25 Mar 2008, 7:22pm
Cougars Deer, Elk, Bison Wolves
by admin

OneCreek On Wolves and Cougars

The Idaho Statesman ran dueling reader’s opinion pieces about wolves this week. One was by Suzanne Asha Stone of Boise, the wolf conservation specialist for Defenders of Wildlife:

Forty years ago, there were no known wolf packs in the northern Rockies because people had driven them to near extinction in the region. Today, 1,500 wolves roam across Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Returning wolves to the wild has been a remarkable wildlife achievement, but this is a story whose next chapters are just now being written. The question is: Will this story have a happy ending? … [more]

The other was written by Nate Helm, executive director of Idaho’s chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

Yes, it is time - time to remove the population of wolves living in Idaho from the endangered species list. Sportsmen in Idaho and across the West support the Department of Interior’s (DOI) recent proposal to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Wolves in Idaho are currently managed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the case of wolves, the constitutional right given to all states, including Idaho, to manage her wildlife has been superseded by the ESA. The traditional managers of wildlife in Idaho - the citizens of the state, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game - have had little say. … [more]

Both opinion pieces drew a rash of comments. Most are typical Internet drivel, but one comment stood out head and shoulders above the rest. It was submitted by OneCreek, a pseudonym no doubt. I don’t have any idea who One Creek is, but his comment was so superb that I am posting in its entirety. Please enjoy, and hopefully learn:

Heck - This should have been a “Letter to the Editor”…

I am going to tread dangerously here, and make an assumption that most, if not all of the previous commentary has been penned by those who live and work in cities. Therefore, thoughts and commentary on the subject outside of that which reflects on certain legal perspectives is mostly little more than “abstract”, rather than objective.

I live and work in the North Fork Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Not only do I live in said District, but my property is totally surrounded by the National Forest. Residing here year-around since the year the wolves were established in the area, 1995, perhaps my observations should be of some consideration regarding this debate.

Living here as I do, observation of the natural world around me is secondhand practice. I see things that the casual visitor does not, and for that matter, even the dedicated hunter or the naturalist. By the time their observational talents begin to truly and measurably improve, they must leave for more civilized environs. Conversely, this grand landscape is my constant companion.

The “pro-wolf” side of this debate always refers to “balance” and “sustainability”, while those in opposition to the establishment of this wolf subspecies decry the loss of elk and deer, as well as losses of cattle to old Canis Lupus. Naturally, the latter also argues that a new danger to humans exist with the introduction of this predator, and that I shall not quarrel with. Wolf attacks on humans have occurred with fatal results even recently in Canada, and it is just a matter of time before it does occur here.

The use of the terms “balance” and “sustainability” are certainly open to debate. What historic benchmark was used to establish a figure upon which a “sustainable” population should be based? None. What was the historic benchmark figure of native ungulates and what was the species ratio? Unknown. Are the newly established wolves the same subspecies that existed here? Unknown. Even if that data existed, which it surely does not, we have managed game herds to increase elk populations compared to deer, and since humans certainly are now a new predator in this mix, exactly where lies the “balance” and what is considered “sustainable”.

You will not be offered a credible answer. There isn’t one.

I hear the plaintiff howls from them almost every night - oft times from afar, but occasionally within a hundred yards of the house. I see these creatures with some regularity, and every time I am conflicted with emotions that range from great excitement to primordial unease. Sometimes these emotions are concurrent with each-other, as awe at the spectacle is mixed with a tinge of unease and fear. After all, they have replaced the cougar at the top of the food chain here. They are now the top-tier predator. This I must respect.

I have never had the desire or need to kill a Mountain Lion, nor really, a Wolf. In my thirty-seven years of adult hunting and outdoor work, I have seen perhaps a dozen lions, treasuring each and every experience. In the past year, all that changed. “Need” overcame the emotional perspective, and the question is why?

During the last thirteen years, with the children raising sheep, goats and chickens as 4-H projects, nary a one did we lose to any predation. Not one. But the dynamics of a perceived “balance” changed the previous equation. Last January 4th, our youngest son, then 11 by but three days, ran excitedly into the house yelling that there was a lion in the goat pen. He claimed breathlessly that as he was about to toss hay over the 6′ fence, the creature had been in the doorway to the barn on top of a goat.

I strapped on my boots and hurriedly rushed up the hill to the barn with a 12 gauge loaded with buckshot. To my later chagrin, upon seeing nothing, I presumed the cat had left. Chambering a round but convinced he was gone, I entered the barn and six feet away was a very upset lion. As he snarled, I fired. In a matter of a second, I aged about ten years and he aged no more. Why?

I called Fish and Game, as the kill was surely legal but equally unlicensed. Shortly after the call came the arrival, and the cat was removed. “Okay”, I thought. “A once in a Blue Moon event. An old cat pressed for food, and it was just one of those desperate times bring desperate measures things…”

A week later, I was outside on the porch having morning coffee in the dark at about 5:30 a.m.. Perhaps it was fifteen degrees or so, and the sky was ablaze with stars. Then I heard this screaming and cries guttural that went on for perhaps a minute or two, followed by silence. Normalcy had returned. After a few hours, I gunned up and strolled down through the snow and thickets of the riparian zone and found the cause of the morn’s commotion. A dead cow elk and a mess of wolf tracks. Whatever. But I had never heard that sort of noise before, that terror frantically voiced emitted when you are being ripped apart as certain death sets in. I know it’s natural - I just hadn’t yet experienced it. Rifle shots are different.

Then this past September came upon us, and with it an even more unusual surprise. We had placed an older sheep staked out, eating grasses near the barn. We had put him out about 6:30 a.m. and about ten o’clock, went back up to check his water. It did not matter. The sheep had been killed and partially consumed. The neck had the tell-tale marks of a lion attack upon them.

Licensed this time, I set about that evening to deal with this new problem. Right at sunset the lion returned, and at about fifty feet, shot him dead. This cat was not old at all, and weighed almost 170 pounds. Later skull measurements had him but 1/8th of an inch short from making the Boone and Crockett record book. This was a large, healthy lion that had attacked and killed livestock almost in our yard. Two lion attacks in nine months and none in the thirteen years before? What the hey……….?

Soon thereafter I enjoined in conversation with an outfitter who hunts lions in my area, and he made note to me that they are only jumping about 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of lions they had just five years ago. Why? The lions are being run off their kills by the packs of wolves, was his appraisal. It is a belief that is likely true. It would appear that the wolves are slowly starving the lions out.

Such commentary becomes “evidence” that is always considered anecdotal, but it is important none-the-less. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was attempting to ascertain whether or not to suggest listing both the Wolverine and Lynx as “Endangered Species”, they interviewed trappers to detail their catches and any observations they had made regarding said species. Therefore, such commentary should not simply be dismissed out of hand. Besides, the writers and interest groups who wish for wolves to maintain protected status use guesstimates all the time to rationalize their arguments. How exactly, may I ask, does one accurately count Mountain Lions? You can’t.

A Forest Service road runs up past the place for miles, and I frequent it often. A week ago Friday evening a cow elk and her days-old calf were killed by wolves about a half mile up the road. I found them at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, as a single Golden Eagle and a number of Ravens flew off the carcasses . Wolf tracks were everywhere. Wednesday morning brought another identical scene, but no calf. This past Saturday evening I had come down the mountain at about 8:00, and there was nothing left there to suggest anything had ever happened. Sunday morning I headed back up at about 9:30, and there was a completely consumed deer and another cow elk dead and virtually nothing but skeleton and hide at the same location, the two dead ungulates separated by about two hundred yards.

Upon seeing the elk remains, I glanced into the meadow downhill to the south, and spotted a wolf trotting into the thick brush along the creek. There’s little doubt that its tracks were among the five different sets mixed about that dead elk. It was a beautiful animal, though in some ways I felt a hatred for it while simultaneously marveling at its magnificent splendor.

The place is a perfect kill zone. Two creeks meet in an insignificant little meadow of maybe fifteen acres, but the mountains around those little creeks rise like ramparts. To set the trap is all too easy. The pack is all around the meadow, and after an elk enters it, it is doomed. The pack members at the bottom run the elk up the south-facing hill, where the rest of the pack lays in wait. As the elk struggles up the hill, the uphill members of the pack set upon it from above, and its fate is sealed.

I have not seen so much loss of elk here in such a compressed period in thirteen years of residing here. All of it was due to wolves. They are above me and below me. I live with it, and it is not a philosophical “abstract” or some grand ideal. It is what it is. “Brutal, nasty, and short”, as the saying goes.

Seemingly forgotten is that the stated goal of this “reintroduction”, or “establishment”, if these wolves are even the correct former existing subspecies, is that the numbers desired were a total of 100 wolves and/or 10 packs. We currently have fifteen times the number of wolves and packs that would achieve the establishment goal the Federal Government set. The proponents of this action voiced no objection to the numbers set. Now, the tune has changed dramatically. More than enough is now not enough.

You can leisurely drive by a couple miles away on Highway 93 and not have a clue as to what just happened out your window. But inside your window, and inside the windows of those who reside in the towns and cities, the “argument emotional” rages on. The argument is political and legal in nature now, and as such leaves those who live directly with the circumstance fairly well silenced. They are quite marginalized on the wrong end of the numbers game. This grand debate is all about the search for a supposed “sustainability” and “balance”, but there are factors in the equation that are opposites to each other, and will always remain so. It is a war between interest groups, a war to see which side can convince the grand courts of the government to coerce its will upon the other. The rest of us are merely spectators, I having a rather unique seat in this peculiar coliseum.

There is no correct solution to this, and there never will be. It is our nature. We’ve simply again accomplished something uniquely human; we have found something else to endlessly fight about.

2 Feb 2011, 2:19pm
by Jim

The correct solution, since we cannot rely on those who govern this issue to make sound decisions and rulings, is to kill them when we see them, in an attempt to salvage what is left of our ungulates. To do nothing would be nothing short of surrendering our way of life to special interest groups that have very questionable ambitions and motives. The consequences don’t just end with hunting. However, there is no time left for many of our ungulate herds.

6 Feb 2011, 3:11pm
by Jim

Surely this would be far less of a depravity than the impetus of this controversy, the introduction of these non-native, native-wolf-killing, wildlife- destroying, Canadian Gray wolves.



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