The truth about wolves is hard to find

  • Christina Nealson

 

I spent this winter in northwestern Montana close to the border of Idaho's Panhandle, a place well known for its dense population of wolves. To hear hunters tell it, I should have seen a deer or elk skeleton every few feet on the forest floor and a lurking wolf behind every tree. Game numbers have plummeted, they claim, as they affix stickers that say "SSS" --  which stands for "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut-up" -- on pickups, and don baseball caps that urge, "Smoke a Pack a Day." And they're not talking about cigarettes.

I own guns. I support hunting, and the elk and deer meat from these forests is luscious. An avid naturalist, I've walked, skied and driven hundreds of miles over these mountains for eight months, including every day during bow and rifle season.

Yet it took three months before I spotted wolf tracks and scat. It was in November, the final week of rifle season. Three months later, I saw my first wolf. Wolf sign did not become common until late winter mating season, when scat and blood-laced urine appeared twice in one week in the high country along creek drainages.

What I saw on the ground never matched the stories I heard or read about in the newspapers, which blamed wolves for killing off the game. My experience came closer to the claim of Kent Laudon, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologist, who estimates that there's one wolf for every 39 square miles of game terrain in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks' Region One in northwestern Montana. He estimates the average pack size at 6.7 animals.

Coming from Colorado, a state that manages elk herds with sharpshooters and silencers, I was unprepared for the vitriol toward wolves in northwestern Montana. When I listened to hunters gathered around camo-decorated crock pots, they seemed to enjoy trashing these animals. One line of attack went like this: "If we can't eat game, we'll be forced to move to town. It's rural cleansing. Next, they'll take away our guns."

Hunting guides complained that out-of-state clients were reluctant to come to wolf-infested woods. Some taxidermists said they had lost business, while ranchers claimed that wolf packs threatened their livelihoods.  Yet the figures show that only 97 cows were killed by wolves in Montana in 2009. During that year, government statistics showed that 2.6 million cattle, including calves, lived in the state; therefore, the percentage of cattle killed by wolves was only 0.004 percent.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks cites a 15 percent increase in the wolf population from 2010 to 2011, to around 653, as the justification for increasing the quota for the 2012 wolf hunt. However, according to Jay Mallonee, a wolf researcher and scientist for "Friends of Animals," both figures are incorrect and impossible to substantiate (Nature and Science Magazine: wolfandwildlifestudies.com/downloads/natureandscience.pdf).

By its own admission, Montana's wildlife agency has oversold doe tags in the past. Laudon confirms that while a few deer herds are down in numbers, other herds are stable or increasing. A predation study is currently under way at the University of Montana. Early reports point to mountain lions, which are three times more numerous than wolves, according to Laudon, as the primary cause of elk calf deaths. Meanwhile, the state uses anecdotal sightings to help it determine wolf counts.

This May, wildlife commissioners will consider their options for the 2012- '13 wolf season and make a final decision in July. Will wolf kills be determined by the bully pulpit and defined by how many deer and elk show up in people's backyards? Or will the commissioners consider a combination of factors and try to balance game-tag distribution, hunting pressure and poaching, game counts, herd movements and natural deaths?

Restoring wolves to Montana has changed everything, and that takes some getting used to. Wolf packs have sharpened the wits of the ungulates, forcing them to alter the way they move through the forest. Hunters now have to deal with game that no longer behaves in traditional ways. Meanwhile, the anti-wolf contingent batters the public with relentless horror stories about wolves, hoping to convince people that all the game has disappeared. Of course, that is not true, but is anybody getting the facts behind the rhetoric?

Christina Nealson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). She is a writer in Libby, Montana.

James Smith
James Smith
Apr 25, 2012 04:59 PM
I have never met a hunter who didn't hate wolves. It's hammered home through the constant barrage of anti-wolf propaganda that is fed into them through every hunting and gun magazine and newsletter they see. And that propaganda is provided to such publications from energy corporations and mining interests and real estate developers who know that they can't get their greedy mitts on land that is well enough protected to be good wolf habitat. So, in a nutshell, hunters are pea-brained tools of corporate interests.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 25, 2012 08:19 PM
I'm a rancher, a hunter, and a Montana woman. We had lots of deer, elk and antelope, along with bobcats, fox, coyotes, mountain lions, bears, marmots and ground squirrels on our ranch. Right up until those illegally imported c.l.occidentalis wolves, carrying Hydatid Cyst disease, moved into the area. Our wildlife has suffered considerably; ungulate numbers are way down. It was a fairly open winter too. We lost two calves from the wolves last Fall, the rest of our calves were about 100 pounds lighter than normal, and some of our two year old cows didn't breed. That hurts when you are a small family ranch. The only thing different was the wolves. You can draw your own conclusions there; but when a cow herd is stressed by being stalked by an apex predator...that's the results you get.
James, I really resent being called a pea brain tool. And I resent being lumped into a 'general' category.
And by the way, the coyote numbers are also way down. Our Native pack of Canadian wolves is dead and gone.
I'm no biologist. But I am a darn good rancher, and I live here. We work hard to keep our ranch in balance with Mother Nature; it's all naturally done here. But right now, it's way out of balance. The variety of wildlife just isn't there, and it needs to be there for healthy land. Do I blame the wolves. Yes I do! They are the only things that are different now. And NO, I will NOT get used to them!
James Smith
James Smith
Apr 25, 2012 08:56 PM
Ranching cattle brought from Europe and Asia is hardly "natural" in North America. Of course you guys have a "problem" with bison, too. I never cease to laugh at the whining from cattle folk. To find the true balance, get rid of the cattle first and foremost.




Danny Sheridan
Danny Sheridan
Apr 26, 2012 01:49 AM
Cattle are close enough to bison that they can breed with them. Cattle are an impact, the managers can be good managers or bad managers.

I have hunting and gun magazine subscriptions and I haven't read an article yet on wolves. maybe James smith can start quoting article titles in common gun magazines for his claim. I just got the new VH magazine, zero wolf articles.
Danny Sheridan
Danny Sheridan
Apr 26, 2012 01:54 AM
Bugle, the RMEF magazine, has one very small blurb about wolves, mainly about a recent lawsuit. It doesn't say wolves are bad or detrimental to herds. I think James Smith claim about gun magazines having a barrage of "anti-wolf propaganda" is nothing more than hot air.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 26, 2012 05:46 AM
Danny I agree with you. I think James needs to do some more research on the use of cattle in our lives. I could tell him about them...but he obviously wouldn't believe me. Beef is not only for supper! Beef is used in many other ways also.
I think perhaps James is one of those who wants to get rid of the people and let the wolves rule. I doubt he realizes there are too many wolves, and not the 100 to 150 intended for Montana. When any animal over populates, Mother Nature takes care of it. And, Mother Nature is not kind or gentle when She does it. Hunting, trapping, and predator shooting, are much faster and less painful for wolves.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
Apr 26, 2012 06:23 AM
Christina I've been reading your blog, and I have to say it might be a little premature to be deciding what sorts of "truths" you should arrive at. I'd suggest seeking out and listening to some women that have been in Montana for a long time like that rancher that posted the second comment. Glad you and your friend found that deer after all.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Apr 26, 2012 08:00 AM
I'd like to point out to Jan that perception isn't always reality when it comes to ungulate numbers. What I mean is that the previous sightings of plentiful elk and deer may well have been signs of over-population and the scarce sightings now are closer to 'natural'.

