One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It.

Montana wildlife managers deem the first wolf season a success, for both hunters and hunted

  • One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It.

    Courtesy CDN Antler Designs
  • Black wolf and raven at an elk kill, Yellowstone National Park.

    Donald M. Jones

The hide from the wolf Carl Lewis shot stretches 7 feet, 9 inches long, the back and ruff as black as a Montana midnight, easing along the legs and flanks to a color that Lewis likens to that of a blue roan horse. Lewis shot the big radio-collared alpha male on his ranch, high on the east side of the Big Hole Valley, last fall. "I really wanted to get a wolf this year," he says, "because we have to live around them, and I wanted to see a few less around our place." Lewis and his family saw wolves 22 different times on their ranch during the past summer, so he knew where to start hunting. "I went out that morning on a fresh snow, and saw no tracks at all. Got up to the top of the ridge, though, and there he was." Lewis shot the wolf from 400 yards with his .338, the rifle he normally uses for elk hunting. Three days later, his son Tanner got a wolf of his own.

Montana's first-ever wolf season was viewed with horror by many environmental groups, and by many people who have celebrated the charismatic predator's return to the Northern Rockies. The hunt was simply too much, too soon, they said; it would kill off the alpha males and females that are the primary breeders and break the slowly building matrix of genetic diversity that is key to the long-term health of the returning populations. They predicted that leaderless wolf packs would go after even more livestock, leading to more wolf-killing by the federal Wildlife Services. The wolves' positive effects on the ecosystem -- keeping coyote numbers in check, scattering elk that were overgrazing their winter ranges -- could be reversed.

But even if those fears proved true, the sheer success of wolf reintroduction made a hunt inevitable, sooner or later. With more than 1,645 wolves in the region and at least 95 breeding pairs, the program had exceeded its original goals of at least 300 wolves, with 30 breeding pairs, every year for over seven years. The population was expanding faster than anyone, even the region's leading predator biologists, could have predicted. Many Montana big-game hunters thought that a tipping point had been reached. "We always knew there would have to be management of wolves," says Carolyn Sime, statewide wolf coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "Or people would just start killing them. The question was whether that management would be through the tried-and-true method of hunting, or through government control only, paying the shooters with the helicopters. We wanted the same model that has given us some of our biggest conservation successes with other wildlife."

As Montana's wolf hunt closed in November, the human element -- the pro-wolf, anti-wolf anger that has been so much a part of wolf restoration in the West –– shifted, almost imperceptibly. True, the hunt's critics remained outraged, while those who want wolves eliminated altogether were dismayed that so many were still alive. True, most successful wolf hunters shot their quarry while deer and elk hunting, and most of them, according to interviews, viewed the shooting more as predator control than as a true "hunting" experience.  But the stage has been set for a change.

Foremost, the federal government is no longer making the rules. The state of Montana is. But more importantly, among the wolf hunters is a small but growing constituency that sees the animals neither as the sacred burning heart of nature, something to be worshipped from afar, nor as mangy and murderous vermin that deserve extermination. Instead, they view wolves as wild game animals, a quarry worthy of respect –– maybe, someday, even protection. Judging from the past, it is this constituency that will ensure the survival of the gray wolf into the 21st century. "When it comes to big animals with big teeth that eat big things, you have a lot of things to balance out," says Sime. "If you can't develop a broad-based constituency of support for the species on the landscape where the people live with them, then the long-term viability of that species is not good."

Montana's wolf season opened in the backcountry on Sept. 15, and in the rest of the state's current wolf country -- roughly from the Canadian border west of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, south to the Idaho line and east to Yellowstone National Park -- on Oct. 25. According to state game officials, 15,603 hunters bought wolf tags, including 89 non-residents who paid $350 for the privilege (a resident tag was only $19), bringing in a total of over $325,000.

The first day of the hunt was hard on wolves that had never been hunted before: Ten were killed. An average of 20 wolves per week were killed after that. The wolf season closed on Nov. 16, a few days ahead of schedule; hunters had killed 72 wolves out of the 75-wolf quota set by state wildlife biologists, and the quota was about to be surpassed.

Anonymous says:
May 10, 2010 11:17 AM
Thank you for posting such a wonderful article! I don't think anyone could have summarized this better!
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 03:45 PM
 Ross says that he "got quite a bit of flak for shooting a wolf, people saying I exploited my job. I don't want anybody to think that. I was out hunting, I had a wolf tag, and we got into them. That's all."

