Friday, February 17, 2012

Wolf Management Should Be Year-Round

By Toby Bridges (

The sportsmen who spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, and who have witnessed the destruction of big-game herds, now openly challenge the effectiveness of controlling wolf numbers by treating these apex predators as a “big-game animal”, and hunting them only during a regulated season. Many now realize the intelligence of wolves, and their ability to remain hidden in the thick cover of the Northern Rockies—and to disappear in the blink of an eye.

Several-hundred thousand elk, deer and other big-game hunters participate during the big-game seasons held in each of the two states where wolf hunting is legal, but once those seasons come to an end, not many venture out to just hunt wolves. For example, in Montana the general firearms elk and deer seasons closed on November 27, 2011. At that time, 100 of the 220-wolf quota had been harvested. A few had been harvested earlier during archery hunts, but the vast majority of those wolves were shot by hunters looking to hang their tag on an elk or deer during the 5-week-long gun season. During the six weeks after the close of that season, just 25 additional wolves were culled. What are the chances of the 220 quota being filled, and if it is, just what real impact will it have on the wolf population and depredation of game and livestock?

Sportsmen are now calling for more sensible control of wolf numbers. They feel an established season and quotas will never gain any control of burgeoning wolf numbers. Many want wolves to have the same status as coyotes—shoot on sight year-round, no license or permit required! Only this approach has made any impact on wolf numbers in Canada, where wolves have always been a major problem.

During the 72nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, held in Portland, OR in 2007, the University of Montana’s Mark Hebblewhite presented a study on “Predator-Prey Management in the National Park Context: Lessons from a Transboundary Wolf, Elk, Moose and Caribou System”, and stated "Based on experiences in BNP (Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada), I show that wildlife managers face tough choices ahead and must come to terms with the truth that maintaining pre-wolf ungulate harvest regimes may be a fantasy in post-wolf landscapes…”

He went on to state, “The typical conclusion of previous studies where wolves limited prey densities to low numbers was usually a recommendation to reduce predation via large-scale wolf control. While there is some controversy over the success of wolf controls, there is some experimental evidence that wolf control—when applied consistently to reduce wolf populations by greater than 80 percent over huge areas for long terms (5-years) at great financial costs can be partially successful at enhancing ungulate populations for short periods of time. I feel compelled to reiterate, however, that the main conclusions of the authors of perhaps, to date, the best executed wolf-control study in the Yukon pointed out the seeming futility of their wolf-control program as a long-term solution to ungulate population declines. Within 2 years of the end of wolf control, wolf densities and ungulate vital rates returned to pre-control levels. To be successful, wolf control needs to be conducted for long periods of time with greater than 70 percent of the wolf population removed from huge areas. While future harvest plans for wolves once delisting occurs will undoubtedly include some wolf harvest, it remains difficult to conceive of states being able to conduct wolf control at the spatial and temporal scales required to even obtain short-term increases in ungulate populations. Within national parks, where management objectives are often ecosystem based, low-density elk populations may be consistent with long-term management objectives. However, in the managed lands surrounding national parks, management objectives include both consumptive and non-consumptive wildlife use. In this context then, low-density populations of elk may not meet historical agency management objectives. This contradiction will become a common management problem in ecosystems with recovering wolf populations.”

Mark Hebblewhite is one of the professors now teaching future wildlife managers and biologists at the University of Montana, in Missoula. More and more, the sportsmen who have funded state wildlife agencies are seeing a change in management practices that they really don’t like, and that is a move to supporting the agendas of radical environmental groups rather than the sportsmen who have footed the bill for wildlife conservation. Hebblewhite’s study does a great job of exactly identifying what’s happening inside Canada’s Banff National Park, as well as in Yellowstone National Park—and that is a move to permit nature to balance itself—by allowing major predators to dramatically reduce big game populations. Only problem is, the practice has spilled outside of park boundaries, and those who have strongly supported the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation for the past 75 years are now witnessing state wildlife agencies literally robbing them of hunting opportunities.

The sad truth is, this is all by design. The University of Montana is one of more than a hundred collaborators of the “Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative” (Y2Y) along with anti-hunting organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and the Wildlands Network. It’s their goal to establish a near human free wild corridor nearly three times the size of California running from Yellowstone National Park all the way into the Yukon. This corridor would be returned, as much as possible, back to wilderness, where wildlife could move freely north and south for more than 2,000 miles — and where wolves, grizzlies and cougars would serve as the wildlife managers. The Y2Y, followers neither endorse nor condone the hunting of large carnivores. For many Northern Rockies hunters who have lost all trust in IDFG and MFWP, it does not come as any surprise to learn that those two state wildlife agencies are also listed as collaborators of this environmentalist dream world.

Last Minute Update - 2-16-12...

The above was written last month (January)...and sent out to several hundred members of the media and the shooting & hunting industry. Due to pressure from sportsmen and sportsmen groups, both IDFG and MT FWP have withdrawn their names from the list of Y2Y collaborators. But, a MT FWP Commission meeting on February 16 revealed that they are still reading from the script that was handed them by their radical anti-hunting environmentalist partners.

When the original closing date for the Montana 2011 wolf season rolled around on December 31, hunters had only filled about 50-percent of the 220 quota. The MT FWP Commission extended the season to February 15, 2012. When that date rolled around, the harvest was still more than 50 wolves shy of meeting the quota. A commission meeting on February 16 voted unanimously to NOT extend the season a second time. MT FWP cannot control the wolf population in this state...if we are to save the big game herds of the Northern Rockies, it's time for wolves to be shot-on-sight 365 days a year.

The above was sent out to the media a second time, plus also went to Montana's Governor Brian Schweitzer, the two Montana U.S. Senators, to the state's only U.S. Representative, and to more than 70 state senators and representatives. To read the accompanying e-mail, which further points the finger at MT FWP, go to the following link - .


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