The problem is that once you introduce increasing numbers of humans with our relatively short-term perceptions into the picture, the 'balance of nature' pretty much goes out the window. We often get used to seeing one set of conditions during a few years or decades and assume that's the baseline when in fact it's often a sharp anomaly compared to 'normal'. Nature isn't static.

That's not to say James' perceptions are any more accurate, it is just that all of us need to look at the science and not base big wildlife management decisions on anecdote and emotion. That is unfortunately what the Congressional rider on wolves was and what often pressures state management agencies and often fuels the more strident environmental and hunting groups.

Christina's perceptions are as valid and pertinent as any and she makes an excellent point that change takes some getting used to on everyone's part.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 26, 2012 08:36 AM
That's true Tim. But, over population of any animal is always handled by Mother Nature; in ways that are not exactly humane. I'd remind you of the bird flu, and blue tongue, mange and parvo... Also, I do believe 'science and fact' when seen from an office in a large city is quite different than the same 'science and fact' seen by those of us who live on the land 24/7/365. Our human population out here is very small, most of us have been here for a good many years...our own family has been ranching in Montana for over a hundred years. We have very little impact on wildlife, or on the environment; since we do things 'natures way' as much as is possible.
But, when a herd of about 500 elk...with a range of many miles...goes down to a couple of scattered herds of 20 to 30 elk in the same range in one season; well, there has to be a good scientific, coupled with common sense, reason. The winter was open and fairly easy; strike out the 'winter kill'. There was plentiful food; strike that out. There weren't many elk taken last hunting season; strike that one out. The bears were hibernating; strike out that predator. There are only a few mountain lions; strike out that predator. There has been no outbreak of disease; strike that one out. What's left? What is the one animal that is added?
There is no 'normal' in Ma nature. Anyone who lives and works in the wild knows that...the variations are wide every where and in every thing. Which same you learn when you live on the land. You get used to change; nothing is written in stone other than the history of our Earth. And you accept change. I've seen 72 years of that...first hand observation.
What I can not accept is that illegally imported wolves causes such havoc with the environment and changes the ecology of our corner of Montana. That they are allowed to run rampant, spreading a deadly disease communicable to humans, and are not controlled.
Anyone can search the internet and educate themselves about these wolves. Facts are difficult to find...but they can be found. You need to search long and hard to find out where these wolves came from to be implanted into Yellowstone. How that was funded. The nature and habits of c.l.occidentalis, compared to the Canadian Gray wolves that were Native here. But it can be done; I've done it.
No one should look at only one side of anything; your conclusions will be erroneous. Therefore, I suggest that people search out the facts, from all sides; the ARA people, the FW&P, independent working biologists, ranchers, farmers, hunters...then make up your own mind. The truth is there.
And, from my own research; there are too many wolves, of the wrong sub-species, in Montana.
Danny S
Danny S
Apr 26, 2012 08:50 AM
Nealson's opinion piece uses some very biased numbers to bolster her personal experience and preconceived ideas of how little wolves are affecting the wildlife population and domestic animals.

The statement that only 97 cows were killed in 2009 is tremendously misleading. To have a wolf kill reported is frustratingly difficult for livestock owners, and the official number doesn't reflect all the cows that come back without calves (the calves hadn't been counted yet, but the heifer was pregnant- her calf "disappeared") the animals that simply disappear, nor the disappointing weight gains when wolves are stalking the cows for weeks or months at a time.

I can go over almost all of her "statistics" and show there is a drastically different side to the story, but I have to go to work... hopefully most people will find a way to talk to people that actually interact with livestock or wildlife and can give a clearer picture of how large of an impact the wolf introduction is having.
Tricia M. Cook
Tricia M. Cook
Apr 26, 2012 03:28 PM
Something happened to my post above and a portion mid-text was deleted. Apologies. Here is what I intended:
Finally! A balance to Zwiener's OP-Ed! I appreciate Nealson for taking the time to 'pen' the many facts that Zwiener was remiss in mentioning about wolves and livestock. I attended a number of Washington State's wolf management meetings and learned therein the very facts and statistics that Nealson states. I lived for time just south of Libby, Nealson's hometown, in Trout Creek and I can tell you that poaching out of season and killing far more animals than folks could stuff into their freezers, or even give away, compromised the resident ungulate herds more than any wolf pack even came close to affecting. I vote for a wilder and thus more sustainable world!
Ralph Schmalz
Ralph Schmalz
Apr 26, 2012 08:11 PM
The truth you are looking for is simple..... Oregon is now spending around $300,000 for the wolf in depredation, depredation management and species managment. If the average teachers salary in Oregon is $48,640 they are spending six teachers salaries on wolves..... Oregon has 25 wolves that they are babysitting. Soooo the Oregon wolf program has a class size of 4 wolves per class..... They think more of their wolves then their own children!
Mark Bailey
Mark Bailey Subscriber
Apr 27, 2012 06:44 AM
Ralph, figure out for us in the same manner how much we spend subsidizing ranchers and their cows grazing on our public lands, that is to say our school children's lands. (It's $100's of millions for BLM and Forest Service and it cost more than the $1.35 for two cows for a month a rancher is charged for a school child to feed his hamster.)
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 27, 2012 08:14 AM
Mark, perhaps you don't know; ranchers pay a grazing lease to put their cows on public lands. Those cattle keep the grass down, especially now that there aren't enough wild ungulates to do that. Tall grass dries on the stem and burns very easily; so keeping the grass shorter helps to prevent disastrous fires. Since my Son is Rural Fire Chief; we are very fire conscious here.
Personally, I don't know of any 'subsidized' ranchers. Those around here work 24/7/365 for their money...none of it is handed to us.
Danny S
Danny S
Apr 27, 2012 08:25 AM
Mark Bailey- throwing out the subsidizing card early in the comments. I think the only people in the USA not subsidized are single white males age 24-44 in a professional career.. but maybe they had cheap school loans..

Anyway, The grazing "lease" is a legal ownership of the right to graze on "public lands", and is about as similar as a persons right to pull water out of a well of record with a legal water right. If the costs vs benefit don't add up to a + for you, maybe you should do more research. The cattle industry is more than 20% of agriculture in the USA. That is a lot of jobs produced, a lot of taxes paid, a lot of paychecks people can bring home, often in areas with few jobs available. These are people that don't go on welfare, don't get other government support that is common and everyday in the cities. They shouldn't have to pay for the lease at all.
Tricia M. Cook
Tricia M. Cook
Apr 27, 2012 09:05 AM
I suppose the cattlemen(women) are now going to tell us how grazing cattle next to stream banks is good fish spawning areas (WA State Cattleman's Assoc. has tried to convince us of that). I am sorry but I want more than cows covering our open areas. Cows are not healthy for the environment and eating them is not healthy for us. Beef, it's what's NOT for dinner...
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 27, 2012 09:16 AM
Tricia, few cattlemen graze riparian areas; that's in the lease agreement, and if they need to do so, they take care in doing it. At least around here they do; can't speak for all areas of course. Cows ARE healthy for the environment; their manure makes excellent fertilizer, their grazing habits keep the grass short enough not to spread wildfires. Also, beef is NOT only what is for supper; all parts of a beef are used for so many things it boggles the mind. Go Google uses for cattle, and click on the pictures. Educate yourself! In this day and age of easily accessed information, there is no good reason for ignorance.
Mark Bailey
Mark Bailey Subscriber
Apr 28, 2012 09:17 AM
Public land grazing is allowed by permit, not by right, not like water. And in the arid West it is a waste of taxpayer money. At $1.35/month a lease truly costs less than it does for a kid to feed a couple hamsters. On top of that subsidy the American taxpayer picks up "improvement expenses" for weed control, fences, water works, cattle guards etc. My business surely gets no such welfare. In Utah, agriculture is less than 2% of the state economy, typical for the West, and the cattle industry is about 20% of that. Public land forage provides only about 3% of the feed for livestock nationally. But the public costs for cattle industry support in the West run in the $100's of millions. Grazing is a strange thing, indeed, to permit.