Now Mr stupid do you think we are? Like you didn't know this packs territory?
Sounds like you're the type that "game farm hunting" would appeal to.
Too bad MFWP doesn't demand an individual have an ethical background before they hire them.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 06:48 PM
Jerry, you don't know Mike. I do. Mike is rock solid on ethics. Also, it wouldn't take telemetry or insider knowledge to find wolves in the upper Gallatin. You need to apologize.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 10:19 PM
Kills for the thrill of killing, in other words a "hobby hunter". And you consider this type of person ethical?
Sounds like he'd be an excellent recruit for Wildlife Services.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 02:02 PM
Jerry: Nice snap judgment. Do you get a lot of good stuff done for wolves sitting at your computer? People like Mike Ross are out there on the ground every day, having to make management decisions in the complicated real world. Agency wolf specialists get flack from all directions. I've been there when Mike could have taken the easy way out to appease angry people, and he has stood his ground and given wolves the benefit of the doubt. It's not an easy job and it's not the road to riches.
What do you do for wolves? What have you put on the line? A $25 check to Defenders?
Wolves are a 2-D entertainment experience for people like you (see, I can make uniformed assertions about you, too!).
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:43 PM is this what you're saying? It's ethical for someone, who works protecting an endangered species that's trying to re-establish itself, to go out and kill one literally months after that species has been delisted???
As far as "Defenders" goes, they've created more intolerance toward wolves than tolerance with their continued compromising with the livestock industry.
Anonymous says:
May 15, 2010 08:07 PM
No one need apologize for taking issue with wolf hunting.
It's the lazy way out of finding a solution to a problem for both ranchers - (people) and wolves. Grow a pair ~ get together with other folks in your area and some people who know about wolves and find another solution. You really want to be a person of integrity and morality ?.............. Set an example. Find another way.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 04:54 PM
I suggest you read Adrian Treves paper in The Journal of Applied Ecology entitled "Hunting for large carninore conservation". It will help you understand the fallacy of these hunts.
Journal of Applied Ecology 2009, 46, 1350-1356
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 05:42 PM
As synecdoches, symbols carrying different meanings depending on personal affiliations and values, how we perceive wolves is highly subjective. Robisch (2009), in Wolves and the Wolf Myth, ofers that we write of wolves in our culture based on what exists in our imagination and what serves our human needs -- the World Wolf of our literature, the Corporeal Wolf of our biological world. We need both, in order to understand its place in our world, within its landscape, its role in our ecosystem, and its inherent right to exist.
  To appreciate our interconnection with the wolf, as an animal of high intelligence, social qualities, relational capacities, survival instincts, tenacious and fierce determination, is to recognize its intrinsic values. We have romanticized, overemphasized, villified, reified the wolf in order to support our position, as reason for its eradication or its existence. The choice to take a wolf's life is not ours to make. Wolves possess an inherent right to live. As we continue to assert dominance, employ all means of murder -- from political, economical, manifesting into physical -- we conveniently disregard other responsibilities as stewards and guardians of life on earth. Certainly, it is as reasonable to protect ourselves from the natural effects of a wolf's predatory behavior as we would seek shelter from a hurricane or higher ground from a flash flood. But our continual choice to assert our right to a healthy and prosperous life, if there were such right, by murdering sensitive, feeling, intelligent and beautiful creatures is a crime of inner morality, an act of ignorant arrogance and contributes to the social violence amongst us. For these alleged acts of self-protection are eschew with myth, overreaction, and malice. Wolves deserve a rightful place in our landscapes -- we can employ nonviolent means to deter predator behavior, we can use our human consciousness -- continually evolving -- to create paths of coexistence. We can address the legitimate concerns of those living close to wolves to put the hearts and minds at ease. And we can expand our concept of what it means to live in the world with all creatures, even those that push the edges of our very human boundaries.
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 07:43 PM
Denise B.

From a Florida resident who has never seen a wolf but hopes very much to, one moonlit night, hear the sound of one's voice. Thank you for your thoughtful,sensitive plea. Humans are the wolves only predators. To ensure the future of this iconic species we must play that role judiciously and with respect. But play it we must, honoring the quarry, as did the native Americans, even as we kill him.

Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 08:52 PM
Denise is smoking something. She writes eloquently but seems to forget that wolves violently kill things to make a living. They have plundered elk and moose herds in and around Yellowstone and have pounded the coyote population into submission. They are breeding beyond all forecasts. But she decries humans for killing a few wolves now that they are well past the recovery goals?

Humans are and should be a part of this equation, too, and humans killing wolves is no different than wolves killing coyotes. Human hunters killing elk or moose or bison is no different than a wolf doing it. We have just as much a right to this bounty as wolves. Denial of that is a denial of our basic existence, our soul.

Having wolves back on landscape of the Northern Rockies is a fine thing, but it should not mean humans (specifically ranchers and legal hunters), who are also part of the landscape, are discriminated against in the process.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 08:37 PM
Many of the responses my posting elicited carry the anger and hostility of which we "wolf lovers from far away" are well aware. It is unfortunate. I in no way wish to add to the energy of adversity already present in the landscape and contribute to "my side of the conflict." My intentions are simple: to speak on behalf of the voiceless. Wolves have no voice with which they may assert their right to live on this planet alongside us. They are not equipped with the consciousness that we possess nor are they able to eek out a living in any other manner than what they were created to do -- be a top predator. The fact that we can eek out a living in other ways -- albeit some of the responses seem to indicate that people are struggling -- does not abrogate our responsibility to care for those who cannot. In fact, we have a MORAL and ETHICAL obligation (and some would argue, religious) to care for those that we have impacted, to honor that which was on the land as well as humans.

Many responses seem to assert a "right" to kill wolves. I ask you -- who gave you that right? I certainly did not. I would stand in the path of your bullets if I were there myself to save a wolf's life. I support Defenders of Wildlife and their mitigation program to compensate those who have lost livestock to wolves -- and other programs as well -- that's what they are there for, to recognize that wolves are indeed predators, that we have drastically altered the landscape, and that people may struggle with making a living. And I honor and am grateful for the ranchers that are willing to make room for the wolves, and appreciate they too, have spoken their piece (or peace).

What seems to be the proverbial elephant in the room is the need for a paradigm shift -- respectfully, I am offering up that wolves, grizzlies, and other key predators have a rightful place in our ecosystem, alongside us. That we can, as intelligent, arguably compassionate and moral creatures, find better means than taking up arms against those with no means of defense. That our populations have grown to such proportions that our very species alone has threatened their survival and pushed them to the breaking point so that the small acreages on which they are now relegated to live is a shadow of their former lands. The fact that we are all feeling the overcrowding of a finite resource does not automatically mean that we should eradicate those that are disturbing our chosen way of making a living. Perhaps we need to find other more ecologically compatible means of making a living that do not include murder, violence, aggression and assertion. Perhaps there are alternatives that could be explored to not only provide for your families but for the betterment of the planet.

