Category Archives: Postcards from Nutsville

"Truthiness" Only Gets You So Far

Wolf packThe topic of predators in general, and wolves in particular, conjures much emotion on both sides; one need look no further than the comments posted on various articles in this blog to see how hot people’s blood runs. Look closer at these comments, however, and you’ll notice that where the emotion runs particularly high, the credibility of the statements made often runs particularly low.

Notably, the subject of wolf restoration seems to draw the same tired old assertion that wolves are wiping out their prey. A bit of horse-sense would lead most to the conclusion that if wolves were prone to eat themselves out of house-and-home that they’d have gone extinct long ago. But we strive to go beyond horse sense here. To the largest extent possible, we aim to back-up our assertions with peer-reviewed science. So, in that spirit, I present below a refutation of one such bit of wolf folklore. More importantly, I will edit individual comments to this blog that continue to perpetuate wolf hysteria with links back to this and other posts that refute such myths.

Public dialog is important. Thoughtful, well informed dialog is even more important. So, consider this:

Question: Are wolves responsible (or primarily responsible) for the decline in the density of Yellowstone’s Northern Range elk herd?

Ongoing research in Yellowstone National Park indicates that the decline of Northern Range elk is multi-causal: climate effects due to drought, predation (wolves, bear and cougar), increased hunter harvest of female elk at the time of wolf reintroduction. At the time of wolf reintroduction, elk density was 13-15 elk per square kilometer on the Northern Range, a very high elk density. Now elk density is 6-7 elk per square kilometer, still very dense. Most areas outside Yellowstone National Park are below 1 elk per square kilometer. Therefore elk in Yellowstone National Park have declined from very dense to just dense. Data indicate that fewer elk is proving beneficial to other aspects of the system (vegetation, scavengers, bears, songbirds, etc).

Literature cited:

John A. Vucetich, Douglas W. Smith, Daniel R. Stahler. 2005. Influence of harvest, climate and wolf predation on Yellowstone elk, 1961-2004. Oikos. 111 (2), 259–270.

Roger J. Anderson and Alice Wondrak Biel. 2005. Ten Years of Yellowstone Wolves (1995-2005). Yellowstone Science. 13 (1). 2-45.

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WY pumps up the war chest in anticipation of wolf management

A recent article in the Casper Star-Tribune outlined a proposed budget by the state of Wyoming to fund their wolf management plan. In sum, the state plans to spend over $2 million per year to “manage” wolves. I can guarantee you that they don’t plan to be spending that money to help wolves gain more ground in Wyoming; as I said to the reporter, we’d be doing the ranchers who loose livestock to wolves a much greater service if we simply directed thos funds to pay them several time the market value of thei9r lost stock — and we’d still spend far less than $2 million!

To read the original article, click here.Old West Meets New (Photo: orgin unknown)

County seeks removal of wolf as precaution

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Catron County Manager Bill Aymar says officials only want to prevent problems by asking the federal government to remove a pregnant female Mexican gray wolf released on the county’s border after it killed two cows elsewhere.

But Victoria Fox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says the agency has no reason to remove the wolf.

The dispute over the animal — designated F924 — began as soon as it was released April 25 in southwestern New Mexico.

The next day, the county demanded it be removed as an “imminent danger.” Fish and Wildlife rejected the demand last week.

The county has threatened to invoke an ordinance, passed in February, in which the county claims the right to remove wolves that are accustomed to humans or have a high probability of harming children or other defenseless people, physically or psychologically.

Read the entire Associated Press story by clicking here.

Government adopts new Endangered Species policy: denial

Flat Tops WildernessA little over a week ago, a memo from the Solicitor for the U.S. Department of Interior surfaced that seeks to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act by essentially limiting the law’s scope to those places where imperiled species are presently struggling, eliminating any need to actually restore such species to their former range. This shouldn’t really come as a shock, but it should wake people up to the clear view of this Administration: “Nature can go to hell!”. Here’s a teaser from an AP article last week and the link to the full story:

Tired of losing lawsuits brought by conservation groups, the Bush administration issued a new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act on Friday that would allow it to protect plants and animals only in areas where they are struggling to survive, while ignoring places where they are healthy or have already died out.

The opinion by U.S. Department of Interior Solicitor David Bernhardt was posted with no formal announcement on the department’s Web site.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall, contacted in Washington, D.C., said the new policy would allow them to focus on protecting species in areas where they are in trouble, rather than having to list a species over its entire range.

That would make it easier to take the gray wolf off the federal threatened species list in Montana and Idaho, leaving it to the states to manage. And it would leave it listed in Wyoming, where the state has yet to adopt a protection plan that satisfies the federal government, Hall said.

“I think this will be a good tool from a biological standpoint,” he said. “I think a lot of species might be affected in the future, especially species that are wideranging.”

But Kieran Suckling, policy director for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, said the new policy was a sophisticated effort by the Bush administration to gut the Endangered Species Act by ignoring the loss of species from their historical range, making it easier to deny endangered species listings.

Click here to read the full story from the Associated Press.

The Cowboy State declares that it's 1874–again

Wolves - government Sponsored Terrorists?

In a move that can only be described as puzzling, the Wyoming legislature has advanced a bill that will ensure that wolves will remain listed as “endangered” under Federal law. Why? Well, those wacky fellers got a plan: If the Feds keep them listed, they’ll have to pay for their management. At-least that seems to be the only “logic” behind the bill now circulating through the Wyoming state legislature, which classifies wolves as “predators” (a legal status that allows them to be shot on sight) in all areas outside of the two national parks in northern Wyoming.

To read the latest on this bold move, click here to jump to a story in the rag for Jackson Hole, and click here to see what they’re saying about it over at Ralph Maughan’s blog.

Idaho governor wants to be the first to kill a wolf in his state

Two black wolvesVarious sources are reporting that the governor of Idaho, Butch Otter, apparently in a Rocky Mountain Oyster-induced redneck frenzy, has stated that he’d like to be one of the first to kill a wolf in Idaho once federal protections are removed. Click here to jump to an article about this in the Idaho Statesman. For a good rundown of this issue, visit Ralph Maughan’s blog.

If the statements by Governor Otter make you feel hot under the collar, or warm and fuzzy, give his staff a call at 208-334-2100.

CWD Spreads in Wyoming — The Irony of It All

The Star Tribune reports that Wyoming officials have detected chronic wasting disease in new areas of the state (click here to jump to the article). According to Scott Talbott, assistant wildlife division chief with Game and Fish, “We’re concerned that CWD continues to spread to new parts of the state”. Hmm . . . if they are so concerned, why can’t they admit that the lack of wolf predation as an ecological force (in most of Wyoming) may actually be aiding the spread of CWD?

Just as the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone has produced rapid and permanent ecological changes, including the recovery of riparian plant communities (click here for a list of articles), horse-sense says that the effect of a coursing predator would be to reduce the prevalence of a neurological disease such as CWD. Such an assertion may seem like a stretch, but remember that an animal with CWD will be more vulnerable to predation because the disease manifests in ways that cause the animal to be less coordinated and perhaps less responsive. Moreover, coursing predators generally reduce the density of their prey on the landscape, thus reducing the likelihood of elk and deer grazing over the same exact locations (and thus swapping spit). Click here for an article on the buzz about this hypothesis amongst scientists.

Hunters in the Cowboy State would do well to plead with the Department of Game & Fish (and ‘Governor Dave’) to join the 21st century and open the door to wolves. Unfortunately, Wyoming officials seem hell-bent on relegating wolves to Yellowstone (click here for article). Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns.