All the elk are dead in Idaho and Montana. Wolves got them.


6-11-2006. Wolves vs. elk: 10 years after Wolves' return, are Idaho's most controversial predators decimating elk herds? By Roger Philips. Idaho Statesman. Philips finds no evidence that wolves are decimating Idaho elk herds. Wolves have changed elk habits and so hunters need to use different tactics to be successful.

4-8-2006. Wyoming elk numbers are 9,000 over state's objective. AP/Billings Gazette.

2-13-2006. Wolves no threat to Wisconsin deer herd. By Mary Silver. Sigurd Olson Institute. Ashland, WI. "More than 45,000 deer were hit by vehicles in the state during 2004, nearly five times more than were killed by wolves."

1-17-2005. Thinning ungulates. by Jessie McQuillan. Missoula Independent. I started this web page to show that wolves were not destroyed herds of ungulates in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, and I think the number of articles speak for themselves. The article above, however, shows another aspect of "excess elk"―whether elk numbers are in excess is partly a decision of a state's fish and game (or similarly named) department, and ranchers often think elk are excessive because cows compete with elk for grass. That brings us back to the wolf―wolf numbers are too high and said to be "killing off the elk" when that argument is convenient. Elk numbers are too high when that argument is convenient. The reality is that in both cases, there are other agendas being hidden by these perennial arguments.

1-2-2006. FWP proposes changing elk hunting regulations. By Scott McMillion. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer. "Montana has too many elk in many places, state biologists say, but hunters don't have enough access to them to adequately control herd sizes."

12-1-2005. Big-game season closed Sunday with high numbers recorded in western Montana. By Perry Backus. Missoulian. Throughout Western Montana (that's Montana's wolf country) hunters did well to very well for deer and elk.

10-12-2005. Wy Game and Fish wants to open large areas of Grand Teton NP to elk hunting to reduce unacceptable size of Jackson Hole Elk herd. By Rebecca Huntingon. Jackson Hole News and Guide. It should be noted this is not a population size issue alone, but also an elk distribution issue. Grand Teton NP is an exception to general prohibition of hunting in national parks. A limited area of the Park has seen a major elk hunt for many years.

10-6-2005. Big game outlook: Deer and elk herds are healthy throughout Idaho. Idaho Statesman.

8-26-2005. Elk numbers are at record highs in many areas of Montana. By Perry Backus. Missoulian. Whitetail and mule deer populations are on the upswing. Even upland game birds are bouncing back from a disastrous snow storm a few years back.

5-7-2005. Tracking elk for hunters. Video by Jim Halfpenny. Although  it gives general tracking information, the video tells how of modify elk hunting techniques in areas where wolves have recolonized. From a Naturalist's World.

11-25-2004. Elk season extended in part of Montana to reduce elk numbers. AP. Billings Gazette.

11-15-2004. Elk population in Bitterroot Valley area has tripled since 1980. Ravalli Republic. The giant wildfires of 2000 created a lot of new elk habitat.

10-21-2004. The Montana hunt is on. There are lots of deer and elk out there for Sunday's opening of big game hunting season. By Michael Babcock. Great Falls Tribune Outdoor Editor. Montana's elk population is "above target" in many parts of the state, especially the western part (that's where the wolves are).

Hunters may get shot at easy elk steaks near the Crazy Mountains, NE of Livingston, MT. By Scott McMillion. Bozeman Chronicle. Too many elk are damaging fences near Clyde Park. Wolves have been repeatedly spotted in the area.

7-8-2004. Idaho Fish and Game study concludes reducing coyotes and cougar populations has but a  small effort on mule deer populations. Idaho Statesman. AP. These are the conclusions of a 6 year study in SE Idaho.

3-2-2004. Increased elk population in parts of Idaho means more hunting opportunity. KPVI Television.

12-28-2003. Opinion. Billings Gazette outdoors columnist Mark Henckel. Montana big game hunters enjoyed a great season in 2003, harvesting plenty of mule deer, white-tailed deer, antelope and elk.

