where various hunts go from late August to December.

Posted in Wolves, Wolves and prey. Comments Off on Archery hunting season opens in Idaho, a great benefit for wolves