HOWL Colorado

Lobowatch at it again… killing wolves equals wildlife “patriot” not poacher?!

Misleading, unsubstantiated claims are par for the course for Lobowatch, an anti-wolf activism site. The latest “news release” goes above and beyond, filled with half-truths and even calling for hunters who may break the law to shoot wolves to be called “wildlife patriots” not poachers.

In a “news release,” this wolf-hating Web site not only distributes masses of misinformation and judiciously avoids citing any sources, but even glorifies hunters who might go out and in the face of Judge Molloy’s ruling, illegal shoot wolves.

So cynical is this editorial piece that it even suggests rebranding these potential poachers as “wildlife patriots.”

The very first paragraph is almost laughable if it weren’t so disturbing an editorial.

Referring to pro-wolf advocates that email Mr. Bridges:

“As often as not, they like to quote statistics and ‘facts'” which they get from organizations like Defenders of Wildlife. Oh no! Statistics?!! Probably cited with some form of reference for independent verification too! I can see, from the misguided garbage on display here, that such things would clearly irritate Toby.

Let’s continue…

“One of the biggest myths about wolves is still that these apex predators only kill sick and injured.”

That’s a particularly disengenuous statement since any claim that contains the term “only” is always going to be an over-generalization at best. Wolves kill the easiest thing they can because the energy equation works more in their favor. That may well be the sick or the injured, but it could be the old, the young, or perhaps the most foolish.

Another “fact” Toby references is that “wolves and other wildlife will find a happy balance in the Northern Rockies.”

Note the use of the term “happy.” Natural balance is rarely happy. However it is effective and has been for many millennia. Yes, it’s actually true. There will be a natural balance. This does not mean that all packs and all herds will survive. If a brutal winter wipes out 70% of a herd, how do two wolf packs deal with that? Do they a) eat the last 30% or b) attempt to kill each other off to leave only one pack?

To simplify the ecosystem as Toby does is short sighted and intentionally misleading. More on this later as Toby misuses the Lolo elk herd to attempt to paint wolves in a negative light.

Toby even pulls out the tired “Canadian wolf” comment to try and paint the wolf as a big, bad invader and the USFWS as breaking some rules.

Now, we get the statement:

“Now, in many areas of the three-state “recovery area”, elk herds have been destroyed as much as 80-percent, moose have been pretty much wiped out, and deer populations are plummeting rapidly.”

Toby forgot to actually cite references for these claims. However, he is CLEARLY referencing the Lolo elk herds. Toby doesn’t really feel like sharing the full truth though. So let me fill in the gaps for you.

The Lolo elk herds, specifically units 10 and 12, have seen massive declines in their numbers. Just for reference here, wolves were reintroduced into the Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and were not well established for a number of years after that.

January 1989, there were 11,507 elk in unit 10. Unit 12 started at 4,911 in January of 1986. Can we all agree that there were no wolves eating elk at this point. Good.

In January 1992 (2 years before wolf reintroduction), Lolo unit 10 dropped to 7,745. That’s a drop of 32 percent.

In January of 1998 (71 wolves total for the state), Lolo unit 10 dropped with some fluctuations down to 5,079. A drop of over 50 percent over 9 years, of which only a very small fraction could even possibly be attributed to wolves. Perhaps there is some other reason this herd is seeing such massive loss?  The herd continued to fall albeit with a leveling off, and wolves are certainly not going to be helpful, but it’s certainly clear that the wolves are nothing more than a minor contributing factor which compounds another underlying reason which has impacted the herd for more than 20 years.

What about Unit 12? Surely there must be evidence that wolves caused their decline! In January of 1994 (again prior to wolves) the number of elk was 3,315. Again, a drop of 32 percent. By January of 1997 (42 total wolves in the state of Idaho), the herd dropped another 19 percent down to 2,048.

By omitting the contextual numbers around the tale of the two herds, you could certainly use them to paint a bad image of wolves. Talking about an 80 percent drop in herd numbers, but leaving out that a massive portion of that drop happened before wolves even got reintroduced is cynical and par for the course for Lolowatch and Toby Bridges.

It should also be noted that the estimated population of Elk (with wolves) when America was settled by Europeans was about 10M elk. By 1900 that was reduced to less than 100,000.