I am not presenting myself to argue facts back and forth; we could go around endlessly in such fashion. I am inviting each and every one of you that would take up the rifles and gun down the wolves you are fortunate enough to live amongst, to expand your awareness that there exist alternatives to your actions and that there are enough of us that care about wolves to place our money where the wolves live, and the numbers (tourism dollars, Defenders of Wildlife mitigation funds, and others) reflect that desire. That many of us here in Colorado welcome the wolves at the same time we are very well aware that we must not be sending our dogs out alone at night, for we live with cougars and bears. That our elderly horses should perhaps be locked in the barn at night and not left to roam about vulnerable to predators, because that is our responsibility as their guardians. I have lost many animals to predators where I live -- in the mountains without running water for many, many years on solar energy -- and I believe it is my responsibility to care for my animals and still allow the predators to live their lives.

The point is, we all have a choice. And people living in Montana or Wyoming or Colorado may all be living close to wolves and faced with that choice daily or perhaps not at all -- but we have the choice when they are in our presence, to take their lives or allow them to live. It is a sacred choice that honors the nonduality and interconnection we all have with the entire web of life.

For the wolves,

Denise Boehler
Nederland, Colorado
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 03:13 PM
 Your running off at the mouth about something you know nothing about.
the lower 48 is not like it was 100 years ago. Farmers and ranchers live her now, you can not just dump the canadan wolf here without control.
 The wolf must coexist with man, You say find another way without killing them. The feds. the states fish and wildlife, rancher and hunters would all love you and the animal lovers (if you people think your so smart that live in the city away from wolves) would come up with a plan that would keep the wolf from killing all the deer and elk, livestock, pets and attacking people.
We are waiting for your plan, maybe you could just go talk to them or live trap them and put them in the city parks(they lived there also before you built there). get real
Anonymous says:
May 11, 2010 08:58 PM
The story glorifies the wolf hunt, and leaves out those of us who can find value in wolves w/o having a wolf head on the wall. However, since the author writes for a hunting magazine, not surprising he doesn't give a hoot for anyone who values wolves w/o killing them. He spouts the agency attitude that only by letting anti-wolf people kill wolves will they like them, maybe. Carolyn Sime is on her usual soapbox, protecting her job by trying to justify and also facilitating the killing of as many wolves as possible. I once watched as she laughingly introduced herself as the "Queen of Kill". What can wolf supporters do? Boycott Montana (and Idaho) beef, lamb, big game outfitters, and any business that rejoices in the killing of wolves.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 10:23 AM
I do value wolves other than as something to kill. Very much so, and I'm looking for the way to keep wolves on the landscape in the long run.

I keep asking people who oppose the hunt- if not the hunt,what then? I never get an answer. But there are answers out there. The first is that Wildlife Services will take over all "management." Good idea?

If you were a cattle rancher, with 600 head of elk on your land that compete for grass with your cows, and you accept that, and you have a grizz pass through now and again, maybe even take a calf, and you accept that, and you have a wolverine on your land, that you enjoy seeing--deeded land now, not public land lease, and you have antelope, all of the natives, and then there are wolves, killing just enough cows every year that your profits are not enough to make the payment on your swather, or pay a hand to help with calving. And some people, way off, tell you, "too bad, pal." And then there are more wolves, and more losses, enough now that you can't make the payments on everything. Margins were tight to begin with. "Yeah, so what. Live with it," says the far away pro-wolf community.

How would you feel?

And Field and Stream is a hunting and fishing magazine. It is also the oldest conservation magazine in the US, and has done some of the hardest hitting enviro stories of any publication in the country.


Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 10:55 AM
Hal - Why do you and others always claim that people who are sticking up for wolves live far away? This is often NOT the case.I was raised in ranch country, and live in the midst of cattle and sheep. I have no sympathy for ranchers who can't protect their livestock from predators and blame their slim or no profits on wolves. You point out cowmen have learned to live with 600 elk on their place, a griz, wolverine (? - when did wolverines kill cattle?). But they can't figure out how to live with wolves? Coyotes kill more calves and lambs than wolves - and wolves can keep the coyotes trimmed. Wolves are smart and can learn to avoid ranches - but when there are bone piles with carcasses, and sick and injured neglected livestock out on the range, or simply livestock that has no one with them, there are going to be problems. Margins are tight in my job, a lot of Americans are losing their homes, have lost their jobs, having to change professions ... but cattlemen seem to think the rest of us owe them their cowboy lifestyle. And taxpayers fund Wildlife Services to kill coyotes and wolves, so that cowmen and sheepmen can continue to scrape out a living. Perhaps if cattlemen had to pay the cost of Wildlife Services fleet of Dodge Ram pickup trucks, trappers, fixed wing aircraft, pilots and helicopter time (all to kill wolves & other predators) - the cowmen would work harder to protect their stock.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 11:50 AM
I am curious, what do these ranchers do all day while their cattle are roaming free?
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 03:39 PM
Two thing to you, you never made a living from livestock you said you lived around were cattle and sheep were. I have had cattle for 40 years,and you say you are sick of rancher not protecting there livestock from wolves, get the feds, and state out of it and the rancher can protect there livestock. They still make poison and ammo.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:43 PM
It is a generalization to use "people far away" and I apologize for that- I know there are locals who support wolf-restoration. I'm one of them.
But I'm in a distinct minority in the place where I live and the places where I work around the West.

