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Fish and Game commissioner: Wolves hurt elk numbers

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Posted: Friday, February 5, 2010 1:40 am

   POCATELLO — The Idaho Fish and Game commissioner for the Southeast Region said Idaho’s burgeoning wolf population has adversely affected elk numbers and impacted revenue received from out-of-state hunters.

    Pocatellan Randy Budge, speaking at the Rotary club Thursday, walked the crowd through the history of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies and related data regarding predation, some of which brought gasps from the audience.

    Budge noted the initial goals of reintroduction were 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in Idaho. Wolf populations have grown at 20-25 percent a year and now number approximately 85 packs, with 1,000 wolves, which he indicated to be a conservative estimate.

    “Wolves have been very productive,” Budge said.

    The 2009 delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho under the Endangered Species Act allowed the states to open hunting, but Budge said the current numbers culled by hunters and federal controls are unlikely to keep wolf numbers in check. And Budge said the numbers are creating a problem for other animals the state is obliged to protect, preserve and manage.

    “From a wildlife perspective, there’s no question that this growing wolf population has had a devastating impact on our elk populations and our moose populations,” he said. “Our scientists’ and biologists’ studies on all these collared packs indicate that each wolf eats an average of 16 elk per year, so if you do the math and are being conservative, our 1,000 wolves are eating 16,000 elk per year.”

    He said 295 sheep, 76 cattle and 14 dogs were also confirmed to have been killed by wolves in 2009.

    Budge said the state’s biggest and historically most stable elk herd in the Lolo Pass area has gone from 11,000-13,000 elk to under 2,000 since wolves began to inhabit the area.

    “Put wolves into the equation, it tipped the balance,” he said.

    This impact resonates beyond Idaho’s borders, according to Budge.

     “Our out-of-state hunting numbers were down 25 percent in 2008, 31 percent in 2009,” he said.

    Fish and Game polled previous visitors to the state to find out if the economy was the culprit or if it was some other reason.

    “The No. 1 reason listed for not coming to Idaho was, ‘You haven’t taken care of your wolves and your wild animal populations are down,’” Budge recounted, “and the No. 2 reason was, ‘Your license fees are unfair.”

    The second problem stemmed from a license fee increase by the 2009 Legislature that affected only out-of-state licenses. The plan to increase revenue actually resulted in a decrease in revenue, he said.

    Looking to the future, Budge said current litigation regarding wolves may ultimately be disheartening for those hoping to retain state management rights.

    “I think there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to see a ruling in the next few months that may find further flaws with the delisting, and we may be turning it back over to the federal government,” he said. “My fear is if the plaintiffs succeed in getting the wolves back on the Endangered Species list, we’re going to see a relatively high level of intolerance from Idaho sportsmen who will then begin to ignore the law and have a ‘hunting season’ anyway, just an illegal one rather than a legal one.”

    In closing, Budge said the recovery of wolves “should have been hailed as one of the greatest success stories that ever existed under the Endangered Species Act, but instead we’re mired with controversy and conflict and a lot of stress and strife over who has responsibility and control, the state or the federal government.”

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • growthis posted at 4:02 pm on Mon, Feb 15, 2010.

    growthis Posts: 1

    It is time to turn the tables on Defenders of Wildlife and those pro-wolf groups that pushed for the introduction of wolves and have attempted to thwart efforts at delisting. It is time to prove they knew that the informatio they provided was false and a detriment to the citizens of the states where the wolves were introduced, their pets, livestock and game animals. It is time for some good investigative reporting to uncover those facts and find a basis to sue those groups and their supporters.

  • Panthera posted at 4:37 pm on Thu, Feb 11, 2010.

    Panthera Posts: 1

    This position from the anti's and U.S.Fish and Wildlife has a long, deep history...consider this excerpt from Capstick's "Death in the Longrass", written in 1984, on the importation of trophy leopard hides...

    “...Do you have any idea of the pressure that anti-hunting organizations exert on legislature of this type?” he asked me back. “Unbelievable. You think you can’t import your leopard trophy because the cat’s supposed to be about to fold up as a species. Wrong. The preservationists found they couldn’t really prevent hunting on a moral basis so they used the threat of extinctions to accomplish the same ends. This law may have been instituted to save endangered species from commercial exploitation, but there is no provision at all for animals taken under license for sport.”

