The Science of Killing Wolves

The death of at least 8 Yellowstone wolves, especially that of 832F, better known as 06, has spurred worldwide attention. As result of this tragedy and the concerted efforts of Wolves of the Rockies and other advocacy groups and individuals, as well as the foresight of the Montana FWP commissioners, wolves crossing the northern border of the park into Montana will now be safe from bullets and traps.

wolf pic 2

This is how the world works when wolves are involved. We kill off the individuals that are significant to research, one’s known and respected by thousands, or we annihilate populations to the brink of extinction, before the decision to protect them is made.

wolf huntersThe disasters of Manifest Destiny, which included a planned genocide against both native peoples and native animals, especially predators, allowed for no protection at all. It is only because of small pockets of tenacious wolf populations and the foresight of people like Aldo Leopold that wolves survived in the lower 48 at all. The native people survived due to their own devices, and eventually with the help of a slow and narrow minded justice system that finally kicked in to help.

The protection of wolves leaving Yellowstone and wandering into Montana is a huge step forward and a rare victory for those who see wolves as they truly are, a keystone species that deserves to grace the landscape of what little remaining wilderness there is.

Yet I remain frustrated over discussions on the management of wolves. There is much talk about science. Science is the way we are governed to discuss wolves these days. Science is what we grasp onto in order to defend the mere existence of these animals. It has become the only language allowed, the only evidence that is admissible in court, if you will, when we stand up against groups like The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cattleman’s Associations, the NRA.

I have no argument against science but we need to extend our thinking past it. For one thing, we need to realize how little, despite all the research done, we know about wolves and the environment as a whole. It will take centuries of objective study before humans can truly grasp the concept of a natural ebb and flow of wildlife populations that supersedes all need for control, and eventually, if only for a time, results in homeostasis. Perhaps the wolves and elk have reached this plateau in Yellowstone. But it will no doubt disintegrate again, as we will view it, for reasons beyond us.images

So when we use science, as we must to stand our ground, perhaps we can also interject the rather obvious fact that the managing of wildlife is still an experiment and is based on human desires and needs, not because it is essential for the animals or the environment.

People manage wolves because we have to manage the people who dislike them. We allow wolves to be hunted and trapped because of the theory that this will increase the social acceptance of wolves. As far as I can see, this theory did not work in the 1800s. And I don’t believe it is working now. If anything, the blood lust has increased as trophy hunters and trappers are given legal rein to slaughter wolves.

Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and soon Michigan, are condoning this behavior. When will the social acceptance arrive? When will the individuals who see killing wolves as sport reach a level of satiation? And when will we reach out of the box and pull the pendulum to the other side, the side that allows wolves to manage themselves, as they do so well in Yellowstone and Isle Royale? With rare exceptions, wolves don’t need to be culled and controlled, they need to be left alone.

Isle Royale

Isle Royale

15 thoughts on “The Science of Killing Wolves

  1. “We allow wolves to be hunted and trapped because of the theory that this will increase the social acceptance of wolves. As far as I can see, this theory did not work in the 1800s. And I don’t believe it is working now. If anything, the blood lust has increased as trophy hunters and trappers are given legal rein to slaughter wolves.”
    We’ve spent 15 years compromising away their lives beginning with the original compromise decision to introduce them as “experimental/non-essential (10J Rule). Defenders thought it would increase tolerance for wolves among ranchers. Instead it led to bloodthirsty killing which continues today. Defenders was wrong about the value of compromise then, and continuing today. They and others thought that people would be more rational and education would be the key. We are now finding out that education, number of wolves killed, livestock killed etc means nothing to the majority of wolf haters.
    Maybe we’re finally waking up to the fact that solving classic Western issues with a “break bread together, pollyanna approach” has done lots of damage to conservation by diverting us from hard-ball strategies that work to collaborationist strategies that protect the status quo. Who benefited from such a misguided strategy? Certainly not wolves, other wildlife or the land.
    Many confuse passion, integrity, and resolve with extremism. So many times I’ve noticed calls to stand up, rally, and demonstrate integrity are followed by calls to sit down, don’t rock the boat, and remain dispassionate.
    If only people were as willing to collaborate with those groups willing to “take a stand” as they are willing to collaborate with the likes of the livestock industry.
    Thankyou, Becky for allowing my rant and thankyou for writing an excellent piece.


