Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves: A Public Policy Process Failure By Wendy Keefover ~ WildEarth Guardians

Wolf 527, killed on Buffalo Plateau on Oct. 3. Credit: Dan Stahler / National Parks Service

May 10, 2012

This is one of the most comprehensive articles written about Wolf Wars. Please read!!! Great job WildEarth Guardians!!


Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves: A Public Policy Process Failure

How Two Special Interest Groups Hijacked Wolf Conservation in America

By Wendy Keefover • WildEarth Guardians

Wolves, once welcomed and restored with verve in the Northern Rocky Mountains, are now killed by the hundreds by well-armed hunters. Idaho and Montana have issued over 62,000 hunting tags on a wolf population that totaled less than 1,300 individuals.

While empirical data show that wolves kill only miniscule numbers of domestic livestock and generally prey upon only the weakest native ungulates, the myth of the savage predator and the wile of lobbying groups prove stronger than truth for some important decision makers. Northern Rocky Mountain wolves go untolerated and unprotected, yet, without wolves, ecosystems are impoverished, the public is deprived of prized wildlife viewing, and decades of federal investments in wolf restoration are at risk. The Northern Rocky Mountain wolves may not long endure such intolerance.

The American West, and indeed the planet, suffers from a lack of apex carnivores. In July 2011, twenty-three biologists issued an admonition in Science with the publication of their article, “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth.” Authors forewarn that events not previously imagined, such as changes in fire regimes, exotic species invasions, carbon sequestration, and other calamities, will befall earth’s ecosystems as a result of the loss of apex consumers—both aquatic and terrestrial.

In this report, we explore facets of wolf policy, biology and ecology. We look at the economics and human values associated with wolves, and offer five pragmatic solutions to end unfounded violence upon wolves.



Photo: Dan Stahler / National Parks Service

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Biodiversity, wolf intolerance

Tags: Wolf 527

Wolf Wars, Idaho wolf hunts, Montana wolf hunts, wolf persecution, Wildlife Services, Relist Wolves

The War Against Wolves Continues Unabated…

I first posted this on September 29, 2009, just as the first wolf hunts were getting under way. I changed the title and photo but the content remains the same.

Nature Magazine examines reasons behind wolf hatred and the systematic campaign to remove them from the lower forty-eight.  It merits repeating that for thousands of years Native Americans were able to live with wolves and bears, while settlers saw them as a threat. Even the famed naturalist James Audubon partook in torturing wolves, which was particularly shocking to learn.

From “Hating Wolves”

“In 1814, John James Audubon watched a farmer torture three wolves. The farmer had trapped them in a pit after they had killed his sheep and a colt. The man jumped into the pit armed only with a knife, hamstrung each wolf as they cowered in fear, and tied it up with a rope. Then he hauled them out one at a time and set his dogs on them as they scuffled crippled along the ground. Audubon was astounded by the meekness of the wolves and the glee with which the farmer went about his revenge, but he was not distressed. He and the farmer considered torturing wolves a “sport,” something both normal and enjoyable. The sadistic behavior did not warrant comment.”

As noted in Michael Robinson’s “Predatory Bureaucracy:  The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West”, the federal government became the wolf killing arm for the livestock industry. 

By understanding the roots of wolf prejudice it’s clear to see why wolves have been demonized in American culture.  The wolf  has paid dearly for these attitudes. Even though the same outdated beliefs exist today, we are moving forward to a clearer understanding of the important role predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Man cannot continue to play god, deciding which animals are good or bad.  Predators do not have ulterior motives, they hunt because it’s what they were born to do and by so doing contribute to the health and stamina of their prey.

Currently wolves are being hunted in Idaho and Montana. Idaho has not set a quota in most of the state and wants to take their wolves down to 150 animals or lower.  Montana set a very high quota of 220 out of 5oo plus wolves. Wildlife Services continues to slaughter them for minimal livestock losses, poachers kill them, they’re hit by cars, shot by ranchers, subject to SSS (shoot, shovel and shut-up). Their lives are hard, made almost unbearable by the constant persecution.

We’ve learned nothing from the past. Wolves were wiped out in the West not long ago and it looks like we’re headed down that long dark road once more.


From Nature Online:

Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

 Wolves have been feared, hated, and persecuted for hundreds of years in North America. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans incorporated wolves into their legends and rituals, portraying them as ferocious warriors in some traditions and thieving spirits in others. European Americans, however, simply despised wolves. Many, including celebrated painter and naturalist John James Audubon, believed wolves ought to be eradicated for the threat they posed to valuable livestock. This attitude enabled a centuries-long extermination campaign that nearly wiped out the gray wolf in the continental United States by 1950.

