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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Lords of Nature presented by WWP at the Idaho Outdoor Association

Tonight, March 8 · 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Location
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

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

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

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”

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