When Elk Fly

Plate buyers unknowingly paying to test private livestock so that they won’t infect public wildlife.

Another subsidy to private Ag interests at the public expense.

Idaho Elk License Plate

Idaho Elk License Plate

Other states require testing of 100% of each private elk herd but the Idaho Legislature is requiring much less from Idaho’s elk growers and slipping money away from funds intended for the enhancement of wildlife. Idaho Senate Bill 1085 would require testing of “not more than twenty percent (20%) of testable animals” leaving elk, deer, moose, and other ungulates at risk of contracting chronic wasting disease, brucellosis or other diseases.

In Montana, citizens even passed an initiative making private elk operations illegal out of the well-founded fear that these operations would transmit chronic wasting disease to wild elk and deer.

S1085

Proceeds from elk license plates pay for testing private elk herds
Rocky Barker Voices.IdahoStatesman.com.

The effort to protect the livestock industry of Montana expands to elk.

Helicopter netting of elk as part of a brucellosis study

Yesterday the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks was out using a helicopter to capture elk with nets so that they could test them for brucellosis, attach radio collars, and implant vaginal devices intended to drop out when the elk give birth or abort a fetus. This is another example of how the livestock industry turns the table against wildlife so that they carry no burden.

Disease testing: Elk study aims to measure spread of brucellosis
By Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard.

Idaho senators fail in bid to remove federal protection for wolves.

The wolf bills are probably dead

I’ve rewritten this post as it appears that there is still a chance for a bill to move in the Senate.

The bill that would have removed wolves from the Endangered Species Act has failed and the bill which would have removed protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana introduced by Max Baucus of Montana was not successfully attached to the appropriations bill.

With so much else going on in Washington DC it appears that none of the bills to remove protections from wolves will be successful this congress but there is still a slight chance that the Baucus/Tester bill could move during the lame duck session of congress.

There is another dynamic here to take into consideration, the Baucus/Tester bill, which would require that Idaho and Montana maintain a number of wolves higher than the minimum of 10-15 packs, is opposed by many sportsman’s groups including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation because it gives wolves even some protection. If this bill is passed it would be considered by some as a win for Tester who is likely to face a very tough reelection battle in 2012. With that, it seems likely that Republicans will try to block it since their whole strategy of late has been to block anything that might benefit Democrats.

That being said, the Baucus/Tester Bill would still set a very bad precedent for the Endangered Species Act. It would set a precedent that would allow delisting of any species if it somehow becomes inconvenient for the powers that be or those who kick and scream the most.

Idaho senators fail in bid to remove federal protection for wolves.
Dan Popkey – Idaho Statesman

State of the species
Anti-wolf bills unlikely to pass before year’s end

By KATHERINE WUTZ – Idaho Mountain Express

Utah bill to delist wolves fails in Senate.
By Laura Lundquist – Magic Valley Times-News

Elk Baiting Poachers Fined, Lose Hunting Privileges.

Cumulatively they lost $9600 and 12 years of hunting privileges.

Another form of poaching that is probably more common than this one incident might indicate. This case shows how difficult it is to convict many poachers. It took two years to catch someone using the bait station after it was first discovered.

Is poaching becoming more commonplace because of the recession and could it be the reason for declines in elk? The recent study in Oregon indicates that the level of poaching is very high there. Could it be just as much of a problem in the neighboring states like Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming? What is going on here?

Elk Baiting Poachers Fined, Lose Hunting Privileges.
Idaho Fish and Game News Release

Two new cases of brucellosis in Wyoming.

Park County bison tests positive for brucellosis
By BOB MOEN – Associated Press.

Herd tests positive for brucellosis
By BRENNA BRAATEN – Cody Enterprise.

Posted in Bison, brucellosis, cattle, Elk, Uncategorized, Wyoming. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Two new cases of brucellosis in Wyoming.

Felony refiled in poaching case

Tony Mayer faces loss of hunting privileges and prison.

After one of the charges, a felony, had been dismissed due to improper procedure with rating the elk antlers on the Boone and Crockett scale, the charge has been refiled. Tony Mayer, the founder of an anti-wolf website, once again faces a lifelong hunting ban.

