Recently I read a comment made by Bob Ream, chairman of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) Commission, state that:
We [MFWP] have implemented more and more aggressive wolf harvests. We also increased lion harvests considerably this year.
The word aggressive is certainly an overused adjective used much in the same fashion as say a male peacock when he displays his tail feathers. In the context used in the quote above, I’m assuming Mr. Ream intended his use of the word aggressive to mean something to be proud of, a feat of accomplishment or something related. But when talking about wolves, killing, attacks, predation, hunting, trapping, disease and every aspect associated with gray wolves, “implementing[ed] more and more aggressive wolf harvests” kind of rings a bit hollow.
In its simplest form, wolves, at least under the existing conditions in most of Montana, Idaho and Wildlife, grow and expand at a rate of anywhere between 20% and 30%, I am told and have read as well. Estimates of wolf populations mean little except in political and emotional battles because nobody knows how many there are and they are lying if they tell you otherwise. For the sake of argument, I have read that the tri-state region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have at least 6,000 wolves. On the top end I’ve heard 15,000 but I’m going to guess that might be high but then again I don’t live there and spend time in the woods.
If there were 6,000 wolves then math tells us that 120 – 180 wolves should be killed each year just to sustain the population at 6,000; and states like Montana, who according to Bob Ream, are aggressively killing more wolves.
But now the question has been brought up that perhaps states offering hunting and trapping seasons, based on the principle of “trophy” and “big game” hunting and trapping, might be causing even more game animals, like elk, moose and deer, to be killed. Is this possible?
It was nearly 4 years ago that I wrote a series, “To Catch a Wolf“. Much of the purpose of that series and other related articles, was to explain how difficult it is to kill a wolf; historically globally. It’s one of the hardest things to do over a prolonged period of time and that’s why I chuckle at comments like Bob Ream’s when he describes the MFWP actions toward killing wolves as aggressive. There is NOTHING aggressive about trophy hunting wolves.
The process was long and mostly wrought with illegal actions and corruption, but eventually, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming got the infamous and controversial gray wolf removed from protections of the Endangered Species Act and trophy hunting seasons commenced; after all, wasn’t that the target goals of each of the states’ fish and game departments?
And so how’s that “aggressive” hunting and trapping going to reduce wolf populations?
If any of this isn’t complicated and wrought with emotion and irrational thinking enough already, in an email exchange I received today, the idea was presented that hunting a token number of wolves, in other words, managing them as a game species and classified as a trophy animal, might actually be only amounting to breeding a healthier, less stressful wolf that will eat more elk, deer and moose and become an even larger creature than it already is, further capable of killing more and bigger prey.
This idea is based in science, although those who don’t like the science disregard it. The science is the topic of wolf size. Most people are of the thought that a wolf’s size is determined by the species or subspecies the wolf comes from. I’m not going to pretend I have a full grasp of this science but will pass on that the essence of wolf size is determined mostly by food supply.
Consider then this premise to manage wolves as a big game species, which is what is being done in Montana and Idaho. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which includes managing game for surplus harvest, has worked marvelously well over the years, producing in places too many of certain game species. We certainly don’t want that for wolves as the proportion of wolves to prey/game species will soon get all out of whack. Our only hope then, is that the fish and game departments will fail as miserably managing wolves as they have elk, moose and mule/whitetail deer.
There is a reason why honest wildlife managers classify bona fide game animals as such and coyotes (and it should be also wolves) varmints to be shot and killed on site. It’s the only way to keep them at bay. This would be considered an aggressive move toward wolf control. Anything, short of an all out organized program to extirpate the wolf, would work just dandy and would never danger the future existence of this animal.