Living with Wolves Speaks Up

Living with Wolves photo

Living with Wolves photo

I find writing about the Idaho wolf situation a challenge. There is rarely anything but bad news coming from that state and I don’t want to innundate you with that. And I feel, as many do, an immense frustration about how Idaho fails to appreciate the great wealth of natural resources it holds, especially wolves. It reminds me of my days in Alaska, so much wilderness and wildlife, yet also so much ignorance.

I’m grateful we have strong forces in Idaho speaking up for wolves. Garrick Dutcher, program director for Living with Wolves, is one such individual. He and his Idaho based organization are a primary source for educating the world about wolves. They are active politically, supporting science based decisions in the management of wolves. Their website is one of the best places to visit to stay informed on what’s going on in wolfdom.  And if you haven’t had a chance yet, be sure and read The Hidden Life of Wolves by Jim and Jamie Dutcher. Truly an amazing book.

Today, Garrick’s extremely informative editorial appeared in the Idaho Statesman.  I’ve copied it here to share with you. Thanks, Garrick and Living with Wolves, for standing in the front line in the ever difficult battle to protect Idaho wolves.

Living with Wolves photo

Living with Wolves photo

Garrick Dutcher: Back off wolf crusade and dispel dark cloud over Idaho

April 1, 2014 Updated 11 hours ago

Year after year, Idaho demonstrates its intolerance for wolves. Idaho Department of Fish and Game, while tasked with preserving all of Idaho’s wildlife, continues to ratchet up hunting, trapping and snaring pressure on Idaho’s diminishing wolf population.

Around 600 wolves live in Idaho, which is also home to 83 times more coyotes, 33 times more bears, and four-to-five times more mountain lions than wolves. All of these species eat other animals to survive and all sometimes attack livestock. But Idaho reserves its special treatment for wolves alone.

Idaho’s wolf population has fallen consistently since 2009. Every year wolves have been under state management, Idaho has expanded, extended and loosened wolf hunting and trapping regulations. It’s an indefensible notion that “adequate regulatory mechanisms” are in place, as mandated by the Endangered Species Act for the oversight period under state management.

Idaho claimed it would manage wolves like any other species. No Idaho wildlife management authority can honestly defend this position.

Actions by Gov. Butch Otter and the state Legislature indicate they believe IDFG isn’t effective enough in killing wolves. The Wolf Control Board bill, “the wolf-kill bill,” was a priority the governor chose for his January State of the State address. Now, 400,000 taxpayer dollars for killing wolves is likely to be a recurring expense. Legislative sponsors and supporters repeatedly stated their intent to reduce Idaho’s wolf population to 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, the federal minimum.

As the state of Idaho and IDFG reach to further extremes to kill more and more wolves, these actions aren’t going unnoticed.

Far beyond the scope of wildlife management, these practices are quickly giving a black eye to Idaho’s reputation across the country. Idaho is not an island. It does not exist in a vacuum. If the state walks far enough out on a limb, the limb will break, bringing Idaho back to earth under an increasingly focused spotlight.

As fewer people take up hunting, those who enjoy Idaho’s nature in a nonconsumptive way steadily increase. IDFG’s one-dimensional revenue stream from hunting and fishing licenses and tag sales cannot keep pace with fiscal challenges. It’s time to realign economic realities with income-generating constituencies.

Recognizing the increasing difficulty of remaining solvent with growing bills, Director Virgil Moore commendably organized the 2012 IDFG Wildlife Summit to modernize the agency. Unfortunately, necessary innovations are still not forthcoming. Instead, the agency continues pursuing scientifically unsupportable programs, such as excessive and expensive lethal wolf removal and expanding trapping.

Recently, IDFG conducted its sixth costly wolf eradication action in the Lolo, killing 23 wolves from a helicopter, to artificially bolster a declining elk herd, even though IDFG has acknowledged the decline was precipitated by dramatic changes to habitat and vegetation that support elk.

This spring, IDFG hired a professional hunter/trapper to kill wolf packs in the same designated wilderness where wolves were originally reintroduced. IDFG has also declared another goal – reducing wolf populations by 60 percent in the same wilderness.

Remarkably, as this continues, Idaho’s statewide elk population of 107,000 has been growing since 2010. The presence of wolves equating to poor hunting opportunity is a fallacy. Wyoming, with the third largest wolf population in the West, reported their three largest elk harvests on record in the past four years, with 45 percent success in 2013. Hunters can coexist with wolves while maintaining a robust hunting tradition.

Efforts to kill wolves on Idaho’s wild landscapes, especially in designated wilderness – where wolves belong – will never yield the long-term results the agency desires. IDFG continues burning precious dollars on failing programs, while gaining increasingly widespread negative publicity as the black sheep of the nation. For the sake of our beautiful state and all of its wildlife, let’s hope that Idaho soon corrects course.

Garrick Dutcher is the program director for the Idaho-based national nonprofit organization Living With Wolves.

Living with Wolves photo

Living with Wolves photo

12 thoughts on “Living with Wolves Speaks Up

  1. Becky, I’m a teacher in ranching country (Cambridge, Idaho), an avid elk hunter, and avid wolf advocate. I’m vastly in the minority here. I teach grades 7-12, and interact regularly with ranchers here. As a new member of the community, it is not easy for me to navigate this issue, but I’m trying to understand it from the local point of view. The one hope I have for an elevated consciousness about wolves is that there is a profound misunderstanding of people here about wolf behavior toward HUMANS. Most people here believe wolves will seek out and attack people. I’ve limited my remarks to simply stating there are no documented cases of wolf attacks on humans in modern U.S. history. The other problems are well documented: wolf attacks and harassment of livestock (often grazing on public land, but you won’t get anywhere here on the principle of multi-use because people here work hard to make a living and resent the extra work they have to do because of wolves, regardless of whether it’s on their own or public land…). I have been fortunate to have numerous very close encounters with wolves in the wild. Each has been a life-enriching event. Unfortunately, the only close encounter people around here are interested in with wolves is posing with one after they’ve shot it. In many folks’ minds, they’ve done everyone else a favor by eliminating a potential danger to their enjoyment of the great outdoors. This ignorance – often willful – is disheartening. Sorry for the long ramble, but I enjoy your blog and am grateful for the work you (and the Dutchers) do. Keep it up.


    • Thanks much for your comment, Bob. And thanks also for what you are doing to advocate for wolves. Education is essential to a more enlightened future and I’m so glad to know there are teachers like you in Idaho who are aware of the facts of the matter. It’s a tough spot you’re in but I imagine there are a few kids willing to go against the prominant paradym. This link is for a blog called kids4wolves. It’s done by kids and so may be one a few of your students would benefit from. Keep up the good work. I’m happy to have you reading my blog!


    • Agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. It seems that the history of hating wolves in the north has passed down through the generations. Unfortunately, there is no desire to love the vast wild creatures that live among us unless they are not interfering with humans and their wants. Sad times we live in when ignorance runs rampant.


    • Not necessary to reply but keep up the great job of voicing your opinions while walking on thin ice. It is tough but you are doing a great job based on your letter.
      Megan Scott


    • “Most people here believe wolves will seek out and attack people. I’ve limited my remarks to simply stating there are no documented cases of wolf attacks on humans in modern U.S. history.”

      What about Mark McNay’s report from 2002 documenting 80 cases of aggressive encounters with wolves in North America? And Candice Berner, who was killed four years ago? I’m not saying wolf attacks are common, but to say they never occurred in modern US history is ludicrous. Anyway, why single out the USA to begin with?


      • Thanks for the information about Candice Berner, and McNay’s report. I wasn’t aware of them as I’ve focused my admittedly scanty research on the lower 48 because it’s where I live and it’s where the most rabid anti-wolf sentiment is located. Indeed, McNay’s report focuses on Alaska and Canada, and Berner was killed in Alaska. McNay’s report, from the abstract I read, discussed 80 “encounters,” 39 of which were described as “aggressive.” Perception is subjective. I’ve had encounters with wolves that I perceived as non-aggressive because I’m not afraid of them; someone else might have reported the same encounter as aggressive because of a predisposition to fear wolves.
        What’s intriguing to me is the fact that far more mountain lions attack humans and kill kill elk than do wolves, yet there’s no outcry from ranchers or outfitters or hunters about cougars. Grizzlies also attack and kill humans rather frequently in the lower 48, yet the wolf is the focus of extermination practices by state and federal agencies. Why don’t we simply eliminate all large predators so that our “wild places” are safe for humans to do whatever they want there without fear, regardless of whether the fear is rational? Who cares about the trophic cascade, anyway? The natural balance is so out of whack that it won’t matter. Why not take down bald eagles and ospreys while we’re at it, because it pisses me off when I see one of those damned birds snag a trout I’ve been trying to catch.


      • Thanks for your comment Shah, and for sharing the McNay report. I looked it up and found the entire report online:

        This is fascinating reading, but I must agree with Bob McMichael that the real question is why wolves continue to be scapegoated when many other species have proven to be of more danger to humans. I believe that if we can ever fully answer this question, we will be at the root of the controversy surrounding wolves.

        It’s no secret that wolves can be dangerous. I saw this with captive wolves. It’s been proven with wild wolves as well. One of my readers, Giovanni Todaro, emailed me about a book he’s written book called “The Man-Eater of Gévaudan.” This work focuses on some very aggressive wolves, primarily in Europe.

        But statistics continue to demonstrate that wolves, especially in this country, are of very little risk to humans. So why do we continue to fear them?


  2. Ignorance is our enemy
    Knowledge is power !
    Education in Idaho needed
    These folks are seriously misguided
    And this type of wanton slaughter of America’s wildlife that is held in the Public Trust for all Americans seems to be in clear violation of the lette of this doctrine
    We need to have this more broadly publicized and let the citizens of Smerica know what Idaho is planning
    Thank you to the Dutchers for finally speaking out against this atrocity.


  3. Thanks again, Beckie. You always touch my heart. I Facebooked (is that a verb now?) you a documentary on the Wolves of Chernobyl. It was fascinating and showed the up springing of wild life when humans get out of the way. Love, Jaelle

    On Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 7:59 PM, Wolves and Writing wrote:

    > Beckie Elgin, Freelance Writer posted: ” I find writing about the > Idaho wolf situation a challenge. There is rarely anything but bad news > coming from that state and I don’t want to innundate you with that. And I > feel, as many do, an immense frustration about how Idaho fails to > appreciate the”


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