December 2010 – A South Dakota hunter shot an unusually “large coyote” near the town of Woonsocket. A year later, DNA samples taken proved what had been suspected all along, the animal was not a coyote, but a wolf from the Great Lakes Region – shot 350 to 400 miles from the closest known wolf population in north-central Minnesota. Just a month earlier, another Great Lakes wolf had also been mistaken for a coyote and shot 50 miles north of Grand Island, Nebraska – yet another 250 miles farther south.
In November 2010, on the opening day of the Missouri firearms deer season, a hunter just north of Kansas City also thought he was shooting a very large coyote – which turned out to be a 104-pound wolf that had “migrated” some 700 miles from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In early 2009, a GPS radio collared wolf ended a 1,000 mile journey from Montana, winding widely through Wyoming, and into Colorado. Through most of the country that wolf had travelled, it was considered a “predator”, and could have been shot on sight.
Wolves are exceptionally intelligent animals, and even though at times they can become extremely visible, showing up in the strangest human inhabited places, most times they are even more extremely elusive. Simply put, if a wolf does not want to be seen, it is rarely spotted. They have the ability to move along very sparsely covered ridges or among the small brushy patches along creeks, or up and down grassy draws like a ghost. And as evidenced by the movement of the four wolves spotlighted here, they can and will move great distances, remaining undetected for hundreds of miles.
One of the most transparent scams by radical environmental groups, such as the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, has been the exaggerated need for different wolf population nucleuses to have the ability to move from one to the other without human intervention, and without being hunted, in order to insure “genetic connectivity”. According to these groups, wolves require strict federal protection in order to move freely up and down the Northern Rockies, or across the Upper Midwest, allowing the different wolf population centers to inter-breed with each other. Such radical pro-wolf groups say if such freedom of movement is blocked or interrupted, there is a distinct danger of the separate gene pools becoming stagnant. In other words, the extreme environmental groups feel that wolves, without the protected corridors through which to travel, will succumb to inbreeding, much like the Royal Hapsburg family of Austria, which only mated within the family for about 700 years – until it died out.
But, has “genetic connectivity” really been the reason why these groups have fought wolf management or wolf control hunts so hard? Or, has their true reason been to allow wolf populations to become so large that regaining any true “management” or “control” becomes too expensive…or too impossible?
It is what we don’t know about the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project that would more clearly answer those questions. First, let’s look at the wolf the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chose for the “reintroduction” of wolves into Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Many wildlife savvy Phd.’s and researchers feel that the agency purposely violated the Endangered Species Act to insure an accelerated “introduction” of an entirely different non-native subspecies of wolf, to insure that this project realized an expedient success – before the citizens of these states realized what a rotten bill of goods they had been sold.
The native male wolf (Canis lupus irremotus) of the Northern Rockies averaged around 90 to 95 pounds at maturity. The wolf that USFWS brought in as replacements was a noticeably larger wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis) from north-central Alberta, with mature males often topping 140 pounds, and some specimens reaching 150+ pounds. The native wolf, which residents of the region claimed still existed in small pockets in wilderness areas, generally roamed an area of about 100 square miles, hunting alone or in small groups of 4 or 5 at most. The Canadian gray wolves USFWS introduced to the region, back in their home range, typically hunted 300 or more square miles, with packs often numbering 20 or more.
From the very start of this project, the wolves released by the federal government were destined to spread quickly, which they did. From the first 17 wolves released in the Greater Yellowstone Area in 1995, and 16 more the following year, wolf populations have increased steadily. And by 2003, all three states had populations which exceeded the recovery goals set by the Wolf Recovery Plan and by the 1994 Environmental Impact Statement filed by USFWS. At that time, with a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in each state, management was to be turned over to the wildlife agencies in each state – but it was not. And that was entirely due to legal intervention by more than a dozen environmental groups, which unanimously claimed that there were not enough wolves to insure “genetic connectivity” and the survival of the species.
But were those wolves (Canis lupus occidentalis) really endangered? Not hardly, more than 50,000 wolves still roamed Canada – a large percentage of them of the subspecies Canis lupus occidentalis. So, what happened to the smaller, less aggressive and truly endangered native Canis lupus irremotus? With the accelerated spread of the larger, wider ranging and more aggressive Canadian wolves brought in, all hope of any native wolves surviving has long been lost.
To make their job much easier, USFWS “wolf biologists” ignored the earlier work of the wildlife professionals who had classified 24 distinct subspecies of wolves living in North America. Apparently taking the time to search and study a remnant population of the native wolf didn’t fit into the “new agenda”. So, to simplify things, new wave biologists and wildlife managers simply boiled all subspecies into one – Canis lupus. These experts didn’t have the science needed to back what they were doing, so they manipulated science to fit their needs.
