Wolf Control One Shot At A Time 365 Days Of The Year!
January 13, 2014
Vigilante Wolf Control - Northern Rockies Sportsmen Are Ready To Take Control Of The Wolf Problem
In the three states that make up most of what is known as the Northern Rockies, the sight of a scoped long range center-fire rifle riding on a gun rack in the rear window of a pickup truck has long been a very common sight. These days, it's a good bet that extremely few Montana, Idaho and Wyoming sportsmen leave home without such a rifle loaded...locked...and ready for use. At one time, coyotes were the target. These days, sportsmen are hoping to get the crosshairs on a wolf - and it's likely that the majority no longer care whether or not if the wolf season is open - or if they even have a wolf hunting license in their wallet.
Seven or eight years ago, the vast majority of hunters in these states had no idea that big game herds were headed into a serious decline. State wildlife agencies, especially Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game repeatedly falsely claimed that big game populations across the Northern Rockies were doing just fine, with herds still at or above objectives for designated hunting units. Those two agencies continued to try hiding that the introduced North-Central Alberta wolves that made up the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project were the cause of declining elk, moose and deer numbers. That is, until the hunters that have largely funded these game departments began to realize that "their" wildlife managers were lying to them.
Sportsmen who never before attended wildlife agency meetings or game commission meetings are now showing up in force - and they are now loudly challenging the gross mismanagement of state wildlife resources. One such meeting held in Hamilton, MT the week before this past Christmas drew several hundred disgruntled sportsmen, landowners and those who once enjoyed seeing an abundance of wildlife. The meeting was one of many being held across the state so MT FWP can detail changes in hunting district boundaries, the numbers of permits to be allotted in certain districts, and other upcoming season changes. Officiating that meeting were State Senator Scott Boulanger (SD44-Darby), State Senator Fred Thomas (SD45-Stevensville), and new MT FWP Commissioner Gary Wolfe (District 1-Missoula).
The Western region of the state has been the hardest hit by predator impact on big game numbers, and wolves have lead in the destruction of elk and moose populations all along the southern Bitterroot Valley and Mountains. However, instead of addressing and tackling the predator problem, MT FWP Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson (Region 2-Missoula) shared with the hunters filling that room how the agency wants to shift some hunting district boundaries - and eliminate more big game hunting opportunities in that Southwest corner of the state. That did not set well with the vast majority of those attending the meeting.
(Photo Above Left - Conducting the Hamilton meeting to discuss proposed hunting season and district changes were MT Senators Fred Thomas (standing) and Scott Boulanger (sitting). Also there to hear what spoprtsmen had to say was new FWP Commissioner Gary Wolfe (seated at right).)
The proposed changes were clearly nothing more than another round of FWP smoke and mirrors - another attempt by the State of Montana to ignore the real cause of declining game populations. Many in attendance took turns at the microphone to comment in regard to the changes, with the majority sharply criticizing FWP's lack of predator control.
Paul Rosignol, a board member with Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, looked right at Mike Thompson, and stated, "We don't have a deer problem...We have a wolf problem. If you want to grow deer, get rid of wolves!"
That was pretty much the sentiment of the sportsmen attending that meeting. During the three hour meeting, only one true wolf supporter was brave enough to comment - Marc Cooke, who heads a small group known as Wolves of the Rockies. He was literally laughed at by pretty much the entire crowd.
Moderator Senator Thomas reminded those in the room to be courteous enough to allow the "other side" to share their thoughts and feeling. Someone in the audience quickly reminded the Senator, "Get used to it...we've had with the stupidity of allowing wolves to destroy big game hunting."
(LOBO WATCH bumper sticker above pretty much says what needs to be done to save elk herds in the Northern Rockies from being lost forever.)
The animosity against wolves and toward state and federal wildlife agencies which have broken numerous laws and violated the ethics of the North American Model for Wildlife Management in order to transplant a non-native subspecies of wolf can be felt in the air any time Northern Rockies sportsmen and wolf supporters or wolf managers come together. So much so, that the pro-
wolf crowd now tends to cower away from such confrontations.
A number of conservation officers or game wardens were on hand at the Hamilton meeting. Still, the angry hunters who made up the vast majority of attendees had absolutely no problem talking out loudly and making statements such as... "I'll kill every wolf I see!"... "All wolves are targets of opportunity 24-7-365!"... "Shoot 'Em When You See 'Em...And Drive Off!"
