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5 deadly days for wolves

May 17-21 | 15 from five packs killed in Montana
2010-05-30T00:00:00Z 5 deadly days for wolvesBy EVE BYRON Independent Record Helena Independent Record
May 30, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Fifteen gray wolves from five different packs were killed in Montana for preying on livestock between May 17 and May 21, making it one of the deadliest five-day stretches for Canis lupus this year.

So far this year, 64 wolves have died, with the majority — 44 — being shot by federal agents for preying on livestock. The others were killed by cars or property owners or died from unknown causes.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials also have authorized the shooting of at least 18 more wolves from five packs. If successful, that will bring the total to 82 dead wolves in Montana so far this year.

“It seems a little heavy handed, when at last count there were only 524 wolves in Montana and a lot more cows,” said Jesse Timberlake with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.

Liz Bradley, a Missoula-based wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, readily acknowledges that the state is acting more aggressively this year on control actions because more wolves are on the landscape than have been here in the past decade. It’s part of an ongoing upward trend; in 1999, when about 80 wolves were spotted on Montana’s landscape, 19 were killed for wildlife depredation. Ten years later, with more than 500 wolves in the Treasure State, that number rose to 145 wolves.

“More wolves in more places equals more conflicts,” Bradley said. “We’ve seen that trend over the years. We’re still trying to use preventive methods to reduce conflicts, but there are places that hasn’t worked.”

In those places, agents with the U.S. Wildlife Services typically shoot problem wolves, from the ground and from helicopters. The agency’s Montana director, John Steuber, said the recent increase in activity is causing his agents to sometimes put in 12-hour days, but they’re committed to reducing losses to livestock producers. In years past that effort has focused more on animals like coyotes and mountain lions, but wolves are now taking more of their time.

“We have 20 people scattered throughout the state, and it’s becoming more and more work, which is stretching them thinner and thinner. But these are probably the most committed government workers you’ll find,” Steuber said. “Our wolf work has been increasing for three, four, five years now so we’re getting kind of used to it, but it’s a little overwhelming right now.”

Bradley and Ed Bangs, who managed wolves for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until those duties were turned over to the state, note that high wolf mortality is typical in the spring. That’s because wolves are close to calving livestock in the lower elevations and big game hasn’t moved into the high country yet, drawing wolves out of the valleys.

Bangs added that in previous years, federal agents have taken out large packs for livestock depredation, pointing to the removal of 22 out of 23 wolves in the Livermore pack during a three-day period last September as an example.

But this month, the removal actions are all over the map. Four wolves were killed May 21 west of Missoula and another to the north, from a different pack, on May 20. In the east fork of the Bitterroot, a wolf was shot on May 15 and another on May 17. Two wolves were killed north of Wisdom May 18 and another was shot the next day. Two wolves were killed north of Helmville May 18 and another on May 23. Two wolves were killed May 18 north of Wolf Creek.

“We knew from early on that this would happen, which is why Wildlife Services has been a partner from early on,” Bangs said. “You can see from the wolf reports that we’ve been heading toward this for years — more depredations so there’s more control. When we started, we would move problem animals around, capturing them and putting them somewhere else, but there’s enough now that we just kill them.

“That’s one of the reasons that hunting can be so important; you can have hunters pay to remove some wolves rather than use taxpayers money to go after them. It’s a good management tool to reduce conflicts and costs.”

Last year, 145 wolves were killed for livestock-related reasons and hunters in Montana killed another 68 wolves. With illegal kills, accidental deaths and natural causes, a total of 255 died. However, the wolf population still increased by 4 percent.

This year, FWP is proposing a hunting quota ranging from 153 to 216 wolves. Tom Palmer, a FWP spokesman, said those proposals take into account the 255 wolves that died for reasons other than the hunt last year.

The state agency calculates that without hunting, the wolf population in Montana would increase to 667 wolves this year. The higher harvest rate could reduce the population to around 400 wolves; the lower rate would maintain about 500 wolves.