Also plaguing this project from the very beginning was the question, “Where did the millions of dollars come from to finance the trapping, transporting, quarantine care and transplanting of these invasive wolves?” Congress had denied the funding, but somehow, USFWS came up with the money – coincidentally during the same time period that between $45- and $60-million dollars were embezzled from Pittman-Robertson Act funds collected as excise taxes on outdoor products like firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle and archery gear. That money was supposed to be used exclusively for wildlife habitat and fisheries improvement.
Another damning question has been, “Just how many wolves were brought across the border into Montana…and where did they all come from?”
No one can answer that one either, since the leader of this USFWS driven project, Ed Bangs, conveniently forgot to file the proper USFWS paperwork (Form 3-177) which would have established not only the number of wolves, but their origin and the cost of the project as well. Was this just an oversight…or was it done purposely in order to not establish a paper trail?
“How many wolves are there right now in Montana, and what will it take to bring their numbers low enough to gain control?”
One thing is for certain, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks does not have a clue. As much as the agency tries to paint a picture of their expertise with wolves, the agency does not have the knowledge, expertise or manpower to assess the true number of wolves Montana – and that’s why they continue to say there are “at least” so many wolves when FWP gives its wolf counts. Right now, that “at least” number is “653”. Using the wolf reproduction math of Dr. L David Mech, considered this country’s leading wolf scientist, even after allowing for the number of wolves taken by hunters, and those removed as problem wolves, and allowing for man caused and natural deaths, there are, right now, “at least” 1,700 to 1,900 wolves in Montana.
Each of those wolves on average must make 25 to 30 kills annually for sustenance, and we also now know that on the average each also kills about as much out of pure instinct, eating nothing. That’s a loss of 50 to 60 big game animals and livestock every year to each and every wolf. Mech was deposed as an expert witness during the 2008 wolf delisting hearing, and in his deposition he stated that before big game herds can show any sign of recovery means reducing the wolf population by at least 70-percent, and keeping it at that level for at least 5 years. If there were indeed 1,800 wolves in Montana at the start of the 2011 “Wolf Management Hunt”, the 166 wolves taken represent only a 9.2% decrease – meaning there will be a lot more wolves on the ground by next fall, and the degree of wildlife and livestock depredation will only be more pronounced.
Through “sport hunting” with low quotas, it is now clear to Montana residents that wolves cannot be managed, they must be controlled. And to achieve a greater level of control, a growing number of Montana counties are now looking at drafting their own Predator Policy. Ravalli County already has, and the final draft of that policy passed with a unanimous vote by the county Board of Commissioners on March 5. Other counties are now expected to springboard off of that predator management/control plan to come up with what’s needed in those individual counties. “Will FWP go along with such management/control of wolves and other predators on a county by county basis?”
The atmosphere in the state is now that FWP is incapable of getting a handle on the predator problem. Should the agency fight the far more liberal “methods of take” and harvest limits/quotas established in the Ravalli County Predator Policy, and other county policies to follow, the feeling among Montana sportsmen and sportsmen-based organizations is that the Montana Legislature will introduce and pass legislation that mandates the agency to do so. The residents of this state have had their fill of the extremely negative predator impact on hunting opportunities and ranching profits.
What most Montanans now know about the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project is that it has been one great big lie from its very first planning stages. They also now realize the damage those non-native Canadian wolves have dealt big game populations, with moose totally wiped out in many areas – and once thriving elk herds destroyed by as much as 80-percent. The sportsmen and most other residents of the region are now as mad as hell…and they’re not going to take it any longer. As much as FWP has tried to shift blame for wildlife losses on other predators, mainly mountain lions, those who spend a great deal of time outdoors fully accept that the wolf is the primary problem. They are now demanding drastic reductions in wolf numbers, and that those responsible for the greatest wildlife disaster of their lifetime be held legally accountable and responsible. The sportsmen and residents next door in Idaho feel pretty much the same.
A firestorm of dissent is now violently erupting and as we head closer to election day on November 6, those politicians who have played an integral part in allowing wolf numbers to increase, along with the destruction of other wildlife resources, are getting extremely nervous. So are those within Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and within the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The sportsmen who have funded these two state agencies since they were first established have had their fill of new wave wildlife managers who now cater more to the agendas of anti-hunting environmental groups than the wants and needs of those hunters, fishermen and other sportsmen who have financed wildlife conservation in these states for the past 75 or so years.
The majority of all who call the Northern Rockies home are now enjoying a bit of “genetic connectivity” of their own, with the realization that they all pretty much come from the same cut of cloth. The desire to enjoy abundant wildlife and open access to all public lands, along with a hatred of agenda driven radical environmental groups and dictating federal agencies has done more to pull these people together than anything else in their lifetimes. Life is now getting a lot tougher for pro-wolf environmentalists in the Northern Rockies.
For more also go to: Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH