More on the hearing on Wolves at Ennis, Montana

Aug. 20, 2006


The Kalispell Daily InterLake opined today " Something needs to give, when it comes to wolves and the state of Montana’s ability to manage them." Howling over wolf management."

The InterLake didn't get it that those at the legislative hearing on wolves were upset that Montana FWP prefers to solve wolf-livestock problems when possible proactively rather than shoot some wolves after livestock are already and unnessarity dead. That way, I venture to say everyone is better off except those who want to raise controversy, raise hell and kill wolves regardless of what they do.

It seems like the loud and proudly stupid voices usually get the main stream media's attention. Traditionally legislative or congressional leaders stack a public hearing in advance. The hearing is often as much a public ritual usued to justify the illusion that public opinion counts in the deciison already made than a real attempt to seek information.The opinion below was presented by eminent Norman Bishop of Bozeman at the Ennis meeting. It was little too informed to get covered in the main stream media, I guess.

Todd Everts
Environmental Quality Council, Legislative Environmental Policy Office
P.O. Box 201704
Helena, MT 59620-1704

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on State management of wolves.  Because I was an employee at Yellowstone National Park from 1980 to 1997, and was the principal interpreter of wolves and their restoration during most of that time, I have a personal perspective on the history of wolves and their restoration in greater Yellowstone. I have taught dozens of wolf field courses for the Yellowstone Association Institute, I
'm the greater Yellowstone field representative for the International Wolf Center, and I serve on the boards of the Wolf Recovery Foundation and Wild Things Unlimited.   

Paleontologists have established the presence of gray wolves over most of North America, including Montana, from 800,000 years ago to the present.  Humans migrated to North America around 20,000 years ago.   Native Americans admired and revered wolves, calling them
"gray brother."  The Lakota Sioux words for wolf are translated, "Animal that looks like a dog, but is a great spirit."

Two centuries ago in Montana, Lewis and Clark observed so many wolves that they called them
"shepherds of the buffalo."  They also found game abundant, including the bison.  Between 1850 and 1880, 75 million bison were slaughtered, mostly for hides.  In the 1860s, beaver trappers and others turned to killing wolves.

As Montana was settled, cattle ranching became big business.  By 1870 most of the commercial wolfers were working for cattlemen, killing wolves that could no longer find buffalo to eat, and were turning to domestic stock.

Strychnine sulfate was their main tool, and they scattered it everywhere.  Ranch dogs died.  Children died. Everything that ate meat died.   Author Barry Lopez (1978.  Of Wolves and Men, P. 180) wrote, "It is conceivable that 500 million creatures died.  Perhaps 1 million wolves; 2 million."

Lopez cited a study by University of Montana graduate student Edward Curnow, who wrote that cattlemen had to contend with weather, disease, rustling, fluctuating beef prices, the hazards of trail drives, and the cost of running such enormous operations.  But more and more the cattlemen blamed every economic shortfall on the wolf.  Before about 1878, cattlemen were worried more about Indians killing their cattle than they were about wolves.  But,
"As the land filled up with other ranchers, as water rights became an issue, and as the Indians were removed to reservations, the wolf became, in Curnow¹s phrase, An object of pathological hatred."

Lopez observes that Montana¹s first bounty law was passed in 1884. In 1887, a legislature dominated by mining interests repealed the wolf bounty program.  Cattlemen mounted a propaganda program  to have the law reinstated.  Newspaper editorials and pamphlets stressed the dollar damage done to the state economy by wolves.
"The longer the legislature held out, the more outrageous the claims became.  By 1893, when the legislature finally gave in, the desperate stockmen were reporting losses that were mathematical impossibilities."

"By 1905, wolf predation in Montana was light, but a small cadre of stockmen...not only got the bounty back up to ten dollars but had passed an outrageous law requiring the state veterinarian to inoculate wolves with sarcoptic mange and then turn them loose. . . This program was continued for eleven years."   In Montana from 1883 to 1918, 80,730 wolves were bountied for $342,764.  Meanwhile in Yellowstone, from 1916 to 1936, with help from the Biological Survey, the last 134 wolves were killed, eliminating the population in the park.

