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For 26 years, Carter Niemeyer worked for USDA Animal Damage Control in Montana, where he was a trapper, a district supervisor, and the West's wolf management specialist. He retired in 2006 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the federal wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho. The following is an excerpt from his new memoir Wolfer (BottleFly Press, 374 pages, $17.99). Niemeyer's speaking engagements are listed on his website. Once the shine of reintroduction had worn off, the troubles between people and wolves resumed, each living up to their worst traits. After returning from a trip to Albuquerque, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrestling with problems related to Mexican wolves, there was more trouble in the Ninemile: this time on a ranch in Huson, Montana, owned by actress Andie MacDowell.

An Excerpt from “Wolfer: A Memoir”

For 26 years, Carter Niemeyer worked for USDA Animal Damage Control in Montana, where he was a trapper, a district supervisor, and the West’s wolf management specialist. He retired in 2006 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the federal wolf recovery coordinator for Idaho. The following is an excerpt from his new memoir Wolfer (BottleFly Press, 374 pages, $17.99). Niemeyer’s speaking engagements are listed on his website.

Once the shine of reintroduction had worn off, the troubles between people and wolves resumed, each living up to their worst traits.

After returning from a trip to Albuquerque, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrestling with problems related to Mexican wolves, there was more trouble in the Ninemile: this time on a ranch in Huson, Montana, owned by actress Andie MacDowell.

Everybody in the valley knew the actress as Rose Qualley. She and her husband, Paul, and their three children lived there. Like a lot of celebrities who decide to buy a ranch in a remote part of the West, they were taken aback when wild animals showed up in their yard. I drove to the Qualley place, taking federal wildlife agent Rick Branzell with me.

Paul Qualley answered the door wearing only a towel. He was healing from a groin sprain, an old football injury, he said. He sat on the couch and told us about their calf that was killed right behind the house. The calf had frostbitten feet that were recently wrapped by a veterinarian. It couldn’t walk, Paul said, so it was an easy target.

This wasn’t the Qualleys’ first run-in with wolves. They’d purchased a guard dog to protect their children from the large predators that lurked in that area – mountain lions and wolves in particular. Wolves killed the dog, however, eviscerating it next to the kids’ swing set. The wolves’ most recent victim, the Qualleys’ 300-pound calf, lay covered with a tarp. I walked around the site to figure out what happened. Then I skinned the carcass to determine the cause of death. The wolves, I decided, had attacked the calf as it stood next to a salt block, then dragged it about 50 feet, leaving a distinct blood trail. It had been bitten under its front legs and had a hole ripped open in its flank. Massive hemorrhaging killed it. The calf was full of slashes and bites, but the wolves didn’t eat it.

The wolves hadn’t gone far. One with a radio collar ran in front of my truck as I was driving away that day. It was close enough that I had to slam on my brakes. I grabbed my camera and snapped a photo when it paused to look at me before trotting into the trees. I’d started developing a pretty good sense of what might turn into a public relations disaster and was trying to think of all the evidence I’d need in order to justify moving or killing wolves – especially on a celebrity’s ranch.

Paul Qualley wasn’t interested in moving or killing the Ninemile wolves, but Rose Qualley dialed me up soon after my visit and complained that wolves were getting awfully thick around her ranch.

“I think you ought to move them,” the actress said.

“We can sure consider that,” I told her. “But it’s going to be up to the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

She didn’t push it and I waited for her to call and complain again, but she didn’t. It was a time when we were cautious about killing wolves. We didn’t know they’d be the prolific, resilient creatures they’ve turned out to be – even though we’d been warned. They were endangered, and we were trying to conserve every one of them. As much as we dared, we put it on ranchers to remove the things that would tempt a wolf – like a crippled calf standing out in the open or an uncovered boneyard – so that wolves wouldn’t get set up. So many times dead livestock – and dead wolves – can be prevented.

