Wolves on the Westside?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by scottr, Aug 19, 2012.

  1. I think you're OK as long as you don't wear a red hooded cape.
  2. Somehow wolves and elk managed to co-exist for hundreds of thousands of years before the heavy hand of man began to 'improve' things. Our appreciation of their delicate interrelationship is still not fully understood. In nearly all of mankind's efforts to 'manage' the natural order to our own ends, our understanding of the interconnectedness of species and their environment is limited as is our ability to understand how bad outcomes can be a direct result our actions. When we simplistically 'manage' a natural resource like wolves without a clear and full understanding of the consequences, we risk creating other problems that may indeed be greater than the ones we were attempting to solve.

    I get that hunters kill elk and that more elk means easier hunting. I also understand that elk hunters are willing to influence greater numbers of elk and thus contribute their time and money to that end. But the problem with 'conservation' efforts devoted to benefiting a single species is that the goal produces a limited and simplistic result: in this case, an increase in the number of elk. Yet such efforts almost always come with unintended adverse consequences.

    As a slightly oversimplified example, when wolves were eradicated from the Yellowstone basin, the immediate consequence was a dramatic increase in elk populations with the elimination of their apex predator. Not a bad outcome if you're an elk hunter.

    But the unintended consequence was that since elk tend to prefer tender young shoots from alders, aspens and other trees and bushes, their increasing numbers quickly wiped out young trees resulting in large swaths of dead tree trunks and branches. Since live tree roots retain water, their loss meant increased soil erosion during rains and runoff, washing away the thin layer of topsoil and vastly reducing the chances that any plants would ever grow in those areas again. The dried, dead trunks and limbs of elk-killed trees and brush became fuel for lightning-sparked wildfires.

    If your goal is to have large herds of elk available for an easy kill every fall and you see wolves as standing between you and that end, then landslides, decimated forests and fires might be a small price to pay, right?

  3. Bill Aubrey likes this.
  4. The problem here is not the sport of hunting. The real issue is the invention of the gun. Guns made the taking of prey (or life) much easier than mankind has ever experienced in nature. Hunters have no respect for the animals they take or the environment in which they live. I say this because anyone can shoot an elk 500 yards away without having to break a sweat. All they care about is the KILL. If a hunter has to compete with another predator they want to eliminate the competition. When real hunters had nothing to use but their brain to hunt, they came up with very clever ways to catch prey: the bow and arrow, spears, hell even poisonous blow darts. More importantly you had to have a certain level of respect for nature otherwise you simply did not eat. If hunters are so good at their craft then why do they not exclusively use bows? Any moron can shoot something dead; it does not take a genius to aim and fire a rifle. But it would be too much work having to track, give chase, and catch your prey if you catch anything at all. Hell every person I have meet who hunts looks like they would get winded just having to walk to their mail box. Same comparison as fly vs gear anglers. Any moron can chuck gear and effortlessly catch fish. I've gone years fly-fishing and haven't even begun to scratch the surface. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against hunting. I have even thought about taking it up. Just if I take it up I will use a bow and keep a .44 in case I run into a bear or wolf. jmho
    dryflylarry likes this.
  5. Agree to most of what your saying but...a natural migration of wolves is one thing a forced re-introduction is another, especially when it was largely financed by the Pittman-Robertsen act. Where hunters have been the top 3 supporters of this tax for over 70 years. I haven't tried wolf yet, but I imagine it's pretty hard to choke down.

    Secondly, the YNP experiment resulted in the highest concentration of wolves in the world for a 2 million acre range... mainly to tackle (the weak and starving) worlds largest free roaming elk herd. They were very successful and apparently most of the elk were weak and starving because it took down a herd measuring 20K+ to less than 4K today. Now it that happened to your salmon, steelhead, trout stream I think you'd be pissed.

    Thirdly, please try and burn a dead aspen tree and tell me how that works out for you. The pine bettle has done more damage to erosion in forested areas than any ungulate ever will.

    The day I see a "wolf wintering range" financed by wolf lovers is the day I will start drinking your water.
    Jim Ficklin likes this.
  6. hahahahaha, I just had a mental image of a caveman trying to headbutt an elk to death...

    that is all. :D
    triploidjunkie and Jason Rolfe like this.
  7. I guess I a bit confused about this subject. What was the idea behind the reintroduction of the wolves in the first place? Nature seemed to be functioning well without them.

