Photo from fOTOGLIF
*Editor’s Note:* Following is no doubt the most candid discussion you will find anywhere in North America today about predators and their diseases. The discussion surrounds the introduction of the gray wolf to the Greater Yellowstone area and the impact this has had on not only the ecosystem but economically, socially and in the lives of private ranchers and citizens. This discussion not only covers the politics behind the introduction and the ongoing politics but also covers the diseases carried and transmitted by the wolf and the lack of comprehensive research to fully study the environmental, social and economic impacts to this region of the country. This discussion no doubt covers this topic to depths most Americans have never had the opportunity to experience and it is done by some of this continent’s most renowned scientists and researchers. This is a bit lengthy but is very much worth the time it takes to read it thoroughly.
Republished by permission:
Economic and physical dangers to Rural Americans and other unintended consequences
By: Kelly Wood
All American Patriot | March 2010
There are significant economic, health and safety ramifications of the Gray Wolf Introduction Program in Yellowstone Park that have manifested themselves in the Western States along the Rocky Mountain Front. A distinguished panel joins The All American Patriot to discuss these critical issues. The guests assembled for this roundtable are:
Jim Beers, B.S., Wildlife Resources, Utah State University; M.S. Public Admin, University of Northern Colorado. Served as US Navy Officer in the western Pacific, based in Aleutian Island of Adak, Alaska. He retired after 32 years in the US Fish and Wildlife Service in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC as: a Wetlands Biologist, US Game Management Agent, Congressional Fellow, Chief of National Wildlife Refuge Operations, and Wildlife Biologist. Beers travelled extensively in Europe, Africa, and Canada. He has testified multiple times before Congress regarding the theft of $45 to 60 Million dollars by the US Fish and Wildlife Service from State hunting and fishing funds and against Federal authority over invasive species.
Robert T Fanning Jr. Notre Dame, B.A. majoring in biology and sociology, 1973. ; M.B.A 1977; Chairman & Founder, “Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc”; Retired Sole Shareholder, Director and Officer, M.H. Detrick Co. Major supplier of engineered heat enclosures for steel and other industries since 1914; Fixed Income Specialist, Member Chicago Board of Trade, Member 1981-1994 , Chicago, IL; Registered Representative in 1974 of the New York Stock ExchangeNYSE /Commodity Futures Trading Commission CFTC . Proud father of two highly accomplished adult sons and daughter.
Dr. Valerius Geist, Ph.D. Biology. Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, University of Calgary. Served as a professor and department head responsible for environment science in the Faculty of Environmental Design where he specialized on wildlife biology and wildlife conservation policy. Publisher of 17 books and over 300 publications, he is a Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science and State Professional Biologist. Geist has retired to a remote section of Vancouver Island where he has chronicled the near elimination of ungulates through intense predation by a growing, and brazen to human activity, wolf population.
Will Graves, B.A. Russian, Syracuse University; Masters Russian, American University. Retired in 1987 after a 35 year career in the Federal Government, beginning with the US Dept of Agriculture working as Chief of Livestock Inspecting, Vaccinating Brigade in Oaxaco, Mexico. whose mission it was to help stamp out Foot and Mouth disease. After volunteering for the US Air Force, Graves, while stationed in Berlin, Graves began comprehensive research on Russian Wolves – their characteristics, habits and behavior. With frequent travel to Russia, this research eventually culminated in his book, “Wolves in Russia”, published in May 2007.
Bill Hoppe: Fifth generation Montanan. Rancher and owner, together with his wife, of North Yellowstone Outfitters of Paradise Valley, MT. His great grandfather was the first recorded Caucasian child born in the Montana territory in1864, at Nevada City. He is a fourth generation outfitter whose Great Grandfather, Grandfather, and Father have outfitted in the state. For nearly 58 years, he has hunted, observed and lived with wildlife in and around Yellowstone and matches his expertise and credibility on the truthful aspects of Wolf activity, with that of any Multi-million dollar Government program funded, employee.
Dr. Delane Kritsky: Professor Emeritus, College of Health Professions, Idaho State University. B.S., Biology, Mathematics and Education, 1965, Minot State College, Minot, ND; M.S., Zoology, 1967, Sacramento State College, Sacramento, Ca; Ph.D., Zoology, 1970, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL. Associate Dean and Professor (35 years) within Department of Health and Nutrition. Extensively published in over 150 publications, Dr. Kritsky’s primary expertise is in Parasitology. Past leadership includes Presidency, Rocky Mountain Conference of Parasitologists, Active professional and honorary affiliations with American Society of Parasitologists, Helminthological Society of Washington, and American Association for Zoological Nomenclature.
All American Patriot (AAP): Drs. Geist and Kritsky, Messrs. Fanning, Hoppe, Graves, and Beers, welcome to the AAP roundtable. Gentlemen, we’ve assembled to talk about the re-introduction of the wolf into Yellowstone, but first, there are many who take issue with the term “re-introduction” [Editors note: see the thorough treatment of this issue in the accompanying articles authored by Lynn Sutte .] Why is that?
FANNING: It’s simple. There is no “re-introduction” because the wolf introduced into Yellowstone Park is not native to this geography and had never naturally been here to begin with. The Gray wolf is ironically enough, a human introduced invasive species. You see, the original wolf inhabiting the geography of the Park was a much smaller animal, the Rocky Mountain wolf or Canis lupus irremotus. The Canadian Gray Timber wolf, Canis lupus occidentalis, is also known as the Alaskan Tundra Wolf. It was introduced at significant cost to the U.S. taxpayer and is a super size predator with a rapacious appetite and lust for wanton killing – killing far in excess the number of ungulates (hoofed animals: deer, antelope, elk) claimed by authorities. There are hundreds of cases of man monkeying around with the balance of nature and screwing things up. One of the best examples is the introduction of the Mongoose into the Hawaiian Islands as a means for dealing with a huge and troublesome rat population. Those conscientious biologists however neglected to realize that the rat is a nocturnal animal while the Mongoose preys during the day. Their paths simply never cross, so today Hawaii not only still has its rats, but it has 100s of thousands of Mongooses creating mayhem with rare ground nesting birds and other native species. This is just one example of the law of unintended consequences in dealing with wildlife. The unintended consequence to the Rocky Mountain States of the non native Gray wolf is much, much more serious and not simply the consequence of a couple thousand extra wolves roving the countryside, but rather a much greater problem caused by the level of depredation of native species – Elk and deer, than originally claimed. It’s all about wolf “densities” and who gets to control those densities. Federal and state biologists have failed colossally in their claims every step of the way and the impact is economically huge.