Rancher/permittees lobby for and get taxpayer financed extermination of natural predators like wolves. Still, every stock death and then some is typically blamed on wolves and coyotes. And yes, wolves keep the native ungulates on the move, like the ecosystem evolved to have happen. Moving/hiding ungulates are much harder to find and shoot from an ATV (and much easier on the land).

Livestock grazing is ecologically destructive. It negatively effects biodiversity, riparian and stream health, soil, carbon and nitrogen cycling and radically speeds the progression of noxious weed invasion. Any time you hike on public lands in the West, but particularly in the fall, just look around if you doubt it. Cow burned meadows and riparian areas are everywhere, often with a dead cow or so in the water. It's a bummer to think I helped pay for that.

I expect, and I'm not the only one, that within 30 years American taxpayers will finally put their foot down and there will be no more public land grazing.

There's an interim win-win solution. It requires permittees being granted a right they don't currently have. It might be smart for economically marginal public land ranchers -- there are many -- to start lobbying for their own right to choose to take a buy out that allows an allotment to be retired. There's a lot of private money ready for just such a thing.
Danny S
Danny S
Apr 28, 2012 09:28 AM
"livestock grazing is ecologically destructive". Nice blanket statement, loaded with preconceptions. Ask any honest ecologist, and he will tell you livestock grazing, just like wildlife grazing, is a disturbance. There is always disturbance. If it is managed properly it can be tremendously beneficial. If it isn't managed it can be destructive.

ps, gross receipts in 2000! of cattle was 40+ billion. yes, that is 40! Billion! dollars. Considering how connected industries are now, and that many of the calves that go to non blm/ forest service states originate on blm/ FS permits, it is no wonder that it is much more connected than the cherry picked statistics you quote.

You know of a permittee that has his fencing provided by the government? I think you need to provide some proof of that claim.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 28, 2012 09:34 AM
Mark, I can't speak for all ranchers with grazing leases. I can tell you about our lease. It's a very small BLM lease...landlocked in the middle of our ranch, with no public access whatsoever., and no live water. We either lease it, and graze it, or it simply grows into a fire hazard. We do not spray weeds on it; we walk around with a shovel and cut them, or we use flea beetles to eat and kill the leafy spurge. We graze it twice a year; in early spring, then again in the fall. And we always leave some grass to seed for next year. In other words, we treat that lease the same way as we do the rest of our ranch.
We'd like to buy that bit of BLM land and add it to the tax rolls. They'd like to sell it to us, as it's a pain for them to administer; they make one visit a year to it. But, every time we ask, someone who no say in the land objects to selling 'public land'.
My question is always: How can it be public land when the only way to get to it is to go through our barnyard and private land? And the answer is always the same: It isn't really 'public land', but we can't sell it to you when there is an objection.
As for cattle ranching being environmentally destructive; I'll argue that one! When done right it is NOT destructive at all! And those of us in Montana, for the most part, do it right!
I'll invite you to our ranch to see for yourself. I'd be most happy to have you come visit us...to see first hand what a ranch is all about, and how it is run when done right.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 28, 2012 09:40 AM
Danny you are more right on the numbers than Mark is; which is no surprise. Agriculture, forestry and fishery...lumped together in jobs...provide nearly everything we use in today's world. And they provide more jobs than any other industry combined. And, for the smaller family owned ranches, there is precious little to no Fed or State money to be had.
Danny S
Danny S
Apr 28, 2012 09:42 AM
In Shufflebarger v. Commissioner the court stated
"that right, subject to some adjustment if it should become necessary for protection of the range or for a more equitable distribution among preference holders, is to be regarded as an indefinitely continuing right"

It is a right, not a privilege.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 28, 2012 09:43 AM
Oh, by the way Mark. No one here hunts from an ATV; it's walk in only...even for us old folks, on our own ranch, or the BLM lease. Our expenses on the ranch are paid for by us...including fencing the BLM lease. The only thing the BLM provides is a gallon of weed spray; which we don't use, so never claim.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
Apr 28, 2012 10:43 AM
Jan, I suspect your ranch is an exception rather than the rule for public land grazing. Since the early 90's the number of permittees has fallen by more than 50% while the number of AUM's has decreased by only about 10% which means most of the permits are being concentrated in fewer, and larger, hands. It's the pattern followed by most industries in the U.S. - buyouts and concentration of ownership. Heck, only 4 companies own about 95% of all the slaughterhouses if memory serves correctly.

