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

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Wyoming not apologetic for thwarting wolf plans

Though Wyoming caused relisting of the wolf twice, they have no plans to change-

The article interestingly enough says that Idaho’s Butch Otter and and Montana’s Brian Schweitzer haven’t bothered to ask Wyoming’s retiring Governor Freudenthal whether Wyoming intends to reconsider.” I’m not sure what to make of that.

Wyoming not apologetic for thwarting wolf plans. Ben Neary Associated Press

Hunting is just one way to manage wolf packs. Idaho and Montana both use non-lethal techniques too.

The use of non-lethal aversive and proactive techniques with wolves is discussed in this article in Plenty Magazine. Story by Nicole Scarmeas. I hope both states continue to use non-lethal because the case of the Buffalo Ridge Pack in Idaho seemed a bad omen.

Then there’s Wyoming . . . such a sad case!

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News on Montana wolf management

News From Montana
by Salle Engelhardt, vice president
Wolf Recovery Foundation

On December 9, 2007 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reconvened the original wolf management plan citizen advisory council in order to discuss their views on parameters for a future season on wolves after delisting takes place.

The State of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks functions on a biennial calendar. Therefore, in order to establish all hunt regulations for all game animals for the next two years, sessions during the next several weeks will be held to accomplish this objective. Since wolves are, currently, anticipated to be delisted this coming February, the agency is mandated by the legislature to establish the regulations for them as well.

Ten of the original members attended two sessions held in Helena on Dec. 9 and 10. Public comment was allowed during the official all-day session on the tenth. The session on the ninth was an evening event during which the committee was briefed on the current status of wolves in Montana and some discussion concerning the other two states involved in the reintroduction of the specie, Idaho and Wyoming. Discussion and MTFWP presentation by Carolyn Sime, state wolf program director, included a comparison of what they thought would happen back when the state’s management plan was developed with what is known at present.
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Natural Resources Defense Council criticizes 10j rule; has TV ad

This AP story by Matthew Brown appeared in the Seattle Times and many other newspapers. Control plan labeled threat to survival of wolf population. It is about the proposed new 10j rule for state wolf management prior to total delisting.

The NRDC also has a national television ad running beginning today (not just a YouTube video). Here is a link to the ad via YouTube.

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