All in all, I agree with the substance of your comment. It's ironic here, I think, that in arguing for this hunt, one of my beliefs is that without hunters being involved, Wildlife Services will be the primary wolf control
power, and I have always questioned- here at HCN, in a long ago film review, to name one place- placing more power in the hands of a taxpayer funded agency that kills wildlife. Also, take a look at McCone County in Mt., which has opted out of using Wildlife Services, and has its own predator control contractors...they are real good at what they do, too.

Landowners kill predators that kill their stock. I don't see how we can change that fact. You can object to paying for it, and if you feel that way, you should.

Please, please, though remember this risk: wolves cannot survive if they are confined to existence in the National Parks and public lands. Some huge percentage of the habitat they, and their prey animals need, is on private land. If we alienate those landowners beyond some tipping point, we will have failed, and the wolves and other wildlife will pay the price for our failures.

You can't make people do anything, and believe me, if you had the kind of gov't that could, that gov't wouldn't be protecting wolves or elk.

The Tester Barrasso bill just got something like $1 million for ranchers impacted by wolves. I think that's a great idea, provided that taxpayers pay attention to where that money goes- range riders, carcass removal, minimizing conflict, etc- Defenders of Wildllife has a great research program underway on how this can be done- rather than just more "control actions" ie. killing.

There are big positive actions that can be taken to help reduce these wolf conflicts. But I'm not seeing them on a big enough scale. I mostly see people chunking rocks at one another while business as usual goes on its awful way.

Kill all the wolves! NO! Save all the wolves!

Wolf hunt! NO! Never!

All wolves must die to save elk! NO! No wolves should never die!

Wolves are vermin!No, Wolves are the soul of all wild things!!!

We HATE wolves aaaaarrrrrghh!!!! WE LOVE wolves aaaaarrrrgh!!!!

Wildlife Services kills 145 of 'em. No comment. Hunters kill 72. The fury, the fury.

Got to be a better way.


Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 05:06 PM me any other "business" outside of growing cows that will survive on an average profit margin of 2-to 2 1/2 % or in many cases much less. It would be considered a "failed business model". If it weren't for the taxpayers supporting this socialized ranching system, they'd never make it. How long do you think the taxpayers are willing to dump $$ into such a welfare system?
Let's save the grass, especially on our public lands for our wildlife.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 10:43 PM

I'd venture a guess that most American families operate at a profit margin of two percent or less. Expecting businesses to post gross profits for owners and shareholders is unsustainable. Ranching, subsidized ranching, is a better use of taxpayer money than most other "welfare" programs. We've learned that lesson here in California where we've developed nearly every piece of private open space in the state. Save the grass? You'll learn what is at stake when there are no more ranchers.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 08:45 PM
First, I'm not against hunting predators (I do it myself), but western wolf hunts are (so far) ill conceived - the product of intense pressure from livestock interests and people who

Montana's is the best of the lot, but Idaho's is simply a wolf eradication plan in disguise, and Wyoming's is so bad the feds couldn't even find an excuse to hand over management.

Unfortunately, your article is long on storytelling and short on facts. For example, hunters keep blaming wolves for declines in elk herds all over the west - even when surveys show the herds haven't declined, or are still above target population levels (as set by fish & game).

In the Bitterroot area, your sympathetic electrician complained about the lack of elk, yet population stats show that the elk population started its free fall *before* wolves populated the area, and the steepest part of the decline occurred well before wolf populations reached appreciable levels.

Wolves *have* altered the range habits of elk - pushing them back into their historic usage patterns - and today's largely lackluster hunters haven't adapted very well.

In other words, today's hunters have a lot of things to blame besides wolves - as do supposed hook and bullet journalists - but neither seems willing to do so.

Finally, your whine about ranchers (in the comment above) was astonishing. As a group, ranchers enjoy taxpayer-funded welfare far above that enjoyed by the average citizen, including billions spent on predator "control" programs, grazing fees so ridiculously low they might as well not charge ($1.35/AMU), and even reimbursement for livestock lost to wolves.

And this despite the fact that predators account for only 5% of all livestock losses, and wolves only account for a measly 0.11% of cattle losses (1/22 the losses attributed to coyotes, which wolves control).

Hell, domestic dogs kill 5x as many cattle as wolves.

I firmly believe some level of hunting wolves is necessary (and even healthy), but we're not there yet according to the biologists who should know.

And that's largely ignoring the pack dynamics that hunting would disrupt as hunters sought out the biggest specimens, culling the alphas from even well-behaved packs, sowing the seeds of even more bad livestock & human interactions.

More importantly, hunting programs like that in Idaho and (to a lesser extent) Montana practically guarantee an ESA relisting, which you and your readers would no doubt blame on wolf huggers and "those darned feds" when an ill-conceived hunting program - uncritically supported by folks like you - was at fault.

p.s. - Field & Stream hasn't been a real conservation magazine in a long, long time.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 10:52 PM

Talk about selective use and interpretation of the "facts." About the only thing you have completely right is your last comment about Field & Stream.

But sadly, you can say the same thing about Audubon magazine, which hasn't been worth a hoot since Les Line left as editor. Back then if a piece needed 12,000 words to explain the issues and nuances, it was given 12,000 words. Today, we get 1,200 words of politics and sound bites. Come to think of it, I can't think of any publication that actually does reporting any more.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 11:35 PM
I provided facts (all verifiable). You provided... well, nothing so far.

