It was January 21, 2009 when I wrote: “….for hunting wolves, should the day ever come to pass, will be inadequate to control wolf populations.” I was no prophet at that time. My conclusions were based on scores of studies, real life accounts, books, research and common sense.
It first must be said that many, if not all, of the problems Idaho has had and continue to have with wolf management, can be easily attributed to the fact that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) officials, along with their partners in crime at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), ignored warnings from those who knew what the future would hold with introduced wolves. They ignored historical facts.
Aside from some far fetched dream of bringing those who introduced wolves to justice, that fact that wolves were dumped into the Northern Rockies is history and little can be done now to change that. How to manage those wolves, as predicted, is becoming a problem……well, becoming a problem to those that have to deal with the varmints. I guess the question should be asked if IDFG is in the middle of a learning curve on wolf management or are they playing wolf protection games in attempts to play both sides of the aisle?
Idaho citizens were told that wolves would be considered “recovered” as a species when the state had about 100-150 wolves, depending on the number of breeding pairs. Once that milestone was reached, another failed promise was that wolf “management” would be turned over to the state. One thousand wolves later, the state is still trying to gain authority to take over management.
It was part of my article that I wrote in 2009, that I explained that the IDFG had decided to go ahead with plans on how to conduct a wolf hunt, if and when the day ever came they could do that. In that same article I wrote in depth about efforts by George Dovel, editor of the Outdoorsman, to stop the runaway IDFG who, according to his information, had illegally devised wolf management plans, including the plans to formulate a hunting season without Idaho legislative approval as is mandated in Idaho Code.
The illegal activities have continued, unchecked, and IDFG made their plans and laid out guidelines to administer a wolf hunt. The rules of the hunt were simple: sell as many tags as they could (a money-making scheme) and then restrict hunters to a rifle, a bow or a muzzleloader, nothing else.
Anyone with any knowledge of wolves would know that such a hunt would do nothing to “manage” the overgrown wolf packs. Again, one must ask the question as to whether IDFG knew this kind of hunt would do nothing to control wolf population numbers, were they protecting the wolves in their own way by pretending to placate the sportsmen, or is IDFG ignorant of facts and are innocently in the midst of a learning experience? One in which it seems they were not willing to listen to knowledgeable people about wolves and wolf habits.
Me and many others knew this kind of wolf hunt would be a waste of time, at least as it pertained to wolf population reductions or even population maintenance.
Will N. Graves, author of Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages, learned through his research in Russia about wolves, that every method imaginable to control wolf populations were ineffective, in part because Russian authorities refused or did not have the resources to sustain a continuous wolf control program.
C. Gordon Hewitt wrote over 100 years ago in The Conservation of Wildlife in Canada:
The most successful method of destroying coyotes, wolves and other predatory animals is by the organization of systematic hunting by paid hunters, receiving no bounties and working under government control. This policy is giving excellent results in the United States, as will be shown presently.
Any rational system of wild-life protection must take into account the control of the predatory species of mammals and birds. And while the complete extermination of such predatory species is not possible, desirable, or necessary, a degree of control must be exercised to prevent such an increase in numbers as would affect the abundance of the non-predatory species. In the treatment of predatory animals it is necessary to determine whether the species concerned are responsible for more harm than good in a particular region.
Some might argue about the effectiveness of a bounty system but that’s another debate.
During the times of this debate about effective ways to control wolf population, I spent several hours researching historic documents in hopes of finding accounts of how wolves were dealt with worldwide. When I say “dealt with” I’m referring to the need of people to reduce wolf populations for reasons of lessening livestock depredation, protecting people and property from attacks and spreading of diseases. The result of my research culminated in a multi-part series, To Catch a Wolf. For your convenience I took the time to put the parts together into one downloadable publication.
It shouldn’t take anyone very long to discover that wolves cannot be managed as a big game species. IDFG and Governor Otter, lay claim that Idaho will manage gray wolves just like any other big game species. And therein lies a huge problem. Every historic account about wolves laments the need to control wolves and they have shared their frustrations and the difficulties they encountered in order to do that. The notion that a person would have to pay the government money to help in undertaking predator control is absurd.
Initially, IDFG, sent their sportsmen into the field with a rifle, or a bow, or a muzzleloader, to control wolves. I and many others knew two things: 1.) The rules of the hunt were such that too few wolves would be taken to amount to anything that would resemble wolf control, and 2.) The first year would probably see the best results for a couple of reasons; initial excitement of killing wolves and wolves had not yet learned to stay away from humans with guns and bows. This would result in a continued growth of wolves and a reduction, over time, of wolf harvest.
In time, IDFG was willing to concede that they were not providing the sportsmen with enough tools to harvest more wolves. They loosened their grip and in time even allowed for trapping. Both hunting and trapping, still being conducted with the ignorant notion that wolves can be treated as a big game species, still were not getting the results needed.
In some areas, like the Lolo area, wolves had reduced the elk herd there from 16,000 to 2,000. Efforts to get wolf hunters and trappers into that region provided no desirable results. Believe it or not, IDFG was forced to hire aircraft to fly into that region and shoot wolves to save the elk population. Isn’t this insanity?
So, what is IDFG doing about reducing wolf numbers necessary to save elk, moose, deer and other species of prey that helps to make for a healthy ecosystem? Statistics seem to be showing that not enough is being done and the present plans, illegal or not, are not working.
Below are some graphs that show the last three seasons of wolf hunting and trapping in Idaho. The charts were sent to me by Scott Rockholm of Rockholm Media and Save Western Wildlife. What I see that is very telling is that over the last 3 wolf hunting/trapping seasons, the total take of wolves has shrunk. When it is considered that restrictions for hunting wolves have been eased and trapping added, any hope of reducing wolf populations has vanished. This is a failure of a plan and needs to be changed.
Trend chart prepared by Todd Hoffman (These numbers can be verified at the IDFG website.)
Rockholm provided this comment in his email:
The attached graphic illustrates the failed notion, that we will ever “Manage” wolf populations. This visual aid will show that not only are we paying department personnel to know this, but we are paying them in spite of their incompetence. We have calculated that successful wolf hunters/trappers have spent at least $1000.00 in expenses, and an enormous amount of time, just to hunt/trap one wolf. The current narrative, from game agencies, to hunting organizations, is that we as hunters and trappers can continue doing business as usual. We couldn’t be more opposed to this thinking. Wolf populations are growing exponentially, and at the current rate, and diminishing interests of hunters/trappers, we believe that we will never stop the decimation of our wildlife. We need to do something different, and we need to do it now. Wolf hunting and trapping need to be continuous, with open season year around for both hunting and trapping, with the addition of other measures, such as aerial gunning, bounties, and poisons specifically targeted to Canids. Canada has proven these methods to be the only means to control wolf populations.
I can add nothing to this.