    I am aware that wolves are interesting and social animals among their own kind, but they are hell on livestock, which is a source of human food. In light of feeding a growing population, I question the wisdom of introducing a competitor to the food chain.
  8. Hey Charlie,

    I think part of it may lie in our definition of "nature functioning well." I think in the ideal situation, nature functioning well means an environment with a healthy number of all of it's "native" species, whether they are mammals, birds, fish, trees and plants, or whatever.

    So, although nature may seem to be doing alright on the surface (which I would argue it isn't, except in a few untouched wilderness areas here and there), the very fact that we have eliminated or reduced certain species from nature means that it is certainly not doing well.

    As far as wolves being a competitor to us in the food chain--I seriously doubt that will ever be a problem. I doubt wolves will ever kill enough sheep to put a dent in our supply of mutton (and honestly, how often do people eat sheep anyway?). And even when they do kill them, ranchers get reimbursed for that by the government (in the best scenario), which I would assume means there won't be higher costs for the consumer further down the line.


    Bill Aubrey likes this.
  9. Well, Jason there are a few points in there that I agree with you about, but I am going to differ on a couple. The human population has expanded at an alarming rate. We have been making more people for a long time and we seem to be getting good at it. The down side of that is that we have not learned to take care of our environment in the process. As a people, we have moved into the wilderness to make it into a not so wilderness. In doing so, we have reduced the habitat of our fellow critters. They have to go somewhere. Mostly the big and mean ones, go where we don't want them to go. Just because they can. I doubt that you can convince a sheep rancher that the loss of his income from his flock is just nature's way, and that nobody eats sheep anyway. Also the little child that has lost fluffy to a coyote or wolf.

    My statement about nature seems to be doing ok without the wolves is aimed at the idea that predation of animals in the wild does not seem to be suffering because of the lack of wolves. So why do we spend the time and money to reintroduce them?

    I hope that this statement is taken in the manner in which it is intended. I am not trying to be a smart a$$ or know it all, I just have a question, looking for a reasonable answer.
    Bill Aubrey likes this.
  10. Hey Charlie,

    Totally agree with you. I think where we are differing ever so slightly is in the idea of where/how to solve the problem or make a change. Seems to come down to either accepting the problems we have caused and doing the best with what we've got (which might include keeping wolves out of these areas so as not to harm our resources--like sheep). Or, on the other hand, we can recognize the problems we've caused and work to correct them, which would include living a lifestyle--as a society--that is not so wasteful, which I believe would in turn mitigate a lot of the issues with over-population and any food shortages. We could do those things, and also have wolves.

    Also, as some folks noted above, I think there actually have been problems with exploding elk populations due to the lack of their primary predator, the wolf.

    And your last point leaves me with another question that I realize I don't realize understand or know the answer to: How much has the state/government actually spent on reintroducing these wolves, and how much is it a matter of the wolves just doing well and naturally expanding into new areas to create new packs. I'd be curious to learn more about that.


  11. I don't have anything to contribute to the conversation, but I wanted to say thanks to everyone for such an informative, interesting, and civil discussion. I'm really enjoying this thread.
  12. Define "easy ki"l" for elk. Elk harvest stats hunters in the Western states are maybe 18%. In WA much lower. So less than one of 5 hunters are successful.

    Like I stated if you want to return to natural state before man, the state should build pike minnow, white fish, cormorant, seal, spiney ray hatcheries and release them where trout salmon and steelhead reside. Expand the tribal netting program and an all fishing for spiney rays white fish and pike minnows to protect them like they do for wolves. End all of the trout, steelhead, salmon hatchery programs and and go to lottery system for fishing licenses and guides. Fishing would suddenly be challenging if you were lucky enough to draw a license. No more 5 hook ups a day for steelhead.

    This would be a win win for mother nature going back to the natural state before humen vermin and would cut down on global cooling/warming and climate change because less road traffic by fisherman and guides and their clients who emit poisonous carbon gasses from their internal combustion engines. A lot less errosion too by fisherman foot traffic on the banks of rivers.