What exactly did I get wrong that you didn't?

The sad reality in all this theater is that wolves *aren't* playing a big role in the bankrupting of America's ranchers, or the supposed decimation of its deer and elk populations - the two reasons most often given for hunts.

And what's so unreasonable about suggesting that hunting wolves is a sound management practice - but not these hunts (especially those in Idaho and proposed in Wyoming)?
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 02:45 PM

I didn't say your facts were wrong (although I doubt that anyone's "target" for the moose herd in and around Yellowstone, where there are wolves, was 1/10th or less of what it is today), I said it was your interpretation of the data was wacky. For example, you wrote:

"And this despite the fact that predators account for only 5% of all livestock losses, and wolves only account for a measly 0.11% of cattle losses (1/22 the losses attributed to coyotes, which wolves control).

"Hell, domestic dogs kill 5x as many cattle as wolves."

I'm sure this is all factual. But you screw up two things:

First, if ranchers are operating at 2 to 2 1/2 percent, like someone else in this collection of screeds pointed out, losing five percent of your livestock to predators could put you out of business and send the ranch back to the bank. Predators might be one of the only losses a rancher can even attempt to control and therefore become the difference in making the nut or not.

Second, losses to wolves versus losses to coyotes and dogs isn't a comparable number because wolves don't occur everywhere there are coyotes and dogs. If you could isolate losses just to places with all three, you'd have a valid figure. Your figures are likely to be statewide or national, not refined to just areas with wolves, coyotes, and feral (or domestic) dogs. So in that sense, the comparison is completely invalid. You're comparing grains of sand to a boulder field.

Whether wolves are good for elk and moose, at least as far as keeping numbers more in line with habitat, is certainly a debatable point. There are an increasing number of scientists who are suggesting wolves have driven big game numbers well below even their lowest target figures. More would say that if the state game agencies weren't so vested in and bound to supporting the wolf program. The declining elk and moose numbers are certainly not good for human hunters, and, as I've said here before, we have a right to the game just as much as the wolves.

All said and done, I'm glad they're back. I just wish we'd have been more careful about the subspecies used, disease issues (also being swept under the table by the feds and state agencies), and impacts on our -- our -- other big game.

Be happy to buy you a beer if you're ever forced to be in sunny, Southern California where the wolves all wear three-piece suits.
Anonymous says:
Aug 20, 2010 03:50 PM
Gee Hal, domestic dogs kill an average of 15 people a year (source- The Humane Society of the US) and MANY more livestock than Wolves do (source- USFWS Annual Wolf Reports). The same is true of Bears and Cougars. Should we have an open hunting season on dogs? Modern man controls the dog poplulation by means of spaying and nuetering, why not Wolves. It is certainly more humane than killing them and MUCH less expensive than killing generation after generation. Nobody eats Wolves so hunting them for subsistance isn't an option. White folks and livestock are nonative, invasive species that came here from someplace else less than 200 years ago. Wolves have gotten along fine with all of the other indigenous species in North America for thousands of years. It's time for the newcomers (man) to learn to get along with the other animals that have a right to exist and to do so in a humane way. Killing animals for any reason other than food (or as a last result, like killing dogs) is a BRUTAL,SAVAGE, BARBAIC,ARCHAIC,INHUMANE relic from our caveman past when we were hunter/gatherers. To those of you still suck in the Neanderthal past, please put the campfire out and come out of your cave!
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 10:21 AM
I live in a peaceful mountain canyon, at least it was until the wolves showed up. We have seen and heard them all winter. We fear for our elderly horse and no longer allow our outside loving dog outside when she is not with us. I don't even feel comfortable walking alone and have began to carry a pistol for protection. The elk we used to enjoy seeing on a regualr basis are all but gone. Moose vanished! What about people, we belong on this earth too! It is a sad day when my quality of life has been compromised becasue of the endangered species act. The wolves were always here but no one would listen, so they dumped a non native wolf right in the middle of them. Seems that would really screw up the genetic pool. Sadly wolves are just the tip of the iceberg. The bunny huggers a doing more harm than good.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 11:15 AM
I live in the heart of wolf country - I see them from my window sometimes, see their tracks on hiking trails and hear them howling their song at night. I prefer wolves to the camo-clad, redneck army of wolf hunters that invaded this land last fall. I hike or ski nearly every day in wolf country, and have seen wolves more than a couple hundred times, sometimes close - when we surprised each other. I've never been afraid. I love hearing the wolves howl as do my friends. My dog goes with me, but I don't let him run off or leave him out at night. I am blessed to live with wolves, and am saddened that so many of those I knew my sight, were shot by hunters, who had no respect for these magnificent animals. Hunters who baited, used predator calls, hunted at night. Now agencies are proposing to allow hunters to use traps and snares to kill wolves and it won't be safe for anyone to be out with their dogs. Snaring already goes on, but it will greatly increase is wolf hunters can set. MT & Idaho can advise to tourists, to be sure and bring along wire cutters, to save your dog before it chokes to death in a wolf snare. Minnesota gets along with its 3000 wolves, and has no hunting season.
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 04:57 PM begin with, the "introduced" wolves are no different than the wolves that inhabited "Your" valley. Just a wee bit of research will verify that.
Secondly, the land you live on was most likely stolen from the Native Americans by our government, then sold off for practically nothing or given away. The Native Americans from which it was pilfered co-existed with all the bio=diversity, then we came along and screwed up the natural balance by introducing exotic species, nainly cows and sheep and killing off all threats to them.
Do you feel you have ANY responsibility at all to protect what once existed as a naturally functioning environment?
Anonymous says:
Aug 20, 2010 04:01 PM
Wolves inhabited the area you call home long before you did. Seems pretty arrogent to me that now that you are their the rest of the ecosystem should change to suit your needs. That is the problem here in the West. Humans were the last animal to show up and now all of the other animals need to change to suit humans wants. These are NOT "our" animals and humans don't have the right to impose their sense of value and worth on all of the other animals that were here first. If you are afraid of these animals (dogs kill an average of 15 people a year in North America, healthy wild Wolves have killed two people in North America in the last 100 years) then take reasonable precautions (like not allowing your dog to run loose by itself). Or better yet, move out of Wolf country. These animals have more of a right to live here than humans do (they are indigenous, white people aren't).
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 11:46 AM
In his latest anti-carnivore diatribe, “One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It,” Hal Herring argues that Montana will “save” its wolves by allowing hunters to shoot them. Under his theory, supported by anecdotes, hunting increases tolerance. Herring relies on the testimony of a Mississippi-born Cherokee, who happily shoots a wolf in Herring’s yarn, despite believing “‘that maybe these animals are my ancestors.’” Herring’s attempt at creating the mythic Indian hunter does little to “prove” his premise.