But the need fizzled. The Qualleys had a wolf problem, but they weren’t eager to do much about it. Defenders paid them for the dead calf, although they probably didn’t need the money. It was the last I heard about wolves causing trouble there, although I did learn that the Qualleys moved away not long after the wolf incident. It’s rough country out there.

Excerpted with permission from Wolfer: A Memoir by Carter Niemeyer (introduction by Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer), copyright © 2010 by BottleFly Press.

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24 comments

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. Nature is ugly, and it should be up to ranchers to deal with it, not taxpayers. It’s high time the balance was restored.

  2. BOOK REPORT: A book of dubious puffery written to placate the wolf advocates. The people of Idaho that live amongst the wolves do not miss Carter or his one sided writing. He was not a public servant to those that were impacted by the wolves. The ranchers, the hunters, the business owners and the taxpayers welcome his riddance.

  3. Ponder, in my humble opinion, your comments show you are clearly uninformed on who Carter was as a federal employee and what he did during his tenure working on wolves and other predators for the ranching community in MT and ID.

  4. TLM, I see you on many sites whining about wolves. If you don’t like living with wildlife, move to another place that has no wildlife. You are a chronic whiner and I’m sick and tired of your whining. The big bad wolf is going to eat me. Yeah right. You make me sick!

  5. Ken, always the ranchers fault with you…… The wolf has been one of the biggest tax dollar sucking animals of all time! And you have the audacity to talk tax dollars. This high maintenance killer will never live well around people, ever! Evidence of how this killer effects Elk that live 100 % around wolves is plenty. Keep it up your postings are turning more people against the wolf!

  6. Reality,

    Perhaps if we did away with ADC/WS, and the ranchers were left to do it on their own dime, with all laws and guidelines followed esp the ones using public lands for grazing, then we could stop this “wasteful” spending. I know you were referring to Ken’s post, but read the book. This is one very short passage from the book.

  7. Let’s put it back on track, if anybody is interested. The book is a good read. If you like the outdoors, or are interested in hunting and trapping, you will like it. If you enjoy laughing out loud when you read, you will like it. If you like wolves, or are on the other side of the fence in the wolf controversy, there will be parts of “Wolfer” to which you will have both positive and negative reactions. I’ll hit two sides of the issue with three quotes from “Wolfer”.

    “But when it comes down to it, if wolves are really guilty of killing livestock-and that’s a big if- there is little anyone can do to stop them, short of killing them.”

    “The problem, ultimately , is not with wolves, but with those who believe that the only good wolf is a dead one. Inept government investigations and outright lies about the nature of these animals result in bogus statistics and ultimately, more dead wolves.”

    “All we need are people who are brave enough to think for themselves, and cherish those things that are still truly wild.”

    Give “Wolfer” a try. You might enjoy it.

  8. Immer Treues, My cousin runs cattle (some of her cattle) on public land part of the year. If you think that the money she pays the government is worth doing nothing with it….. I would like to know why. If it cost more money to implement the program than the administrative part of program needs an overhaul…not the fact that ranchers are running cattle.

    I will put the book on my list & see if I can find it somewhere…. A book you should read is Cat Urbigkit “Yellowstone Wolves” the author is one of the individuals that sued the government for introducing the non-native wolves from Canada. According to the book it’s a slam dunk fact that it was illegal.

  9. If it’s a slam dunk, why did Cat lose her courtcase? What you are too ignorant to understand is that ALL GRAY WOLVES are the same wolf. There are no differences between them. The “native” wolves were killed off and no one bothered to weigh them as they were killing them left and right. When you say non native wolves, you are basically saying we don’t want any wolves here. You and your kind don’t like wolves eating the deer, elk, etc that you feel only belongs to you hunters. I wonder if you whiners would make a big deal if they reintroduced moose or elk into your state. Somehow, I doubt you’d make a fuss about these animals if they were reintroduced. It’s clear that you are a predator hater. Gray wolves are all the same. These big bad wolves you think are out there are much smaller than you think, but that’s not going to stop you from coming up with these stupid claims and unproven claims of wolves.

