Waiting Game: Fate Of Wolves In The Northern Rockies?

It’s been over  a year since wolves were delisted in the Northern Rockies, yet it seems like decades. Almost immediately, Montana and Idaho were lining up wolf trophy hunts. Wolf advocates have always been told the states would be reasonable managing wolves, that they “loved wolves”. Well if this is love, it’s TOUGH LOVE.  500 wolves died in the Northern Rockies in 2009 and Wildlife Services is still killing them for agribusiness. It’s been a terrible year.

Wolf supporters watched in horror as wolves were hunted for the first time since their reintroduction. One minute they were a protected species and the next they were target practice. 

It was shocking in it’s swiftness but were we all so naive to think the states could “manage” wolves? State game agencies have never been good at managing predators.  Predators compete for the game hunters want to kill. Hunters are state game agencies’  life blood. They pay licensing fees which fill state game agency coffers.  Why would the welfare of wolves ever trump that relationship? It wouldn’t and it hasn’t.

From the Sierra Club:

“We have consistently maintained that wolves in the northern Rockies are not ready to be removed from the Endangered Species list,” said Sierra Club representative Bob Clark. “Removing federal protections for wolves has left them at the mercy of aggressive state plans that treat wolves as pests rather than a valuable wildlife resource.”

On Tuesday, June  15th, wolves went to court to gain their protections back. The lawsuit to relist wolves, brought by fourteen environmental groups, was finally moving forward.  Judge Molloy was ready to hear oral agruments from both sides of the wolf  issue, at the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in Missoula,  Montana.

Of course there were wolf protesters outside the courthouse waving their anti-wolf signs. And of course they were on the front page of  local newspapers. The anti-wolf crowd gets most of the headlines. I guess hateful rhetoric sells. But make no mistake wolves have many, many supporters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, Wolves have supporters around this country and the world. We might not be as vocal but we are no less passionate about this incredible amd persecuted animal, the gray wolf.

The courtroom was packed,  a brief recess was called when a legal student collapsed while presenting part of the case for The Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The hearing didn’t last very long,  It was all over in a few hours. 

I want to personally thank Doug Honnold, the lead Earthjustice attorney, for doing such a terrific job for wolves in their dark hour!!

Judge Molloy stated he’d rule “as quickly as I can”.  I hope it comes soon. Montana and Idaho have admitted they are aggressively going after wolves to reduce their numbers in 2010/2011. This is called “wolf love”?  It’s how they show their love for wolves by killing them?  Who do they think they’re kidding?

Both states want to significantly increase their wolf hunt quotas, Montana proposes a wolf archery season and back country wolf rifle season. Idaho may be adding calling, baiting and trapping to their “toolbox” of tricks. I shudder to think what will happen if wolves aren’t relisted.

And we can’t forget the hardcore wolf haters, that love to stir things up. One wolf hating website discussed hunters killing wolves with Xylitol, a popular sweetner, that’s deadly to canines. I guess they don’t care if  pet dogs die along with the wolves they hate so much. Seriously, what is wrong with people?  Do you see what wolves are up against in the Northern Rockies? They cannot survive here without ESA protection.

So now we wait.

The future of the Northern Rockies gray wolf  hangs in the balance.

Posted: Tuesday, 15 June 2010 8:46AM

Fate of Rocky Mountain wolves to be decided

Sierra Club



Photos: courtesy kewl wallpaper

Posted in: Wolf Delisting Lawsuit, Howling For Justice, Wolf Wars

Tags: Judge Molloy, ESA, Doug Honnold,, gray wolf/canis lupus, wolf persecution

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The reason why hunting and ranching interests have got the power they have is because they have been allowed to obtain it. A presumed authority of the landscape and a deep passion for all critters [insert laugh here], alongside a misconceived stalwart ‘cowboy’ image have been ingrained into our minds since our childhood and when we are grown up and actually see the blatant contradiction to this romantic image portrayed in their actions: we ‘city-folk’ just plumb don’t understand their culture and breed of ‘love’. Sure I agree that many farmers love the animals they raise. But they sure don’t go to the necessary lengths, note ‘necessary’ not ‘thrifty’ or ‘quick’, to protect their treasured beasts until a bigger toothed beastie takes a bite from their pockets.

    Hunters have also been no less boisterous in their assertions that they have been at the forefront of conservation and fund wildlife/wilderness endeavours. True that money from hunting taxes do go to wildlife and wilderness conservation, but they are not the only nor the highest contributor to the cause. To be charitable means to give something without thought of reward, this includes praise. However when challenged over the ‘right’ to hunt and the methods used by this minority group the object of ‘charitable’ financial contribution to conservation efforts and claims of primal nobility are used. Talking ‘nice’ while commenting on their actions is another spit in the face. One only needs to look at their smug grins and chest-thumping stories to see what is really going on.

    Here’s hoping the wolves are relisted, the ESA was meant to protect threatened and endangered species. Wolves definitely are threatened in a very literal sense.


  2. I hope the wolves are relisted.
    I do understand at least part of a ranchers perspective, and the worry about livestock, but as you say, this isn’t the entire picture and it’s about much more than livestock.
    Mostly, it seems to be about money – and trophies.

