Dominant Wolf Breeding Theory Debunked...Just Another Wolf Lie!
Editorial News/Press Release
May 30, 2013
Which Wolves Breed...Which Don't?
In Montana, six regional "Wolf Specialists", with the help of a handful of state wildlife biologists, have been able to accomplish something that 18,889 wolf license holders apparently had a difficult time doing - and that's locating wolves. At the end of 2012, those wolf specialists and wildlife biologists readily announced that there were "at least" 625 wolves still roaming the state, while all of those 2012 wolf tag holding hunters and trappers only managed to find and take 225 wolves during the season that was open for basically six months - from September 1 to February 28, 2012.
(Photo At Right - A well tuned wolf rifle and calls ready for action. All that's needed is a wolf within 400 yards.)
In all fairness, it should be pointed out that those six wolf specialists and the state wildlife biologists that lend them a hand are stretched pretty thin, trying to keep up with wolf numbers across a state that covers nearly 146,000 square miles. They also keep tabs on the degree of damage wolves continue to deal populations of elk, moose, deer and other big game, plus the impact that wolves are having on livestock production.
Physically counting wolves with any degree of accuracy is impossible, especially in a state as huge as Montana. It's safe to say that close to 90-percent of the recognized wolf population is found in the western one-third of the state, where the terrain is most rugged and inaccessible, not to mention the thick and heavy forestation of the steep slopes and deep valleys. Spotting wolves from an airplane or helicopter at any time of the year is poor at best, particularly in Northwest Montana where both the canopy overgrowth and wolf populations are the most dense. Without physically seeing wolves, population figures have become something of a not so hi-tech guessing game - no one knows for sure just how many wolves there really are in Montana, or for that matter how many wolves are currently in the Northern Rockies.
Thus, the qualifier "at least" is used any and every time that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks references a computer model determined minimum number of wolves in the state. Those numbers are extremely misleading, since there is no way that Montana's wolf specialists and biologists actually observed anywhere near the "at least" 625 wolf count at the end of 2012, nor have they physically established the 146 packs and 37 breeding pairs also claimed. Those numbers are all determined by computer modeling - based on data, good or bad, that's programmed into the model.
(Photo At Left - Male wolf (right) courts a female wolf during breeding.)
Of all the MT FWP claims, the one that is likely more suspect than any other is the number of breeding pairs. The original Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan called for a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in the state. Montana's wildlife agency gave themselves something of a wolf management buffer by adopting minimum numbers of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs.
Back when the wolf experts were assembled to draft the "Plan", which was approved in August of 1987, the contention among those so-called "experts" was that only the dominant alpha male and the alpha female would mate - and all subordinate male and female wolves would not. That theory was pretty much debunked when it was discovered that the studies conducted which came to that conclusion had been done with captive wolves - not free ranging open country wolves. Wolf researchers now realize that there are often several breeding pairs within a pack, and that breeding also takes place when nomadic wolves come together and form a new pack.
Still, MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks claims that only about 25-percent of the "known" wolf packs within the state have a breeding pair.
Before the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan was drafted by a team of "wolf experts", the belief was that only the alpha male and alpha female of a pack would breed, leading to the stipulation that a recovered wolf population would only occur when there were 100 wolves with 10 breeding pairs in each Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The states voluntarily pushed those minimums to 150 wolves with 15 breeding pairs in each. The popular belief among wolf researchers during the late 1980's and 1990's was that, to prevent too much competition for available prey, the alpha male and alpha female of such dominant breeding packs not only did the breeding for that pack, but for subordinate satellite packs as well.
(Photo At Right - Poor early research wrongly claimed that only the alpha male and alpha female wolves mated for breeding.)
One such researcher was Dr. L. David Mech, who was deposed as an expert witness during the 2008 wolf delisting hearings. Mech also supported and promoted the popularized notion that only select dominant males and females bonded for breeding purposes in his book "The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species", published in 1970. He based his writings on wolf breeding behavior on the earlier studies conducted by wolf behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel - on captive wolves enclosed in sizeable compounds. During the late 1990's, Mech spent several summers living with and studying wild wolf packs in the Northwest Territories - and discovered a completely different breeding behavior. He has since worked to correct the misinformation he helped to perpetuate.