In 1933, the bounty law in Montana was repealed.  Also in 1933, the National Park Service established a Wildlife Division under George Wright    (James A. Pritchard, 1999.  Preserving Yellowstone¹s Natural Conditions,  P. 87).  But two decades before that, in 1913, ecologist Charles C. Adams stressed the importance of ecology as a basis for natural resource management.  He became president of the Ecological Society of America in 1923.  Adams gave the National Park Service scientific reasons to protect the primitive, and urged the NPS to study  animal interrelationships - their original conditions - before they became changed.

During the 1920s, Joseph Grinnell and Tracy  Storer, scientists at the University of California¹s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, members of the American Society of Mammalogists,  were among those who questioned predator control policies of the Biological Survey.  They were also among many scientists thinking about the value of preserving natural conditions in national parks.

In the 1930s in Yellowstone, there was heated discussion  about whether coyotes, seen as killers of antelope, bighorn sheep and deer, should be excepted from the newly-developed policy that ³no native predator shall be destroyed on account of its normal utilization of any other park animal, excepting if that animal is in immediate danger of extermination.²  Adolph Murie studied coyotes from 1937 to 1939, and he completed his report,  Ecology of the Coyote in the Yellowstone, in 1940.  He found that coyotes ate mainly field mice and pocket gophers in summer, and some ungulates in winter.  He noted that the problem for the ungulates was more the lack of adequate winter range than coyote predation.

Adolph Murie was also contracted in 1939 to study wolves in Alaska¹s Mount McKinley National Park, where managers were concerned about the effect of wolf predation on big game species in the park, particularly Dall Sheep.  His 1944 The Wolves of Mount McKinley was the first ecological study of wolves in the United States.  He concluded that the wolves were the chief check on the increase of Dall sheep, but noted that predation on lambs stabilized the sheep herds, and that the wolves also preyed mostly on old or diseased sheep.  He collected and studied 829 sheep remains to reach those conclusions.  He wrote,
"It appears that wolves prey mainly on the weak classes of sheep, that is, the old, the diseased, and the young of their first year.  Such predation would seem to benefit the species over a long period of time and indicates a normal predator-prey adjustment in Mount McKinley National Park."

In 1943, E. Raymond Hall of the University of California recommended that wolves be reintroduced to Yellowstone.  In 1944, Aldo Leopold, considered the father of game management in North America, questioned why wolves were not restocked in Yellowstone during their extirpation elsewhere.

Nearly thirty years later, in 1971, park officials met with Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Nathaniel P. Reid, and discussed restoring wolves to Yellowstone.  They weren
't sure that wolves were gone, so biologist John Weaver was hired to find out.  After two years of intensive study, he concluded in his 1978 report that there were no wolves in greater Yellowstone, and he recommended they be reintroduced.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress had passed the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the Senate voting 99 to 1 in favor.  Acting under the mandate of the Act,  the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed wolves as endangered.

In 1980, the first Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan was completed by a team of federal, state, conservation, and stockgrower representatives.  It was revised and approved in 1987.  It recommended reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho.

The National Environmental Policy Act mandates that any action taken by the federal government that affects other interests must be preceded by the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  In 1988, Congress directed a study of several questions related to wolf recovery.  In 1990, Congress directed further questions be studied, resulting in two reports that totaled about 1500 pages: Wolves for Yellowstone?

In 1991and 1992, Congress directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to  prepare an EIS, in cooperation with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, under existing law.  After hosting 130 open houses and analyzing 170,000 public comments, FWS completed the EIS in 1994.  A Record of Decision followed, and then Federal Rules were proposed, reviewed by the public, and established to guide reintroduction.  People I respect consider that this was the most thoughtful, carefully weighed wildlife management action the world had ever seen. 

Among other significant statements in the 1994 EIS is,
"The rule would allow management of wolves by government agencies and the public to minimize conflicts on public lands, effects on livestock, and impacts on ungulate (deer, elk, etc.) populations.  There will be no land use restrictions for wolves after 6 packs are established."  As of 2005, no land-use restrictions, including grazing or timber sales, had been imposed because of wolves.  No critical habitat has been identified for wolf recovery, and no lands have been acquired in the process. Wolves need just two things: prey and human tolerance.

The EIS also stated,
"Increased visitor expenditures in the Yellowstone recovery area are estimated at $23,000,000 and the existence value of wolves is estimated at$8,300,000 a year."  In 2005, University of Montana economist John Duffield followed up, and found that 3-4% of visitors are only coming to see wolves.  This amounts to over 90,000 visitors from outside the three-state region, over 400,000 visitor days, and a $35 million direct expenditure impact to the three-state economy.  Duffield also estimated that as many as 151,000 visitors may be seeing wolves in Yellowstone annually.  Wolf researcher Rick McIntyre estimates about 22,000 people see wolves in the northern part of the park each year; close to 200,000 total to date.

The Federal Rules provided that, when a certain number of wolves were established in the recovery areas, the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming could assume management of the wolves, if they had developed plans approved by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The State of Montana
's Montana Gray Wolf Management Plan, which received 5,500 comments from the public, was completed August 2003, and approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Some people wonder why wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone. First, scientists recognized the essential role wolves play in the ecology of natural ecosystems, such as Yellowstone and central Idaho, and urged managers to conserve their natural condition.  Second, the nation, as represented by Congress, decided to conserve species endangered by human activity.  Certainly the prospect of restoring integrity to the ecosystem within America¹s first national park was a major incentive, as was promoting biodiversity there.  

Studies of the attitudes toward wildlife, especially wolves, showed wolves were seen favorably by a large majority of Americans.  In a survey of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming residents, the public was asked,
"Are you in favor of reintroducing the wolf in Yellowstone National Park?"

In Montana, 43.7% favored, 40.3 %were against, and 16% had no opinion.           
In  Idaho,     56.0% favored,  27.0% were against, and 17% had no opinion.
Wyoming:    48.0% favored,  34.5% were against, and 17% had no opinion.

Yellowstone Park visitors overwhelmingly supported reintroducing wolves:
74.2% of summer visitors supported it, 10.5% opposed it, and 15.3% had no opinion.  They favored having wolves back because the wolves were historically present in the park.  However, 18.5% of Montanans said they would be afraid to hike in the park with wolves present, and so did 14.6% of Idahoans.  A 1974 study in Minnesota found that 52% of children under 10 felt the wolf was dangerous to humans: 70% of boys did.  Even today, some folks fear wolves, in spite of any rational reason to do so.   

Comprehensive studies published in 2002 examined wolf-human interactions.  One was A  case history of wolf/human encounters in Alaska and Canada, 2002. Mark E. McNay, Alaska Department of  Fish and Game. 

There are 59,000-70,000 wolves in Alaska and Canada.  Since 1970, some cases recorded wolf aggression toward people.  A wolf attack on a 6-year-old boy near Icy Bay, Alaska generated debate about the danger of wolves, so McNay  compiled a case history of 80 wolf-human encounters in which wolves showed little fear of people.  The report is available on www.wolf.org 

Another report, looking at animal attacks worldwide, is "The fear of wolves: A review of wolf attacks on humans
."  J.D.C. Linnell, ed. 2002. NINA  Norsk Institut for naturforskning - Trondheim, Norway.  The authors say, "The fact that ...encounters with wolves (even without injury...) are considered worthy of publication in the scientific literature is an indication of the rarity of such events." And, "The most persuasive argument for the rarity of wolf attacks on people is that good statistics exist for attacks by black bears, grizzly bears, coyote and mountain lions...It is highly unlikely that a high profile species like the wolf would have a greater reporting bias than these other species."

In November, 2005, a young man was apparently killed by wolves in Saskatchewan.  An article on that event is posted on www.wolf.org
.

We all love dogs.  But dogs bite 4.5 million people in the United States annually, sending 334,000 victims to hospital emergency rooms.  Cost: $102.4 million.  Dogs (mostly pit bulls and rottweilers), kill about 20 people a year.  In the three years 1992-94, 57,580 boys ages 5 to 9 visited emergency rooms for dog bites.  (JAMA, January 7, 1998). 

