Talk With a Hunter

deer

He’s burning a huge pile of debris in the lot next to my home. Black smoke billows from the fire, darkening the clear morning sky. New to the area and wanting to be neighborly, I walk over to say Hello.

I do not recall how the talk turns to hunting so quickly, but this is a topic that lights up my neighbor’s face, already ruddy from the heat of the fire. He belongs to that tradition of hunters who wrap their personalities and their lifestyles around their sport. He travels to Alaska to hunt, he hunts here in Southern Oregon. Probably in his late 60’s, but trim and muscular and his movements sure, he looks and talks like the hunter he is.

He discusses deer hunting with my other neighbor, who is also standing beside the burn pile. The hunter prefers killing with bow and arrow. I learn that where we live, people can shoot virtually anywhere, even from their vehicles, as long as they’re 50 foot from the road. My hunter neighbor continues, bringing up the ever contentious issue of how native predators affect ungulate populations.

I watch and listen, and try to understand.black bear

“Years ago no one saw cougar or bear around here, now they’re everywhere. I killed a bear down by that barn last year.” My hunting neighbor points to the back of the property I live on, where I ride my horses, walk our dogs, sit idly in the sun.

“They’re killing all the deer and elk. They wait until the cows have their calves then they eat the babies.” He’s talking about both bear and cougar. I ask if he’s sure the black bears are doing this, we certainty don’t have  brown bears in Oregon. He says Yes.

There’s talk about the bears invading the vineyard that abuts our property in the back. They feed on the grapes so the landowner shoots them. One neighbor up the hill baits the bears, then kills them. My hunter neighbor complains that it’s illegal to use dogs to get rid of these troublesome predators. He says, “We voted it in down here, it was Eugene and Portland that voted against it.” He looks to me as if hoping for an ally in his resentment against these liberal communities.

In one sentence he says the deer are out of control, in another, he complains that the bear and cougar, and in Idaho and Montana the wolves, are decimating the deer and elk populations.

I suggest there is enough to go around. He looks at me, blue eyes sharp, and says, “Not if you’re a hunter.”

I excuse myself and leave. The sun is warm, the sky clear as I drive away from the black smoke. Another lovely Indian summer day. But the serenity of my idyllic rural home is tainted. And not by the thoughts of black bears and cougar roaming the hills that surround me. Their appetites I can understand. It’s the insatiable human desire to kill and control that will never make sense to me. No matter how hard I try.

cougar

39 thoughts on “Talk With a Hunter

  1. Kudos and thanks for sharing. This piece should be shared far and wide. There are still way too many people (mostly men, but not always) whose identitied are tied to killing, whether it is other species or our own, it doesn’t matter. It has to change, we have to evolve. The time is now.

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  2. I’m amazed at your restraint…you know me, I’d lay into to guy. But you’re wise, you could never convince someone who won’t listen and making an enemy is never the best course. I’m glad that there are people like you fighting for the rights of animals.

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    • You are right . you can never convince a person that is so positive.
      What amazes me is when they give their reasons ,often they are not logical or even true, but they are so prejudiced, they don’t even care.

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  3. That you can’t understand him is no surprise at all to me. He has forgotten more about wildlife than you will ever know. You live in a fantasy world and your wildlife experience is mostly gained through the media. It just goes to show the two sides will never meet, not with closed minded people like you.

    Oh, did it ever cross your closed mind that that it was sport hunters that brought back the nearly eliminated animals to this country? Or did you know that the greatest conservationist President we ever had was a hunter. Yeah, Teddy Roosevelt. You haven’t a clue. You really don’t. You’re nothing but emotion without logic.

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    • Jim, hunting for sport is something most people reject. Why you need to kill something for fun is beyond the ken of most people. You are the clueless one. The hunter in this article is illogical because he complains about deer and then says there are too many predators. You just don’t get it, because you choose not to understand. It would interfere with your bogus machismo.,

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    • It was hunting in the first place that nearly wiped out all large wildlife and predators. It was wildlife agencies regulating hunters that helped bring back wildlife and conservation efforts. Hunters and the wildlife agencies that cater to them mainly want game animals and recreational killing opportunities.