What he observed were wolves which often whelped several different litters of pups within the same pack, with different parents, or at least with different females. Mech also came to realize that the offspring of these packs generally became nomadic between ages 1 and 2, roaming the tundra until they joined the offspring of other packs to form an entirely new pack - which became a new family group, and a new breeding pack. He had established that free-roaming wolves did not adhere to the breeding behaviors exhibited by captive wolves.
This more widely spread breeding pattern is not limited to the wolves of the open tundra or the Far North. Mech also realized that such breeding behavior also occurs in the Northern Rockies. In an article he wrote for International Wolf magazine, Winter 2008, he shared this observation of such breeding in the Greater Yellowstone Area, "There, young wolves disperse at a later age, when 2 to 3 years old instead of 1 to 2, thus making packs larger and containing more mature individuals than most packs do elsewhere. In these packs where both the mother and some of her daughters mature, all sometimes get bred during the same year, the daughters usually by outside males."
(Photo At Left - Wolf Control Warriors protesting outside Missoula, MT federal courthouse - demanding more stringent wolf control.)
The myth that "only the alpha male and alpha female breed" is just one of many lies that the residents of the Northern Rockies have had to live with since the launch of the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project in the early 1990's. It's as if an agenda driven U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service handed state wildlife agencies like Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks a script, and demanded that they follow it to the letter - and to not allow facts or the truth temp them to steer back in favor of logic, common sense, or honesty.
By its own admittance, MT FWP has not had the expertise to manage wolves. Over and over again, the agency has referred to its management of wolves in this state as "Adaptive Wolf Management", claiming that the agency has been learning as it goes. That amateur approach to controlling the impact of apex predators such as gray wolves, mountain lions and bears has resulted in the catastrophic loss of big game herds in most of Western Montana. Easily, 50 to 75 years of wildlife conservation has been lost to the state encouraged proliferation of wild carnivores - and Montana's wildlife agency continues to insure growing predator numbers and problems by enforcing hunting regulations that guarantee that come next spring there will be more of the predators on the landscape than before the start of the previous fall hunting seasons.
(Photo At Right - As far as MT FWP knew, this wolf pack didn't even exist at the time the photo was taken. A trail camera caught them coming back to a kill.)
What MT FWP wolf specialists and biologists don't know about wolves, or mountain lions and bears for that matter, has turned much of the state into a wildlife wasteland - and Montana's governor and legislature continues to allow it to happen. One thing is for certain, FWP has absolutely no clue about the true number of wolves in the state - or how many of those 146 packs have breeding females and males. The evidence now says there are one heck of a lot more than 37 breeding pairs.
Robert Fanning, of Pray, Montana, who is the founder and president of the 3,000 member strong group known as the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, says, "When it comes to wolf biology, no one at MT FWP has credentials even close to that of Dr. L. David Mech. No one!"
He points out that in May of 2008, Dr. Mech swore in federal court that, at that time, there were 3,000 wolves in the Northern Rockies. Fanning commented that one does not have to be Einstein to do the simple math to come up with the true number of wolves now roaming Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. That math, based on the 30-percent annual growth rate Mech has determined for a healthy wolf population, and allowing for all natural and man caused wolf losses, would still reveal a current wolf population of around 5,000 wolves in the three states. Montana's share would be in the neighborhood of "at least" 1,800 to 2,000 wolves - not the "at least" 625 wolves now claimed by FWP.
Former USFWS biologist and division chief Jim Beers says that the minimizing of wolf numbers and the number of breeding pairs is all a part of the subterfuge used by state and federal wildlife agencies to counter anyone who does that math and challenges that there are far more wolves than those agencies claim. He calls the notion that only alpha male and alpha females breed pure bull feces!
(Photo Above - Doomed moose slowly bleeds out as this Greater Yellowstone Area wolf pack waits for it to go down. Then they will feed on the animal while it is still alive.)
Beers adds, "Any male canid ...dog, wolf, coyote, dingo... will crawl on his belly through shattered glass and dig under a penitentiary wall to get at a female in heat."
Things are going to heat up in Montana as true sportsmen groups push for farther reaching legislation calling for the emergency reduction of predator numbers, as phony wildlife conservation organizations are exposed for what and who they really are, and possibly even a lawsuit that is likely to be filed against Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for willingly having a hand in the destruction of big game herds. Looks like it's going to be a long, hot summer - and many of the wildfires erupting won't be up on the slopes. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH