9 Feb 2010, 3:11pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Wildlife Agencies Wolves
by admin

Negligent or Naive About Wolves?

by Kelton Larson

Read the article below where Commissioner Randy Budge comes clean on what has really happened to our big game populations in Idaho.

Although the reality is not pleasant, it is certainly positive that the commission is coming clean by telling us the facts about Idaho big game populations. Hopefully this will bring positive changes for Idaho’s wildlife and sportsmen.

The real question is: why did the IDFG and Commission sit back and let our let our big game populations crash? Why wasn’t the 10j Rule used 5 to 7 years ago?

The 10j Rule was the rule that was used to introduce the Nonessential Experimental Population of wolves into central Idaho and YNP in January of 1995. It was rewritten in 2005 to allow Montana — and subsequently Idaho after the MOU was signed by Kempthorne in Jan 2006 — to allow both states to kill wolves that were having an unacceptable impact on ungulate populations. Although IDFG described it as “having to jump through a bunch of hoops,” IDFG only had to document a 25% decline in an ungulate population in five years and get a peer review of their wolf kill plan to be able to remove the wolves.

Instead the IDFG implemented the cow/calf collaring study that initially reported wrong numbers and failed to report the actual elk population decline. But even after the losses became evident in the Lolo and Sawtooth Zones, and Dr. Geist and other experts reviewed the IDFG plan, IDFG still has not controlled very many wolves to date.

I remember when Governor Kempthorne signed the 10j rule. We were all excited that IDFG could start controlling wolves. There is no excuse for what has happened to our big game populations. The IDFG and the commission have had their hands in their pockets for a long time. The IDFG and the Commission and many legislators have bought into this delisting myth. As Commissioner Budge points out in the article below, the 200 wolf hunt quota will not be enough to halt elk population decline.

The bottom line is the whole introduction of wolves has been a disaster for Idaho. The impact will be felt for many years to come. Outfitters have been put out of business. Revenue to Idaho’s economy and small business’s has been greatly reduced. Wolves have been a plague on Idaho’s ranchers and farmers. Now we find out that these wolves were probably introduced with diseases. And of course the IDFG will probably want residents to pick up the bill for nonresident hunters not coming to Idaho anymore.

There is no doubt that the IDFG has acted negligently. The IDFG told legislators they would be monitoring the effect of wolves on ungulate population since the beginning of wolf introduction. They failed to do so, at least not expertly. The main directors of the IDFG should resign or be fired!

As far as the Commissioners, I do not question their personal character. But they were certainly naive buying into the green thumb of IDFG managers who value wolves more then our ungulates. The other problem is that we don’t have any real big game hunters on the commission. We have pheasant hunters and flyfisherman!

Although the commission wasn’t negligent like the Department they were naive. They too need to resign so we can get our big game back on track. Lets face it, the IDFG is to big game management what the Detroit Lions are to the National Football League. Neither have had a winning season in a long time.

Fish and Game commissioner: Wolves hurt elk numbers

By John Bulger, Idaho State Journal, February 5, 2010 [here]

POCATELLO — The Idaho Fish and Game commissioner for the Southeast Region said Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population has adversely affected elk numbers and impacted revenue received from out-of-state hunters.

Pocatellan Randy Budge, speaking at the Rotary club Thursday, walked the crowd through the history of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies and related data regarding predation, some of which brought gasps from the audience.

Budge noted the initial goals of reintroduction were 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in Idaho. Wolf populations have grown at 20-25 percent a year and now number approximately 85 packs, with 1,000 wolves, which he indicated to be a conservative estimate.

“Wolves have been very productive,” Budge said.

The 2009 delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho under the Endangered Species Act allowed the states to open hunting, but Budge said the current numbers culled by hunters and federal controls are unlikely to keep wolf numbers in check. And Budge said the numbers are creating a problem for other animals the state is obliged to protect, preserve and manage.

“From a wildlife perspective, there’s no question that this growing wolf population has had a devastating impact on our elk populations and our moose populations,” he said. “Our scientists’ and biologists’ studies on all these collared packs indicate that each wolf eats an average of 16 elk per year, so if you do the math and are being conservative, our 1,000 wolves are eating 16,000 elk per year.”

He said 295 sheep, 76 cattle and 14 dogs were also confirmed to have been killed by wolves in 2009.

Budge said the state’s biggest and historically most stable elk herd in the Lolo Pass area has gone from 11,000-13,000 elk to under 2,000 since wolves began to inhabit the area.

“Put wolves into the equation, it tipped the balance,” he said.

This impact resonates beyond Idaho’s borders, according to Budge.

“Our out-of-state hunting numbers were down 25 percent in 2008, 31 percent in 2009,” he said.

Fish and Game polled previous visitors to the state to find out if the economy was the culprit or if it was some other reason.