Mark Bailey
Mark Bailey Subscriber
Apr 28, 2012 11:02 AM
Jan- Sounds like you are doing it right. How about we offer the marginal guys who aren't doing it right a buyout?
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
Apr 28, 2012 11:13 AM
Mark, I will agree with that one. Do it right...or don't do it at all. And, I think most ranchers would agree with that one.
At the same time, when you have small parcels that aren't really public, sell them to the land owner that surrounds them...get them on the tax rolls and off the 'public dole' so to speak.
And yes, smaller family ranches are in danger of extinction. But we smaller family owned ranches are the backbone, and without us, your ag products won't be nearly as good, or as plentiful. Nor would they be as safe. And then everyone loses.
lauri MacKAY
lauri MacKAY Subscriber
May 01, 2012 03:39 PM
You people don't listen, all you see is YOUR WAY OF LIFE, AS YOU LIKE IT, has changed...oh boo..... big bad wolves came... They too need to live. YOU took their land and now you don't want to share. You take the public land for grazing rights, shame on you, it's every one's land... not just yours. the KEY WORD IS SHARE.... All you do is whine whine whine. Why not try to see the other side, it's just not you in this fight. Your ranches are in trouble and you could loose use them... How about better management? I live in a city, but can't get a job. If I moved to Montana do you think I'd find a job? People on ranches are not the only ones having a hard time. The Govt. tells us the ressession is over... BULLS**T....we still have a very long way to go and obama is not the way to go. All the wild animals deserve to live. Since YOU are living in their area it would be best that you figure out a way to get along peacefully. Learn how to protect yourselves with out the use of a gun. While I don't have all the answers I really do think killing the wolves and other wild animals is not the answer. The game animals are there for keep body and soul alive, like the wolves you kill to eat... not kill to impress someone with your PRIZE!!!!!
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 01, 2012 05:08 PM
Laurie, I've taken no land from anyone or anything; our family has ranched in Montana since 1886...and we own our land outright. We HAD wolves here, Canada Gray and Timber wolves; they never bothered us. The Occindentalis wolves killed them! Where were your objections when these illegally imported wolves were killing our Native wolves? We have one small bit of BLM land; it's landlocked, with no public access; which simply put means, although owned by the Feds, it is NOT 'public' land! If you had read the above posts, I think I explained that without grazing on public lands, the tall grasses dry on the stem; one spark and you have a fire which men and women risk their lives to put out! Grazing is needed on land; public and private! As stated, we've been ranching for way over 100 years; but we have never had so many cows that do not have a calf this spring. The wolves stalked them and stressed them last Fall, so they aborted their calves. The only 'better management' that could be used there is to shoot the wolves. But, at that time we couldn't legally do that---now we can---now we do.
And no, I am not whining. I am sharing FACTS. Please educate yourself.
I'm sorry you can't find a job; there's still a lot of that. Although Montana has a lower unemployment rate than most States. Perhaps you could find a job here.
Ross Crandall
Ross Crandall
May 02, 2012 08:25 AM
I'm sure this james smith guy is trying to make people mad but just for the record I'm a pro-wolf hunter. Ecological balance is more important than my ability to see two dozen elk a day and I know there are a lot of hunters out there that agree.
Kristi Lloyd
Kristi Lloyd
May 02, 2012 09:22 PM
It's amazing to me that Ms. Roat can find time to actually tend to her ranch between posting here, on Lobo Watch, on Kill The Wolves and other anti-wolf pages on Facebook. Hmmm, your ranch is "balanced"...all cows and nothing else? I'd say that balanced, and natural. Kudos to you. I love that you are sticking up for the coyotes, which I'm sure you'd have no problems with killing if one ventured onto your ranch. You know why your so beloved coyotes are not as common...wolves. Your thinking that you had Canadian wolves and timber wolves once is quite puzzling...yes, they were so dearly loved and respected and appreciated that they were practically killed off, by humans...60 years without them in the GYE. But "non-native" Occidentalis is different from Canadian grays, how?? You make no sense and you don't know what you are talking about. Timber wolves are/were gray wolves, period. And since you are such a fan of them anyway, does it really matter to you where they came from? You've ranched for over 100 years, seems that it was some of your family members who just might have participated in the "timber wolf's" demise in MT. Federal land IS public land...if you owned it outright there would be no federal included in your claim of ownership. Another classic excuse or defense amongst ranchers...grazing cows lowers fire risk. They are the heroes of the land. Uh huh. Perhaps your calves were aborted due to brucellosis? They get that from elk, you know. Or perhaps you are just bad at artifically inseminating your "natural" cows? You are in no position to be telling someone else to educate themselves. Many ranchers receive MILLIONS of taxpayer money in subsidies and return almost none. There is nothing "natural" about having your non-native cows on "your" land...I wonder how many native animals were killed so you could have your 100 year old ranch. It's nice to hear that your ranch is landlocked, none of your cows' waste products are filling up any streams and you can't toss your dead cows into a river.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 03, 2012 08:37 AM
Kristi, it's not at all surprising; I'm 72 years old and our son does most of the ranch work I can no longer do...that's the way it's supposed to work. Coyotes have been killed by wolves; as have our Native wolves...that were a small but viable pack. Yes Occidentalis IS a different sub-specie of wolf; look it up. They are larger, not shy around human habitation, kill for sport...the list goes on. But I don't expect you to believe the facts. Your mind is closed and locked shut.
As for landlocked...only the BLM is that; our privately owned land has access to the County road. The BLM land does not; only access is through our private land, and we do not have to allow access through that. If you didn't live in a large city, and lived in Montana, you'd understand about that. As you would the fire danger; you have to live where the fire danger is high to understand. Our son is a volunteer firefighter and is Chief of our Rural Fire Department. Now keeping short grass may be an excuse; but NOT according to Fire Departments!
We have no brucellosis; our yearlings are vaccinated for that; there is no brucellosis in the elk around here either. We use bulls; pure bred Black Angus. I dare say those bulls know all about breeding! We've never done AI.
I do realize most people in large cities don't understand all the products that come from beef, other than supper. I suggest you look it up.
We kill no native animals on our ranch...but, since you hate ranchers and ranching and cattle, how would you know that? I have invited you to visit our ranch, and I do so again. You won't of course...you might learn something that goes against your own version of the 'facts'.
How dare I tell others to educate themselves? It's easy. I can tell them and tell them the facts...data put out by reputable biologists and range experts. But others won't believe me. So, I tell them to look it up themselves. Find the truth. It's out there and not all that hard to find on line. All you need is a computer and minimal intelligence to find the truth.
Oh yes. None of our cattle waste products end up in streams, and the river is a good many miles from us. Our dead cattle are buried...or hauled into a remote patch of pines for others to eat; that includes foxes, coyotes, bobcats, Eagles and Ravens and Magpies. And of course the insects.
Buttercup, I will say it again. If you haven't ever lived on a ranch, or been associated with one, then you don't know what you are talking about. Come to Montana, visit our ranch, and learn first hand what goes on.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 03, 2012 07:09 PM
I am interested in this idea that the wrong subspecies of wolf was introduced to Yellowstone, as I haven't heard others talk about which subspecies originally were found there. Was this species not found in the area before European colonization?

I certainly have known ranchers who do a good job and spent time on ranches that are in great shape. I've also seen some horribly overgrazed and pretty much ruined land due to overgrazing. Granted, my experience is mostly in drier areas than Montana. There are many difficult questions about what the natural grazing history for the West is, because there have been so many changes when grazing animals were hunted out in the distant past, and sometimes we don't even really know what used to live where.

Certainly many areas are adapted to grazing of some sort, and cattle ranching, when well done, is a good way to produce food (and other products) while still keeping land open for many other things as well. It is interesting to think of possibly trying other grazing animals as well... But, I'm very skeptical of the 'fire control' justification for grazing (or logging, clearing, etc). The West has always had fires, and always will. Tall grass may increase fire but many of those tall grasses are invasive species which in some cases were spread by grazing in the first place! Granted, perhaps bison herds would have also spread them, but we won't know. Still, I think the only real fire prevention is protecting lives and property, and while this includes protecting livestock, I'm not sure if I buy in to the idea of using grazing specifically to reduce fire danger. Though, there are so many different habitats in the West that it is difficult to make a generalization about anything, really.

I have my own idea about how the wolf situation in the interior West will work out, and it involves another canid, one much more adaptable than any type of wolf, and newer to the world as well. After wolves were killed off in most of the US, coyotes started spreading east. They didn't stay the same as western coyotes, though. As they moved into the cold snowy areas of the Midwest and southern Canada, the smaller ones could not survive the cold and turned around or died. The remaining largest coyotes bred with a few wolves and domestic dogs. By the time they got to New England, they were almost as large as wolves. Their howl sounds like wolves... they move a bit like wolves... they run in bigger packs like wolves... they even hunt deer in deep snow which the Western coyote rarely if ever does. There is one very big thing that sets them aside from wolves, though - they are not afraid of people. Not that they menace people per se, they just aren't afraid. They use human landscapes to their benefit to a greater extent than just about any other animal aside from pigeons, rats, and cockroaches.

I don't think the evolution of the new Eastern Coyote has stopped. I think now that they have moved into New England (including Vermont where I now live) and learned to hunt deer, they will start moving back west. They will hunt deer, and perhaps moose, and will outcompete the smaller coyotes in the midwestern forests. They will easily cross the plains heading west, because they can live in farmland, cities, suburbs, forest, and just about anywhere else. When they reach the big ranches out West, it's hard to say what they will do. They may be smart enough to reach an understanding with the ranchers and stick with elk. If they do decide they like cattle though... the ranchers will wish they could have the old wolves back (who will probably be outcompeted or maybe bred away by the even bigger Eastern coyote-wolf-whatever when it gets back out there, especially if they are kept at a low population).