AAP: And what is that impact?
HOPPE: The most visible impact to me is the near elimination of the Northern Yellowstone Elk herd, which at its peak shortly before the Gray Wolf introduction, numbered 20,000 animals. The size of that herd is now less than 5,000. . . if that.
FANNING: Not only has the Wolf program been the equivalent of a dangerous invasive species in Montana, these animals don’t recognize they are citizens of a specific state and certainly don’t recognize they exist for the purpose of remaining in Yellowstone Park so they can be observed by eco-tourists armed with $10,000 telescopes. They have spilled over into Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Montana and have become a huge problem. The Elk counts are just in from the Lolo Districts 10 and 12 in Idaho. In district 10, the official Elk count in 1995 was 9,729. The count just released is 1,473, — a population decrease of 85% from the Pre-wolf program era. The adjacent District 10 yields a similar loss of 82% from its pre-wolf program days.
AAP: The wolf program advocates will argue that the Elk counts are down for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which are disease, changing habitat, bears, drought etc . . .
HOPPE: I’m surprised they don’t include abduction by space aliens . . . whatever they need to say in order to justify continued multimillion dollar funding to State and Federal Government programs and the Private environmental groups who lobby and otherwise enable them.
FANNING: Absolutely true! There is some small percentage that will be lost to disease, or any other number of reasons, but to spin that story to use these excuses to account for such a significant decline is rubbish. A top wolf/ungulate (hoofed animals: elk, deer, antelope) expert Tom Bergerud from British Columbia told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in 2000, “I predict that you´re going to have major impacts from wolves in this state,” (Idaho) he said. I predict a major elk decline . . . [wolves] repeatedly depress moose, caribou and elk populations while studying them throughout Canada and in some cases they wiped out local populations of caribou.” He warned them further, “I’ve watched herd after herd (of caribou) go extinct across Canada. The problem: wolves have no known predators to keep them in balance with the ecosystem.”
AAP: We’ll come back to some of the consequences of the impact on Deer and Elk, but first gentlemen, does anybody really have a handle on how many wolves there are today in the west?
HOPPE: You know, well, what they’re saying is there are 500 in the State of Montana, and I think 600 in Wyoming. And the rest of them are supposedly in Idaho. They’re saying there’s like 1600 wolves. That’s the last number that I saw.
AAP: So, is this an accurate number?
BEERS: No, the real number could be an order of magnitude larger. I don’t think you’ll ever find out.
DR. GEIST: This is an easy question to ask and nobody wants to answer.
AAP: Why is that?
FANNING: The Federal and State agencies responsible for this program promised that there would be a finite, manageable number of wolves. The entire program, built on the Mark S. Boyce computer model, using predictive science as the cornerstone, promised 78-100 wolves over a 10 – 20 year period, maximum! Now, they don’t want to appear “Stupid”, number 1, for not being able to do their jobs competently, or “guilty” number 2, for knowing the outcome and lying about it to the public.
BEERS: I believe that the upper Rocky Mountain population of wolves that we look at now spans from Oregon over to Montana and down to and spilling across Wyoming and this population derives almost entirely from that release in Yellowstone National Park, although there were some remnant populations of wolves, populations or packs, in and out of the Alberta and British Columbia borders up there for sure. The other places that the wolves came from are releases of Mexican wolves down in Arizona and New Mexico. There is a large population of wolves that are in Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. This is a separate group of wolves that received early protection when there were just a few in Minnesota and they just spread throughout that area in the last 30 years there with federal protection.
GEIST: It may be worth mentioning that the wolves were actually well on the way from coming all on their own from Canada into the western states. There were wolves killed already south of Yellowstone and that was well before the re-introduction ever took place into Yellowstone. So they were coming on their own and the re-introduction just simply speeded things up.
HOPPE: In the mid to late 60s’, Yellowstone Park tried to put wolves in here at that time. In 1968, my dad, my brother and I saw a wolf here above the house. The story was always circulated around that the park had tried to bring in 12 wolves. In later years, probably 1970 or ’71, I worked in the Park for a few summers, and I saw the cages where they were stored in a building up there above Mammoth. The cages had Canadian stickers on them and had dog feces in them. So it all made sense. A rancher I knew, who’s since passed away, in 1969 said he killed two wolves on his ranch here in the Paradise Valley.
BEERS: A year before I graduated from Utah State in 1963, I took a big game management course that had a one-week field trip up to Yellowstone National Park included in the class. At that time, the National Park Service biologists that talked to us and took us around the park were trying to deal with a problem. There was no hunting in the park. How do you maintain buffalo and elk and still preserve the riparian habitat – the willows and such along the waterways? They were having a terrible problem with too many elk and deer. They talked about how they really needed to get wolves in there to reach a balance of nature. They had . . . at the time, and I was struck even as a student . . . at the sort of fantasy notion, that if we had a few wolves, we could effectively control them. And in turn, they (the wolves) would control these elk and deer, and we’d have the willows back. They were very actively seeking to do that at that time. Our professor in the big game class I took was very reluctant to talk about that whole issue. I know I tried a couple of times to ask him some questions about that and he really didn’t want to talk about it. This was very prevalent thinking, the notion that National Parks can set aside large areas and just by leaving them alone, they’re all going to go back to some sort of pre- Columbian paradise without any interventions.
HOPPE: Jim, the time that you’re talking about, I can remember very well. That was the same time that Yellowstone Park personnel were killing elk inside the park. They did this on the sly, wanting to avoid taking PR heat.
AAP: So again, do any of you feel that there’s been a vast under representation of the actual number of wolves introduced by both Federal and State Officials?
