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View Diary: Morning Feature: DK GreenRoots - Wolves and Predators (143 comments)

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  •  Begging Your Pardon - (1+ / 0-)
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    By any definition, the wolf reintroduction into Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho has been highly successful.  Wolf populations have increased twenty-fold in little more than a decade.  Part of the agreement made in the 1990s among state and federal wildlife agencies, land owners, and environmental groups was that predatory wolves could be destroyed.

    Here is a relevant sections of the 1994 Final EIS -

    Effects of wolf recovery on domestic livestock was one of the major issues identified during scoping. It has been shown in other areas (Minnesota and northwestern Montana) that a responsive program to address conflicts between wolves and domestic livestock reduces  the degree of livestock depredation by wolves, increases public acceptance of wolf populations which likely reduces illegal wolf mortality, and allows growth of wolf populations toward recovery levels. While the incidence of wolf depredations on livestock is expected to be comparatively low, some level of depredation is probably inevitable where wolves and livestock exist in close proximity. Removal of problem wolves does more than stop the depredation; it relieves the pressures and antagonisms direct toward the total wolf population by those incurring losses and other members of the public. Timely response to actual depredations will alleviate the perception of government inaction that too often results in the indiscriminate killing of wolves. By responding quickly to resolve depredation problems, the overall wolf population will be in less danger from potential nonselective and illegal attempts to damage control. While some wolves will be removed from the population through control measures, removal of wolves demonstrating this undesirable behavior will promote public acceptance of wolves, will reduce overall impacts, and will allow population growth to recovery levels.

    Here are some numbers -

    Current estimated # of gray wolves in Northern Rockies
    (Mont., Wyo., Idaho): 1,500
    Number of wolves introduced to region in 1995-1996: 66
    Number of wolves killed legally in region in 2008 thru Dec: 245
    Percentage Increase over 2007: 31%
    2008 wolf kills by state:
    Montana: 102
    Idaho: 101
    Wyoming: 42
    Number of domestic animals killed by wolves in 2008: 523
    Domestic animals killed by wolves in 2007: 420

    Ed Bangs is the chief wolf recovery expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  He, along with practically every other wildlife official, state and federal, with any direct wolf experience in the Northern Rockies argues that wolf populations have increased dramatically and that predator control is essential.

    Fish and Wildlife Service officials acknowledged that incoming Obama administration appointees could reverse the delisting decision if they wished, but believe that the science backs up their stand that now is the right time for this. "The bottom line is wolves are fully recovered, and they should be delisted," said Ed Bangs, federal gray wolf recovery coordinator. "It's the right time and the right thing to do."

    "The success of the endangered species act has costs – one of the costs is more conflict with livestock," Bangs said. "It seems like a lot but it’s really not that much; the price of success is more depredations and more wolf control."

    I was under the impression that Daily Kos was an information-based community.  In a perfect world there might be no need for wolf predator control; however, even though there are hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness and near-wilderness in the Northern Rockies, potential wolf habitat is not unlimited.  Wolf populations grow dramatically each springs as pups are born.  When driven away from packs that have already utilized all available wild lands, where will these wolves establish their territory?  Or are you suggesting that we can dismiss the biological principle of excess fecundity with a wave of the magic wand?

    Unfortunately, the internet is knee-deep in websites like this -
    (The dripping red font is especially convincing.)

    Parental Discretion is advised..

    The reasons for Humans fearing and hating Wolves are many. One is because of Hunters like this man above who don't want to share Elk with Wolves.  Another is because there are Ranching Communities that regard Wolves as monsters and fear them to the absolute extreme. But primarily their main enemy is those who murder them and that is certain individuals within the US Fish and Wildlife Service, along with certain members of the Department of Natural Resources.

    Whether you agree or disagree with the wolf numbers necessary for recovery in the Northern Rockies - 1500, 3000, 6000 - at some point even the highest number will be reached.  What does one do after that?

    •  I don't know what you're rebutting. (5+ / 0-)

      I didn't argue that wolves should remain on the endangered list, except where they already are (e.g.: Wyoming).

      •  Well, for Starters, This - (5+ / 0-)

        But some ranchers disagree:

        While the state of Montana reimburses Svenson for livestock lost to wolf predation - the story's claim that the reimbursement fund is depleted was refuted - some say that's not enough.  Perhaps it's the common impulse to "solve a problem once and for all," or our culture's demonization of the species, but some ranchers want the wolves gone, dead, period.

        You use the term "predators" in your title.
        You proceed to say that wolves are misperceived by the public.
        Then you use Svenson as an example of one who misperceives.

        You portray Svenson as some kind of barbaric throwback.  And your last line implies that he wants the wolves dead and gone, period.  But that is not what he said.  He clearly stated that he  accepted wolf reintroduction, but he doesn't want wolves on his ranch.

        Just for your information - - Reed Point is about 50 miles from Yellowstone as the crow flies.  It is a small community on the Yellowstone River and I-90 - a corridor of human use since paleolithic times and, certainly for the past century, a corridor of farms, towns, roads and railroads.

        But when you reach wolf populations of 1500 in the Northern Rockies - the present-day Northern Rockies that includes human populations - you get conflicts.  Sooner or later, and wolf populations have grown faster than most projections, there comes a point where potential wildland habitats are occupied by packs and increased populations are forced into areas of human population.

        What do you do then?  There were agreements reached in the 1990s - not by everybody, not 100% - but the final Wolf Recovery EIS is generally accepted as the blueprint.  Certainly by the courts.  Do you change the rules of the game?  Who assumes the costs?  Fact is, even if one accepts that Defenders of Wildlife can cover the escalating costs of wolf wildlife depredations it is the rancher who must show proof - including finding the carcass, photographing, establishing wolf predation, and verifying with wildlife officials.  In case you were not aware, the days of a bunkhouse full of singing cowboys are long over.  Ranchers are lucky to have one hired managers and, if lucky, a couple of teen-aged kids or grandkids to help.   So, if nothing else, it is a significant additional claim of time and effort.

        And yet, you portray Svenson as some kind of unthinking cardboard cutout. You didn't quote what all the following -  

        "We've gone out at night and looked around and we've set up all our non-lethal decoys, the guard dogs, the flashing lights, and the scare crows and it doesn't seem to faze them any," said Eric Svenson.

        The family's also turned to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials and also brought in federal trappers

        So - -
        It appears that the Svensons put in a lot of effort to find non-lethal ways to address their growing livestock losses to wolves.


        I would bet that I do not share many political of cultural views with the Svensons, but I have lived in the Northern Rockies for twenty years.  Although I am not a rancher, I have many friends who are.  They are not perfect people, but every single one of them tries to be a good steward of the land amid conditions that become more and more daunting.  Yes, the Kampfe's have a more tolerant view than most, but there operation is both dude and working ranch - percentages of both unknown.  They are fortunate to abut national forest land and have the vistas that high-end tourists require.  What about ranchers who don't have this option?

        Do you wish to see most the ranches of the Intermountain West become playgrounds for the rich and famous?  Or ranchettes for the not-so-rich, but indebted?


        PS - I am quite well aware that I may be a minority of one on this thread.

        •  As I said above: employment opportunity. (5+ / 0-)

          We have lots of unemployed people.  We have lots of ranchers that really need range riders.  We even have some charities like the one I cited who are willing to pay most of the range riders' costs.  Seems to me the pieces for a solution are all there, and it's a matter of putting those pieces together.

          The law has always allowed ranchers to kill wolves that are caught preying on their herds, and I've no problem with that, although long-term there are much better ways to reduce predation.  Killing a predatory wolf, as noted above, does not deter other wolves.  Driving the wolves away from the herds by non-lethal means trains the wolves to eat something else.

          Part of the issue is that ranchers get reimbursed by the state for wolf predation, but not for livestock lost to accidents or disease.  And yes, that means some ranchers game the system and claim wolf predation for other losses, especially when they "can't find" the carcasses until months later ... when it's no longer possible to verify a cause of death.

          •  NCB - (4+ / 0-)

            I think you are one of the best bloggers here -
            But I have to disagree with you on this one.

            Any person who has had experience with predators, especially with wolves, knows that wolves which prey on livestock cannot easily be dissuaded.  Livestock are like the McDonalds of the prairies.  Wolves, like any other predator, seek out the easiest prey opportunities - if for no other reason than to conserve energy and improve odds of success.  Sheep are really, really good odds.  Cattle pretty good.  Not to mention that the livestock are also fenced - even if the fences enclose 40 acres.

            I don't think you realize what it takes to work on a ranch.  Unemployed people from Chicago are not likely to be able to ride horseback - even ride ATVs - into the range to do what you suggest.  And would be clueless as to what to look for.  To train them would be prohibitively expensive - whether for the government or for the rancher.

            And, please, if anything it is the rancher who assumes costs of unproven kills - not vice-versa.  I fear that you have already made your mind up on  this issue given your earlier comment about the Svensons and your statement above about ranchers "gaming" the system.  The fact is - as confirmed by the Defenders of Wildlife data - that reimbursements have increased dramatically over the past decade. One would expect the reimbursements to increase given the twenty-fold increase in wolf populations.  Actually, if wolves have exhausted their potential wild range, one would expect depredations to increase far more than population since an increasing number of wolves would not have ranges.

            Unless you and many of the others commenting here think ranchers should assume a greater and greater burden of wolf recovery - to the point of losing their ranches - then, sooner or later, predator control for wolves must come into play.  If not now in five years.  If natural increase is 25% per year, how can it be otherwise?

            Sooner or later numbers will force wolves to predate.
            Sooner or later there will have to be lethal control.
            Please, show me how it can be otherwise.

            PS -
            A federal reimbursement bill, introduced by Sen. Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) is working its way thru Congress.  ttp://

            •  Discussion that earns we MF'ers our good rep.... (4+ / 0-)
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              DBunn, winterbanyan, NCrissieB, kktlaw

              ....that's Morning Featurerers, of course.

              Information, reason, mutual respect of positions, on point, on topic, and if I had my druthers on to the top of rec list.

            •  We disagree less than you assume. (2+ / 0-)
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              johnnygunn, winterbanyan

              The purpose of my diary was not to suggest that wolves should remain on the endangered species list forever, nor that controlled wolf hunting is always evil.  It's not.  My point was first to celebrate this success of the Endangered Species Act - unlike some who say it's done no good whatever - and to help change attitudes toward one of the world's most amazing and important species.

              We've given the wolf a horrible reputation, one the wolf did not earn, and I think that reputation and modern practices of "factory ranching" over animal husbandry fuel most of the controversy.  If we can recognize and celebrate the wolf's vital place in the ecosystem, it can put livestock predation in a better perspective.

              Livestock kills are inevitable.  We can mitigate that, in part by better animal husbandry practices and in part by maintaining a stable balance in the wolf population, but we can't and shouldn't try to eliminate livestock predation completely.  The challenges of humans living and practicing animal husbandry among wolves - both for us and the wolves - are inherent in nature.  Accepting those challenges as part of life, ones we can mitigate but never stop completely, is a necessary step in recognizing where we human beings fit in nature's order.

              Would more labor-intensive, traditional husbandry practices raise food costs?  Yes, and that too is part of recognizing where we humans fit in nature's order.  As others have noted throughout, we've used artificially low food prices to subsidize markets for conveniences.  Simply, Americans live above our means.  We're 5% of the world's population consuming 25% of the world's energy.

