Opinion: A once-proud conservation group has lost its way

By Dave Stalling August 31, 2012 Opinion: High Country News

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

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It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad.

As with any cause, a biased or misleading view can be used to promote, to publicize a particular political cause or point of view.  Here we have several anti-wolf politicians making claims to distort the public’ veiw of wolves; wolves are decimating the White-tailed deer herds, attacking livestock and killing hunting dogs.  Let’s set the record straight; wolves do hunt White-tailed deer, have killed some some livestock and did kill 37 bear hunting dogs.  But in reality; is there a big-bad-wolf here? Let’s get the facts before we sanction the killing of an endangered species. 

There are currently two bills in congress that call to delist the wolf in four states, S. 164 (Senate) introduced on 01/17/2017 by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and H.R. 424 (House of Representatives) introduced on 01/10/2017 by Representative Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) 

In congress Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) is proposing legislation to delist the wolf in Wisconsin and three other states. Two Wisconsin state legislators are pushing for delisting in order to return wolf management back to Wisconsin as well. Read on:

“A joint statement from state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and state Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, said, “The overpopulation of gray wolves on Wisconsin’s landscape is harming farmers, hunters and residents of rural Wisconsin.  Last August, the state Department of Natural Resources said a record number of hunting dogs had already been killed by wolves for the year. As of the close of Wisconsin’s bear season in October, at least 40 hunting dogs were confirmed killed by wolves, far exceeding the previous record of 23. Source

Let’s check the facts.

During the 2016 Wisconsin bear hunting season 37 hunting dogs were lost in the pursuit of bear. A few Wisconsin legislators claim these deaths were due to the high wolf population of 866 in 2016, but there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye.  Adrian Wydeven, former Wisconsin DNR Head Wolf biologist, wrote in a opinion editorial, “Numbers don’t add up in wolf-hound debate” written on November 12, 2016 and suggested that:

“Do wolf numbers correlate with wolves killing hounds? The evidence suggests this might not necessarily be the case. In 2012, only seven dogs were killed and yet there were nearly as many wolves in 2012 as there were in 2016 (815 wolves in late winter 2012).” Source

What could be causing the high deaths of hunting hounds? 

It’s a mystery as to just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods during training & hunting. Why is this a mystery? Because a change in regulations took place that removed the Class B bear training & hunting licence. Because of that change it’s impossible to know; just how many dogs in pursuit of bear are running through the woods. 

Wolves are defending their pups against free ranging hunting dogs in the pursuit of bear. 

Wolf pups are born around mid-April and are approximately two and a half months at the time Wisconsin bear hunters begin training dogs on bear starting on July first. Typically wolves leave their pups at a rendezvous site for safe keeping to be watched over by a babysitter. The pup’s family members keep a close eye on the rendezvous site while off hunting. WODCW blog

This conflict between bear hunters and wolves continues in the north woods of Wisconsin, and now has become one of the reasons Wisconsin legislators want to delist wolves.  One such Wisconsin legislator stated:

“We’re seeing depredations have almost doubled this year, and it’s not just hunting dogs, it’s people’s pets,” said State Senator Tom Tiffany. “They’re expanding throughout the state, we’re beginning to see it, it’s really a big problem.” Source 

There is -no-big-bad-wolf here to blame.  However, there is a lack of regulations with bear hunting & training and it has led to a conflict between wolves and bear hunters. Once the training & hunting class B license was removed, that change allowed for an undetermined number of dogs running through wolf habitat. That could definitely be the cause of the 37 bear hunting dog deaths. 

Are wolves decimating the White-Tailed deer herds in Wisconsin?

Wolves are not eating all the deer. All one needs to do is go to: News Release Wisconsin Natural Resources for Wisconsin’s annual nine-day gun deer hunt sees increase in statewide buck harvest posted on November 18, 2016:  The largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) after two consecutive mild winters and limited antlerless tags.
Wolves are not decimating the deer herds in Wisconsin. In fact, the Northern Forest Zone is home to Wisconsin’s wild wolf.  So there is no-big-bad-wolf killing all the fringe hunter’s deer. I use the term ‘fringe hunter’ only because real ethical hunters know that deer will hide from predators such as the wolf. 

Are wolves killing more livestock? 

Let’s take some statistics from The Wisconsin Gray Wolf Monitoring Report for the period of 15 APRIL 2015 THROUGH 14 APRIL 2016 and read the graphic for yourself. There were 52 wolf depredations on livestock. 

There were 52 wolf depredations from April 15, 2016 through April 15, 2016. To put it in perspective, that was 52 livestock deaths by wolves out of 3.50 million head of livestock in Wisconsin. Read for yourself:

“The total inventory of cattle and calves on January 1 rose 3 percent from 2014 to 2015, to 3.50 million head. The number of milk cows rose by 5,000 head to 1,275,000 head and the number of beef cows rose 25,000 head to 275,000 head. On the U.S. level, slaughter prices rose to $153.00 per cwt. for cattle and $255.00 per cwt. for calves. As a result, Wisconsin’s value of production rose 33 percent to $1.92 billion.”  Source: USDA Wisconsin statistics

In conclusion, It’s all carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad. When in reality the facts prove otherwise. Facts such as; a lack of bear hunting regulations caused the increase of wolf depredations on hunting dogs, the largest change in buck harvest occurred in the Northern Forest Zone (30 percent increase from 2015) and 52 livestock depredations out of 3.50 million head, proves; there’s no-big-bad-wolf here.

There’s only politicians with carefully crafted propaganda to make the wolf look bad.


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Please take action for wolves; click HERE

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Photographs used to make the graphics are by John E Marriott Wilderness Prints
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Two Wisconsin politicians are calling for a Great Lakes wolf summit to resume wolf hunting

In recent news two Wisconsin politicians call for Great Lakes ‘wolf summit’ because they want the state to manage wolves.  Over the last four years the Wisconsin wolf has become a political pawn for politicians like Senator Tom Tiffany and Representative Adam Jarchow because they want to resume wolf hunting in the state. 
  
The Wisconsin wolf was placed back on endangered species list on December 19, 2014 by a federal judge . “In the short time since federal protections have been removed, trophy hunters and trappers have killed more than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves under hostile state management programs that encourage dramatic reductions in wolf populations,” Lovvorn said. (Source)

The Great Lake’s wolf was delisted in 2012 and states like Wisconsin rushed to hunt them. Out of all the states that hunt wolves, only Wisconsin allows hound hunters to use unleashed packs of dogs to hunt wolves. Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.” Source: Fact Sheet: Wisconsin, quite literally, throws “dogs to the wolves.”

Wolves must remain under federal protections until states such as Wisconsin can be trusted to manage an endangered species like the iconic wolf. A new study just out this week dispels the myths that wolf hunting stops illegal killing of wolves. This study by Guillaume Chapron and Adrian Treves, Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of a large carnivore.

Making the Wisconsin wolf a game animal did not improve tolerance among trophy hunters and it only increased poaching.  

Let’s get back to wolf recovery in Wisconsin and learn methods of coexisting with wolves.

Wolf education and awareness should to be a top priority not grand standing by extremists and politicians with hidden agendas. 

Let’s put wolf management back in the hands of the Wisconsin public and out of the hands of the politician. 

Increase in wolf hunting activity on trail network concerns residents in B.C., Canada.

This is a real safety concern for recreational users along public trails. Source: Shooting of wolves prompts warning Increase in hunting activity on trail network concerns residents Chris Bolster / Powell River Peak April 6, 2016

The recent shooting of three wolves near Duck Lake is a warning for residents to take care while on the trails of the popular network east of Powell River, but a local trail builder said he is more concerned with hunters than their targets.
Wayne Brewer, a member of the Chain Gang, a local group that develops and maintains mountain bike trails in and around Duck Lake, said it is not the wildlife that worries him.
“You go into the bush, you take your chances, but now I’m more concerned about someone shooting into the bush while I’m there,” he said.
While parts of Duck Lake are open for legal hunting, there is also a BC Parks protected area where no hunting or shooting is permitted from June 16 to September 9 each year. The problem is no one, except BC Parks, really knows where those boundaries are, according to Pat Walsh, president of Powell River Outdoor Recreation Users Group Trail Society.
Walsh said signage is in the works that will be posted around the boundaries and at trailheads outlining area rules.
He agreed the current situation puts recreation users at risk. “It’s dangerous,” said Walsh. “People are running, hiking and biking along those trails unseen to people shooting.” Click HERE to read more.

DANGEROUS TRAILS: Local hiker and mountain biker Wayne Brewer said he is concerned about wolf hunting activity close to the Duck Lake trail network and the safety of residents enjoying recreation in the area. Contributed photo