BEERS: I have no doubt based on my 30-plus years with the federal government and my time with Fish and Game in Utah, that the people that work there have under-estimated those numbers regularly and purposefully. This whole affair began with the Endangered Species Act and the “wolf re-introduction”. There is employed this whole philosophy of redoing rural America into some sort of pre-Columbian nirvana and they all felt that was a very righteous cause and they have been underestimating and under counting for years. They do so with impunity because federal and most state employees are protected from any sort of responsibility for their actions in this regard. As long as they’re doing what appears to be a sound job and they have science claims or some sort of an environmental impact statement philosophy on their side, then they’re not really held accountable for anything that goes wrong or anything that they may overlook if they appear to be sincere in doing their jobs. Under-estimating the numbers plays into a whole range of hidden agendas with these organizations that are supported by private environmental concerns, whose employees believe it is their purpose in life to help get appropriated money when they’re able to get rid of hunting and fishing and trapping down the road. They look to wilderness and National Forest with the Park Service having large areas of responsibility for management of a refuge system which is intended to go the same way. All this has contributed to the starving of rural America. Making gun advocates seem extremist and making the use of guns less of a problem down the road. So, it’s all part of a larger agenda that does not bode well for Second Amendment rights, the future for rural Americans in general not to mention the gradual disappearance of grazing and logging lands. Underestimating the wolf count and the new problems they create plays right into that whole movement and philosophy.
HOPPE: There’s been a lot of lying going on since the beginning. Around Thanksgiving of 2004, my wife and I saw 56 wolves for three nights in a row and never walked out of the house. There are witnesses to that fact. I caught Doug Smith, the Project leader for the wolf program, at the airport one evening and I asked him about these animals. He acknowledged them and told me which pack they were from. Two of the packs were inside Yellowstone Park and the pack outside the Park he identified was on my property. I feel there is no doubt that these numbers have been misrepresented for years and years mainly because of what Jim just described. It’s a money thing. The more problems created by wolves the State Fish and Game or Park Service can claim to defend their programs, the more funding they get and the more jobs they can create. You look at some of these people are who are going to retire – and they’ll do it off money based on the wolf program.
BEERS: Speaking of which, I would just mention a good case in point – Jamie Rappaport Clark, when she was became a political appointee as Director of Fish and Wildlife Services. She was in that job to evaluate the deployment of money from the federal aid program to bring the wolves in. Even though she didn’t receive the money from Congress because it had been turned down, she in turn is the one who set up “ Defenders of Wildlife” as the organization that would investigate predation and pay for damages. And then when she lost her job when President Clinton went out of office, she went to the National Wildlife Federation at a salary of $200,000 – $250,000/yr where she did very little before getting fired. She did score a nice severance with bonus. A couple of months later, she pops up in the Defenders of Wildlife as a top official with them where she is today. So it is all interwoven. Clark would not be where she is now; if the wolf had been delisted years ago and we were controlling them and managing them. Her stake was not in achieving efficiency but rather from how organizations could benefit and make money.
AAP: But don’t the administrators of these programs contend that there is huge economic benefit derived from the wolf?
HOPPE: Cheerleaders behind Wolf Ecotourism spout the figure of $35 Million coming from people who travel to Yellowstone to see wolves. People need to understand that the revenue coming into the state of Montana from hunting alone makes that very small in comparison. It is near a quarter of a Billion dollars and because of the wolf, this economic activity is declining. The other thing to realize is that many farmers and ranchers supplement their farming and ranching annual income by outfitting and guiding. As I mentioned, at one time, the Northern Yellowstone Elk herd was the largest in the world – with over 20,000 animals. Now? Maybe 5,000. During the heyday I had over 100 clients during the late season hunt alone and enjoyed a 90%+ success rate. Now, I have a small handful of clients. The elk are gone. They are being slaughtered in the park and the wolves are following the survivors out. Sure, I spot an occasional Elk from my house in winter, but as I mentioned earlier, for three nights in a row, I counted 56 wolves without leaving my house. Ed Bangs, the ranking federal official over the Wolf Program told my brother once at a forest service office in Gardiner that “The wolves are here to stay. It doesn’t matter if they eat every damn last Elk. Live with it.” Well Ed should know. They’re making great progress towards that goal. [Moderator note: Mr. Bangs may have since had a change of heart in this caviler position, since he is reputed to have recently said, “Wolves fix very few problems compared to the ones they create.”]
AAP: So, it’s been costly in several different terms. Anybody care to venture a guess as to the aggregate amount of money coming from state and federal coffers affiliated with the Gray wolf introduction program ?
BEERS: As someone who worked as Chief of the Refuge Divisions Operations, which is their budget formation, I’ve been a program analyst in Washington and handled the budget. I know that within the federal budget, it’s hard to pull out the numbers purposely to answer that kind of a question because they can deny that very much of this goes to this, that and whatever. But they have people who you wouldn’t think are in any way attached to wolf work that do spend most of their time, 40 hours a week, working on wolf matters and using federal stimulus money to do so, right now. In fact, I was just told the other day that stimulus money is going up to the wolf project here in Minnesota — money along with remodeling one of the regional offices here for Fish and Wildlife Service. A lot of that money is not considered. So you’ve got the money that is clearly for wolves that goes in grants to Dr. Beers over here for wolf this, that and the other thing, and then grant money for research here, research there, about North Dakota wolves and on the study of genetic strings of wolves in Canada and all this nonsense stuff. By design, it’s very, very difficult to pull that information out. It’s a little easier at the state level but the state employees know that backing up the federal employees and all of their cohorts, wolf related work is their ticket to a really good sound future as long as nobody can nail them with something. So that’s a very difficult question to answer. It would take some time and actually would take some Freedom of Information Act requests and you’d need somebody that really knows that budget. And there are very, very few people in the United States, frankly, outside of the agency and there are very few people within the agency that could track something like that down. That’s all by purposeful design.
AAP: OK, let’s move on to the issue of another significant but unreported issue. Will, you appear to be quite prescient in your concerns about wolf introduction into Yellowstone. In 1993, just prior to the wolf introduction, you wrote Mr. Bangs a letter discussing your concerns – a letter that has since received extremely wide circulation on the Internet. What were the concerns?
GRAVES: It was a long letter dealing with numerous issues gleaned from wolf data on collected in Russia. The primary focus was on the failure of the Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) to do due diligence on the impact issue of diseases, worms and parasites and address comprehensive data collected on wolf behavior in Russia. This data was conclusive that Gray wolves are carriers of worms and parasites and pose significant danger to animals and humans. Another important concern was the level of depredation that Wolves would have on the ungulate populations of Yellowstone.
AAP: We’ll deal at length on the Wolf as dangerous parasite carrier issue, but first, let’s talk about the latter concern. Did you get any response to the letter?
GRAVES: No, not at the time, but much, much later, there was a feeble response through back channels. Oddly enough, I had people in Russia asking me about this letter soon after I arrived there – not too long after I sent the letter. There was obviously some level of communication between Bangs and Russian officials, but that communication was not transparent.
AAP: I read it. This letter is a plea to objectively evaluate the program on scientific merits and encouragement not to become enamored/infatuated with the wolf. Do you feel this evaluation was conducted objectively?
GRAVES: Not at all. They worked off of data that had no resemblance to anything published in other countries with their own populations of Gray wolves and significantly underestimated their consumption/kill rates of ungulates. For example, Russian data reveals that on average a gray wolf kills 1 deer a week, or 90 Saiga (Eurasian antelope), 50-80 boar, or 8-10 moose per year but yet the same animal in Yellowstone would supposedly reign in its appetite and only kill one deer every 23 days. Why such a significant difference? I don’t feel there was any kind of responsible evaluation at all and the consequence is significantly lower Elk counts in high density wolf areas throughout the mountain west.
AAP: Speaking of animal kills, there is controversy with the wolf advocates over claims that Wolves kill for sport . . . Does this really happen?
HOPPE: Yes, it’s called a number of other things, including “sport killing.” The scientific term is “surplus killing reflex”. Any Rancher who spends any amount of time paying attention at all, has witnessed this . . . ahem . . . “surplus killing.” Just this past year, in early summer, I was in the Lamar Valley where I personally saw 3 adult wolves ferociously kill and rip apart 10 Elk Calves. They viciously and quickly brought the calves down and proceeded to rip away at the carcasses, fiercely shredding away but oddly they failed to eat anything from the carcasses that they were ripping and shredding. It took them all of a half hr. to do this and after they appeared to tire, they just wandered away.
GRAVES: The official Russian literature on the topic is clear. My letter to Ed Bangs cited data that included documented observations of a single wolf killing 39 reindeer in one attack and another killing 29 in a single attack. It also discussed an incident documented in Sweden in 1977 of one wolf killing between 80 and 100 reindeer in 19 days. The popular misconception is that wolves are noble killers, preying only on the aged, weak, and infirm – The reality is that wolves are opportunistic killers and have an affinity for females that are in late stages of pregnancy and young animals. Sometimes it takes several days for wolves to kill a moose. In the end, they are eating the moose alive — something they also do frequently with sheep.
GEIST: There’s no question about that that this is part and parcel of the nature of wolves. When they have the opportunity to kill in excess, just simply kill and leave, kill and leave, and go on killing, they will do so. This has nothing to do with Yellowstone wolves, Russian wolves — this is a universal characteristic of wolves, period. By the way, grizzly bears will do the same thing. Colleagues have observed them in the Arctic when they were killing calves of the caribou herd. They would just run through the caribou herd killing one calf after the other.
GRAVES: My extensive research I did on the characteristics and behavior of Russian wolves both in Russia and former Soviet Union I found extensive evidence that wolves were surplus killers. The point that usually comes up is why do they engage in surplus killing, and when do they do it. I tried to answer that in my book. The why is for the scientist but there’s no doubt in my mind that wolves are surplus killers and there’s another term that I sometimes use is wanton killing. Wanton killing is when maybe a wolf will just accidentally stumble on a white tail deer or something and will just kill it for the sport, just one game animal. I call it wanton killing. Surplus killing is when maybe a few wolves, maybe three or seven, will kill 30, 40, 50, a hundred sheep in a two or three-hour period. That’s what I call surplus killing.
GEIST: At any rate, this is part and parcel of normal wolf biology. When you introduce wolves, that’s what you will realize.
AAP: But that’s not at all what the wolf advocates say. They not only don’t admit to the notion of wolves engaging in surplus killing, they maintain that the wolf serves a natural purpose in the cycle of life . . .
GRAVES: Yes, they call the wolf the “Sanitarian of Nature.” Even in the Soviet Union, I’d run into people that would use this term. I’ve been in meetings and discussions out here where people say “oh, wolves are they’re so wonderful. They kill off all of the weak and crippled animals so they’re really the sanitarians of nature. But when the Soviets started to do the research on it and look at the remains of animals that had been killed by the wolves, they would try to find the animal as soon as they could and the Soviets have done possibly some of the best research that’s been done on wolves. They would find that about 80 to 90 percent of the kills of the wolf were perfectly healthy, fit animals. Only 10 to 20 percent of the animals would have any defect at all. So how could you call the wolves, sanitarians of ature? Iin addition, they’re spreading around parasites some of which are dangerous to humans and they also spread diseases.
FANNING: The failure to bring in the Russian science was part and parcel of things that were excluded, due diligence that wasn’t performed, and once censored the program looted from the Treasury. $60 million dollars later, we had a program that was crammed down our throats that also had the vast majority of the science excluded from the environmental impact statement and the scientific discussion.
GRAVES: You’re absolutely right. I was amazed that when I read the draft of the environmental impact statement and found that there was very little information in there about the centuries of experience the Russians and the Soviets have had with the wolves. They’ve had much more experience than we’ve had over here and so why weren’t the Russians asked what would be the impact of introducing the wolves? Bob Fanning is right. There was all this science available and it was written by technical people, not only by hunters. I’m always accused of being a hunter and because I am hunter I want wolves exterminated. That’s not true. I don’t want them exterminated. I just want their numbers controlled and I want to help our ranchers and farmers who are taking it very bad – they’re are getting the short end of the stick here.
