Wildlife Conservation Science & Policy

Dedicated to the social and political aspects–the so-called "human dimensions"–of wildlife management

Dave Mech on Wolves at the Midwest F&W Conference

Dr. L. David Mech was one of the plenary session speakers at the Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference, held on 11 – 15 December in Minneapolis, MN.  Dr. Mech gave a thought-proving presentation on the science related to wolves, with a special focus on wolf effects on ungulates, scavengers, and the so-called “trophic cascade” in Yellowstone that has been attributed to the presence of wolves.

Mech reviewed the research on these subjects and essentially concluded that the science is far from settled.  He emphasized the tentative nature of these findings and noted that there was often conflicting evidence from competing labs.

One area where he felt the science was very robust concerned wolves’ tendency to kill weak and vulnerable animals with greater frequency then would be expected by chance.  He played a very interesting video from wildlife photographer Bob Landis that appeared to show wolves specifically targeting an elk with a visible limp (later confirmed to be arthetritis) after “testing” other animals in the herd.  He suggested this was the first really solid evidence that wolves’ disproportionate take of vulnerable animals was not just due to these animals’ vulnerability, but also a function of wolves’ behavior–that is, that wolves specifically target more vulnerable animals.  Folks that want to learn more can visit http://www.davemech.org.

Q & A

I was particularly interested in a couple of questions Mech fielded at the end of his presentation.  When asked how managers should respond to recent comments from northern Minnesotans that wolves “were decimating deer populations”, Mech quipped that they had been saying the same thing since he started studying wolves (back in the late 1950s).

Mech was also asked to predict the geographic extent of wolf recovery (i.e., where will wolves be 20 years from now).  He opined that wolves would continue to occupy some new territory in southern Wisconsin and Michigan and probably the Dakotas as well, but would probably never be able to survive in states like Illinois and Indiana.  He felt the Rocky Mountain population would do better, expressing confidence that wolves would make it into Utah and Colorado and even northern California.

Another questioner asked how hunting wolves was going to build tolerance for the species if, as Mech had maintained, hunting would have little effect on wolf populations.  Rather than address this directly, Mech pointed to Poland where he asserted that wolves had gone through three cycles of “overprotection” followed by wolf eradication, implying that the same could happen here in the U.S.  While I would concede Mech’s point, I would argue that, given the differences in our culture and system of government here in the U.S., one cannot assume that the same events will transpire–in fact, the science on the matter is certainly less clear than it is on any of the issues Mech had argued were far from settled. Personally, I happen to agree with Mech’s assessment that this is a legitimate risk; in fact, that was essentially the argument we made in a recent paper.  However, I think it is important to note that our collective understanding of the social and political systems that will decide whether similar events transpire here in the U.S. is no better than our understanding of trophic cascades–the science is far from settled.

33 responses to “Dave Mech on Wolves at the Midwest F&W Conference

  1. howlcolorado December 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Sometimes it seems to take forever for science to catch up with common sense:

    “He suggested this was the first really solid evidence that wolves’ disproportionate take of vulnerable animals was not just due to these animals’ vulnerability, but also a function of wolves’ behavior–that is, that wolves specifically target more vulnerable animals.”

    Elk are massive animals, and highly dangerous, especially to what is an undersized predator. When I give talks, I refer to an inherent energy equation playing a part in the behavior of predators. Cheetahs, wolves, and other active hunters. It is a massive investment for a predator to begin a chase. Indeed, predators can only withstand a finite number of failed hunts before their physical abilities to hunt more becomes significantly impacted in a detrimental fashion.

    This is two EXCELLENT Darwinian reasons that wolves would test (minimal investment + minimal risk) for weaker animals.

    It’s great to see actual evidence being found to support what has been an assumption. The good news is that confirming this particular assumption allows us to advance the hypothesis and apply the data. We can now ask questions about the benefits to a larger ecosystem of having a predator which operates in this way using a confirmed assumption that wolves and similar predators will target the weakest (and by extension, add the assumption that they target the sick).

    The issue of hunting wolves will only increase tolerance (if at all) in a specific demographic. A demographic which is particularly resistant to any activity which would increase tolerance of wolves.

    It’s also a dubious assertion to suggest that a hunt would not impact the population in a significant way. I don’t want to comment specifically since I am unsure how Dr. Mech is measuring impact on population. One thing we do know is that killing an Alpha has long reaching impacts – perhaps even increasing reproduction.

    What I do think is true however, is that in America, where the anthropomorphication of animals is so prevelent in a massive percentage of the population, hunting of wolves will be a mobilization point around which anti-hunting activists can easily rally. An equal number of wolves can be taken by wildlife services and generate no where near the level of outcry that the public hunt does. This, I think, in combination with the nature of human hunters to attempt to select the strongest animals, might prove to be the most challenging elements to any plans which involve a hunting season.