    “But,” I asked incredulously, “isn’t there just a mite of difference between a bale of poached hides and a legally documented trophy?”

    “Not as far as the pressure groups are concerned,” he said. “What you have to remember Mr. Capstick, is that in the eyes of the people, the killing of anything is morally wrong, and believe me, they’ve got the muscle to keep that law on the books unaltered. If you think it’s tough to get a law passed, just try to get one rescinded, particularly with some animal like the leopard. People aren’t interested in any facts that are going to let you start bringing leopards back into this country. So forget it.”

    Moral of the story is, forget the facts. Those in a position of power are not interested in the facts. The only thing of interest to them is power, so we need to get smart and figure out how to remove them from their position of power. Ranting, raving, sign waving will not get it done, nor will clandestine gorilla tactics involving a shovel--although it might relieve the frustration for a minute;)

  • Wolf Kill posted at 4:12 pm on Thu, Feb 11, 2010.

    Wolf Kill Posts: 1

    Good point Kadah. The whole so-called Wolf Recovery Project has been riddled with lies and deceit since its inception. We now realize that there are no real "wolf experts". If there were, we would have known that wolves cannot be balanced with anything they consider prey. They kill anything and everything that can be eaten...and when all prey has been consumed, killed for sport, or pushed out of an area - the wolves either also move on, starve or turn to killing each other. In most instances, they will first turn to other meat sources - livestock and the kids' pet dog Fluffy. Now, we know they are spreading deadly parasites, and just like IDFG and USFWS has covered for wolves in the past, those agencies are once again trying to minimize the dangers - using more untruths. What those agencies cannot change are the recorded impacts wolf parasites have had on ungualtes (deer, elk, cattle)...and other parts of the world.

    Toby Bridges,

  • Kadah posted at 3:46 pm on Thu, Feb 11, 2010.

    Kadah Posts: 2

    First of all, the wolf introduced to Idaho is not indigenous to the lower 48; this wolf, imported from Canada, is much larger and far more aggressive. It is not now, nor ever has been, an endangered species. To claim it is, is a lie. To attempt to protect it, under the ESA is also a lie; one that needs to be challenged.

    Second, the indigenous species, the Gray or Timber wolf, is now truly in danger of extinction. This species, along with other natural predators indigenous to Idaho, are leaving because the Canadian Gray Wolf is an apex predator.

  • Conall posted at 2:25 pm on Sat, Feb 6, 2010.

    Conall Posts: 9

    Budge fails to mention in fact, the elk population in the Northern Rockies has skyrocketed in the last twenty-five years, notwithstanding the reintroduction of wolves in the mid-1990s. Wyoming's elk population has grown 35%, Idaho's has grown 5%, and Montana's a whopping 66%.

  • Extremists_NO posted at 9:36 pm on Fri, Feb 5, 2010.

    Extremists_NO Posts: 1

    You will never see any of the environmental nut cases willing to put their money towards a good cause. It's all about them, and nothing for the good of all. Sadly, the activist judge in Montana will side with the big money groups who have money to grease pockets and get the wolves back on the endangered list. He will pay no attention to how easily they reproduce. They are here to stay no matter what the laws are. Speaking of that, the real law is shoot on sight.

  • theidahokid posted at 3:20 pm on Fri, Feb 5, 2010.

    theidahokid Posts: 17

    Gee, sorry to see there will be less out-of-state hunters. I am really going to miss sharing my hunting area with a bunch of drunk Texans on ATV's. In addition, I hope the wolves eat all the livestock that are destroying my hunting grounds.

  • Conall posted at 3:13 pm on Fri, Feb 5, 2010.

    Conall Posts: 9

    I wish I could blame my poor management skills on wolves.

  • AaronG posted at 12:51 pm on Fri, Feb 5, 2010.

    AaronG Posts: 4

    Kill them All ! There was a reason the wolves were killed in the 30's . The wolves should be classified as a predator just like a coyote. No tag needed ! I lost livestock last year from a pair it was ugly! No one should see what I saw, it was like a war movie. I can't imagine what a pack would do . The ranchers in Salmon and Challis have my sympathy ! The G.Y.C. should have been required to pick up the pieces of my animals then we could have a real discussion on wolves!


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