Felony refiled in poaching case.
Idaho Mountain Express

Posted in Elk, Poaching, Uncategorized. Tags: , . Comments Off on Felony refiled in poaching case

Important developments on the Brucellosis front.

Montana and Wyoming infections and capture of elk.

The last week has been filled with many stories about brucellosis and its impacts on wildlife and livestock.

First, Montana has announced plans to capture and test elk for brucellosis then place radio collars on those females that test positive to see where they go and where they give birth.

Montana plans to capture 500 elk for disease testing.
By MATTHEW BROWN – The Associated Press

This comes at the same time that cattle in Wyoming have tested positive for brucellosis which has caused the state to implement wider testing to determine if there are other cases nearby.

Cows in Park County cattle herd test positive for brucellosis exposure.
By JEFF GEARINO – Star-Tribune staff writer

Wyoming plans to test up to 3,000 cattle.
Associated Press

On top of all of this news come reports that domestic bison on Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch have tested positive for the disease.  These are not the bison from the Yellowstone quarantine program.

Brucellosis Found in Domestic Bison Herd.
Montana Department of Livestock

Brucellosis Found In Domestic Bison Near Bozeman.
cbs4denver.com

In response to the infections of brucellosis in previous years the state of Montana implemented a plan which called for increased surveillance in counties which surround Yellowstone National Park in an effort to spare the entire state of losing its brucellosis free status in the event that further infections occur.

Livestock officials set meetings on brucellosis rule
The Belgrade News

All too often, when infections are found, officials blame elk before there is any evidence to support the claim.  While it may be likely that elk are behind these incidents it is important to investigate other sources in an effort to determine whether other cattle may be the source as well.

One thing has been determined with regard to past incidents, bison are not to blame.

Records of Wolves in Idaho Predate Settlement

This was the title of an October 15 article I wrote for the Farm & Ranch supplement of the Idaho Falls Post Register, in rebuttal to an October 1 article by Heather Smith Thomas. Heather writes a weekly column in the F&R, usually about livestock management, but she ran several consecutive columns about hard times on the range for ranchers due to wolves. A lot of her verbiage consisted of interviews with ranchers, and however much we may disagree with the sentiments, still, that’s what they said. However, when she began issuing flat, unattributed statements that there were no wolves in central Idaho before white settlement (they followed the cows and sheep in, don’t you know), I couldn’t let it pass, and e-mailed the editor, Bill Bradshaw. “Six hundred words by Tuesday,” he said, and this was the result:

Heather Smith Thomas’ article “Wolf Losses Go Beyond Actual Kills,” (Intermountain Farm and Ranch, October 1) is wrong in its assertions that wolves did not live in central Idaho before white settlement, and that “the wolves came later, following sheep and cattle herds brought into this valley.”

She cites no sources for this claim, except to mention that during Lewis and Clark’s stay in Lemhi County in 1805, they observed little game and no wolves. Apparently, if the Corps of Discovery didn’t see it, it must not have existed.

Yet, a little research would have turned up first-hand accounts of both abundant big game — and wolves — in central Idaho long before white settlement.

In 1831, for instance, the American Fur Company trapper Warren Ferris saw the Big Lost River valley “covered with Buffalo, many of which we killed.” His party also killed 100 buffalo, and two grizzly bears, on the Pahsimeroi River.
The following summer on Birch Creek, “our slumbers were disturbed by the bellowing of a herd of bulls, near us; and by the howling of a multitude of wolves, prowling about the buffalo. We were approached by a formidable grizzly bear, who slowly walked off, however, after we had made some bustle about our beds.”

On August 24, “we followed the trail to the forks of Salmon River, passing several other [deserted] encampments, which were now occupied by bears, wolves, ravens and magpies, which were preying upon the yet undevoured particles of dried meat, and fragments of skins scattered around them….in the night we were serenaded by the growling of bears and wolves, quarrelling for the half-picked bones about them.”

A few days later, “eight miles into the mountains that separate the valley of Salmon River from the Big Hole….we killed a grey wolf which was fat, and made us a tolerable supper; we likewise wounded a grizzly bear…”

They ate another wolf in the Big Hole, then wounded a buffalo. When they found the carcass the next day, it was surrounded by “thirty or forty wolves.” They drove the wolves off and scavenged the remains, while the wolves waited “politely” for them to finish. Continuing on to the Beaverhead, they bagged elk, deer, and antelope.

Between 1827 and 1832, Hudson’s Bay Company factors Peter Skene Ogden and John Work led several trapping expeditions into central Idaho, where scores of hunters and their families found abundant bighorn sheep just outside the city limits of Salmon. They killed buffalo in the Lemhi Valley foothills, saw “incredible” herds of antelope near Copper Basin, and yet more buffalo in the Pahsimeroi Valley. They trapped thousands of beaver. On what is now the INEL, buffalo were so plentiful that one of Work’s expeditions left most of the meat “for the wolves and starving Snakes [Shoshone Indians].”

In the winter of 1831-32, Captain Bonneville’s American trapping expedition moved their camp from near Carmen to the North Fork, where they found “numerous gangs of elk” and large flocks of bighorn sheep, which were easy to hunt and delicious.

In 1834, ornithologist John Kirk Townsend accompanied an expedition to the Columbia River which passed through the Salmon River country. He described an abundance of almost tame “blacktailed deer” in the Salmon River mountains. And somewhere between Big Lost River and Camas Prairie, he noticed “a deserted Indian camp and “several white wolves lurking around in the hope of finding remnants of meat.”

Wolves are native to central Idaho. There’s no need to invent a past that never was, in an attempt to justify a point of view.

Heather has another article  up this morning in the Farm & Ranch (“Wolves Go Where the Food Roams“), in which she admits that yes, there were a few wolves, but they were smaller, different wolves. Then she starts making stuff up again: “There were no elk in central Idaho in recent history.”  Stay tuned as Round 2 begins!

New Brucellosis “Hot Spots” Found In Yellowstone Area

Is this going to result in a new power grab?

This seems to be what is behind the attempt to put elk under the purview of the Montana Department of Livestock. The article indicates that brucellosis is more prevalent on private lands where hunting is limited and elk congregate. I think the real question that should be asked is should livestock be the driving force behind wildlife management. Not only has this issue been devastating to bison, now it appears that the livestock industry is building up momentum for the same for elk. Anal probes for bull elk now too?

The hysteria surrounding brucellosis has allowed the livestock industry to fight even modest attempts at change in how it is managed. For several years the Montana Stockgrowers Association has fought attempts to create a zone around Yellowstone which would call for mandatory vaccination and greater testing of livestock by saying that it would be unfair to the ranchers who would be affected. In reality, the plan takes away from their ability to hold the brucellosis myth over the heads of the entire state by limiting the area affected by a brucellosis infection to just the zone around Yellowstone instead of the entire state. They don’t like this and they’re fighting.

Let’s face it. Brucellosis is here to stay. There is no way to rid the ecosystem of it now that it is an endemic part of the Greater Yellowstone, and keep in mind, it was brought here by the livestock industry in the first place. The same livestock industry that was partially responsible for, and benefitted from, the destruction of wolves, grizzlies, bison and Native Americans which inhabited the West.

New Brucellosis “Hot Spots” Found In Yellowstone Area.
MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

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
BY MATT VOLZ • ASSOCIATED PRESS

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

Future of elk hunting in Montana is in jeopardy

Former Montana FWP Employee Warns of Pending Legislation.

The bill would hand over management of elk to the Montana Department of Livestock, the same agency responsible for the continued war on bison. If you think this isn’t a threat to elk then you’re crazy.

Imagine helicopters and snowmobiles chasing elk out of the state or massive roundups of elk for a test and slaughter program.

Montana has brucellosis. Live with it.

Future of elk hunting in Montana is in jeopardy
BY VITO QUATRARO

Idaho poacher gets lifetime hunting ban

Idaho Falls, Idaho man killed 5 elk, left four-

He also goes to jail for 2 months, can’t possess a firearm in the field and pays a fine. But is the penalty all that tough?