    I have elected to link to your blog from the HOWLColorado web site. The perspective offered here is very interesting.

    • JB December 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks for the link, Howl–and thanks for your perspective, as well. To be clear, I interpreted Dr. Mech’s comments to mean that a wolf population could rebound from a significant human harvest (the numbers he cited were 30 to as much as 50%) because of their high fecundity. I would agree that the stability of individual packs could potentially be impacted by the loss of an alpha animal, though in all fairness, alphas die from “natural” causes quite frequently and many packs seem to persist without issue.

      • howlcolorado December 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm

        Oh, I don’t disagree with Dr. Mech that the species is very capable of rebounding. Indeed, in a perverse way, I believe that studies have shown that an otherwise healthy pack losing it’s alpha can respond in a number of ways, including splitting in to two packs and therefore replacing one breeding pair with two.

        I am just dubious that a hunt would be as straightforward as a simple numbers game when hunters are likely to take the best specimen they can find, whereas a wolf tests to find the weakest and culls the herd that way. The hunt could impact the overall population through their top-down philosophy of harvesting the strongest, or biggest, animals. And I don’t think there is nearly enough research data to truly understand the impact of that style of hunting, particularly as it relates to a pack predator.

        I do think, and perhaps the Idaho hunt confirmed this, that wolves will prove elusive enough that hunters won’t have the option to pick and choose and instead make do with what they can find.

        In terms of the link to your site, I value nothing more highly than cool, considered and scientifically sourced opinion and data as it relates to wolves.

    • Bob Fanning December 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

      “Elk are massive animals, and highly dangerous, especially to what is an undersized predator”

      The elk I just shot, skinned and boned out left just over 100 lbs of meat.
      Last year ,when wolf hunting was permitted the largest one shot in Montana , up the Boulder near Big Timber, was 175 lbs.

      This hyperbole , high drama and polysylabic fraud is a primary reason why wolves are despised by the people who were forced to host to this non essential experiment.

      • JB December 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

        Actually nearly all of the wolves killed in Idaho and Montana have ranged between 80 and 120 lbs. The largest animal killed was 141 (R6M) back in 1998.

        For those interested in the facts, both Montana and Idaho have put together summaries of wolves harvested during the 2009 hunt (see links below).

        From Idaho: “Twenty-two wolves were weighed (x= 84 lbs. [38 kg]; range = 54-118 lbs. [25-54 kg]); mean weight for juveniles was 60 lbs. (27 kg; n = 3), and the mean weight of subadult/adults was 90 lbs. (41 kg; n = 16). One wolf was omitted because it had been partially field dressed, but weighed 126 lbs. (57 kg) with the stomach removed.”

        Link: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/wildlife/wolves/manage/09report.pdf

        From Montana: “Juveniles weighed 62 pounds on average. Yearlings weighed about 80 pounds. Adults weighed 97 pounds. One wolf weighed 117 pounds.”

        Link: http://fwpiis.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=41454

        Elk certainly pose a risk to wolves. Mech noted that they have documented cases of wolves being killed by white tailed deer, which are, of course, much smaller than elk.

  2. Barry December 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Common sense?

    I see once again the pro wolf faction wishes to cherry pick. Personally I think Mech is also playing to the crowd. When one disagrees with hunting, they wish to question that it is effective. When Mech provides such limited evidence of the fallacy that wolves target he weak in spite of thousands of pieces of evidence to the contrary, I have to question his claim of robust, or the means by which he makes that claim.

    Barry: I suggest you go back and revisit my original post and re-read it carefully. There is little question that wolves kill sick, weak, or otherwise vulnerable prey more frequently than would be expected given their representation in the population. Mech’s comments were in reference to evidence that wolves specifically *target* vulnerable prey, rather than kill them more frequently simply due to their greater vulnerability. — webmaster

    Lets look at some reality shall we. They may target a limping elk today, but what percentage of the population do those limping elk make up? Very few…and how do I come to that conclusion? By the undeniable evidence of thousands of perfectly healthy and pregnant cow elk having been killed by wolves in Idaho over the last 15 years. Anyone attempting to make the claim they only kill the weak and the sick is seriously trying to skew reality, there are simply only so many weak and sick, and once culled, elk have no other alternative but to turn to healthy animals. One animal with arthritis can not change this reality, nor does it prove this theory as robust. You are not only still using assumption, but denying much evidence to the contrary.

