January 27, 2023

Understanding The Need For Wolf Population Reductions

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In the debate about the wolf, we often hear arguments for and against why the wolf should or shouldn’t be better managed. On the extremes of each end of the debate, we have those that want to eradicate the wolf back into non-existence and those who want to allow wolves complete free reign. We can have neither of these.

What often gets lost in the debate are the livestock owners beyond the loss of their animals. We hear from very unsympathetic people things like, the wolf was here first and wolves have their rights. The greatest misconception is that ranchers get reimbursed for their losses by wolves. The only time that a livestock owner sees any money for livestock losses is when the “authorities” can prove the kill was done by wolves and not a result of wolves merely cleaning up the mess. Proving wolf depredation using the methods today is very hard to do. The percentage of compensation versus kills is quite small.

But we have to feel for the ranchers. They didn’t ask for this. Looking back at the history, we find that as man headed west, he ran into wolves and in time the wolves were for the most part eliminated. We can argue for centuries as to whether or not man should have done what he did in killing off wolves. We can argue that wolves get a bum rap being portrayed as a vicious killer and a threat to man. All of this doesn’t erase history and facts.

As man began to inhabit the west, because of the encounters with wolves and the killing of the settler’s livestock, among other reasons, the wolves were shot, trapped and killed. Once the wolves were gone, ranchers could grow livestock without much fear of predation eating him out of existence.

So for decades the west was absent the wolf. More people moved into the areas. Ranches grew in size and number. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all became dependent on the western ranches to supply much of the countries beef and sheep supplies. We must also mention that during this time of relative peace, elk, deer and other kinds of ranches opened and began to flourish. This too became a valuable resource to local and neighboring states to supplement food supplies and provide for those looking for an alternative to beef.

For the most part, life was good. Then along came the introduction of wolves back into the ecosystem and all hell has broken loose. It has been a political battle and a nightmare for some ranchers. The cost to Americans has been astronomical, not only through loss of property but through the countless lawsuits and court battles over protecting the wolf.

History is history and the wolf is here to stay. But what has gotten ridiculous is the selfishness and greed on the part of animal rights groups to stop the management of the wolf. Wolf recovery efforts have astronomically exceeded anything biologists thought possible and now it is time to reduce numbers as the wolf is having a negative effect on the ecological balance Americans want to have in their wildlife habitats. But the animal rights groups can never be satisfied with original objectives.

With this greed and childish behavior, more and more Americans will find disfavor with these groups and in time they will lose their support both financially and publicly. I wait for that day.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has shown that they are enablers of such groups by continually caving in to their demands. They drag their feet over the wolf delisting while at the same time running contrary to the masses who are saying the wolves are destroying everything man has created over the last hundred years or so. Why?

The states with the largest wolf populations in this region, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, all want to see wolf numbers decreased. Governor Otter of Idaho has been ridiculed and scorned for statements he made about wanting to reduce wolf numbers down to what was agreed on as a recovery number back in 1995.

Hunting groups all across the three states are demanding wolf numbers be dropped. Ranchers and residents see the same need. Organizations such as the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd are asking for wolf reduction to save the elk. They have offered to team up with Montana to sue the feds and force them to delist the wolf. This comes because the feds have been promising for years the delisting is coming and yet here it is 2007 and all they have is another promise of a removal from protection and guarantees of more lawsuits from animal rights groups. Who can blame them.

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, spoke up on Thursday, Feb. 8 through an editorial in the Seattle Times about what drastic affects the growing population of wolves is having on that and other states.

Wolves are very destructive of our culture and our ranching and hunting economy. Our culture and heritage of hunting game animals are so important here that they are enshrined in our Montana Constitution. And raising livestock is not a hobby here — it is not done only to provide a movie set for tourists, but it is a way of life for many of us.

For a century, hunters in Montana have fostered huntable populations of deer, elk, moose, wild sheep and goats. It is only hunters who have paid millions of dollars and volunteered millions of hours to cultivate our game herds. We think of these herds as a savings account for our children and grandchildren, that we may pass on the traditions of our culture and our heritage to them.

Marbut describes the efforts of outsiders who came into the region, without an invitation, to reintroduce wolves and jeopardize the years of work by locals. This represents the direction with which our country has decided to head – forcing ideals on others. Is there no state autonomy anymore? Shouldn’t Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and the other 47 states no what’s best for them? Why should one group be allowed to snatch away centuries of hard work for their own pet project. As Marbut says in his article, “Where does common sense enter the discussion?”

The NRA has also joined in the chorus of unending organizations in calling for the feds to remove the wolf from protected status and let the states handle management. In a recent letter to the Montana House Appropriations Committee, Brian Judy, NRA Liaison, urged legislators to pass Bill343(pdf) – to appropriate money to join in a lawsuit to force the USFWS to delist the wolf.

On behalf of the more than 27,000 Montana members of the National Rifle Association, I urge your support for HB 343, the measure that would appropriate funds for state participation in a lawsuit against the federal government regarding wolf-delisting.

There is substantial evidence that wolves are taking a terrible toll on game populations, especially elk. In communicating with hunters, outfitters and guides in states such as Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the rate of hunter success has decreased significantly in just over two years and they have determined that the explanation is the explosive wolf population, based upon the tracks they have found. Winters have been harsh and browse has been good, especially when it comes to calves – wolves no longer contain themselves to preying on the old and the infirm elk.

It’s the NRA’s belief that wolves have their place in the natural ecosystem but their numbers have to be controlled in the same manner as all other animals. The best means of control is through regulated hunting.

Without a change, sport hunting will be seriously harmed, as has been experienced in neighboring states.

What is it going to take to get the overwhelming majority of people to realize that enough is enough and speak up? From the beginning there has been opposition to the introduction of wolves, yet the majority conceded. Now with a successful project on the verge of being out of control, many are asking for the freedom to protect what is rightfully theirs. The pro-wolf advocates just continue with their greedy demands, throwing their rotten money at any and all lawsuits aimed at stopping or slowing the process.

The last thing that the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming has wanted to do is battle this foolishness out in the courts but the USFWS, because of their continued support of animal rights groups, has left them no options. Let’s end this battle once and for all. People’s futures and livelihood are at stake over an animal.

Tom Remington