              That's not a sustainable ecosystem, whether that "eco" is short for economy or ecology.  More of us need to do more physical work, with more activity powered by human energy rather than other sources.  The late 20th century paradigm of "Americans think and others sweat" can't last.  We need to do more of our own "sweating" - and esteem those who do - including survival-essential jobs in agriculture and animal husbandry.

              Pieces of solutions are there.  We have work that needs doing and people who need work.  Yes, many workers will need training.  Yes, it will require capital.  But we Americans will also have to change our attitudes on physical work, and stop treating that as something others should do for us.  We can do all of those things, but not if we continue to treat those challenges as ones we shouldn't have to deal with at all.

              Tomorrow and Saturday we'll look at challenges of mass transportation, which isn't automatically as green as many assume.  It lower our carbon footprint, but for that to work we'll also have to accept some challenges as part of being alive.  We will have to learn to respect nature's mandates of openness, diversity, and resiliency ... in how we plan our time and our travels.  We'll have to give up some boundaries, simplicity, and efficiency.

              That's not saying things have to get "worse."  It's saying we need a saner vision of what "better" is.  When it comes to our living among wolves, "better" is recognizing that human can't replace what wolves bring to the ecosystem, so we must learn to live with them and accept that challenges like livestock predation are an inevitable part of our real place in the natural order.

    •  I don't see how this rebuts the diary (6+ / 0-)

      which argues that wolves are generally beneficial to the environment as a whole.

      Giving us the agreements that were first made with ranchers etc to gain approval for reintroduction in no way addresses the surprising benefits that reintroduction has brought to the overall environment.

      And it is those benefits we must weigh against the ranchers' interests, because a healthy ecology is important to us all.

      "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

      by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 06:41:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, You Are Suggesting - (2+ / 0-)
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        Orinoco, BlueStateRedhead

        That ranchers should assume the costs of wolf reintroduction?
        Simply because the ecological benefits are greater for all?

        In that case, why don't we bulldoze Atlanta, Los Angeles, and St. Louis?
        Think of all the ecological benefits that would achieve.

        You are probably saying - "Well, that's stupid."
        But is is that stupid?  I am, tongue in cheek, suggesting that large established populations and infrastructure be displaced to improve the overall ecology - not to mention reduce air pollution, restore waterways, and put the brakes of Sunbelt sprawl.

        If you justify the loss of ranches on private lands, not public, for the greater public ecological good - why not follow such logic to its end?  Or do you recognize that limits exist?

        If so, then it becomes a discussion, and I would hope a civil one, about where those limits are best placed.  The 1994 EIS, which you so easily dismiss, was a framework of limits that most parties agreed upon to allow for wolf reintroduction.  Predator control was part of that agreement.

        Why, now that wolf populations have reached a sustaining level, is that no longer acceptable?  And if that is not acceptable now, when will it be?  Are you suggesting that populations can continue to grow without check?  Can the Northern Rockies support 12,000 wolves?  48,000 wolves?  If there were 48,000 wolves, there wouldn't be a ranching operation left - not to mention a whole lot of starving wolves.  Is that your goal?

        •  My goal is not to turn the west over to wolves (7+ / 0-)

          but neither is it to turn the west over to ranchers.  And I have not said that no wolf, caught in an act of predation, should be killed.

          As I said elsewhere, we need to find a way to put ranchers on a better economic footing.  They are not getting paid nearly enough.

          By the same token, we have discovered just how beneficial wolves are to the environment, and frankly cattle don't hold a candle to that.  Quite the contrary, it seems, with their methane emissions and desertification of the Southwest.

          So either we find a way to make sure ranchers get more of our food dollars, so the loss of even a few steers doesn't put them at the breaking point, or we give up beef.

          I would prefer to put the ranchers on sounder footing.  I have no desire to put them out of business.