    Actually, if you go back and re-read my comment, you’ll find that I am quite careful not to use the word “only”. There is a vast difference between what I wrote, “…wolves’ tendency to kill weak and vulnerable animals with greater frequency then would be expected by chance” and the straw man you erected and summarily defeated, “…they only kill the weak and the sick.” I am not aware of any scientist that has claimed that wolves survive only on sick and weak animals. I would happy to see the evidence to the contrary that you mention? — webmaster

    As far as wolves rebounding, anyone still claiming they are a sensitive and fragile species is in complete denial of the reality that 35 wolves have managed to populate into well over 1000 in a mere 15 years. We could kill off 80% of the wolf population currently in Idaho and we would still be above the original recovery population estimate.

    I agree that wolves fecundity means they are capable of withstanding heavy mortality. I don’t know anyone that would refer to wolves as “fragile”. However, our history with wolves demonstrates that they are quite vulnerable to concerted efforts to remove them. We did it once before when there were far fewer people, no helicopters nor radio collars to help with tracking, far fewer roads, no high-end optics, etc. — webmaster

    Mech questioning of the tropic cascade is simply the fact he is seeing that that assumption has been highly over played also.

    So reading between the lines, the scientist is wrong where his findings conflict with your policy preferences and correct when his findings support your policy preferences? — webmaster

    This wolf issue is still more political that scientific, and I would believe it will continue to be so. Emotion over 80 years of valid management is the status quo, at least for now.

    On this much we can agree. However, emotions appear to run deep on both sides of the issue; a fact that neither side seems willing to acknowledge.
    — webmaster

  3. Shamra December 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    This article is a fact that there are evident problems with the wolf.
    Why don’t we stop the politics and take care of the problem?
    Do we need to be plagued by such controversy that evident problems keep increasing beyond repair?? What does it take to fix a problem anymore?
    Politics and treehuggers, now that is an epidmic!!
    Let’s turn the wolf loose in the big cities and see how long it takes to cure the problem!!!

    • JB December 20, 2010 at 8:47 am

      It seems to me that different people perceive the “problem” associated with wolves in very different ways. To some, the problem is that there are too few wolves, to others the problem is that there are too many, and to still others the problem is that wolves’ geographic distribution is nowhere near what it once was, or potentially could be.

      I would also point out that politics are inherent in all wildlife management. The difference with wolves is that the politics occur at local, state, and national levels–and they differ greatly depending upon the level of government.

  4. Bob Fanning December 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

    It’s not about “loves wolves — hates wolves ” it’s about wolf densities and who gets to decide them ….the brainwashed & emotionally intoxicated urban masses or those in rural areas who have had extreme & destructive wolf densities forced upon them.
    Trapping wolves is THE immediate and critical solution to the wolf scourge forced upon the west.

    • JB December 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

      Bob, there are at least three western states (Oregon, California, and Colorado) with more than 5,000 cougars–an animal that has similar energy requirements and kills ungulates at similar rates as wolves. Yet, the estimated minimum wolf population in the entire northern Rocky Mountain system (currently 5 states) is ~1,700. I understand that, due to wolves’ social nature (i.e., living in packs), they can occur at relatively high densities (when compared with cougars) in some areas, and thus, it is possible for them to have a disproportionate impact on local herds–albeit on a relatively small geographic scale. But the reality is that cougars are killing far more ungulates in the Rockies than wolves. So in your state of Montana for example, how is it that ~500 wolves constitutes an “extreme” and “destructive” force, when other states hold 10 times the number of cougars?

      Personally, I have no problem with a regulated wolf hunting season under state management; but this notion that wolves are a “scourge” is, to be blunt, preposterous.

      • Bob Fanning December 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

        Dear “preposterous” ,
        Liars figgure and figgures lie. Polysylabic demagoguery is demagoguery none the less.

        Predation is “additive” in Central Idaho and the Yellowstone ecosystem.
        Wolves hunt in large, super efficient packs while growing exponentialy with federal ‘protections’ at a 30% compound rate all the while dispersing farther and farther in ‘habitat’ than ever agreed to.
        85 % of all ungulate mortality is predation as reported by Alaska F&G who has 100 years of baseline science.

        Dr Charles E. Kay published that the predator densities in the Yellowstone ecosystem are higher than at any time in 12,000 years.

        It’s not about “loves wolves — hates wolves ” it’s about wolf densities and who gets to decide them ….the brainwashed & emotionally intoxicated urban masses or those in rural areas who have had extreme & destructive wolf densities forced upon them.
        Trapping wolves is THE immediate and critical solution to the wolf scourge forced upon the west.
        But then again you knew that all along because it isn’t about wildlife its about land confiscation , eh “preposterous”? Thats what Louisa Wilcox & Doug Honnold arrogantly told Pulitzer Prize winning AP journalist Matt Brown.

