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Three of Montana’s conservation groups recently sponsored a showing of the new Greenfire documentary “Lords of Nature” at the Roxy, followed by a two-hour panel discussion that included Montana’s Wolf Coordinator, Carolyn Sime. The evening served to put in perspective the current controversy over the wolf hunt in Montana and Idaho, which was the subject of a court hearing just a few days earlier. As the Montana Director for the Western Watersheds Project, one of the plaintiffs in that suit, it seems to me that this element of perspective is sorely lacking from Montana’s plans to manage wolves, though I certainly appreciated the recent comments from Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commissioner Ron Moody in NewWest. While I am doing my best to keep an open mind on this subject, and appreciate the role sportsmen continue to play in wildlife conservation, I am puzzled by the seeming unwillingness of Montana to look to Minnesota for guidance on this critical issue. Minnesota is about half the size of Montana, with a population of over 5 million people, and currently has three times as many wolves. It has almost as many hunters as our entire population (half a million), and derives 3.6 times as much income from livestock as we do. The North Star state also has a lot more experience dealing with wolves than we do, as their wolves were never exterminated. The contrast in attitudes between Minnesota’s hunters, ranchers, and wolf managers and our own is striking.

Wolf Wisdom: Why Can’t Montanans Learn from Minnesota?

Three of Montana’s conservation groups recently sponsored a showing of the new Greenfire documentary “Lords of Nature” at the Roxy, followed by a two-hour panel discussion that included Montana’s Wolf Coordinator, Carolyn Sime. The evening served to put in perspective the current controversy over the wolf hunt in Montana and Idaho, which was the subject of a court hearing just a few days earlier.

As the Montana Director for the Western Watersheds Project, one of the plaintiffs in that suit, it seems to me that this element of perspective is sorely lacking from Montana’s plans to manage wolves, though I certainly appreciated the recent comments from Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Commissioner Ron Moody in NewWest. While I am doing my best to keep an open mind on this subject, and appreciate the role sportsmen continue to play in wildlife conservation, I am puzzled by the seeming unwillingness of Montana to look to Minnesota for guidance on this critical issue.

Minnesota is about half the size of Montana, with a population of over 5 million people, and currently has three times as many wolves. It has almost as many hunters as our entire population (half a million), and derives 3.6 times as much income from livestock as we do. The North Star state also has a lot more experience dealing with wolves than we do, as their wolves were never exterminated. The contrast in attitudes between Minnesota’s hunters, ranchers, and wolf managers and our own is striking. Their ranchers have learned to appreciate and live with wolves, viewing them as just one of many obstacles to living off the land and taking all necessary steps to minimize depredation. Minnesota hunters recognize that wolves make elk and deer more difficult to find, but respond by simply becoming “better hunters.”

In general, Minnesotans actually seem pleased to live in a state where the top predator still roams free, making Montana and Idaho wolf haters sound like scared, ignorant city-slickers by comparison. Why do so many people that live around here want to turn this beautiful, wild landscape into something between a zoo and a game farm, with each animal in its place? I may not have been born here, but at least I am man enough to embrace the wildness of Montana (along with many of my hunter friends, by the way), and bold enough to imagine an even wilder landscape in a world that is simply becoming too tame everywhere else.

Minnesota’s wolf managers are committed to a 5-year public outreach process once their wolves are de-listed by the feds to determine if and how to conduct a wolf hunt. Imagine that! When Carolyn Sime was asked why Montana and Idaho are in such a rush to kill wolves, with the whole point of de-listing seemingly to get on with the hunt, her feeble response was that the landscape is different here. While that may certainly be true of our political landscape, our larger, less populated natural landscape would seem to undercut her point. In court, Montana emphasized that tolerance and acceptance of wolves was a crucial element of wolf management. But when Sime was asked what portion of her budget was devoted to public education and outreach, her response was that there seemed to be a lot of opinion in the question! This may explain why so many of our hunters are convinced that wolves are decimating elk populations, while the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently revealed that populations are stable.

There are legitimate concerns over whether Montana can have a controlled hunt in an environment of misinformation and irrational animosity toward wolves. Assuming that trophy killing of a recovering species is justified in the first place, our wildlife managers must lay the proper groundwork for such a hunt. That includes changing prevailing attitudes so that wolves are respected for their critical role in our shared natural environment. Did you know that without wolves and cougars, trout streams lose the streamside vegetation they need to prosper?

Montana also emphasized in court that “all species fit together”, the wolf was an “integral part” of the ecosystem, and thus wildlife management must include them. If that is true, how can Montana pretend to manage wolves in an integrated wildlife approach while simultaneously excluding one of their principal prey species, the bison? If we were truly interested in taking an ecosystem approach to managing wolves, we would allow bison to re-colonize public wildlands up and down the front-range and into eastern Montana, which in turn would reduce conflicts between wolves and livestock. And according to recent scientific studies by independent experts, wild bison present almost no risk whatsoever of transmitting brucellosis to livestock. So this kind of balanced wildlife management approach is timely.

Montana seemingly has a long way to go before we are ready to manage wolves like grown-ups. We could start by listening to our elders in Minnesota.

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  1. Ranching in North America was initially an undertaking of the Landed European Aristocracy. It operated from an assumption of privilege and still does–even the grubbiest operation assumes its function is preeminent.
    Anything presumed by those lords of the land to be risky to them is treated not only suspiciously; but with antagonism. Thus bison leaving Yellowstone are captured and sent off to slaughter–or slaughtered on sight; and coyotes, big cats, and now wolves are targeted for extinction because the rightwingcrazies worry almost as much about other species as they do about Communists or Islamics..!

  2. Excellent article. I’ve hiked across Isle Royale in Lake Superior, and paddled in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota, both times hearing wolf howls at night. We in Montana truly have a lot to learn from our midwestern brethern on how to coexist peacefully with wolves.

    -Jon Cheever

  3. Thank you Mr. Woodbury for your simple minded, offensive, and down right stupid bit of drivel. None of what you said about MN hunter opinion is true and you know it
    I would invite the readers of this site to pay a visit to Mr. Woodburys site to get a clear picture of Mr. Woodburys and Western Watersheds true agenda.

  4. “I may not have been born here, but at least I am man enough to embrace the wildness of Montana…”

    Interesting stuff here, but these two points where like speed bumps in the story, for me.
    Where you were born doesn’t matter. We natives tend to think our opinions of local public issues carry more weight than those of newcomers, and that’s not the case.
    And claiming in writing to be “man enough” to do anything..well that’s just silly.

  5. I have just applied to become a transfer at the University of Montana to study Wildlife Biology. I came upon this article while researching Missoula as I have a special interest in wolves..but honestly, the issue at large has nothing to do with wolves, and nothing to do with Montana. If people (all people, in all the corners of our planet) don’t start making the right decision on a day to day basis instead of going against each other because of “motives” then there soon won’t be any issues of this kind to even discuss…all the animals will be dead! Followed soon, I’m sure, by us, because if we can’t get it together and co-exist peacefully with them, if we destroy what is left, what hope could we have for our own survival? Its not about motives, this is NOT a political issue. Its a moral issue (kind of like health care). Go watch any nature documentary and you will soon learn that almost, if not all, animals on the planet are being encroached upon by humans, and quickly. Its like a noose that gets tighter and tighter. Its up to the individuals in society to be enlightened enough to know the issues, and make the right choices for the betterment and survival of our world.

  6. Nothing like showing one’s total ignorance of the subject matter by trying to “man up” to the audience.This “manly man-writer” needs to do some homework. Total pap.

  7. Tom, thanks for this good article. You make several excellent points in contrasting Minnesotans and Montanans general attitudes toward wolves. I lived in rural northern Wisconsin for about a decade, and still own 120 acres there, in an area with a healthy wolf population. There were some livestock operations in that area, but conflicts with wolves were minimal. Of course, because of intensive forest management practices, the deer and beaver populations were large, so the wolves were generally well fed, and therefore had no need to consider livestock.

