Wolves Are the Only Management “Tool” Necessary

I didn’t mean to set off a pissing match in my last blog post by quoting a group’s recent statement to the Missoulian, “We at Wolves of the Rockies understand and acknowledge the importance of hunting as a tool for managing wolves, and we stand beside the ethical hunter in doing so.” I’m sorry if I misinterpreted that statement, but I thought it made their position on wolf hunting pretty clear: they support it.

And I think it’s obvious what they’re saying with the lines, “We are not advocating the end of wolf hunting. We have only asked for a slight modification to the state wolf management plan to accommodate other legitimate values in this specific locale. Remember, Montana’s wildlife is owned by ALL the people, not just hunters.”

It sounds to me like they feel that wolf “management” through hunting and trapping is acceptable, as long as it doesn’t conflict with another “legitimate value” some other human being has placed on the canines. I would argue that wolves themselves have intrinsic value, as individuals and as a species.

While I whole-heartedly applaud this group’s part in getting a buffer zone closed to hunting and trapping implemented around Yellowstone National Park in Montana (“only for this year,” according to the Montana Wildlife Commission chair Bob Ream), I have to question whether anything is worth legitimizing wolf hunting and trapping as “management tools” like they did in their articles to the press. When the back-patting and back-pedaling are over, it’s time to bring the focus back on the real problem—the fact that wildlife are considered “property” of the states, to be “managed” as they see fit.

Commissioner Ream said they made the closure because of the “particular and unique situation” of collared Yellowstone wolves being shot. He assured hunters and ranchers that the closure will not affect the goals of the commission for the overall Montana wolf hunt and trapping season in any significant way because this is such a small area, and one with almost no winter livestock.

Still, it could have a big effect conserving Yellowstone’s small and shrinking wolf population, now down to only about 80 wolves. The park’s wolf population of 170 wolves three or four years ago began to drop when inter-pack rivalry and low surviving pup numbers took their toll. Clearly, wolves have self-regulating population control systems which kick into play before their numbers get too far out of hand (which is more than can be said for hunters and trappers).

Wolves play an important part in nature’s narrative, a role that has served both predator and prey for eons. Rightful kings returning from exile, wolves are far from new to the Yellowstone ecosystem. Their 71-year absence was the result of a heartless bounty set by the real newcomers to the fine-tuned system of checks and balances that has regulated itself since life began.

New to the scene are cowboys on four-wheelers with their monoculture crop of cows and ubiquitous barbed-wire fences. New are pack trains of hunters resentful of any competition from lowly canines, yet eager to take trophies of wolf pelts, leaving the unpalatable meat to rot. And new is the notion that humankind can replace nature’s time-tested order with so-called wildlife “management,” a regime that has never managed to prove itself worthy.

Unmatched manipulators, modern humans with their pharmacies, hospitals, churches, strip malls, sporting goods stores, burger joints and fried chicken franchises have moved so far beyond the natural order that population constraints, such as disease or starvation, are no longer a threat to the species’ survival (as long as society continues to function). Hunting is no longer motivated by hunger. Twenty-first century sport hunters are never without a full belly, even after investing tens of thousands of dollars on brand-new 4X4 pickups, motorboats, RVs and of course the latest high-tech weaponry.

But wolves can’t afford to be acquisitive; if they run low on resources, they must move on or perish. Theirs is a precarious struggle, without creature comforts or false hopes of life everlasting.

~ From the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

65 thoughts on “Wolves Are the Only Management “Tool” Necessary

  1. I say you did the right thing by letting true emotion come out from advocates, My father always told me “If you’re not being 100% honest in your feelings, than you’re always lying”.

  2. Bravo, Jim – one again you have hit the mark! It seems to me that, allowing that compromise involves more than one party being involved, all the compromise is coming from the various pro-wolf advocates. That’s not compromise; that’s caving to public and political pressure. While all this “polite dialogue” is going on, wolves are being slaughtered; so much for compromise! The wolves deserve better!

  3. Jim….thankyou for exposing another group that advocates for “wolf
    > management through hunting” with no scientific basis.
    > Having been involved in wolf advocacy for 10 years in Montana (moved to
    > Washington State 6 months ago), I’ve seen the damage done by these
    > “clones” of Defenders and their policy of collaboration and
    > compromise…..It has only helped the special interest groups
    > ie…ranchers and hunters, and has resulted in the slaughter of
    > hundreds of wolves. As you know it started with the 10J rule and has
    > continued to this day.
    > Without getting into a long discussion, I just wanted to thank you for
    > this much needed expose……we posted it on our facebook page..”Wolf
    > Liberation Front”….check us out!
    > Jerry Black

  4. Beware the so-called animal welfarists. If ever there were “wolves-in-sheep’s clothing” it is they. Wanting to be seen as peaceful do-gooders who care about “everybody” they are too afraid to put forth the truth lest they seem insensitive to the powers that be, such as ranchers trying to earn a living by animal exploitation.