Anyway, just a story of nature doing what it does, despite us. It's not a justification to drive species to extinction or abuse the land. The more intact our ecosystems and the more sustainable our working landscapes are, the better off we will do. Either way, though, apex predators are returning to our wide open spaces, whether we want them there or not.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 03, 2012 07:46 PM
Charlie, the sub-specie of wolf released in Yellowstone is c.l.occidentalis; trapped and brought here from up near Dawson...in the Yukon. They are sometimes known as Yukon wolves; larger than most, more fierce, and not a bit afraid of people. They have come right into barnyards, yards, and even towns...in broad daylight. Please look it up.
The grasses on most grazing leases aren't 'imported' ones; they are the native grasses that have always been there. Yes there are some noxious weeds; those are fought hard to keep them from spreading. And the reason most of the Federal or State land is walk in only...drivable only on established roads. We have an access road from deeded land to deeded land through our BLM lease, but do not drive the rest of it. OK. I drive it in a 4 wheeler when I'm chopping weeds in the spring; they don't expect a 72 year old woman to walk it...and since we don't use weed spray, the shovel is the only way to get rid of the weeds. I can do that easily.
Tall grasses, dried on the stems, are a really bad fire danger; one spark and it goes. Everyone risks their lives to fight those fires...because fire has no respect for boundary fences. Selective logging also helps prevent fires; removal of already dead trees is necessary. Fire is fire, and it is destructive to habitat and wildlife both. There are many tools used to prevent huge destructive fires; grazing is one of them and when done right is very effective.
Your Eastern Coyotes are interesting; have read only a little bit about them. I'll search out more information on them. And Thank You.
Unfortunately, our coyotes have also been killed by these illegally imported wolves. They kill all canines; the Native wolves, coyotes, and pet or working dogs...even the guard dogs. These aren't the Canada Gray or Timber wolves we did have here. And, contrary to most; we had wolves! Small sustainable packs that acted like wolves and never bothered ranchers or anyone else. We never lost any cows or calves from them, or other predators. One older cow was taken by a mountain lion; but he'd been injured, came back and consumed the entire carcass. We chalked it up to him needing to eat and let him go.
And yes, Nature will do what She does; with us or without us. Any animal that over populates the food supply is going to die. Already there is parvo in the Park; it kills the pups, and was likely 'caught' from tourist dogs. There is also mange in at least two packs of the wolves; there may be more since several wild animals get mange now and then.
We aren't out for extinction of these wolves; although with the Hydatid Cyst disease, communicable to humans, that may yet happen. If so, it would be the Feds doing it, not us. The wolves had that disease when they were turned loose and we didn't have it before they got here. Now there are two known cases of it in humans in Montana, and three in Idaho.
What is needed is management and control of numbers. There are simply too many wolves for the wild ungulates to feed; especially when the wolves sport kill. The FW&P here admit they don't know an exact number of wolves; it's hard to count wolves when they range for such distances and the collars no longer work.
And, by the way, even if all these wolves were killed in the lower 48, they'd not be extinct. There are thousands of them up by the Yukon.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 03, 2012 08:17 PM
I agree with much of what you are saying for sure.. .but...

people risk their lives to fight fires in wilderness areas where no human is at risk, and where forests have adapted with fire for millions of years. Sometimes there are reasons for this but oftentimes lives are risked in vain...
I am skeptical that a forest ever 'needs' to be logged for 'fuel control'. I live in a wooden house like most people, I believe sustainable logging is possible and is practiced in many cases, I am not opposed to logging in a smart way, but we should be honest - we are logging because we need wood, not because the forest needs to get rid of wood.

Not that the fire issue is easy.. it certainly is not. I just think, as with floods, our fire response and prevention methods could use some updating with the newest (as well as some very old) knowledge.

I admit that I am skeptical that wolves are overpopulated enough that disease will kill them off. If what you are saying is true and they are not the right subspecies, I suppose it is possible, but predators are typically limited by food availability, not overpopulation. I've never heard of an apex carnivore (unless you count humans) becoming overpopulated without quickly experiencing a starvation-based population crash. And I suppose that is possible, but from my understanding there is still plenty of prey out there (though it does depend on who you ask!).

The bottom line is wolves (of one subspecies or another), fires, grazing animals, etc, all existed in the west before we were managing them. Nature does not need us to manage it, we need to manage it to survive. If we do need to reduce wolf numbers at some point, I'd rather not pretend it is for the sake of wolves, instead it would be to balance survival of wolves with other animals and ourselves.

Thanks for your thoughts!
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 04, 2012 07:50 AM
Charlie, have you heard or read about pine bark beetles? We have a terrible infestation of those in Montana; they kill trees...millions of them. The trees still stand, but are dead and full of dry dead needles. There are, in places, hundreds of acres of them. Those trees need to be removed for the health of the environment and ecology of that area. Fire is not an option in those parts of the forest; but the trees are usable as wood if they are logged. And yes, we do need the wood products. But we also need dead dry standing trees gone from our forests to protect the rest of our forests.
When it comes to protecting, and managing, hundreds of square miles of land, those on the ground, so to speak, know what needs done, and should be allowed to do it. What works 'here', might not work 'there', but those who are 'here' do know what works and what won't work.
At the last guesstimate, there are between 2000 and 2,300 wolves in Montana alone. The wild ungulate herds are diminishing to the point some herds are no longer viable. Our local herd of about 500 elk has gone to around 30... We are praying that's enough to build back, but it may not be; there might not be enough females having calves that survive to replace those killed. And yes, it was by wolves; we had a very open winter with a lot of graze for them.
So yes, the over population in wolves is based on less prey; but disease sets in fast when there's not enough food. Again, it's Mother Nature taking care of things in Her own way. And, believe me, Mother Nature is THE Queen Bitch when She wants to be! I've seen Her work time and time again...She is not gentle.
Did I give you the impression control was for the wolves? It's not. It's for our wild ungulate herds, our domestic livestock, and for us.
I do not hate wolves. I just hate what this particular sub-specie of wolf has done to us, and to our land, along with the wildlife who share it with us. We need a variety of wildlife, and predators...which we've always had here. But these wolves have upset the delicate balance, and restoring that will take many years; if it can be done. I'm an optimist; it was done once, and can be done again. And it's worth doing it...because without our ungulate herds, our other predators, mostly bears and mountain lions, have no chance either.
Thank you for your interest, and your thoughts.
Oh. Our oldest son is a long haul trucker. He went through Vermont a few days ago and sent phone photos; it looks much like 'home'. Beautiful State.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 04, 2012 08:16 PM
Certainly those on the ground are the ones who know a place. I've seen plenty of cases where policymakers who never set foot in the field make bad decisions. Sometimes an outside view is also good though, as long as everyone is respectful.

I don't think it is a bad idea to salvage some bark beetle trees, but I also don't think the forest 'needs' them removed. Like you said, nature is harsh when populations grow too large. In this case, they did so because we were putting out fires.. because 50 years ago we thought THAT was what we needed to do to 'protect' the forest. I hope that salvage logging is concentrated near homes, ranch buildings, and roads. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but building new logging roads can have much longer-lasting and more severe impacts to an ecosystem than removing trees. My hope is that the roadless areas aren't all being carved up to get to some dead rotting trees. But, my experiences mostly come from California, and I have no idea if that is what is happening in Montana. Also, some conifers regenerate after a 'crown fire' that kills the standing trees, while others are more resistant to small more frequent fires and aren't 'meant' to burn at all. It all depends on where you are.