    In my view, most of the anti-wolf arguments are exaggerated or not based on facts, but they still create the hostile attitudes. The remedy is indeed better public education. A more informed and tolerant populace is what we need to better co-exist with other species and provide a sustainable environment for all of us.

    To Margo: I appreciate your comments. Good luck with your studies. When you graduate, I hope that you find a job where you can apply both your knowledge and obvious passion toward improving public education and attitudes on wildlife and environmental issues. The future belongs to the younger folks, and I hope that they can fix many of the problems created by my largely myopic and selfish generation.

  8. Where are the elk in Minnesota? The sucuss in deer hunting is very high there. The deer pouplation is so high in Ottertail county that two years you couldd get a permit to take five deer.

  9. Montanan for Montana

    Tom, if you think they do things so much better in Minnesota then why aren’t you living there?

    “I may not have been born here, but at least I am man enough to embrace the wildness of Montana”

    Ever consider that part of the reason Montanans don’t like newcomers to the state is that we get sick of people moving here and then telling us how to do things?

    As far as being man enough to embrace the wilderness goes…how much time have you spent in the wilderness in Montana, Tom? I’m not talking about day hikes or camping in a maintained campground. How many times have you packed into the Bob Marshall? How many times have you hiked into Hollowtop? How many times have you spent ten days on a horse and camping in a wall ten on Forest Service land while you were rounding up cattle to go to the feed lot? Have you ever worked on a ranch? Have you ever been in the wilderness?

    Seriously Tom, what makes you such a man? Do you really think that opposing the hunting of wolves makes you a man? Give me a break. You make a lot of crappy comments here about people in Montana, but I don’t think you have any real experience living the lifestyle that you are so eager to make judgments upon.

    Please, go back to Minnesota and tell the “elders” that what has worked there won’t necessarily work in Montana. Montana has very different geography, population densities, demographics, animal species, etc. from Minnesota that make it a very different ball game. Unfortunately Tom, I am sure that none of this matters to you as you have already set your mind on the idea that “Minnesota’s way” is better and that it is your duty to educate the poor ignorant Montanans on proper wildlife management. However, the fact is that Montana does a fine job governing itself and that the last thing we need are a bunch of tourists coming here and trying to make changes.

  10. Montana’s biggest problem is the narrow-minded, narcissistic chauvinism which leads its residents to reject any criticism.
    People who mark themselves as manly or manful because they are able to kill members of other species with high-powered rifles are not for that capability admirable.

  11. Montanan: I’ve backpacked into every wilderness in Montana, in Idaho, in Colorado, as well as some in northern California, Washington, and Oregon. Usually for a week, sometimes two, and always on foot. I choose to live in Montana because it has the greatest potential for man and beast sharing the most beautiful and least spoiled montane landscapes in America, if not the world. I intentionally threw in the “man up” language in this piece because I am struck by the contradiction between Montanan’s image of themselves and their irrational fear and hatred toward wild things like bison and wolves, and I wanted to strike that nerve. Not because I necessarily see myself as “manly”, but because relative to someone who is afraid of wolves, grizzlies, or bison for crying out loud, I definitely am. It is interesting that people read this piece and conclude that I am opposed to wolf hunting, or hunting in general. I have tons of respect for those who hunt to feed their families, much moreso than those who mindlessly buy factory-farmed beef or take their family to McDonald’s! While I do question hunting animals with no intent to eat them, I also recognize that at some point it MAY be necessary to “regulate” wolves through hunting, which is preferable than the way they are “regulated” today (i.e., by Ed Bangs and his black helicopters). I just would like to see us first actually try integrated ecosystem management (e.g., bison), and lay the proper foundation for a hunt with public outreach and education. As for the attitudes of Minnesotans, I guess all I can say is watch “Lords of Nature” for yourself, and then tell me I’m mis-characterizing them.

  12. Montana is great because it is Montana and not Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, etc. Why else do people keep coming here? Leave it alone and let Montanans manage Montana.

  13. Tom – Bravo. Well said.

    Mad – Being born in Montana does not give one innate knowledge as to how to best manage wolves, forests, wildlife, etc. There are plenty of people in Montana who are very knowledgeable on these topics but there are also plenty of people elsewhere we can learn from. They can probably learn from us too. It is that kind of openness that allows humans to advance. It is pure ignorance to play the “I’m a native… don’t tell me what to do” card.

  14. “I may seem cowardly and fatalistic, but I am simply a researcher of our fauna, and I feel it is my duty to bring to attention the dangerous error made in leaving this harmful species to freely multiply. What can be done, if not to destroy it, at least to limit its propagation? It seems to me that the new law on the protection of game and on the practice of hunting (24 June 1923 n. 1420) and the Regulation for its execution (September 24 1923 n. 2448) have protected this damaging carnivore too much. In fact, this new law permits the slaughter of birds for over seven months a year, from August 15 to March 31, yet it prohibits seven month hunting of vermin, only permitting it from August 15 to December 31! It rightly prohibits rake hunting in groups of more than five; it rightly prohibits hunting in snow, but it unintentionally prohibits wolf hunting, which works only when hunters are in large groups, when one can follow carnivore tracks and surround themselves in the woods where [wolves] seek shelter. The law rightly prohibits the killing of game by those not bearing arms, but in this way, it prohibits the killing of wolves by non-hunting peasants, who find themselves more often than not in more favourable conditions to find, track and strike [at wolves]. One can argue that in the law, there is article 42, which speaks of a special permit which the Ministry can grant with set conditions, but one must know that wolves (ever nomadic and stray, especially in the winter) do not wait for the blessing of the Authorities and when the permit arrives, they are already out of range for the hunters regularly granted authorisation to kill them. Our old hunting code not only permitted the killing of wolves all year round, but it granted the killers a monetary reward which at the time was considered substantial: 5 ducati would be granted for a wolf, 6 for a she-wolf and 8 for a pregnant she-wolf. The legislator has done wrong in not permitting the rewarding of beneficial killing, while the autonomous board of the Abruzzo National Park has done well, being conscious of the serious damage wolves are capable of against any game, especially against our chamois***, the persecuted survivor of a destroyed fauna. The said board has in fact established a sum of L. 150 for every killed wolf. If the killing is not rewarded, the wolf will continue to easily multiply, for many factors are in its favour:”………

    For all these reasons, in order to avoid that the wolf, once a frightening historic memory, should return as a living and palpitating reality; to avoid that it freely continues to multiply, insistent in destroying livestock and making attempts on human life with impunity, I am obligated to ask S.E**** Minister of National Economy that at every time, in every location and to any person be permitted the killing of the wolf and that there be given always an adequate monetary reward which encourages everyone to kill it with any method at their disposal.

    The above is actually taken from a report written by Doctor Giuseppe Altobello, (An Enemy to Fight: The Wolf) a wildlife biologist in Italy, in 1924. Having lived through or been witness to recorded history of the terrible and trying times of years ago in dealing with the wolf-human encounters, Dr. Altobello seems anxious to do something about a growing wolf population before things get out of hand again.

    This is another account of the absolute need to strictly regulate and manage wolf populations here in the United States.

  15. elfman,

    You are completely backwards. Why would people move to Montana if things were so great where they are coming from? Montana is just fine without any outside help. Thanks for coming to Montana…….now please leave.

    I watched the video and agree with half of what was said. The northern herd was way overpopulated and there were massive die-offs over the winters. Not a pretty site to see. The wolves have been great to have around but it’s their turn to be managed which was the plan all along. Why all the crying now? Nobody is going to harm them in the Parks in and around Montana. They will be just fine. So let the games begin.

