Missoulian Article Admits Wolves Kill Few Livestock…So Why No Love For Wolves?


A recent Missoulian article stated:

“Wolf attacks account for only a small fraction of sheep and cattle losses in the Northern Rockies. Disease, weather and coyotes each take more”

You would think that would be the title of the article,  instead it was:

“Gray wolves killed 1 stock animal per day in 2009, depleting compensation program”

So after admitting wolf kills were responsible for a tiny fraction of livestock deaths. the article went on to say,

“But wolves attract particular disdain because of their viciousness – many killed animals are left uneaten – and because of historic prohibitions against hunting the predators.”

First, I take strong issue with wolves being termed vicious, a predator’s job is to kill and survive. Look at the ugly pictures on FB and the Internet of grinning hunters with the bloodied, battered, beheaded bodies of wolves they’ve killed with high-powered rifles, to find out which predator enjoys killing!!  They look like they’ve just won the lottery instead of taking the life of a beautiful animal for no reason other than blood lust.

Read Predatory Bureaucracy, The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West, by Michael Robinson, if you want to learn about the viciousness of man toward the wolf.

Secondly, was the reference to wolves leaving prey uneaten directed at the Dillon sheep  incident?  That story has been sensationalized and beaten into the ground. In my opinion, all the facts are not known and may never be known concerning Dillon but some of the answers may be explained here:

Sheep and cattle, unlike their wild ungulate cousins, lack any kind of defense against wolf attacks. This mismatch can lead to the occasional slaughter, raising outcries from Western ranchers who demand greater measures to prevent wolf attacks. However, wolves only turn to livestock when their natural prey is unavailable, so these killings are infrequent. In 2008, wolves are known to have killed fewer than 200 cattle and sheep in Montana, and 100 wolves were hunted down in response.

Dogs are the only animal that definitely kills for sport, but that’s only because humans taught them to do so. When a farmer finds a few dead chickens killed during the daylight hours with no missing body parts, the neighbor’s dog is almost always the culprit.”

The Missoulian article goes on to say there is disdain for the wolf because of :

“historic prohibitions against hunting the predators”

What?  So people hate wolves because they weren’t allowed to legally kill them?  Who is the one that enjoys killing again?

Wildlife Services blows wolves away every year for agribusiness.

The SSS crowd has been in full force. There may not have been a legal wolf hunt until now but there’s been plenty of wolf killing since their reintroduction. All we have to do is look to the past to see what the future could hold for wolves.  They were exterminated in the West by the federal government working hand in hand with ranchers. The state of Montana introduced sarcoptic mange into the wolf population in the early 1900’s to get rid of wolves. The reason wolves made it back from the brink  is because of the Endangered Species Act, passed in the 1970’s.  The protection of ESA was the single most important factor in wolf recovery. It will be their downfall if their ESA protections are not reinstated.  Wolves need help and they need good press, not constant reporting of minimal livestock depredations. Or to be fair let’s have media coverage of every cow that’s stolen or dies giving birth.  Sound ridiculous?  It is.  Just as the wolf coverage has been ridiculous and unfair.

Since wolves kill so few livestock, why does the media continue to report wolf depredations like its big news?  What’s behind this obsession?  It only feeds into myths and stereotypes about wolves. Lets look at the facts:

“The governments own figures again show that mammalian carnivores kill very few livestock (0.18%)  Of the 104.5 million cattle that were produced in 2005, 190,000 (or 0.18%) died as the result of predation from coyotes, domestic dogs, and other carnivores (USDA, 2006). In comparison, livestock producers lost 3.9 million head of cattle (3.69%) to all sorts of maladies, weather, or theft, respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving, unknown, other, disease, lameness, metabolic problems, poison (USDA, 2006)

Coyotes were the primary cattle predators — they killed 97,000 cattle in 2005, followed by domestic dogs — which killed 21,900 cattle. Wolves killed remarkably few cattle, 4,400 head, as did the felids (USDA, 2006)”

Yet the drumbeat of media coverage on wolf  kills seems to have no end. Here’s a tiny sampling of headlines from different news outlets. From the headlines it looks as if wolves are on a livestock killing spree. That is simply not true,  as the Missoulian article admits.