    Unfortunately instead of promoting an overall philosophy of non-violence by man they parse out the violence as if diluting it will eventually end it. This strategy only serves to confuse people and prolong the unhealthy, imbalanced lifestyle of the majority of humanity.

    Regulation welfare, such as human orchestrated wolf management, will ensure the end of wolves. Jim, you do a great job keeping the truth up front. Abolition of animal use is it.

    Warm regards,

  5. “Clearly, wolves have self-regulating population control systems which kick into play before their numbers get too far out of hand (which is more than can be said for hunters and trappers).” The animals (and all of nature its-very-self) control themselves beautifully without our involvement. In fact, humans are useless to them. We are the ones out of control. I wonder how we’d feel if the government made decisions to thin out our massively out-of-control population by opening up hunts on man?

    I admire your no-nonsense and honest statements. You are making a difference. Thank you and many blessings in the New Year. ~Gerean Pflug, The Animal Spirits

  6. Exactly Jim, Although this group accomplished some small value for the Wolves, it was just another ruse, throwing us a bone to try and quiet the real Wolf Defender’s while they continue to appease the “special interest” group of the 2-5% that controls the rest of us..good job Jim letting them know there is no pissing match, just Right and Wrong, and killing wolves is WRONG.

  7. Jim you were right on point. There is no compromise, no “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” when it comes to wolves’ lives. They’re not property, they belong to themselves, not to Montana FWP and they don’t need to be “managed”: If a pro wolf group says they “understand and acknowledge the importance of hunting as a tool for managing wolves”, then they’ve made their position crystal clear.

    As Bob Dylan once famously wrote: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

  8. I think it is clear you don’t know any of those people, otherwise you would not be saying this. And if this is your attitude towards people who are at the front line of this battle then I have lost all respect for you.

  9. I can certainly understand ones frustration with the quote mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog post. For those of us who support wolves the last thing we want is more compromise.
    If I did not know the folks of Wolves of the Rockies, I’d be worried to. But I do know them. I went to YNP with the group in November and spent long hours in the field searching for wolves and sitting around the table talking about them. These are among the staunchest wolf supporters you can find. Believe me, Wolves of the Rockies are doing a world of good for wolves. I trust them, and know they are sincere. If their language needs to include things I don’t want to hear, I’m willing to suspend judgment on that. They stand in the front lines of a battle that requires skill and negotiation. I support them in any way possible.
    Thank you, Jim. I enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!
    Beckie Elgin

      • I speak as one who has come to know the few well-intentioned folks in this group. At times I (a very outspoken activist) find myself frustrated w/their approach, but I have come to trust their motives. They are trying to build relationships w/the more moderate FWP commissioners, so that they can be an equal stakeholder at a very small table that is deciding wolf policy. I for one hope to see relisting occur very soon-I dare say I believe WoTR does too.

      • Thanks April, I’ve heard from more than enough good people like you to convince me that WotR actually cares about wolves. I wish them all the luck in the world. Meanwhile, I hope that relisting comes before we lose too many more wolves…

  10. A copy of a comment I made on another blog…………”there are too many groups so invested in collaboration, that they either believe that those willing to speak the truth as they see it are “outliers”….or, they’re willing to posture such that they believe it to maintain a seat at the “crooked table”…..so, be as willing to collaborate with those orgs willing to “take a stand” as you are willing to collaborate with collaborationists. Folk willing to call it as it as they see it could be the greatest of assets.”

  11. I think you did mean to start a pissing match. And I’m not sure what good will come out of it.

    ALL wolf advocates need to stick together. Nobody is better than anybody else. Instead of fist pumping about how awesome you are, it would be AWESOME for you to direct your blogs at what everyday people could do to help achieve your goals of ending wolf hunting and relisting.

    Especially since those tasks will take several years to accomplish…as there will need to be new laws and legislation in place to reverse the delisting and to outlaw wolf hunting. Do you or any of your fans realize how tied up in bureaucracy and politics this issue is? Let’s join reality and take a look, shall we?

    As all states are completely on board with the delisting and continually approving hunting, that will be a long hard fight. You need to write the legislation and get a senator to sponsor it to start with.