  16. Mad – You may wish to read my post again. I made no reference to people moving to Montana or the quality of life offered by places other than Montana. “Thanks for coming to Montana… now please leave!” <-- What is the reason for such angry and confrontational language?! There is nothing you can do about people moving here anymore than the Indians could do anything to keep white man from moving here just a few generations ago. You might as well just accept it and let go of that anger. It will do you great harm in the long run. The gist of my post was to suggest that those who wish throw the "native" around might do better to keep their minds open and quit acting like they know everything there is to know about everything. This applies to each and every state and country in the world. We always have room to learn something from others. Why so resistant to be open to the opinions and input from the residents of a State that has lived with wolves continuously for much longer than Montanans?! Is that really such a ridiculous idea? By the way, I have lived in Montana for 17 years and I have no intention of leaving but I appreciate the fact that you used the word "please" when asking me to leave. You get a gold star for manners.

  17. Yes, yes, I remember when everyone left Montanans alone to manage Montana. We created Anaconda and the pit in Butte and Missoula was called “Stump Town” and entrepreneurs discovered a way to use the vermiculite up in Libby. Boy, those were the days.

  18. The Results of Natural Regulation in YNP

    From 1967 until wolves were released in the Park in 1996, YNP officials relied on “natural regulation” to reduce elk populations and reverse decades of habitat damage. Instead, elk populations in both the Northern Herd and the Central Herd steadily increased for the next three decades despite increased damage to YNP forage.

    In the absence of top carnivores or other controls such as regulated hunting, large herbivores, including elk and moose, will continue to multiply until they outgrow the ability of vegetation to provide adequate nutrition (exceed carrying capacity). When this continues, despite natural controls that “kick in” with both herbivores and their forage, the animals are described as “density dependent.”

    When top carnivores such as wolves are added to halt the inevitable long-term damage to the ecosystem, the ultimate result (unless predator density is carefully controlled) is depleted prey populations that remain well below the carrying capacity of their range. Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other. …

  19. Minnesota has intensive forest and farm management, which provides a constant interruption of the seral cycle of trees, and in turn encourages a large population with great reproductive success in whitetail deer. Fewer bears and cougars to predate the deer means that wolves have a dependable and constant supply of food, and are not driven to livestock as the last resort. Minnesota is flat and game does not go up and own with the seasons as it does in a mountainous place like wild Montana, bringing wintering animals close to domestic livestock seasonally. In Minnesota deer and livestock are co-mingled to some extent all year long, and some livestock has cover in buildings in times of severe cold.

    In Montana, the wolf and its food have wildland habitat and little land management, as now the preferred alternative is to let the wildlands burn which does not provide full time habitat as lands recover and then become a poor food provider to prey animals over time. The habitat, due to the much larger population on half the acres, is constant and dependable in Minnesota. The land ethic, ownerships, and value is far different in Minnesota than Montana. The very thing that provides for the wolf in Minnesota, is litigated and fought at every step in Montana, and that is logging and agriculture, water impoundments, and managed woodlots.

    The effort to take man entirely out of the picture in an environment on land shaped by human use and landscape altering practices for thousands of years is not working, and the wolf results for Minnesota and Montana clearly delineate those differences. Live with it or change it.

  20. Thank you, Wolfist, for making an excellent argument for the need to maintain the presence of wolves in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Prior to the reintroduction of the wolf, YNP was was one of the most overgrazed, abused pieces of real estate in the country from a range management perspective. I think it could stand to have a period of rest from the fact that the carrying capacity of the range was exceeded for so many years. The predator population will balance out eventually.

    I am not arguing against wolf management outside the park… In fact, I am not upset in the least that the wolf hunt is going to occur. It will help to keep the wolves wild. I love the fact that they are here. Beautiful creatures.

  21. Mr. Woodbury, elf, et al, why don’t you just come clean on this thing?
    You want the landscape to be as it was before white settlement…not a bad idea, as far as it goes. Now comes the rub…you want the gov. to pass leg. that will do this for you much like the gov. before you did to those on the landscape at that time.
    If you want it, pay for it. Everybody has their price. In other words, put your money where you mouth is instead of in lawyers fees. I’m sure you trust fund babies can come up with the cash. Oh wait! Use the money the suckers sent you. It will take some thought, like, how the hell are you going to pay for the failed banks, empty schools, & med care for the displaced people. Oh wait, here comes another great idea! Put them on reservations!Grow up or shut up.

  22. Elf, your welcome, you could help your wolves by becoming concerned for their well being due to over predation of their very own prey base. The very science which supports wolf reintroduction also points out a few flaws; perhaps you missed the hint above;

    When top carnivores such as wolves are added to halt the inevitable long-term damage to the ecosystem, the ultimate result (unless predator density is carefully controlled) is depleted prey populations that remain well below the carrying capacity of their range. Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other. …

    Depleted prey populations that remain well below carrying capacity of their range.

    This means depleted to far below that carrying capacity, from my perch, way to far below that carrying capacity.

    And as the video shows, other top predators are forced out as well, namely the Grizzly.

    Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other.

    Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other. …

    Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other. …

    They also go for livestock on or off public lands, results are bad for the predator.

    They stalk towns for pets, trash, hand outs from feeble minded fools, and in other parts of the world, humans. Results are bad for the predator..

    Is this clear enough for you ? Management is way to late in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Way to damn late..

    The following biologists are looking real good to me right now. Doctor Giuseppe Altobello, (An Enemy to Fight: The Wolf) 1923-24. Dr. Val Geist. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Harry Merriam, Geophysical Institute writer Ned Rozell, Frederick H. Wagner, Author Will Graves. Cliff White, Parks Canada, Banff, Alberta. The studies by those people are becoming more apparent as time goes on. At least to some of us ignorant hunter types.

    “How delicate is the balance of nature?” (National Wildlife 23(1):54-59) David Mech admitted that his brief research at Isle Royale as a graduate student “helped fix the balance-of-nature idea in the public mind.” But he also wrote, “During two decades of wolf research in northern Minnesota and on Isle Royale in Michigan, I have learned that far from always being ‘balanced,’ ratios of wolves and prey animals can fluctuate wildly – and sometimes catastrophically.”

    Mech also described how protected wolves had destroyed the once famous white-tailed deer herd in northeast Minnesota during severe winters in the 1960s while he studied them. When the wolves ran out of deer in that area and turned to killing moose, Minnesota authorities closed the entire state to deer hunting in 1971. …

    Durward Allen is losing credibilty. His 1979 book about the wolves of Isle Royale, “Wolves of Minong:Their Vital Role in a Wild Community,” disguised the stark reality of the Isle Royale ecosystem with flowery phrases.

    Wolves staying in Wilderness is a fantasy.

    For anyone who has not worked on this Isle Royal Study personally it is nothing more than a paper trail for the researcher from afar. We must take the word of these biologists for fifty years. We have a land locked scenario, no hunting, no homes, lots of solitude, which are all positives for this fifty years study, we obviously do not have this luxury in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, with wilderness, and National forest lands surrounded by rural private property, and heavy public lands use, by ranchers, hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers, legal trails for dirt bikes, four wheelers, and of course hunting seasons. Also the wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming are distracted from their real prey, elk, deer and other small game, by domestic livestock, which is far more easier for them to kill. At Isle Royal if there never has been human interference in the balance between predator and prey, wolves and moose, we must take others word for this, no one but Interior Department scientists themselves no this truth or deception. If the wolves and Moose truly are a success story, then the answer for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, are no public lands grazing, no hunting seasons for man, and less rural private lands development, in fact a de ruralization needs to occur, this part is economical, as the economy continues it’s downward slide more private lands can be purchased by environmental groups who can afford it, in the area’s in question concerning wolf, elk, deer habitat, and we see the fight to stop public lands grazing, and eventually economics will break the ranchers and force them to submit to this agenda. And then there is the inbreeding problem for the wolves which is being recognized at Isle Royal, which is apparently the only close example of and experiment of predator prey balance, wolves and moose, which must be taken in good faith that no manipulation by man has occurred in this scenario, as in Moose being added into the mix, and or wolves being culled, without public knowledge. Knowing full well who is in charge of the Interior Department via treatise I suspect every thing involved here. The American people think they are in charge of this institution, the truth is that is not the case at all, the United Nations in fact is in control of the Interior Department and has been for decades.