After a point, protecting and managing wild herds causes them to become... well... not so wild. After all, that's likely how we ended up with cows and other domesticated animals. Not saying this is inherently good or bad, but we should be honest about what we want. Do we want to indirectly manage for stable ecosystems that also provide services for humans, or do we want to produce as many elk as possible (an elk ranch?) Depending on the place, this may vary... but as many here I'm sure already know, too many elk or deer can cause every bit as much damage to fragile ecosystems as overgrazing by cattle. Human hunters tend to go for the stronger animals, while wolves tend to go for the weak. I don't really know much about the different subspecies of wolf and wasn't aware that the type introduced was different from the type that used to be there, so I can't comment on that really. But, in general, wolves, mountain lions, Eastern coyotes, etc, will keep a herd healthy when in balance. If an ecosystem is not in balance for whatever reason, that's when mother nature starts to get nasty - not out of spite, just because that's how it works.

Vermont is stunning. Right now the leaves are coming out on the trees. We had our first real warm rain of the season tonight, and now the forest is full of mist, the fields are swirling in fog, and the cold river is steaming enough that it almost looks like a hot spring. The unusually bright full moon is casting beams through the tiny leaves, and it looks like the first moment of light before dawn. Perhaps most amazing... there aren't any bugs out. I could stay outside all night... but it does look like we may get another storm cell moving through in a bit, so we'll be content to listen to it pattering on the metal roof as we fall asleep.

Vermont is a very different place than the West where I lived the first 30 years of my life... but it's stunning in a subtle, energetic, soft, but cold way that I haven't experienced anywhere else...

and... i've truly driven this wolf conversation off topic now, haven't I?
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
May 04, 2012 09:33 PM
I should mention right off the bat that there is no balance of nature. It's a common fallacy but is no longer taught in University Ecology Departments yet it persists amongst the general population and even amongst science majors. Alarm bells ring when I read the word "balance".

Imagine trying to discuss the space shuttle or continental drift with someone who believes the earth flat.

Nature is not and never was and can't be put back in balance.

Nature is in flux, chaotic changes are common.

Bark beetles are a product of rising temperatures, beetle kill covers much of the west. Fires have been allowed to burn but things aren't the way they were. There is much much more dead wood. A drive through the west shows mountain after mountain covered with orange dead trees. When these trees burn they will burn hot, and burn they will, just wait. You will hear "biggest" many times.

There are no more animals to domesticate. All the easy ones got done thousands of years ago and we haven't added to the roster in a couple millennia. No game department I've heard of manages for as many elk as they can, they manage for stable healthy herds that don't overgraze or get disease or otherwise cause problems. And the state game departments have done very well at it. Only in unhunted areas are there problems.

Elk hunters shoot the first legal animal they see. One out of five elk hunters is successful across the Rocky Mountains that's the average. Think about it. People who hunt elk are usually serious about it, they are big, you don't casually go plink an elk. Go out for two weeks, hunt hard, sunup to sunset, come home empty handed, do the same thing for four more years, then you score.

Yup wolves kill the sick and injured, then they go on to kill a hundred more healthy elk, usually calves, yearlings, or cows. A wolf pack can and does kill anything it wants, they pull down bison. For obvious reasons elk are their preferred prey. Wolves don't keep anything in balance, there is no balance remember? They are just predators, the second best one.

"Natural Management" is simply the choice to do nothing. Animals can and do go extinct, or population fluctuations can take hundreds of years to recover, or populations can reach a temporary equilibrium, that is extremely high or low.

The very best conservationists have been working on this thing for almost a century, why don't we let them continue? We've made some horrible mistakes in the name of politics and special interest groups. I sure hope we let scientists take over again, they were doing so well for so long.

Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 05, 2012 07:52 AM
Charlie, go here and read about the sub-species: http://www.wolfhowl.org/subspecies.php
And remember we have the Occidentalis wolves here now.
I enjoyed your words about Vermont! It sounds very beautiful.
Logging doesn't have to be disruptive, when done right. And, mostly it is done right. But it does need done in hundreds of acres of beetle killed trees.; not much burns hotter than a dead pine tree. There aren't a lot of homes in our forests; and that is a good thing! But, fire respects nothing at all, and the loss of wildlife, birds, insects and such just isn't worth it. Those trees really need to be salvaged.
Elk ranch? Well, it may come to that if our wild elk can't regenerate! But, ranch animals aren't the same as watching 500 wild elk pour down out of the mountains into a grain field! These are/were wild; as in they are not accustomed to people at all! And it was thrilling to watch those magnificent animals! Didn't even mind the grain going away... It was also wonderful to hear the bugles during mating season! Or to walk around the back country on our ranch and get photos of elk, deer or antelope. I hope to be able to do that again; without carrying a rifle with me for my own protection.
Robb I have to agree with you. And yes, the very best conservationists have been working on that for over a century; that includes ranchers and hunters, as well as others. And no, there is no true balance in Nature...but we can help keep it from getting so far out of whack that nothing can be done. And when the wolves kill for sport, or eat but don't kill, that is too much out there for our elk herds. They also do the same to antelope and deer. And that puts a huge strain on the other predators; bear and mountain lion mostly...since they eat the same prey animals.
It's a fine, delicate, line we must walk; because man is here to stay. Our first rule should be; do no lasting harm to our world.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 05, 2012 08:48 AM
Robb, not sure who you are addressing, but if I've used the term balance I was talking about the form of rather chaotic equilibrium found in ecosystems.. I didn't get into excessive detail about complex systems and the conceptual ideas surrounding natural communities because it didn't seem appropriate for this forum. Nature is not pure randomness, if it were, we wouldn't exist, nor would wolves, elk, or aspens. That isn't to say it is being controleld by an outside force, just that it tends to create its own form of order and stability, though it is the sort that is always changing in various ways. Lots of interesting stuff to talk about but based on your tone I'm guessing you just thought I was ignorant so I'll leave it at that, because you'd probably rather believe that than talk about conceptual ecology, introductions of species, etc.

Climate change is always cited for the reason for all the bark beetles, but what about fire suppression? The climate is always changing, of course our changes are problematic and we should try not to cause them but any study of the West will show very clearly that this is far from the driest period we've gone through. If anything, we're on the tail end of a wet spell... maybe not towards Montana but definitely in the Southwest. The fact is there are many times more trees per acre than there should be because we've been putting out fires and managing for as many trees as possible. If the trees were at the density they were at 150 years ago, some would be dying due to climate change, but you wouldn't see every mountain topped with orange conifers. You'd see far fewer conifers to start with, and most of htem would be alive, if stressed.

There are 50 state game departments in this country, as well as many other natural and private interests managing game. For the most part, they do a good job now, and are getting better. But, your idea that we 'never manage for as many elk/deer/game animals as possible' is not backed up by my experience of what I've seen personally or read. Deer populations in much of the country are vastly overpopulated, leading to disease, damage to forests, erosion, and increased deer-car collisions. Largely this is due to again people trying to 'get more deer' by killing off most of the predators and altering habitat to encourage deer populations to expand. Since the ice age (more or less) there have been 3 'natural' predators of deer and elk, give or take... wolves, mountain lions, and humans. We've killed all the wolves and most of the mountain lions in most areas, and in many cases there aren't as many humans hunting as well. Of course, like you said, when the human hunter is also removed there are even more problems. I guess your opinion of management of game animals over the last 150 years is a bit more rosy than mine.. again, I think we do a good job now, and are getting better, give or take mistakes here and there, but I think the history definitely points to managing for specific game animals rather than managing for healthy ecosystems of the type that provide us with benefits, including game. This is the equivalent of trying to manage for 'apples' without doing what you need to to keep the apple tree healthy. It's understandable that we tried it, but it's not the best approach.