    I absolutely think it is great to get people on board to work on that. Rallies, petitions and no compromise types need to be out there doing their thing and feeding public outcry.

    Go for it! But for now, all of that doesn’t seem to be swaying anyone who has the power to make actual changes. Protests, rallies and public outcry are either not big enough or impressive enough to make a dent in restoring protection or ending hunting right now.

    In the meantime, wolves get hunted and SHOT and killed right now, unless someone shows up at the table and suggests buffer zones. Unless someone is taken seriously RIGHT NOW. They don’t take radical people seriously. They don’t take overly emotional people seriously. The most you can hope for is getting to testify at a public hearing. And sadly testimony alone is often ignored as many of these decisions occur behind closed doors and are a done deal before one citizen even comments. That’s the truth. It’s not right or fair, but it’s the way it is.

    The problem with the “no compromise stance” is that you don’t get anything until the end. And the end may be years down the road. Maybe the reason you will get relisting is because the wolf population actually comes in at 350. I’d hate for that to be the reason why.

    But in the mean time, stand up there and brag about how your way is the only way and the best way, and that anyone not doing it your way is selling out.

    This is what you said: “I too support the good things they are doing for wolves. The only thing I question is, does their language really need to include things the wolves wouldn’t want to hear…”

    The wolves don’t hear anything that humans are saying in this context…they are wild animals living their lives. Their words offend YOU…not wolves.

    The fact that you had to write an additional bashing blog to clarify that you weren’t bashing the same group, shows where your effort and energy are directed. And it’s not at saving wolves. It’s at being upset with how other people choose to save wolves.

    I think its time for you to get over it and start rallying the masses for a protest. Get working on that relisting and stopping the hunts.

    You expect the anti-side to rip everyone on our side down, it’s way more disappointing when the pro-side starts taking shots at each other and tries to sway people as to who they should support. I think that is pretty shi%y and says a lot about your character.

    I can hardly wait to see your third blog on the same subject about how you really didn’t mean to make waves….Gads. That’s exactly what you meant to do.

    Stop sugar coating the issue and giving the “I support the good things they do” rhetoric. Be honest at least. That wishy/washy half compliment/support stuff just comes of as condescending and annoying.

    I know the WOTR group and I know they are trying to save wolves. They are being realistic about what they have to deal with….laws. You can’t pretend they aren’t there. Why don’t you call them up and talk to them in person. Have you done that yet?

      • I have volunteered at a wolf sanctuary and given tours. I am most familiar with the Olympics study on trophic cascades.

        But you don’t have to be a wolf expert to support advocacy as far as I know. I live in Washington state and the sanctuary I volunteer for has 53 wolves. They are part of the Mexican gray and red wolf SSP programs. So, Ive seen wolves in that context.

        I don’t think I am a wolf expert by any means, but I try to stay up on the subject.

      • Danielle….I’m just going to assume you have accidentally posted under my comments…because I have reread what you have written and it is in no way related to my posts.

      • Again, We are on the same page.

        I collect data for Endangered Species.

        It is so Heartwarming to meet and greet another Sentient Being.

        Wolves are Amazing.

        Would you be willing to share your Experience?

      • I didn’t say the words taking liberty on a spin. Are you posting to the right person?

  12. Jim….I know you are a writer/photographer…do you attend these meetings or rallies? Which groups are you affiliated with? Have you testified in person or sat at the table with any of the FW agencies?

    If so what approach did you take? What was the response? Just wondering how involved you are in the political process other than blogging/writing about the subject and judging how others do it?

      • Sometimes people ask because they aren’t familiar with a name. Like right now I don’t understand the relationship between danielleriggens and Jim or why she would be answering a question directed to Jim.

      • Also…as far I I understand it, you learn the facts by asking questions…especially directly to the source.

    • This is what I meant by a “pissing match” Shelly. I’ve moved on already, as should you. I’m not going to give you a run-down of everything I’ve done over the years that you might feel is worthwhile. I work on animal issues on a daily basis, but the one thing I don’t do is side with wolf hunters or validate lethal game department “management” policies.

      • Well. You have to attend the meetings in order to have them listen to you. Your non response to the direct questions kind of speaks volumes.

        Good luck changing the world via blogs.

        While you do that, people will actually be out there doing the dirty work, taking time to attend and submit proposals to save wolves NOW.

      • I’ve testified at plenty of game department meetings and written plenty of letters and guest editorials, etc. There’s certainly no guarentee they’re going to listen to you just because you attend and speak your piece. The fact that a judge overturned the Yellowstone exclusion zone is a classic example. Unless we pack the courtrooms and overwhelm them with so many angry bodies that we put to shame the paltry number of hunters and trappers who show up to whine about their tradions they will never really listen to us. That’s all I hope to achieve via books and blogs–to fire up as many pro-animal/non-hunters as possible and get them off the fence and on the side of anti-hunting. You circulated a petition, that’s great, more power to you. The fact that it didn’t result in saving any wolves doesn’t matter to me, I still support your effort and any other efforts for the animals, except when people side with hunting and lethal game “management” policies. That’s the last time I’m going to say it.

    • Understood.

      I apologize.

      I am deeply involved with Conservation.

      I hope you understand it Touches a chord.

      I have a Rescue Kitty from Philadelphia.

      It took over a year to remind Her she is a Feline.

      I named her Penny.

  13. Jim, I think you are doing the right thing by commenting on this. Like Becky, I have had some personal contact with people from Wolves of the Rockies. I have been assured that in their heart of hearts, they reject wolf hunting, and I’m not inclined to call them liars. But while I won’t question their motives, I will question their tactics. Their public statements thus far are nothing like what I was told in private, and seem to be an attempt to play both sides of the fence. I think this is a very dangerous path to take, and regardless of WotR’s apparent good intentions, they could have done a lot of damage here.

    Shelly says we need to stick together. I agree. But “sticking together” does not mean that we can never give each other constructive criticism or advice. It does not mean we should be silent if we see another advocate doing something that may cause more harm than good. There was nothing rude or angry about Jim’s post here; he was simply questioning whether expressing a tolerance for wolf hunting is ever a worthy tactic for a group with pro-wolf motivations. That’s a fair question, and these kinds of discussions should happen within the wolf advocate community. Shelley, you’ve accused Jim of purposely tearing down WotR to make himself look good, but I don’t think that’s what is happening here. He’s trying to help some people recognize a mistake. Refusing criticism is just as prideful as self-promotion, and probably just as harmful to the cause; by acting as if no wolf advocate should never call out another on a mistake, I fear you show yourself to be the prideful one.

    Now, why do I think this statement was a mistake, and a very serious one? I think so because the core of the issue that we are fighting against is the notion that wolves ought to be “managed.” So far, many advocates have chosen to concentrate on the argument that wolves are still endangered and hunting them will harm their populations. However, that argument has gotten harder and harder to carry over the years as the temporarily protected wolves have increased in population, and eventually it will become impossible to use — nor does it help the many other predators whose species are not endangered, but whose individuals suffer and die by the hundreds every year in the name of “management.” Now, I realize that in politics some concessions must be made to achieve progress — but by saying that wolf management is an “important tool,” WotR has not simply made a strategic compromise — they’ve conceded the whole war. In order to save a handful of Yellowstone wolves, they’ve given support to the idea that some percentage of the wolf population must be killed every year, forever. The problem is not that they are focusing on short-term goals rather than long-term; that would be okay. We need people to focus on each. The problem is that they have actively *undermined* the long term goals in order to achieve something in the short term. Do you know how often I’ve been told, “Well, even so-and-so thinks wolf hunting is okay or says wolves need to be managed” (insert the name of a prominent advocate of wolf conservation, David Mech for instance, in place of so-and-so). The kind of language used in the Missoulian editorial works against my own personal efforts. And for what? What has it really achieved? WotR got the hunt zones closed near Yellowstone, but then a judge re-opened them, and hunting season will probably be over before anything more can be done.

    Shelly says that officials don’t listen to “radicals.” But why is it that people who disapprove of all wolf hunting are considered radicals, when this is really a perfectly sound and rational ethical position? Is it not partly because major organizations and wildlife professionals continue to give lip service to the value of “management” and refuse to come out in support of an anti-hunting position? If the various wildlife conservation advocacy groups would stand together and calmly but firmly advocate for the end of hunting, suddenly it might seem a whole lot less radical. The only way to move a new idea toward the center is for people to stop being scared of appearing “radical” and start worrying about being right.