On the other hand, Adrian Treves, author of a 2009 peer-reviewed scientific study, “Hunting for Large Carnivore Conservation,” has put a stake through the heart of the notion that hunting large carnivores increases tolerance. It does nothing of the sort. The bottom line is most carnivore hunters see little worth in carnivores except as a game animal. To hunters, carnivores compete for game and attack humans. Both these notions are largely based in myth too.

Unfortunately for Herring, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ own data with regards to elk numbers around Region 2 (that includes Darby, Montana where Herring’s wolf hunter lives) does not show predation as a problem for ungulates. Elk (but also white-tailed deer, mule deer, and bighorn sheep) numbers are not at an all time low because of wolves (or mountain lions)–as the agency and Herring claim. That’s another yarn. The truth is: sportsmen went crazy with shooting elk and deer, and now big horn sheep are dying in droves from pneumonia—thanks to domestic sheep, vectors of this disease.

In Region 2, hunter-killed elk increased dramatically between 2004 and 2005 (from 840 to 1,211) a 44% increase in one year, and averaged 949 for the years 2006 and 2007, but declined in 2008 to 654. Because of the large numbers of elk and deer killed by sport hunters in the years since 2005, one can surmise from FWP’s own data that human hunters have taken an unsustainable toll on Region 2’s elk and deer herds and that predation is likely playing a secondary if not a negligible role.

Moreover, in a 2009 peer-reviewed study, bluntly called, “The Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf is Not Yet Recovered,” a host of biologists, including the lead author, Bradly Bergstrom, show that wolves have been recovered to less than one-third of the Northern Rockies region and that their delisting is premature. We’re still awaiting recovery in the Southern Rockies (mostly Colorado). But by killing off Northern Rockies wolves, this makes their recovery in the south very difficult. Is this a good use of tax payers’ funds? Millions of dollars have been spent to restore wolves—and now a handful of folks are hellbent on exterminating them, including USDA’s Wildlife Services and the States of Idaho and Montana.

Speaking of money: In Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming wolf-watching tourism generates $36 million a year, according to Duffield et al. (2008). This torrent of cash and the volumes of people who value large carnivore conservation over killing them off is little appreciated by state wildlife managers. That’s because their funding is tied to selling hunting licenses.

It’s time for wildlife agencies to accept the broader stakeholder base, embrace wolf, bear, and lion conservation. The side benefit: agencies, which are in death throes because the numbers of hunters is in dramatic decline can enhance their financial portfolios from other revenue streams. Wow. They might even embrace the notion of carnivore conservation as a result. Allowing large carnivores to live in ecologically-functional populations will have huge ecological benefits--benefits that only large carnivores can confer on their environments.

Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 08:49 PM
Wendy's research on the amount of money ($36 Million) that wolves generate in ecotourism provides a powerful example of how many people already believe that to see a live wolf on its original territory (or in the hopes of seeing one) is a far more desirable experience than taking up arms against them. I'm not naive enough to ignore the economic argument when it comes to wolves and damage, and would point those concerned right over to that research Wendy offered up to provide an example of a better way of coexisting with these natural creatures.

Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 03:38 PM
The amount of damage to the livestock industry by all predators -- that includes domestic dogs -- is less than 1%. Those data are for the nation and for the Northern Rockies. Wolves, because they are so numerically rare, are far far more valuable than any cow, steer, or sheep. What is the value of a wolf is people are willing to spend millions of dollars per year to see one? That's a better question that wildlife managers have failed to grapple with.
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 03:40 PM
Clarification: less than 1% for cattle; approximately 3% for sheep. Those data are on our website: and in my War on Wildlife Report: http://www.wildearthguardia[…]-on-wildlife-june-09-lo.pdf
Anonymous says:
May 12, 2010 01:43 PM
I feel so sad that there is no place for wolves and bears in our society.
When I was a little girl and my mother read me, "Little Red Riding Hood," i cried for the wolf. Even then I knew that life is sacred. ALL of God's ceatures are sacred right down to the slugs.
I was once at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicage when I sat down to talk to an alpha wolf. He left, then reappeared with his pack and we had a howl together. I could never look into the eyes of a fellow creature and kill it. I even adore spiders!
Why cannot man let nature takes its course. When the prey goes down, so will the wolf population. Meanwhile, hunters should go to the grocery store for food!!!!!!
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 10:31 PM
Oh Penelope, wake up! Proper hunting is the most natural, organic and ethical way to obtain one's food. Do you know what happens to the animals before they end up at the grocery store meat counter? The lives of our "grocery store" animals are far worse than their wild cousins. Telling people to go to the grocery store to "shop" for food that just came from a slaugterhouse, while disdaining hunting, is one of the most ignorant statements I've read in a long time. If you love animals, hunt them for food, while keeping your integrity.
Anonymous says:
May 14, 2010 12:47 PM
Christina: When man destroys a work of man he is called a vandal. When man destroys a work of God, he is called a hunter. I protest the way we treat all animals in our society. If you make a kill, then show reverance. Remember that God made the animals BEFORE he made man: We were almost an after thought. Please do your assinine macho hunting, but you should get the leftovers. Predators should have first dubs! As for ranchers - my father grew up on a ranch in Colorado. He was outraged that ranchers just turn out their stock and don't keep tabs on them. In southern NM one time, the ranchers tried to say that it was predators killing their sheep, but it turned out that most died of starvation! We need predators! They make man realize that he is not at the top of the food chain and should be humble.
Anonymous says:
May 13, 2010 08:31 PM
Wonderful piece of writing, Hal. Thank you for the exceptional piece of reportage, and thanks to HCN for posting it. It's the best work I've read on the issue for a long, long time.

Anonymous says:
May 14, 2010 10:35 AM
I like this article because it’s different. It injects a fresh perspective into a wolf debate that has gotten predicable in its extremes. I like how it challenges folks on both sides to open their minds and rethink the issue a bit. Just like Ray Ring’s work, this is good journalism, inviting us to think about an issue from a slightly different angle that some of us might initially reject. You don’t have to sympathize with people you disagree with, but you should at least try to walk in their shoes. Empathy is a dying trait in America.

I was born and raised in Salmon and was there for the reintroduction. I think I was one of the small handful of people in the town that (quietly of course) supported the reintroduction. But the issue has become so extreme and emotional on both sides that it’s stifling an important discussion, a discussion which could lead to positive things for wolves. Let’s welcome different perspectives like Hal’s instead of attacking him.
Anonymous says:
May 16, 2010 07:13 AM
I agree that the viewpoint is important. The comments on this article are just a microcosm for the 'debate' in general. I think we need to identify what we want in the West... do we want the whole place to be a wildlife refuge with no humans (even though humans have lived there for thousands of years)? Do we want a sterile cattle ranch with no other animals? Or do we want a vibrant ecosystem with an associated vibrant human culture? Is the goal to efficiently create meat for humans on a harsh landscape? If so, maybe cows are the wrong way to go. Maybe the ranchers who live on and know and love the land should let cows go and manage for healthy elk herds. Without the cows there would be room for lots of elk for humans and a reasonable population of wolves. The problem is that the ranchers' 'way of life is intertwined with cattle and also that the consumers in this country demand beef, not elk meat. I honestly don't know if an elk-deer-trout-tourism economy is viable or not but the beef-based economy may also not be. Beef is subsidized, maybe we need to shift the subsidies. The fact is as someone mentioned earlier, keeping the ranchers in a viable lifestyle on their land is vital, or we get subdivision and lose everything. It is happening in California as rising land costs drive ranchers off the land - and it is replaced by 'ranchettes' and resulting almost total loss of the ecosystem AND culture.

Predator hunting seems to bother me on an emotional level because it is hard for me to personally justify killing something that isn't going to be used (can you eat wolf meat? would you want to?) I am not saying it should be illegal, I just am not quite sure how I feel about it. In any event, the whole issue is a mess. One thin I think is pretty evident is that neither of the extreme solutions we keep hearing about are going to get us where we need to be.
Anonymous says:
May 14, 2010 04:10 PM
This article does nothing but glorify the slaughtering of wolves.
Oh no, we can't have the wolves kill livestock, of course not.
But now they can't even kill the wildlife like elk and moose that they are "supposed" to eat! Boo hoo, some hunters have to actually HUNT for their elk. I'm heartbroken, really. And it takes a real coward to hunt for the sheer thrill of killing an animal and not for food. The fact that people like this are claiming to be helping wolves by shooting them just shows how selfish and ignorant they really are.
Anonymous says:
May 15, 2010 12:50 PM
Killing these wolves is nothing but pure butchery in my opinion! I never seen such disregard for our wildlife! One day all those hunters will stand before God for these terrible acts they're committing. I don't need lame excuses as to "why" they have to kill them, this is our wildlife man is destroying little by little! Look what man has done to our oceans with their oil spills? Man is killing everything it touches! No wonder God is angry! That's why you have your earthquakes, floods, tornados, etc. God is disappointed & it's the wrath of God coming at you!
Anonymous says:
May 20, 2010 04:10 AM
While I thought the article was a very thought provoking piece of quality writing the comments that followed are really what has captivated me. It is a real eye opener to see the passion as each side of this debate uses to argue their respective point of view. The division could not be wider between the two extremes.

For the record I believe that we will need to control wolf populations while maintaining them as a viable member of the natural ecosystem. A hard challenge indeed given that it lies somewhere between two very different and passionately held points of view.