Lemme ask you something. (let's put aside the issue of different wolf subspecies for a minute) If wolves always overhunt elk and kill until the elk are gone... why are there still elk in the world? Elk and wolves, or their ancestors, have lived together for millions of years. Humans were thrown into the mix in North America around 13,000 years ago as well, with mixed results, but again, the wolves did not kill all the elk. If wolves are such amazing hunters and kill more than they can eat, wouldn't they have killed all the elk, deer, bison, etc, and then gone extinct long before the Bering Land Bridge even formed?

you said: "The very best conservationists have been working on this thing for almost a century, why don't we let them continue? We've made some horrible mistakes in the name of politics and special interest groups. I sure hope we let scientists take over again, they were doing so well for so long."

Agreed there, science is our best management tool. But, it seems that you have access to different science than I do.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 05, 2012 08:49 AM
Robb, not sure who you are addressing, but if I've used the term balance I was talking about the form of rather chaotic equilibrium found in ecosystems.. I didn't get into excessive detail about complex systems and the conceptual ideas surrounding natural communities because it didn't seem appropriate for this forum. Nature is not pure randomness, if it were, we wouldn't exist, nor would wolves, elk, or aspens. That isn't to say it is being controleld by an outside force, just that it tends to create its own form of order and stability, though it is the sort that is always changing in various ways. Lots of interesting stuff to talk about but based on your tone I'm guessing you just thought I was ignorant so I'll leave it at that, because you'd probably rather believe that than talk about conceptual ecology, introductions of species, etc.

Climate change is always cited for the reason for all the bark beetles, but what about fire suppression? The climate is always changing, of course our changes are problematic and we should try not to cause them but any study of the West will show very clearly that this is far from the driest period we've gone through. If anything, we're on the tail end of a wet spell... maybe not towards Montana but definitely in the Southwest. The fact is there are many times more trees per acre than there should be because we've been putting out fires and managing for as many trees as possible. If the trees were at the density they were at 150 years ago, some would be dying due to climate change, but you wouldn't see every mountain topped with orange conifers. You'd see far fewer conifers to start with, and most of htem would be alive, if stressed.

There are 50 state game departments in this country, as well as many other natural and private interests managing game. For the most part, they do a good job now, and are getting better. But, your idea that we 'never manage for as many elk/deer/game animals as possible' is not backed up by my experience of what I've seen personally or read. Deer populations in much of the country are vastly overpopulated, leading to disease, damage to forests, erosion, and increased deer-car collisions. Largely this is due to again people trying to 'get more deer' by killing off most of the predators and altering habitat to encourage deer populations to expand. Since the ice age (more or less) there have been 3 'natural' predators of deer and elk, give or take... wolves, mountain lions, and humans. We've killed all the wolves and most of the mountain lions in most areas, and in many cases there aren't as many humans hunting as well. Of course, like you said, when the human hunter is also removed there are even more problems. I guess your opinion of management of game animals over the last 150 years is a bit more rosy than mine.. again, I think we do a good job now, and are getting better, give or take mistakes here and there, but I think the history definitely points to managing for specific game animals rather than managing for healthy ecosystems of the type that provide us with benefits, including game. This is the equivalent of trying to manage for 'apples' without doing what you need to to keep the apple tree healthy. It's understandable that we tried it, but it's not the best approach.

Lemme ask you something. (let's put aside the issue of different wolf subspecies for a minute) If wolves always overhunt elk and kill until the elk are gone... why are there still elk in the world? Elk and wolves, or their ancestors, have lived together for millions of years. Humans were thrown into the mix in North America around 13,000 years ago as well, with mixed results, but again, the wolves did not kill all the elk. If wolves are such amazing hunters and kill more than they can eat, wouldn't they have killed all the elk, deer, bison, etc, and then gone extinct long before the Bering Land Bridge even formed?

you said: "The very best conservationists have been working on this thing for almost a century, why don't we let them continue? We've made some horrible mistakes in the name of politics and special interest groups. I sure hope we let scientists take over again, they were doing so well for so long."

Agreed there, science is our best management tool. But, it seems that you have been following different science than I do.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 05, 2012 08:54 AM
Oops, sorry for the double post (I tried to reword a tiny bit of the post and it caused it to post twice). ANyway, I don't want to bury the page with another long post but... Jan, I've seen good logging, it is happening in Vermont, but most of my experience in the west has been with far from 'good' logging. Again, the roads have sliced up the mountains to a horrific extent in many areas, causing horrible erosion.

The forests are going to regenerate in their own way (different from how we think, I'm sure) whether we take the dead trees out or not. If these are fire-adapted trees, like most in the West, they will regenerate. The forest doesn't 'care' if we take trees out or not, and the wildfires of the early colonization days put our 'bigger' fires to shame - there are historic records of smoke from fires out West blotting out the sun in New York City. The forests will burn, and change, and it will be hard for us to watch, but it's what is going to happen. Again, I'm not opposed to some salvage, but if we drag new roads into steep terrain and unstable soils we will be seeing problems with those roads long after the trees have grown back or been replaced with whatever is next.

On a side: if wolves kill more prey than they can eat, wouldn't that put LESS stress on bears and mountain lions, since they could just eat the extra elk corpses?
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 05, 2012 09:28 AM
Charlie, the loggers here have to follow strict rules when logging on Fed land, and on private land too; log roads can't go straight for instance, to cut down on erosion. And no, the forest doesn't care what we do; we care. I'm not sure fire would have a huge effect on the beetles; they're gone when the tree is dead. I know fire will kill them, but doesn't get hot enough as a rule in live trees to do that. Wet cool weather does kill them, before they kill the trees; that's what saved our trees last Spring...we got 40 inches of rain in 45 days. Caused a lot of floods (we spent just over 6 weeks going over a plank bridge to get to our homes) but it did take care of most of the beetles. Then the woodpeckers moved in and got rid of more of them.
Unfortunately, these wolves urinate on the carcasses they kill, and no other animal will eat it. I've even seen Eagles and Magpies fly off after landing on a carcass. It just lays there and rots. And, this type of wolf won't come back and eat it either.
Normally, Canadian or Timber wolves eat what they kill, and will come back to finish off a carcass. But this sub-specie of wolf doesn't do that. If they did, it wouldn't be nearly so bad as it is now.
Oh yes, fire changes everything! I remember clearly the fires in Yellowstone some years ago; it was heartbreaking to see so much go up in flames. It is, slowly, regenerating, but will never again look as it did before the fires. Which was a learning experience for everyone!
Thank you, again, for some interesting and informative conversation.
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
May 05, 2012 02:28 PM
Charlie yes I'm talking to you. The earth is not flat period. When you say, "But, in general, wolves, mountain lions, Eastern coyotes, etc, will keep a herd healthy when in balance. If an ecosystem is not in balance for whatever reason, that's when mother nature starts to get nasty - not out of spite, just because that's how it works." That is classic balance of nature.

"If wolves are such amazing hunters and kill more than they can eat, wouldn't they have killed all the elk, deer, bison, etc, and then gone extinct long before the Bering Land Bridge even formed?" The most common mistaken balance of nature fallacy is in predator prey relationships.

Predators can and do cause extinctions all the time and it's been happening for millions of years. No one said wolves were about to cause the extinction of elk, though they might contribute to the demise of mountain caribou.

