Misinformation about wolves in Montana warrants aggressive response from FWP

2013-04-07T06:15:00Z Misinformation about wolves in Montana warrants aggressive response from FWPONLINE-ONLY letter to the editor missoulian.com
April 07, 2013 6:15 am  • 

Recently I attended a hearing in Helena where I heard numerous people, including many in the state legislature, asserting that wolves were “decimating” Montana’s game herds. Unfortunately, due to the widespread repetition of the lies and distortions, the only thing being decimated is the truth.

According to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in 1992, three years before wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone and Idaho, there were an estimated 89,000 elk in Montana. By 2010, elk had been so “decimated” that Montana FWP estimated that elk numbers had grown to 140,000-150,000 animals.

Indeed, in 2012, according to FWP statistics, out of 127 elk management units in the state, 68 are above objectives, 47 are at objectives and only 12 are considered to be below objectives. And even among these 12 units, the causes for elk declines are often complex and involve more than wolf predation. In at least a few instances, overhunting by humans is the primary factor.

Beyond hunting, the presence of wolves has many other benefits. Wolves cull sick animals such as those with brucellosis and chronic wasting disease from herds that could threaten both humans as well as livestock. Wolves shift ungulates away from riparian areas, resulting in greater growth of willows and other streamside vegetation. This in turn creates more habitat for wildlife including songbirds and beaver. Healthier riparian areas also results in greater trout densities.

It is disturbing to me as a hunter and ecologist that FWP repeatedly fails to aggressively counter the distortions and misinformation. By its silence FWP is directly culpable for the unnecessary killing of predators that are essential to the maintenance of healthy wildlife populations. Such silence undercuts their credibility as trustees of Montana’s wildlife heritage.

George Wuerthner,


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(14) Comments

  1. reality22f
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    reality22f - April 11, 2013 7:20 am
    Thank you George for posting whole state statistics & hiding what is happening in wolf saturated areas. It tells us your agenda! Have you talked to Dougie in Yellowstone about how well moose are doing in these areas? They no longer publish the moose numbers ....WHY George? Again Thanks.....your part of the reason that bills like HB73 pass UNANOUMOUSLY.
  2. Sukey
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    Sukey - April 10, 2013 7:30 am
    I love richardr11's posts. Leave her alone, she has a right to post also. And, the wolves have a right to live, even in Montana. They were here before you were.
  3. richardr11
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    richardr11 - April 09, 2013 7:14 pm
    That's called elk management by the wolves. Get used to it. Elk management by the wolves goes ALL YEAR ROUND. :)
  4. richardr11
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    richardr11 - April 09, 2013 7:14 pm
    The wolves just smoked a lot of elk in Montana today. :)
  5. RPT
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    RPT - April 08, 2013 4:56 pm
    I've started hitting the “Report Abuse” option on every irrelevant post Ms. Richard makes..If all of us do it the Missoulian will take action and remove her post. It’s gotten ridicules the disgusting use and abuse she's trying to get away with on this forum.

  6. richardr11
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    richardr11 - April 08, 2013 1:20 pm
    haha No, they will move into the deer fawns and moose calves. :)
  7. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - April 08, 2013 12:07 pm
    False, everything has limits. They will eventually run out of calves and then they will eat their own pups
  8. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - April 08, 2013 12:05 pm
    Blah blah blah
  9. LCHelenajr
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    LCHelenajr - April 08, 2013 12:04 pm
    George how do you explain the northern yellowstone elk herd falling from 19K to less than 4K? Keep in mind FWP shut the hunting down on this particular herd 3 years ago. This herd is still in rapid decline. Keep on spinning and amusing us with lies and excuses
  10. Kuato
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    Kuato - April 07, 2013 2:35 pm
    The truth well said.
  11. Kuato
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    Kuato - April 07, 2013 2:32 pm
    Even as kids, Wuerthner,Gadfly, and richturd 11 were considered very strange and odd. They even had to tie many a pork chop around their necks just to get the dogs to play with them. And that is why today they are all so obsessed with canine's .
  12. Roger
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    Roger - April 07, 2013 11:23 am
    The misinformation is coming from wolf-worshipers like Gadfly and Wuerthner. Wolves certainly can have very negative effect on ungulate populations. In Montana, at least there has been a significant number of wolves killed, which helps that game herds, obviously. They would do much more damage otherwise.

    Wolves definitely can seriously deplete game populations, so hunters shouldn't fall for the propaganda of wolf-worshipers.

    Dr. Charles E. Kay, Ph.D. wildlife ecology, studied western wildlife for 30 years, and maintains that research in Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon, Alberta and other Canadian provinces indicates that wolves and other predators more often than not limit ungulate populations.

    Throughout much of Alaska and Canada, ungulate populations have been kept at low levels by predators, and at the Second North American Symposium on Wolves (Edmonton, Alberta, 1992) numerous scientists reported that wolves and other predators limit ungulate numbers. Alaska biologists report the same thing.

    Wolves and other predators, in many cases, limit ungulate populations below the level set by food resources. If ungulate populations have been reduced by severe weather or other causes, wolves and other predators can drive the numbers even lower and maintain them at that level. This condition is called a predator pit, and there is no field evidence that ungulates can escape from a predator pit even if hunting is banned, unless wolves and other predators are reduced by predator control.

    Wolves are a major factor in ungulate population dynamics. Wildlife biologists, through many studies in Canada, Alaska, and the American west, have found that wolves can have very harmful effects on ungulate populations.

    Scientist Tom Bergerud of British Columbia says, "I've watched herd after herd of caribou go extinct across Canada. Wolves do not self-regulate. You have to have management."

    The Northern Yellowstone elk herd was thriving in 1994, with more than 19,000 elk. Wolves were introduced in 1995; now the herd numbers less than 4000. Kurt Alt of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department asserts that wolves are primarily responsible for the elk decline, and Ken Hamlin of the FWP says that from his observations, elk seem to do better in areas with few, or no, wolves.

    Wolves, protected on Vancouver Island, have killed off most of the deer. Studies in Alberta found that wolves can reduce the number of elk calves by nearly 75 percent from spring to fall.

    An Alaskan caribou herd was reduced from 10,000 animals in 1983 to only 600.

    Wolves reduced moose numbers by 50 percent in the Nelchina Basin, Alaska.

    The Chamberlin Basin in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness was once densely populated with elk, but now outfitters report very few bulls.

    A wolf kill was proposed in British Columbia to save a threatened caribou herd, of which only 250 remained in 2001.

  13. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - April 07, 2013 8:34 am
    Another myth promulgated by wolf hating groups is the decimation of Yellowstone Elk by wolves. There is no elk disaster in Yellowstone Park, certainly not one caused by wolves. That is another myth. Elk numbers were at an all time, unsustainable high shortly before wolves. There are and always have been too few wolves in and around the Park, 105 to less than 60, to decimate elk herds. The wolves were reintroduced in 1995, very few. 1995-1996, 1996-1997, were two rough winters. FWP allowed continued fall and spring hunting of elk coming out of the Park for years despite those winters and following drought years. The Park is now predator rich, not just a relatively few wolves but also bears and lions. But still it is not those predators, it the two legged predator standing outside the park that is the problem. The Yellowstone Elk herds have now stabilized at historical levels and the calf-cow ratios have stabilized. This is another absurd myth: The wilderness and the prey-predator numbers have to be managed, by man, and best managed by wolf-hating groups. It is man, killing for sport that is the main culprit of depredation of elk herds, in Montana killing 19,000 to 22,000 per year, and in WY killing 22,000 to 24,000. WY has had record elk kills the past 10 years by the way.
  14. Gadfly
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    Gadfly - April 07, 2013 8:33 am
    Wolf Myths and Lies
    The state of WA has discovered that wolves are not stunting other wildlife. Is there any reason that wolf revival should stunt other wildlife? They were part of the wildlife ecology systems for millennium before man and wildlife agencies decided on annihilation in the lower 48 and marginalization elsewhere. They are a healthy part of any true wilderness system, good for the flora and fauna. They do not decimate anything, including elk; that is folklore driven by sportsmen/hunter-wildlife agency-rancher-yokel myth. WA wildlife officials are handling the return of the wolves in a pro-active, myth busting way, assuring that they will hear rumors or see such on wolf-hating sites, but that basically people can rest easy, and just watch and see what happens. The wildlife agencies in MT-ID-WY have gone completely anti-wolf in the sense that they have capitulated to the rancher-sportsmen-wolf hating yokel and the myths they promote. The basic myths are that (1) wolves will decimate elk herds. Elk numbers are up in WY, MT, ID and WA and all states in which there are wolves and elk. (2) Wolves will decimate cattle, no they will not, have not, killing only around .0026 percent (67 of 250,000,000) in MT in 2012, statistically zero. Myth (3) is that these re-introduced wolves are giant Canadian wolves. No, they are gray wolves, canis lupus, just as the wolves of Canada are, and average around 85 lbs. for males. The myths, rumors, folklore are prevalent by default of wildlife agencies and newspapers.
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