It’s Time for Environmentalists to Stop Crying Wolf

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Published on September 17th, 2009  |  Discuss This Article  

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Hate mail, angry community meetings, hyperbolic letters to the editor.

No, not health care reform: Wolf hunting.

Here in Idaho, it seems, the wolf hunting season — which opened earlier this month — has pushed all other news aside.

Many environmentalists are mad as hell that wolf management has been turned over to the states in Idaho (and soon Montana), leading to hunting seasons for these large, majestic predators.

As such, there is a very concerted effort to stop the wolf hunt – even after a federal judge ruled the hunt could tentatively continue.

This effort is certainly a great way to mobilize people into action.

But opposing the wolf hunt is not, ultimately, good for wolf conservation.

Stopping the wolf hunt essentially concerns saving individual wolves.

Conservation, by necessity, must concern a much broader view:

  • How can we keep wolves a part of large, intact landscapes?
  • How can we preserve the large forests necessary for wolves in the face of subdivision, climate change and energy development?

Such issues, unfortunately, don’t lend themselves to simple slogans or simple solutions.

Opposing the wolf hunt seems, on the other hand, to be a simple case of “crying wolf”: creating a conservation crisis where none really exists.

Gray wolves were reintroduced to parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in 1995. By all accounts, they have thrived, much better than anyone expected. And so, as promised at the time of reintroduction, the states now have control over wolf management.

That means more wolf control and wolf hunting seasons: unacceptable to many environmentalists.

I am a wolf lover. Hearing them howl in the backcountry reminds me why I live where I do. Seeing them walk by in the moonlight, as I did this summer in Yellowstone, was one of my most memorable wildlife sightings.

I’m also a big fan of wildlife reintroductions. I think that native mammals should be reintroduced to every patch of suitable habitat across the continent.

As research in Yellowstone consistently demonstrates, wolves are undoubtedly one of the most important species in the userbin ecosystem.

As a hunter, I’m embarrassed by the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the selling of wolf tags. I’m even more embarrassed by the claims of some hunters that wolves are causing elk and deer to go “extinct.”

The anti-wolf activists — and there are such folks in Idaho — quite frankly bore me, with their endless predictions that wolves will eat your children at the bus stop.

But all that aside, it’s time to let the wolf hunt happen. Most likely, wolves will quickly become just another well-managed big game animal, much like mountain lions. Mountain lions are hunted, and they’re thriving and even expanding their range.

Environmentalists said they would support delisting when wolf recovery goals were met, which they have been. By opposing delisting now, it makes it harder for other predator reintroductions and conservation efforts to take place.

And stopping the hunt could, in the long run, lead to far worse wolf control efforts. The longer wolves are not hunted, the more rural Westerners will demand more drastic measures. Eventually, I fear, this would lead to trapping, poisoning, aerial shooting or even wolf eradication.

Think it can’t happen? I suggest you don’t understand the fervor with which many ranchers and hunters hate wolves.

With the hunting season, wolves will continue to thrive. They’ll become more wary and avoid humans — not a bad thing.

Individual wolves will be killed, a sad reality. But as conservationists, we should be working so that populations can survive.

Habitat loss, climate change, irresponsible energy development: These are issues that will dramatically affect the long-term survival of wolf populations.

It’s time for environmentalists to let go of the conservation non-issue of saving individual wolves, and instead use their passion to save wolf habitat.

(Image: Grey wolf. Credit: Janet Haas.)

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Comments: It’s Time for Environmentalists to Stop Crying Wolf

  •  Comment from teacherninja

    Thanks for that! Not living out west, this is an issue I know is contentious but hadn’t really felt like I had a handle on. This clear-eyed stance is the best I’ve read. Now I get it it and I hope people on both sides of the issue get a chance to read it. Thanks.

  •  Comment from The Trout Underground

    I think the key phrase here is “well managed” game animal. Montana’s hunt – by most accounts – appears to be fairly “real” in its goals.

    But Idaho’s program appears to be more an eradication program than big game management tool, and frankly, that’s entirely consistent with the political atmosphere in the state.

    I cringe a little when pro-wolf folks suggest wolves should never be hunted, and yes – I cringe a lot when I hear the anti-wolf venom heaped on the animal by a subset of moronic, misinformed hunters and ranchers.

    That said, I tend to agree with the judge; the wolf populations are probably not established in any real genetic sense, and Idaho’s hunting program will probably see to it that never happens.

    Thus, the hunt goes on, but mis-management by the states could easily lead to another judge-enforced listing of the animal.

    And we’re not even talking about Wyoming yet, whose “management” program was so bad the Feds can’t even bring themselves to delist in that state.

    In other words, management’s OK, but due a ridiculously anti-wolf atmosphere, we’re looking at a great deal more than “management” in several states.

    Finally, a pet peeve; do you have any backing at all for the statement that “Environmentalists said they would support delisting when wolf recovery goals were met, which they have been.”

    Which “environmentalists” agreed to this, and whose goals did they agree to? I see this one trotted out fairly often, and yet I don’t know of any historic backing for it.

    In one sense, the wolf battle has become an icon of the clash between what amounts to the old west and the newer Western culture, and while nobody has a monopoly on the truth, it’s hard to imagine wolf populations getting a fair shake in the kind of heated atmosphere they’re facing.

    Management’s fine. Eradication isn’t.