Modern Game management began in the 1920s with such people as Aldo Leopold and it has been a stunning success. Management is for all species not just those we hunt and trap. Game managers don't kill off predators, they encourage healthy populations of all species. Leopold began the first Wildlife Management department at a University in the US. Those are the scientists we entrust with our wildlife, they work for state and federal departments of wildlife.

Happy to have a conversation about wildlife but we have a common set of facts.
Jesse Tigner
Jesse Tigner
May 07, 2012 01:56 PM
Leaving aside all the personal opinions and experiences, and an understanding of and or belief in the science that’s out there, I think the title of this essay makes a great point: access to good information is tough to come by. To that end, I just finished reading Wolfer, a clear and straightforward account of the development of the current western wolf issue. It’s written by about the most middle of road guy on the subject there seems to be, someone who both worked for Wildlife Services (killing or dealing with problem wildlife including wolves) and was instrumental in the Yellowstone and central Idaho reintroduction.

It addresses several of the issues being discussed via comments (sub-species, and wolves were originally taken from in Canada, behaviours, etc.) that are patently false. As one commenter points out, it’s nice to start with the same set of facts (the actual ones…) before launching into a broader discussion.
Charlie Hohn
Charlie Hohn
May 07, 2012 05:05 PM
predators must be causing extinctions more slowly than species evolve, since animals still exist. So, either we have new species evolving at an incredible rate, or predators driving prey to extinction is rare.

We have some great success stories with wildlife management, and some great failures. If you think having so many deer in Pennsylvania that trees don't regenerate properly is success, then I guess you are right.

I don't know if there is much point in continuing the discussion since you have a pretty nasty attitude towards it, but it might be nice if you cited cases of predators that are not new to an ecosystem causing extinctions. You also could answer my question instead of calling it 'fallacy' without explaining why. I think you're just wrong.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker Subscriber
May 07, 2012 06:43 PM
http://www.sciencedaily.com/[…]/100701072732.htm

Some might find the link above helpful in the discussion about predator - prey interactions. I've also read recent work from Isle Royale that demonstrates the relationships between large predators and prey (wolves and moose in that case) is more complicated than we usually depict it even when humans are largely removed from the system.

The problem, as usual, is us humans and the way we typically view the world around us. We're used to thinking of the place as static because it's easier for us to get comfortable with. The problem with that paradigm is that it tends to make us unprepared for shocks or changes to the places we've grown used to. The numbers of the wolves and their prey species will likely oscillate as conditions change around them and we'll probably read too much into what little tidbits of information we scrounge from the bandwidth and far too little from the actual science.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 07, 2012 07:04 PM
I"m not sure about science there; so many views and so many different 'facts'. I do know first hand living it and seeing it sure beats heck out of reading about it. And I've been doing a lot of reading the past few days...everything from Niemyer to Beers and in between. The only thing the 'experts' agree on is that wolves are apex predators. And that our ungulates are not used to an apex predator that thrill kills. Yes the Occidentalis do that! Found that mentioned in several scientific papers written by reputable scientists. Which of course I knew...because I've seen it. Also discovered they DO urinate on the carcasses they don't eat; which I also knew since I've seen Eagles and Ravens and Magpies land on one, then leave without eating.
My own personal conclusion is that what I have seen, has been corroborated by most biologists. It's been very interesting...
Robb Cadwell
Robb Cadwell Subscriber
May 07, 2012 08:01 PM
My frustrated tone comes from having to rehash what should be known. Most Wildlife biologists use similar facts especially when writing in respected sources, whereas our jumping off place was some thoughts from a newly arrived to Montana psychotherapist writing for maybe nearly free as most writers do these days. And that's where we get our info.

David Mech, now the world's most senior aging wolf biologist covered the same ground of balance of nature and a widely read article in Readers Digest that changed ouf view of wolves forever, only to have his conclusions tossed out the window with events the next year and eventually to completely discard the "balance" by the 1980s http://westinstenv.org/[…]/ with his article How delicate is the balance of nature?” (National Wildlife 23(1):54-59)

Eventually today the idea of looking at conservation in a more pragmatic way has become the guiding principle of such orgs as The Nature Conservancy. They've decided conservation should work for people like Jan. Bear in mind the Nature Conservancy is THE largest conservation org in the world.

The world needs the beef Jan's kids raise, we need to find a way to let them do what they do well and help rather than hinder them.

Wil post links later, spam filter killing post
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 07, 2012 08:18 PM
Robb, I get a bit frustrated too; when I tell what I see, and what I learn, and what actually happens out here...I'm called vile names, a liar, and many times much worse. Yet, the truth is there and it's not that hard to find.
Yes the world needs beef. The world needs family ranches and family farms. The type where chemicals and hormones and all that isn't used.
I sincerely hope a way can be found to work around the wolves we now have here. Because no matter what we try, nothing seems to work but a bullet.
And I regret that.
Tricia M. Cook
Tricia M. Cook
May 11, 2012 09:07 AM
To all concerned, please note this: Jan Roat has joined a "Community" on Facebook called "Kill the very Idea of Wolves", an obvious anti-wolf group, and wrote that she was grateful for their invite. I am uncertain if Jan has joined other anti-wolf "Communities", but I do know that "Kill the very Idea of Wolves" is a branch of the FB Community known as Footloose Montana Sucks, a pro-trapping (and anti-wolf) group. So do know that her comments are not measured...
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 11, 2012 09:42 AM
Tricia, once again, you prove my point: If you have no facts to present, place doubt on the person who does have the facts. Yes, I did join that 'community' on FB. Many of my rancher friends are on there and invited me. And yes, I am pro trapping and pro hunting; I've also joined a few of those pages, or liked them. I am also very pro ranching! And, I am pro animals...ALL animals, not just the wolf.
My comments on this page are measured, with various websites to back up my facts. I spent well over a week, researching; due to a health problem I couldn't do much physical stuff...so I sat and researched in depth on line.
Again, when you disagree with what I say, but have no facts to back you up, disparage my person, and my opinions, and cast doubt on my facts.
And what ARA organizations and/or pages do you belong to? And do you sign in there with your real name? Just curious
Tricia M. Cook
Tricia M. Cook
May 11, 2012 10:07 AM
Jan, Yes I sign in with my real name as I have here (with photos of myself, to boot!). My last comment in this thread merely pointed folks to the FACT that you have been joining anti-wolf, pro-trapping FB communities. Many of these communities promote violence against those who disagree with them (such as myself: Jim Nordlund from Footloose Montana Sucks, called me the 'c' word and suggested I go shoot myself). These communities often celebrate the pain and carnage they create by posting very graphic images of trapped animals, shot animals (spelling "PETA Sucks" in dead animal carcasses), bludgeoned wolves, etc etc ad nauseum. That you would associate yourself with these groups and support their cruel actions is deplorable. Keep commenting and endeavoring to reduce my posts, as you apparently have quite a bit of time on your hands. My points have been made, you have been exposed, and I am moving on.
Jan Roat
Jan Roat
May 11, 2012 12:06 PM
Tricia, I've never needed to be exposed; I post under my own name, and everyone on FB knows where I live and what I do for a living. The fact that I am interested in what my friends do, is also no secret. I may not agree with them at all times. But they do have a right to voice their opinions and beliefs; as do I. My belief is, this is the wrong sub-specie of wolf for the lower 48 States, and there are too many of them. We need to manage their numbers to protect our wild ungulates and our domestic livestock. Period! However that is to be done is up to the FW&P; not to me.