AAP: Besides the loss of revenue to the state of Montana in hunting, are there other economic costs? and what are they?
FANNING: The costs to Ranchers are huge, with the cost surely totaling many millions of dollars, The Montana Stockgrowers Association is currently studying the impact on their industry of reduced pregnancies and lower weaning weights of cattle, due to wolf activity. Unfortunately, right now the exact cost is hard to calculate and quantify. Yes, there is a program to compensate private property owners for livestock that are killed on their property by wolves. Ranchers are hard pressed however to provide validation to the satisfaction of government inspectors of wolf kills. Wolf predation on livestock herds is a reality for a growing number of ranchers as they incur increased and unanticipated costs of pasturing and feeding livestock herds in suboptimal sections of their own land, being forced to keep the cattle away from higher pastures where they might not otherwise be as safe. Cattle coming out of pastures adjacent active wolf habitat usually weigh significantly less than others maintained in safer pastures. One rancher in Drummond recently stated his heifer calves were on average, 97 pounds lighter. There is also the problem of aborted fetuses by heifers stressed by the presence of wolves. How do you put a cost on the livelihood of a multi-generational rancher, having to get out of ranching because he can no longer bear the cost of dealing with this government introduced invasive species?
AAP: This sounds like a dreary future for Montana and other western state ranchers – particularly those making a living in areas with high density wolf populations.
FANNING: It is, but not at all an accidental phenomenon. Mike Phillips currently a member of the Montana State Legislature, is also simultaneously employed as Executive Director of Ted Turner’s Endangered Species Fund. In that capacity on February 24, 2000, in Duluth, MN, at a conference on wolf introduction, Phillips said to a group of 600 people, in his summary : “The goal of wolf introduction is to drive 30,000 ranchers from public lands.” Despite being videotaped by the University of Minnesota and the International Wolf Center, and reported by the “Minnesota Star Tribune”, and “Wyoming Agricultural”, Phillips recognizing the PR damage of these words, later denied having made them.
AAP: This sounds like a very hostile attitude, bordering on the criminal, that environmentalist extremists have towards ranchers and the U.S. western tradition.
HOPPE: Hostile? It’s not just them, but the Federal and State managers with multi-million dollar budgets built around the wolf program. You have to understand that who we previously considered extremists are now thought of as mainstream. I still think of them as extremists. This guys like Mike Phillips, are in cahoots with the Federal Government whose officials are just as dismissive. Carolyn Sime, the Gray wolf Program Director, told me once in conversation “We’re sorry about what the wolves do to your business but you’ll just have to find something else to do.”
AAP: So let me see if I can summarize . . . Canadian Gray wolves, a non-native species to Yellowstone were introduced when there was a population –albeit small– of an existing species of wolf. The Gray wolf population from the Yellowstone program has exploded and the attendant problems have been purposefully ignored. The impact on ungulates has been severe and all this is swept under the rug because there is significant funding at stake for Federal/State agencies made possible through advocacy by various private environmental concerns. The unintended consequences impacting hunters and ranchers is significant. Is that fair?
FANNING: Yes, That would be a pretty accurate summation. But it is not just a question of the waste of taxpayer dollars, burdened costs on ranching and the loss of hunting. There is the very serious issue of public safety.
AAP: Indeed . . .Let’s focus now on the most important part of Mr. Grave’s 1993 letter to Ed Bangs – that of the threat of serious disease spread by a deadly parasites carried by the Gray wolf . . . What is it called?
GEIST: It is a parasitic infestation, hydatid echinocchal granulosus, (E. Granulosis) a disease that can infect humans and other mammals.
KRITSKY: It is worthwhile to note there are two strains of Echinococcus . The strain that Dr. Geist just mentioned and another, E. multilocularis. As far as I know, wolves are not an important host for E. multilocularis. The strain of E. multilocularis is present in the upper Midwest and appears to be relatively non-infective to man and as far as I know, wolves are not an important host for E. multilocularis. Dr. Geist is exactly correct, E. granulosus is, also in my opinion, the much more dangerous strain as it is highly infective to man and is also a parasite of sheep and domestic dogs which much more easily brings the parasite into homes in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where human beings can be exposed.
AAP: What is the actual damage of E. Granulosus to human beings?
KRITSKY: Although usually a “dead end” for the parasite, human beings serve as an intermediate host for echinococcus species. The tapeworms may form cysts within many vital organs of human beings, which could result in organ failure. Unfortunately, symptoms of tapeworm are generally seen late in the infection and associated with organ failure, which can result in serious illness or death of the individual.
GEIST: It is indeed a silent disease, is difficult to diagnose, with displays little specificity in symptoms. It can reside in the host for over 10-20 years. Depending on the location and number of cysts, it can range from being benign to, as Dr. Kritsky states – lethal. It is particularly dangerous to anyone engaged in an active, sporting lifestyle, since blows to the body can lead to rupture of cysts with dreadful consequences, and prolonged, costly treatment.
AAP: How does the parasite travel from Wolf to Elk and Deer?
GEIST: It passes from the feces of the Wolf to any nearby foliage as microscopic airborne delivered eggs. Ungulates, by grazing and through normal respiration, then acquire the parasite through these eggs. The parasite then crosses another boundary whenever domestic animals/pets feed on the offal of winter or wolf killed ungulates.
AAP: I’ve noted that various wolf advocates imply this issue is nothing more than a “bogeyman” argument thrown out by the “wolf haters” along with claims that the risk of infection is “one in million” that people around dogs simply need to wash their hands and such and all is well.
GEIST: All is not well. There has been a recent flurry of activity by various government agencies to issue position papers, memoranda and the like on the disease. One can’t help notice the discrepancy in the accounts of hydatid diseases, between those reported by these agencies as opposed to scientific assessments issued by clinicians.
HOPPE: I’m really concerned. I have children and grandchildren in my house and on my property, there can be a high concentration of wolves. Shouldn’t this be of concern for somebody like the CDC (Center for Disease Control?) How worried should I really be?