  10. Tom Page, You’re misinformed! Judge Downes ruled in her favor! The introduced wolves “are hereby found unlawful and set aside” and “by virtue of the plan being set aside, Defendants must remove reintroduced non-native wolves and their offspring from the Yellowstone and central Idaho experimental population areas” was part of his ruling!! Further proceeding (and a higher court) in the case on what to do with the wolves that were already on the ground allowed them to stay!

    I was one of the many hunters in favor of wolves in Northern Wisconsin! But, when they start showing up in my back yard eating neighbors pets 35 minutes from Greenbay I started thinking that maybe they should start being controlled. Last year again they set records for dead, calves, dogs, horses, goats, etc. This high maintenance animal is also the biggest cause of mortality on the Clam Lake Elk herd here in Wisconsin….yes I do support that herd.

    I’m not a predator hater Tom …. I recognize that you are a hunter hater & are using this animal as a tool to further your anti-hunting agenda. Most true Wolf hugger’s recognize the limits of the wolf & are also calling for management!

    http://www.wolf.org/wolves/news/live_news_detail.asp?id=5894
    http://www.wolf.org/wolves/news/live_news_detail.asp?id=5895
    http://www.wolf.org/wolves/news/live_news_detail.asp?id=5896

  11. Reality

    The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado ruled that the wolves can Stay! They overturned the 1997 ruling by judge Downes to remove the wolves!

    As per you 3sites sited, I’ve read them and have no real disagreement with any of them, but I’ve said that before

  12. Tom, Apparently, either you are to Ignorant and/or you have the Anti-hunter blinders on. Your “ALL GRAY WOLVES are the same wolf” makes that cristal clear. If your statement is true why all the fuss about the Mexican Gray wolf – which is a sub-species of the gray wolf….. Canis Lupus Baileyi (Mexican Grey Wolf) and Canis Lupus irremotus (original Yellowstone wolf) differ very little from Canis Lupus occidentalis (North Western Canada & Alaska)…. yet you and you anti-hunting crowd found that it was more important to bring in CL occidentalis to further your anti-hunting cause! Reminent wolves in southern Saskatchewan & Montana/Idaho would have been a better choice for any kind of relocation.

    The biggest difference between the two was “average” size, size of the head, coloration, and the local wolves did not have the “pack” mentality that the illegal wolves have. We have now lost any resemblence CL irremotus because of anti-hunters like Tom Page!

  13. No reality, they lost that case. Again, “canadian” wolves means that they don’t want wolves there period. Has nothing to do with being a different subspecies. There is no wolf called the canadian gray wolf. It’s a gray wolf and they are all the same. They have all the same dna and they are all the same genetics wise. It’s ridiculous to claim thst gray wolves are non native when they have been in North American for far longer than humans. I don’t care if you were in favors of wolves or not. It’s no surprise that a lot of you hunters hate predators mainly because they eat the animals you wanna kill for survival. Many people expect people like you to hate wolves, so when you tell me you hate wolves, I’m not surprised nor is anyone else. Yes, they kill animals, so what reality? that is what wolves are supposed to do you god dam idiot! You’re a predator hater. Anyone can go back and find your comments on other sites, you are without a doubt a predator hater. People like you are the reason why people are becoming more anti-hunter. You hunters are in decline. Your disrespect for wildlife shows.

  14. reality, the simple truth is you hate predators. You blame them for everything. a million dollars says if they reintroduced elk or deer, there would be no fuss about that from you hunters. It’s only when predators are reintroduced and are eating the animals you wanna hunt, than is when you start to make a fuss. You clearly are hypocritical. Everyone knows that a good portion of you hunters hate wolves and other predators because you view them as competition. You would make no stink if elk or deer got reintroduced. People like you are the reason why more and more people are becoming anti-hunters. You hunters are in serious decline.

  15. We need wolves in every state, then people will see how this has gotten out of hand. They were to be introduced in to Yellowstone. Now the whole north west is Yellowstone, make every state Yellowstone, the tide will turn.

