February 3, 2014
I wrote this post in October 2009, a month after Howling For Justice was created and mere months after wolves in the Northern Rockies were delisted by the Obama administration. The first wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho had just gotten underway but the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack wasn’t killed by hunters, they were wiped out by Wildlife Services in 2008.
27 members strong, with two breeding females and 15 puppies, they are now just a memory, as so many wolf packs are. Today they barely have names, they’re anonymous wolves, who live and die without any recognition. But I remember when Wildlife Services gunned down one of the largest wolf packs to roam Montana. Here’s a look back at the doomed Hog Heaven Pack. In their memory please vow to work harder than ever to stop the slaughter of wolves.
Hog Hell: The Demise of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack
October 23, 2009
In 2008, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming killed 245 gray wolves in the name of ”livestock depredation”.
Twenty seven of those wolves were members of the Hog Heaven Wolf Pack, residing southwest of Kalispell, Montana, in the Browns Meadow/Hog Heaven area. They had been accused of preying on a few calves, some llamas and a bull. The decision was made in November 08 to take out the entire pack. Eight members of the pack had already been shot from the air by Wildlife Services.
In a three-day period, December 3rd, 4th and 5th of 2008, the remaining 19 members of the Hog Heaven pack were gunned down, an almost unprecedented event, causing public outrage. Many articles were written and opinions voiced, opposing the action. FIFTEEN PUPPIES AND TWO BREEDING FEMALES were among the slain. The Hog Heaven pack was “the seventh entire wolf pack to be killed by Montana in 2008.”
The zero tolerance wolf management plan is just plain wrong and senseless, especially since cattle deaths by wolves are minimal. Domestic dogs killed five times the number of cows than wolves in 2005. I don’t see Wildlife Services taking out Labs and Huskies from the air?
“The average number of cattle losses specific to wolf predation in these States is less than 0.7%. This compares to an average of 1.6% of cattle losses due to predation by coyotes and an average of 90% of losses due to non-predator related causes such as health problems and disease.”
*The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), reports on cattle losses in the lower 48 States every five years. Nationally, health issues such as respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving complications and disease were overwhelmingly the most significant causes of cattle death in 2005. (The year for which we have the most recent detailed data.)”
“Only 0.11% (about 1/10 of 1%) of all cattle losses were due to wolf predation in 2005. Coyotes killed 22 times more cattle than wolves killed that year. Domestic dogs killed almost 5 times as many cattle, and vultures killed almost twice as many cattle as wolves in 2005. Theft was responsible for almost 5 times the cattle losses as were lost by wolf predation.”
The Hog Heaven pack was special, one of the largest wolf packs ever recorded in Montana, (the once mighty Yellowstone Druid’s had 37 members at their peak).
Instead of trying non-lethal methods to preserve the pack, the state eliminated them! AND this all happened while wolves still had ESA protection!!
The anti-wolf crowd wants you to believe wolves are hanging around ranches waiting to prey on livestock, when in reality most of the miniscule depredations take place on our vast public lands, where cattle and sheep are left unprotected.
George Wuerthner, the famed ecologist, calls cows, “walking picnic baskets”. What would you do if you were a predator surrounded by an ocean of cattle and sheep? Would you munch on them or go after more difficult prey? We already know the answer. Yet the wolf pays the ultimate price for lazy, sloppy ranching practices and the federal government’s refusal to pull public land grazing permits, even though cattle pollute streams, trample riparian zones and over graze the land.
Wolf supporters realize the unfairness of what’s happening.
In 2008, when the Hog Heaven pack was lethally removed, people spoke out:
“Gunning down an entire pack of wolves — a species that is supposed to be protected under the endangered species act — borders on criminal,” said Jerry Black of the Missoula group Wildlife Watchers.
“We are outraged by this senseless slaughter of one of nature’s most majestic animals.”
Added Whitefish resident Roger Sherman: “It seems to me the so-called ’scientific management’ of wolves boils down to simply killing them to conciliate the livestock industry.”
“Brian Vincent, communications director for the group Big Wildlife, insists that the elimination of the Hog Heaven Pack could have been avoided.”
“Why should an entire pack of wolves pay the fatal price for a situation that could probably have been avoided?” he said.
“Both agencies are acting like it’s the Wild West with all guns blazing.”
It’s too late for Hog Heaven, they’re not coming back. This unique pack, was wiped out by Wildlife Services before Montanans could react. Is it any wonder wildlife advocates question the motives behind so many wolves losing their lives for so little reason? Why are the lives of predators held so cheaply?
If the failed policies of the states and feds to “manage wolves” continue, it’s certain they will never fully recover. We’ll be left with fragmented populations of wolves, genetically isolated, constantly under the gun.
What’s behind the intolerance of wolves? It’s certainly not because they’re killing large numbers of livestock, wolf predation on livestock is minimal. It’s not because wolves are decimating elk populations. Elk in Montana and Idaho are strong, with numbers way up. Idaho has 105,000 elk and Montana numbers are even higher at 150,000 plus.
Yet the war on wolves continues. This year the Sage Creek Pack and Yellowstone’s Cottonwood pack were gunned down, one wiped out by Wildlife Services and the other shot in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness at the beginning of Montana’s wolf hunt. They join the Hog Heaven Pack and many others in the ever-increasing death toll of gray wolves.
Will it be Hog Heaven or Hog Hell for wolves in the Northern Rockies?
Wildlife managers are endangering wolves
Saturday, December 27, 2008