GEIST: Bill, first of all you are facing a very severe threat, in fact, it is a threat primarily to children in the rural areas of Montana, northern Wyoming and Idaho and Oregon and Washington eventually. The difficulty arises out of the following. If you look into scientific literature, echinococcus granulosus and hydatid disease is by and large considered a rare disease. It’s rare because it is found in a tiny population in the north of this continent –in Alaska and Canada, a tiny population that has dogs that hunt and that feeds infected offal to the dogs. That is offal from caribou and moose that carries it in their lungs. The dogs there are kept outside. They’re kept usually away from the places of residence and the infection takes place when the dogs are harnessed into doing sled work and so on. There may be fecal matter attached to harness and fecal matter — this is how it gets to people by and large. But we’re dealing with a rare disease because it is found under those circumstances. In other words, it doesn’t apply to people that feed offal from caribou and moose in areas where hydatid disease does not occur. The reason hydatid disease did not occur in the 50s, 60s, even 70s over vast areas of North America is because of the severe control of wolves. And I know about that; I’m a Canadian and was aware of what was going on. There was broadcast poisoning for wolves in order to eradicate them. There was trapping for wolves and fur in those days still brought good prices and the game wardens were quite active in eliminating the wolves after the hunting season. And whenever wolves entered the ranch country, the predator officers, control officers, would come in and remove them. And they still do incidentally but nevertheless, we have today a much wider spread of wolves. So under these circumstances hydatid disease was of course, extremely rare. But it was not rare amongst the very people that were associated with feeding their dogs hydatid infected offal.
Now the problem that you have in the western United States is that you have a large wolf population which is heavily infected with tape worm, 63 percent or more as we know from reading the research. You also have a large population . . . or “had” a large population of deer and elk. The deer and elk are also now infected with hydatid cysts in the lungs and liver and these big game animals come into the valley bottoms where they winter. You have a fairly common occurrence in the west now that you have elk and deer around ranch buildings, around farm buildings, and close to rural hamlets. Under those circumstances, you will have animals dying in winter or you have the hunting season and animals dying and the offal of these animals left outside. And you have the possibility that rural dogs from hamlets and from ranches surreptitiously going out and feeding on the infected offal. When that happens, within a few weeks, the tape worm develops in the gut of the dog, and the dog begins spreading millions and millions of eggs into your yards and around the homes and on verandas, and of course, since we allow dogs into the houses, also into the houses.
But that’s not the only source of the eggs. People walking through the yard will bring in the eggs on their boots and the eggs will get on the floor of the kitchen and the living room and adjoining areas. And it’s at this point that something really dangerous is happening. Babies, toddlers, little guys crawling around on the floor with pudgy little hands going through the dust and the dirt putting it into their mouths. Then, you’re going to have children with multiple infections and multiple infections related to diseases. I don’t know how even to escape that except if you either remove the wolves or remove the tape worms out of the wolves. And at the same time, remove the tape worms out of the dogs. Now the only people that have seriously done this were the Finns. I just got a letter from one of my colleagues. When hydatid disease spread in northern Finland — and the Finns were very, very much concerned about that. To them, it was a serious disease. Just as serious as I have illustrated and what Professor Kritsky has recently written, it is a serious, serious matter.
The Finns had a simple solution. They eliminated the wolves and they used machine guns out of helicopters. It was the Army that was called into action so it was the military that flew around with submachine guns eliminating wolves. And then they de-wormed the dogs whenever they could and they got rid of hydatid disease. Unfortunately since that time wolves have returned to Finland and the disease is spreading once more and I don’t know what is going to happen. I just would like to make one statement and this is important. I have looked at the history of wolves and humans and I’ve looked at it quite recently. I know of no case where wolves have co-existed peacefully with human beings in a settled landscape. And that is exactly the aim of the environmental organizations here and in Europe. I see currently every indication that what is happening in the west is a repeat of history.
BEERS: It is ironic you should mention the Finn solution. In 1998 I was involved in traveling to Europe multiple times that year fighting European unions’ attempt to ban the import of furs. The United States worked very closely with Canada and Russia to do that and we were having lunch one day arranged lunch by the Europe Union and there were two Russian representatives there one with a Ph.D. from Moscow and the other a wolf technician from a region close to Siberia. The technician sat next to me and we got along real well in the meetings. He actually said to me about halfway through the meeting . . . he said Mr. Beers, “Can I ask you something?” I said “sure.” I thought we were going to talk about fur bearers because he was really into sables and the export of furs, but he said, “Is it true that your country is bringing wolves back and protecting them and trying to breed them?” He looked at me right in my eyes and he was unbelieving. I said, “It’s true . . . they’ve just done that in Yellowstone Park.” And I said, “I don’t know where that’s going to lead.” And he actually said to me, “That is no good . . . I do not understand how you ever beat us in the Cold War.” I’ve since reflected on this Russians incredulity at the U.S. folly and the humor of this guy wondering with our bungling mentality on this matter, how we could have ever beaten them.”
GRAVES: Yes, because they lived it. Dr. Geist was kind enough to write the forward in my book about Russian wolves. The words he wrote then were especially salient. He wrote, “North Americans have an opportunity to learn from others in good time to adopt management measures that minimize dangers and problems with wolves. If we fail to discuss the Russian experience and continue with myopic and currently fashionable romantic visions about wolves, which are enshrined in law, then in the long run it will be wolves, if not wildlife conservation as a whole that will pay the price. We can learn from history that failure to manage wolves, results in their decimation, if not extinction. Unfortunately, as the great philosopher Emanuel Kant once quipped, we learn from history that we do NOT learn from history!”
AAP: Just a moment gentlemen. You spoke earlier Dr. Geist, about elimination of the wolf as the solution. I’m confused. As you wrote the words that Bill just cited and as you’ve previously written on the topic, you’ve suggested the problem can be managed so man can co-exist with the wolf?
GEIST: I have in fact, but my comments aren’t contradictory. The surest solution to the problem of course would be to eliminate the wolf from the cycle, engage in an ambitious plan to worm dogs and livestock and eventually, as what happened in Finland, the problem would be eradicated. Baring that commitment, there is a second alternative which is much more costly and complicated . . . but possible.
