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In the midst of controversy over endangered gray wolves and wolf management in the Northern Rockies, one bill in the Montana legislature would offer a creative solution to livestock loss. Last month, the Montana House passed House Bill 287, which would allow revenue from wolf hides to go toward livestock loss funds. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Christy Clark, now awaits approval from the Senate. Wolves are listed as an endangered species, but wildlife officials are authorized to shoot wolves that are found preying on livestock. The Montana Wool Growers Association requested the bill. If approved, the hides from wolves shot by officials would be auctioned or sold to raise money for Montana’s Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board.

In Montana, Paying For Sheep with Wolves’ Clothing

In the midst of controversy over endangered gray wolves and wolf management in the Northern Rockies, one bill in the Montana legislature would offer a creative solution to livestock loss.

Last month, the Montana House passed House Bill 287, which would allow revenue from wolf hides to go toward livestock loss funds. The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Christy Clark, now awaits approval from the Senate. Wolves are listed as an endangered species, but wildlife officials are authorized to shoot wolves that are found preying on livestock.

The Montana Wool Growers Association requested the bill. If approved, the hides from wolves shot by officials would be auctioned or sold to raise money for Montana’s Livestock Loss Reduction and Mitigation Board.

Montana Wool Growers public relations director Jim Brown said since government agents sometimes need to kill wolves, the state might as well make good use of the carcass. Brown estimates that, at $500 per hide and given past averages of wolf kills, hides could bring in $7,000 to $8,000 per year for the board.

The potential hide money isn’t much, Brown said, but it would still help the underfunded Livestock Loss and Mitigation board. The board’s two-part mission is to reimburse ranchers for killed livestock and prevent livestock loss. Ranchers can use methods to prevent livestock loss by hiring extra herders, sending out extra guard dogs and using noisemakers to scare off wolves.

“We don’t have any problem with [using those methods], but we don’t have money for it,” Brown said. Arguably, he said, using funds from wolf hides could reduce the number of livestock killed in the future.

Statistically, wolves only accounted for 1 percent of sheep and lamb loss in Montana in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but they remain a significant problem for sheep ranchers like John Helle.

Helle, a third-generation sheep rancher in Dillon, Mont., said it’s often difficult to prove whether a missing sheep was taken by a wolf, but he estimates wolves have taken hundreds of his sheep since they were introduced to Montana in the late ‘90s. He’s lost as many as 21 sheep at a time, he said, and confirmed 12 of those as wolf attacks. Helle calls federal wolf regulations an unfunded mandate.

“They tell us we have to have wolves, and they’re listed under the species act, but we didn’t get anything extra to manage them,” he said.

For ranchers, Brown said, the issue isn’t whether wolves are listed as endangered species for not. “The fact is, it’s on Montana’s landscape and has to be managed by someone,” he said. He’s frustrated that the federal government isn’t doing more to fund programs like the one that prevents livestock losses.

The problem with HB 287 is that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t allow commercial use of a listed species, which could create a legal dilemma if the bill is passed.

“Our argument is that the species act allows these animals to be killed, so why are they wasting this game animal?” Brown said.

Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is responsible for authorizing wolf carcasses for educational or scientific use. As long as wolves are still listed as an endangered species, the state can’t profit off their pelts, he said. “So when they’re delisted, the state can do whatever they want,” he said.

Bangs said while anyone can legally purchase a wolf pelt, and the fur markets are doing a “brisk trade” internationally right now, it’s not likely that selling the Montana wolf pelts would make much money because of the cost of retrieving, curing and tanning. Similar programs in which wildlife officials sold coyote pelts didn’t make any money, he said.

Even if the state could sell wolf pelts, Bangs said two major problems would come up with the program: First, Montana Wildlife Services shoots most wolves in the summer, when pelts aren’t valuable, and second, wolves are often shot from a plane or helicopter, so the cost of picking them up would be too high.

“These kinds of proposals sound good on the surface, but in reality they’re questionable,” he said.

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  1. Yeah, and that’s another thing stupid about the ESA. You can’t do anything that would bring in money to perhaps pay for its conservation and management.

  2. There are many Montanans profiting from the wolf while its a listed species under the ESA to the tune of 70 million dollars a year for the regional tourism economy. However, this new idea being promoted by the Montana livestock industry is an old wolf in sheep’s clothing — essentially a bounty on wolves — and that same old archaic thinking led to the demise of wolves in the West. How about some fresh ideas folks? And particularly some ideas that doesn’t have to result in dead animals. Learn more about wolves at

  3. A great idea. Lets get some use out of those carcusses.

    Suzanne, you state 70 million in wolf revenues? Ridiculous.

    You must be talking about yellowstone, right?

