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The wolf control efforts in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness and other actions at the nearby town of Salmon Idaho have garnered some press lately and I thought it might be worth a mention to foster understanding of what the state of Idaho is up to and why this area is receiving the attention. In a sense Idaho could be the stand in for most other states as they are all following the same blueprint. The general concepts of predator management were laid out by Aldo Leopold 3/4 of a century ago, (and 15 years after his green fire moment).

I should state right off the bat I've never been to Salmon, nor have I set foot in the Wilderness next to it. I've been a lot of places but unfortunately not there.

The other day though I was talking on a retired school marm who did come from that valley. To give you some idea of the cultural context she said wages for many had dropped from five times minimum to minimum or below. She said it's impossible to describe what the closing of the lumber mills was like. In a word, devastating. 35% of Salmon lives below poverty level.

When the logging left they still had their elk to eat. Some made cash money from guiding the people who came in to hunt the elk, now that income is gone. The retired primary school teacher said her "younguns" usually get her an elk but this winter they came up empty handed, as did many in town. Hunting is not only a sport for the wealthy but actually for some it's a good way to stretch the food budget and to eat good clean meat. One elk equals the yearly beef consumption of four Americans. One Kossack recently described growing up in elk country like this.

There were a lot of poor people, my family included, who scrimped and saved to purchase a hunting license to get an animal to feed their family during the winter. In my family, no animal meant no eating meat all winter, because we couldn't afford to buy it at the store.
I'd say that like most working class people in America the folks around Salmon have gotten the bad end of things. In places like Central Idaho there aren't many alternatives when the major industry leaves. You can't just drive to another job.

Salmon ID

Below is the Wilderness area with the three hunting units numbered. 20A, 26, and 27.

Below are the success rates from the three units.

Before Christmas the Idaho Department of Fish and Game flew a trapper in to a couple of the air strips in that wilderness and he took some pack horses up to a forest service cabin to try to eliminate the Golden and Monumental wolf packs. Because it's Wilderness the Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) couldn't fly helicopters and this is how they do it. They've had pretty good luck with eliminating entire packs previously. Eventually other wolves will fill in the empty space but in the meantime it gives the elk a chance to get re established.

Above is the trapper, with dogs for company and supplies for as long as it takes. The trapper is also a wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish and Game, and rodeo rider. Probably a resourceful and knowledgeable person to take off alone for a long period into the middle of such a wilderness area in the winter.

All of this is fairly non controversial to anyone who has been paying attention. Sport hunting of wolves is just not very efficient for population management purposes. To reduce populations you need to take out 50% to 75% of the wolves or more over a few years. Bear in mind wolf packs roughly double every spring when the pups are born, not all pups live to adulthood, but the species is one that reproduces quickly. Wolves under the final EIS for wolves, the 10j rule and common practice are managed by the states in all areas except National Parks and Wildlife refuges. Some question the use of a cabin in the middle of Wilderness but it is maintained and used by mutual agreement by both the USFS and the IDFG.

Link to the IDFG comment on the situation.

Aerial surveys tell us that in the Frank Church Wilderness, elk populations have dropped 43 percent since 2002 and wolf populations are too high in relation to elk numbers. Our research in other backcountry areas indicates that wolf predation is a major factor preventing elk populations from recovering. We know there are at least six documented packs in the Middle Fork Salmon zone and several more packs throughout the wilderness area. Recent backcountry wildfires have increased elk forage but may take a few years for habitat to fully recover.

Wolf hunting and trapping by sportsmen in the Middle Fork zones have not been sufficiently effective in reducing elk predation. Even if successful, this action will in no way come near to eliminating wolves. That is not, and never will be, our goal.

Below is a map showing wolf packs in the area. The Golden and Monumental packs are in the center, just above where it says "Middle Fork". Notice the overlap on most packs? With so many wolves I'd think there is a lot of intraspecies predation, often a very significant mortality source.

I read some discussion as to why target that specific place, there are so many other packs around. I guess that particular area is winter range for many elk of the surrounding mountains, and winter is when they are most vulnerable. The wolves can easily kill all they want, especially late winter when the cows become heavy with calves and the snow is deep. Cow/calf predation is why the lines on that population graph stay low.