        Don’t kid a kidder eh ” preposterous”?

      • JB December 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm


        I find it disconcerting that you continue to make factual assertions that can be easily falsified. Is your intent to have an honest conversation, or are you using this blog as a platform from which to promote your agenda? In the 2009 Final Rule (http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/74FR15123.pdf) the US FWS notes that the annual growth rate of wolves over the entire reintroduction period is ~20% not 30%, as you assert. Moreover, anyone with time and a spreadsheet can download these numbers and see that the growth rate has continued to slow with time. Thus, from 2002-2009 the population grew by an average of 15% per year; however, 2007-2009 it grew by 10% per year. In the most recent year (2009) it grew just 3.7% overall and actually decreased in Idaho. These numbers can be verified via the FWS’s annual reports, posted here: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/.

        Moreover, you cite Alaska as an example (again, with apparently made up numbers) while ignoring the fact that wolves have had no discernible effect on white tailed deer populations in the Great Lakes states (by the way, Minnesota has had a stable population of 3,000 wolves for roughly a decade). People interested in Minnesota’s wolf population can read about it here (http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/fish_wildlife/wildlife/wolves/2008_survey.pdf).

  5. JEFF E December 30, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    ” Is your intent to have an honest conversation, or are you using this blog as a platform from which to promote your agenda? ”

  6. Barry December 31, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Another pro wolf censored website I see. I get my notifications that there are replies to my post, yet the posts have been removed.

    You people are so scared of the truth it’s amazing. It’s truly sad when in this modern day people rely so heavily on such pathetic actions

    • JB December 31, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      My apologies. To be honest, your original comment was caught in the spam filter–I found it when I saw this one. I approved it (above) and you’ll note that I responded to a few of the factual assertions you made.

      – – – – –

      Personally, I’ll take rigorously collected data over “truth” any day. I suspect very few “truths” are capable of standing up to peer-review. 😉

  7. Bob Fanning December 31, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    …”Wolves Don’t Really Attack and Kill People…Do They?”

    [edited by webmaster here]

    Wolves are a bio weapon turned on modern day Anti Federalist Patriots by the same, arrogant know it all , fools & fops who brought their wives into combat wearing powdered wigs and red coats.

    • Bob Fanning December 31, 2010 at 6:49 pm

      [edited by webmaster here] Demogogue coward

      Another pro wolf censored website I see. I get my notifications that there are replies to my post, yet the posts have been removed.

      You people are so scared of the truth it’s amazing. It’s truly sad when in this modern day people rely so heavily on such pathetic actions

    • JB December 31, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      Generally, a few people are killed by wolves every year (usually in Asia, and more often than not rabies is the actual cause of death). However, instances of wolves killing people in North America are extremely rare. I know of two peer-reviewed publications that cover the topic of wolf attacks. McNay (2002) documented 19 cases of “unprovoked wolf aggression” between 1900 and 2000. He found that habituation/food-conditioning contributed to 11 of these cases. In the intervening 8 years, two people (one in Alaska and one in Canada) were killed by wolves and an additional person (in Canada) was killed by large eastern coyotes. (Link to article: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/3784237.pdf)

      A more extensive review was conducted by John Linnell and colleagues (also in 2002); that publication is available here: http://skandulv.nina.no/skandulv%20new/Publikasjoner/English%20pdf%20files/NINA-OM731.pdf. The goal of this report was to “…compile existing knowledge on wolf attacks in Scandinavia, continental Europe, Asia, and North America.”

      – – – –

      Folks interested in facts instead of hyperbole, might wish to note that you are more likely to be killed by a tornado, lightning, or even bees than you are to be attacked by a wolf in North America.

      • Barry December 31, 2010 at 9:29 pm

        Sadly this is the same twisted downplaying of reality that contaminates this entire program. Do you not find it simply explainable as to the low numbers of attacks in North America simply by realizing that wolf numbers in the lower 48 were extremely low, encounters between people and wolves even lower, and that they mainly inhabit sparsely populated areas in Canada and Alaska? This is the perfect example of the illogical thinking that is pushed out there by those willing to down play the danger of living with wolves.

        Simple statistics are easily manipulated, if you don’t believe me, I can prove through statistics that ice cream is responsible for drownings.

        We have now created an environment containing wolves in much more limited ecosystems that are much more densely populated. It really is only a matter of time. This cycle is both predictable and proven, if one takes the time to actually study wolf incidents where wolves and people actually cohabited. But that reality doesn’t shine so brightly on the wolf and the future deaths in the lower 48 that are coming.