    Bone Deformities Linked To Inbreeding In Isle Royale Wolves

    Wolves, Moose Struggling On Isle Royale National Park, USA

    If it has been written about wolves and eco systems, no matter the languages it is in or what part of the world it has taken place in, I own it.

    There never has been a perfect example of wolves maintaining a balance of anything. EVER.

  23. 1) Within the pack’s territory prey is becoming scarce not only due to increased predation on native prey animals, but also by the prey evacuating home ranges en mass, leading to a virtual absence of prey. Or wolves increasingly visit garbage dumps at night. We observed the former on Vancouver Island in summer and fall 1999.

    Deer left the meadow systems occupied by wolves and entered boldly into suburbs and farms, causing – for the first time – much damage to gardens. At night they slept close to barns and houses, which they had not done in the previous four years.

    The wintering grounds of trumpeter swans, Canada geese and flocks of several species of ducks were vacated. The virtual absence of wildlife in the landscape was striking.

    2) Wolves in search of food began to approach human habitations – at night! Their presence was announced by frequent and loud barking of farm dogs. A pack of sheep-guarding dogs raced out each evening to confront the wolf pack, resulting in extended barking duels at night, and the wolves were heard howling even during the day.

    3) The wolves appear in daylight and observe people doing their daily chores at some distance. Wolves excel at learning by close, steady observation [1]. They approach buildings during daylight.

    4) Small bodied livestock and pets are attacked close to buildings even during the day. The wolves act distinctly bolder in the actions.

    They preferentially pick on dogs and follow them right up to the verandas. People out with dogs find themselves defending their dogs against a wolf or several wolves. Such attacks are still hesitant and people save some dogs.

    At this stage wolves do not focus on humans, but attack pets and some livestock with determination. However, they may threaten humans with teeth exposed and growling when the humans are defending dogs, or show up close to a female dog in heat, or close to a kill or carrion defended by wolves. The wolves are still establishing territory.

    5) The wolves explore large livestock, leading to docked tails, slit ears and hocks. Livestock may bolt through fences running for the safety of barns. When the first seriously wounded cattle are found they tend to have severe injuries to the udders, groin and sexual organs and need to be put down. The actions of wolves become more brazen and cattle or horses may be killed close to houses and barns where the cattle or horses were trying to find refuge. Wolves may follow riders and surround them. They may mount verandas and look into windows.

    6) Wolves turn their attention to people and approach them closely, initially merely examining them closely for several minutes on end. This is a switch from establishing territory to targeting people as prey. The wolves may make hesitant, almost playful attacks biting and tearing clothing, nipping at limbs and torso. They withdraw when confronted. They defend kills by moving toward people and growling and barking at them from 10 – 20 paces away.

    7) Wolves attack people. These initial attacks are clumsy, as the wolves have not yet learned how to take down the new prey efficiently. Persons attacked can often escape because of the clumsiness of the attacks.

    A mature courageous man may beat off or strangulate an attacking wolf. However, against a wolf pack there is no defense and even two able and armed men may be killed. Wolves as pack hunters are so capable a predator that they may take down black bears, even grizzly bears [2]. Wolves may defend kills.

    The attack may not be motivated by predation, but be a matter of more detailed exploration unmotivated by hunger. This explains why wolves on occasion carry away living, resisting children, why they do not invariably feed on the humans they killed, but may abandon such just as they may kill foxes and just leave them, and why injuries to an attacked person may at times be surprisingly light, granted the strength of a wolf’s jaw and its potential shearing power. –Geist

  24. In this small area of Northern Italy, over 400 cases were recorded of attacks on humans by wolves. The evidence compiled led researchers to reach certain conclusions, which helps us to better understand wolf behavior. Here are some valuable data that closely follows that of Dr. Geist.

    It has also been possible to identify two very distinct kinds of aggression against man by wolves:

    A) When the attacks have dietary motivations:
    * They occur in a rather vast territorial range;
    * They are occur homogenously in a long period of time, sometimes even many months;
    * They occur principally against young people;
    * More than one wolf can be involved;
    * If the attack is not interrupted, the victim is transported elsewhere and then dismembered;
    * If the attack is interrupted, rabies does not occur in the injured victim.

    B) When the attacks are committed by rabies infected individuals:
    * The attacks are numerous, concentrated in a small territory, with a behaviour which we can call “bite and run”, and occur in a brief period of time;
    * Men, women and children are attacked indiscriminately;
    * Unmistakeably committed by an isolated individual;
    * The attack never concludes with the transportation of the victim elsewhere or the successive dismemberment. Hydrophobia is diagnosed in the victim and then his/her death is recorded.

    In both cases, the incident generally concludes with the killing of the wolf: in the former case, attacks disappear for some time, while in the latter, the disease is ascertained.

    Researchers in Italy were able to find common ground by examining their own information with that of wolf attacks in Europe and India and came up with what they believe to be reasons why wolves would attack humans.

    we have found some common constants: in nearly all cases the attack occurs in marginal areas and, despite expectations, attacks are very rare in scarcely populated areas; the attack is generally against children. We have therefore tried to identify what contributed to the reality of Padania and Europe of past centuries and modern India. In effects, outside the temporal and geographical lapse which divides them, these two realities have in common: the increase of rural populations, the underdevelopment of the rural economy and an elevated development of marginal areas. The combination of these elements intertwines with the overgrazing of livestock in marginal territories with a consequential progressive alteration of the natural environment. Competition on plains and water holes, diseases spread by livestock, the destruction of habitat and hunting determined the disappearance of wild animals. The lack of natural prey induces the wolf to attack their domestic “surrogate”………

    The disappearance of large wild herbivores, probably, influences the social structure of packs. The pack becomes an anti-economic structure if there are no large herbivores to hunt, and the biomass of prey is not sufficient for its survival. The social structure could therefore evolve toward family groups, but in particularly critical situations, it is not to be excluded that the wolf can also acquire solitary behaviours. The organisation of families and/or single individuals is more economic in the hunting and utilisation of smaller prey and also guarantees greater security in open territories with elevated human presence…….Humans are outside the species normal prey base: it is revealed in fact that the predation is generally directed only toward domestic ungulates, but an attack against livestock can accidentally conclude in an attack against man. At the point at which the victim of the attack is a young person, the predator gains a gratifying experience which can start a predatory behaviour toward children. The prey-child is also able to be dragged elsewhere and is sufficient for the dietary needs of a small family group. The wolf turned man-eater, if not quickly eliminated, can easily culturally transmit this predatory behaviour to other members of the group…….On the basis of compared situations, when the wolf is present in numerous populations, with ample available territories and high concentrations of goats and sheep, even when wild prey is particularly scarce, verified attacks against people are rare. In characteristically opposite zones one cannot exclude the insurgence of this atypical behaviour. In conclusion, we retain that the wolf can acquire man-eating behaviours when simultaneously, the following problems are present:

    * dietary (scarcity of both wild and domestic prey)
    * territorial (scarcity of available territories)
    * demographic (reduction in population)
    * social (breaking up of pack structure)

    Once again we clearly see that Dr. Geist’s Seven Steps of when wolves become a danger to man, very closely follows the conclusions drawn in the Northern Italy study.

  25. Good Lord, Wolfist! Write a book why don’t ya!? Starvation, disease and “killing each other” is part of nature.

    Did you ever wonder why the wolf got such a bad name in this country? Do you remember that mass killing of Buffalo was encouraged to the point where people were shooting them off the trains not to mention the hide hunters? This behavior was encouraged so as to remove the food source of the American Indian so they could be easily defeated. What do you think happened to the wolf population when all of a sudden there were millions of huge bison carcasses spread over the plains (an unnatural condition) fresh for the eating? The wolf population naturally exploded due to the abundant food source. Of course, it was inevitable that the buffalo would run out which they did but for a few in Yellowstone (less than 400 I believe). So, there was this huge population of wolves (essentially created by man) with nothing left to eat. Do you really blame them for turning to cows? Then man, in his arrogance, blames the wolf for being “evil” by going after cows in an attempt to survive. Then what happened? Man killed nearly every last one of them.

    Imagine a huge impenetrable fence around YNP. You are correct that the wolf would likely deplete the ungulate population significantly (perhaps well below the carrying capacity of the land). Then, the excess wolves would begin to starve and fall victim to disease. Their population would drop significantly and, meanwhile, ungulate populations would go on the rise and begin to approach or exceed the carrying capacity of the land… for a time. Do you see the pendulum swinging? can you not appreciate the balance of it? Again, starvation and disease are part of nature.

    Now, let’s remove that imaginary fence. Wolves will stray outside the park when their prey populations plummet. Those that stay in the park will find balance. Those that stray will be hunted and managed by the States.

    I cannot even begin to comment on your big bad wolf nonsense. Wolves do not attack humans with any more consistently than Mountain Lions, Bears or Snakes. Why don’t you climb up on a soapbox and call for their elimination as well?? Your scare tactics are not working and, frankly, they are pathetic.

    Mr. Twister, I love how anyone who supports wolves must be a “trust fund baby” in your mind. That really cracks me up. I know a third generation Montana rancher who loves wolves. He does not like it when they get into the cows but he appreciates them as a fellow creature of the earth and has great respect for and fascination with them. I assure you he is not a trust fund baby anymore than I am. I cannot speak for the author of this article. Expecting the landscape to be the same as it was before white settlement is romantic but unrealistic. I do not, however, think it is unreasonable to strive to maintain some last remaining vestiges of the way it used to be. What would you rather do? Pave it all?

  26. ” Wolves do not attack humans with any more consistently than Mountain Lions, Bears or Snakes. ”

    I’ll go along with this statement where the North American Continent is concerned. Unlike the European Nations, Asian, Eurasian, Russia, especially Italy, your flat wrong. The reason of the North American low ratios of wolf predation against humans is simple; It is called firearms.

    ” Why don’t you climb up on a soapbox and call for their elimination as well?? Your scare tactics are not working and, frankly, they are pathetic.”

    I am hardly doing that, wolf history world wide speaks for itself. I do not need to call for their elimination, wolves are going to eliminate themselves, and your doing a fine job of supporting that eventual failure yourself. Once again the wolves historically end up doing this whether we dump carcasses out for them or coddle them >

    When top carnivores such as wolves are added to halt the inevitable long-term damage to the ecosystem, the ultimate result (unless predator density is carefully controlled) is depleted prey populations that remain well below the carrying capacity of their range. Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other.

  27. Tom….thankyou for writing about what so many of us witness in the field of wildlife management.
    I attended that movie and fully concur that Caroline Sime, Montana’s Wolf Manager leaves a lot to be desired as a leader in any type of management. It appears that she just wasn’t used to an educated crowd with thoughtful questions and basic knowledge of wolf ecology. In short, a very poor representative to have in such a critical position.

    Mr Twister…thankyou for pointing out “Western Watershed’s” website. I’m sending a donation today and if you’re aware of any other organizations working to remove livestock from our public lands, please post them also.

  28. Yeah, Wolfist. I know. Thank God for firearms. Just last week I had to shoot 8 mountains lions, 3 bears and more snakes than I could count. It just seemed everywhere I went they were coming at me!

    What is this thing you have with Italy?! I just did a minimal amount of research and found that 1) Italy’s wolves are flourishing in their comeback and 2) there has not been a single wolf attack on a human in Italy since sometime before WWII.

    You keep quoting “they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other” as if it should be interpreted to mean that they will ALL die once they deplete the prey. Wrong. Otherwise, they probably would have gone extinct long, long ago. Some will die from starvation and disease. Others will live. That is the way God made the world.

  29. Your pendulum theory has had a lot of humans pushing on it, reintroduced elk, buffalo, wolves, just to name a few. Of course the wolves will never die off completely, that would be extinction, how many times have wolves gone extinct by the way, I hear tell it is three or four times now..Humans best acquire a taste for rabbit food because the future appears to be promising a slim supply of meat. Of course unless they like beef standing in their own waste being fed chemical grains, kinda like chickens are now and pork, yuck, and elk being raised in game farms, at about $100.00 per pound. Gotta love back board room theocracy ya know, force every one to be like you. When every one is starving to death they can thank God for it, or blame themselves for forgetting that little word dominion..

  30. Logger, a better place for your vast fortune would be The American Prairie Foundation or the Nature Conservancy. They buy land from willing sellers.
    Elf, the internet is a wonderful thing, go to the board of directors of any vanity NGO and follow the money. You will first notice how small their world is. Then a pattern will develope.

  31. LOL at the notion of the human population of the world starving to death because of a limited supply of meat!! Do you realize how much grain it takes to produce a single pound of meat?! Wolfist, your scare tactics do not hold water for anyone who knows the facts. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the taste of meat and I eat it all the time but nobody is going to starve to death if all the cows disappeared tomorrow.

    It is interesting to me that you would introduce the world “dominion” into this discussion. Wolfist: Let me ask you an open question… what would you do with all the wolves in the Northern Rockies if it were all up to you?

  32. lol… just to be clear before you take something I have said and attempt to spin it out of context I should clarify: I am in no way a proponent of all the cows disappearing tomorrow. I like cows. They are tasty. However, their disappearance would not cause starvation. Got it?

  33. The headlines asks ” Wolf Wisdom : Why can’t Montanans learn from Minnesota ?”

    I have to ask ” Why can’t Wyoming learn from anyone…? ” ( and not just Wolfology)

  34. Elf,

    I would stay with the original agreements on pack numbers and pack members from the get go, and keep it there. Move elk numbers down to the carrying capacity of their range’s in the three states involved in the Rocky’s, Not way below carrying capacity of their range as it is now, especially where I live full time, right smack in the middle of the Sawtooth Zone, 35 minutes from the Frank Church, and 25 minutes from the Sawtooth Wilderness area’s. We have seen massive cut backs on elk tags, we have a negative cow to calf ratio, we have a surplus of wolves. Lived here 51 years. Something better change real soon, because your pendulum is returning your way fast because When top carnivores such as wolves are added to halt the inevitable long-term damage to the ecosystem, the ultimate result (unless predator density is carefully controlled) is depleted prey populations that remain well below the carrying capacity of their range. Once the predators also deplete their alternate food sources, they succumb to starvation, disease and killing each other. IDFG has come out and admitted wolves are killing each other. And these herds are mere shadows of their former selves. Seems history is credible after all.

  35. It is simple don’t go to montana or Idaho on vacation for one year and then you will find out who runs the states. don’t spend any money in Idaho or Montana. I have property in Idaho on the montana border, and I am shipping my supplies in.