Origins of Wolf Hatred

In the New World, two top predators – wolves and men – that otherwise would have avoided each other clashed over livestock. In Vicious: Wolves and Men in America, Jon T. Coleman writes:

Wolves had a ghostly presence in colonial landscapes. Settlers heard howls, but they rarely spotted their serenaders. The fearsome beasts avoided humans. People frightened them, and colonists knew this: “They are fearefull Curres,” reported Thomas Morton in 1637, “and will runne away from a man (that meeteth them by chance at a banke end) as fast as any fearefull dogge.”

Because humans and wolves frightened one another, they logically avoided confrontation, opening space between the species. But that space closed when European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and pigs with them over the perilous journey across the Atlantic. Without these animals – sources of food and transportation for the European settlers – the colonies would have failed. But because most early colonial communities were small, livestock often grazed on the periphery of the settlements with little protection. Their pastures abutted and bled into the wild, exposing the animals to hungry wolves in search of prey. Wolves quickly learned that docile cattle and sheep made easy meals. Suddenly, colonists found their livelihoods in danger, and they lashed out at wolves, both with physical violence and folklore that ensured wolf hatred would be passed down from one generation to the next.

Amateur and Professional Wolf Baiting

The campaign to eradicate wolves in North America began with private landowners and farmers baiting and trapping wolves. Often, colonists turned wolf baiting into both sport and protection for their livestock. Jon T. Coleman describes an incident that took place in the winter of 1814 deep in the Ohio River Valley, in which John James Audubon assists a farmer as he mutilates trapped wolves.

During the fall, a pack of wolves had robbed [the farmer] of “nearly the whole of his sheep and one of his colts.” For him, it made sense to devote his winter labor to digging pits, weaving platforms, hunting bait, and setting and checking his traps twice daily. The animals had injured him, and “he was now ‘paying them off in full.’” Audubon’s reaction to the slaying of the wolves is less understandable … The ingenious pit traps amazed him, as did the fearsome predators’ meek behavior and the childlike glee the farmer took in his work. The violence Audubon witnessed, however, did not shock him. Watching a pack of dogs rip apart terrified and defenseless animals was a “sport” both he and the farmer found enjoyable.

Further west, in Yellowstone National Park, wolf baiting and hunting had become a lucrative profession. Paul Schullery, in his guidebook to Yellowstone wolves (The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook), describes the profession and the devastating affect it had on the Yellowstone wolf population: “At least as early as 1877, ungulate carcasses in the park were poisoned with strychnine by free-lance ‘wolfers’ for ‘wolf or wolverine bait.’ By 1880, [Yellowstone National Park] Superintendent [Philetus] Norris stated in his annual report that ‘…the value of their [wolves and coyotes] hides and their easy slaughter with strychnine-poisoned carcasses have nearly led to their extermination.’”

In the Southwest, as settlers depleted bison, elk, deer, and moose populations – the wolves’ natural prey – the predators turned more and more to picking off livestock. In states like New Mexico where cattle ranching was big business, ranchers responded by turning to professional wolfers and bounty hunters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports, “To protect livestock, ranchers and government agencies began an eradication campaign. Bounty programs initiated in the 19th century continued as late as 1965, offering $20 to $50 per wolf. Wolves were trapped, shot, dug from their dens, and hunted with dogs. Poisoned animal carcasses were left out for wolves, a practice that also killed eagles, ravens, foxes, bears, and other animals that fed on the tainted carrion.”

Government-Sanctioned Wolf Extermination Programs

Towards the end of the 19th Century, wealthy livestock owners increased both their demand for wider grazing ranges and their influence over policymakers in Washington, D.C. In 1885, the federal government established the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, initially chartered to research insects and birds. However, the livestock lobby quickly diverted the Bureau’s attention to wolves. Stockowners complained that their land was infested with wolves, calling them “breeding grounds.” They demanded the federal government secure their land for safe pasturage.

In 1906, the U.S. Forest Service acquiesced to the stockowners and enlisted the help of the Bureau of Biological Survey to clear cattle ranges of gray wolves. In other words, the Bureau became a wolf-extermination unit. Bruce Hampton writes in The Great American Wolf:

Government Wolf Trapper

That same year [1906], bureau biologist Vernon Bailey traveled to Wyoming and New Mexico to investigate the extent of wolf and coyote depredations. Upon Bailey’s return to Washington, D.C., President Roosevelt invited him to the White House to see what he had learned. Although there is no record of their conversation, immediately following Bailey’s meeting the President, the Biological Survey recommended that the government begin “devising methods for the destruction of the animals [wolves].”

