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Wolves: An outfitter's view

5/31/2006

Most Wyoming hunters opposed the introduction of the Canadian Gray Wolf and continue to oppose its protection. The primary reason for this opposition is very simple; wolves compete for the huntable surplus of game.

Historically, more animals are born than are needed to replace natural mortality. This recruitment enables the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to issue permits to hunters, producing revenue to pay for game management. Game populations are kept in balance through regulated hunting and Wyoming hunters are able to get meat for the freezer to help feed their families. This system has worked for several decades.

Enter the Canadian Gray Wolf, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and those who push the anti-hunting, pro-predator agenda. They introduced this non-native wolf under the guise of "restoring historical balance to the Yellowstone ecosystem", even though strong evidence shows that wolves rarely entered Yellowstone in the 77 years prior to 1913 (National Park Service Documents, The Wolves of Yellowstone" Weaver 1978).

Also, an official government document, Yellowstone Animal Census, 1912, lists various animals and their numbers, but under Gray Wolves the total is listed as NONE (Hornaday, Our Vanishing Wildlife, pg 336).

The science used to introduce wolves was dubious as stated by Dr. Charles E. Kay, in his Independent Policy Report. "The Federal Government and other wolf advocates have taken liberties with the truth, with science, and with the Endangered Species Act. Wolf studies regarding possible impact on big game are arbitrary and capricious. They represent not science but a masterful job of deception."

Canadian Grays are NOT the original wolf that was in Wyoming. The original Rocky Mountain Wolf was much smaller and did not run in packs. The only conclusion we hunters can make is that ending sport hunting is the major objective and not the recovery of an endangered specie.

We believe the Canadian Gray Wolf is a MAJOR wildlife disaster in the making. Our Wyoming big game populations are not evolved to deal with the predation of this huge non-native wolf and it shows in the impact the wolf is making. The Dunoir Valley, north of Dubois, was the home of approximately 80 Shiras moose. They are completely gone. The Spring Mountain Elk Herd near Dubois is in serious jeopardy. The Jackson Hole moose herd, north of Jackson, was numbered at 830 in 2000. In 2002 the count was 489.

Elk calf:cow ratios have dropped significantly in areas frequented by wolves. Very low calf:cow ratios in the Gros Ventre, where wolf predation is high, has Wyoming elk hunters greatly concerned.

A Yellowstone study on elk calf mortality from wolf predation showed in December there were 46 calves per 100 cows but by May it had dropped to only 3 per hundred. The following year there were 38:100 in December but 9:100 in May. (Rosemary Jaffe, Montana State University, Wolf Predation in the Firehole and Madison River Drainages).

It is significant that both Alaska and British Columbia, which have thousands of wolves, have recently initiated wolf reduction programs in some areas to "increase numbers of ungulates for subsistence hunting".

Much misinformation has been promulgated about the Gray Wolf, such as "only the Alpha Female will breed and have pups". That is NOT TRUE.

Autopsies of 2,000 female wolves by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show that more than 90% have pups. There have been several observations in the "Yellowstone wolves" of more than one female of a pack having pups in the same year.

Other misinformation says a wolf will kill only the weak, the sick, the old, and will only kill what it needs. Facts refute that claim. On the Camp Creek Elk Feedground in 2002, a lone wolf killed five calf elk in one night, eating less than ten pounds of meat. Quite a number of elk, including some large bulls, have been killed on the Gros Ventre feedgrounds and many of them have had just the lips and noses eaten. Wolves have not returned to these kills no matter how little they have eaten of the carcass. Several mutilated elk have had to be put out of their misery.

Some claim the wolf is filling a vacant niche in the ecosystem and wolves will self-regulate their population to stay in balance with the prey base. Wyoming hunters don't believe it. Wolf populations will expand as long as they have something to eat. Wolf populations will not decline even when their prey base is scarce because then they will prey on livestock. Big game populations will soon be below the surplus level needed to sustain our historical hunting opportunities.

The wolf population is growing approximately 30% per year, according to USFWS figures. Biologists tend to be cautious (deceptive?) regarding wolf impact by just counting the numbers of wolves and the prey they consume; the results are becoming painfully obvious.

Using official USFWS statistics, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has approximately 271 wolves as of December 2002 and each wolf kills approximately 1.9 elk per month. Therefore, about 514 elk are killed each month, more than 6,000 elk killed each year by wolves. These are the figures given by those in charge of wolf 'management' (NOTE: Monitoring wolves does not constitute 'management'. Population control to keep them in balance with their prey base would be management).

Those 6,000 elk could have been "sold," via hunting permits, thus generating millions of dollars for game departments and yielding over one million pounds of elk meat for families of hunters. Wyoming hunters feel it is unacceptable to feed that resource to non-native wolves. This 'experimental non-essential population' of wolves has already reduced some of our hunting permits, contrary to projections, and will probably eliminate some hunts.

In conclusion, Wyoming hunters don't necessarily hate wolves, but many of us strongly object to any efficient predator being imposed on our wildlife without adequate population control.

Outfitter Maury Jones has run a hunting camp in Wyoming since 1978. Prior to moving to Wyoming, he operated an outfitting business in Arizona and Colorado. Today, he operates on the Grays River south of Jackson. He has served as the president of the Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association and is currently on the board of the Wyoming Oufitters and Guides Association, where he serves on the wolf committee. Jones and his wife have six children and seven grandchildren and live in the Star Valley.