  •  Comment from Cris Waller

    The author’s reasons for promoting wolf hunting are specious and unsupported,

    “Most likely, wolves will quickly become just another well-managed big game animal, much like mountain lions. Mountain lions are hunted, and they’re thriving and even expanding their range.”
    There is no biological reason to hunt wolves *or* mountain lions. There are two additional problems with the author’s assumptions, Hunting *is* hurting mountain lions, as recent intensive studies in WA state have shown. Hunting not only reduces lion populations, especially in roaded areas, to potentially unsustainable levels, it causes social strife and even affects predator/prey dynamics- see an account of some of these studies at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004285453_cougar16m.html.

    In addition, wolves are social pack animals and cougars are not. Hunting will fracture packs. Many years of studies on coyotes have shown that hunting coyotes leads to *more* livestock depredation, for a variety of reasons- as two, killing territorial coyotes who don’t kill sheep opens up the territory for those that do, and killing coyotes leads to increased compensatory natality and thus more hungry mouths to feed. There is no reason to believe that this is not true of wolves as well, especially when parents of dependent pups are shot.

    “The longer wolves are not hunted, the more rural Westerners will demand more drastic measures”
    What evidence is there that allowing the public hunt will lessen calls for such measures? None. Hunting does not breed goodwill for wolves; there have been several studies showing that allowing hunting doesn’t increase tolerance for wolves.

    “Eventually, I fear, this would lead to trapping, poisoning, aerial shooting or even wolf eradication.”
    Well, if it’s done illegally, penalize it. If it’s suggested legislatively, oppose it. And, overall, *work to change the mindset.* There is a very simple truth here. Hunting wolves won’t lead to less livestock depredation. Wolves don’t have to be killed to “save elk.” Rather than kow-towing to the fears of the ignorant, educate! By allowing this wolf hunting season, game departments are tacitly supporting the untruths that bedevil their “constituents,” and are promulgating the same ignorance that led to the endangerment of the wolf in the first place.

    “Think it can’t happen? I suggest you don’t understand the fervor with which many ranchers and hunters hate wolves.”
    I don’t think the author understands that allowing wolf hunting only feeds this fervor; it doesn’t diminish it.

    “With the hunting season, wolves will continue to thrive. They’ll become more wary and avoid humans — not a bad thing.”
    Not a necessary thing either; stressing such a viewpoint only fosters the myth that wolves are dangerous to humans.

    “It’s time for environmentalists to let go of the conservation non-issue of saving individual wolves, and instead use their passion to save wolf habitat.”
    Perhaps it’s time for environmentalists to realize that when you protect the rights of every individual (to habitat to live in as well as to life), you by necessity also protect the species.

  •  Comment from Anonymous

    As a fellow Nature Conservancy employee, I’m ashamed to admit that I work for the same organization you do if this is your view on wolf hunting. It seems you treat this issue as if wolves are simply machines and resources to be used however humans see fit. Apparently, there is no room in your analytical logical heart for something called “compassion”.

    That you would drag mountain lions (a recognized threatened species into the equation) appalls me even more. Neither of these species needs to be hunted.

    Make no mistake about it, the only reason we allow hunting of these animals is human greed and a desire to maintain high populations of elk and other such animals that bring in revenue for the state.

    Maybe you should go up and live with Sarah Palin. Sounds like the two of you basically think the same way.

  •  Comment from Ben Christensen

    Excellent post Matt. I am always a big fan of balanced viewpoints!

  •  Comment from Josh

    I disagree with this as the numbers that were predicted to be a self-sustainable wolf population are skewed. Wolves can not be managed as other big game such as cougars and bears because these animals are life-mates. A popular estimation on how many breeding pairs of wolves ranges from 75-95 out of all wolves in the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes combined. That is hardly a safe number to start shooting wolves. Should the alphas be killed, the pack will go into turmoil and may disperse. If Ranchers don’t want wolves wandering on their property, they are going about the wrong way entirely because that is exactly what will happen when the wolves loose the strength of the pack that allows them to hunt large ungulates. A lone wolf can not take down such an animal by itself which makes a neglected free-range cow look like an easy meal. I’m not crying wolf, I’m crying rancher. Ranchers need to take better care of their animals and implement anti-predation tactics. A good place to start would be either fencing them in or actually being there to watch them. All wildlife is public and private owned cattle and other livestock is free-roaming on public lands. It’s an oxymoron to believe that this is a safe way to take care of ranchers stock.
    Shepherds guarded their herds for over a thousand years without the use of fences or firearms. The only difference now is the laziness and silly expectations. Either fence them in or watch them. That is the best solution for predation on livestock but as I’ve said, they are too lazy to do such watching. Free-ranged livestock should be stopped if the owners are not going to be present.

    In 2008 the same delisting of wolves was addressed to the courts and the judge sided with the conservationist parties. The statistics since that ruling have not changed and yet now it has been passed due to Ken Salazar’s and “Butch” Otter’s efforts. The Preliminary injunction was declined on the case against Salazar for the illegal removal of wolves from the endangered species list. Though Chief Judge Donald Molloy of Montana agrees that the wolf may have been illegally removed from that list, the preliminary injunction to cease the hunts was declined. I’ve talked with my lawyers and they can’t make head or tails out of this decision and as many conservations will agree, it seems to be a blatant political maneuver rather than a science based one. There are at least two groups of scientist being paid to debate the sustainable number wolves need to survive. The number used is half the amount of wolves that actually live in those regions however when the delisting was pressed over three times just in the Bush Administration’s ruling, it was declined. The numbers have obviously changed during the sequent time which suggest additional funding to controversy scientist.

