Here’s a letter to a local Washington state newspaper from a budding anti-wolf extremist, followed by my response letter…
“Damage wolves do”
I am writing in response to Lorna Smith’s column (April 3), “Why are we so afraid of wolves?”
It’s not the wolf itself, it’s the killing they do to our deer and livestock that I’m afraid about.
I have a friend who lives in Arlie, Mont., where the wolves are abundant. He states that the wolves have completely destroyed the elk herds in his area – and are now preying on the deer.
He also states that the economy has really suffered in the area as the sportsmen are not coming to hunt anymore.
Also, there was an article in the April 2013 Western Horseman magazine. One of the featured articles was “Range Riders of the Upper Green.” The story is of Doc Foster – his main job was caring for the cattle. He states that dealing with the predator-livestock conflict took most of his time – that the wolves attack the cattle herd in a pack and focus on dragging the cattle down by the back and hindquarters. “They are killers,” Foster says. “They [wolves] eat the heart, liver and lungs and then go on.”
Is the wolf an animal we want protected in our area?
Seems like several new wolf pairs have just “arrived” in Washington state lately.
And my response?…
It’s bad enough to read a damaging letter from an anti-wolf extremist (“Damage wolves do”) who asks, “Is the wolf an animal we want protected in our area?” as if it’s our birthright to pick and choose which species are welcome and which are not. But when the main thrust of the letter seems to be to spread disinformation—aimed at striking terror in the hearts of hunters—that “wolves have completely destroyed the elk herds” in Montana, well, someone has to set the record straight.
Having recently lived in Montana, I’ve seen and photographed my share of wolves, but also thousands of elk; and some of the mule deer herds were nearly a hundred strong in places. According to a 2012 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department survey, there are 141,078 elk in the state, 55% over their management “objective” of 90,910; but rather than allowing wolves to solve their elk “problem,” they want to reduce the number of both elk and wolves. That policy is not scientific; it’s downright kill-happy.
Meanwhile, there are currently fewer than 600 wolves in that state (hunters and trappers killed nearly 200 last season). Yet Montana wildlife officials say they are hoping to reduce the wolf population to around 450. Of course, that number does not even come close to representing a recovered state wolf population by any historical standards when you consider that 10,261 wolves were destroyed between 1884 and 1886 in Montana alone after a bounty was first initiated there—or that 380,000 wolves once roamed the lower 48.
An alleged threat to the cattle industry is certainly no excuse for today’s rampant killing of these important predators. Out of the approximately 2.6 million cattle in the state, only 74, or .0003%, were taken by wolves in 2011.
But if there has been any drop in business for the trophy elk hunting industry, it’s because wolves keep elk on the move; wilder and less complacent. In one of their most telling remarks, Montana hunters have complained that wolves make elk “too hard to hunt.” Ever their lackeys, state game managers have used that claim as an excuse to promote wolf hunting, rather than sticking up for wolves by pointing out that they are just doing their job of preventing elk from over-grazing.
So next time you hear hunters complaining about wolves, remember, it’s not because they really think wolves are going to eliminate all “their” elk—they just don’t want to have to walk too far from the pickup truck to make their kill.