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  4. The sportsmen are out in the killing fields of Montana, and the ranchers are always there. They are throwbacks, vestiges of what killed and killed as settlers and ranchers and farmers marched across America, “settling it” killing all the game in sight, especially the predators, ranchers and sportsmen, and every man; until the wildlife agencies were formed and continued the killing but regulated it before it was all gone; now wildlife is kiled by the hundreds of thousands in hunting seasons and for “management” purposes; with the wildlife agencies still mostly Elner Fudd Nimrod friendly, anti-predator with his folklore about the predators wiping out the game herds. In Montana, where I live, it is time to get “your elk”, so talk at the gym, men and women, mostly men is of getting out there and killing ungulates, but also wolves and bears and lions and feathered critters; and there is the usual folklore, lies, myths about gigantic Canadian wolves killing the elk. There is talk of guided hunts and outfitters guaranteeing a kill for a price, hefty price too. Montana in 2013, I estimate, will kill about 90,000 deer, 20,000 elk, 19,000 pronghorn (antelope, 200 moose, 200 bighorn sheep, and 200 mountain goat, 1100 black bear, and thousands of birds, figures based on FWP MT recent past years’ averages. Then there are the trappers. For $19.00 a hunter can get a wolf tag good for 5 wolves and the season on wolves last six months, called management. I call it wolf jihad. I hear hunters talk of the beauty of a trophy elk, or deer, or lion or wolf or bear and the thrill they get from killing it. They are not the same as the non-hunting wildlife viewers who would rather shoot a camera. They really are different. They just have not evolved into a kinder, wildlife appreciative and conservation minded humanity.

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  5. Thanks for your comments, most of them anyway.

    Mr. Bering, I’ll make an exception this time, but will post no more of your comments. Not sure why you’re following my blog, it doesn’t seem we have much in common.

    First of all, you know very little of me and even less of my neighbor. Your comment about me gaining my knowledge from the media and him forgetting more about the wilderness than I’ll ever know is completely unfounded. Besides, when one enters the wilderness with only one intent, specifically to kill something, they stand a good chance of missing a whole lot of the experience.

    Secondly, kudos to those hunters who have been responsible for bringing back endangered animals. But let’s remember that many of these animals were exterminated by hunters in the first place. Thnk about what happened to the bison, the passenger pigeon, big cats all around the world. Here’s a good link for you to read: http://www.businessinsider.com/10-animals-that-have-been-hunted-to-extinction-2013-1?op=1

    As far as Teddy goes, he was instrumental in the movement to preserve and protect wildlands, but his hunting practices were atrocious. He killed thousands upon thousands of animals, including elephants, leopards, lions, and rare white rhinos. Hardly something to be proud of in my book. His only excuse was that he was a man of his time and there appeared to be numerous animals remaining. And he didn’t have the science we have now to prove the benefit of predators in the environment.

    To look objectively at one’s desire to kill and control, and truly see that these actions are harmful, is a huge step from emotion to logic. I love the story of my father’s dear friend, Dane Ship. He was once an avid hunter but grew out of this practice. After noticing the diminishing numbers of wild animals in his homeland of southern Iowa he said to my dad, “Someone needs to stop, and it might as well be me.”

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    • Well said, Beckie. I can attest to you vast knowledge of wildlife, wolves and most importantly ecosystems. You have been studying the subject objectively for over 30 years. Although ii is a highly emotionally charged issue, the facts still show that the wild population of animals, especially predators, cannot survive the hunter’s zeal and not be pushed to extinction.

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    • There are a number of misinformed views expressed ton both sides of this issue, as is the case with most controversies. The neighbor/hunter’s complaint that deer are out of control while simultaneously feeling that predators kill too many deer is indeed illogical, but not uncommon.

      The contention that “hunters” were responsible for the demise of much of our big game is true to the extent that the market hunters who supplied mines and early settlements with meat caused those declines and local extirpations. But modern hunters aren’t market hunters, and in spite of occasional lack of logic, they understand that you can’t kill every animal you see (that made sense for market hunters). In fact, it’s sometimes difficult for wildlife agencies to convince the hunting public that there’s a need to kill more animals, and especially females.

      Hunters have indeed been financially responsible for the recovery of many of our big game populations, through taxes on hunting equipment and ammo (same is true for fisheries and anglers). I wouldn’t argue that they do that willingly, and like most of the public, some fraction of them would prefer not to pay taxes. But overall, they seem to understand that the taxes help support their activity.