In the United States annually, rodents bite 27,000 people, skunks bite 750; foxes 500, snakes and insects bite 8,000 people, of whom 55 die.

In 2003, 210 people were killed in collisions with animals, mostly deer.  In 1.5 million crashes, 13,713 people were injured, they caused $1.1 billion in vehicle damage.  .  In a recent decade in California, 40 people were killed and 3,058 injured in vehicle crashes with cattle.  Now, that¹s just  about hazards to people from animals.  In the U.S. in 1997, an average of six juveniles were murdered daily.  Of the 163,200 children abducted each year, 100 are ransomed or killed.  In all, 50,000 children die in the U.S. annually: 200 on their bikes, 1,800 in motor vehicle crashes; 600 in fires. On an average day in the U.S., 13 children commit murder. 

Some members of Congress raised the issue of diseases wolves might bring with them from Canada.  Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Mark R. Johnson, wrote in Wolves for Yellowstone (1992, Pp. 5-45 to 5-92), that rabies has infected fewer than one person per year in the U.S. and Canada; that in Montana, skunks represent 5 0% of reported cases.  Rabies has never been reported in Yellowstone National Park.  Wolves don¹t get sick from Brucellosis, but they clean it up.  All wolves transported from Canada to the U.S. were examined for ecto- and endoparasites, de-ticked and de-wormed.   It is speculated that wolves, if allowed to be present in normal numbers, may keep chronic wasting disease from spreading.

The Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery 2005 Annual Report and the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2005 Annual Report summarize, in about 220 pages, the status of wolf management in the region.  They document progress in meeting the mandate of  wolf recovery, the problems wolves have caused, and the efforts undertaken to address those problems.  They report no injuries to humans by wolves.

The Winter 2005 issue (Vol. 13, No. 1) of Yellowstone Science is
"Ten Years of Yellowstone Wolves, 1995-2005." On pages 34-41, park scientists reported on "Yellowstone After Wolves, Environmental Impact Statement Predictions and Ten-Year Appraisals."  They list 96 technical publications on wolves published from 1995-2004.  The new information on wolves and their role in wildland ecosystems has been made possible by the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone.

Wolves have dispersed, as predicted, and wolves occasionally kill livestock.

A recovered Yellowstone wolf population of 100 was projected to kill about 19 cattle and 68 sheep annually.  In 2005, Yellowstone wolves killed 61 cattle and 53 sheep; 61 wolves were killed to limit those depredations.

In greater Yellowstone pre-wolf, there were 354,000 cattle: 8,340 were lost to all causes annually; about 2.36%.  Of those losses (that 2.36%), wolves had caused about 1 in 633 per year, from 1995 through 2003.  In greater Yellowstone pre-wolf, of the 117,000 sheep, 12,993, or 11.1%, were lost annually to all causes.  Of that 11.1% loss, wolves caused 1 in 275, 1995-2003.  To counter that, 211 wolves have been killed in the GYA 1995-2005.

From 1995 to  2006, Defenders of Wildlife had paid stockgrowers $332,150 for 272 cattle, 774 sheep, and 44 other animals killed by wolves in greater Yellowstone.  Since 1987, Defenders has compensated producers $599,472 for their losses in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

The wolf
's effect on the $4.2 billion economy of greater Yellowstone was analyzed at length in the EIS: 3.5% of local income is related to livestock grazing. If every dispersing wolf were to depredate on livestock, the EIS projected livestock losses of $2,000 to $30,000 per year, based on 100 wolves.  The 1996-2005 confirmed average was $33,215, with 325 wolves in the greater Yellowstone area in 2005.

In my view, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, and the Montana State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks have all carried out their jobs professionally, cooperatively, admirably,  in accordance with the law,  with respect for livestock growers, and with support from several non-governmental conservation groups. They should be allowed to continue their work without micromanagement by the Montana State Legislature.  

Norman A. Bishop
Bozeman, Montana
  
 


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