That number is particularly interesting as the current population for Elk in Idaho is estimated to be 101,000. In 1984, there was estimated to be 110,000. With a record-setting winter in 1996-1997 which did untold damage to some of the herds and the reintroduction of wolves, you would expect some decline – but it seems not to be nearly as dire as Toby paints it to be. It seems almost … dare I say it … natural. Indeed, Idaho is almost unique in this respect. Montana saw about a 66 percent increase in the number elk in their state over the same 25 year period.

“Montanans only agreed to having a resident wolf population of around 100 to 150 wolves.  Today, there are some 1,400 or more wolves in the state, mostly in the western 1/3 of Montana.”

Fact: There were an estimated 524 wolves in Montana, and 37 breeding pairs in 2009. Sorry, Toby – wrong again. I got that number from the Montana Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2009 Annual report. Toby based his numbers on some claim that 186 wolves (proposed quota for 2010 in Montana) would represent a 13 percent reduction. I am unsure exactly where Toby drew this “quote” from since he doesn’t really explain. He just says it came from meetings held in the spring.

Intriguingly, however, the quota of 75 which was set by Montana the previous year just happens to add up to … yep, you guessed it … just about 13 percent of the estimated 524 wolves in the state. So, lets give Toby the benefit of the doubt for mishearing what the 13 percent actually referred to.

Toby then just goes off on some conspiracy tangent. We will just ignore that. This whole thread of Toby’s (and his good friend Jim Beers’) rhetoric is not new and has been addressed many times by many people.

He then goes off on some tangent about 503(c) laws and how groups like the Center for Biological Diversity abuse the system. We will ignore this too, since HowlColorado is truly not-for-profit. We aren’t for revenue. We are privately funded and ask for no donations of any kind.

Then he goes after Molloy and his decision. Standard rhetoric for attacking a judge you disagree with. So, again, we will just move past that since comments like this:

“It seems this judge will bend over backwards to find the smallest technicality in order to rule in favor of environmental groups seeking to protect wolves, while at the same time turning a blind eye to all of the illegal and unethical aspects of the U.S. Government’s efforts to destroy the wildlife populations of the Northern Rockies.”

Are just designed to whip up his base.

THEN Toby goes off on some “everyone hates hunters” tangent in which he claims organizations, judges, and government organizations are anti-hunter.

And finally, Toby asks the question: should any Northern Rockies hunter who shoots a wolf or two or three this fall be considered a poacher?

The answer, Toby, is yes. That’s the law. You ramble on about Bob Ream (Chair for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks). And all these other people who would, justifiably, “arrest them and throw the book at them.” Being that it would be AGAINST THE LAW.

“Perhaps those sportsmen who will take it on themselves to rid the Northern Rockies of a wildlife pestilence that has been likened to cancer should be referred to as “Wildlife Patriots” – sounds much better than a “poacher”.  After all, when faced with living under the unethical rule of the British during the mid 1700s, those with the fortitude to fire those first shots in that conflict were rightfully considered patriots.  And like it or not, we are now fighting a Wolf War here in the West.”

And we ask the simple question. Why was the reintroduction of wolves even necessary in the Rocky Mountain region? Could it be that the invasion of the Europeans into the West led to the destruction of multiple species. Beavers, bison and wolves? That the unethical and insane drive to generate revenue, and make the land a place to graze docile, weak and profitable livestock caused generations of settlers to annihilate the natural fauna of the region?

The right of free speech does not extend to inciting others to break the law. Toby Bridges walks that line very carefully. This is the type of opposition we, as wolf advocates, face. This is the ignorance we battle. And this is the lack of ethics we must overcome to put the truth out in front of people. They are not above lying. They are not above encouraging people to break the law. They are firm believers of the Rove-ian philosophy that if you say it enough, even if its not true, people will believe it.

The worse thing we can do is to remain silent, and by doing so, give consent to Toby to put this garbage out there as a credible argument. Educate yourself. Don’t rely on my statistics, or those from emails you receive. Go read books, research the wolf reintroduction, and make sure that everything you say has a resource that can be cited which is beyond reproach. Pull their teeth and they will finally be revealed for what they are. All bark and no bite. All rhetoric and no facts.

Want to read Toby Bridges’ statements for yourself: The Ethics of Killing Wolves (though I am not entirely sure why you would want to).

References (yes I am citing them) (yes, I know – they hate when I use their own numbers – RMEF is hypocritically anti-wolf – since they state in their own tag line: Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat.) (this report is more generalized and therefore doesn’t have the specific numbers which are present in the above link).

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