      • JB January 1, 2011 at 3:38 pm


        I am not trying to “downplay” the risks associated with wolves; rather, I am trying to provide a realistic assessment of the risk based upon scientifically-gathered data. It is certainly appropriate to discuss the costs and benefits associated with recovering wolves; however, our description of these costs and benefits need to be bounded by reality, not hyperbolas conjecture.

        I certainly agree that the fact that wolf populations tend to do best where people are not has contributed to the low frequency of attacks–however, I do not agree that it fully explains this relationship. Brown/grizzly bears, for example, are less adapted to living around people than wolves, yet they are more frequently implicated in attacks in North America–despite the fact that there are far fewer bears than wolves. Wolves have killed 2 people in North America in the past 110 years; grizzly bears killed 2 people in the Yellowstone ecosystem just this year.

        Loe and Roskaft reviewed attacks by large carnivores for the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in a 2004 paper. [Ambio Vol. 33(6):283-288. August ’04] In total, they documented 607 wolf-related mortalities worldwide during the entire 20th Century–the vast majority of which were caused by the transmission of rabies. Note: The same study documented 12,599 people killed by Tiger and 840 killed by leopards.

        To provide a bit of perspective, let’s contrast these statistics with another charismatic species: deer. State Farm estimated that, in 2009, there were 2.4 million deer-vehicle collisions in the United states [link]. Moreover, between 1994 and 2007, The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety documented an average of 171 human fatalities per year from deer collisions for a total of 2,398 [link]. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that dogs bite 4.7 million people annually, 386,000 of which require treatment, and about 16 die [link].

        To address your argument head on, wolf populations in northern Minnesota have hovered around 3,000 for near two decades without a single death; moreover, Yellowstone National Park, which gets upwards of 3 million visitors per year (many of whom are not at all savoy around wildlife), recently had some of the highest wolf densities ever recorded–no deaths there either.

        But, as you say, statistics can be deceiving, so let’s judge the risk from yet another perspective. A 2003 report by the National Shooting Sports Foundation that attempts to put the risks associated with firearms in perspective noted that in the year 2000 roughly 43,000 people died in motor-vehicle accidents, 14,500 people were poisoned, 14,200 died from falling, 3,900 died in fires, 3,300 people drowned, and “776 deaths were caused by the accidental discharge of a firearm” [link]. So, in one year, firearm accidents killed more people in the United States alone than were killed by wolves worldwide in the entire 20th century.

        No manipulation of statistics, just simple facts that place the risk in perspective.

        Unlinked academic reference:
        McNay, M. E. 2002. Wolf-Human Interactions in Alaska and Canada: A Review of the Case History. Wildlife Society Bulletin 30:831-843.

  8. Bob Fanning January 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    “those willing to down play the danger of living with wolves.”

    [edited to exclude potentially libelous content]

    When someones’ loved one is killed by wolves I pray to the Almighty that the ‘eye for an eye” is directed at the lawyers, NGO executives , academics scamming for grants and bureaucrats that lied & profiteered for career advancement and the corpses of those vermin swing by their heels from telephone posts desecrated and set ablaze . There will be a reckoning when a child dies and it will not be directed at the wolf.

    • JB January 2, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      Number of people killed by wolves in the conterminous US in the past 110 years: 0.
      Number of people killed by wolves in North America in the past 110 years: 2.
      Number of people who died from wolves or related injuries worldwide in the past 100 years: 607.
      Number of people who are estimated to die prematurely in the US each year due to smoking-related diseases: 440,000.

      Thus, if my math is correct (440,000 / 365) more people die prematurely from smoking-related diseases in the United States EVERY DAY (~1200) then have been killed by wolves worldwide in the past 100 years.

      Source is the US CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5114a2.htm#tab1

      “Results show that during 1995–1999, smoking caused approximately 440,000 premature deaths in the United States annually and approximately $157 billion in annual health-related economic losses.”

  9. jburnham January 2, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    JB, Thanks for the informative links in this post. I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughts on the ‘human dimensions wildlife management’ and wanted to make sure at least one comment here was encouraging and not full of hyperbole and silliness.

  10. Bob Fanning January 2, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    “Number of people who died from wolves or related injuries worldwide in the past 100 years: 607.”
    Not that I buy your statistics by any streach of the imagination BUT>
    The left stated unequivobly that wolves never attack people as part of their intensive propaganda campaign that preceeded wolf “reintroduction”.
    This statistic {which is much,much larger} was available before the EIS was drafted but censored.
    The fact that you censor my posts is primary evidence that you had / have quite a lot to hide.
    BTW , since you pissed me off by your censorship , I sent the full paragraph to Mech , Creel, Boyce et . al. in open copy and every elected state official and news paper in bcc.
    Have a nice day JB hiding behind your acronym…signing off for good.

    • JB January 3, 2011 at 5:29 am

      Bob: I censored your comments because (a) you made wild accusations that mentioned specific individuals by name and I won’t post libelous material here–do it on your own site, on your own time; (b) you linked to a website that advocated illegal activity (i.e. killing an endangered species); and (c) you flung around insults that do nothing to advance a conversation.

      Moreover, you repeatedly change the subject when I challenge your factual assertions with actual data. Conversation about wolf/wildlife policy needs to be bounded by facts. I will not allow you (or anyone else) to use this blog to libel someone, insult/provoke people, or advocate illegal activity.

      P.S. I’m not sure why you think I’m “hiding”? Click on the icon next to my initials and you’ll be taken to my flickr site, which bears my name. Additionally, five of the six links at the top of the page contain my name–including a link to my vitae. If I’m hiding, I think it is fair to say that I’m doing a terrible job of it! 😉

    • JB January 3, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Some folks argue that wolves currently pose a risk in the northern Rockies because their densities are extremely high. Indeed, Bob noted above:

      “Dr Charles E. Kay published that the predator densities in the Yellowstone ecosystem are higher than at any time in 12,000 years.”

      However, this statement is deceptive. A few years ago wolf densities in Yellowstone National Park were indeed among the highest recorded in modern times; however, the YNP population has since begun to decline. Moreover, as I pointed out above, if wolf densities in Yellowstone posed the kind of imminent threat that Bob implies, one would expect at least one mortality from wolves, given that roughly 3 million people visit the park each year–again, note that two people were killed by grizzly bears just this year in the GYE.

      One might also note that in 1903–a full 20 years after wolf bounties were implemented in Montana and the functional eradication of bison in the state–more than 4,000 wolves were turned in for bounty in the state of Montana alone! [Riley et al. (2004)] Indeed, Riley et al. (2004) specifically note:

      “It is likely not coincidental that eradication of bison and initiation of the state’s first bounty program both occurred in 1883.”

      What is particularly relevant to me is the fact that so many wolves existed in one NRM state that 4,000 could be harvested in a single year–20 years after bison were eradicated. One might argue that there were many fewer people on the landscape in Montana in 1900; indeed, data from the US census bureau indicates that there were roughly 243,000 in 1900, while there are close to 975,000 today–a four-fold increase. However, it is also relevant that the daily lives of most Montanans in 1900 differ dramatically from how we live today. Most of Montana’s population actually reside in urban areas (where wolves are not). Moreover, the practice of agriculture now requires people to spend far less time outdoors–reducing the likelihood that one comes into contact with a wolf.

      Again, this is not to say that wolves are not dangerous–all large terrestrial carnivores are potentially dangerous to people. Rather, it is to put some perspective on the potential risks associated with wolves.

  11. JEFF E January 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

    a suggestion JB, link this blog to you’re university’s Sociological and Psychological schools. Not only will they find it fascinating but there is sure to be material for a masters thesis or two started…..then we can go to the English dept for a little treatise on BASIC English comprehension.

  12. Barry January 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Smoking deaths? Shooting deaths? Just exactly how is that even relevant? It’s not, it is just the typical marginalization of the real fact that people have and people will die from wolves.

    When gauging a risk–any risk–it is important to put that risk in perspective. Every year a few people are killed by sharks, that doesn’t stop my from swimming in the ocean; many people die in car accidents every day, that doesn’t keep me from driving to work every day; similarly, the fact that wolves, grizzlies and cougars occasionally kill people does not stop me from recreating where these animals live. Can you explain why, exactly, you think that factual knowledge about relative risks “marginalizes” anyone’s death?

    Your logic is not only skewed, it is dishonest by attempting to claim, why are these deaths important when there are so many elsewhere. Sorry, but I consider ever human life as precious, and see no valid reason to risk them for something with no real benefit.

    My logic is that people will be more likely to make rational decisions when they have accurate and reliable information about the relative risks associated with a risk object. In your opinion wolves provide “no real benefit”; others, myself included disagree. That disagreement is not based upon facts, but our differing perceptions about the costs and benefits associated with the species.

    You continue to claim you are interested in factual information yet continue to only address surface and incomplete claims.

    What is a “surface and incomplete claim”? The claim I was addressing was the one that wolves posed an imminent risk to human beings. I provided factual information not only about how many people have been killed by wolves, but about other risks, allowing people to gauge the risk posed by wolves relative to other sources of mortality. I can think of no better way of addressing the claim?

    Any deaths from this non essential animal lays on the hands of those who brought it here and support it here. This animal was not and is not needed in our modern ecosystems in the lower 48 that are so heavily inhabited by humans, you may not agree with that on an emotional level, but it is factual.

    Any deaths caused by wolves should be blamed on the people that reintroduced and support them? What about the deaths caused by other reintroduced species? What about automobile-related deaths? Should we attribute them all to Henry Ford? I suppose we should both be thankful that, in 16 years no one has died as a result of reintroduced wolves.

    By the way, one could argue that very few species are “essential”–this is a dangerous course for someone who claims to be an advocate of wildlife. Certainly deer and elk are not essential species? We could replace them with cows and sheep today, right? Far more people are killed by deer every year than have been killed by wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears in the past 100 years. Perhaps your time would be better spent campaigning against these species?

    The VAST MAJORITY of wolves in the western US reside almost exclusively on federal lands, whose only inhabitants are the good people of the US Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. I’m sure you’ll disagree, so any poor soul who is still listening can check out the map on p. 15126 and decide for themselves.

    To disregard human impacts and then attempt to dismiss them is simply emotional, the human animal always has desires that although wanted, that just do not recognize reality.

    What human impacts have I disregarded? I have acknowledged the potential risk posed by wolves and provided factual information that allows readers to put that risk in perspective. What part of reality have I failed to grasp?

    Any emotionally based claim that is obviously debunked by fact, and then the fact dismissed because it isn’t emotionally convenient is so common among those who continue to support this animal in spite of the negative realities we have witnessed. The wolf has done nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished without it, period. We did not have unhealthy ecosystems, in fact, they were much more healthy that they are now.

    What is your evidence for suggesting that ecosystems are less healthy now than they were before? By which measures do you gauge ecosystem health? If wolves have “done nothing” why are they so bothersome to you?

    Your little claim that “There is little question that wolves kill sick, weak, or otherwise vulnerable prey more frequently than would be expected given their representation in the population. ” spits in the face of the reality that the majority of those sick and weak were actually created by the wolf. Once again, a surface evaluation. Wolves are unsuccessful in more attacks than they are successful, yet even in those unsuccessful attacks, they leave wounded behind. That animal may in fact survive the initial attack yet in the near future become unsustainable from the injury inflicted by the wolf. There is research from Isle Royale that shows this reality, yet it is never mentioned by the pro wolf faction, it is just easier to ignore it and claim…’see they only kill the sick and the weak and the old’. When in fact, the wolf is the very creator of those sick and weak.

    So let me get this straight, you’re claiming that wolves were the cause of the “sick and weak” moose on Isle Royale? Moose on Isle Royale are plagued by winter ticks and arthritis–can you tell me how wolves cause these issues? You might be interested in the following (from the 2008-09 Isle Royale report):

    “Compared to recent years (Fig. 16), a greater proportionof moose that wolves had killed showed signs of malnutrition. Specifically, the fat content of bone marrow was below 70% for 10 of the 20 moose that we had necropsied in 2009. The moose that wolves killed also showed a high incidence of arthritis. In a typical winter, about 30% of wolf-killed moose are arthritic (Fig. 17). This winter, 76% of the 17 moose that we necropsied with sufficient skeletal material were arthritic. For the first time in 50 years, we observed no calves among the moose that wolves killed; all of the wolf-killed moose were older adults.”

    At the base is the false belief that nature untouched by humans is better. Science that helped along by the likes of Aldo Leopold, who in fact received his wildlife training in Germany in the mid 30’s. He was indoctrinated in and brought back to the United States Hitlers wildlife program. You may not want to admit that, but it is factual. The whole program is a fraud and the facts presented by many of the claimed experts simply promotes that fraud.

    Wrong again. Aldo Leopold trained at the Yale Forest School. By 1909 he was already working for the Forest Service; in 1924 he accepted a position with the Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin; in 1933, the year he authored Game Management, he was appointed professor in the Ag Economics Department at UW Madison–this was the same year Hitler was appointed chancellor.

    Many would label me anti-wolf, when in reality I am pro wildlife, pro management through ‘SOUND’ science, pro human. I will not apologize for accepting reality and not buying into this crap modern science that has shown its destruction on our once well managed ecosystems. Yellowstone was simply the result of bottom up management, it failed as was predictable. Top down is showing the same failures, just as was predictable. The fact that it will be denied for decades only shows that the fallacy of the modern science is bunk and must be defended no matter the amount of factual information that needs to be ignored. Considering the fact that the entire modern ecological beliefs, perpetuated by those who have helped bring this failed program about, rests on their wolf not destroying our wildlife one begins to understand why they do what they do….deny, twist and marginalize. I have never read so many outcome based studies as I have since this wolf program began being studied.