  16. Hunting is good, but wolves are evil incarnate? I don’t get it. Think it through.

    Throughout history, hunting cultures revered and respected the predators who hunt to survive. Throughout history, healthy game populations coexisted with predation. Read your Lewis & Clark just for starters.

    Plenty of today’s hunters are able to appreciate that the wolf and other predators are not threats to either hunting or their way of life.
    What’s up with hunters who want all the game for themselves, can’t bear the thought of some competition for prey, or reject longstanding predator-prey relationships?

  17. I don’t think that is the problem, Greek. Its not a FEW wolves around, its the thousands that some folks seem to want. Its the total disrespect for a group of people who make their living from the land. Its the loss of not just a few elk, but whole herds in some areas, as we are now witnessing in yellowstone, the lolo region of idaho, and the bitterroot. Its also having another major predator that has been known to stalk people. Its the loss of income from hunting tags, sporting goods stores, restruants and motels. You will be hard pressed to find a hunter who wants or thinks we could get rid of all of them. What we want is some control on the issue, especially in areas were elk and moose are becoming nonexistant.

  18. BigSky, looks like Tommy Boy moved on to bloody-er pastures. Everytime I walk into a Cabela’s I think of guys like Tommy, even there own kind try to pull the wool over each others eyes. Hunting and fishing are going nowhere…. what is decreasing is access to hunting land & elimination of habitat due to development. Cabelas is adding a new store in Springfield Oregon. The store will employ 150 to 200 people, and will occupy about 58,000 square feet in Springfield’s Gateway Mall. I guess Cabelas forgot to read Tommy’s memo.

  19. Nice job on the yotes, I’m sure the local ranchers appreciate the help. I know the cousins like the predator hunters/trappers. That’s a reality the Tommy boys can’t seem to comprehend.

  20. Big hal. I assure you I have a job and I also assure you I make much more than your rural welfare butt can comprehend. You keep living near welfare level while killing coyotes just to make a few bucks. I know you’re probably struggling. ha People like you and reality hate wildlife.

  21. And oh reality, what’s the matter little guy, are you going to cry knowing the fact that hunter numbers are decreasing? You hunters are nothing but worthless cowards!

  22. Just got back from the Outdoor Hunting show in Bozeman, sure alot of young people there, boys & girls, hunting in decline? Real Mike, I’ve read Big Skys comments, why are you pro wolfers so nasty. I’m confused by veggans, killing is ok as long as only wild animals do it? Everything comes from the land, veggans get a clue your very presents on this planet displaces wildlife somewhere. You’ve been the cause of death to at least one or more animals just being here. I’ve been around veggans for the last 10 yrs, working on their ranch, I don’t care if their veggans. But boy they don’t like the fact that I’m not veggan and attack me on it all the time. But I’m the drinking,smoking, meat eating worker that does ALL their work. Thats what is really going on here, veggans vs meat eaters. It’s nice that pro-wolfers comments get posted here unlike us on all pro wolf blogs, no 1st amendment right there.

  23. Aside from the basic controversy about wolves, the author takes a shot at Andie McDowell and her husband, and implies motives he couldn’t know — he spins it — I don’t like that. They did what they were supposed to do — pretty sure they lived there more than “several” years. And if he offered possibly moving them and after thinking about it they replied it might be wise, and he doesn’t DO anything (“waiting for her to complain (!) again” or whatever (weren’t they cooperating rather than complaining?). Isn’t Nine Mile Wolves a far better read on this subject?

  24. Oh Becky, Becky. You must be the president of Ms. MacDowell’s fan club. There’s no “shot” at MacDowell in this excerpt, and (if you know anything about wolf depredation compensation) no one “had” to report privately owned livestock (on private property) to the government. MacDowell, if you’ll reread, asks Niemeyer to move the wolves, not vice versa. She didn’t appear to be around during this incident – just her towel-clad ex. I’m sure this wasn’t written the way MacDowell’s PR person would have liked, but hey, that’s what you get when you go from Hollywood to pretending you’re a rancher just livin’ in the Wild West!