Idaho poacher gets lifetime hunting ban. The Associated Press

Posted in Poaching. Tags: , . 64 Comments »

Is it legal to hunt Idaho wildlife by honing in on radio collars?

Yes, according to the IDFG.

Over on a popular, unnamed anti-wolf website there has been discussion of using radio receivers to track and hunt wolves and the frequencies of the radio collars on them so I asked the IDFG about this. I sent them the exchanges which have taken place there and, specifically, I asked “I would like to know if there is any language which prohibits the practice of hunting wolves, elk, or deer with the aid of radio tracking.”

The reply I received from Jon Heggen, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game:

There is currently no prohibition against the use of radio tracking equipment for the taking of big game.

Radio collar frequencies are considered [just] a trade secret and therefore their disclosure is exempt from Idaho’s public records law.

The problem is that the radio collars frequencies are not a secret. A quick search of documents obtained through public records requests does reveal radio frequencies of wolves and it is common practice to give ranchers receivers with the frequencies of collared wolves. Are we to believe, that with the animosity towards wolves and, frankly, other wildlife, that this information will remain only in the hands of those with the authority to have it?

This is not only a problem with wolves. There are hundreds of elk, deer, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, wolverines and many other species that are burdened by radio devices. It appears, based on my question and the answer given, that there is a gaping hole in wildlife protection that needs to be filled legislatively or through the commission. Is the state legislature or IDFG Commission going to fill this hole as quickly as they do when the profits of the livestock industry or outfitting industry are threatened or are they going to scoff it off because it might result in the death of a few more wolves and possibly other species?

Is the idea of “fair chase” a thing of the past?

Elk herd troubles Idaho neighborhood

Feeding that started in the ’70’s now attracts more than just elk

This is an interesting story about what feeding elk in the Elkhorn subdivision of the Wood River Valley has led to.

Elk herd troubles Idaho neighborhood
By Ariel Hansen – The Magic Valley Times-News

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.

Game management

Brucellosis is perpetuated by Wyoming feed grounds

Elk in Yellowstone © Ken Cole

Elk in Yellowstone © Ken Cole

“If we could get rid of feed grounds and reduce population, we could solve much of our brucellosis problem,” Tom Roffe said.

Game management
By DANIEL PERSON
Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal

Zone outside Yellowstone declared “brucellosis free” with greater restrictions inside the affected Yellowstone area or eradication of infected elk and bison herds? Who pays? Who benefits?

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

USDA wants two zones to reduce costs.

Livestock interests say that it will put Yellowstone area ranchers out of business.

According to the article, Livestock interests and Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife want eradication of the disease which means killing of entire herds of bison and elk.  This apparently is not totally correct as you can see from Bob Wharff’s statement below.  It still appears that some livestock interests favor eradication.

The Park Service says that “the only certain solution – destroying entire infected elk herds in Yellowstone and elsewhere – was not politically or practically feasible”

Wildlife advocates who oppose eradication/wildlife slaughter efforts were not consulted for the article.

Wyoming brucellosis group examines federal proposal
Billings Gazette

Yellowstone elk population up slightly

7,109 elk counted in the northern range.

20080530_2636.JPG
Elk grazing in Yellowstone
© Ken Cole

Each year elk are counted from a plane on the northern range of Yellowstone and the counts are affected by conditions on the ground and in the air.

It appears that the elk population is stabilizing from the drop seen over the last decade. At one time the estimate was 19,000 which was far more than was healthy for the ecosystem of the Park. Montana FWP allowed a late season hunt on the border of the Park near Gardiner where thousands of elk were harvested in an attempt at lowering the population.

Yellowstone elk population up slightly
Montana’s News Station

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 »

W&L Biologist’s Research Aims to Help Yellowstone Bison, Elk

Invasive species change soil ecology.

Besides making a few errors like saying that there were 3,000 buffalo killed last year rather than 1,700, and describing where the genetically pure buffalo are, this article is interesting and discusses some important issues which apply to a broader landscape.