      I’m mostly concerned about the lack of civility. You don’t convince anyone of your view by calling them “clueless” (they’re not) or citing “bogus machismo” . Some–not all–hunters are extremely thoughtful about their reasons for hunting and feel a strong tie to the social and biological reasons they hunt. “Throwbacks”–really, Mr. Hewitt?

      An honest attempt to understand the views of those who think differently than you is a true sign of “evolution”. Try it.

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      • Modern trappers are indeed still market killers. A single bobcat can fetch hundreds of dollars. In many places there are no bag limits. Foxes, badgers, raccoons, beavers, muskrats, otters and now wolves are the victims. These are not nothing. They are all wildlife and they all deserve conservation considerations and they aren’t getting it. Welcome to the 1800’s. The Game Departments themselves are the new marketeers. They have to sell tags to make payroll. Outfitters and guides also are in the business of killing. It is big business.That’s why there is so much predator persecution. It is contrary to stewardship and antithetical to conservation. Market hunting is alive and well. it’s just altered its business model.

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    • Appreciate the post though it is always hard to read about hunters and their particular reasons for what they do. I thought your response to Mr. Bering was very well stated. My hat to you is tipped.

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  6. Thanks for all your words, Beckie. I get so sick of holding my tongue around hunters. I run into it at work sometimes and heaven forbid I say anything about the blood lust — I am called an extremist and I make people uncomfortable. So I keep my mouth shut at my job but I am tired of not speaking my truth. The most I say now is why are you talking about killing deer when you know it makes me so upset? This co-worker had the decency to say, one time, because I am an asshole.

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  7. Becky……thanks for your courage in writing this.
    I run into these situations almost daily in Montana, whether it’s at my grandson’s soccer, gymnastics, in restaurants etc.
    We can only hope they have no kids to indoctrinate, or if they do have them, they’ll somehow grow up resenting this “culture of killing” and will open their minds to science and compassion.

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  8. Beckie,

    With all due respect, your apparent assertion that hunting is all and only about a need to “kill and control” is trite, shallow and insulting. I’m sorry the conversation with your neighbor — at least as you’ve related it to us — didn’t go the way you wished it would have. Apparently, you don’t like his opinions on predators.
    As a life-long hunter myself, I don’t much like his opinions on predators either (or again, at least the parts you repeated back to us.)
    Hunters, like any other group of people, don’t share a single opinion or outlook on various subjects.
    As for myself, I grew up steeped in the tradition of Aldo Leopold and Edward Abbey (my father knew Abbey personally) — so you can probably guess where I fall on issues of the environment and conservation.
    And, lest we forget, it was Leopold — also a hunter — who was advocating for wolves long, long before it became fashionable to do so. If you’ve never read his essay, “The Green Fire,” I would highly recommend it.
    Regarding wolves — I’ve lived in Montana-Idaho-Wyoming nearly my entire life, and so I’ve had a front row seat to the wolf-reintroduction saga in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
    It’s been my observation that over all these years, some polarized opinions have developed regarding wolves and are, unfortunately, often the most loudly expressed. On one side are people who didn’t want wolves at all — and to this day remain bitter and angry about them being here. On the other, are folks who seem to think it’s a crime if even one wolf gets hunted and shot.
    My view is, neither of those extreme opinions is ever going to be satisfied. Wolves are here, and they belong here. Conversely — as was decided from the very begining, state managment — and at least some public hunting of wolves — will be part of the picture. It was never intended that the GYE wolves be under permanent ESA protection, and simply left untouched.
    I, personally, am glad wolves are here — and that other predators are making a comeback. I also have no plans to hunt wolves. The idea of shooting a large canine simply for a pelt doesn’t appeal to me.
    That said, I’m not going to conclude that anybody who does want to hunt wolves is a pathological jerk.
    Anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the subject. I’m glad to learn wolves are moving back into Oregon — as well as several other states.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply. My thoughts on hunting are that it has its place and time. Subsistence hunting, which I understand means to hunt only what you need to eat, seems acceptable in my book. I understand when someone goes out to shoot an elk or a deer, in an area where these animals are plentiful, and then feeds themselves, family and friends on this food. However, the bad hunters are getting much of the press these days. Many of them (ie Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation etc) are ranting that predators should be killed not only for the hunter’s gratification but also because they believe natural predators are decimating the ungulate herds that the hunters want for themselves. Hunters like yourself are being overshadowed by this take-all mentality, and I do apologize for sounding so one-sided. My excuse is a feeling of frustration knowing that wildlife is being killed not for sustenance but for bragging rights and trophies on the wall.

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    • Regarding wolves and other predators the bottom lines in my opinion are several but one major one is that the states of MT, WI, ID in particular are too hostile and backward in their thinking to be managing wolves and so are some other states. This country has exhibited a hostility and misunderstanding of the predators and an ignorance of balanced ecology from the beginning. I too have met a few hunters who do not abide by killing wolves. I have listened to hunters here maintain their folklore, lies and myths about wolves killing live stock to a degree out of touch with reality and available from the wildlife agencies statistics for them to look up: About 0.002 % is the figure for cattle and 1% or less for sheep. Elk numbers are up in every state since wolf reintroduction and the elk herds in Yellowstone have stabilized at historical levels. There are a hosts of myths to which hunters seem to hold despite the counter evidence such as the gigantic Canadian wolf myth; wolves kill for fun myth; hamstringing as the major way wolves kill; wolves waste kills myth; wildlife agency myths that the wolf numbers have to be driven down to marginal levels; the myth that predators have to be minimized or marginalized so that ungulate numbers will go way up for the sportsmen to kill. The idea of balanced healthy ecology escapes sportsmen, and that apex predators are good for the ungulate herds and have a trophic cascading effect on ecology and that man hunting is more likely to weaken herds and encourage disease. Predators and prey will usually regulate their own populations if left alone. There is an obvious barbarism and cruelty to hunting and trapping that cannot be denied and the arguments for it are rationalizations that are self-serving. Hunting and trapping are dying sports, depending on the estimates and states, down to 6% to 16%. Yes, a lot of people do find that killing wolves is a barbarism we can live without and do see that wolves should be allowed to fill up many of their old niches. We certainly do not need the anti-wolf jihad going on in the states of MT-WY-ID-WI and mid west. Most of this jihad mentality is spawned by hunters and ranchers and state and federal wildlife agencies who primarily appease them.

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      • Hi Roger and All–Thanks for this discussion. I think it is also very important to note that the group Americans for Prosperity, largely a front for the Koch Brothers (oil & gas gazillionaires), is coming out strongly against wolf protection.They have also come out strongly against the National Park Service for the Service’s efforts to protect Yosemite’s resources. Many believe they are trying to de-regulate public lands to the greatest extent possible so they can extract more fossil fuels. So it is not just hunters and ranchers and wildlife agencies who are stirring up the anti-wolf fervor–it is big oil. http://americansforprosperity.org/california/

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  9. Beckie,

    Beckie,

    No harm, no foul. The attitudes of some hunters –toward predators, deep ecology, motorized use of public lands, what I consider the parameters of fair chase and a myriad of other subjects – make me want to climb the wall. Hunters can be their own worst enemies, at least when it comes to and public relation skills and a broad understanding of the issues. I’ve met other hunters who knew everything there was to know about woodsmanship and deer or elk, but were helplessly clueless about the larger picture of the ecosystem in which the deer and elk live – and the vital role wolves and other predators play in that ecosystem.
    Regarding predators, I think there are sometimes two mentalities that are both stuck in the past. The first is what I call the “Joseph Stalin school of wildlife management” – that being the 1880s, if it moves and it’s not a cow, then shoot it mentality – enough said.
    The second, or what I call the “don’t touch them” mentality, I think, fails to recognize that we no longer have nearly the vast, uninterrupted spans of wildland we once did. Therefore, species like grizzly bears, wolves and cougars can, will and do cause problems in areas where wildlife habitat has an interface with human habitation. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we didn’t reintroduce wolves into the world of 1880 – we reintroduced them into the world of 1995. A world in which the GYE is hemmed in by all sorts of human habitation, where a roaming pack of wolves or other large predators don’t fit in so well.
    Waxing poetic about the majesty of the grizzly and the mountain lion is one thing. Having a bruin show up in your back yard or a cougar eat your poodle is quite another.
    But that leads into another issue, and since I mentioned extreme opinions in my previous post – a matter related to my own extreme opinion. I bring this up – at the risk of offending both you and your neighbor – because from what I gather, your conversation took place in a “rural” neighborhood.
    People wanting to live “out in the country” is perfectly understandable. But it’s also exactly what’s causing human-wildlife conflicts that so often lead to the shooting of bears, cougars, wolves, etc. Not to mention, “rural” homes disrupt migration routes and calving/fawning grounds for cervids, as well as eating up or checkerboarding habitat for beavers, muskrats, birds and countless other species.
    My (admittedly extreme) opinion is that – at least in the West – there should be a ban on any residence – excepting working farm and ranch homes – anywhere outside of city and town limits. That’s my own pipe dream I know will never come true, but oh well…
    Again, the desire to live “out away from town” is perfectly understandable. But it’s also an inescapable fact that subdivisions, “McMansions” and one or two acre “country estates” are probably right now the biggest bane that Western wildlife faces.
    I’m not at all anti-civilization. I love central heating, my computer, going to see a movie in digital 3D or taking my family to a parade as much as anybody else does. My complaint is, at what point do we realize, there’s no good reason for civilization to sprawl so far and wide? If all, most, or at least a whole lot more people could just settle for living in town, then human-wildlife conflicts would decrease dramatically. And we (as in the collective we) would be having far fewer of these cantankerous conversations about predators. In many instances, it would be a moot point – if the human population kept itself to the cities and towns, and left the countryside open for wildlife.

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    • There is enough wilderness left to try and preserve it and to have some rules for those who choose to live in and around it regarding behaviors that are in effect predator baiting. There are enough leases out there on public land to start retiring some: 772 permits on national forests in Montana and 3776 permits on BLM land at $1.35 per animal unit. Many conflicts with wildlife are due to people ranching and farming on public land encroaching on public wildlife. There are still enough niches left for the apex predators who have a trophic cascading healthful impact on the wildlife ecology to allow them to fill up those niches. The human hunter is what is sickness, weakness and disease producing on the ungulate herds. Man’s impact is additive, doing more harm than good as he goes after the trophy and big animal. Sports killing is not management, it is just killing.

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  10. Roger Hewitt,
    Although — even as a hunter myself — I share some of your frustation over how some hunters conduct themselves, I also think you’re being far too broad and shallow in your judgement.
    You might see the decline of hunting as a good thing — but a vital point you might be missing, is that it’s part of a wider cultural trend of increased urbanization and sub-urbanization, and drifting away from an ethic of living near or off the land and being as self-sufficent as possible. It’s no quirk that many of us who hunt primarily to put meat on the table are also the type who are likely to heat our own homes with wood, grow our own vegetable gardens and fix our own vehicles. So, no, I wouldn’t see a decline in the number of people with the knowledge, skill, willingness and physical fitness to go get their own meat directly from the land as a good thing. Again, I see it as an overall trend away from a simple, “DIY” lifestyle.
    And beyond that, you might want to consider what I touched on in my last post to Beckie.
    As bad as some hunters and poor hunting practices might be for wildlife, that pales in comparison to the toll that urban sprawl, subdivisions, more roads and more and more energy development has taken on Western wildlife.
    I don’t know you, so I’m not going to even guess your particluar circumstances. But, you surely can understand what it must look like from my perspective when non or anti-hunters living in “country estate” McMansions on what was once prime wildlife habitat look scornfully upon my yearly quest to fill the family freezer with some venison.

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    • There is not enough wildlife out there for subsistence hunting and it would be better to get your grocery including meat at the grocery. It is just another rationalization to continue the blood “sports” of hunting. A camera would be just as or more challenging. The decrease in hunting probably does have a lot to do with urbanization and suburbinization of the population, but also a more thoughtful and humane outlook on the blood sports of killing wildlife for fun. I agree that civilization is a never ending encroachment, but since Roosevelt and some early conservationists to the present there is an attempt to halt or slow and and to set aside some permanent wildernesses. Regarding wolves, there is not fair chase season: It last too long, has too high a quota, allows electronic calling, and is obviously more focused on mass killing. There are probably more people that know how to can foods, cut and chop and burn wood, hike and exist in the wilderness than just hunters. Wildlife viewing is far ahead of hunting and fishing in revenue production. You don’t have to kill wildlife to get out there and enjoy it.

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  11. Roger,
    Getting my meat from the grocery store puts my family and I at risk of hormones and chemicals — not to mention, that puts my money toward mass-producton “agri-industry” operations that are bad for the environment, bad for human health and also cruel to animals. I don’t “kill wildlife for fun” — neither do most other hunters I know. The shot takes only a few seconds. There’s a lot of work, skill, patience hard work and planning that goes into preparing to hunt, actually hunting, recovering the meat from the field once the animal is down and then finally processing it and wrapping it for the freezer. All of which I do myself, just as many hunters still do. As far as the fate of wildlife, I think, as I’ve indicated in previous posts, both ends of the wolf debate have blown things out of proportion. We heard for years the wolves would “wipe out all the elk” — but that didn’t happen. Now, we’re hearing the wolves will be wiped out. But if there’s a “Jihad” on wolves then why do they — as well as black and brown bears, cougars, and even jaguars — continue to grow and expand their range? All indications are, large predator populations are continuing to expand. And that’s a good thing.

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  12. I so appreciate these comments. We are discussing complex and controversial subjects here, and it’s great that we are doing so in an intelligent and amicable manner. More power to us!
    Regarding the continued growth and expansion of wildlife, I’m reviewing an amazing book called “Spine of the Continent,” that discusses (among other things) the natural land bridges animals cross while dispersing. These pathways are crucial to the normal movement of many species and our continued encroachment on these lands certainly does make their lives difficult.
    The concept of prohibiting urban sprawl into these areas is an important one. But we also need to look at the damage done by building more roads in order to access wildlands, and even more drastic disturbances like gas pipelines.
    It is a challenging future the world faces, in so many ways.

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    • Continuing encroachment is what we have on wildlife with leasing permits on national forests and BLM lands, people living in and close close to wilderness and demanding safety for themselves and their families and critters, easy access to wilderness, on-going seasonal mass killing of wildlife (hunting and trapping as recreational opportunities), fracking and gas lines, deforestation, killing of wildlife because it is considered a threat or too familiar with all the humans encroaching on them, USDA Wildlife Services killing machine for ranchers and farmers, anti-wolf hysteria by sportsmen and ranchers and the wildlife agencies (wolf jihad). It is called “civilization”, the march of civilization which started with settlements into farming and ranching and the ensuing war on flora and fauna which continues to this day with some, conservationists not the wildlife agencies, trying to hold the line and set some aside, a line in the sand, which is obviously being pushed back back by settlement around wilderness areas, hunting a trapping traditions, extraction industries, ranchers and sportsmen, and wildlife agencies who make too many political decisions regarding wildlife instead of scientific, conservation minded decisions.

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  13. MT FWP has issued around 6000 tags on wolves this season for a population of around 625 wolves. That is nearly 10 rifles for every wolf. This is wolf killing jihad, not management; and it is catering to the two main anti-wolf groups, ranchers and sportsmen, who share with MT FWP the idea that wolf numbers have to be driven down with no scientific reason, just the old idea that minimize the predator populations so that the ungulate population will rise for more sport killing and license sales. Wolves are apex animals, predators, which have proven good for the wildlife ecology, having a positive, trophic cascading effect on the ecologies they are in, flora and fauna. Wolves were politically delisted April 14, 2011 by a sneaky piece of legislation called a rider attached to a defense appropriation bill. The rider was attached by Senator Tester of Montana and Representative Alan Simpson fro ID. Montana wolves continue to be politically managed as is obvious from the facts that for $19 one can get a permit to kill five wolves, from extended hunt seasons, from electronic calling allowance. It is not even remotely a fair chase season. Hunting does not promote more tolerance. The ranchers and sportsmen still hate wolves and still spread lies, folklore and myths about wolves. Three myths, lies folklore are that wolves are depredating stock to a huge degree, but it is not even to a significant degree, 0.002% on cattle and less than 1% on sheep. There are 772 permits to ranch on national forests in Montana and 3776 permits to ranch/farm on BLM land in Montana, with 23,000 such permits in 16 western states. This is large encroachment on public lands and wildlife. Wolves bring 35.5 million in tourism dollars to the Greater Yellowstone Region. So, when a Montana hunter or trapper kills a Yellowstone wolf, for $19 he is killing animals worth thousands. Wildlife viewing brings in far more money than hunting and trapping. Another myth is that wolves are decimating the elk populations. Elk numbers in Montana have gone from about 89,000 before wolf return to over 140,000 now. Yellowstone elk were at an all time unsustainable high. Wolves were reintroduced in 1995-1996 into Yellowstone and ID. Yellowstone experienced two harsh winters in 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 followed by years of drought. Yet FWP continued to allow spring and fall hunts on elk coming out of the Park, like shooting cows in a field. Wolves have driven elk off the streams in Yellowstone and willow and cottonwood are returning along with beaver, birds and bees to the riverine systems. The Yellowstone elk populations have stabilized with cow-calf ratios also stabilized and normal. Global warming, over hunting, forage degradation by too many elk have been the culprits in Yellowstone, not wolves. There have been too few wolves in Yellowstone all along to have had a significant effect. MT FWP and the wildlife agencies of WY and ID and a couple of midwestern states are not managing wolves scientifically. They are engaged in wolf slaughter. These state are too hostile to wolves to be managing them buying into the ignorance, prejudice, hysteria and politics pushed by sportsmen and ranchers. MT FWP is giving MT a black eye in public relations. The USA public wants wolves on the landscape by polling results. The tourism and wildlife viewing dollars are evidently given too little weight by MT FWP which sells hunting licenses and so wants to appease the sportsmen and ranchers. Wolves are good for game populations, moving them, culling the weak and sick while man, the hunter, goes after the trophy animals and has additive negative effects on game populations. There is no proof that wolves even need to be hunted and some good arguments that hunting will do more harm than good, arguments that wolves will manage their own populations in regard to prey, arguments that wolves should be left mostly alone while the fill up old, still available niches across the west. No, MT-WY-ID and a couple of midwestern state wildlife agencies are not managing wolves in a scientific way, but instead are engaged in political management and slaughter.

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  14. Roger,
    I could not agree with you more on several key points — including, but not limited to — the YNP elk herd being grossly over-populated before the reintroduction of wolves, the benefits of the trophic cascade effects that apex predators bring to the entire ecosystem, and the hysterical exaggeration of the effects wolves have had on the cattle industry.
    One point of misinformation, however, is the notion that because 6,000 people bought wolf tags, all 6,000 will get an opportunity to shoot a wolf, until all the wolves are gone.
    The states agreed upon, and have a vested interest in, keeping a certain number of wolves. That was part of the deal from the get-go, way back decades ago, when the wolf reintroduction program in the GYE was merely an idea and a concept. If the states kill too many wolves, they undo the better part of two decades worth of work they put in getting the wolves delisted and put under state management to begin with.
    So again, the idea of a “jihad” on wolves — is, from my perspective — just the flipside of the exaggerated claims of wolves are “decimating” elk herds or “destroying” the cattle industry.
    Furthermore, you seem to be missing the fact that predator hunts typically operate on a strict mortality quota system. For instance, here in Wyoming, we might sell thousands upon thousands of wolf tags, but the kill quota for the entire season, is 26 wolves. That means once the full quota of wolves have been killed — the season shuts down — regardless of how distant the season closing date might be, or many people are left holding unfilled tags. Again, it works that way not only for wolf hunting, but all large predator seasons — such as those for cougars or bears.
    Lastly, I don’t think you can just lump “sportsmen and ranchers” in as being anti-wolf.
    There’s a range of opinions, and always has been. I’m not the only hunter who looks favorable upon wolves. And I’ve also known more than a few ranchers that either supported wolves, or simply didn’t care much either way.
    Furthermore if ranchers and hunters were:
    A: As monolithic and all-powerful over Western politics as some seem to think they are.. and
    B: As unified in a supposed searing hatred of wolves as some seem to think they are…
    …do you seriously think the wolf re-introduction program — the roots of which go back to the 1970s — would ever have gotten off the ground in the first place?

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    • Hal, I know that 6000 permits do not mean a quota will not be reinforced, but those 6000 remits to kill wolves also allow 5 wolves per ticket; and we have extended seasons and electronic calling allowed. I’m not sure there is a stated quota in general, just some in areas, like around Yellowstone and Glacier. There is nothing about wolves that is fair chase; and the obvious intent seems to be to drive down the population to marginal numbers, a number in the area of not stimulating a federal response in re-listing. It is obvious to me that from the “hunting seasons” that keep intensifying, the repeated hysteria in lies, folklore, and myths about wolves and ungulate herds and stock killing that we have wolf jihad in MT-WY_ID and some Midwestern states where the intent seems to be to kill wolves back to the edge. There is no evidence that wolf numbers have to be driven down instead of observing how they handle their own populations and survive in sufficient numbers to expand to available old niches. If hunters and state wildlife agencies have to have a hunting season, then have a normal length one avoid Yellowstone and Glacier wolf killing, a low quota and call the season good when it is done, a real fair chase season. It is also clear to me that we have wolf jihad when I read the wolf hating blogs and repetition of lies, folklore and lies there; and wolf jihad is evident by the attitudes I hear from the ranchers, hunters, and yokels I run into in my community, Great Falls MT. WY treats wolves as varmints in 90% of the state and as trophy animals in a small corridor in hunting season. Wolves were delisted by Senator Jon Tester of MT and Representative Alan Simpson of ID with a rider to a defense appropriation bill April 14, 2011 (sneaky political tactic) and the bill forbids judicial review or conservation challenges. This is clearly political management. The USFWS tried delisting once by excluding many disagreeing scientists. I have no doubt that USFWS was responding to political pressure and not following a scientific basis of decision making. The result of all this political management has been the killing of thousands of wolves before they have expanded to all or most of their old niches insuring biodiversity and survival.

      I have heard of friendly ranchers to wolves, ones who agree to living with them and relying more on nonlethal means of management. Right now they are few and far between. Friendly coexistence seems to be the case more in WA and OR and maybe soon CA. Also, I doubt that many ranchers in non-wolf habitat areas and far from then care much about the issue. But I have generally found that ranchers stick together in opinions on predators, including wolves. I still think the most traditional anti-wolf, anti-predator groups are ranchers and sportsmen. So, when I speak of them, yes it is a monolithic judgment and fair generalization which I believe justified in general and in the wolf jihad states in particular.

      Oregon, so far has the best wolf management policy in effect which does not include mass killings and requires the attempted use of nonlethal management, there are several, and then only killing problem wolves that have been chronic offenders.

      Don’t forget the history of and tradition of wolf hatred and hysteria in this country from the beginning brought here by our ancestors from the old worlds based on hysterical folklore, lies and myths. Our forefathers (ranchers, farmers, hunters, trappers, government agencies marched across the country “settling it” and killing everything in sight, especially the predators. Just recently there are conservation efforts. Even Yellowstone was originally run by the US Army which killed off the wolves there; the result being that the elk herds got out of control and had to be culled. Grazing by cattlemen was even once allowed in YNP.

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  15. Roger,

    The vehement hatred of wolves had its root in real-life situations. If you were an early settler family, and had only one or two cows between you and starving during the winter — then of course, you would hate wolves.
    Likewise, many people traversing the Oregon Trail and other paths across the West in the early days watched as wolves dug up the graves and devoured the corpses of those who had died during the journey.
    So again, a distaste for — or even hatred of — wolves didn’t just come from nowhere. That said, those days are gone, and I would agree with you that those who cling to that hatred, do so out of ignorance and hysteria.

    Like you, I don’t take issue with the general principle of wolves being huntied, but it seems we might both have issues with how it’s put into practice in some areas.
    From what you’re telling me, Montana’s policy seems quite heavy-handed.

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  16. Simply stated from my standpoints as the founder of the Ethician Foundation is that the wanton killer of native predators is that he either has an extremely small penis or an extremely large one
    that cannot become erect unless he murders a poor creature.

    There are millions of our species with very serious psycho-sexual personality disorders.

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  17. The conversation so far has only hinted at the ultimate management difficulty. Unless we address the growth of human population in our planning, we and all the other species are doomed. There are twice as many humans on the earth as there were only 35 years ago. It might be comforting to imagine that the population boom was over there, somewhere, anywhere else. However, the truth is that we see the results here, everywhere. This year’s balance of wolves/ ungulates/cattle/hunters will be unbalanced by next year’s addition of more people in the new subdivision at the edge of town. The only right held more dearly than our human “right” to utilize other life forms for our own benefit, is our idea that we have the right to multiply at will. Unfettered growth is unsustainable in any species, in any ecology, on any planet.

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