  •  Comment from Lara Newman

    Although the points you had brought up were fairly decent, for some reason I found them highly uneducated. There was an incident in Yellowstone itself some years ago where they had begun a hunt for wolves. That ended very badly. The ecosystems that wolves evolve in depend on them regardless of what humans believe or think. What happened to the ecosystem? It completely dropped. There was an increase in the elk population. This led to decrease in vegetation (because of course that’s what elk eat), which led to so many other problems. Decrease in river life, and so on. I do not find it coincidental that as soon as they started reintroducing wolves into the area that the environment took a turn and is now more stable then it was when there were less wolves. As for ranchers… as said before by the man before me (Josh), cows and sheep and so on are very easy prey. Not only are they lazy but they are unable to defend themselves. That becomes even easier game for wolves. Before bison and buffalo and such were able to defend themselves and there were hardly any problems. As soon as cows were brought in is when the problems really began. It is the ranchers RESPONSIBILITY to do what they can to protect their livestock. As I see it, the wolves are just simply outsmarting them. I’m working my way up to becoming a wolf biologist and I of course have a very fond love of wolves. About the whole “management” deal, that is understandable to a certain degree. To tell men to go out and kill these animals and be paid for doing so will always result in a very sudden and unsafe drop in population. If environmental biologists were to suggest a small decrease in wolf population, wolves should be captured and released to a different habitat who’s wolf population could either be declining or just simply wouldn’t hurt to have a few more added on. In all honesty, I really don’t believe you do have compassion for wolves or you would have studied a little more to understand the view points of those who oppose wolf hunting. I do apologize if I’m wrong but that’s the tone I had gotten from this article.

  •  Comment from John Matel

    I think this article hits the fundamental problem with wildlife conservation and conservation in general these days. We need to be concerned with the general ecology, as the author says, but many people are concerned with individual animals. The developing concept of animal rights is antithetical to good environmental management and ironically the whole idea is very anthropomorphic.

    Proper conservation management must involve hunting and/or trapping. It will inevitably involve individual animals dying. Beyond that, all environments are in a state of constant change. They cannot be “preserved” or left entirely alone. They can only be managed well or poorly. The idea that we can take human management out of the equation is silly, irresponsible & pernicious.

    Some people long for a world free of human influence, w/o understanding that their very longing is a particularly human-centered emotion.

    In the long history of the universe, our part really is not a very big deal. More than 99% of all species ever to live on earth are now extinct. It is inevitable that someday we will join them. And the earth with neither rejoice or lament at this. It matters only to us.

  •  Comment from Angie

    I love the wolf and think it is a very important animal in the food chain and ecosystem. I agree if nothing is done the population could grow too much which will create more issues, I just worry that by opening hunting, if someone is not keeping close watch, they will soon become endangered again and we will be back where we started.

  •  Comment from Trent R.

    How dare you say this is a good thing. Wolves are the most beautiful thing on this planet. People are slaughtering babies and females and males as well. They can’t fight back. Stop wolf hunting. The population is still very low. You can’t even eat a wolf. What if someone came to your house and slaughtered your family in cold blood. That’s how they feel. Please stop wolf hunting. They are such fascinating creatures. Just learn about them and you will understand there situation. I love wolves and hope to become a wolf biologist someday. “Please god save these beautiful, amazing creatures of yours. Save them from these terrible hunters.” Just please stop the killing. There is no reason for it. Wolves don’t attack humans. Please. What would Jesus do?

  •  Comment from jake

    trent you are retarted, it is nothing like going to anyones house and slaughtering their famly. wolves can fight back just like anyother animal can fight back. we may win sometimes but that is life it may suck for you wolf lovers but thats the way it goes just get over it. and if you like wolves so much go to their den and start to protect them.

  •  Comment from Jacob

    Many years ago man and wolf hunted and lived side by side. I want to live to see that again. But because of cruel, merciless hunters I Fear I wont. If hunting was totally illegal no words could describe my joy like how now words describe wolves Importance and Bueaty or how no words can describe the horror of hunters.

  •  Comment from Julian

    Once more, a very empty “arguement” for hunting. Lots of the right words with no substance. Statements with no backup, that’s what emotional save-every-living-thing people use. The hunting for conservation stance is also getting very old and tired. It just doesn’t stand up to all hunting scenarios.
    Only when a population is reaching an overpopulation point and nature’s ways of restricting them are not working, or if one is living on the land and hunts for food (wolves are not included in this group) should hunting be considered. Hunting was a way of surviving, this isn’t necessary anymore. Using words like “majestic” and beautiful to describe animals and then killing them is bordering on insanity.
    Hunting decreases the likelihood of seeing majestic creatures as they become fearful of all humans. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s depressing.
    We refuse to see the importance of these creatures surviving unmolested to our souls. We still refuse to realize the importance of nature in terms of eco-tourism; it can be as big as trophy hunting if it’s given the same promotion. And we still refuse to educate ourselves and move beyond our most ancient fears.
    Kill and revere?! You must be either very ignorant or insane.

  •  Comment from Cliff Sandlin

    The individual well-being of wolves is highly undervalued in this argument. Wolves clearly possess high levels of intelligence and social behavior. Their capacity to experience harm is higher than most other megafauna.

    Wolves are not a threat to human survival. Livestock ranching is an unsustainable practice that utilizes tremendous energy and land resources which would be much more efficiently slated to agricultural development.