    I realize those hunting licenses bring in money. Probably quite a bit of money.
    Well, if those states managed their wolf population with a view to people (like me) who would love to see a wolf in the wild, and who would pay good money to have a chance to see one (not shoot it, just SEE it)…
    Heck, they could probably make more money from doing “Wolf Observation Tours”, than they ever do from hunting licenses. It’s all a matter of marketing.
    I would think there are many more people like me, who wish they could see one, than there are people currently paying for licenses to shoot one.

    I hope the judge lets common sense prevail and relists the wolf, because I prefer to know there are some left in the wild… and one day I might get a chance to see one. And some day my childrens children would possibly like to see them too. And not in the zoo!

    There has to be some way to sort this out without reversing the hard work of reintroducing the wolf, and keeping the ranchers happy.
    (Sorry, trophy hunters, you can go hang. Quite literally. I have nothing against hunting in general, but I draw the line at trophy hunting. Hunting shouldn’t even come into the decision.)

    I’ll keep an eye on your blog. While I can’t do anything (I’m in the UK, so really… not much I can do other than lend a voice of support.), I’m going to do some research and blog about it.


    • Well said Silke, glad you had a chance to stop by and read the blog.

      One thing, most of the ranchers won’t be happy unless wolves are removed from the landscape. There is no pleasing them concerning wolves. We have to stop worrying about ranchers and start thinking about the millions of people like yourself that would enjoy seeing wild wolves. Wolves bring in over 35 million dollars to the (GYA), it may be more now. People love to visit the park and view wolves, they are the favorite, grizzlies are second. If the states were smart they would tap into eco-tourism and stop killing wolves for hunters and ranchers.



  3. John D, in reference to your comment on ranching, here’s an extract from Denzel Ferguson’s book “Sacred Cows at the Public Trough”, which goes into the history of ranching the West and how the cow growers accumulated so much power in state governments and consequently wildlife management.

    “Despite their apparent warmth and social graces, ranchers seem to have a special hardness expressed as diminished regard for life, creatures and the designs on nature.
    The origin of this hardened view of life and nature may be found in the everyday activity of ranching. The cattleman’s most prized possession, his cattle, must be viewed with cold, unemotional detachment–they are destined to be slaughtered and replaced by others. Meanwhile, calves will be pulled at birth, with a chain and tractor if necessary, each animal will be branded by burning a symbol into its living skin, young males will be perfunctorily castrated, horns will be cut off, notches will be cut in the animals ears, and wattles will be cut on the head and necks of many. The cattle will be lassoed, dragged, punched, prodded, beaten, and driven. And any predators daring to approach within shooting distance of the cattle will be promptly dispatched.
    What is the impact of such violence and gore upon the impressionable children who are destined to become the next generation of ranchers? It seems a small wonder that cattlemen are unable to fathom the sentiments of environmentalists, or muster empathy for a rare and endangered species, or concern themselves with the habitat needs of bighorn sheep or native trout. Dollars are real; life and nature are transitory-to be used, recycled, and manipulated–not made into objects of affection.”


    • Jerry, I assume you live in Montana. Are ranchers actually taking pro active steps to protect their cattle from wild predators? It seems as though the first solution is always kill the wolves before finding any real solutions that keep cattle and both wolves alive.


      • Jon to lend some perspective….wolves were responsible for around 94 cattle losses in Montana in 2009 out of millions of cattle. Wolf depredation is a red herring. Coyotes are the main predator of calves and even they kill so few. It’s weather, disease, theft and reproductive issues that cause thousand upon thousand of losses. The wolf issue is blown out of proportion to get wolves killed, pure and simple. 10,500 calves were lost to weather in Montana (NASS 05).


      • Jon….there are very few taking proactive measures. Those in the Blackfoot Valley that belong to the “Blackfoot Challenge” are taking some steps relating to both wolves and bears. They seem to be expanding their efforts. I have a friend that they’ve hired as a range rider for the 2nd year. The Blackfoot Challenge could be called “very progressive”compared to the rest of the state.
        Places such as the Bitterroot Valley, Flint Creek Valley, Lower Clark Fork area where lots of wolves have been killed are still in the dark ages.


    • Excellent Jerry. That describes the mindset perfectly. To add even more perspective about the persecution wolves have endured in this country:

      “How does a civilization exterminate a species extinguishing a unique evolutionary lineage that trails back like paw prints in the sand for tens of thousands of years?”

      “The United States Forest Service began killing wolves as a means of currying favor with its ranching constituency. Then the job was taken over by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survery, which developed an ever-growing list of species to be wiped out and collected money for that task from states, local governments and private associations. National Park Service rangers and idealistic young men who were part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservaton Corps distributed millions of poisoned baits to kill not just wolves and coyotes but also the pesky prey animals whose numbers the predators would have otherwise controlled. And the federal Grazing Service, precursor to the Bureau of Land Management, helped funnel part of the fees paid for grazing on the public domain to the extermination campaign.”