By the middle of the 20th Century, government-sponsored extermination had wiped out nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 states. Only a small population remained in northeastern Minnesota and Michigan. Yet the Bureau of Biological Survey was still disseminating anti-wolf propaganda as late as 1940. One poster from the time read:

According to estimates of stockmen [the Custer Wolf, pictured in the poster] killed $25,000 worth of cattle during the seven years he was known in the vicinity of Custer, South Dakota … A local bounty of $500 failed to secure his capture. A Department hunter ended his career of destruction by a skillfully set trap. Many notorious wolves are known to have killed cattle valued at $3000 to $5000 in a year. More than 3,849 wolves have been destroyed by the predatory animal work of the Department and its cooperators since the work was organized in 1915.

It was not until the late sixties, when a greater understanding of natural ecosystems began changing attitudes in the scientific community and the National Park Service, that the plight of wolves in North America began to improve.

In 1973, Congress gave gray wolves protection under the Endangered Species Act. According to Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson, in Yellowstone National Park, where the last gray wolf was killed in 1926, “the entire [gray wolf] restoration program was guided by directives contained in the Endangered Species Act – a law created to ground a decades-old cornerstone of science that says the healthiest, most stable natural systems tend to be those with high levels of biodiversity.”

Since then, wolf populations throughout the country have increased. In 1995 and 1996, researchers in Yellowstone National Park released 31 Canadian gray wolves back into the wild. The event was hailed as a testament to the conservation movement’s efforts to revive wild wolf populations in America. Yet antiwolf attitudes persist. Shortly after the release of the Yellowstone wolves a hunter shot and killed Wolf Number 10. Smith and Ferguson write about the incident: “As disturbing as the shooting itself was, more unsavory still was the reaction of a handful of locals who cheered the killing, calling it an act of heroism.”

Photos © Arizona Historical Society


Coleman, Jon T. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004.

Hampton, Bruce. The Great American Wolf. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.

Robinson, Michael J. Predatory Bureaucracy: The Extermination of Wolves and the Transformation of the West. University Press of Colorado, 2005.

Schullery, Paul. The Yellowstone Wolf: A Guide & Sourcebook. Worland, Wymoning: High Plains Publishing Company, Inc., 1996.

Smith, Douglas W. and Gary Ferguson. Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press, 2005.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Gray Wolf Fact Sheet. [updated January 2007; cited November 2008]

Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf  Wars

Tags:  gray wolf, wolves or livestock, wolf intolerance

Published in: on October 28, 2011 at 5:06 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,

Killing Wolves To Save Wolves? What?

May 13, 2010

I was reading the sermon, I mean article, in High Country News, on why wolf hunters are doing wolves a favor by killing them. It’s called  “One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It. Montana wildlife managers deem the first wolf season a success, for both hunters and hunted”

I can tell you without hesitation that the wolves slaughtered in Montana’s hunts would much rather be alive then dead. I’m positive that being blasted in the guts, dying an agonizing death is not preferable to running through the woods, alive and breathing with your pack mates. Seriously, was this written for anyone but trophy hunters, who derive pleasure from killing beauty?

The article suggests that somehow the hunts have shifted people’s perceptions of wolf hunting and the only way to build a  constituency for wolves is to hunt them. Oh the hypocrisy!  Here’s our wolf manager in chief, Carolyn Sime, warning that if we don’t kill wolves to save wolves we’re playing a dangerous game.

Sime believes that those who oppose the wolf season are playing a dangerous game. “You can have wolves as game animals, and hunters who pay to hunt them, or you go with Wildlife Services, and have the taxpayers pay for the control,” she says. Wildlife Services is the federal agency tasked with killing “nuisance” animals, including everything from feral dogs that attack people, to coyotes that threaten livestock, to birds that hang out around airports. Federal shooters killed about 145 wolves in Montana last year, out of an estimated population of 524.

So Wildlife Services is going to stop killing wolves if the state allows continued wolf hunts? Yeah right, that will happen. The truth is wolves now have to dodge bullets from wolf hunters AND Wildlife Services, who act as the ranchers private wolf extermination service.

Between the “wonderful, helpful wolf hunts” and Wildlife Services slaughtering them for agribusiness, 220 wolves lost their lives in Montana in 2009 and that’s not including poaching or SSS.  Now the state wants to almost triple the hunt quota from 75 to  216 wolves for the 2010 hunt. That means if  Wildlife Services kills as many or more wolves in 2010 and the hunts take 216 wolves, plus poaching and general wolf mortality, that could reduce the wolf population to between 100-150 wolves from the current population of 524 by the end of this year. Isn’t that great? Wolf Extermination Part Two but I digress.

Just to set the record straight, I’m outraged about what is happening to wolves and I know I speak for other wolf advocates. We haven’t given up or thrown in the towel. We’re waiting to see if Judge Molloy relists wolves and puts a stop to the hunts. I do not and will never condone killing wolves for sport. I think it’s disgusting, brutal, unnecessary blood lust. Anyone that kills animals for sport has my utter contempt.  The only thing in the entire “Love a wolf/Kill a wolf” article I agree with is the second paragraph.

From the High Country News:

“Montana’s first-ever wolf season was viewed with horror by many environmental groups, and by many people who have celebrated the charismatic predator’s return to the Northern Rockies. The hunt was simply too much, too soon, they said; it would kill off the alpha males and females that are the primary breeders and break the slowly building matrix of genetic diversity that is key to the long-term health of the returning populations. They predicted that leaderless wolf packs would go after even more livestock, leading to more wolf-killing by the federal Wildlife Services. The wolves’ positive effects on the ecosystem — keeping coyote numbers in check, scattering elk that were overgrazing their winter ranges — could be reversed.”

Hunting a species mere months off the endangered species list?  That’s responsible “management”?  The state of Montana rushed to sell wolf tags and make a buck off wolves lives, they sold 15,603 tags which generated $325,916 for state coffers. All this to kill 75 wolves.

Now Montana is proposing to increase the wolf hunt quotas after only recently giving Wildlife Services full discretion  to kill wolves for agribusiness.

Is there any doubt wolves need ESA protection in this hostile environment?  This is why states should NOT be “managing” wolves. It’s an obvious conflict of  interest because the state game agencies, that are in charge of wolves, receive money from hunter’s licensing fees. Get it?

Oh but wait, I forgot, we’re killing wolves to save wolves. Yeah right. Tell that to the wolves.

The most disturbing part of this piece was the Montana FWP wolf manager and wildlife biologist, Mike Ross’s account of killing a six year old male wolf.  That couldn’t be construed as exploiting  his position as a wolf manager? I mean he doesn’t study Montana’s wolves for a living and know where every single wolf pack resides in the state or anything.  He’s just a hunter having a hell of a good time killing a wolf.  Nobody should be outraged by this? Right?  Uh-huh.

Here’s the breathless account of  shooting a wolf to death:

“I’m 48 years old, and I’ve been hunting since I was 9, and I’ve never had a more exciting day of hunting in my life,” Ross says. Ross had a coveted permit, one of only five issued, drawn by lottery to hunt bull elk in what may be the world’s best elk country. “My girlfriend, Colleen, and I saw some pretty good bulls, but I was looking for at least a 340 (Boone and Crockett). We heard wolves howling in the morning, and after lunch … 10 wolves came out on an open ridge, flopped down in the sun, kind of belly-up. Colleen said, ‘Let’s go after them.’ “

The two hunters crossed the river and climbed up to where they could see across to the ridge. “But they were gone,” Ross says. The wolf pack was hidden in a patch of timber above them when Ross “howled them up.” “The woods just opened up,” Ross says, “howls everywhere, coming down on us, just wild, and I thought for a second, ‘How many bullets do we have?’ Then there were wolves below us, too.” Ross howled again, and a big male wolf stepped from the timber above them. “He moved around us, and when he came out in the open, I shot him.” The 6-year-old male wolf was black and weighed 117 pounds. Ross remains awed by the experience. “If you went out there a hundred times and tried to do something like this, you couldn’t do it. It was hunting, you know, where everything comes together all of a sudden. I think those wolves were in a competitive situation with another pack, and they came in like coming into a gang fight. I’ll never forget it.” Ross says that he “got quite a bit of flak for shooting a wolf, people saying I exploited my job. I don’t want anybody to think that. I was out hunting, I had a wolf tag, and we got into them. That’s all.”

Wow that was thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat reading that. That wolf should be so grateful that Ross killed him and had such a great and awesome time doing  it.

Excuse me but should one of Montana’s wolf mangers be bragging  about his special moment killing a wolf? Does anyone else find this concerning?  After all isn’t his job “managing”, studying and tracking wolves, supposedly looking out for them? Yet he describes killing a wolf as if he’d just had an out-of-body experience. Is this who we want managing wolves in Montana? I feel so much better knowing one of Montana’s wolf managers enjoys killing wolves.  That’s just swell.

“If you went out there a hundred times and tried to do something like this, you couldn’t do it. It was hunting, you know, where everything comes together all of a sudden. I think those wolves were in a competitive situation with another pack, and they came in like coming into a gang fight. I’ll never forget it.” Ross says.”

Epic Fail…


Photo: wolf wallpaper

Posted in: Montana wolves,  Howling for Justice, Wolf Wars

Tags: cavemen, chest thumping, trophy hunting, wolves in the cross fire, wolf persecution, Montana wolf hunts

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