12-5-2003. Montana Game officials seek two tags for elk hunters. By Steve More of the Associated Press.
"We need to reduce the elk population numbers and we prefer doing it during the regular season, "Jeff Herbert told the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission on Thursday.

12-5-2003. Montana gig game hunting season best in years. Associated Press. ESPN

10-2-2003. The outlook for the deer and elk season. Idaho Statesman. "A mixed year for deer and elk Numbers are good, but dry fall could make for noisy hunting." Most of the wolves are in the Salmon Region and the Clearwater Region. Note that article says "Elk herds in the Salmon Region appear to be taking advantage of the large wildfires that burned through the area in 2000 and created excellent forage. Biologists have seen low cow-calf ratios in Unit 27 in recent years, but last spring, F&G biologists counted about 35 calves per 100 grows. That´s enough to grow a herd and add a good number of young bulls . . ."

Deer in the Clearwater Region have been attacked not by wolves, but by a disease. "The big news out of the Clearwater Region is the die-off of white-tailed deer from a disease called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. The disease is transmitted by gnats and is fatal to deer. Hundreds and possibly thousands of whitetails have died so far. F&G biologists have counted 250 to 300 dead deer, but they say that several times that number died from the disease. Regional wildlife biologist Dave Koehler estimates about a thousand animals have died from EHD in the Clearwater."

The elk in the Clearwater went into a steep decline in the early 1990s (that's before the wolves came), but the article says "The Clearwater Region still has a long ways to go before it can relive past glory days as the most popular region for elk hunting, but there are some positive signs. Biologists saw an increase in the number of calves this year along the Lochsa River."

From August 2003.

"Bill Campbell is an avid hunter and Idaho outdoorsman.  He says, 'The impact [the wolves are] having on our wild game herds is devastating.'  Campbell says hunting in Idaho's Bear Valley is no longer the same." KCBI News. 8-11-03

The above quote is typical of an anti-wolf campaign that is trying to convince Idahoans that wolves have, or are about the destroy the state's elks herds. In fact the elk are doing fine except in the Clearwater River drainage of north central Idaho where habitat changes have caused a great reduction in the number of elk.

Except for the third photo below all these were taken in the Bear Valley Creek area this late July , where in fact the elk herds are enormous. It used to be that elk were only seen in the Bear Valley Creek area in large numbers in June. In 2002 the drainage was closed to livestock grazing. Elk and deer are everywhere as a result. You don't see elk herds like the ones below in Yellowstone in mid-summer.


Middle quarter of an elk herd a mile long at the southern end of the Frank Church Wilderness.
July 25, 2003.
There were about 300 elk in the herd. Until 2002 this meadow (Poker Meadows) was
grazed by livestock, and you rarely saw more than a dozen elk on the meadow in July after
cattle were put in. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Middle third of an elk herd 180 degrees from the herd above. We counted 265 elk here on Ayers Meadow.
July 25, 2003. Copyright Ralph Maughan. The elk began to appear each day about 4 pm. Wolves howled
in the canyon nearby.

Elk cows and calves on Capehorn Meadows about 7 am on July 23, 2003. This meadow
is well known because Idaho Highway 21 goes right by it. At the same time this photo
was taken about 100 noisy fire fighters were battling the Crystal Creek fire. The fire camp
was about 1 mile east of these elk (out of sight to the right back of the photo). At the same
time there were several other herds of elk out on these busy meadows as well as a
band of Lehman's domestic sheep.
Copyright © Ralph Maughan

Capehorn Meadows is about 15 miles by highway north of Ron Gillet's Triangle C motel
in Stanley. Anti-wolf advocate Gillet argues wolves have killed all the elk, although they
seem pretty lively here.

It's often argued that while there may be cow and bull elk, the elk calves are all killed. The ratio of elk calves to cows in this photo is about 4:10, but it is hard to see the calves because they are small and mostly sitting in the tall grass. © Ralph Maughan. Photo of elk in Frank Church Wilderness. July 26, 2003.

Return to wolf country conservation stories.

Return to wolf reports

Return to home page