    I am not sure where you have come up with these notions; in fact, I am not even sure I understand what it is you object to (though you have made it quite clear that you object to wolves). You have presented no facts; in fact, much of the information you (and Bob) have presented is easily falsified.

    In regards to who is being emotional, I am happy to let any of the poor folks that are still reading judge for themselves. Good luck in your endeavors!


  13. Barry January 3, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    To be honest, I am a little sick of you editing my posts, I don’t understand why all of you people insist on editing, oh wait a minute, yes I do…. Just let it post, and then reply if you insist.

    Thank You

    Barry: I have not edited any of your text–I have left your posts complete; I simply chose to respond in the originally post. This saves me the inconvenience of copying and pasting the text.

    Aldo Leopold, you are very wrong……..

    an invitation from the Oberlaender Trust of the Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation for an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany and other central European countries to study forestry and game management. The Germans had been practicing these arts for centuries and Leopold, who had grown up in a German-American family and was joshed by his schoolmates about his “German soul,” was keenly interested to see what they were doing.

    Germany in 1935 was already entering the grip of Nazi militarism, a fact that could not escape Leopold and his fellow touring foresters


    Barry: You originally wrote: “Aldo Leopold, who in fact received his wildlife training in Germany in the mid 30′s. He was indoctrinated in and brought back to the United States Hitlers wildlife program.” This simply is not factual, as I have noted. Leopold trained at the Yale Forest School. He was already a professor at UW Madison by the time he made the trip to Germany, again as I have noted. You are attempting to argue that the ~two month trip Leopold made to Germany in 1935 constitutes “his wildlife training”, when in fact, he had already written and published Game Management (the textbook that would be used for the next 4 decades by those who studied wildlife management) in 1933. You are distorting facts to suite your agenda, and you’re losing credibility faster than you can type.

  14. Barry January 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    After Aldo’s return was when he was enlighten to the love the predator mentality that he picked up while he was there.

    Webmaster’s response: 1922He also began questioning the fire fighting policy and predator control policies. He questioned whether man should interfere in natural processes. He explored the Gila river area, which was nearly untouched by roads or buildings. He noticed that the land seemed healthier than the forest lands he had recently seen. He realized that it would be easier to protect the land, than to try to rehabilitate it after the fact. In 1922, he wrote proposal to permanently protect the entire 750,000 acres of the Gila River valley.”

    In 1935 Leopold began to move the focus of his work away from game management towards “a renewed interest in nongame wildlife; emphasis on the biotic values of wilderness […] a concern for the stability of land “as an organism”; a recognition of the absolute necessity of coordination in conservation activities” (Meine 351). This shift in interest would lead to the publishing of his most famous essay “The Land Ethic”. Leopold also received a letter inviting five other foresters and himself to spend time in Central Europe studying forestry methods for a few months. Leopold traveled to Germany. In Germany Leopold “observed the conservation successes of Germany’s more centralized system” (Newton 167). He also recognized that the German system included a lot of positive and negative aspects related to conservation that America should heed. He used this knowledge towards continuing to expand his views regarding conservation in the U.S.


    Webmaster’s response: “Leopold knew he was starting to make a name for himself when in 1935, Bob Marshall and other conservation advocates formed the Wilderness Society. They asked Leopold to be their president. He did not want the notoriety or the headache, but agreed to be a founder. He continued to study the environment and advocate preservation and wise use. He studied in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he studied the concept of the land as a living organism. After that he stressed the interrelationship between biodiversity and healthy land.”

    • JB January 4, 2011 at 6:56 pm

      And here is the rest of the text that Barry conveniently failed to post…

      Leopold was impressed by much that he saw in Germany, but he was also profoundly unsettled by it. Germany, after a devastating experience with soil sickness brought on by wholesale conversion to monotypic plantations of spruce or pine, had shifted around 1914 to a more ecologically informed policy of Dauerwald or “permanent woods”–mixed forests naturally reproduced–coupled with an aggressive, nationalistic Naturschutz movement aimed at preserving small remnants of native flora and fauna. But the Germans were still managing the bulk of their land for both highyield timber and high-density deer and other game. As Leopold observed in a communication to his departmental newsletter, “One cannot travel many days in the German forests, either public or private, without being overwhelmed by the fact that artificialized game management and artificialized forestry tend to destroy each other.”

      “…Leopold was haunted by this realization of Germany’s esthetic deficit, the more so because it stemmed from an excess of conservation rather than a lack of it, and he was determined to help America avoid the same fate.”

      Please contrast this with Barry’s original post, in which he suggests that Leopold “was indoctrinated in and brought back to the united states Hitler’s wildlife program.” Also note that this was the same source he was quoting.

  15. JB January 4, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I have let this silliness go on for long enough. Comments are closed.

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