July 16, 2019

Will Michigan Make The Same Mistake and Designate Wolves as a “Game” Species?

It appears that, despite the Courts blocking of all efforts to implement management of wolves in Michigan, the state rule makers are moving forward bills that would designate the wolf as a game species, setting the stage for a controlled wolf hunt, should the Federal Government ever decide to remove the gray wolf from the list of Endangered Species.

Wolves are a predator and mass killer and need to be controlled, not hunted or trapped as a game species.

More information can be found here.

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230 Fewer Wolves in Montana

From the Great Falls Tribune:

“Montana’s wolf hunting season came to a close Saturday, with hunters and trappers taking 230 wolves.

That’s only five more wolves than the prior year’s wolf harvest despite extending the rifle season by a month and a half, lifting the quotas on the animals across most of the state and implementing a higher bag limit for individual hunters.”

Idiots will say that the reason more wolves weren’t killed is because hunters and trappers have killed off all the wolves. Knowledgeable and rational people understand that it’s difficult to kill wolves with limited tools at your disposal.

However, the wolf pimps, using their own logic, should know that an end of season meeting is planned among the stakeholders of the wolf packs in which the wolves will assess their losses and issue demands for the reproduction of more wolves, especially in those areas hard hit by hunters and trappers.

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Idaho Wolf Management a Proven Failure

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.

WolfHarvestCharts

Trend chart prepared by Todd Hoffman (These numbers can be verified at the IDFG website.)

Rockholm provided this comment in his email:

Tom,

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.

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To Catch A Wolf – Part V

Links to Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV

If we are ever to consider “catching” a wolf, we need first to understand it. This has become a difficult task, especially here in the United States because most who advocate for wolves, seemingly those with all the money and resources to do so, aren’t at all interested in telling the truth about this animal. Why is it that in efforts to discover the truth about this large and sometimes vicious predator, advocates mount bigger campaigns to counter those truths with lies, information designed to mislead the public?

In the West we love our stories about Nikki: Dog of the North and Jack London’s other creation of Call of the Wild. In our romantic fantasies we want to be friends with canines that are portrayed as our best friends, cute and cuddly. The reality is wolves are none of these and there are many other myths that we have been programmed to believe as true.

Most of us will never see a wolf in the wild. Most of us will never have a desire to “catch” a wolf. Some of us are going to be forced to at some point and hopefully we’ll never reach the degree of problems our ancestors faced all around the globe, the result of which was lack of wildlife management and the taking away of the God-given rights of people to self protection.

In the previous four parts in this series (see links above) we have traveled across parts of North American, Russia, France, Italy and made mention of other countries that historically have faced wolf problems. We now are going to travel to Scandinavia where we will take a look at two aspects of the wolves there – attacks on humans and methods used to kill wolves.

No matter where we traveled, we found out that wolves vary in sizes and color. We know that the characteristics of wolves also vary depending on several factors, including habitat, time of year and the influences of climate, to name a few.

One thing that I have discovered in reading the many accounts of wolves and hunting wolves is that often what and how the writer conveyed their message depended a great deal on their own experiences and perceptions of the events at hand. Let me give an example.

Scandinavian Adventures by Llewelyn Lloyd was written in 1854. It contains numerous accounts of wolf/human encounters and detailed descriptions of wolf habits and of course methods on how the people in Scandinavia captured and/or killed the beast they so much hated.

I chuckled at one point and then read on with my jaw agape, when Lloyd wrote that wolves seldom attack people.

Though wolves are so numerous in Scandinavia, and commit such considerable ravages amongst cattle, they do not often molest man.

I will concur here with Lloyd’s statement that wolves were numerous during this time in Scandinavia, having to this point already read what seems an unending accounting of the savage events involving wolves in this country and the destruction of private property.

After stating that wolves “do not often molest man”, Lloyd fills many pages documenting several of at least 20 accounts of wolves killing humans just during one winter. This doesn’t account for the attacks on humans that didn’t result in death.

I would assume we need to conclude that it is all relative as to what we become accustomed to in our everyday lives. That one man can so boldly state that wolves seldom attack man, yet view the deaths of at least 20 people, mostly children, as somehow insignificant, certainly baffles my mind but I’ve never had to live with wolves on a daily basis. In all of North America we struggle to accept the death of one man in Canada a couple years ago.

As with all the other countries we’ve visited, Lloyd tells us that the wolf is despised in Scandinavia too. He states that from the beginning of time, wolves have been hated and that they were the “plague and torment of the land”.

The Scandinavian wolf is characterized as having a “most ravenous appetite” and at times when food is not available to the wolf, he will actually ingest dirt and mud in order to quell the hunger pains. If all goes well, he will regurgitate the mud once he has killed prey to eat. The author tells us of instances when a wolf howls incessantly from the pain caused by eating and puking up the dirt.

“He can suffer hunger and hardships for a long time, which is common for beasts of prey, according to the Creator’s wise institution; for their provision is uncertain, and comes accidentally, and at irregular intervals. When his hunger becomes too great, he’ll eat clay if it is to be had; and this, as it is not to be digested, remains in his belly till he gets flesh, and that works it off violently; and then he is heard to howl most dismally for pain;

One farmer who killed a wolf, opened the animal’s stomach up to see what it had been eating and found it full of moss and the tops of birch trees.

Lloyd tells us that Scandinavia is “exempt from rabies”. I can’t confirm that to actually be the case but he is quite convinced there were never any cases of rabies recorded at least up until this time in history. Part of the reason for bringing this up is that in his list of wolf encounters, all occurred with what appear to be healthy animals. This dispels the myth that only diseased wolves will attack a human.

Like with all the other accounts we’ve examined, wolves in Scandinavia are most dangerous during the long winter months, when food is scare and the animals run in very large packs. People traveled most often by sleigh or horse and during these times some where allowed to have guns for protection as it was common for packs of wolves to attack and follow the travelers.

The author tells readers that when the wolf is hungry and in packs, they seem not afraid of anything, boldly entering barns and enclosed pastures taking whatever they wanted, sometimes barely reacting to the beating by farmers with clubs, sticks and rocks.

The story here gives us an indication of excess killing. In modern times, at least here in North America, we have coined the term “surplus killing” to characterize the act of wolves killing far more prey than they ever intend to eat.

The wolf is amongst the most voracious of beasts. The slaughter he commits in the fold is at times terrible; and he frequently kills ten times more than he can devour. Hence it would appear, he is impelled rather by a mere love of destroying, than by hunger.

I read recently the account of one wildlife biologist who said that surplus killing did occur with wolves and domestic animals but rarely happened with wild animals, particularly large game animals. Even though I have had the opportunity to read accounts of and view pictures of what seem to show surplus killings of deer and elk by wolves, biologists, for whatever their motives, seem quick to come to the rescue of the wolf and state that it may appear the wolves killed needlessly but will return at a later date and clean up the mess. This brings the discussion to one that now becomes quite subjective. If a pack of wolves during one attack session kills 20 elk and then leaves without eating any of them, one can argue that the wolves will return to clean up later, yet we have no way of knowing that.

I find it a tough pill to swallow that wolves will only “surplus kill” domestic animals and not wild ones. The game manager making the statement backed his theory by saying that most livestock have had all sense of fighting back bred out of them. I have never witnessed alive any attack by wolves on deer and elk, but in most of the video I’ve seen, the deer and elk aren’t fighting back. They may run and stand their ground for a time but are soon outnumbered or worn down to defeat.

I can concur that it would appear much easier, if I were a wolf, to enter an enclosed area housing 100 sheep and killing them all, than to run down and kill 100 elk or deer. This doesn’t however dispel the idea that wolves do not “surplus kill” elk and deer. The task may be more difficult but the voraciousness of the wolf is on display no matter what animal it is attempting to kill. If a pack kills any number of game animals they don’t consume or haul away, we can say there was surplus killing.

The landscape of much of Scandinavia provided excellent habitat for wolves and as a result, there were many to contend with. The habitat also prevented hunting the wolf in what is referred to as a common method – using dogs and people to drive wolves out of the thick forests into openings or fields where the wolves could be shot. There were just too many intermingled, dense forests where wolves could essentially hide forever. This brought extra challenges upon the citizenry to protect themselves and devise other means of killing wolves and killing as many as they could all at once.

The presence of wolves was an extreme burden on the people. It is described in some places as being the most difficult thing in life to deal with. Here in the West we think stories like Little Red Riding Hood were created from some fairy tale dreamed up by a fanciful writer.

Not only do our children’s books relate some of the experiences people had years ago, the angst and outright hatred that grew toward the wolf had people believing the the wolf was an incarnation of Satan himself. As backwards as this may seem to the modern West, we’ve never really had to deal with anything so frightful and controlling, with the dominance of a vicious predator. It was as bad or even worse than any plague.

The people persevered and one way that helped was the creation of devises and methods to catch, trap and kill wolves. In the northern areas of Scandinavia, the Lapps often strapped on their skis, or skidor they were called, armed themselves with a 12-foot long pointed spear and headed into areas thought to have wolves.

The conditions needed to be right so that the snow was such that wolves couldn’t run away and yet the hunters could remain on top of the snow with their skis and navigate to where the wolves were, spearing them to death. A good downhill run seemed a good opportunity.

Sooner or later, however, he is necessitated to quit the ” vantage-ground,” and betake himself once more to the forest or the fjall, as the case may be. Thus the chase may continue for a day or two, until the beast is fairly worn out with hunger and fatigue, when his pursuers are enabled to close with him—generally on the long slope of a hill—and to put an end to his miseries and his life.