W&L Biologist’s Research Aims to Help Yellowstone Bison, Elk
Washington and Lee University

Famous elk found dead just north of Yellowstone

#6, who lost his antlers to the Park Service for attacking cars and tourists, tripped over a fence and suffocated.

Famous elk found dead just north of Yellowstone.
AP Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Wyoming Game and Fish Slaughters Elk

Captures occurring at multiple sites.

192 elk were captured on Tuesday at the Fall Creek feedground of which 122 were females and 6 of those tested positive for exposure to brucellosis. Another 150 were captured Wednesday at the Muddy Creek feedground of which 60 were females.

State sends six elk to slaughter
By CAT URBIGKIT
Casper Star Tribune.

Jackson Hole Daily | Elk tests, kills to start

Wyoming Game and Fish continues fourth year of elk test and slaughter program.

Jackson Hole Daily | Elk tests, kills to start

The article points out that $815,000 has been spent and that seroprevalence has declined. This reduction may or may not be associated with past test and slaughter efforts and will likely be for naught if Wyoming persists with its feeding of elk during the winter which concentrates them and makes transmission more likely.

As pointed out by Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, this does not address the likely impending chronic wasting disease outbreak.

– – – –

Robert Hoskins wrote to me saying WY Game and Fish does not use an experimental design for this program. Therefore, you can’t conclude it is working.

This is a general problem in politically based studies of policy. Experimental or semi (quasi) experimental designs are rarely used. An experimental design includes one or more groups that get “the treatment” and a similar group or groups which is the “control” group, meaning no treatment. If both groups increase or decrease by about the same amount, the treatment has had no effect. Some other (some outside) factor was responsible. Regarding this program, we have no idea. Ralph Maughan

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Wolf population management plan not supported at Pocatello meeting

The Idaho wolf population management plan open house at Pocatello was a low key affair with about 45 people (excluding the Idaho Fish and Game staff). There were a lot of skeptical questions about the plan — how it was constructed, whether it would really maintain a large population of wolves, the length of the wolf hunting season, why the wolf tag price was so low, and I thought most interesting, the fact that the whole thing is based on the notion of conflicts between wolves and livestock and big game.

When Steve Nadeau, large carnivore coordinator for Idaho, said the wolf conflicts with livestock were on the rise with 200* dead sheep and 23 dead cattle (mostly calves) in 2006, it seemed no one was impressed that this was any sort of conflict level about which to base a hunting plan. When Nadeau replied that maybe 7 times as many cattle were really killed by wolves but not confirmed, it still didn’t seem to impress folks as very many cattle, and because Nadeau couldn’t point to any elk problems outside the Lolo and Selway, conflict between wolves and big games seemed like an odd way to base a plan. Nadeau then said the foundation of the plan (on conflict) was due to the earlier Idaho Wolf Conservation Plan.

I asked why all DAU’s (the wolf management areas) were slated for a decrease in wolf numbers or of stabilizing their numbers? Wouldn’t a balanced plan have some increase numbers goals too, especially in areas adjacent to SW Montana and Wyoming so that genetic interchange could take place?

A member of the audience and the interchange made it clear the plan was not supported by Defenders of Wildlife or the Idaho Conservation League, although both were among the “stakeholder” groups that participated. Nadeau said he assumed that when the wolf was delisted in March, Defenders would then sue.

Many other issues were raised, but neither the television station nor the newspaper did anything more that report what Idaho Fish and Game said. Note. The Idaho State Journal will be doing a followup on the Pocatello meeting.
To me, and I would guess most others, it was apparent the important decisions will be made at the March Idaho Fish and Game commissioner’s meeting, such as how large the first hunt will be — number of tags and whether the hunt will be general or limited to areas so they can test the effects and side-effects of a hunt before going for a statewide hunting season?

– – – –

Addition, Nadeau said he thought maybe having a wolf hunt would reduce the anti-wolf feeling among many. Those who got good at killing wolves, and he stressed how valuable a pelt is, would lobby for keeping more wolves around. Of course, if you want good pelts, you don’t hunt them August through November. The season should be December, January, Februrary

________

* Nadeau said the sheep figures were probably accurate because shepherds watch and know when a wolf has been in the sheep.