But regardless what harvest rate is chosen, most of those involved in wolf management expect to see additional wolves shot in the upcoming months by Wildlife Services, since depredations typically pick up twice a year — now, when newborn calves are easy prey, and in the fall, when wolf pups are weaned and they’re looking for an easy meal.

“This has been going on for years, and every year it notches up a little bit,” Bangs said. “Eventually, the wolf population will stop growing because the level of damage is so high and we’re killing so many wolves that the population stops growing.

“There are some year-to-year fluctuations, but the long-term trend certainly shows more problems, so we have more control efforts. The bottom line is with more and more wolves, we’ll have more and more problems.”

 Reporter Eve Byron:

447-4076 or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. walkingthunder
    Report Abuse
    walkingthunder - May 30, 2010 6:46 pm
    Humans who continue to hate and kill members of Mother Nature - all creatures of God - will rue the day they chose fear over love. All of God's creatures are beautiful magnificent beings.

    Humans have been given the choice over and over again to choose love, peace and wisdom in their relationships with the Earth and her domains. Those who continue to kill and live in fear / ignorance will see the fulfillment of the prophecies of destruction of Earth and their realities. I am sorry for you.

    But, you still have time to choose love; to heal and embrace the beauty of all life - even yourselves. Wolves are some of the most magnificent animals ever created by God, providing a great service in the over all balance.

    So, the next time you judge someone or something as requiring killing because you don't see it's worth in the world - look in the mirror. I suspect the lack of love staring back at you might hold the greater answer.

    Om Mani Padme Hum
  2. elkguy
    Report Abuse
    elkguy - May 30, 2010 12:59 pm
    Only 524 wolves in the state. Will DoW never quit with the lies and deception? Of course not, they are making way too much money from them to acknowledge the truth publicly. Most honest biologists will tell you the number is far greater, possibly over 4000 in ID, MT and ID. What we need to do is reform the Equal Access to Justice Act so that these groups can no longer cash in on their BS lawsuits. If we could make that happen, these radical left-wing environmental organizations would dry up and blow away, leaving us with practical, common sense strategies for managing our wildlife again for the benefit of us all, hunters, wildlife watchers, photograhers, etc. I for one miss being able to see moose and elk as I ride, hike, or drive through the forests in and around Yellowstone Park. To nearly eliminate many big game species for the benefit of one makes no sense, especially one that was illegally introduced as experimental, non-essential. The experiment has failed, and we have failed to protect our elk, moose, deer, sheep and goats.
  3. CharlesFeney
    Report Abuse
    CharlesFeney - May 30, 2010 11:57 am
    And I agree with not buying wolf licenses. They're varmints to me.
  4. LCHelena
    Report Abuse
    LCHelena - May 30, 2010 10:40 am

    Well at least the feds are the ones killing the Wolves. I would hate to see our hunting licensing fees paying for this type of control.

    Montana hunters need to send a message by refusing to purchase Wolf licenses.
  5. Seriously
    Report Abuse
    Seriously - May 30, 2010 10:27 am
    I am ashamed of humans. I am ashamed to be one. We're the "most intelligent" life form on Earth and this is the best we have to offer in intelligent thinking. I hang my head and apologize to everything we touch and destroy because we are a selfish, decimating & narcissistic species.
  6. mtwalker1
    Report Abuse
    mtwalker1 - May 30, 2010 9:30 am
    Sport hunting of wolves has never been effective as
    a control method, just look at what happened in Banff AB.

    The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has recently called the wolf situation "perhaps one of the worst wildlife management disasters since the destruction of bison herds in the 19th century". Minnesota has over 3000 wolves and the Humane Society of America continues to sue over the delisting even though the wolves are killing peoples pets everyday. The moose has disappeared both in Yellowstone and in northern MN.
    Where was the distruction of economic significant wildlive called for in the reintroduction plans? Thank your local ecobully if you can find one.

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