And the coyote/wolf hunting derby? (the one that instigated the "Hate" op ed in the NYT and here) I know it might seem strange to outsiders. Hunting coyotes is a long and very common pastime in the intermountain west and out onto the plains. Humans hunt coyotes for the same reason wolves do, and for the same reason coyotes hunt fox. Food competition. Recreationally there isn't much else to do, there are no open seasons on anything except squirrel and rabbit until turkey season in the spring, and usually if you have a lot of coyotes you don't have many squirrels or rabbits. Ecologically it's impossible to make a long term dent in the coyote population, it's been tried. Temporarily, hunting will depress the spring population which gives a bigger chance for deer, elk, and moose calves to survive the crucial first two weeks.

Derbies are more about hotels and restaurants than they are about coyotes or wolves. Since the elk thinned out the main street businesses are struggling to keep the lights on. Full hotels and busy restaurants put change in people's pockets right at the darkest coldest time of the year. Salmon got some negative press but after the logging and the elk you can imagine how much they care about what someone from thousands of miles away thinks. The worst that could happen would be some more hotels booked for journalists.

The death threats were original if uninspiring. The best was an offer to hang all the members of the family of a local business. Law enforcement came out to look at message machines and to be around just incase the crazies showed up. More coffee sold and restaurants busy. No wolves were killed.

Wolves elicit a reaction. Some make death threats, others sport bumper stickers offering to "smoke a pack a day". I too used to comment to cause a reaction. (stirring) More recently I've joined the vast middle. Wolves are here, they always will be, populations will be managed as with all other large species of mammals. I do know something of the history, the law, and the science, so I write.

Since beginning to write this post, a few of the more radical environmental groups have filed in court to stop the trapper from doing his thing in the Frank Church Wilderness. Technically I think they are angling against the use of the Forest Service cabin. More broadly for the public they are saying that one, trapping for population control is an un wildernessy type use, and two, how about some donations.

I'm not sure how successful they will be on either count. A couple weeks ago I outraged someone by telling them all the wildlife in a state belongs jointly to the people of the state for their use. That's just how our laws work, I'm from the reality based community. Also state divisions of wildlife are the people who manage the wildlife in all but a few very special instances. The feds manage their own wildlife in National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks but less so of late. Often state agencies assist in regulated hunts within those two entities. States have tons more experience, and lots of enforcement assets.

In just about every Wilderness Area that was formed out of National Forest or BLM lands states have sole responsibility and jurisdiction to manage the wildlife within that Wilderness. It's written right into Wilderness bills so that there is no mistake. Without that language written into bills we wouldn't have Wilderness areas.

As provided in Section 4(d)(8)[of the Wilderness Act] nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the State of Idaho with respect to wildlife and fish within the national forest.
As of midweek that wildlife biologist trapping up in the Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness had gotten a very quick 7 wolves. He only contacts the outside world sporadically so to save batteries on his satellite phone. I wish him continued good luck.

I've no idea where I got this photo, it was on my monitor for a while without a chance to use it. Good light and a nice photo I thought, early winter sky. Someone critiqued my posts saying every diary had a gun in it, I might as well be consistent. Notice the extra ammo on the side of the stock?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 12:41:05 PM PST

  •  Since you readily admit to knowing next to nothing (4+ / 0-)

    about Salmon, I suggest you refrain from writing about it.

    The wolf issue has ZERO to do with the downhill trajectory of the economy there.

    Salmon, like many other small, mountain communities in Idaho, is suffering because their natural resources can't provide for them anymore, and people just don't hang around in an economy like that where there are several universities/diverse economies within less than a day's drive.

    These communities rely on tourism to pay the bills. Tourism hasn't gone down because of wolves, it's gone down because the environment has been grossly mismanaged for decades, and it's just not as pretty as it used to be.

    I love all of these small, mountainous communities. I thrive in them on weekends away from the city. But there is little for anyone to live on there now except for people like me, people who want to get to a higher elevation and get away from people. I don't spend any money there; I bring what I need and maybe drop ten or twenty at the small mom and pop shop that has something specific I may have forgotten to pack.

    Wolves, though? Nah. Know Idaho before you write about this topic. Wolves are a symbol of libertarianism gone amok in this state. It has nothing to do with the economy, ecology, or anything else that's helpful to Idahoans.

    It's a statement about how the government is evil. That's it. It's a libertarian rallying cry that has no basis in fact or evidence.

    P.S. I am not a crackpot.

    by BoiseBlue on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 01:05:47 PM PST

    •  Got it: "local redneck assholes" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Actually, you can't fucking stand these small, redneck asshole communities.

      I love all of these small, mountainous communities. I thrive in them on weekends away from the city. But there is little for anyone to live on there now except for people like me, people who want to get to a higher elevation and get away from people. I don't spend any money there; I bring what I need and maybe drop ten or twenty at the small mom and pop shop that has something specific I may have forgotten to pack.
      You thrive on their environment, but the people there can go fuck themselves.  So-called citizens who sucked the blood from the environment deserve none of your money, none of your respect.  
      You'll use them, just like they used the timber and the mines. Then they can go to hell for all you care.
      Right after you give them a dose of your contempt.

      Got it.  Here, we call you Massholes.

  •  Doubt very much that Leopold would support this... (7+ / 0-)

    He was pretty critical of predator control as a general principle because it was a form of artifice that degraded the value of the game animal. This is the bulk of the essay on a conservation aesthetic (Sand County Almanac 1949). Game Management (1933) is not the last word on predator conservation - not by a long shot.

    As a hunter, I am suspicious of predator hunting because the motivation to use the animal (food or fur) seems to be mostly missing. Most of the arguments in favor of it sound specious from a biological perspective. I would concede that there's a recreational value for some in the act of hunting but that's not good enough for me.

    Its important to understand Leopold's land ethic in the light of the sentence that proceeds it:

    Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the beauty, stability and integrity of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
    Killing off 2 packs in one of the largest blocks of wilderness in the lower 48 for the sake of elk (which are widely distributed and relatively common)? This would have offended  Leopold's sense of aesthetics. Leopold's vision was one where biotic communities consisted of component species in their "characteristic kinds and characteristic numbers" (that's a paraphrase).

    Peace, Love, and Canoes!!!

    by OldJackPine on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 02:00:42 PM PST

  •  You are not likely to find very many fans of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flatford39, Ralphdog, kaliope

    wolf hunting here among Daily Kos readers.

    I look at your wolf trophy shot photo as a kind of pornography.

    •  Is that because Defenders of Wildlife are also (0+ / 0-)

      allies against the Tea Party, or is this straight-up 1990s Politically Correct parlor talk?

    •  uhm, you might want to look again, different (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buddabelly, Tom Seaview, gerrilea


      After I posted I went down to Cabellas to get some powder, while there my daughter was all eyes for the pink Cricket. I'm sure she'll be breaking hearts in trophy photos soon. Such is life.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:27:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  whoo hoo, congrats on the powder find, I just (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tom Seaview, ban nock, gerrilea

        traded a buddy a lb of H-4895 for a lb of 4350....those velocity numbers are just too sweet to pass if it's accurate in mine.....

        And I found some AA2700, 3100kfps with a 150g fmj plain base, almost 29 with the 168's and 173's I have so many of.....esp the 173 match pulls from old Lake City Match, great shooters and thumpers with a little meplat modification......

        And I have almost a 50 cal can full, just need to wipe off the sealant with some mineral spirits and a quick tumble and they shoot like a's isn't a Match King but it works very well.....

        Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
        I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
        Emiliano Zapata

        by buddabelly on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 06:53:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  doing the math I'll get something like 135 loads (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          buddabelly, gerrilea

          per pound.

          My actual reason for going was to pick up more bullets. I found the 165 grain boat tails I was looking for. I can load them with 21 grains of 4759 and my kid can shoot my oh six without worrying about recoil.

          Per shot I'm looking at 40 cents or 60. I'll have to learn the drop for the underpowered ones too. Probably hold over like a 30 30.

          I'm not to the point of walking the ditch looking for old tire weights but I can see the advantages.

          Ya, I was happy about the 4350 too, should have gotten 5lbs. Slow burning.

          “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 08:13:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  casting accurate quality projectiles for rifle (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gerrilea, ban nock

            shooting is quite possible and you can even get very similar velocities with some extra work in some calibers esp.  The 30-06 is certainly one.

            A complete casting setup with a bottom pour pot for better fill, a couple lee molds and either  freechex gas check maker or a few thousand gas cks at 40 bucks a k ... The
            Freechex die at less than a hundred gives the ability to make gas checks from either strip copper or beer cans..heh... amortizes itself pretty quick if you shoot much...... will be about a hundred and fifty bucks. you can maybe get it to a hundred or less with the smaller bottom pour or going with a dipper style which work,  and some people love, including my dad, he always used a dipper even with a bottom pour pot

             and of course the sky is the limit from there depending on how many different molds and other toys you want to try.  Honestly I have been just casting, water dropping to harden then tumble lubing and sizing in the Lee style die instead of my wax type lubricant Lyman 450 Lubrisizers

            I just got a new 2 part polymer/epoxy lubricant/coating that has been very popular in Australia for years.  Just recently imported here and those who have it rave about it....If it works as claimed and from all the feedback over at Cast Boolits it does just that, I should be able to push my gas checked 185g fat 30 Lee mold sized correctly to about 27-2800 with no leading and hopefully good accuracy.  Pistol shooters love it and rifle shooters who are much more jacketed bullet oriented are starting to look at it.

            When done right, it deforms with the lead, remains adhered and as such never exposes the lead to the barrel or the flame front, it's totally encased...even slamming one with a sledgehammer won't flake off the coating.  If it works as well as it looks, my .55g  .223 Bator mold will get a workout.....shoukld make a good hunting bullet too in 30 cal or larger....led did the job for centuries, it still works every day all over the country.

            If you can find  Alliant 2400 powder ever, pick up a lb.  It works very well for reduced lead loads in any 30 caliber case .308 or larger.  I'll pm you the recipe.  It's quiet, zero recoil and very accurate, so fun to's no fun for the kid if they miss all the time, hell it's no fun for us if we miss all the time.  This is a well used and time tested reduced recipe you will really like.....when you find some let me know, slug your bore and I'll send you some cast with the new polymer coating and sized for your bore.  They'll shoot like a dream.....or hell slug the bore and let me know and I'll send you a hundred to try now and after you find some 2400......

            Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
            I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
            Emiliano Zapata

            by buddabelly on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 09:25:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  ban nock..I suggest you read Barry Lopez" book (0+ / 0-)

    "Of Wolves & Men". You may get a different view point. I for one totally disagree with the one you presented.

    UID 35,098 Nov. 12, 2004. Seems like yesterday.

    by flatford39 on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:18:58 PM PST

    •  Didn't realize I had a point of view, thanks for (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the book suggestion though. I usually end up reading things like that when I pick them up out of the twenty english language books at the guest house at some end of the world road in the third world.

      I'd suggest Call of the Wild, and White Fang for you, or Never Cry Wolf. I love all those make believe books of the north. You just have to remember that often the author no matter how well he writes might well be talking out his ass. To Build a Fire is pretty good too, a short story.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:57:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now Here (0+ / 0-)

    I had thought both the tribe wolf, and the tribe elk emerged together for several millions of years. How then has the tribe elk been forced to depend on us late arrivals to survive? Is mere good fortune that we came along when we did; was it divine intervention? I do know for sure it has nada to do with how tasty tribe elk is, or how much money we make by "hunting" them. Even if we have made them stupid in the process.
    I appreciate being corrected, mi culpalible...
    Won't happen again!  

    •  might want to read up (0+ / 0-)

      us, the elk, and the gray wolf all came across the land bridge about 10K years ago. We've been killing both of them as fast as we can ever since but decided they were fun to have around fifty or a hundred years ago. We do this thing called game management for population control.

      Don't know what all your tribe stuff is about, elk and wolves live in herds and packs. People are different. People are like you and I, walk on two legs and what not.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 04:03:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  AND BEFORE (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ban nock, gerrilea

        Your highly accurate description of the "land bridge" were there government trappers in Siberia?
        Or, do you contend that that was the commencement of evolution?
        BTW, read and love your diaries, a non-sarcastic thanks...

        •  Thanks,,, I believe we have to be very careful of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          species, our world is changing at an accelerating rate. Elk and wolves will survive regardless of what we do. I have no worries about wolverines or tigers. Other species, thousands of them, less charismatic ones, will go extinct. The sooner we allow our scientists to carefully manage what we have left and turn our attention to those that are going quickly the fewer we'll lose.

          Right now the lion's share of caretaking the species in that fairly large wilderness W of Salmon is paid for by hunters, almost entirely actually. Research, law enforcement, everything. Without species to hunt there is little funding for the rest.

          It's not a question of extirpation, but of desired population levels.

          “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 05:24:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for your diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock

    Although I haven't made up my mind on the issue of wolf hunting, I am glad to see a diary that focuses on an often-forgotten element of environmental management-- the people.

    I can't say that you're definitively right that wolf reintroduction has harmed hunting opportunities for the poor but, if it has, we as a society should care.

    Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with hunting.  On the one hand, I hate the violent killing of beautiful wildlife.  On the other hand, I know that hunting is one of the most ecologically sensitive and humane ways to obtain food from our environment.

    Many liberals who fight for food stamps, advocate for urban gardens, and otherwise support programs directed toward the poor like to forget about the poor, mostly white folks living in impoverished rural areas.  Not to say that the rural folks help much.  In many ways they don't realize that they are in much the same situation as minorities living in the inner city.  (One time while visiting with a group of white folks who worked in the timber industry I stated that rural Americans needed their own Spike Lee.  Unfortunately my hosts didn't fully understand the analogy and took offense).

    But one of the few things that rural folks do still have is hunting and fishing.  As the diarist says, it is one of the few ways that poor, underemployed, and uneducated rural folks can keep their heads above water.  It also helps create cultural identity and a sense of self worth.  That should be something we care about too. If restoring wolves to an area means that its harder for people to eat and practice important traditions, well, that is something we should care about.

    Liberalism didn't used to be so clearly against environmental extraction.  It may surprise you that the highest logging rates on National Forests were under Jimmy Carter.  His reasoning was that higher harvest rates would decrease timber prices and home prices as well (ultimately, Carter's economic theory was wrong, but I doubt that means he didn't care about the environment)

    For me, the most important thing is that wolves become a viable part of the rocky mountain ecosystem.  I am willing to accept some killing of wolves as long as the system is able to function reasonably well.  And I challenge anyone to go live, year round, in a rural area and then argue that we should let any area, even a wilderness area, be completely unmanaged.  For once we say "no management" we not only say no wolf killing but no elk killing and no rabid bear killing, we not only say no logging but we say let the fire burn up to the edge of a community even if that means we can't stop it once it gets there, we not only say no motorized vehicles but we say no industry can be allowed in the area because it makes the mountain views more hazy. In short, if we want to have an environment that is truly "natural" we must do what we did hundreds of years ago, and exterminate any human being living in the vicinity.

    Simply put, it is important to recognize that the idea of "letting nature take its course" either never existed or certainly doesn't exist now.  Further, it is dangerous and counterproductive to suggest the people who live in these communities and work for these relatively uninteresting government agencies are either hopeless rednecks or tools of the right-wing.

    One man gathers what another man spills

    by John Chapman on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:25:46 AM PST

    •  It's unfortunate that much of Idaho has turned to (0+ / 0-)

      the right. The past few years have been even harder economically. We should be winning all elections there.

      It's also unfortunate that we don't see humans as being part of the ecosystem, we've become one of the shapers of it. Wilderness areas are by law areas of no logging or mechanical travel not even wheelbarrows are allowed. Except the states do manage wildlife.

      The wolf reintroduction was actually planned in advance to have ways of managing the species based on best available science at the time and would have gone much smoother if that plan had been followed. I linked it in the EIS. State management (as agreed to) on recovery twelve years ago would have yielded much less damage to elk herds. It was obvious that there would need to be constant killing of wolves to maintain populations at levels not damaging to game and it was written into the reintroduction documents. Constant litigation delayed what was always necessary.

      The governor last week appropriated 2 million to a special task force to reduce populations. I'm sure I'll have more to write about than a lone trapper headed into Wilderness.

      Thank you though for your understanding of the rural less fortunate.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 04:55:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wiping out wolves has zero to do with economy. (0+ / 0-)

    Hunting elk for fun/profit/nutrition is just about the least effective way possible to address working class poverty. And exterminating predators has been consistently disastrous to ecosystems around the planet.

    This simply feeds into the Neanderthal notion that predators are 'varmints' that must be exterminated because....well, just because. Despite the near-complete absence of documented attacks on human beings and the minimal correlation with prey species populations.

    Here in the rural east, we live with the consequences of exterminating our own predator populations: white tail deer populations so high they are wiping out many plant species, epidemic Lyme disease, and deer/car crashes that kill scores of people every year.

  •  This isn't management it is slaughter. (0+ / 0-)

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 07:08:10 PM PST

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