    They are doing essentially the same where they introduced Candian grey wolves without a plan to control their populations. They decimated the moose, deer and elk herds in N and central ID, W Montana and NW WY. Mule deer herds are down around 40% from 20 years ago. Now the F and W service wants to expand wolf packs in WA, Oregon, UT Colorado, NM and Arizona. If they expand the packs in WA they will wipe out the Yakima elk herd.

    Elk cause forest fires and landslides?

    Funny elk hunting a long time and never saw this before

  13. It is pleasant to have a civil conversation. I enjoy it also, Bouface.

    Jason, you bring up a very good point. How much money and research went into the reintroduction? Wolves are wild and ranging creatures for good reason. They were made that way.

    It is not a pretty sight to see dead prey animals that have starved to death because of overgrazing or over population. Generally speaking, wolves, bears and cougars, will harvest the old and the young. This serves to keep the population in check and also keeps the population of the predators in check.

    Now if we could only convince them to stay out of the feed lots...
    Bill Aubrey and Jason Rolfe like this.

  14. So Ribka: What is your solution? You seem to have a lot to say, but aren't really contributing any ideas for what to do about it, other than this sarcastic rant. Are you saying we should get rid of wolves completely?

    I totally understand that there is no way to "go back to nature." But I do believe that we can probably find some middle ground to lessen the impacts on everyone involved in this, while at the same time recognizing that there will be impacts and we have to do our best with them.

    Making fun of others by calling yourself "Humen Vermin Pro Staff" doesn't seem to help.

  15. I think this is a mistaken perspective. Ecologists studying natural ecosystems had identified many ways in which nature was NOT "functioning well without them." Hence the interest in reintroducing them. In fact, "predation of animals in the wild" WAS suffering in the absence of wolves. Yes, elk were dying, but not from predation. As a consequence selection was acting in a very different way, and the elk populations had risen to a level that had a deleterious effect on many other aspects of the ecosystem. Wolves are not considered a keystone species in the northern Rockies for nothing. Their presence impacts virtually every level of community organization.

    In spite of ecologists best effort to estimate the effect of wolves in this setting, since there were no baseline studies before the wolves were extirpated a century ago (+/-), they discovered many things that they didn't anticipate. Included among them were the increase in raptor populations in Yellowstone after the introduction of wolves, because wolves reduced the coyote population and without coyotes, there was more small mammal prey for hawks and eagles. Another prominent example that is germane to our interests as fly fisherman, the presence of wolves reduced the amount of time that elk and moose spend in thickets along stream banks, where they can't keep an eye out for predators; as a result streams in YNP now have more woody vegetation along the streams, cooler water, and better fish habitat.

  16. :rolleyes: gimme a frickin' break...
  17. Don't start down the slippery slope of Darwinian selection or we'll soon see our Young Earth Creationist colleagues weighing in on how there were no wolves or elk at all just 6,000 years ago!

    <Sorta just kidding!>

  18. I think we may have another possible solution to the Upper Sky car break-in thread...just sayin.
    Bill Aubrey and Derek Young like this.
  19. This attitude seems a bit elitist to me. I think there is room for all of us in the outdoors be it a hunter, gear angler, or even one of those uppity fly fishermen. I'm sure that you've not met many hunters if this is your perspective. If ya decide to take up the bow give me a holler and I'll give ya hand getting started. I mainly bowhunt but also do some muzzleloading which is a blast ;).

    Irafly, Ed Call and Skysoldier like this.
  20. After talking to a Fish and Game crew in MT that were actively tracking wolf packs all across western MT, I certainly learned two things...wolves have been gaining confidence in getting closer to homes and people that exist in populated areas and due to their gain in numbers, cougars have been forced out their habitat and are needing to search further for food. This means that they too are coming into contact more frequently with humans.

    They should have never been re-introduced since like the F&G mentioned, there were already sustainable wolf populations in many regions across the Pacific NW. I even saw two of them when hiking in the Gospel Hump Wilderness as a young kid which was before their re-introduction was even considered.

    Given that I come from a ranching/farming community and that my step father and personal friends have lost livestock due to wolves, I believe that their numbers need to be reduced by those that have suffered the most from their existance.
    Tyler Sadowski, ribka and WonkyWapiti like this.

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