          "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

          by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 07:49:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Jumping in here... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          winterbanyan, NCrissieB

          This has been a really interesting, if somewhat contentious, thread, into which I now insert myself and my famous, nearly Solomonic wisdom. Here's what I'm seeing:

          1. Wolves are good. They are used here as symbols of the natural ecology, separate from the endeavors of mankind. Natural ecology is good.
          1. Ranchers are good. Ranchers are people too, their lives are hard just like all of ours, and as people we like to eat what ranchers produce. People are good.
          1. The statements "people are good" and "wolves are good" are like clouds. We are quite certain about the middle of the cloud, but the edges are much harder to define. At what point does the statement "wolves are good", which is solid at the center, begin to break up and cease to be true?
          1. There will always be edges. We can move where the edge is, but we can't remove "edge-ness" from the picture. For example, we could have Svenson stop ranching and turn his acreage over to wild habitat, but that would just mean that some other rancher is now on the front lines. Or we could eradicate wolves from his neighborhood, creating a new boundary that has to be defended, and that will inevitably be transgressed by one side or the other, or both. The point is, there is no solution that doesn't have an edge, and the edge is always probelmatic.
          1. Parts of this discussion have revolved around the questions of expense-- how much does this or that cost in money terms, and who pays. Should Svenson pay the whole cost of further restoration of the wolf population, by losing his ranch, so that all humans can benefit in diffuse fashion from the incremental shoring up of the natural ecology? That's obviously not fair, but neither is it fair that all of humanity should suffer further critical loss of planetary habitability just so one family can have a really great ranch and make the kind of money that Americans have come to expect.

          Ultimately, all of this is about what we might call the Big Edge between civilized humanity and the natural world. Most of us here on this site would agree that we humans have been far too successful in pushing that Big Edge back, to the point that we are in real danger of dying from our own success. Our marvelous economic system, which has been responsible for that success, has not evolved in a way to solve this problem, quite the opposite-- it has evolved in a way to create this problem. The problem may be experienced most acutely by those, like Svenson, who happen to live at the edge, but it belongs to all of us. Sooner or later, one way or another, we will have to alter our economic system so that shepherds and cowboys are economic again; so that guys like Svenson aren't forced to pay a disproprtionate share of the costs of change; and so that the solution to our economic problems is not seen as being to take yet another chunk out of the already perilously skinny remainder of wild nature.

          •  Brilliant comment, DBunn (1+ / 0-)
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            You're always the reason I come back in the late afternoon.

            Your clarity is exceptional as is your reasoning.  Unfortunately, many are paying for the human tendency to "overdo" everything, from agriculture to consumption.  You're right about the "edge" and we have too many people there right now.

            And we only make the edge worse by refusing to look at alternative solutions that will preserve our biosphere.

            "No man is my enemy, my own hands imprison me, love rescue me." -- Love Rescue Me/U2

            by winterbanyan on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 01:14:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thanks, winter-b! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I find myself hanging around the MF thread more and more these days. The topics are stimulating, and the tenor of the discussion is both friendly and intelligent. Much credit to Crissie and the krew, including yew, for both of these things!

          •  Accepting the "edge." (2+ / 0-)
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            DBunn, winterbanyan

            My main focus this week will be on our need to accept that challenges are an inherent part of being alive.  In your terms, that we all live at "edges."  For far too long we've tried to push back the edges - to say we should "solve problems once and for all" so we no longer have to deal with those challenges - and to me that's a big part of why we face the environmental (and economic) crises we see.  One Size Fits All, Once And For All simply are not values nature will respect.  The sooner we accept that and decide that living with our challenges is our real place in the natural order, the sooner we'll be able to build a more sustainable society.

            Thanks as always for your kind and thoughtful comments!

            •  Edges are **everywhere** (1+ / 0-)
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              Not to be paranoid or anything, but have you noticed how just about every time we try to discuss anything-- moral philosophy, political strategy, economic policy, legal theory, what have you-- we come upon edges? It's creepy! They're starting to take over!!

              To be honest, it's making me just a little bit edgy :)

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