Seldom would enough wolves be killed to have any real affect on limiting the wolf kills on the reindeer herds. However, under the right conditions, there is a recorded event of around 70 wolves being killed in one week using this method of skis and spears.

As I mentioned earlier, hunting wolves by foot or horseback in the “traditional” manner was quite ineffective. Lloyd explains it this way.

Little in the shape of wolf-hunting—such at least as accords with our notions of hunting—is practised in Sweden; and that little is, from necessity, always followed on foot. From the difficult nature of the ground, and the peculiar style of fence, it would be quite an impossibility to pursue that beast on horseback.

And thus the most effective means to deal with wolf populations was devised – locate the dens and kill the cubs. Lloyd goes to great lengths offering advice on how best to locate the dens. As a bonus, hunters would set a trap for the she-wolf and kill it when it returned to the den area.

The she-wolf does not, like the fox, litter in deep holes in the ground, where it is difficult to get at the cubs; but under boulders, under the stumps of uprooted trunks, in close thickets, or beneath spruce-pine trees, the branches of which hang to the very ground; and for this reason, when the Lya is found, one can readily take and destroy the cubs.

“One of the number, however, should be retained alive, that by means of its cries the mother may be killed also. The object is best effected by erecting a screen of boughs, near to the lair, where two of the hunting party (the rest retiring to a distance) secrete themselves, and shoot her on her return home. This is hastened by the piteous lament of her offspring, who at some four feet from the ground, is suspended by the hind leg to a neighbouring tree. But the men, at such times, should face in opposite directions, so that one or the other will be sure to see her when she first makes her appearance, as she then comes much nearer to the ambush than afterwards.”

The event of locating wolf lyas (lairs) and destroying the cubs is a community-wide event employing large groups of people. A continued effort each year to do this seemed somewhat effective in keeping wolf populations in check.

Another method used by the Scandinavians, particularly in areas overrun with wolves was called a Skall-platser. Essentially, an area is located in which bait is deposited in great amounts over long periods of time. This often consisted of dead animals.

During the time of year, mostly winter, when the wolves were both hungry and packing together in larger numbers, hunters, numbering as high as 600 hundred would surround the baited area where no wolf could escape. Canine slaughter ensued.

During a period of about 7 years, it is recorded that 35 of these Skalls took place, resulting in the killing of over 200 wolves, including cubs. This may have been the most effective means of killing larger numbers of wolves at one time but I believe the most effective long term was killing the cubs and she-wolves. One of the problems with carrying out the Skalls was the expense and the time commitment in keeping the area baited.

Scandinavia also employed the use of live, squealing pigs on a winter sleigh to lure the wolves out while hunters riding the sleigh shot them. I covered this in more detail in Part I.

In all of the stories covered in this multi-part article, people resorted to the creation and use of traps. Most of them to catch an individual wolf but as we learned earlier, elaborate contraptions were designed to capture many wolves at one time.

While individual traps served the purpose of maybe taking care of one or two problem wolves that were killing livestock, it did virtually nothing to control wolf populations.

What we should have at least learned through all of this is that wolves are most difficult to “catch”. We read here in Scandinavia that the terrain and habitat was such that much of it was impossible to hunt on foot or horseback. In all the stories, the authors made no bones about the fact that wolf population controls had to be done on a consistent basis and the only way to accomplish this was with the use of hunting dogs. There was nothing very scientific about any of it. They knew there were too many wolves and no matter what they did, there were always too many wolves.

I’ve pointed out numerous times that as the United States readies itself for a rapidly expanding population of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes, I have little confidence that we are prepared to handle the problem or at least take care of it in a timely matter.

Idaho, a state that is eager to get the federal government off its back and out of its state, has written up preliminary rules to govern wolf hunts. None of the rules allow for any of the methods I’ve described or provided for you from history past. I’m not advocating for the employment of these methods but we have to use history to teach us that a hunter alone with a gun is no good.

With a wolf population growing at a rate of near 30% in some places, sending a man and his rifle into the woods to kill a wolf will do nothing to stop or slow the rate of growth. With the proper management of wolves, it should be known whether the state wants to reduce, maintain or grow the wolf population in certain wildlife management areas. This is readily accomplished through the issuance of tags or quotas. When the quota is taken the hunt ends. If this be the case, then why put so many restrictions on the hunter? It really makes little sense?

We have areas now where the deer and elk are being killed by wolves at a rate that some fear is approaching or has surpassed recovery. Presently our hands are tied as wildlife managers are at the mercy of the federal government and having to be in compliance with an Endangered Species Act that has morphed into a political activists’ tool.

If the day comes when each state is granted permission to manage the wolf, we have to be ready, knowledgeable about the wolf and its habits and prepared to implement the necessary tools to accomplish the needed tasks.

I hope that this article and the other four parts can serve as a means of gaining a better, more truthful understanding of the wolf. Learning about the truth shouldn’t be something we fear. It is fought against only by those with hidden agendas.

Tom Remington

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