  2. Exclellent, Becki. I’ll proudly wear the “Extremist” badge until the wolf issue is appropriately addressed.. Ideally we would let wolves balance themselves but it doesn’t look promising that they will ever be “allowed”. When these horrific hunts are over for this year, it will be interesting to see what the ungulate numbers will be, won’t it? The science, as you and Jerry say, has become necessary “ammo” for any attempts to help wolves, yet simultaneiously it seems to extract some of the wildness from the wild. I DO NOT understand nor appreciate why those who are shooting collared wolves are not heavily penalized. Is it because “they” are HUNTERS?? It defies logic that they are actually allowed to do so. Why is this not being addressed?
    Mack Bray of Wildlife Watchers recently introduced me to The Public Trust Doctrine which is “a tenant of common law whereas states are mandated to manage all their resources on behalf of ALL the people and not just special interest groups…” He feels this doctrine must be expanded into the WILDLIFE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE and would define the future of wildlife management.
    A lot of work and would take time, but a very worthy goal. This mindless, wanton killing of wildlife cannot continue.


  3. Thank you for your well written piece. You alluded to some of our history with respect to wildlife management. There is nothing scientific or rational when it comes to management of wolves. Nothing has really changed in the way we deal with predators. Back in the 1870’s and 1880’s the US adopted a political strategy to force Indians onto reservations. This was done by allowing the SLOB market hunters to exterminate the wild buffalo……When all the game was gone the wolves had nothing else to eat but cattle…..We all know how that turned out….It’s the same two groups of people- Ranchers- the enemies of biodiversity- and the modern day Slob hunter I call them…..the people that are engaging in “domestic terrorism” on our wild wolves….We have emails from some of the outfitters from Hells a roarin outfitters out of gardiner, Montana. One of the them commentd that it was his duty as an elk hunter to shoot these wolves……collar- who cares- scientific research- what’s that- ince again who cares…..these people have crossed the line- they have been empowered by FG agencies that completely ignore the social makeup and biology of these animals… I follow these issues very close- and I have made a hundred enemies in the anti-wildlife crowd- How do you communicte with an illiterate person who brags that he thinks he killed the “alfa” wolf? Can’t ven spell “alpha”- the problem is simple- the five or so extremist hunting groups of predator haters namely SCI, the NRA, the”sportsmen for “some” fish and wildlife (mule deer and elk), Big game forever, and the US Sportsmen’s Alliance, work with Governors and FG agencies to appoint their people into the Wildlife Commissions…The most glaring example of this extremism is Don Peabrain Peay and his group of predator haters…..One of their top people was appointed as head of the NM wildlife Commmission and soon after- the State pulled their support for the Mexican Gray Wolf even though 70% of the public supports wolves…This is a big problem moving forward- people need to mobilize and make these idiot politicians defend animal cruelty….In the meantime hunters are making a statement that wolves are worth more dead than alive- which we know is not true……Revenue from wolf tourism brings in millions of dollars to local communities and someone can legally kill a wolf for a 30.00 hunting tag- is that rational? Does that make economic sense? Is that representative of decent American values? I don’t think so…..
    Wolves are in real trouble- I don’t have the time to lay out all the politics that have played out in just about every state that is killing wolves now…..There is a picture in Predatory Bureaucracy page 62 which haunts me to this day- the unwilling delegates from Wyoming photo……this is the face of persecution….
    This link explains how the DOI and Ken Salazar have been using “science” with regard to wolf management…..Scroll back to september on the Mex Gray Wolf…


  4. Sorry- it’s page 46 in Predatory Bureaucracy…….The PEER articles are shown in the archives from mid 2012 and two in September……


  5. I so appreciate your wonderful comments. One thing I’m realizing about writing this blog is that it is a tremendous learning opportunity for me and others. I put a few words out and then folks like all of you respond and the discussion goes deeper and deeper. Thanks, all of you, I’m learning a ton!


  6. Once again, WELL DONE, Beckie!!!!! Yes, all these dead wolves and where is the tolerance level? There are those who only want to kill more wolves, doesn’t look like tolerance is increasing, does it? RMEF, Big Game Forever, SCI,. and local “sportsman’s” organizations further drive the point that wolves MUST be managed. Well, they are being managed but what do these groups really want? NO wolves. None. And these groups, including the NRA, spend a LOT of money to get what they want from federal, state and local politicians. These people do not see the ability to kill wolves as responsible management, they just see that they get to kill wolves. Are wolves being managed like other wildlife, the common excuse for killing wolves. NO!! Is there science behind wolf “management”? NO! Is that wrong? YES!!!
    Thank you, Beckie!!!!!!


  7. Look at what they were going to do to the wolverines! Have a trapping season which would allow the capture of FIVE wolverines when there were only a total of 35! I think Jim covered this in Exposing the Big Game. How sick is that? Maybe we need some huge billboards – with graphic photos – and names of POLITICIANS who voted in favor of – or condoned it. Then again, “they’ll” probably create a law prohibiting such a display … or … they’d contrive it as terroriists as per the AETA. I just wish MORE people would get as furious about this as we are.
    Again….investigate of mull over using the Public Trust Doctrine extrapolated to a Wildlife Public Trust Doctrine.


  8. This blog said it all. I also want to add that the idea of killing wolves will make people tolerant of wolves is the most ridiculous and asinine excuse I have heard to date! How does killing wolves create tolerance of them? They were nearly made extinct in the 1930s by people hunting and killing them so I would like Randy Newburg and Doug Smith to explain why their wasn’t any tolerance with all the hunting and killing back then! Killing them will not make these sadists any more tolerant than they were 80 years ago! In fact with the outrageously loose hunting regulations that are set on the wolves, it looks like they will be wiped out again while doing it under the guise of wildlife management. Killing wolves will not make these people more tolerant of them because they have made it clear they want them wiped out and they want to have their sadistic thrills while they do it! So I want them to explain how killing the wolves will make wolf haters more tolerant. I want them to explain Toby Bridges who has an anti-wolf organization called Lobo Watch and why he and his followers talk about torturing wolves and ways to make them suffer while killing them so they die in the most painful ways they can make them during their hunts. I want them to explain why Toby Bridges and his followers have threatened, harassed, bullied, and intimidated wolf lovers and have gotten away with it. I also want them to explain why hunters and trappers have been flaunting pictures of the wolves they killed and rubbing it in the faces of wolf lovers while thumbing their noses and taunting them. I also would like Randy Newburg to explain why he publicly taunted wolf lovers on the episode of his show when he killed wolves and even put a cap that said Team Elk on the dead wolf’s head while posing with it’s corpse for the cameras? The behavior displayed by these hunters is pretty self explanatory that they hate wolves and have no intention of being tolerant of them. They will only become tolerant of wolves when they hunt them to extinction. At the same time, I wonder why wolf lovers have not done more to fight back? Wolf Lovers need to become more aggressive and forceful if they ever hope to stop this and save the wolves that are left before its too late! I don’t know about my fellow wolf activists but I have absolutely no tolerance for hunters and I will only become tolerant of hunters when they cease to exist! I want to destroy and take away the hunter’s sadistic hobby for all the grief they have caused. I just hope other wolf lovers sincerely feel the the same way I do.


    • Who are Randy Newburg and Doug Smith? Apparently some tv hunting program? And that is allowed? Glad I didn’t see it. A few hundred people writing into the station might put a stop to it.
      Regarding Toby Bridges, it’s incomprehensible that the wildlife agencies or others do not put a stop to it. Maybe they’re afraid of the NRA, too? Would they be so lenient, say, if I were to toss a few traps into a big black trash bag? I think not.
      It’s possible that we “watchers” are going in so many different directions right now (out of necessity) which makes it difficult to accomplish anything substantial. Organization – true organization – is what we need to emphasize our message of intolerance for wildlife mass slaughter and torture.


  9. As I sit in front of my computer screen, as it seems I do often these day trying to find the right words to defend the wolves I love so much, I realize it is my passion that speaks for them, not the science. I do not feel the science that creates quota zones, I do not feel the science that explains predator/prey dynamics, and I do not feel the invisible boarder that I must draw as a live or die line for these animals. I do however feel what it is like to be in the presence of this animal. The excitement to see it hunt, the intensity to hear the howl in its rejoice and the deep sorrow and pain to hear it mourn. I know it is those feelings that keep me in this fight, I know that I will wake up tomorrow and use the best science i have to protect these creatures that haunt my soul — because we as a society have forgotten what it is to feel. We have lost all empathy for things that do not directly affect us.
    As always Beckie, your words dig deep in my soul and make see that I am not alone in how I feel. Thank you my friend


  10. Beckie once again, you have spoken to my heart, which is heavy with grief for the constant hatred for wolves, which we continue to see everyday as advocates who stand up for these incredible animals, who are are incredibly misunderstood and vilified. I too am wondering just where this tolerance is and when it is going to reveal itself on the landscape that is continually filled with wolves that are shot, trapped and tortured. These “hunters” who claim to love the wilderness and all that word embodies, yet they have zero tolerance for the apex predator, who keeps the wild landscape in balance to me is the ultimate dichotomy.

    Your statement on how very little we know, despite all the research done about wolves and the environment as a whole speaks volumes. My concern is this: who among us is actually listening?


  11. We wolf and wildlife advocates, as intelligent, sensitive, reasonable humans, try to play ‘nice’, be ‘fair’, use rational argument , facts, common sense and education.

    It isn’t working.

    We need to start playing as low-down and dirty as they do. THEY quietly slip self-serving legislation through by attaching it to completely unrelated, must-pass bills. THEY don’t allow for a public comment periods or, if they do, they conveniently overlook any comments that don’t advance their personal agendas. THEY write confusing proposed acts that veil true intent. THEY pay off key people, use blackmail, coercion, form huge alliances, start fear-based, shameless media campaigns at the expense of our wildlife and wild lands, using key trigger words like JOBS, MONEY, SAFETY, FREEDOM, COMMUNISM/SOCIALISM and more. All designed to play on the fears and defensiveness of uneducated, fearful. paranoid, gullible masses.

    We need to learn how to play that way. . Or take to the woods ourselves and fight fire with fire.

    I love Paul Watson.

    It’s time we begin getting our own people into office, in key positions, getting the dirt on our adversaries and grabbing them by the short hairs until they cry. Blackmail, coercion, you name it, we need to learn how to do it they way they have been doing it, if we are to save our wolves, wildlife and wild lands.

    There’s a great saying that goes something like this: Intelligent people hesitate in self-doubt while ignorant ones forge ahead in confidence.

    This, my friends, is war.


  12. I am re-reading Farley Mowat’s “Never Cry Wolf”. He has a few things to say about “wildlife managers”. The book is old, but still very relevant. The problem is that many of the individuals that go into “Wildlife Management” love to hunt and fish more than they love the idea of preserving things. I will say that I read Doug Smith’s Decade of the Wolf. But I don’t often hear from guys like Smith and Mech about how they feel in regards to these hunts. I know that Smith stated in his book that the only way re-introduction to areas outside National Parks could be deemed successful is if the wolf could be taken off the endangered specis list. I don’t know, however, that he intended for such aggressive hunting and trapping measures. I know that here in Wisconsin, where I live, one of the retired DNR experts, Dick Theil, tried to sue the state for allowing dogs in the hunt. I was happy to hear him take a stand on that.


  13. I also agree with the sentiment I feel you are getting at here, which is that ultimately wolf preservation is a value judgment that really ends up being outside of the purview of science. We can argue until we are blue in the face that wolves sustain healthy eco-systems, but to a sportsman’s club or outiftter that is like trying to convince an oil company that we need more solar and wind.


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