      • You know what you should do? Get the original OP-ED from the Great Falls Tribune, read that, then read our response to it in the Great Falls Tribune (which, by the way not one person said one word about because they followed the flow of the two opinion pieces) and was printed before it was published in the Missoulian about 6, 7 days later. What the Missouian printed was our response to the GFT, we didn’t send it to the Missoulian, they picked it up. One more time, WOLVES OF THE ROCKIES DOES NOT SUPPORT, TOLERATE, DEFEND, LIKE, WANT, AGREE WITH, CONDONE MT’S WOLF HUNT OR ANY OTHER WOLF HUNT. That is why we got it shut down in Dec. While you are trying to get the hunts stopped by writing, criticizing, misunderstanding, complaining, disagreeing, we are talking to people who make decisions that affect wolves and other wildlife directly. Why? Because that is the only thing that fosters progress. We said we accept that wolf hunting is going to happen, because it is, it has been going on for two years now in MT and ID. Has anything any of you have done stopped that? Nope. Now even more states have been killing wolves. Did anything you have done stop MN, WI, WY from killing wolves? Nope. So just how effective are your methods? They aren’t. How are they helping wolves from being killed? They’re not. So, until you can get hunting stopped and the wolves re-listed (best of luck to you on that, better have A LOT of cash handy, lawyers and politicians are very expensive) we will work in the real world and do what we have to in order to keep as many wolves as we can from being shot or trapped. Until YOU have any bit of success in saving even one wolf, you might want to remember the definition of insanity….doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. It’s been working so well for you lately, keep it up. I wonder how many wolves were saved by this blog? Or by contacting agencies about endangered species. Or by trashing someone you have known for years and who has always been FOR the wolves, NOT FOR killing them (you should be ashamed!) Oh, I know….ZERO, ZIP, NADA, NONE. Keep up the good work, you are doing fabulous. Well done. Bravo.

    • I actually think criticizing others is fine. I just think it isn’t wise in a public blog that anyone can see. I think a closed group or even a direct call to the organization by Jim himself may have been a good idea. I’m not under the impression that Jim has spoken to anyone at that organization directly. Before you make your opinion so public, maybe a little more talking should happen.

      Wolf management is written into every wolf plan. Every single one. So whether we like it or not, it is legal.

      At this point there appears to be some real cracks in the pro side and there will probably be a division between the “no compromise” people and the moderates. I just hope the work gets done and that it benefits wolves.

      I’m not prideful, I just think it is wrong to write 2 blogs stating the same thing in a public forum and revealing these differences to the opposition.

      Someone gave me some good advice today. In regards to fights… They said. “Just because someone invite you to a party, you are not obligated to attend.” Same goes for an argument.

      So, I decline to debate this further. Being extremely radical is fine if you get enough people to join the ride and make an impression. So far that hasn’t happened. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. In the mean time I’m glad there are some pro wolf voices at the table.

    • By the way the over turned decision isn’t about the content of the decision. It’s about the department giving proper notice. The dept stands by there decision that those areas be closed. The Judges decision is on a technicality about proper notifications. It has nothing to do with wolves.

    • Captainsakonna. Interesting name. I have a real pet peeve with using a profile without a name. You do seem kind of familiar. Do we know each other?

      Not using a real name kind of lessens the responsibility associated with owning a statement and being accountable. Any reason you can’t use your real name?

  14. I don’t know Jim, but his writings and blog have opened the eyes and educated countless individuals who have taken that knowledge to meetings and testified using much of the knowledge acquired from him. We need more leaders like Jim Robertson, David Soule, Dave Foreman, George Wuerthner, Brooks Fahy, Marc Befoff, John Marvel and Paul (Zero Tolerance) Watson.

    Myself….I’ve accumulated many, many miles on foot and on snowshoes tracking moose in wolf country to educate myself and support my business.
    Interestingly, I never run into any “officers” of Defenders or any other advocacy group like them out there educating themselves. Same with University lectures on wolves and other wildlife….I doadmire Marc, with WoTR,…..he attends many of these.

    I have sat at the “crooked table” with trappers, hunters and ranchers ….you have to be present at these to understand why compromise, in almost every case is impossible. Too much cultural hate, political hate etc.

    My favorite pack of wolves, which I came to know very well, The Bearmouth Pack was gunned down(all 7) by a helicopter gunship because they ate 2 cows. Do you have any clue what it’s like to see dead wolves?

    So, you collaborationists….it’s not wise to confuse PASSION, INTEGRITY, and RESOLVE with irrationality or extremism. The list of wolf advocates sick of compromise is growing.

  15. I agree with CaptainSakonna….whatever the underlying feelings or motives, the statements made by a pro wolf group condoning wolf hunting in a public newspaper were damaging to our cause. Also, Jim’s written words inspire many to act on behalf of wolves and other animals- that is being effective and should not be dismissed as worthless. Every wolf advocate who carries a passion for changing things can find a unique part to play. Some of us take part in a wide variety of actions, and some of us few, but we need them all…the blog writers, the meeting goers, the speakers, the educators, the petition signers, the fact finders, the artists, the internet detectives, the public forum wolf defenders, and the protesters.

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