Keep up the great writing as I am sure it helps us all to better understand and very complex issue.
Anonymous says:
May 28, 2010 07:49 PM
I caught that about how us hunters accept the cougar surely we will learn to accept the wolf. A cougar doesn't kill 24 elk a year to survive. But, these CANANDAIAN wolves do.
 The main diet of a cougar is Deer. They don't hunt in packs and Wolves are the apex predator of the two.
Idaho was lied to from the get go. We were just fine with 10 packs + our 5 + buffer packs. It's about the Lies and back room deals that people are more pissed off about then the wolves themselves. We are watching our Elk disappear here in Idaho. Rubbish, you say...The Lolo zone, Middle Fork zone, Selway Zone, Sawtooth Zone. These are zones that the calf ratio is below the objective. Meaning it will not maintain the species. What, now you say we don't have the correct scientist's because they aren't kissing the Defenders of Wildlife's butts good enough. A little fact for you greenie's, ONLY thru sales of Idaho LIcenses and tags do the Conservation projects are funded. If a state can prove it is a hunting state it only gets 11% of the federal gun and camping sales. Idaho is struggling to support it's wildlife now because people don't want to hunt here due to lack of game caused by what? Wolves! This is all fact. You want to get educated on true facts rather then the Disney Land approach spread by Defenders Of Wildlife. Idaho Fish and Game is a good start. And FYI, Your chicken that you buy at the groccery store got it's tongue cut out, hung upside down and bled out. Not to mention living in a cage and being fed hormones until it's very young life ended.
Most hunters have more love for nature and respect for the animals they hunt, then you groccery store shoppers could ever imagine. Strict predator control is a must in this day of time. Remember, this isn't the "Old West" anymore, People live and work in these mountains. They own private land, and another FYI, The state of IDAHO own's it's wildlife. The Idaho fish and game Manage's the wildlife. The more hunts we have on Wolves, the more the citizen's might, just might settle down and accept them. Put them back on the ESA list, Who knows...You can only push a person so much.
Anonymous says:
May 28, 2010 07:50 PM
I caught that about how us hunters accept the cougar surely we will learn to accept the wolf. A cougar doesn't kill 24 elk a year to survive. But, these CANANDAIAN wolves do.
 The main diet of a cougar is Deer. They don't hunt in packs and Wolves are the apex predator of the two.
Idaho was lied to from the get go. We were just fine with 10 packs + our 5 + buffer packs. It's about the Lies and back room deals that people are more pissed off about then the wolves themselves. We are watching our Elk disappear here in Idaho. Rubbish, you say...The Lolo zone, Middle Fork zone, Selway Zone, Sawtooth Zone. These are zones that the calf ratio is below the objective. Meaning it will not maintain the species. What, now you say we don't have the correct scientist's because they aren't kissing the Defenders of Wildlife's butts good enough. A little fact for you greenie's, ONLY thru sales of Idaho LIcenses and tags do the Conservation projects are funded. If a state can prove it is a hunting state it only gets 11% of the federal gun and camping sales. Idaho is struggling to support it's wildlife now because people don't want to hunt here due to lack of game caused by what? Wolves! This is all fact. You want to get educated on true facts rather then the Disney Land approach spread by Defenders Of Wildlife. Idaho Fish and Game is a good start. And FYI, Your chicken that you buy at the groccery store got it's tongue cut out, hung upside down and bled out. Not to mention living in a cage and being fed hormones until it's very young life ended.
Most hunters have more love for nature and respect for the animals they hunt, then you groccery store shoppers could ever imagine. Strict predator control is a must in this day of time. Remember, this isn't the "Old West" anymore, People live and work in these mountains. They own private land, and another FYI, The state of IDAHO own's it's wildlife. The Idaho fish and game Manage's the wildlife. The more hunts we have on Wolves, the more the citizen's might, just might settle down and accept them. Put them back on the ESA list, Who knows...You can only push a person so much.
Anonymous says:
Jun 29, 2010 04:42 PM
It is intellectually bankrupt to claim that killing something benefits it. It is not hard to imagine that it benefits the hunter, though.

Anonymous says:
Aug 30, 2010 11:52 AM
While wolves certainly could be to blame for dwindling elk herds I think of more concern should be the noxious weed issue the state of Montana faces. Smaller than normal cow to calf ratios certainly could be caused by the Knapp weed. As I drive into Montana on Highway 9 in the spring from Washington one can not help but notice the hills all the way to Missoula and beyond covered brightly with Knapp Weed flowers. Ingestion of any amount of this noxious weed by elk or deer could produce fewer offspring?
Anonymous says:
Oct 24, 2010 06:17 PM
how's killing them supposed to save them? save the wolves by letting them run free without wolves we wouldn't have the domestic dogs we have today. war is never the answer[…]unc7SHo&feature=related
Anonymous says:
Oct 28, 2010 09:53 PM
I would like to commend Montana for their great management plan and how well their hunting season went. I also would like to say that I am an avid wolf lover and cannot wait for the day to see a wild one, versus the ambassador animals I am used to. Personally, I do not hunt, but I have to agree with what this article claims, I think there is more research needed to know how a hunt affects a wolf pack, but we can only achieve this through allowing the hunting. I don't like the idea of these symbolic animals being killed, but if it means that they will be here in the future for my kids, and grandkids, etc, then by all means- allow the responsible hunting of them.
Joseph Yannuzzi
Joseph Yannuzzi says:
Nov 02, 2015 07:13 AM
Wolf hunters...these low life scums of the earth...bottom dwellers with no purpose in life but to be hateful and kill for no good reason should all die spitting blood! They are devils and if I had the chance to save their life or that of a wolf I would surely save the wolf and let their evil last breath of air linger!