    If you compare past revenues from yellowstone and the surrounding area to last years record year of tourists, you still are not even close to 70 million.

    But then again, lets subtract the sum loss of hunting dollars that the communities around yellowstone USE to get from elk hunting. If you do that, you are in the big negative on your theory. If you really want to look at it, see how much revenue has been lost to Idaho and Montana in huning licenses sold also.

    It is funny how these wolf advocates think that the only reason people go to yellowstone is to see wolves. Alot of people also go there to see elk and moose also. It is to bad that there are so few elk and moose left to view now. It will be interesting to see how many grizzley bears are left in another 10 years when the elk population plummets to less than 2,000. Moose are just about gone now. It appears they won’t even attempt to count them for fear of arousing the public to the problem.

    As Ryan Benson stated (

    “A couple of important facts to consider. Unmanaged wolves have been a major problem for wildlife in the West and Midwest. All of the “experts” who promised it wouldn’t be a problem were wrong. Take Idaho for example. The statewide elk harvest has been cut in half. Every wilderness herd has been reduced 50-85%. Moose are gone. Outfitter clients are down from 4,500 to 1,100 hunters. Wildlife is losing.”

    Maybe you should consider the “dead animals” that the wolves are killing at an ever increasing rate year round.

    I realize that the nonprofit you work for pays you well, with all the tax free dollars they are bringing in, but don’t you ever consider the livihoods of the people who have to deal with these animals and the other wildlife that is being deciminated by these creatures part of the equation also? Are you people so heartless that you think wolves are the only animal that can live in our forests?

    I really doubt that DOW or Earth Justice are gonna buck up the funds that hunters have over the past 50 years to increase game populations and fund the fish and game, much less if they could. We have a billion dollar hunting industry in montana which is paid for by hunters for the benefit of all. DOW and EarthJustice benefit wolves, nothing more. They really need to start a fund for the norexistant moose in the yellowstone ecosystem before we lose them all.

    Just keep twisting the truth Kate. Wolves are not endangered. We have 10s of thousands of them in Canada and Alaska.

    Should we also add quail to the list of endangered species in Montana? We don’t have any, yet they are abundant in many states. We could certainly plant some here and see what develops. How about camels? They were here long ago, before some event removed them.

    I love that 1% stat loss on sheep you people keep posting. Sheep producers do everything they can to stop losses. How do you think they feel when one our your wolves goes in and slaughters 10 or more of their animals? Maybe you should become a sheep farmer for awhile. Give it a try, but I am sure it does no pay as much as you folks make.

    An overwhelming majority of people in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana want these wolves controlled. They voiced their opinions at the polls. This is just the start.

  4. Elk are not endangered either. There are 500,000 plus in the united states.

  5. And regarding the comment by Suzanne Stone –

    The woman posits that “There are many Montanans profiting from the wolf while its a listed species under the ESA to the tune of 70 million dollars a year for the regional tourism economy.” As she closes, she was kind enough to direct the reader to a website with the following address:

    Good enough. Visiting the site I noted the following on the page titled “Where Things Stand”: “wolf-related tourism generates more than $35 million annually for local communities.” That entry is in the second paragraph from the bottom of the page.

    $35 million is not $70 million, but hey, perhaps she is correct anyway. When I took my economics classes back in college, one of my professors always tossed out this caveat, “It depends.”

    For her claim to have any basis in fact, we need to toss in the “multiplier effect.” Basically, this phenomena means that if you spend a buck, someone else gets it and spends it, thus the dollar sort of non-biologically reproduces itself until it ceases to do so due to some sort of regressive gene that wipes it out of existence.

    Not content to just rely on “” for data, I rummaged around and came upon a 2006 presentation by University of Montana economist Dr. John Duffelfield where the good doctor claimed that wolves bring in 35 million into the three state area, and using the “multiplier effect” he estimated the total at $70 million.

    What these numbers mean for Montana in particular is either unknown or not published. Since most of the predictable viewing of the wolves is in Yellowstone, my guess is that good old recalcitrant Wyoming is the highest recipient of that $35 million, or $70 million as the case may or may not be. It depends. And since this presentation by Dr. Duffelfield was done prior to the economy hitting the rocks at 22 knots in 2008, his estimation is likely generous given the current state of affairs. It depends.

    And speaking of “It depends”, it really does. Would people visit Yellowstone in the numbers they currently are with or without wolves? No one really knows. Some “observers” claim that they counted X number of people viewing wolves in Yellowstone, ergo “something.” That does not mean that those people being counted went the Yellowstone exclusively to view wolves. It means nothing more than they were counted while viewing wolves. Period.

    When I’m out and about and I see a wolf, I stop and “view” it even if I’m on the way into town. If I see elk or moose I do the same thing. Bears intrigue me as well. So do Bighorns. So do forest fires. Did I go where I was going to just to see wolves or was I hoping to see many species and “Dang! Weren’t we lucky to see the Larimer Pack!”

    “I was viewing and counted, therefore I am.”

  6. Big Sky-
    Where do you get your facts from? Every wilderness area is down-50-85% Say what? Look up the facts Einstein- There are well over 100,000 elk in Idaho- elk were at management level quota in 23 out of 29 areas. Nice try

  7. As someone who has been to yellowstone quite a few times, I can tell you most people go there to see the predators such as wolves and grizzlies. I know this because I ask people all the time when I;m there, what animals are you here to see. People are just not fascinated with animals like elk. it’s the predators that fascinate people and they are the main reason why people go there to yellowstone national park. The fact is if yellowstone national park didn’t have grizzlies or wolves, Wyoming would lose a lot of money. Ranchers and hunters are nothing more than threats to wildlife and the environment. Hunters only concern is that there are plenty of animals out there to kill. That is all they are concerned with.

  8. I go to yellowstone also Rick.

    What I hear is “where are the elk?”

    Sure, it would be nice to see a wolf or a bear.

    I sure hope they have something to eat in about another 10 years….besides moving out to eat cattle, sheep, and such when they run out of prey…..

    Ryan Bensons quote, not mine, Willy……email and ask him.

  9. Elk are not a huge draw. The predators are. Predators are the animals that fascinate and intrigue people. I’m sorry, but that is just the way it is. There is also no guarantee you are going to see elk or any other animal for that matter when you visit yellowstone national park. If ynp was just all elk, you’d get barely no visitors. Ynp is as famous as it is because of 2 specific animals, the wolves and the grizzly which both are predators.

  10. They are not canadian wolves, they are gray wolves. There is no species called canadian wolves. People come to yellowstone to see wolves, so who are you to say that poor decisions were made in letting wolves into yellowstone in the first place? You don’t own wildlife. You are a small minority. People go to yellowstone to view wildlife. If you don’t like your tax dollars being used t pay for wolf predations, tough. We all have to pay for things we may not like. That is life and we can’t do anything about it. it does not matter what you say because there is no way in hell most people go to ynp to see elk. Elk are amazing animals and most people as I said are fascinated with the predators. If there were no wolves or grizzlies or eve bison, ynp wouldn’t be what it is today and that much is certain.

  11. Yes, it is to bad about the elk. I sure hope they won’t go extinct in yellowstone like the moose probably will. Most people I know go to yellowstone to see the elk. Yellowstone has certainly lost much of its luster with the loss of its elk, for sure.

    We all like to see wolves and Griz also, but with no unglulates to prey on, I am afraid the future might be a bit more dismal for many folks.

    It is to bad that they brought canadian wolves to yellowtone. Perhaps they should have brought midwest wolves. It appears the canadian variety is use to a larger prey species and this oculd explain why they are wiping out our smaller moose in yellowstone. It is a sad case for sure……

    As far as the rest of the three states, it appears that wolves bring nothing but dispair to the people who live in those areas and decimination to the wildlife in any region wolves occupy.

  12. Rick, you must be a complete and total idiot whose mental processes are driven by emotion rather than intelligent considerations. Obviously, you are also completely ignorant of history, another affliction of those who are guided by emotions
    rather than contemplative thought.

    Yellowstone was and remains famous as an attraction due primarily to its stunning scenery and phenomenal geothermal features. For over a century millions of people traveled to the Yellowstone to see its wonders,first by train and stage, then by train and bus, and finally by automobile.

    I have in my possession brochures from the 1910’s, 1920’s and the 1930’s produced by the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Great Northern Railroad, and the Union Pacific Railroad, each of which marketed trips to Glacier and Yellowstone respectively given their routes. There was no other way to get there. The railroads were the way there, period. Many of of the magnificent structures in those two parks were built by the railroads and/or investors connected to the railroads. By that era there were virtually no wolves left anywhere and the Grizzly population in both parks as well as elsewhere was already low.

    By the time the 50’s rolled around and for a couple decades after, the wildlife attractions that drew visitors to the parks were the elk herds and the “garbage bears” who entertained people at the dumps, almost all of which were “Ursus Americanus.” The park was overwhelmed with visitors then as it is now. The sighting of Grizzlies back then was more of an accident than by design, as their population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem was no more than a couple hundred at best.

    These are facts, “Rick.” You and so many others are simply willfully ignorant.

    One economic certainty is this – tourism dollars are what is referred to as “discretionary money”, i.e., we live in a non-linear world and when times are tough there exists less money that is available for discretionary spending. The worse the economic circumstances, the lower the whole of society exists on Maslow’s hierarchial triangle, and covering the costs of “Food, Clothing, and Shelter” become of paramount importance rather than spending declining dollars on frivolous activity such as vacations “out west.”

