Mass wolf kill rests on shaky science

  • A wolf feeds on roadkill on Lolo Pass, in the management area where Idaho Fish and Game wants to eradicate as many as 43 wolves


Idaho’s Fish and Game Department wants to boost the Lolo management zone’s dwindling elk herd by killing up to three-quarters of the area’s estimated 58 wolves and maintaining low wolf numbers for the next five years. But some biologists and conservation groups question the science behind the plan — the department’s first attempt to manage Idaho’s wolves since the federal government granted it the authority in January (HCN, 1/24/05: Feds to hand wolves to states).

The elk herd, 27,000 strong in the early 1980s, has collapsed to 5,000 animals. But habitat loss, not wolves, is to blame, says Suzanne Asha Stone of Defenders of Wildlife: Decades of wildfire suppression have allowed dense forest to reclaim many of the open meadows the elk need for forage and calving grounds.

State biologists agree that habitat is the key concern. But Jim Unsworth, the department’s wildlife chief, says the Forest Service can’t restore it fast enough. "When you have great habitat," he says, "predators aren’t an issue."

Department computer models indicate that wolves are keeping elk numbers down. But John Kie, a University of Idaho biologist who reviewed the proposal for the state, points out that a bigger herd could outgrow the existing habitat and crash.

"These guys aren’t wolf haters," says retired University of Idaho wildlife professor Jim Peek, but Idaho’s anti-predator politics are fierce and "they have to manage the elk." The herd’s numbers remain low despite the fact that the state already manages the area’s bears and cougars through hunting. Reducing wolf predation through aerial gunning and trapping, says Unsworth, is "the last tool in our toolbox."

The department sent the proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service April 4 for review.




Anonymous says:
Nov 07, 2007 11:23 AM

Wolves are having a devastating effect on the elk population.  How
many ways can you try and hide the slaughter that’s going on. 
27000 down to 5000, what a travesty!

Anonymous says:
Aug 12, 2010 11:01 AM
PEOPLE are having a devastating affect on the Elk population. MOVE TO THE CITY PEOPLE. AND VISIT NATURE. You can't stand wildlife anyway... unless they're cute and cuddly wittle animos... BS.
Anonymous says:
May 20, 2008 04:30 PM

Elk population is at an all time high so it wouldn't matter. they have no problem killing an animal that may not be on the endangered list, but its still on the threatened list? and they worry about elk! thats BS!

Anonymous says:
Sep 25, 2008 09:03 PM
Bringing the wolves back into our forest was a tragedy. Our elk are in serious danger of being slaughtered needlessly by these killing machines. The wolves are killing off our deer and elk just for the sport of it and shame on those individuals who are in denial of this fact. The photographs of these killings are an obvious testimony to the devastation that these wolves are causing to our herds. My hope is that every hunter out their in the woods will shoot to kill every wolf they encounter. Our leagal courts are obviously to blind and deaf to the truth about wolves and their vicious nature.
Anonymous says:
Oct 30, 2008 12:56 PM
The hunters that elk bring into an area, not only for licences but also supplies help bring money into an area. Idaho is now seeing the consequences of a large preditor, and the defenders of wildlife is trying to say that "wolf sightseerers" will help the economy. You figure out which group brings more money into an area, and my guess it is the hunters, but, now the wolf will eliminate them, and the state, and our tax money will be used to control, or try to, the wolf. No wonder the Canadians think we are crazy.
Anonymous says:
Feb 19, 2010 07:52 AM
I hear many times, the elk herds are doing just fine, and in fact they are better than ever. This is a common lie told by the wolf cult to muddy the water. The real fact's are out there, but are more times than not, buried. Yellowstone elk herd in 1995, before the illegal introduction of the Canadian Grey Wolf, 20,000. In 2009, the elk herd is less than 6000. Jackson Hole Wy. elk herd was 19,000, now 4200. The entire argument of the Wolf Cult is riddled with lies. They work intently to cover up the mass murder of the elk. We must not forget the other wildlife being wiped out. Moose, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, Grizzly, Bison, etc. Those of you who participate in the wolf cult lies are on notice. Those of us who have financed wildlife for years are going to expose you, and rid our country of this mangy mutt.
Anonymous says:
Jan 23, 2009 08:57 AM
Reintroducing the wolf in the Northern Rockies is the dumbest thing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ever done. There is no room for this apex predator in today's settled world, and now we're beginning to pay the price as clueless environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife get involved.

Sportsmen have payed the way for the conservation efforts that brought deer and elk number up from near extinction a hundred or so years ago. And they are not about to let the wants of a few wolf lovers destroy all of that hard work. Wolves are beginning to die, whether the Federal government condones it or not, and more will bite the bullet as more and more sportsmen become outraged. They will not allow these wild mangy mongrels, which are Canadian imports, to decimate our "other" native wildlife.

It's time for the Feds to tuck their tails and run on back home to Washington D.C., and for the wolf hugging memebers of idiotic organizations like the Sierra Club to get the hell out of the way and let the wolf killing begin. Because, it's going to happen anyway. War has been declared...

And the new battle cry is..."Save An Elk Herd...Kill A Wolf!"

Toby Bridges
Sportsmen Against Wolves
Missoula, MT
Anonymous says:
Aug 12, 2010 11:05 AM
That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. So we should just kill all the animals that can't be sustained naturally... WE ARE KILLING ALL THE POPULATIONS OF ANIMALS ON THE PLANET. NO SPECIES CAN SURVIVE NATURALLY. IDIOT.
Anonymous says:
Aug 15, 2010 11:50 AM
First of all, there is no such thing as "natural balance" when it comes to wolves. Simply put, wolves have one purpose and one purpose only - to kill other animals. And not just for food. We have experienced way too many instances where one...two...maybe three wolves have wiped out entire flocks or sheep...or an entire herd of elk...or winter yarded deer...just for the fun of killing - eating nothing. The old baloney about wolves only killing what they eat is one of the biggest lies of the Wolf Recovery Project supporters. Wolves simply kill almost anything that gets in front of them. Period. In the wild, wolves will completely wipe out a prey base (elk, deer, etc.), then move on. And they aren't quite the "social" animals the phoney greenies like to portray either. When they have killed game down to where hunting begins to get tough for them, they will turn on members of their own pack (family group) and kill them to reduce competition for a scarce food supply. Most of those who keep pushing wolves upon the residents of the West have never, ever seen a wolf in the wild...or found where wolves have gone on a killing spree. Our so-called "wolf experts" apparently don't know squat about wolves. They keep tryng to script how the wolf will fit right in with all other living things - and the wolves just keep on being wolves...killing and killing and killing until there is nothing left to kill. Our greenie wildlife biologists these days should have spent more time studying the damage wolves have caused to wildlife ecosystems (and to livestock production & human lifestyles) in other parts of the world before dumping those non-native and non-endangered Canadian wolves where they don't belong.

Toby Bridges

Anonymous says:
Sep 29, 2010 01:01 PM
Teddy Roosevelt had a name for people who claimed to love our country's wildlife but were totally ingorant of conservation and stubbornly blind to reality. He called them "nature fakers." That description certainly fits the radicals who have pushed an extremist agenda to bring back the most efficient killing machines this continent has ever known. Would it not be a sad but ironic twist of fate if the first people eaten by a hungry pack in the game-barren Rocky Mountains were a family of wolf-loving humans who got stuck in the snow and tried to hike out? Or perhaps they might be cross-country skiing to get a bit get closer to their precious killers and see first-hand what is happening to our game animals? But I doubt any of that will take place because the typical "nature fakers" rarely leave the comfort of their big spendy SUVs with a TV in back for the kids. The vast majority never get closer to the reality of a wolf pack than the eyepiece of a huge telescope from thousands of yards away, located on a posh tourist observation platform that they drive to when the weather is fair. Very few would want to visit the pack's killing ground up close and witness the destruction they've caused. As for me, I wholeheartedly agree with the hunters who say wolves should be killed on sight and left for the scavengers.
Anonymous says:
Feb 19, 2009 12:01 PM
You know, I have lost much of my respect for todays elk hunter; not all, but many. Who upstairs gives this group the moral or ethical right to determine who lives and who dies? I am suspicious of the idealist who insinuates thta they want 19th century wolf populations back. Good grief; get real. We have over 300 million humans in the south 48 alone and keeping large populations of wolves next to these people is problematical at the least.

However, I have never seen such pitiful hysteria to justify killing virtually all wolves. First, they have come up with this "sports killing" claim yet I absolutely cannot get any one of them to present credible scientific evidence that such killing for enjoyment exists to any extent. Second, those who say they hunt elk for food have not honestly calculated how much that bull elk costs per pound. If they did, they would abandone that myth which went out the door after the deperssion.

Oh, save your breath branding me as some citified nitwit. I was born and raised in north Idaho and have hunted elk much of those years but no more. I have been "around the block" a long time but I just cannot justify killing elk simply for the adrenaline rush and that is exactly what today's elk hunter is doing it for, period!
Anonymous says:
Jun 29, 2009 03:06 PM
How many billions of dollars do you think the sportsmen of this country provided for the 100 years of conservation efforts it took to bring elk back from the brink of extinction to record numbers in many parts of the West?

A good guess would be somewhere between $15 and $20 billion.

How much money do you think the supporters and followers of lame environmental groups like the Sierra Club...Defenders of Wildlife...Humane Society of the United States...or more than a dozen other organizations have spent on real wildlife conservation efforts in this country? Nada...nothing in comparison...but they're ready and willing to let wolves destroy all of that work. And it's happening right now...elk herds in Idaho would already take 30 or more years to rebuild to the levels of the mid to late 1990s - before the impact of growing and unchecked wolf numbers began to take its toll. Things next door in Motnana are now going the same direction.

The sportsmen in this country have had enough...and they're now perched to take all of this into their own hands. They're sick and tired of reading reports, predictions, talk of management hunts...and still nothing is happening. The fact remains...wolf numbers are expanding rapidly and elk populations are crashing.

Wolves are about to die...and the likes of the USFWS and U.S. District Court Judge Don Malloy only need to look into a mirror to see the reason why.

Toby Bridges
Anonymous says:
Jun 30, 2009 12:06 PM
You wolf killers will reap what you sew. If the species gets re-listed because of your “kill every wolf” antics, it won’t be under an experimental non-essential designation this time. You won’t be able to shoot one even when it’s gnawing on your sheep. Continue your “war” then, and you’ll land some jail time. It would be quite unfortunate for the wolf if a re-listing had to happen, but I would give me some pleasure that all you guys will get a little of what you deserve.
Anonymous says:
Feb 19, 2010 08:23 AM
I guess it is pointless to post a comment on this blog. You will only remove it, and cover up the truth. Thank you for proving my point! I will let the world know what you are up to, and expose you for what you are. Video of this has been recorded, and I will feature it in my next series.
Anonymous says:
Feb 19, 2010 11:07 AM
Dear Wolf Hunter,
We do not remove comments from our site, unless they contain personal attacks, defamation or obscenity.

Sincerely, Jodi Peterson, Associate Editor
Anonymous says:
Feb 19, 2010 10:46 AM
Wow, I never would have guessed that the wildlife in this country ceased to exist before elk hunters!! Apparently I have lived in this fanatsy world that Wolves ( at much higher population levels than current), Elk, Deer, etc..all co-habitated and survived in this balanced ecosystem before the white guy showed up. But now I have learned from some comments to this post that the Elk did not exist until some elightened souls began hunting them. Get real!!

I beleive that much of the hype against wolves come from guides/outfitters that now have to work a bit to get their clients their "trophy", no more guarantees of success since the herds are no longer so thick that you could shoot one out your tent window. Studies show that the wolves have created much healthier herds and landscapes since their reintroduction. Instead of going after the the largest, strongest, healthiest Bulls like hunters do the wolves go after the slow and weak creating an overall better gene pool.
Karen VA Luce
Karen VA Luce says:
Nov 30, 2011 02:17 PM
The losses of livestock are unfortunate, but the fact is that the Wildlife Services division of the USDA responds to all complaints regarding wolf attacks on livestock. If this is about elk then the gentleman who hates wolves should stop complaining about attacks on livestock. I have seen the reports on just how many animals and birds Wildlife Services kills for agriculture and the numbers are shocking. There is more than adequate support for any farmer suffering losses. To attempt to blame the dwindling elk population solely on predation by wolves is ignorant and ridiculous. The comments of wolf-haters on this article make it quite clear what is happening in Idaho. The low elk population is being used as an excuse to kill a lot of wolves that people hate and loathe - mainly for economic reasons. Find a breed of donkey suitable to live in the area and put them in with your sheep or cattle - they are fabulous guardians for livestock. You don't need to kill wolves as the sole remedy for their conflicts with your interests. Its extremely sad that the folks of 2011 are every bit as ignorant, cruel and vicious about a predator that has every right to exist in nature and has no idea that the sheep is "owned". You are supposed to be the superior species, maybe someday you'll act like it.