  36. Trust funds, secret conspiracies, follow the money, blah blah blah. My father died when I was 19, and I’ve been self-supporting ever since, worked my way through college, got a law degree, and have done nothing but public interest law since. If anyone thinks public interest law is more profitable than corporate law, they are really naive. Nobody gets into the uphill battle to fight the forces of manifest destiny for the money. And go ahead and check out the source of WWP’s funding — you will find very little in the way of support from the foundations, because we are not willing to compromise our principles. The big money goes to groups willing to sell their souls on things like Tester’s bill. WWP is funded almost exclusively by donations from people who are sick and tired of ranchers running roughshod over public wildlands and the politicians who are beholden to them. As for all the back and forth on big, bad wolves, it seems to me there are two camps here — those who trust providence (e.g., nature as it existed since the beginning of time, whether you believe in evolution or creation), and those who think man has all the answers and knows better than his creator (i.e., the manifest destiny crowd). I could trust our wildlife managers a lot more if they were simply willing to allow for a balance between man and ALL of Montana’s native wildlife, not just the wildlife deemed politically correct by third generation ranchers and hunters. I’m also sick of people pulling rank on me because of how many generations their family has been here, as if that creates wisdom. Okay, listen up natives. My family came over on the second voyage of the Mayflower, making me a 25th generation American, and making most of you late-comers relative to me, so why don’t you 4th generation Montanans go back to Europe and leave America to us 25th generation Americans! P.S. Bearbait — thank you for actually responding with rational arguments! Imagine that – a reasoned debate…

  37. The IDFG agency estimates cow elk in a remote area designated as the Sawtooth Zone and the Lolo Hunting Zone have dwindled by as much as 13 percent each year. A recent study of radio-collared cow elk indicates that for the most part, wolves are to blame, Idaho Fish and Game has stated this publically.

    Historically the elk had a difficult time in heavy winters just to survive without the addition of the wolf in their ecosystem. During these rough winters, the elk are concentrated and forced into narrow canyons at lower elevations where they attempt to find adequate feed and struggle through the winter. During these winters, the elk are reduced to a small percentage of their traditional range and are very concentrated. The elk can be literally trapped in these narrow canyons during deep snow conditions as the snow prohibits the elk from escaping the wolf.

    Another condition that hinders the elk from escape is the deep crusted snow after the snow thaws and freezes again. The elk’s hooves fall through the crusted snow allowing easy killing by the wolves. In past years, we have documented dozens of “surplus” or “Sport killed” elk that were just killed and uneaten. Now with the elk numbers at an all time low, we are observing less surplus killing than previously as the wolves are running out of their traditional prey base as the elk numbers in this region are declining so rapidly.

    The saddest aspect of the kill involves the extraction of the unborn calf. Without exception over the many years of photographing wolf killed elk, we have never observed one cow elk that didn’t have the fetus removed. In fact we have found cow elk still alive with the fetus ripped out! After a cow elk is downed by the wolves, the first thing we have observed is that the wolves extract and eat the fetus. Sometimes they will take a bite out of a rear quarter but many times they will leave the remainder of the carcass until a later date. In essence each time a cow elk is killed, two elk are gone and calf recruitment ceases. A prominent Canadian wolf biologist verified this fetus extraction ritual a few years ago while I was researching this subject. At the time, IDF biologists denied these findings as false and unfounded and indicated that our wolves are not pulling fetuses.

    Living with death in the 1700s

    Somebody said this was about wolf wisdom…

    Manipulating Elk Populations And Double Standards To Protect Wolves has been going on for years now, I should just accept and go along with it, hell everyone else has..

  38. By don barr, 9-21-09
    ” It is simple don’t go to montana or Idaho on vacation for one year and then you will find out who runs the states. don’t spend any money in Idaho or Montana. I have property in Idaho on the montana border, and I am shipping my supplies in.”

    Unlike you I support all wild life, not just one. I also support my community. Obviously you know zero about wild life and show this with your irresponsible nonsense and over protection or coddling of one species in stead of all species. No elk no wolf. Get a clue, the decimation of ungulates is reality.

  39. Along with license and tag fees for eight decades, building the prey base to support the additional predator to this eco system in the Rockies, the wolf, that funding for wolf reintroduction came from hunters, and other fundiing comes from the federal Pittman-Robertson Act, which imposes a federal tax on sales of firearms and ammunition, just the excise tax take on firearms and ammo is projected to be well over 1 BILLION dollars in 2009 and that money is all earmarked for habitat conservation, especially wolf conservation. So, in effect, hunters have been subsidizing a major portion of the wolf reintroduction. Pro wolf advocates would like to deny this truth but they simply can not do so. Combine that aspect with the promise to states of being able to manage the numbers of wolves made in the original reintroduction documents and subsequent upward adjustments (EIS, state management plans, delisting rule false starts) and it has created the conditions for a backlash. As well those original ESA records state this Canadian wolf is a non native experiemental animal..The greatest drop off of people supporting the wolves is happening right now. Only the hard core few are left. The America public has realized they have been lied too and the majority are walking away. Each day their numbers dwindle. But in reality the wolf lover only had 1/16 of 1 percent support to begin with. LOL and now they are getting smaller and smaller and smaller each day. So go ahead and refuse to buy groceries in Idaho or Montana, pay to have them shipped in, who cares, I still funded your wolves.

  40. Treehuggin' Cowgirl

    A recap:

    “Dumb bloodthirsty rednecks!”

    “Dumb city slickers who don’t know steak comes from a cow!”

    A note to the rednecks: I agree with you about hunting wolves. However, please remember the folks who think wolves are majestic dogs and don’t believe they really have teeth outnumber you, so please tone down the crazy talk. It’s not very hard for Defenders of Wildlife to convince to whole population of LA and NY that Idaho’s full of nutty, white supremacist, gun-toting, wildlife hating kooks. Quit making it so easy for them. The vitriolic, impassioned protests aren’t doing the wolf hunt any good. Try to sound logical, and go harass your buddies in Wyoming to come up with an acceptable wolf management plan. (Dewey, you’re right on the money there.) The law won’t be on the side of a permanent Northern Rockies wolf hunt until then.

    A note to the city slickers: Wolves do kill things and some will, given the opportunity, kill people . . . unless they’re afraid of us. That is the absolute best purpose for a wolf hunt. Wolves and people are both safer if we both know to keep our distance. Wolves are too smart to be eradicated by fair chase hunting. It’s poison that did wolves in before. And ignore a lot of the bluster you see coming from the hunting crowd. It’s not really about wolves; it’s about the feds coming in and imposing their way. Letting folks hunt wolves (with only limited success, remember) will let most of this bottled anger out. Idaho and Montana will manage wolves in a sustainable way, because *gasp* if USFWS decides the populations at risk, all they have to do is snap their fingers to put the wolves back on the endangered species list through the ESA’s emergency relisting provision. The last thing anyone in these states want is the Feds in control.

    A note to the sane folks: Speak up! I’ve got to believe there’s a rational silent majority out here somewhere that can embrace both the presence of wolves in the Northern Rockies and the concept of managing them.

    A note to Tom: You intentionally poked the local/non-local/manliness button?! Either you know nothing about how to work in Montana, or you’re not trying to reach out to anyone. You’re just pandering to the folks who already agree with you while adding yourself to the long list of “environmentalists trying to destroy our way of life.” Don’t do the rest of us conservationists that disservice, and please remember disagreeing with you does not equate to “selling our souls.” Some of us do see in more colors than black and white and can believe in both multiple use and wilderness, our full complement of wildlife and hunting.

    Instead of the environmental groups lobbying for the reintroduction and USFWS spending all that money on intesive managing the reintroduced wolves, imagine how different thins would be if all of those resources had been invested in conserving habitat, if key linkage zones had been acquired and transfered to federal ownership and conservation easements placed on important properties. I wager the wolves would be, if anything, more widespread, and the population would certainly be more stable and interconnected. More importantly, conservationists and locals wouldn’t be so alienated and could be working together on quite frankly more important issues. Wolves pale in significance to much of what’s going on in Wyoming with coal bed methane development, but arguing over them is impeding these groups’ abilities to work together.

    Want to see bison as a part of the landscape? Great, now what’s in your way?Insulting the ranchers and the states isn’t going to get you any closer. Examining the barriers in your way and addressing them without alienating 90% of the states’ population might actually get you somewhere. Keep everything’s that going on with wolves in mind, and don’t burn more bridges than you have to.

  41. Where are the results of the studies on the Bison posted and who paid for them?

    Look back at the reintroduction of the wolves guidelines that were created before the wolves were introduced here. They called for specific levels to maintain a helathy population – they have been met. The issue can probably be discussed that Montana ranchers and other didn’t trust the Government to stick to their plan, which it hasn’t.

    As far as bison as a food source, the wolves are taught by their pack what and how to hunt. The ‘what’ is important, as the wolves that were brought from Canada were preying on elk, which remains their primary food source.

  42. Hunters, which I am one, are not saying that all wolves should be killed. They have a place in the ecosystem. However, human interference should not force unhealthy propogation to the point where they are devastating other species. That is exactly what is happening. Elk and deer numbers in wolf-rich areas are plummeting. This will continue to spread as wolf numbers increase without mangement. Wolves kill for pleasure, not simply to feed themselves. They are nature’s version of a mass murderer. Statistics prove that wolf levels are already FIVE TIMES higher than the inital goal of the reintroduction plan. It is now time to stick to the stipulations of the AGREEMENT and allow wolves to be effectively managed like other wild species.

    By the way, without funds generated by sportman there would have been no reintroduction plan. Hunters and fisherman have funded wildlife research and management across the nation for decades. Their voice must be accounted for.

    Finally, I would question the intellect of anyone who compares Minnesota to Montana.

  43. RE: Ranchers, et al

    Don’t shoot the messenger.
    Hot off the presses, the quote below is from that great Environmentalist of our time, Merle Haggard. Yes, THAT Merle…

    “The thing that bothers me the most is the recklessness and greed of the local ranchers, who run too many cattle back here, choking with waste the creek that runs through my property. There’s certain times of day that the cowboys like to send them turds down the river. Them f**kers piss me off. if you gotta mess up the ecology of the world in order to raise a bunch of cows, well eat somethin else. I’m not a fan of the cowboys.”

    – Merle Haggard, Rolling Stone, 10/1/09

  44. TreeHuggingCowGirl: You make good points, and I can both disagree with you and appreciate what you’ve said. A matter of degree, perhaps, though the “selling their souls” comment was uncalled for. I do think it is possible to be respectful while at the same time pushing some buttons, like the whole wisdom-of-the-rugged-native paradigm. Clearly, ranchers are guarding the borders of MT against an invasion of bison, but the idea that somehow anyone is going to persuade them to let bison freely roam (one of the goals of the Bison Mngmt Plan, believe it or not) on public lands currently grazed by cattle is fantasy. On the other hand, hunters definitely hold the key to the state in their hands as far as bison are concerned, and I really do respect the role of hunters in conservation, having got my start working for a hook and bullet club in Idaho. That’s why I’m advocating for more hunter education, outreach, and involvement, as opposed to exploiting them in the service of other agendas (as in Idaho’s cynical collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars for tags). I realize Minnesota is different in many ways than Montana, but that still doesn’t explain the rush to hunt. I mean really, 300 wolves is too many for MT? And as for the feds not keeping their word, they also promised conservationists they would not de-list wolves until all 3 states had acceptable management plans in place. Anyway, most of this debate I appreciate, I don’t appreciate the name calling and exaggeration, and to the extent I’ve contributed to that, I regret getting caught up in it. It’s an interesting political climate we find ourselves in…

  45. WOW! You folks over think everything when you don’t need to. The feds decided what the quota should be to keep a healthy population of wolves and everyone seems to be the expert. Let them decide, they are the ones spending our money monitoring wildlife populations. They’ve been to college and know all there is to know about the issue. We don’t give a damn how they do it in Minnesota, Russia, Italy, or Uranus.

    Whoever said that “Montanans” are responsible for the pit, Anaconda, Missoula etc. needs to do some research.

  46. Treehuggin' Cowgirl


    Nice anti-trapping article at HCN. Maybe you should read the Writers on the Range piece that came out just before yours by Walt Gasson. Unless you’ve got a big pile of money at your disposal and whole lot of eminent domain, you’ve got to find a way to cooperate with private landowners. Otherwise, no matter what laws get passed telling them to do what, they’re still the ones on the land who can support the conservation plan or undermine it. I bet shoot, shovel and shut up would be a lot more effective on a slow moving critter like bison than it was on wolves. I’d rather not find out.

  47. “Whoever said that “Montanans” are responsible for the pit, Anaconda, Missoula etc. needs to do some research.”


  48. [quote]”Whoever said that “Montanans” are responsible for the pit, Anaconda, Missoula etc. needs to do some research.”


    The only notable resistance to colonial efforts were probably the mindless efforts by the militia men who made such a fuss a quarter century ago.
    Evidence I’ve seen has led me to think Montanans have usually pandered to privilege as shamelessly as residents of most banana republics.

  49. I’m all for capture and relocation of wolves, from area’s of concern where we know ungulates have fallen into collapse due to over predation by wolves, it would be more efficient than men with rifles on foot. And we have the printing press smoking along puking out money like there is no tomorrow so what’s another cool billion or two for a capture and relocate program for wolves, and a little elk reintroduction as well since we grabbing funds out of thin air any how….I mean shucks folks, what another 10,000 years on this debt plan gonna hurt any how.

  50. Wow Mr. Woodbury!
    We could be related! My ancesters founded New Haven Conn. I didn’t amount to much either. So much for blue blood eh?
    You remind me of Mr. Koehler, so much more pure hearted than the main stream NGOs. The main stream needs you and Koehler to make them look more reasonable.
    I have no doubt you will prevail, maybe not anytime soon but eventually. Ranchers spend to much time trying to defend $1.35 AUMs knowing full well when the wolf and the bison are put back on the plains its curtains for them. So stop the the “rational” crap and come clean.

  51. Mr. Woodbury. Is there a place on public lands for cattle grazing?, motorized recreation? anything other than walk in access? You are a spokesperson for WWP, give us a heads up.
    I am interested in your thoughts on the future of the Upper Missouri River Breaks and the 2 Indian Reservations and half dozen towns in the general area. The economy, such as it is, consists mostly of farming and ranching at the present time. Have you looked at the impact of a ban on public land grazing. Please don’t remind me of the waste in the present system. A simple answer for us bumkins, what next, self made lawyer.

  52. Mr. Twister: Is there a place on public wildlands for bison? The rancher’s answer seems to be all and nothing, as in all for cows, nothing for bison. I could live with designating appropriate public pasture for both, and in some places they could even share public pasture, as they have been doing in the Tetons for some time now (without any transmission of brucellosis, by the way). So I guess my answer is that when SGA gets real about the fact that it ain’t about brucellosis, but actually its about access to cheap pasture, then WWP will happy to sit down and look at which public wildlands should be dedicated to wildlife, and which to private livestock. As for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the cows ruin that place for those who love the river, they’ve eliminated most of the riparian vegetation and displaced most of the wildlife. So that would be a prime example of public wildlands where bison should be welcomed home, and the invasive species should be served an eviction notice. As for the impacts of a ban on public lands grazing, I’ve mostly considered it from a climate change perspective; i.e., if our gov’t were to wage a campaign for people to change their diets in healthy ways (i.e., actual health care) by reducing their meat intake to a few nights a week at most, thus reducing the overall demand for red meat, then they could phase out public lands grazing over time (with financial assistance to ranchers), and this would do more to reduce greenhouse gases than replacing all the SUVs on the road with hybrids. Pretty radical, eh? Or I guess we could just keep doing the same things our parents did, and their parents did before them, and to hell with polar bears, islanders, coastal communities, glaciers, grizzlies (see white bark pine), snow in Montana (in 50 years time, with projected temp rise, we won’t have any), and a thousand other unintended consequences of manifest destiny (a.k.a. hell on earth).

  53. Tom – Excellent response. Twister – he answered your question. Now you answer his: Is there a place on public lands for bison grazing?

  54. The whitebark pine die off is curious to me. Many plant species have a finite life, and then massively die off, to slowly recover and once again flourish. I think of the bamboo that feed Panda bears, and how it will flower and just die off across the landscape, putting Pandas in dire straits.

    What is the deal with army cutworm larvae or eggs, or whatever it is that grizzlies eat to gain fat? If the elk calf population is way down due to far fewer cows, and disruptions in the rut and cows avoiding wolves don’t get bred, how is that working on grizzlies? And black bears?

    I also wonder what fires are doing to habitat. And if they disrupt the top predators lives enough to change their numbers.

    Climate change is really not apparent in all places, and parts of the country are actually much colder than normal. And colder means drier. I wonder if drought is mistaken for climate change to warmer, when in fact drought is about climate getting cooler?

    The coldest places have the least precipitation. Antarctica is one dry spot. Sort of like North Dakota: one snow and the rest of the winter is that same snow blowing hither and yon.

    The whitebark pine is dying and that is fact. And lodgepole is too. And now budworms are working on spruce and fir. It is insect time in the mountains. No anthropogenic fire is having its effects.

  55. Climate change does not mean it gets uniformly warmer everywhere. The avg temp is increasing, but heat is just a measure of disorder, and so what you get is more extremes. And don’t think for a second that the increase in insect activity is unrelated, and not just because we haven’t been getting extreme cold snaps here in the northern Rockies, either. We’ve also reduced the ozone layer (we always hear about the hole, but curiously not the decreased density everywhere else), allowing in greater levels of UV radiation at these latitudes than ever in our history. While we can apply sunscreen to our kids and cover up when we go out in the sun, trees do not have that same luxury, and the effect is to suppress their immune systems. White bark pine is a higher elevation species, thus more prone to UV Radiation. And it is not just beetles with white bark either, it is a combination of beetles and blister rust. Maybe it is time to tear down those lower Snake river dams, and bring back the grizzlies preferred protein source, though I’m not sure what good that’ll do the Yellowstone pop.

  56. You are right Elf, that was a good response. Now we are getting somewhere. However Mr. Woodbury in my opinion you are mostly wrong about the Breaks. You know as well as I do that riparion areas in the breaks will never recover until we allow the river to flood. That won’t happen because to many people live close to the river. We need a surge of 49,000psi. Ain’t gonna happen. So instead lets spread half truths about evil ranchers while under cover fish cops shoot record book Big Horn Rams on this so-called degraded landscape. My solution would include fair market value for grazing rights and a reduction in AUMs combined with buy-outs. So as usual we are fairly close..the old 20%-80%. In all I have read about your outfit all I come away with is SUE THE BASTARDS. Thanks for the dietery advice.

  57. Twister… answer the question, please. Should there be a place for Bison to graze on public land or should it be reserved exclusively for cattle grazing leases?

  58. Bison grazing public land: First you say fantasy then you give an example of where it is successfuly occuring. I’m with you on fantasy, great fund raising tool, poor policy. Can’t keep the dang things out of the road or on the rez when the blizzards come.

  59. Twisted: Actually, the best available science says there is no reason under present conditions that riparian areas could not recover w/in the Monument. There is still periodic flooding (ten year storm events, approximately) where cottonwoods take hold, and if you float it you will see that in the areas cows are excluded, those cottonwoods are growing, while in the rest of the areas, they are browsed to death. As for people living along the river, I’m a bit confused — you must be referring to the areas below the Ft. Peck dam, as above the dam is the CM Russel Wildlife Refuge and the Monument, which don’t have much of anything but cows living along the river. One thing you are right about, however, is that we will sue the BLM to force them to comply with the laws passed to protect areas like this. I mean really, they exlcuded cows from the environmental study of how to manage the monument under the pretext that grazing is not a significant issue in the Monument. If you’ll give me your name and address, we’ll be sure to include you as a defendant in our lawsuit! Just kidding. But what do you have against enforcement of environmental laws? I wish the BLM would respect the laws they are charged with enforcing, but as you will probably agree, you just can’t trust the federal government to do the right thing, and that is why Congress in its wisdom allows citizens to sue the feds when they refuse to honor the laws they are charged with enforcing. As for bighorns, umm… their habitat is rocks, right? Not exactly a riparian dependent species there. How about managing the Monument the same way we manage the CMR? After all, like you say, it is a hunter’s paradise, the favorite place of most hunters in Montana, and last time I checked they aren’t going there to shoot cows… I have a good read for you, twisty — “Rewilding The West”, hot off the presses, which is all about the history of your ecosystem there – how it got depleted and how it is going to be restored.

  60. Twisted: Somehow, I don’t think the Native Americans would object to bison taking shelter on the res during blizzards. Folks in Gardner don’t seem to mind them being on the road once in a while, either. You know, if we are really going to ever find common ground, we gotta learn to co-exist with wild things, and that doesn’t mean keeping them in cages — literally or figuratively. I’m sure it doesn’t bother you so much to see a deer in the road once in a while, or in your yard even, or to see a bighorn eating salt on the side of the road during the winter. I can understand people not wanting to see wolves or coyotes in their neighborhoods, but an occasional bison wandering across your property? Is that really such a terrible price to pay for restoring our ecosystem? This is Montana, after all, not Nebraska.

  61. Tom,

    Didn’t 15 bison suffer from road-kill this spring just north of West Yellowstone? I see that as a major problem. People do mind when animals are where they shouldn’t be and that goes for gophers all the way up to bison. Keeping them wild is key and that is where management comes in. It’s better for everyone and everything. Hunting is a great way of management.

  62. Mad: Yeah, that was a pretty freakish outbreak of road deaths there, but the kind of thing that could certainly have been avoided with better signage. I agree that I’d rather see wildlife managed with controlled hunts than uncontrolled road kill! But look at what amazing results we are seeing with the Hwy 93 wildlife “culverts” — paid for by hwy dollars to save money and lives. Even elk took to them right away, and they have seen mountain lions walking in pairs (!) under there. If you haven’t seen the pix, google it up. There are always going to be conflicts, and it is up to humans to resolve them, and WWP certainly agrees that hunters play a key role. The essay here is not anti-hunting, it is pro-education. De-listing wolves has the effect of reducing the penalty for poaching from a federal felony with heavy fines and the very real potential for jail time to a state misdemeanor. I don’t think poaching will be a huge problem here in Montana, but I really worry about Idaho…

  63. Oh my! where to begin?
    the available science says riparion areas along the river will not recover until we see a flood of over 50,000fps, when that happens Great Falls & Ft. Benton will be under water. The trouble with exclosures is just that, something needs to graze it. Rewilding the West, read it, UMRBNM/RMP, been involved since the beginning. I would much rather hit a 100lb deer than a 2,000lb bison. Nice point about the signage though, that will help just like it does with the deer. Lately bison have been leaving the rez in winter not the other way around. If you lived within 300miles of here you might have a clearer picture. Next winter when I go skiing in Yellowstone I will be sure to tell the kids its alright to play outside at recess, unlike in the past…Tom said it was OK.
    I could haul out my 3 volume RMP and go point to point but , well here we are. see you in court…just kidding? You can count on it.

  64. Demonizing wild animals sounds like the proper way to prepare children for an adulthood of hatred, mr. twisted.

  65. Oh no, when Horsteds-a.. gets involved its time to go back to my perfect life here among the animals I love before I lose any more brain cells.


  66. Hey, all, this is an amazing discussion, with lively and heated debate. Don’t mean to go Big Brother-ish on ya, but let’s avoid name calling. And many thanks for the impressive depth of views you’re providing.