    Earlier in the comments section, Suzanne Stone posited some figures touting the supposed economic benefits of wolves in the three states where their numbers are high enough that they supposedly bring in tourists whose sole interest is in viewing wolves. Face it – that pretty well means Yellowstone even though Idaho’s wolf population far exceeds that of Wyoming. And why is that? It’s because Idaho’s geography is less “user friendly” than that in Yellowstone and it doesn’t have Old Faithful’s and other such insignificant non-considerations to bring in the avid and supposed wolf tourist. Apparently these eco-tourists would prefer to drive right up to the wolves in Yellowstone than get out of the vehicles and engage in the serious backcountry hiking required in Idaho, that’s why. Wyoming is “convenient.”

    Regardless of the exact geographic location that is the presumed beneficiary of wolf viewing, the figures she provided were dubious at best when published back in 2006, and the economy was far better in 2006 than now. Essentially, even if then accurate, those numbers are now effectively worthless. Economic circumstances have radically changed for the worse, therefore using those figures as a basis for arguing the economic benefits of wolves is at best disingenuous. Since 2006, how many homes of the Middle Class have been repossessed? How many are in the process of being repossessed? The price of fuel? Jobs and industries off-shored? Inflation is hitting basic commodities like a freight train. How many states are on the verge of bankruptcy? The fiscally prudent are getting 1% on their savings while inflation roars ahead and this means what?

    Less discretionary spending and less everything. Given the national debt and the spreading of the insolvency of the entire credit-based system of international finance, the whole of the world is heading into a long period of economic straits. Dire straits. As a nation we are not just immune to what is coming, our banking system and its international effects are the primary cause, and we are going to reap what we have sown.

    Grow up.

  13. Kevin Watson is no friend of wildlife. We call people like him who advocate poaching wildlife haters. Hey Kevin, you won’t like what Val geist has to say about the non native wolf argument. Please don’t cry and get mad when you read this info coming from his mouth., You are so clueless, it’s almost laughable. Here goes…

    Using this example he did dispel the notion hunters and myself have had that the wrong wolf was used for introduction. Dr. Geist said we could have used a smaller wolf but with the enormous food supply available any wolf put into this environment would grow quite large and have a similar impact on our elk and moose.

  14. Kevin Watson is a great american who is willing to stand up and be heard for what he beleives in. Good for him. But shooting them is not gonna cull enough of them to make a difference. We need a predator status on these wolves with no seasons. Liberal trapping seasons in areas where predation is aproblem on cattle and other wildlife also. We will still have wolves, but alot less problems will result. We also need to remove some wolves from yellowstone to give the elk a chance to repopulate, and in particular, the moose.

    I know alot of people who are not going to yellowstone next summer because of the lack of elk. They say its a crying shame that all those elk have been ripped apart and slaughtered by the wolves. Especially the calves. The calves barely had a chance at life before they are killled by slaughtering wolves. It is really to bad that the moose in yellowstone might become extinct in another 10 years if something is not done about the wolves.

  15. mountain hunter

    All the so-called “facts” about the monies brought in by people going to YNP to see wolves is total bullsh*t-the people were going to YNP when there were zero wolves,they go to see old faithful,all the hot springs,etc. They go to see the sights,not everyone goes to view wildlife,and those that do are not all going to YNP to see wolves.
    The people saying there are plenty of elk are also using skewed numbers-in areas with high wolf populations-there are far less elk-that is a fact.
    For the past few years,I’ve seen far more wolves and wolf tracks than elk-this is in NW Montana,as the wolves moved in-the elk numbers dropped-I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
    All the “wolf researchers” are going to lose all the federal grant money they are used to getting to study wolves-It’s all about the money-the “scientists” make money from wolves-the enviro-whacko/animal rights whackos all make money from the wiolves,their lawyers make money from the wolves.
    Those who live in the areas affected by the wolves lose money,
    elk numbers are so low in some places that outfitters/guides don’t bother taking clients hunting there,they lose money due to wolf predation-the wolves kill off far too many elk in areas with high wolf populations.
    Those who say elk are not endangered,or that elk populations are at levels set by fish and game/FWP are wrong-they use elk numbers for the entire three state area,and say there are plenty of elk elsewhere-well using that logic-there are plenty of wolves-plenty in Canada-plenty in Alaska,which last time I checked is still part of the USA,so count those wolves. The gray wolf is far,far above the population level where they were supposed to be de-listed when first introduced.De-list the gray wolf,and let the states manage the wolf population.
    All the wolf huggers can go sue in court to save the Mexican wolf now,that should keep them busy for 10-15 years with an endless stream of lawsuits.