Wolves of the Rockies, Spreading the Word

This morning, as much welcomed rains poured down at both ends of the receiver, I had a long chat with Marc Cooke of Wolves of the Rockies (WotR). According to Marc, Wolves of the Rockies was created to “Bring fairness, transparency, credibility and to improve social tolerance in the wolf scenario of the Rocky Mountain Region.” With over 3,600 thumbs up on their Facebook page, this organization is doing a lot to educate and spread accurate information for the benefit of wolves.

Marc is greatly assisted in his efforts by his wife, Lorenza Cooke, who does an exemplary job of keeping the WotR Facebook page current and interesting. Their site is always full of great photos and timely information. Rhonda Lanier, WotR’s California representative, is an avid wolf supporter as well, and works for the organization on a National level, educating politicians on the need to safeguard wolves. Kim Bean lives in Montana and puts herself in the hot seat, testifying in front of decision makers who hold power over the welfare of wolves.

Marc and Lorenza at Nancy Taylors’ Wolf People in Idaho

My conversation with Marc was sparked by a recent post on WotR’s Facebook page showing a photo of a Montana license plate that read DIE WLF. 219 comments followed the post, most expressing their shock and dismay over the plate. But a few had no objections to it at all, some even condoned it.

The following is a series of exchanges between Marc, Kim, and Robert Cope, a DVM from central Idaho who has chaired the Idaho wolf depredation compensation committee for the last ten years.

Mr. Cope has apparently made up his mind about wolves.  He comments on the DIE WLF Facebook post:

As far as I can see, the debate {regarding wolves}is largely one of perception versus reality. The pro-wolf advocates have done such a good job promoting false information that those who get their information second-hand really have no way to understand the problems that have been created in the northern Rockies. It’s sad, but these attitudes result in huge donations to groups such as Defenders of Wildlife…”

Marc lives in Stevensville, Montana at the threshold of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, and not only has wolves nearby, but also mountain lions and bears. A lion made a kill only 150 yards from his house, but this was “no big deal,” he said, just part of living in the wilderness. Kim lives in Montana as well, where she packs mules into the back-country. Her response to Cope’s statement was:

“I understand FULLY what it is to live among predators. That is WHY I live here. I understand the ramifications of such a life and I take all necessary non-lethal precautions to do so. If I didn’t understand, and didn’t want to take that risk I sir would live in the city.”

This willingness to compromise is key here. Unfortunately, the powers that be in the livestock industry, including the Farm Bureau, the various Cattleman’s Association, and prominent individuals such as Mr. Cope, continue to perpetuate a belief system that the risk of predators is something ranchers should not have to deal with. Historically, they haven’t needed to. With the assistance of the US government, with Wildlife Services holding the sword, wolves were eradicated from virtually all of the lower 48 by the early 1900s. And even now, wolves that prey on cattle are lethally removed, ask the Wedge pack. My notes from Carter Niemeyer’s talk in Yreka, CA in May of this year reveal that between 1987 and 2011 1,700 wolves were killed by the government. The numbers of coyotes, cougars, bears, and other predators that are lethally removed is astronomical, check the website of Predator Defense for statistics on this.

The ability to “understand the ramifications of such a life,” is an impressive statement, and I wish more ranchers would investigate this concept and put it into practice. They willingness to shift practices and accept assistance from others is the best hope the livestock industry has. Wolves are here to stay, and those that realize their value in the environment are not about to back down and allow them to be exterminated again.

Returning to the online exchange, Marc asks Cope to provide verification for the following statement:

Ranchers have been suffering for eight years because no payment is made if no dead calf is found,” said Lemhi County Commission chairman Robert Cope. “In fact, the best estimate we have is that for every confirmed calf kill, between five and seven other calves simply disappear as wolf food. This program is late in coming, but at least we can finally get some compensation for the ranchers who have been paying personally for wolf reintroduction.”

Cope does not respond with verification for his words. He does explain the laborious process ranchers must go through in order to receive compensation, and he discusses the number of missing calves. But there is no proof cited.

Cope’s claim is reminiscent of one made at the recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife meeting over the Wedge pack. It was said by a staff member that 80 to 90% of wolf kills are not found. Carter Niemeyer agreed with me that this was false. He wrote on FB:

I would call that a gross exaggeration when reference is made to “wolf kills”. If you are out checking the livestock regularly, birds and scavengers will reveal predator kills AND the calf carcass remains will still be around. When 80-90 percent of your stock is not discovered at all then I would be calling a brand inspector. Because livestock doesn’t turn up or is not found should not reflect on predation which is one of the smallest percentages (5%) of loss compared to other causes of death or disappearance. Bad statement with little supporting evidence BUT none-the-less wolves become the main scapegoat in all of the Western states these days.”

Cope also brings up the fabled Canadian wolf argument, saying:

“…we had wolves here before the introduction of the Canadian wolves. Sadly, they were the first casualties. They were smaller and slower than their northern counterparts, and were quickly eliminated. Resentment comes from the fact that no one seemed to even consider the stockmen’s concerns regarding a new predator, and a non-native one at that. These wolves appear to be simply too efficient for the ecosystem here.”

I find it mildly amusing when an individual, especially an educated one, buys into the belief that wolves that trot across the Canadian border into the US are any different that wolves that trot in the opposite direction. This fallacy has been scientifically refuted so many times I would think one would be embarrassed to continue to use it. Yet when I travel to Northeast Oregon I see the “No Canadian Wolf” posters plastered to the windows of shops and cafes. Guess more education is needed.

The associates of Wolves of the Rockies spend a lot of time embroiled in the current wolf wars. On Friday, Marc spoke up for wolves at a Montana Fish and Wildlife Commissioners meeting regarding their plan to loosen protocols on wolf trapping. Marc stands strong against trapping but he states he is not against ranching. Yet he believes, “The livestock industry is the core reason we’re having problems with {protecting} wolves. They have the mentality that the land belongs to them and that’s got to change. There needs to be a balance, but wolves should have priority over cattle on public lands.”

What can we do to help? Rhonda points out that,  “My greatest concern or problem if you will is getting people off Facebook and in contact with their members of Congress, the President, and in cases where people live in a state that is lucky enough to have wolves, getting involved locally. It take such a small amount of time and effort to pick up the phone and call your Senators and Members of the House, but so many people just fail to understand how important this is!”

When I asked Marc why he does so much to support wolves he said,” I’ve always been for the underdog. And with great power comes great responsibility.”

Thank you, Marc, and the rest of you at Wolves of the Rockies for having the insight and courage to accept your responsibility in coexisting with native wildlife. And thanks for speaking up and for spreading the word. As you say, things are changing, but this change is only because of the persistent and challenging efforts you and others are making.

Rhonda Lanier

Kim Bean

5 thoughts on “Wolves of the Rockies, Spreading the Word

  1. Beckie thank you so much for featuring Wolves of the Rockies, and the work Marc, Lorenza and Kim and I are committed to in protecting these incredible animals we are so fortunate to share our world with. As you so very correctly pointed out, the amount of erroneous information, some of which, I am sad to say is deliberate, concerning wolves never ceases to amaze me. The one of the Canadian wolf vs. the “US” version, simply defies even basic common sense.

    I take great exception to Mr. Cope’s remark “As far as I can see, the debate {regarding wolves}is largely one of perception versus reality.” You are correct in stating that the livestock industry, which certainly including the very powerful Farm Bureau, as well as the the various Cattleman’s Association, and prominent individuals such as Mr. Cope, do continue to perpetuate a belief system that the risk of predators is something ranchers should not have to deal with.

    This is where our jobs and wolf and wildlife advocates really come into play. I am from the East Coast originally (Atlanta, Georgia) and to say that people have no inkling as to what is really happening here in the Northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest is a vast understatement.

    And finally, for Cope or anyone else to say that 80 to 90% percent of wolf kills goes undetected, again simply defies scientific truth. Our good friend Carter Niemeyer certainly is much better qualified to make sound judgment calls on wolf kills. And it is the responsibility of a livestock grower to protect his cattle or sheep; this in fact requires that grower to be out actively checking his herd; carcasses do not just “magically disappear”!

    We have too long seen wolves become the convenient scape goat, and we at Wolves of the Rockies will continue to fight this.


  2. Great article! And I’m glad you brought up the proven to be wrong argument about “Canadian” wolves. Even though it’s obviously wrong, let’s humor the logic for a moment… Wolves have been on this continent for thousands of years. Even if there was some vague subspecies distinction (which there’s not) they would still be more “native” to this continent than cattle. Cattle were bred in Europe and have only been on this continent for a few hundred years. Kindof like their domesticators. If we are going to talk about “native” versus “invasive” species, let’s remind the ranchers that they are living of the fat of stolen lands.


  3. Thank you so much for the shout out! We are working hard here in Montana and with the help of folks like you — we WILL continue to make a difference. Thanks for helping our voice get louder.


  4. Great article as always Beckie and so glad to see Marc featured here. Marc is a die hard advocate for the wolf, often wading into the midst of the hate groups alone to speak on the wolf’s behave. We are very fortunate here in Western Montana to have Marc and his terrific wife Lorenza, Thank you both for all that you do for wildlife and most of all for being my friends.
    Steve Clevidence


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