“Living with Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a documentary film about living with large carnivores. The story begins a decade ago in western Montana’s Blackfoot River Valley and explores how a rural agricultural community responded to the resurgence of grizzly bears and wolves. The film explores the thoughtful “can do” approach of Montana ranchers who realized that the age old practice of dumping dead livestock onto “boneyards” was destined to spell trouble by attracting grizzly bears and wolves onto ranches resulting in poor outcomes for wildlife and ranchers.
At its core, this film attempts to illustrate that it is possible to transcend ideological divides and to solve serious problems in a polarized world.
Produced by Alpenglow Press Productions and Seth Wilson. Filmed and edited by Jason D.B. Kauffman, Alpenglow Press Productions. Narration by Craig Johnson
The Blackfoot Challenge
In the early 2000’s, ranchers and other partners of the Blackfoot Challenge (a community based conservation effort in Montana’s Blackfoot River watershed) developed a deadstock removal program. “Living with Large Carnivores: Boneyards, Bears and Wolves” is a newly released film that shares the journey of the folks of the Blackfoot Challenge as they work to find solutions for reducing conflict with carnivores on the agricultural landscape. While the film demonstrates the work being done in one area of Montana, it also proposes the idea that by working together, from a grassroots level, we can learn to reduce the risk of living with large carnivores on our farms and ranches. The Blackfoot Challenge has provided a model for carnivore conflict reduction that can successfully be implemented in any part of the world.
Recently, (2012) the family of Olaus J. Murie demanded that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation cancel the organization’s Olaus J. Murie Award. The surprising reason? The foundation’s “all-out war against wolves is anathema to the entire Murie family.”
Wolf chasing elk, Yellowstone National Park. Before the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone there was an over population of elk. Wolves have now reduced the numbers greatly. Copyright Daryl L Hunter Wolf chase, the story http://daryl-hunter.net/wolf-chase
I sympathize with the family’s position for several reasons. In 1999, while working for the Elk Foundation, I created the Olaus J. Murie Award, with the coordination and the approval of the Murie family. The award recognized scientists working on behalf of elk and elk habitat and was given in the name of Olaus J. Murie because he is widely considered the “father” of modern elk research.
Murie, who did groundbreaking work at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in the 1940s, also wrote Elk of North America, the first comprehensive and scientific treatise on elk and elk management.
During most of its 28-history, the Elk Foundation and its more than 185,000 members, who are primarily hunters, avoided controversy. Instead, the group focused on its mission: “To ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat.” Most of the foundation’s leaders had solid backgrounds in wildlife biology, ecology and wildlife management, and they resisted the occasional pressure from hunters to get involved in issues such as gun rights or wolf reintroduction.
“We are not a hunting organization supporting conservation; we are a conservation organization supported by hunters,” former foundation director Gary Wolfe used to say.
But starting in 2000, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s board of directors changed, many staff members were fired, and the nonprofit group went through a string of short-term directors. Then in 2007, the foundation board hired David Allen, a former marketer for NASCAR and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association, as its director. At first, it seemed that Allen would follow a path similar to former leaders.
“We are not a hunting club. We don’t intend to be a hunting club. We are a membership organization that has an overwhelming number of hunters … but we’re not doing wildlife conservation to improve our hunting,” Allen said when he took on the job. That approach did not last long.
“Wolf reintroduction is the worst ecological disaster since the decimation of bison herds,” Allen said recently, as he claimed that wolves are “decimating” and “annihilating” elk herds. “To keep wolf populations controlled, states will have to hold hunts, shoot wolves from the air and gas their dens,” he said.
When asked about the utility of predator-prey relationships, Allen explained, “Natural balance is a Walt Disney movie. It isn’t real.” Under his leadership, the Elk Foundation recently offered the state of Montana $50,000 to contract with the federal Wildlife Services agency to “aggressively” kill more wolves. “And the next step is the grizzly bear,” he said. “We’ve got bear issues with elk calves in the spring — both grizzly and black bear. We can’t have all these predators with little aggressive management and expect to have ample game herds, and sell hunting tags and generate revenue.”
This approach has not gone over well with some conservationists. Ralph Maughan, director of the Western Watersheds Project and the Wolf Recovery Foundation, said that foundation director “Allen has not only taken a strongly anti-wolf position, but he has done it taking an ‘in your face’ way to traditional conservation organizations such as those supported by Olaus Murie, which he now calls ‘extremist.’” “Allen has also expressed contempt for many of the concepts of ecology, as he seems to be moving the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation toward a single species, single value of elk (hunting) approach.”
There has been a lot of good, solid research on elk and wolf interactions, some of it funded by the Elk Foundation in years past. Most of it that shows that when wolves are restored to an ecosystem, both habitat and elk herds improve. Allen’s claims are not backed by science.
“Mr. Allen and his anti-wolf rhetoric has alienated him and his organization from many of the very organizations that have helped the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation — in subtle and profound ways — garner the successes it has over the years,” said Bob Ferris, a 30-year wildlife researcher who was involved in bringing wolves back to the Yellowstone ecosystem.
The family of Olaus J. Murie, the “father” of modern elk research and management, agrees with these criticisms. A foundation that once understood the complex relationship between elk and wolves has succumbed to the pressures of hunters who don’t like wolves.
Dave Stalling is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He is an elk hunter, fisherman and wildlife conservationist and lives in Missoula, Montana.High Country News
Get exposed to the world of one of Canada’s premier professional wildlife and nature photographers. EXPOSED with John E. Marriott is the culmination of his life’s work — a documentary-style, no-holds-barred web series in which John profiles his favourite locations and subjects, shares tips and how-tos for aspiring photographers, and tackles the important and controversial issues in wildlife conservation.
Conservation Scorecard shows that citizens are making a difference!
Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to electing conservation leaders, holding decision makers accountable, and encouraging lawmakers to champion conservation policies that effectively protect Wisconsin’s natural resources and public health.
“Are your legislators walking the conservation walk? Or are they just talking the talk?
Know the score! Learn how your legislators are voting on the conservation issues most important to you with the Conservation Scorecard.
How are the Scorecard votes selected?
The votes most likely to be considered for inclusion are votes that:
Present a clear choice about whether or not to protect natural resources.
Reflect a cross-section of the conservation issues addressed during the session.” Source
Only bills that are broadly agreed upon by Wisconsin’s conservation community are considered for inclusion in the Conservation Scorecard.
Who Decides Which Votes to Include? Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters takes a position on and tracks the most important conservation bills considered by the state legislature during each week of their session (see the Conservation Notices of the Week).
At the end of the legislative session, the Conservation Scorecard Advisory Council—an independent and diverse group of conservation leaders, health professionals, academics, and more—recommends which votes to include in the Scorecard. conservationvoters.org/scorecard
The Board of Directors of Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters makes the final decision of which bills to include. Decisions are made without knowledge of how individual legislators voted.
The goal of the Conservation scorecard is to provide objective, factual information about the voting records of Wisconsin’s Senators and Representatives.
The Conservation Scorecard is designed to provide voters with the information necessary to distinguish true stewards of Wisconsin’s environment from those who just talk about it.
The Conservation Scorecard is released at the conclusion of each two-year legislative session (usually in the summer of even numbered years). The Conservation Scorecard is free to members of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. Become a member today!