HOWL Colorado

Editorial: Spinning Wolves in Montana

[large thumbnail url=”editorial-spinning-wolves-in-montana” filename=”editorial” year=”2009″ month=”12″ day=”13″] Matt Skoglund, writer for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s BioGems website, wrote an editorial criticizing the positive media spin being applied to the Montana wolf hunt.

Due to the way that the BioGems website is set up, it’s nearly impossible to link to this editorial, so with apologies to Matt and the NRDC, I will post the entire article here as I believe it’s important for people to read, but please do check out Matt’s other work and that of other NRDC writers on

Spinning Wolves in Montana

A recent Associated Press article makes the case that Montana is on the right track with its management of wolves.   The article opens by stating, “An examination of Montana’s first public gray-wolf hunt showed at least nine of the animals were killed in an area prone to livestock attacks — a finding that could blunt criticism that the hunt was ineffective.”

The article also notes that “[c]onfident state wildlife officials said they could increase the quota on the predators next year.”  Montana’s wolf coordinator is then quoted as saying, “We’re on the right track.”

Really?  A total of 72 wolves were killed in the hunt, and Montana justified its wolf “hunt, in part, as a way to remove the predators from the front country where they’re more likely to interact with or kill livestock.”  It looks like Montana went 9 for 72 on that score.

If a ballplayer on the Cubs went 9 for 72, he’d find himself playing for the Peoria Chiefs in short order.  (Well, on second thought, the Cubs might not be the best example here.  A 9 for 72 hitter for the Cubs would, in all likelihood, probably find himself batting cleanup, on the cover of the club’s annual program, and the recipient of a long-term contract extension worth tens of millions of dollars.  I digress.)

Say you went 9 for 72 in your job, would your boss say you’re effective and on the right track?  (If you play for the Cubs and are reading this, please don’t answer.) 

Furthermore, multiple Yellowstone National Park wolves were tragically killed because Montana failed to implement a buffer zone around the Park and it structured its wolf-hunting season so that only wilderness wolves (the “good” guys the state wants to keep around) could be killed for the first month and a half of the hunting season.

Need more?  Three illegally poached wolves were not added to the total kill quota, and Montana slapped the wrist of the offender of two of the poached wolves with a chickadee’s feather for a punishment.  Eight radio-collared wolves were also killed; their contributions to science perishing with them.  

The wolf hunt in Montana was premature (same with Idaho’s) and should not have taken place at all.  But it did, and, to be fair, plenty of uncertainty existed heading into the hunt, Montana’s first-ever fair-chase public wolf hunt.

But many big mistakes were made — both in the planning of the hunt and in its management once it was underway.  And it’s discouraging to see the state so aggressively spinning the results.

It’s also concerning.

Approximately 40% of Montana’s wolf population has already been killed this year.  While 72 wolves were killed in the hunt, another 127 wolves have been killed by “wildlife control” agents, ranchers, and other causes.  With the last official estimate putting Montana’s wolf population at 497 wolves, the loss of 199 wolves amounts to a 40% hit to the population.  (And that does not include the wolves that have been killed via the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” method.) 

The Northern Rockies wolf population has yet to fully recover, and not a lot of room for error exists. 

Montana’s poorly planned hunt, its subsequent spinning of the results, and this year’s heavy death toll are three damn good reasons, among many, why NRDC and other conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho.

Spinning wolves into trouble cannot be tolerated.

HOWLColorado did contact Montana in November taking issue with the claim that the hunt was well planned and executed. Here is their response.

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