“The No. 1 reason listed for not coming to Idaho was, ‘You haven’t taken care of your wolves and your wild animal populations are down,’” Budge recounted, “and the No. 2 reason was, ‘Your license fees are unfair.”

The second problem stemmed from a license fee increase by the 2009 Legislature that affected only out-of-state licenses. The plan to increase revenue actually resulted in a decrease in revenue, he said.

Looking to the future, Budge said current litigation regarding wolves may ultimately be disheartening for those hoping to retain state management rights.

“I think there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to see a ruling in the next few months that may find further flaws with the delisting, and we may be turning it back over to the federal government,” he said. “My fear is if the plaintiffs succeed in getting the wolves back on the Endangered Species list, we’re going to see a relatively high level of intolerance from Idaho sportsmen who will then begin to ignore the law and have a ‘hunting season’ anyway, just an illegal one rather than a legal one.”

In closing, Budge said the recovery of wolves “should have been hailed as one of the greatest success stories that ever existed under the Endangered Species Act, but instead we’re mired with controversy and conflict and a lot of stress and strife over who has responsibility and control, the state or the federal government.”

10 Feb 2010, 10:21am
by Rich P.

I live in Fort St John British Columbia where the original wolves for the transplant were captured. I sat around a table one night with the regional biologist from British Columbia that coordinated the capture and the biologists from the states that were overseeing the American side. Our biologist here has had extensive experience with wolves, and he point blank told the American reps that the transplant would backfire and cause severe reductions of ungulate populations not only in Yellowstone but the surrounding states as well. His advice fell on deaf ears as the biologists from the park were so hyped about re-introducing wolves that they basically told him he was wrong. I wonder what they are thinking now. It is unlikely that the elk population in Idaho will ever recover.

21 Mar 2010, 2:07am
by Don K

Rich P.

Said respectfully of course as one who has worked with the feds in Canada myself as a wildlife Tech. How did the ungulate population possibly manage to survive years of wolf interaction before wildlife management? Please understand I am not anti-hunting and have had licenses for White-tails etc and other game. Was the ungulate population extremely low before wolf culling/hunting? Somehow both types of animals co-existed for years before management. Today of course its a very different story and we are forced to make decisions and manage both.

Its much simpler than I believe people make it. You simply decide whether you will share your ungulate population with wolves or not. If not then wolves are going to take the short end of the stick. But one cannot deny that wolves always have been part of the wildlife picture and deserve to be included.

Hunters may not want to hear this one but if economically wolves are more of a moneymaker because of tourist dollars then ungulate hunting has to come second. If that isnt the case then wolf numbers have to be adjusted. But not anihilated.

I personally think that living in a land where herds of fat ungulates roam the area with trophy animals presenting themselves as frequent targets may be a hunters dream but not very realistic when it comes to management.

I have sat around campfires in rural Canada since I was a kid and lets be honest that is the common hunters dream. I dont know too many of my family or friends that sport a sad diseased looking dear on their vehicle once it has been harvested.

Harvesting a large robust animal is a dream come true. And having lots of them and no competition from animals like wolves is a given with that mindset.

If one truly does love wildife then one needs to include all aspects of wildlife groups in any given habitat. Bald Eagles for example are a fantastic species. However what if they took a fair number of ungulate calves (obviously this is not realistic but to make a point) I doubt that local folks (and trust me I am local) would view them the same way. Yet I am sure many hunters would agree that they offer a majestic aspect to our wild areas.

I believe wolves also make things richer but just like ungulates need to be managed. Whether we like it or not as man and the alpha predator and manager of wild areas we have to manage both wolves and ungulates.

I believe the US simply needs to learn how to act wisely in managing their new wolf population. Afterall it appears to me that many people in the USA wanted wolves in the first place, and many still do. Only wolf lovers running the wildife management plan would be wrong and unhealthy and would not work. Only hunters wanting to maintain a glut of ungulate populations is out of balance as well. Harvesting of both creatures is inevitable and if rabid passions and unrealistic views could be laid aside then proper management plans can and should result.

Cheers and thanks for letting me post


21 Mar 2010, 10:54am
by Mike

Don K. (2:07): How did the ungulate population possibly manage to survive years of wolf interaction before wildlife management?

When was that, Don? At what point in time do you believe human beings began to interact with wildlife?

This is an important question. Some folks have a notion that the land was a wilderness last week, in utter balance and harmony, like the Garden of Eden, until last Tuesday, when things suddenly went awry due to the arrival of humans, whom they can name.

But here’s a stunning fact: human beings have been traipsing around for an incredibly long time. And while they (we) were traipsing around, they (we) killed ungulates and predators and pretty much whatever they (we) wanted to.

You cannot deny all the historical interactions and influences that human beings have had. You cannot deny our role. You cannot, because I won’t let you.



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