Kill order placed on Ore. wolves killing livestock

September 01, 2009


Wildlife agencies kill 19 wolves in three days

Wolves Killed as Tensions Rise



Wolf Pack Killed near McCall, Idaho

July 22, 2004


Idaho’s Whitehawk wolf pack killed

September 01, 2009


Feds OK killing of wolf pack

March 5, 2004


Feds kill 7 wolves in Stanley Basin

December 5, 2009


I’d like to see the numbers of cattle and sheep losses from other causes, specifically disease, weather, theft, reproductive issues even altitude sickness.  It will show the majority of cattle die from causes unrelated to predation, over ninety percent. So why no love for the wolf, when wolves show remarkable restraint when it comes to livestock?  Why aren’t ranchers complaining about livestock losses from other causes?

Well for one thing, ranchers aren’t compensated for losing cows or sheep to lightning.  That’s why I don’t believe ranchers should be compensated for wolf kills.  They aren’t reimbursed for coyote kills or losses from calving or disease. When you’re in business there is no guarantee against risk, if there were, every business person in the country would be eligible for handouts.

The idea behind paying ranchers for miniscule wolf kills is thought to increase their tolerance of wolves. Well, how’s that policy working out?  Not very well because paying ranchers for wolf kills only gives them a vested interest in reporting them.  It also increases scrutiny of wolves.  We have entire state and federal programs dedicated to hounding wolves as if they’re deadly criminals or terrorists.  They are darted, collared, tracked, trapped and gunned from helicopters.  All a wolf has to do is look at a cow sideways and ranchers will be on the phone to the state game agencies, looking for a kill permit (shoot on sight) or getting Wildlife Services involved to kill wolves, sometimes entire packs. This is happening now in Montana with kill orders out on the Miner’s Lake Pack, The Battlefield Pack, The Mitchell Mountain Pack, The Elevation Pack and Horse Prairie Pack.

500 wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 and almost 300 of them were killed for livestock depredation.  Eight Montana wolves have already been killed for livestock in 2010 and the new year is barely over two  weeks old.

Making wolves out to be the bad guys is an old tactic that’s worked for hundreds of years. It caused their extermination in the West the first time. Wolves are predators, just like the grizzly or mountain lion. It doesn’t make them bad. It doesn’t make them vicious. Wolf kills provide food for other predators and scavengers, especially in winter. Grizzlies feed on wolf kills, so do coyotes, foxes, ravens and eagles. Wolves provide for others by providing for themselves.

Wolves also influence their surroundings in a positive way. After they were exterminated in a vicious- campaign in the West, elk and other ungulates over-browsed the landscape, stunting willow and ash. The trees could never make it past a few feet before they were grazed down. Years after wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, scientists discovered something amazing. The ash and willow trees rebounded. The elk were no longer standing around browsing, they were on high alert, With the ash came the beaver, songbirds and other animals. It was a rebirth. All because the wolf came home to Yellowstone.

I’d like to see more positive articles about wolves. They have many altruistic qualities people could aspire to. They mate for life, they live in large close families, they have tight social bonds, they show an exuberance for life, they have a unique playfulness, a healthy wolf rarely attacks people. Aside from those admirable qualities wolves are also smart, smarter than dogs. A dog’s brain is 30% smaller than a wolf. Wolves solve problems, they cooperate with each other, there is order in the pack.

Wolves are the super stars in Yellowstone, even though for the first time since their reintroduction,  their population is in decline, down 33 percent.  The wolf hunt had something to do with that, since Montana opened the hunting season right outside Yellowstone’s boundary. which decimated the famous, studied Cottonwood Pack.  Still people come from all over the world to view Yellowstone wolves, which brings in 35 million annually to the GYA.  If the states would think outside the box, they’d be  promoting wolf viewing in the Northern Rockies, which has the potential to be a huge money-maker, if Yellowstone is an indicator.  Instead they’re killing them. How short-sighted and tragic.

I challenge Western media to stop sensationalizing wolf kills. It serves no purpose but to inflame passions and cause wolves to be demonized more than they already have been.  It’s a fact, “wolf attacks account for only a small fraction of sheep and cattle losses in the Northern Rockies” By concentrating on cows and sheep it shifts the focus away from wolves welfare to wolves elimination.

If more people cared for their families the way wolves do, it would be a better world.  Show some love for wolves!

Posted in:  Wolf Wars, wolf intolerance

Tags:  wolves in the crossfire, wolf myths, trophy hunting wolves, Wildlife Services

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 1:31 am  Comments (25)  
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