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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Biologist Jay Mallonee has studied Montana Wolves for over 20 years and has shared his findings about the aberrant and unscientific findings that MONTANA FISH WILDLIFE AND PARK(FWP) continually puts forth regarding Wolf depredation of livestock and wild browsers----Using speculation and not science to put forth genocidal Wolf killing quotas................As Jay states emphatically------"Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks uses no management alternative in which the majority of wolves are left alone and only deal with isolated depredation incidents".................. "Instead, you use your reported minimum wolf counts that are not based in science to arrive at erroneous conclusions about the wolf population then use them to make policy"............. "Overall, wolves are managed without regard to their top-down influence throughout ecosystems by ignoring other areas of science, such as animal behavior, emotions, intelligence, interactions among life forms, and some basic ecological principles ".............................At the end of Jay's letter to FWP(read full blog entry), you can click and read his entire peer reviewed article entitled HUNTING WOLVES IN MONTANA-WHERE ARE THE DATA?


I will be unable to attend the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) meeting on April 12.  Instead, I would like to submit my comments via email:
For over twenty years I have researched and taught about wolves.  Having had the longest running behavioral study of these animals in Montana's history, outside of Yellowstone National Park, my interactions with wolf management agencies has been extensive.  Near the end of 2011, I published a review of the wolf population data presented by FWP in their annual reports (Mallonee 2011).  This paper was published in a peer review scientific journal and a copy is enclosed as a PDF.
In statements to the pubic and on their web site, FWP has claimed that wolf management and the public hunting of wolves is based in science.  My published review demonstrated that this is not true.  In addition, Kent Laudon, one of your Wolf Management Specialists, stated in an email to me, "Jay there are no protocols.  No protocol would be necessary or even help really" (Kent Laudon, Wolf Management Specialist, FWP, 7 Sep 10, personal communication).  This statement alone means you do not use science to collect your minimum wolf population count each year, the number you use to make management decisions.  Therefore, the quotas proposed for public wolf hunts are completely arbitrary, and management decisions in general have not been based on facts.  This has produced a wolf management system that lacks scientific perspective and does not utilize what is known about the wolves' role in sustaining healthy ecosystems.  Instead, the absence of verifiable data suggests that management decisions are often based on opinion and politics rather than science.  In addition, your two reasons for hunting wolves can be easily disproven.  Below is a summary of each point:
Livestock depredation
Let's us 2009 as an example because there was a "high" incidence of livestock depredation associated with wolves.  During this year, 97 cattle were lost to wolves (Sime et al. 2010).  Government statistics show that 2.6 million cattle, including calves, live in Montana (U. S. Department of Agriculture 2007, 2009).  Ninety-seven out of 2.6 million is only 0.004 percent.  To be fair, these cattle are not evenly distributed across the landscape.  Western Montana, where the wolves live, has fewer cattle than on the east side of the state.  As of 2009, there were 494,100 cattle (U. S. Department of Agriculture 2009).  However, only 97 of these animals were killed by wolves, or 0.02 percent of the western cattle population.  Similar low percentages apply to sheep.  There were approximately 33,000 sheep, including lambs, in western Montana in 2009 (U. S. Department of Agriculture 2009). Wolves were documented to have killed 202 of these animals or 0.6 percent (Sime et al. 2010).  In 2009, therefore, wolves were responsible for about 0.06 percent of total livestock loss.  Undoubtedly there have been other depredations by wolves that could not be confirmed by government biologists or ranchers.  The number remains unknown, however (Sime et al. 2007).  Even if 1,000 cattle were reported for 2009, this would only be 0.2 percent or less of the cattle in western Montana killed by wolves.
Statistically, the wolf depredation "problem" barely exists.  Socially and economically, however, those who lost their cattle would likely disagree.  There is nothing "statistical" about suffering a real financial loss, sometimes thousands of dollars, often accompanied by a range of emotions.  However, some ranchers have prevented problems by using clean ranching practices: disposing of placentas during the birthing season or placing pregnant livestock into a smaller area where they can be observed.  Although some ranchers have lost livestock to wolves, the statistics do not show how many animals they had to begin with.  Losing 9 out of a 1,000 animals would be quite different from 9 out of 10 animals.
Despite the statistics, FWP insists that a hunting season is necessary to help prevent livestock losses to wolves (Sime et al. 2007).  However, the vast majority of wolf packs have not depredated on livestock (Bangs et al. 2005).  When depredations have occurred, non-lethal methods have worked well to deter wolves from killing livestock, although 10 - 12 percent of the wolf population were removed annually to prevent repeated attacks (Sime et al. 2007).  It appears that some wolf management is necessary, but annual hunts remain unjustified. 
Threat to prey populations
The "potential" threat to prey populations, specifically elk, has been used as another reason to kill additional wolves each year (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 2010).  However, no data are available to support this contention.  In Montana, prey population numbers are not measured annually.  So from year to year, as population numbers vary, it remains unknown how many deer, elk, and moose are really in the environment.  However, some estimates are available for white-tailed deer, elk, and mule deer (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 2007, 2008, 2008a).
In northwest Montana, no relevant research has been conducted to determine the effects wolves have on wild prey populations (Kent Laudon, Wolf Management Specialist, FWP, 30 Jul 10 personal communication).  Some elk populations, however, have been studied in southwest Montana and Yellowstone National Park.  This research concluded that wolves at best had mixed impacts on these herds: some declined, some increased (southwestern Montana), and others showed little or no effect from wolves (Hamlin and Cunningham 2009, Sime et al. 2009).  Many other factors, such as weather and predation by grizzly bears and other animals, also affect total elk population numbers (Mech et al. 2001).  
Even FWP's own recent study of elk in the Bitterroot has shown that mountain lions are the main predator of elk, especially calves (Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks 2012).  So your own data shows that your reason for killing wolves is wrong.  In response to these unexpected results, FWP will have scientists begin studying the lions in the area (Backus 2012).  However, you already responded by increasing the hunting quota for cougars in the Bitterroot.  Now scientists will monitor a manipulated lion population while trying to determine the natural interactions between cougar and elk.  Shouldn't the lions be studied first before killing them?  In addition, in your own Environmental Assessment (U. S. Department of Agriculture et al. 2012), you state that elk pregnancy rates are unaffected by wolves, and calf survival rates before and after wolf restoration are basically the same.  Studies that have looked at elk distribution in the winter indicate wolves have only a small-scale effect, and large- scale effects are still unknown.  So where is the problem?  Blasting away at wildlife then expecting their populations to be in balance with one another is unrealistic and irresponsible.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks uses no management alternative in which the majority of wolves are left alone and only deal with isolated depredation incidents.  Instead, you use your reported minimum wolf counts that are not based in science to arrive at erroneous conclusions about the wolf population then use them to make policy.  Overall, wolves are managed without regard to their top-down influence throughout ecosystems by ignoring other areas of science, such as animal behavior, emotions, intelligence, interactions among life forms, and some basic ecological principles (Mallonee and Joslin 2004, Mallonee 2008, Estes et al. 2011).  Although some management may be necessary, hunting wolves remains scientifically unjustified.  It is difficult not to conclude that FWP bases its wolf management on special interest groups and politics rather than science and reality.
Jay Mallonee
Wolf and Wildlife Studies
Kalispell, Montana

Backus, Perry.  2012.  Studying lions:  researchers to begin collecting DNA samples in Bitterroot Valley.  Ravalli Republic (December 17, 2012).  <>
Bangs, E. E., Fontaine, J. A., Jimenez, M. D., Meier, T. J., Bradley, E. H., Niemeyer, C. C., Smith, D. W., Mack, C. M., Asher, V., and Oakleaf, J. K. 2005. Managing wolf-human conflict in the northwestern United States. In People and wildlife: conflict or coexistence?, eds. R. Woodroffe, S. Thirgood, and A. Rabinwitz, pp. 340-356. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Estes, A. E., Terborgh, T., Brashares, J. S., Power, M. E., Berger, J., Bond, W. J., Carpenter, S. R., Essington, T. E., Holt, R. D., Jackson, J. B., Marquis, R. J., Oksanen, L., Oksanen, T., Paine, R. T., Pikitch, E. K., Ripple, W. J., Sandin, S. A., Scheffer, M., Schoener, T. W., Shurin, J. B., Sinclair, A. R., Soulé, M E., Virtanen, R., and Wardle, D. A. 2011. Trophic downgrading of planet earth. Science. 333:301-306.
Hamlin, K. L., and Cunningham, J. A. 2009. Monitoring and assessment of wolf-ungulate interactions and population trends within the Greater Yellowstone Area, southwestern Montana, and Montana statewide: final report. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Wildlife Division, Helena, Montana, USA. <
Mallonee, J. S. 2008. Movements of radio collared wolves and their significance on pack assembly. The Journal of American Science. 4(1):53-58 < sci/0401/07_0339_Mallonee_movement_am0401.pdf
Mallonee, J. S.  2011.  Hunting wolves in Montana - where are the data?  Nature and Science.  9(9):175-182.
Mallonee, J. S., and Joslin, P. 2004. Traumatic stress disorder observed in an adult wild captive wolf (Canis lupus). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 7:107-126. < 04jaws07023.pdf
Mech, L. D., and Peterson, R. O. 2003. Wolf-prey relations. In Wolves: behavior, ecology, and conservation, eds. L. D. Mech and L. D. Boitani, pp. 131-160. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 
Mech, L. D., Smith, D. E., Murphy, K. M., and MacNulty, D. R. 2001. Winter severity and wolf predation on a formerly wolf-free elk herd. Journal of Wildlife Management. 65(4):998-1003. 
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 2007. 2007 Montana white-tailed deer distribution and population estimate. <
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 2008. 2008 elk objectives and status. <
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 2008a. 2008 mule deer status. <
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 2010. FWP fact sheet, questions and answers: Montana's regulated wolf hunt.  <
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.  2012.  Bitterroot elk project progress report fall 2012.  <>
Sime, C. A., Bangs, E., Bradley, E., Steuber, J. E., Glazier, K., Hoover, P. J., Asher, V., Laudon, K., Ross, M., and Trapp, J. 2007. Gray wolves and livestock in Montana: a recent history of damage management. In the Proceedings of the 12th Wildlife Damage Management Conference. pp. 16-35. 
Sime, C. A., Asher, V., Bradley, L., Laudon, K., Lance, N., Ross, M., and Steuber, J. 2009. Montana gray wolf conservation and management 2008 annual report. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Helena, Montana, USA. < prairie/species/mammals/wolf/annualrpt08/index.html
Sime, C. A., Asher, V., Bradley, L., Laudon, K., Lance, N., Ross, M., and Steuber, J. 2010. Montana gray wolf conservation and management 2009 annual report. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Helena, Montana, USA.
U. S. Department of Agriculture. 2007. 2007 Census of Agriculture: state profile - Montana. < hlights/County_Profiles/Montana/cp99030.pdf
U. S. Department of Agriculture. 2009. National Agricultural Statistics Service - Montana cattle and sheep losses to predators. <
U. S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park.  2012.  Environmental Assessment:  Gray wolf damage management in Montana for the protection of livestock, other domestic animals, human safety, and other resources.  <>

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