      Occasionally wolves would cross over from Mexico or Canada but they would be dispatched quickly.

      After the passage of the federal Endangerd Species Act in 1973, it was those country’s populations–in Mexico reduced to just five animals–that served as the seed for wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies and the Southwest. But despite the change in policy from extermination to recovery and despite overwhelming public support, reintroduced wolves have run up against the same array of political forces that were behind the original extermination campaign. The future of the gray wolf and it’s ecosystems is far from secure.”…….Predatory Bureaucracy, The Extermination of Wolves and The Transformation of the West, Michael J. Robinson, 2005

      It’s basically rinse and repeat wolf exterminaton in a different century.


      • Nabeki, a very important reason why wolves should not be hunted, but I doubt the wolf haters and the fish and game agencies care about this.

        His opposition to hunting was equally intense. He excoriated the “heavy government-sanctioned killing” and “Mengele-like experiments” with wolf sterilisation in Alaska, which, as he saw it, threaten to transform the very nature of the wolf. And he did not pull his punches when identifying the enemy. “Perhaps worst of all, these problems originate primarily from biologists,” he wrote on his website, referring to the fact that many wildlife managers work on the assumption that wolves can withstand heavy culling because they breed quickly.

        In Alaska, up to 50 per cent of wolves are shot or trapped every year, with little effect on their numbers. But Haber argued that by focusing on population size, the establishment has ignored the fact that the hunting of wolves warps their social structure, ripping apart the family ties and traditions that define wolf society.


        This is a great article Nabeki.


      • Jon…Gordon Haber was one of my heroes. When Denali’s wolves lost him they truly lost their savior. I still read his journals and writings. He was truly an amazing wolf biologist. Where are the Gordon Habers that should be working in our fish and game agencies?

        Thanks for sharing the article!



    • Interesting excerpt. I stand corrected on the ‘love’ aspect.

      Farmers here let their cattle roam through reserves, NPs and even neighbour’s back gardens. My aunt had a neighbour’s bull in her yard, the farmer who owned the animal took his sweet time getting him off the property. I do believe I helped the same bloke build a flimsy wire fence once to define property borders, only to hear him comment on shooting dogs [‘dog’ either means ‘dog’ or ‘dingo’, farmers don’t seem to care to make any distinction] later in the day with other landowners. Next to no livestock owners in that area have preventative measures and, surprise surprise, call for culls when their livestock are taken by resident carnivores.


  4. I can only hope and pray that the ESA will gain control once again, but they really need to force retire Ed Bangs if neccessary. He has always appeared to be on the side of the wildlife/fish/game agencies that want to completely eradicate the species!!


    • Hi David,
      I completely agree about Ed Bangs. He has transformed from someone that used to care about wolves and now, in my opinion, has become indifferent to them. He has said the most awful things about wolves in the last couple of years. I think he needs to retire, he’s obviously lost his passion for the animals he’s supposed to be protecting. He knows how hostile the environment is for wolves in the Northern Rockies yet he watched this past awful year while hundreds of wolves were dying, wolves that were his charges until he recommened they were ready to lose their ESA protections. If there is one person I’m very disappointed in it’s Ed Bangs.


  5. I’m sorry to say nabeki that Ed Bangs has had and maintained a very low opinion of the US government protecting the grey or timber wolf since ever I got my pair in 1998. Both my wife Lani and I made separate phone call to Mr. Bangs, on numerous occassions, asking, “If the goverment is really protecting the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone wolves, why are you as the head government rep,who’s been assigned oversight of the wolves, failed to intervene while so many wolves are being shot, trapped or poisoned?” All that Ed Bangs had to say, when he wasn’t blowing smoke or tripping over his tongue was something along the lines of how the wildlife agency was terribly short on staff and couldn’t possibly manage ‘ALL’ of the area for which they were responsible. This is as much of a war as was VietNam, the Gulf War, and now Iraq/Afgahnistan(sp)!!!


    • Hi David,
      Ed Bangs was much more concerned about wolves back in the late nineties. Here’s an interview that he gave NOVA in 2000. It’s unbelievable he’s saying these wonderful things about wolves. Here’s the link:
      Bringing Wolves Home: Ed Bangs Wolf Recovery Coordinator U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wolves/bangs.html

      Reading the interview it’s hard to beliieve he’s the same man who made these kind and loving statements about wolves:

      “Wolves are the parents, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters that we always hoped we could be. I mean there’s extreme loyalty among family members, it’s everything to them.”

      Ten years later he’s saying things like this and I’m paraphrasing, wolves are more trouble then they’re worth. So I guess he got burned out in his job because this is not the same person that made those statements in the NOVA interview. Also he’s in Rick Bass’s book The Ninemile Wolves. Ed Bangs was involved with the NineMiile wolves, the wolf pups whose parents were killed and the govenrment was trying to raise the pack. I believe Rich Bass said Ed Bangs came from Alaska. So Bangs has been with the government for decades. He should retire ASAP!!

      And you’re right David, this a war. Wolf Wars Part 100.

      For the beleagered wolves, For the wild ones,


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