I am conflicted over the very complex and controversial wolf issue in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
I moved near Glacier National Park 10 years ago, after a big city career in aerospace engineering & computer sciences, and settled on a little homestead ranch at the fringe of the wilderness and I have never been bothered by wolves.
I had a lone wolf quietly lope right past me from behind, before I knew it was there, without paying me any mind, right on my front lawn. I watched from my window as a lone wolf tracked two stray dogs in deep snow along the creek running through my property. While using a chain saw to remove a fallen tree right next to my house a wolf silently tread past me, without me seeing or hearing it, leaving its distinctive paw tracks in the snow within three feet of me. My distant neighbors have informed me that they see a pack of three wolves running through my place, periodically, although I have many more bears, lions, deer, and moose on my place than wolves.
I have even slept in a pup-tent in the Kootenai National Forest while collecting bear hairs for DNA analysis and heard wolves howling all night and they were not a threat.
I have decided to share this place with all of the wildlife that got here before me. For whatever reason, wolves (and other wildlife) do not fear me as they “read” my body language and “sense” my emitted energy field and determine I am no threat to them. Similarly, I trust them to not want to harm me as I walk on my forested ranch unarmed doing chores, since we humans are not programmed as prey animals in the DNA of wolves (and other predators). I do not fear going out into the darkness of night.
But I do recognize that some people do fear wolves, much like they fear snakes and spiders and bears, and that fear of wolves is very real to them and is why I am conflicted about what to do to resolve the wolf issue.
I think I can empathize with them and I could probably vote to manage the wolf population if the techniques of doing that were based on honest, professional, wildlife biology concepts of keeping the wildlife ecosystem in balance.
Only one time has an incident of a wolf killing and eating a human in America ever been documented… in the late 1880s. It was a weak, diseased wolf that was shunned by the pack and could no longer hunt its normal prey to survive. But people are still going to fear wolves so this issue must be resolved. Remember, fear is the most powerful emotion in all animals… humans included. It is called the “fight or flight” syndrome.
Having lived all over America while being a tourist visitor to Montana to view wildlife in Glacier National Park, until finally moving here in retirement, I consider the very important Montana tourism industry (10 million visits annually) to be best served with the federal government being the stewards of public lands, such as national forests and national parks and designated wilderness areas and BLM lands, and the management of its wildlife on those lands.
Farming and ranching livestock needs (even though beef is a known carcinogen in humans, and more cattle die from injuries and disease than from wolf predation) and those of residential city neighborhoods are best served with the state of Montana managing wolves on private lands. Some ranches consist of both private and public lands… a dilemma for wolf management.
All management should be under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act.
This would be a compromise position that might end the polarization and be acceptable to both sides of the issue. It is certainly preferable to having “Montana administrative rules and state laws” replace federal regulations, and “excluding these rules/laws from judicial review.”
However, the heinous practice of trapping is unacceptable to me. The unconscionable practice of trapping animals and killing them and marketing their fur for profit must stop! It is time for the ancient Neanderthal Man mind to evolve into modern-day man. Get a real job. Trapping wolves in order to kill them and reduce their population is inexcusable as well. It is cruel punishment.
If the number of wolves estimated by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks were not so ridiculously inflated, due to political pressure, the hunters would, in fact, be harvesting a much higher percentage of the actual number of wolves and both groups would be happier.
The Phony excuse that deer and elk herds are in decline with limited numbers available to hunters to kill is simply not true. They are currently on the rise. Wolves merely keep ungulates on the move and that makes it apparently too challenging for hunters to find them to get a shot at them, like they did in the past from their parked trucks along forest roads. Today it is too much walking, hiking, backpacking, and exercise for most modern-day, out-of-shape hunters so let’s allow trappers to get the allotment of wolves. I think not!
The fact that wolves keep elk on the move has many significant, important ramifications: (1) When elk are allowed to stay around stands of aspen trees and over-browse them, it kills the aspen; (2) Certain types of birds live only in live aspen, and it is those birds that feed on beetles in nearby pine trees, keeping those pine trees alive if the nearby live aspen can house those birds; (3) Dead pine tree stands from beetle kill produce perfect kindling for forest fires to proliferate into raging wildfires; (4) Therefore, wolves reduce the danger of wildfires by keeping elk on the move so aspen don’t die out, and pine trees stay alive. Get it? Hunters don’t get it… foresters don’t get it... only biologists get it.
Another phony excuse is that wolves kill too many livestock. But coyotes, domestic dogs, and mountain lions take many more than wolves do. So why trap wolves?
Former attempts to stop trapping has resulted in no success whatsoever as a pathetically apathetic public has not responded to pleas to defeat the organized forces of the fringe minority trapping group. A mere 22,000 Montanans once stepped up to sign a petition to end trapping via a ballot initiative, and so the initiative failed for a lack of enough valid signatures to get on the ballot. In the meantime, trappers continue to mistakenly trap more of peoples’ pet dogs and cats and children than wolves.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks does not punish trappers, but does punish the general public if anyone removes a trap in order to protect their children and pets. Can you believe it?!
Attempts to save wildlife through the administration of the Endangered Species Act are similarly facing opposition by small, very vocal, fringe groups that are well-financed. It is hard to place all blame on the trappers who are a small minority since the larger majority of apathetic people are not actively opposing them. Perhaps also fear driven? Fear of losing one’s job or having one’s children bullied at school?
My real aggravation is with Fish, Wildlife and Parks since they do not allow environmentalists on their Citizens Advisory Committee, but reserve those seats only for hunters, trappers, outfitters, and ranchers/farmers. I have offered to serve on that committee, as have other environmentalists, and have been turned down. Environmentalists are the only defenders and representatives of the wolf, which is very intelligent and possesses a high, advanced social order. Wildlife constitutes living, breathing animals and should not be dismissed as merely “resources” to harvest at humans’ pleasure.
The filing of electronic commentary is supposed to be available on the “Opportunity for Public Comment “on the “Hunting home page” at the fwp.mt.gov website. I wonder if my environmentalist comments will ever be read and considered of value on a “hunting page?”
Bill Baum is a resident of Martin City.