    I challenge the author to produce figures consistent with his hypothesis: That culling wolf populations at this juncture is the best means to encourage the continuity of the species.

    An argument presented by a previous poster is valid–the issue at hand seems to be the perceived short-run economic value of the elk herds. In order to keep up elk herd populations, wolf populations would have to be maintained below some expected predator prey equilibrium level. However, in doing so the wolf population’s growth rate (R) would be high due to the excess elk population. Even in such a simplistic model it’s easy to see the potential for a problem. If the growth rate is too high, the population will have short run bursts. Since a human’s perception of stimulus is based on a logarithmic scale (cite classic studies on stimulus-response), you are creating a “homing signal” for wolf critics. When they see populations spiking, they will percieve a rapid growing population. In actuality they will be observing, with their uneducated lens, a very unstable wolf population with wildly fluctuating numbers.

    This is not a mathematically or ecologically tenable way to maintain a small population for a predator.

  •  Comment from know one knows

    why would an one want to kill any wolves??? People should leave them alone!!!!!

  •  Comment from Paris

    Hey Matt,

    Im 16, and for my Environmental Science Final Report, i am writing and presenting a report on why wolf hunts should be legal. and i want to say that your story has helped me a Lot! thanks for sticking up for those of us who are Wolf Lovers and Hunters!!! keep writing!!

    Paris, Vallivue High

  •  Comment from Mike Morris

    My recollection is that the original management plan for the re-introduction of the wolves into the Rocky Mountains was that the de-listing process would begin once the number of wolves reached 300, and other criteria were met. As I recall, virtually all of the Conservation groups involved with developing the plan signed off on it, including the precess for delisting.

    The first delisting process did not start until the wolf population was approaching 1,500 animals. That process was strongly opposed by some of the same groups who supported the original management plan.

    It seems to me to that it is intellectually dishonest to sign off on a management plan, and then oppose the implementation of that plan at some later date. It makes me wonder if some of those groups were already planning their campaign to stop delisting while supporting the management plan for the reintroduction.

    As a member of several conservation groups, I have been discouraged by the dishonest propaganda that commonly is put out by some of them regarding the predator-prey relationship, and the impact of increasing predator populations on a wide variety of species. These are very complicated, complex relationships, and their will be unintended and unexpected consequences of this reintroduction, regardless of the eventual management plans that are adopted. Already, many of the assumptions contained in the original management plan have proven to be incorrect, in most cases underestimating the impact wolves would have on prey species, and overestimating the impact wolves would have on other predator species.

    One of the most interesting contradictions to come out of this reintroduction involved wolves and grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park. A short, relatively small study seemed to show that Grizzly Bears were killing more elk calves than wolves. That finding recieved a great deal of publicity, and was used by some groups to claim that wolves were not a major factor in the ongoing reduction of the Northern Yellowstone elk herd. A couple of years later, more thorough research found that, in fact, Grizzly bears wrre following the wolf packs, then pushing them off their kill, forcing the wolf pack to make a second kill. Don’t recall seeing the same level of publicity regarding that finding, but probably just missed it.

    Predators have the potential to cause extinction in some species, and severe reductions in others. That is the way it has always been, and the way it will always be. As wildlife management has developed in the last 70 years, man has attempted to provide some balance among those populations, through a wide variety of methods, including hunting. The consequences of NOT applying management to predators will be severe, in my view. There can obviously be disagreement over the timing and level of management controls, but those who oppose all management options to maintain some type of balance between predator/prey species exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the world we live in.

  •  Comment from jacob

    wolves should not be hunted. They have had tens of thousands of years to get in tune with their natural habitats and environments so if they do overpopulate nature will take care of everything. Besides if humans did not hunt wolves natural prey or tempt them with easy meals like cows or sheep, the wolves, bears, bison, elk, eagles whatever would all live in a perfect balance of life, death, and regrowth. Animals should not be hunted in places were they have been there longer than us. It is called the circle of life and humans ore the only thing disrupting the circle.

  •  Comment from jake

    Mother nature takes care of everything on earth. You guys do not have the right to do whatever you want and use the excuse “I’m doing nature a favour” every time. You want to help the world? Never shoot an animal again unless its youselfe and your nasty inbred family you heartless hunters. Maybe nature will take care of you one day, unless i get to you first. OMG i hate you leave animals alone. Rock on wolves.

  •  Comment from E

    I would love to see any of the anti wolf hunters out in the field hiking when they come across a wolf pack. “Natural habitat” as Jacob mentions above is nothing what it used to be in the days of Lewis and Clark. The natural habitat for big game has been white washed with a predator they cannot handle. What else explains the drastic increase in wolves to over 2,000 in such a short amount of time? Elk are not used to this type of predator and the drop in numbers in the Greater Yellowstone Area are proof of that (some herds have dropped from 20,000 elk in 2006 to 5,000 in 2009 as reported by Field & Stream). I fear no one has the right answer and we are leaving this to politics to decide…..which gives me little hope! The deepest pocketbooks sendomly think of the greater good.

    Hopefully state management efforts will continue to focus on all species involved and find a balance to predator populations. Last I checked once we “introduced” humans to the equation we became responsible for our impact on our environment. The “invisible hand” of economics does not apply to conservation and simply allowing the animals to co-exist with each other doesn’t work with civilization. It’s hard to hug a tree without making an imprint so you always have to do something :-). But hey…you keep thinking they are cute and cuddly. I’d love to go and give them a big squeeze myself.

  •  Comment from Hunter

    Clearly wolves are capable of self regulating there pack size but as humans expand into the habitat that wolves require for a healthy population conflict is eminent and management is required. By eradicating wolves and asserting ourselves above other animals in the first place and settling and building, we messed up the wolves and every other species. Now the only responsible action is to manage these wolves or “cuddly critters” as some ignorant people have reffered to them. By shooting these wolves the people of Montana FWP and Idaho fish and wildlife and merely trying to balance population size and maintain it within a quota that was instituted to ultimately protect the wolves. If you people cant get over the fact that one “cuddly critter” is dying so that the whole species ca avoid starvation and disease than you clearly lack common sense.Personally, I have always admired wolves and other predators. The saddest day of my life was the day I shot a coyote and realized I wouldn’t be able eat it. hunting in the first place was merely about food and wolves obviously just hunt to eat, but now it is also a key management tool that should be implemented. This past fall both idaho and Montana filled there wolf quotas but they were simply too few wolves killed. By next fall those wolves will have been replaced and no progress will have been made. One more thing, all those who attacked the guy in Idaho who shot the first wolf, That is not ok. That man was doing what he thought was OK and completely illegal. Threatening anyone is infringement on there rights which is illegal. Thanks. I will post again after I talk to the bioligists of FWP and possibly the guy who shot the first wolf.

  •  Comment from jake

    If you admire animals like wolves, bears, elk or whatnot you don’t have to hunt them to appreciate them. Next time your about to go hunting maybe just watch the animal from a safe distsnce and not shoot, or go hiking in the forests or mountains, try learning the ways of the natural world without disturbing it with guns and airoplanes. That will let you see the animals in a perspective different to any trophe hunt. If you are a hunter of these magnificent creatures, when you kill a wolf think about the wolf’s family and friends who have lost a brother or sister. They have feelings like us and they just want to survive. What would you feel if someone in your family was killed in front of you?

  •  Comment from Ana

    This is just wrong! Why would anyone consider killing something a game! Reducing numbers or NOT! It isn’t right to take a life away from ANYTHING as a sport! Hunting should just be used as something that people do to survive not as a game! Why are some people so sick! How would they like it if people hunted down their families and killed them, stuffing them, and then showing off to the world! This is for the hunters out there that like this SICK DISGUSTING sport, next time your holding a gun, rifle or whatever the hell you people use just remember your killing an animal for your sick needs! Your invading their home and killing them! Your taking away wolfs that haven’t even lived their full lives! These animals not just wolfs should be left alone! Not being killed by the hand of a person that just thinks of these poor creatures as trophies to be stuffed or beheaded and placed on a mantel! COME ON PEOPLE! THIS ISN’T RIGHT! They should BAN IT!

  •  Comment from Anya

    You hick idiot who hunt wolves better get a good look at what you think is sooooo much fun about killing wolves, because just one day the same fate may befall you. Befall means that it will happen to you too! Morons!!

  •  Comment from Marian Jones

    Rather than embracing a smart, sustainable plan to manage the wolves that Americans have fought so hard to rescue from the brink of extinction, Idaho is gearing up for what could be the most significant wolf massacre since the 1930s. Idaho officials have announced that they plan to allow hunters to shoot and kill up to 25% of the wolves in the state during this hunting season alone. The state has also indicated that it plans to sell an estimated 70,000 permits to hunt wolves this year — 70 wolf-killing permits for each of the 1,000 wolves estimated to live in Idaho! In just a couple of weeks, more than 14,000 — of an estimated 70,000 — wolf-killing permits have already been sold in Idaho! Montana has sold more than 7,100 permits.

  •  Comment from Marian Jones

    Under current state wolf management plans, more than two-thirds of the region’s wolves could be killed, threatening the overall future of wolves in the region. In fact, current state wolf management plans seem more directed at wolf eradication than sustainable management of a wildlife population that the federal government has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to rescue from extinction.

    Remember the passenger pigeon?

    “Environmentalists and conservation groups all point to the passenger pigeon and its extinction as a benchmark, as a lesson in the perils of arrogance.”

    Passenger pigeons were perhaps the most populous bird ever to inhabit the planet and certainly North America. Their population was estimated at 3.5 billion birds. John James Audubon wrote of traveling in Kentucky in 1813 and watching a flock pass overhead for three full days.

    State legislatures saw no need to protect the species. It seemed akin to protecting ants. A committee of the Ohio Legislature in 1857 was fairly typical when it asserted, “The passenger pigeon needs no protection.”

    So what happened?

    The birds were slaughtered. They were killed for food, for their feathers, for sport. Forests began disappearing, which the vast numbers depended on for mast – beechnuts and acorns, among other nuts and berries. When their numbers dwindled, the species passed a threshold from which it could not recover.*

    It happened quickly. By the 1870s and ’80s, they were becoming scarce, sightings infrequent. It was a species that needed abundance to survive, from its feeding forays to its colonial nesting behavior. Without vast numbers, it slipped below a sustainable threshold.*

    On March 24, 1900, the last passenger pigeon ever recorded from the wild was shot in Ohio by Young Press Southworth . And just 14 years later, on Sept. 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon in the world died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. *

    Dr. David Olson, a conservation biologist with the World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C., states “The fate of the passenger pigeon was a warning to conservationists about how quickly extinction can occur, especially when hastened by the hand of man”.* LEW MOORES, The Cincinnati Enquirer

  •  Comment from Marian Jones

    So why the anger, the hatred toward wolves? For generations we’ve been programmed to loathe and fear wolves. In fairytales and folklore they are always the villains and perceived as evil and cunning. For most kids, the wolf is a scary animal in their imaginations because of popular bedtime stories like Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, all of which depict a nasty wolf out for blood. In some religious stories like the tale of the so-called “Good Shepherd”, the wolf is depicted as a cunning animal trying to pilfer the shepherd’s sheeps. It is time that we see them from a conservation point of view and the appreciate their beauty and importance in this world. Visitors now flock to Yellowstone to catch a glimpse of these marvelous animals and to hear their legendary howling.

  •  Comment from Anonymous

    i agree with jake ;)

  •  Comment from Ignorance is Bliss

    Jake,
    have you ever seen how a wolf kills it’s prey, especially a large animal such as an elk or buffalo, have you seen the moose still standing with it’s nose chewed off and tongue ripped from it’s mouth as the wolves have eaten half of the rear quarters of the animal and it can no longer kick, or better yet have you had the wolves kill your dog as you “Strolling through the woods on your NATURE hike”
    My lord child your comments are beyond ignornant !
    unfortunately you guys are arguing the wrong side, if you really love wolves and want to see so many of them, well support the hunt, because the hunting if done so improperly will perpetuate a population explotion. In a healthy pack pups will only be born every few years as needed or allowed by range. However if a mating pack member is removed by predation (hunter or wild predator) a NEW mate will be selected and Mating will occur almost immediately to perpetuate the bond between the newly formed mates.
    My hope is that if conservation is truly in the mind of Idaho Fish and Game that they will EDUCATE pack hunters and make certain that appropriate pack members are being removed as to NOT cause a population explotion !
    Why is it JAKE you feel so much compasion for the wolves and NONE for any of the other wildlife populations that ARE being decimated by them ?
    It’s ok for the wolf to kill the ELK, DEER, MOOSE, BUFFALO, DOMESTIC DOGS, and any other prey they wish, but noone better put the wolf back in check ?
    What exactly Jake is wrong with you ?

  •  Comment from Anthony

    @ Ignorance Is Bliss

    The only reason wolves kill Elk, Deer, Moose, Buffalo and even domestic dogs is for food, nothing else, so unless people are killing wolves strictly for food, then they have no reason to be hunting them

  •  Comment from Brad

    I live in MN where there is a healthy population of wolves, but the ignorant hayseeds who live in wolf territory almost universally hate them. They get blamed for ANY cattle death, even if there is no evidence, simply becuase they get a government payout for a wolf killed cow. The local conservation officer told me that only about one in ten predation calls he gets is from a wolf, usually coyote or natural causes, but the farmer want to get paid, so its a wolf.

    Any drop in deer population is blamed on wolves as well, even though every Bubba shot five does during the last deer season and poached another seven. Add in a bad winter and that new subdivision……must be the wolves.

    I liken a wolf pack to a small community, or a platoon of soldiers. There are leaders or hierarchy that orders the pack. If you remove the leaders by kiling them, many times there is not enough unit cohesion for them to continue as a group. Sometimes there is. But wolves are not efficient predators on their own, they need the pack. So if the pack breaks up, you have starving wolves that can’t take down a moose, and that heifer or dog starts to look pretty inviting.

  •  Comment from Zander

    Of all the coments I’ve read (and I actually read them ALL), one really scary thing is the amount of pure hatred that oozes out of the mouths of the group that claims to have the most compassion, care and concern for life. It is so hard to reason with unreasonable people. How do you talk about compassion with a person that puts human life below animal life? Anyone that would wish that a hunter sould kill his family and then themself . . . ? If you refer to some group as ignorant hayseeds to start your position with anyone that has an opposing stance . . ?
    To sugest that all animals that were in a certain locale have the “right” to exist and that humans don’t . . . the planet wouldn’t have any humans welcome anywhere.
    The passenger pigeon was brought up as an example of what hunters did that lead to the extinction of a species. To put that into the proper perspective, let’s consider this. That was a perfect case of unregulated hunting that was in large, in an era where market hunting was a common practice and there was so much of everything wild that the unscientific view was it wouldn’t end. Market hunting has ENDED. If one wants to use birds as a parallel comparison then look no further than the wild turkey. Once extinct in many states, it thrives in all the lower 50. The anti-hunting community had nothing to do with this success story. It was conservation minded hunting agencies (the same ones that would be in charge of regulating wolves) that worked with the National Turkey Federation on reintoducing the turkey. Early on, many hunting clubs and organizations pitched in with both time, money and sweat equity to see the turkey prosper to record levels while still hunting them. I’ll bet you could count the amount of money spent by hunter-hating individuals on your little toe. Hunter-haters spend all sorts of money to prevent hunts and all sorts of time spewing vitriol, all the while claiming to be the warm and caring and somehow more compassionate. Hunters are more than windbags, they put their time, money and sweat towards the betterment of natural resources. Ducks Unlimited has done more for habitat for ALL animals than PETA or the Humane Society or any other pretend nature protection organization could dream of doing. I don’t duck hunt but still gladly pay my dues to DU for the excellent work they do. How about you anti-hunters? Do you really support wildlife or are you a whiner/pretender? Do you support the Rocky Mountain Elk Federation and all the super work that they do that not only benefits elk but all the wildlife that co-exists in their habitat. I do! I don’t hunt elk and will probably never get the opportunity but I’ll always put financial support towards any organization that does as much for the overall good of nature.
    One commenter suggested that instead of shooting an animal, why not just go out without a gun and just observe the animal and enjoy it in it’s natural setting. This happens all the time! How many brush piles have you built,trees have you planted, food plots have you planted, garbage have you hauled from streamsides and parking areas, or money have you donated? Hunters do it all the time whether they expect some sort of personal return on their investment or not! Who’s the real animal lover here? Who really cares more about nature and conservancy?!!!! I get to have all the experiences that an anti-hunting nature lover has plus I get to be part of the solution not the problem.
    Should some sort of catastrophy happen where the animal population drop to dangerously or detrimentally low, I’d have no problem with not shooting (which I’ve already experienced) and I still could have a good time out in the “wild”. How many of the loudest haters out there spend any real amount of time in the outdoors?
    Lastly, please don’t count hunters in the same lump as poachers! Poachers are selfish takers, lacking selfcontrol and nothing but a black eye to conservation AND hunting. They should be viewed as a common enemy of both the hunters and the antis. Wow! A common ground . . . let’s build on it.

  •  Comment from Mike

    Part of the reason there is no evidense, Brad, is that one of the hardest things with a wolf kill is that they eat EVERYTHING!!!!!! Unlike a coyote kill, dog kill, car kill or just plain old drop dead from natural causes, unless you get there within a short period after the kill, the best you will get for evidense is BLOOD everywhere. You see, the prey doesn’t need to be dead for the feeding frenzie to start. Then the wounded prey starts to run and struggle for it’s life while it is being consumed alive! One trait that is specific for a wolf kill is that they eat the bones for dessert. Now I can already anticipate your reply of how efficient that is, (which it is – we’d agree) the evidence is gone . . . . which is the case where calves, dogs, cats etc. It isn’t a case of where some nogood evil farmer or rancher is trying to villify the poor do-good wolf. That’s just the way they KILL and CONSUME. If you want nature to take it’s course that’s what happens. Do you think that there isn’t abbuse of reinbursement money? I’m sure that we both do. Where we disagree is you think it’s the norm, I think it’s the anomaly.
    Since it sounds like you and the local game warden spend a lot of time together I’m suprised that you don’t turn in that gamehog violator named Bubba so you could spare the deer herd and clear the name of your vegetarian wolf friends. I don’t know how it is dealt with in Min. but in Wisconsin all the reimbursement monies come from the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resouces), which means from hunting, fishing and trapping licenses, not from a general fund that would be payed into from ALL taxpayers! That’s OK though because no matter what the Disney croud would like to think, in reality hunters carry the overwhelming majority of the load only to be vilified by someone who hasn’t got a clue regarding the real natural world. Have you ever seen a wolf in the wild? I have. I’m not talking about one that’s on the boob tube, I mean outside, and not out a car window either. Have you ever been stalked by one? I have! That was after I had hunted until dark and was on my way back from a half a mile into deep woods. I had stopped to take a leak and noticed it coming up a game trail. After I shined a flashlight in it’s eyes, it crouched lower and kept coming closer. While it seemed pretty cool at first, the wolf came dangerously close ( 15 – 20 yards ) to getting shot in self defense. I’m glad it didn’t come down to that but I can only imagine the outroar and outrage from the ANTIS had news of someting like that come out. I’m sure some in that crowd would rather have had a human intruder into the wolf’s world die than one of the cuddly wolves. I’m richer for the experience and now watch my backtrail more often. I’m sure you do to, what with all that time you spend in the woods enjoying your four legged brethren. On a last note, if a wolf pack had just gorged themselves and saw a dog in “their” area, that dog is DEAD – it has nothing to do with hunger or their group leadership or whatever mystical power and pure thoughts you believe they have. They won’t tolerate another wolf, coyote, dog in their territory – period. They will kill a whole yarding area of deer if given the opportunity, well beyond what they need for food. A heffer or calf is prey not just a backup plan for when times are tough. You say 9 out of 10 times its (according to your best friend the game warden) either a coyote or a dog. Do you hold both of these animals in the same high esteme as the wolf or are they secondary animals, you know, lower in value, you know kinda above hunters but below wolves.
    Anya, Jake and others in their camp . . . . you’re something special . . . I really mean that . . . you leave me speechless. What else could I say to you deep thinkers? Facts would only get in the way of your rants.

  •  Comment from chris

    just so you know, some hunters(including me) actually hunt and use every part of the animal. mainly, i hunt for meat so i can feed my family. you conservationists obviously didnt think of this. and i dont slaughter everything either.
    you guys think that everytime you go hunting, you get something. nope. thats not how it works. for 10 years i have filed for a cougar/bear and wolf tag(for you who dont hunt its the paperwork to allow us to hunt that certain animal) and i have never even SEEN one of those. Yes, this is a heated topic but seriously guys. why dont you start worrying about the war, or about electing representatives to run our country more effectivly? people are saying that animals should have rights too. what, next are you going to say that the animals have the right to vote? haha. :) have a nice dayy.

  •  Comment from jacob

    humans will soon reach a population of 7 BILLION!! for f*** sakes!! humans are having no trouble surviving at the moment! ITS TIME TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO MOTHER NATURE AND STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT OUR OWN PROBLEMS WHEN THE PLANET IS ON THE BRINK OF DYING!!!

  •  Comment from jacob

    jake and jacob r the same person just so u guys kno…..ME! XD stop killing animals that u don’t need 2 kill 2 survive let them live their lives

  •  Comment from jacob

    i am 15 and i live in australia and yes there are no wolves or bears etc here. but i love all animals and one day i want 2 c a wolf or bear in the wild and if i ever have kids show them aswell. but what if when i get there the forests have been cut down and the animals killed by ignorant hunters who can only respect an animal when it is mounted on a wall? wat then? i want 2 see animals in the wild not just on historic documentaries…… when u shoot an animal don’t u feel regret or sorrow?? if u don’t u are a cruel person

    •  Comment from Fox

      I agree Jacob, it would be pretty awful if the forests were destroyed and the animals killed off. That’s why I support the greatest conservationists – hunters!
      The US president Teddy Roosevelt was responsible for the national park system – without him there would be no Yellowstone for the wolves to live in. He was an avid hunter!
      Even today groups like Ducks Unlimited, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation dedicate blood, sweat, and tears to conserve MILLIONS of acres of wildlife habitat, which help not only the game species but many others besides.
      The day soft-hearted city dwellers are put in charge of American wildlife is the day development, farming, and habitat enroachment bring this wildlife to an end. Deer, elk, turkeys, wolves will be part of stories told to grandkids, back from the days there were these places called “woods” that people used to go get food from. But that was evil and primitive, so it was for the beasts’ own good they all died painfully! That is exactly what they’ll believe, and something in all of us will die inside.

  •  Comment from YOMAMA

    Oh Mother Marry the Stats scream somethin FOUL sweet cheeks! What blood to waste because the Wolf has reached nearly 2,000 but the Elk can exceed far beyond 10,000 in Idaho alone? Why the disproportionate number? My Blood and toil for the vitality of the land but where will it ever pay off if there exists the possibility of IT going back on THE LIST because we adhere to a boarder line of just over a thousand instead of a real maximal level like the elk populace? God bare witness that the Natives of America lost there home long ago. Our way of life is limited now to the suppressed 3rd world where landscape and wilderness is raped endlessly till death do us part. Reservations are not our home and wolves too will refuse to be confined to the few areas. They are not even the original wolf from these areas. So weather they are endangered or safe I will never be pleased with the legal decision to hunt or protect. Those wolves are equal to test tube babies in my eyes. I would kill all wolves and there prey to limit the farmers food variety like the settlers did the Native’s Buffalo But I am no Madea and cannot kill something I love to hurt another even though man would be worse off; I lost hope in man when he took greedily from his almighty fathers offerings. Whatever is justified those past mistakes are stains on this civilization forever.

  •  Comment from lorilen jo

    anymore than you would want to have your very own children hunted down, there is absolutely no reason to murder any species on this earth – men and women with pointed and cocked guns should point them at their selves to see how it feels.

  •  Comment from Louise Kane

    You just gave me the best reason to not have to spend any money in your institution. Perhaps you should read Idaho, Montana and Wyoming’s wolf killing plans before you argue for wolf hunting. What a shame you call yourselves conservationists. And what a shame you pander and promote good ol boy management protocols that treat our wildlife as harvest numbers.

  •  Comment from Crywolf

    pathetic article, which needs a serious update. we do not need to manage wildlife. we need to co-exist and manage ourselves, we, humans, who are multiplying madly, and eating way to much unhealthy foods, like commercially produced red meat. let’s restore our PUBLIC wildlands and wildlife, and show them the respect and honor they deserve.

  •  Comment from Z. Zander

    So Jacob,tell me, why haven’t you proposed human tags, it seems to me that wolves are WAY more important than people. As for all the talk of wolves missing their siblings, let me remind you that wolves aren’t furry little horizontally opposed people running around, their brains don’t compile information the same way ours do. As a hunter my self I would like to point out that hunters don’t shoot everything they see. For every animal you kill (generally 2 or 3 max.) you see dozen animals that that you let go, and you don’t even see many more. And if you try and point out that people have guns, let me remind you that compared to every other animal out there we are bald, deaf and blind and have no teeth, claws or hooves. Guess what we have? Opposable thumbs and the ability to build complex things. And Crywolf, honestly, what do human diets have to do with anything? Also if you are against ‘commercially produced red meat’ are you for hunting ungulates, if so why are wolves more special than them?

  •  Comment from Z. Zander

    Jacob, I agree that taxidermy is creepy, but as a Montanan, I would love to someday see a Kangaroo in the wild, unfortunately it seems they are all going to be raod kill before I every get to. Maybe you should walk every where to prevent this from happening.

  •  Comment from Jessica

    So I’m not going to bore you with a long talk. My opinion on this is that I would understand the author’s point a lot more if wolves weren’t still endangered. Poaching can’t just be stopped but I do think that people could seriously wait until wolves or any animal for that matter are at least considered threatened not endangered. I also hate how some ranchers will just sit outside and even if they see a wolf miles away, if they can shoot it they will. If we are going to live in this world with other animals we got to stop thinking between predators who apparently will kill everything they see and prey who are supposedly innocent creatures of purity and start thinking about how to balance the two along with us.

  •  Comment from rebecca woodruff

    You are delusional with the wolf hunt crap. It is simply human arrogance behind the word “management” of this population. The entire animal kingdom was doing pretty well until humans decided they needed “management”. You just like to kill things. Things you can’t even eat. The Nature conservancy is now completely off my list of environmental groups. Because you’re not.

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