Rest assured, many hunters are now doing that. The realization is that the manner in which state wildlife agencies in the Northern Rockies have mishandled taking control of growing wolf numbers has resulted in a complete loss of game in many areas. In turn, that means the loss of hunting opportunities, which has put a tremendous dent in the Bitterroot Valley economy. Hunters are no longer hunting where there is no game. Instead, they're heading to the Eastern side of the state...or out of state...to hunt. Having to do so has just been more fuel for the hatred of state wildlife agencies and all pro-wolf groups.
John Wemple, a regional director for Safari Club International, strongly criticized FWP Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson for being less than honest about wildlife population numbers. He took FWP to task over how he was told earlier in the year that game populations were up and doing fine, and how the agency now wants to eliminate hunting opportunities. Keith Kubista, president of Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and a few others in the room credited the increase in the number of elk wintering in the valley to the huge forest fires this past summer, over on the other side of the Bitterroot Mountains, in Idaho - not because of FWP's elk management practices.
(Photo Above Left - MT FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson tries to explain the reasoning behind moving hunt district boundaries...permit changes...and the elimination of some hunting opportunities - and the majority of sportsmen attending the meeting only saw it as more FWP smoke and mirrors.)
Throughout this meeting, the dozens of individuals commenting repeatedly reminded Senators Boulanger and Thomas, as well as FWP Commissioner Wolfe, that moving hunting district lines, changing game population numbers within designated hunting districts, and especially eliminating some hunting opportunities would fix absolutely nothing. As pointed and directly as possible, most echoed the same message - that the only way game populations can recover is to eliminate predators. Several times, FWP was outright accused of manipulating numbers to make it look as if the agency was doing their job. The feeling in that room was that FWP has failed to control the numbers of wolves, mountain lions and bears.
Scott Rockholm, founder of the group known as Save Western Wildlife, reminded the senators and new commission member that Montana law mandates that FWP manage wildlife for human consumption. It's not to manage wildlife to feed wolves...to feed bears...to feed lions - and not for viewing.
(Photo At Right - Scott Rockholm, founder of Save Western Wildlife, being interviewed by an NBC affiliate during a wolf protest at the federal courthouse in Missoula.)
An ever growing percentage of Montana sportsmen no longer put any trust in MT FWP's ability to ever take control of the wolf problem, and the feeling is pretty much the same next door in Idaho. Those who have witnessed the carnage that wolves leave behind, and who are now faced with hunting huge tracts of gameless mountains have also witnessed the impossibility of adequately reducing wolf numbers through "sport hunting". It has never been done anywhere else in the world. The reality is now that wolves cannot be managed, they must be controlled.
In much of Western Montana that has been hardest hit by wolf predation, wolf densities are as high as 40 to 100 wolves per 1,000 elk. Each wolf is known to kill an average of about 25 elk per year, just for sustenance. It's also known that wolves simply kill for no reason whatsoever, other than an animal may have bolted when the wolves were close. About as often as not, such "surplus kills" are not even eaten on. In other words, the wolf populations in some areas are beyond the carrying capacity of the elk herds to keep resident wolves fed.
Are those elk doomed, will those herds be lost forever?
One step in the right direction to gaining some control would be to adopt some emergency control measures for these units. Where the wolf to elk ratio is higher than 25 wolves per 1,000 elk, control hunting should be allowed 365 days a year, requiring no wolf hunting license and with no limit on the number of wolves shot. When the ratio of wolves to elk drops below 25 per 1,000, and the elk population shows signs of rebounding, then the hunting district could be returned to being managed through sport hunting. Another approach to wolf or predator control could be based on the elk population alone - allowing the taking of all predators year around with no limit in any hunting district where the elk population is below 80-percent of objective. Then when the elk numbers within the district get above 80-percent of objective, predators in that unit would once again fall under sport hunting rules and regulations.
(Photo Above Left - Northern Rockies sportsmen have grown tired of waiting for state wildlife agencies to do the right thing and eliminate a glut of predators. Wolves are now considered "Targets of Opportunity"...and making every shot count 365 days a year is the way of the Vigilante Wolf Hunter.)
What's not working is FWP's current management of wolves, and that's exactly why you may be seeing far more rifles in the back windows of pickup trucks. The back window of my old Suburban is too far to reach...so my .300 Winchester Short Magnum bolt-action Model 70 rides between my seat and console - locked, loaded and ready for action. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH