03 March 2013


There is a wolf protection group called The Wolf Army.  The organization has a page on Facebook, where I happened across the following news item ~

"In a recent interview with news media, Idaho Fish and Game biologist Craig White said it 'raised eyebrows' on both sides of the wolf debate when livestock kills [by wolves] rose, even as more wolves were killed.  Previously the trend had been for livestock kills to go down as wolf kills [by human hunters] went up.  The state plans to continue killing wolves until elk herds ~ their primary prey and a popular game animal ~ start increasing, he said.

"The Wolf Army comment ~ How long will it be before Mr. Craig White and his colleagues will start studying wolf behavior and stop studying ways of killing wolves?  Blaming the wolves for declining elk numbers is rather unscientific.  To decide that 'we will keep killing them until elk numbers increase' is downright irresponsible.  Maybe it is time or Mr. White and his colleagues to start studying the real reasons for elk decline.  Maybe hunger, maybe over-hunting by humans, maybe climate changes all have a much larger impact on elk numbers than wolves, but then it is always easier to have a 'blame boy' for things you have no answer for.

" .... If they did their homework, they would have found that it is common logic that by killing more wolves in a state with many wolves like Idaho and Montana (albeit fast declining), they could have seen that by killing many members of wolf packs, the [surviving] wolves have problems hunting their usual prey, elk and deer.  Experienced members of wolf packs are being killed, leaving inexperienced younger wolves to fend for small inefficient packs.  The logical thing for a thinking wolf will be to turn on easier prey ~ livestock.

"The wolves are not to blame for the increase in livestock predation.  It is the people who keep killing them that should take the blame.  Killing is not a way to resolve a problem.  It never was and never will be.  It creates a culture of violence and causes many more ecological problems."

It is useful to bear in mind that before European settlers arrived, wolves and their prey maintained a dynamic equilibrium in population for tens of thousands of years.  White settlers eradicated wolves because (a) the settlers believed the wolf myths they brought with them from Europe, (b) the settlers perceived (and still perceive) wolves as competitors for native game species like elk and deer, and (c) reports of wolf predation on domestic livestock were vastly exaggerated.  In addition to hunting wolves to near-extinction, humans steadily encroached upon wolves' habitat, reducing their available range and their numbers.

In the absence of natural predators, game species numbers exploded.  Even human hunters could not keep populations in control.  The result has been over-grazing and over-browsing, diminished biodiversity, and increased soil erosion.  Yet humans blindly cling to their biases in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

With the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park and key wilderness areas in Montana and Idaho, overpopulated elk numbers naturally began to decline as nature's balance was allowed to reassert itself.  The presence of wolves forced elk herds to stay on the move, allowing native plant life to reestablish itself, especially in riparian areas.  Ecosystems began to heal as small mammals, birds, insects, and other former residents returned.

Wolf populations thrived, packs increased in number, and younger wolves strayed outside reintroduction areas in search of their own territory.  This is natural behavior for large predators.  All this activity alarmed already-suspicious ranchers and hunters.  When the gray wolf was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in reintroduction areas in 2011, management reverted to state wildlife departments, which immediately instituted wolf hunting and trapping seasons, much to hunters' delight.

Here are the 2012-2013 season wolf kill results, as of today ~

  • Idaho wolf hunting ~ 169
  • Idaho wolf trapping ~ 76
  • Montana wolf hunting ~ 128
  • Montana wolf trapping ~ 97
  • Wyoming wolf hunting ~ 74
Regional total this season ~ 544
Regional total since delisting ~ 1,089

These numbers represent between one-quarter and one-half of each state's wolf population, yet the clamor for more wolf blood continues.  Going so far as to disregard revenue in these troubled financial times, the state of Montana passed a new law which increases the number of wolf permits, reduces the former five-day wait after purchase of a hunting license to 24 hours, and lowers out-of-state wolf permit fees from $350 to $50.  Such is the power of hate and ignorance.

As for me, I would much rather be living in or near a wilderness area where I could hear birds singing and wolves howling and the wind, than be living in a city where the cacophony of human vehicles, voices and entertainment devices drowns out any faint echo of the natural world.

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