AAP: What is that?
GEIST: I’ve written extensively on this. It involves three steps.
(1) Assuming the number of wolves can be reduced to enable a vibrant prey base, we place bait stations that are accepted by wolves, with bait containing anti-helminthic drugs. This isn’t a quick project since it will require that wolves accept bait and that won’t immediately happen. It will require experimentation and commitment to make bait stations operational and effective. Once they are, the stations will break the hydatid cycle between wolves and ungulates. This will be an ongoing process and over time, will lead to decreased incidence in infections of the parasite in wolves.
(2) Under moist and cold conditions, hydatid eggs remain viable for months and have the potential to infect up to 3 ½ years later. Under dry, hot conditions, the eggs die quickly. Though burning the under story in forests will not eliminate the dangers from hydatid eggs, it will decrease those odds. Though very expensive, it’s a policy worth looking at.
(3) Last, one would have to implement a very thorough campaign to regularly de-worm domestic dogs in danger areas as well as encourage hygienic measures. It means winning the ears and the trust of the rural communities.
AAP: Dr. Kritsky, what is your opinion of the treatment of this issue by State and Federal officials?
KRITSKY: What I’ve seen suggest one of two things: (1) They don’t (didn’t) understand the potential importance of the parasite to human health, or (2) If they do (didn’t) understand, there must have then been an effort to down play the situation to satisfy the concerns of people regarding wolf introduction. In either case, they are, in my opinion, responsible for whatever public health problems that might happen as a result of their actions and/or ignorance. We should be asking who (the U.S. Government? The State Fish and Wildlife Services? The Wolf Advocates?) will be paying the health bills and funeral expenses for those who will ultimately become infected as a result of Gray wolf introduction into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming?
AAP: Dr. Kritsky, do you share Dr. Geist’s assessment of the problem, and what are your thoughts?
KRITSKY: I am pretty sure that the only way to deal with the introduction of E. granulosus, in the current situation will be elimination of the wolf from the area. Utah had a focus of E. granulosus during the 1970’s and 1980’s during which time people were dying or undergoing dangerous surgery for the parasite cyst. The Utah focus occurred primarily in rural areas where sheep were raised. My friend and colleague, Dr. Ferron Anderson at BYU, was conducting research on E. granulosus in Utah and developed an educational program that primarily included the burying of sheep carcasses and de-worming of dogs and which eventually eliminated the parasite in central Utah. What was successful in Utah will not work here (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming) because of the wild (sylvatic) cycle the wolf and wild ungulates provide in maintain the parasite in the region.
HOPPE: I read about these views and I’m quite concerned. Seems like they could have learned a lot from the Russians and Finns before introducing the wolf.
GEIST: What is so fascinating about it is from my perspective ,is that when I first found out about echinococcus granulosus being found in the western United States, I simply just stated what we as students in wildlife management learned when we were students, and that knowledge is 40 or 50 years old.
AAP: Why didn’t government officials get out in front with this information before they released these wolves?
GRAVES: I have been reading Russian language since 1950 and in 1978 I read an article by a noted Russian scholar, Ms. N. Nazarova. She was identified as a candidate for biological sciences and she wrote a two-page letter which I translated and I wanted to get in my book but unfortunately there wasn’t enough room so I put it in my website [Editors note, see www.wolvesinrussia.com.] And in that article back in 1978 this specialist wrote that wolves carry this Echinococcus . They not only identified that the wolf carries this tape worm but that it is a threat and dangerous to humans. And that was all over Russian literature, of course, at that time Soviet literature in 1978.
GEIST: If I may interject quite quickly, my wife and I and another colleague were being taught in parasitology classes in late 1950s and ’60s and Professor Adams taught us and he was involved in research and he brought some of the most gruesome slides you could possibly imagine of E. Granulosus victims, from the general hospital in Vancouver. Subsequently to that, I had a very dear friend (who has unfortunately passed away) and I discussed with him this hydatid disease and it is a serious disease. The reason I think most of our colleagues in the United States were not familiar with it is because to us in Canada it was a real concern to us. We have it mainly in the North Country and we had to understand under what circumstances it occurred and we have to understand how to make sure we didn’t get infected. So what I was writing about is just simply what we were taught quite early of these dangers. Besides that, of course I had more reason than anybody else to be concerned because one of my relatives died of the echinococcus disease in Russia. And my grandfather insured that his two daughters were very, very much aware that dogs should remain outside, and if at all possible, you should wash your hands if at all possible every time after touching a dog. And in Russia the custom was not to let dogs inside the house and to provide a basin for visitors to wash their hands in. So it was, I suspect, also the idea that dogs are unclean. And it goes back to hydatid disease. So this is a serious disease. Many of my colleagues in the United States appear to be quite unaware of it. Just as they were quite unaware that wolves under specific circumstances could become very dangerous to people. They’ve denied it.
AAP: Why do you think they denied or ignored such a preponderance of evidence?
BEERS: I’d like to make a quick observation you guys as an old bureaucrat. You wonder why they didn’t bring up this health thing before and why people didn’t object to it or why they didn’t look into it. And I would suggest to you based on what I saw go on while I was in Washington on this issue was that the Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and all these guys were trying in the end of the ’90s to get money from Congress to introduce wolves into the West. And they could not get it. I remember the way they introduced wolves was to steal money for a two-year period around 60 million dollars out of the federal aid money that goes to the state fishing and hunting programs. When they got this money and got fishing money without really making it a public affair thing at the time, they just went up to Canada, got the wolves and brought them down to Yellowstone. Everybody said: “oh, there are wolves in Yellowstone!” Boom! They’re being released and they’re being acclimated. Once they were there, Congress couldn’t do anything about it. It was too late. So the Congressmen and all the politicians did not want to anger those powerful environmental groups. So there was never any follow-up. If it had been done properly, say, they had requested 30 million dollars starting in 1994 to introduce wolves, it would have been a process in place and there would have been more hearings and chances to bring up these things and ask them why not. But because it was a deal that was done overnight with stolen money, that process was never formalized. They actually made two requests for that money. And what they intended to do was to make human existence with wolves in western America and even upper Midwest more and more dangerous. They intended to make over in rural western America, even the rural upper Midwest, more and more dangerous to people, talking about kids at bus stops and everything. They wanted big game hunting to be really cut back and that’s just what’s happening right now with the elk. They’d eventually just do away with hunting. They wanted ranchers off the public land and really off the ranches in between the public land. And I suggest to you that all of this publicity that’s now coming out about hydatid disease and tape worm — to those folks, it’s just a big bonus. It’s just — it’s like you’ve put together some sort of a super bomb and find out you can put an atomic bomb in with it too when you drop it. It’s just even more effective for those same purposes to make people evacuate rural America, to become more subservient and we can see what’s going on continuously with these state and federal Fish and Wildlife agencies? Their intent? To do with private property in the rural parts of the United States. Ted Turner’s guy, Phillips, as Bob mentioned, just happened to let the cat out of the bag by mistake.
FANNING: This is all very troubling information that serves as evidence to the public that this is yet just one more example of a government cram-down, using many multiple millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars creating a program that has serious implications including the re-ordering of American rural life along with the creation of serious health consequences to not only those who live in rural settings, but for those who recreate there as well. These are serious unintended or perhaps, intended (?), consequences of the Gray wolf.
AAP: Gentlemen, it has been a pleasure. My only regret is that we don’t have the space to report to the public everything that was discussed here today on the topic. Notwithstanding, what are your most important final thoughts?
BEERS: The entire history since Columbus came to North America, the entire relationship between Americans and Canadians and Europeans up until the last two or three decades was one of control and eradication. We never had any programs of maintaining wolves or managing them in a sense of taking care of them. And for a country, us — the U.S. that had never managed them to not use the information from a country like Russia who did, and who had compiled a long written history of data on their impact on eco-systems – what they do to reindeer, what they do to sheep, what they do to dogs – with all the implications of such history, to ignore all that was accumulated science regarding wolves, was gross negligence and incompetence on our part. Because everything we had here for 400 years was strictly the control and killing of them until this fantasy business started to emerge in the 1980s about what benign animals they were and they only kill the lame and the halt. It’s a real travesty when you think of it . . .the way we made assumptions based on false premises and didn’t take advantage of another country’s data.
FANNING: Last Friday (March 5, 2010), I had a meeting and conversation with Joe Maurier, FWP Director, following an extensive hearing. I testified on behalf of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd regarding wolves and hydatid disease in front of the Montana Environmental Quality Council. The leadership of Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks was present as was the Chairman of the Montana Fish and Game Commission. We explained to the abbreviated session of the Montana Legislature that the fatal, wolf born Echinococcus granulosus disease posed great and lethal public health threats and presented our multiple Ph.D & D.V.M. source citations. We pleaded that the Governor call in the CDC to quantify the damage, educate the public as to the health risk, and train health care workers in all Montana hospitals to recognize ,diagnose and treat Echinococcus granulosus. We demanded that Mt. FWP cease in their public relations campaign to down play the situation, because of their financial conflict of interest and potential trailing liability issues and especially their lack of qualified public health officials to make such reckless and unfounded assertions. Director Maurier agreed with us in his open testimony, particularly after his Montana FWP Veterinarian confirmed that 90 % of the introduced wolves tested in SW Montana are carrying the disease, such disease being prevalent due to the high densities of these wolves. He stated further that the C.D.C. should be brought in.
In that meeting, I told Director Maurier that if the public health issue of Echinococcus granulosus hydatid disease is not confronted directly, openly, honestly and professionally with science instead of politics and stop the 3 year cover up of the hydatid disease and other wolf born diseases test results, then, not only would the Montana public completely lose trust in Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks but they would stop obeying that agency as well. The Gray wolf has been forced on us and because of the lethal disease they can introduce to the human population; we have a natural, lawful right to defend ourselves, our children and grandchildren. I concluded by advising Director Maurier that Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd has submitted formal, written legal notice, following extensive consultation with multiple highly credentialed scientists.
GRAVES: Before the Gray wolf introduction, and from the start, I tried to get across to the ranchers that the main threat in bringing wolves was not that of the wolves killing people. That’s what most of the ranchers were thinking their opposition to bringing the wolves in was – that the wolves would be a threat to the children. I tried to tell them the real threat was going to be from the parasites and diseases that the wolves would spread around, especially so after their numbers would increase. And that’s exactly what has happened. Fifteen years later, the wolf numbers are very high and as wide ranging animals they are spreading deadly disease and parasites that threaten human beings.
Kelly, consistent with the question that you started this discussion with, we have heard here the studied judgment of Dr. Kritsky, a Ph.D – specialist in host parasite biology. We have the judgment of Dr. Valerius Geist who has characterized the likely outcome, health wise of a program gone wrong. At what stage do the people of Montana have to turn to Carolyn Sime who is a functionary of a multi-million dollar empowered bureaucracy and hold her and others responsible for neglect? At what point do we stop being dismissed as alarmists when we continue to produce Ph.Ds that say that we have absolute reason and right to be alarmed at these wolf densities and diseases that these wolf densities impose on our society on our people? At what point do Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks come clean with the studies that they have allegedly conducted — well, based on a 2007 document while we’re talking about decades of studies yielding different findings? When are they going to come clean about the diseases these animals carry and to what degree they are carried?
HOPPE: It’s our right to know. We’ve been lied to since the beginning. I attended the first wolf meeting that I can ever remember in this country. It was back in I want to say the mid ’80s and there was a guy there named Hank Fischer. I believe he was with “Defenders of Wildlife” [Editor’s note. Mr. Fischer was at the time, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. He is currently the Special Projects Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.] It was in Emigrant Montana and Hank stood up in front and I remember his words just like it was today. He said “Oh, this will be a low impact, low budget operation and nobody will ever know it took place.” Those were his words. Now, 15 years later I think we can safely say, it is anything but low budget and it is certainly not low impact.