One area of the Northern Rockies that has suffered excessive wolf depredation is the Greater Yellowstone Area - right where the first of those non-endangered Canadian wolves were first turned loose by USFWS. Before those predators began to multiply and have a noticeable impact on elk, moose and other big game populations in what was America's wildlife wonderland, as many as 25,000 elk called Yellowstone National Park home, along with about 1,200 moose. Today, the overall park elk population is only about 6,000, and this past spring wildlife counters could only come up with 117 remaining moose. And even those numbers do not tell the whole story. Before wolves, the average age of the elk in and around the park was between 4 and 5 years of age. Today, those elk which have managed to survive are getting old, due to the near 100-percent loss of calves to the wolves each spring, and this herd now averages 8 to 9 years old.
When these elk begin to die off from old age, in just the next couple of years, Yellowstone's elk just may become another endangered species. The moose are already.
Robert T. Fanning, the founder of the group Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, lives on a ranch near Pray, MT - less than 30 miles from the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. He has witnessed the demise of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, from around 19,000 in 1995-96 to only about 2,000 this spring. And while some very questionable wildlife managers try to lay blame for the loss of so many elk on numerous "other" factors, including global warming, the only real difference between now and 1995, before the first wolves were released there, is that today the immediate area is home to more than 400 wolves. And each of those wolves will annually kill around 30 elk, moose and deer for food, and nearly as many for sport. Only about 5- to 6-percent of the calves and fawns born in the spring live to see one year of age. These elk are already beginning to succumb to old age. Like the vast majority of Northern Rockies sportsmen, Fanning is livid about the destruction, and this Yellowstone area resident fully intends to file lawsuits against all parties which have caused or contributed to this ecological disaster. He has been fighting the wolf war since Canadian wolves were first released into Yellowstone.
Fanning points out, "The Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, formerly the largest migrating elk herd on Earth, has been intensively monitored since 1885. Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, Inc. was formed in August of 1999 in response to forced wolf introduction as an advocacy group for the Northern Herd, and to enforce Congresses original stated intent 'not to hurt hunting or the local economies'. Our group has 3,742 members, mostly sportsmen, ranchers, guides and outfitters who live in the Tri State Yellowstone Ecosystem. For a decade FOTNYEH has worked constantly and closely with state legislatures to sound the alarm that the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd was being pushed into a predation pit by extreme predator densities, that according to scientists would be ultimately irreversible. Our organization hired three renown PH.D's in predator-prey biology a decade ago, and have strategically aligned ourselves with several other PH.D's to give veracity and credence to our members 'out in the field' observing and reporting for a decade the profound decimation of all the wildlife. For a decade, pro wolf wildlife management 'authorities' who have a financial conflict of interest, have systematically lied and covered up the sterilization of our ecosystem by extreme wolf densities. Now that they have been caught as liars they dismiss their scientific fraud with, 'You're not looking hard enough, prey can be found elsewhere.' With federally protected wolf populations growing at a 30-percent annum rate since 1995 and wolf numbers and densities so extreme, what hope is there for Yellowstone's prey base avoiding extinction?"
Another concerned sportsman is Jim Hagerdon, of Idaho For Wildlife, who says, "Bad federal law, bad policies and a green-oriented political judge have converged, along with no leadership or courage from the state of Idaho or our federal government in this wolf disaster. Too bad for elk, moose and deer...too bad for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming residents...too bad for resident and non-resident hunters...too bad for our ranching and farming economy. What a disaster!"
The ever greater loss of wildlife resources to wolves is now hitting the Northern Rockies hard. The fall hunting seasons not only provide a very outdoor oriented population with a winter meat supply, the money spent by hunters also plays a big role in the economies of many rural communities. Likewise, the hunting permits and licenses purchased have long provided the funding needed to keep state wildlife agencies in operation. In fact, sportsmen who hunt and fish have been the ones who have paid the way for modern wildlife conservation for the past 75 to 100 years - while environmental groups and bird watchers have contributed nothing.
What kind of economic impact are wolves having on each of these states?
Montana Senator Joe Balyeat sharpened a pencil and sat down to come up with a reasonable annual loss to his state. And when he figured in the loss of cattle, sheep, ranch & farm dogs, a loss of hunting opportunities that resulted in fewer big game permit or license sales, the replacement value of the game killed by wolves, the revenue loss to small hunting communities, lost business for outfitters and guides, and other closely related factors, he determined that the loss, due to wolves, would easily top $60-million annually. Next door in Idaho, that state's Department of Fish and Game has realized a similar economic loss.
While new wave wildlife biologists and the followers of the "green" environmental groups still like to tout the reintroduction of the wrong wolf into the Northern Rockies as a true "conservations success story", the realization of the wildlife destruction and the losses now being born by rural Americans is now beginning to change public sentiment for wolves. Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release stating their new goal is to see wolves reintroduced from coast to coast, from border to border - until tens of thousands of wolves thrive across America. Most who have been close to the wolf issue for the past couple of decades say that it was always the intention of such anti-hunting groups to eliminate hunting opportunities by destroying big game populations. And the wolf has become their tool of choice.
It is now clear to many that forcing wolves back on the Northern Rockies has had little to do with wildlife conservation. This project, which was deemed "experimental and non-essential" from the start, is simply a part of a much bigger picture - known as the "Wild Lands Project". This is another pipe dream of the environmental groups, who truly want people removed from the landscape - along with the highways, bridges, power supply lines and buildings. Their goal is to create a wilderness corridor that runs from Alaska, all along the Rocky Mountains, to Mexico.
One individual who has taken up the fight against federal bullying to push people from their lands and homes in the West has been former Chief of Operations for the National Wildlife Refuge System, Jim Beers.
"The mating of wolves, a truly un-endangered species if ever there was one, with the Endangered Species Act has bred unimaginable harm to rural America. The past 30 years of federally-forced wolf introduction and federal protection have revealed a level of perfidy and Anti-Americanism on the part of environmental and animal rights organizations in league with federal bureaucracies and politicians that has resulted in the demolition of state sovereignty and the subjection of rural communities and families to the manipulated imaginings of urban elites. Big game hunting, ranching, rural economies, dog populations, and natural resource management on or near what are laughingly called 'public lands' are all disappearing as planned, along with rural land values as human health and safety threats from inevitable wolf attacks and infections and diseases from the increasing wolf populations as they spread across the Lower 48 states." remarks Jim Beers.
In regard to the recently announced plans of one such environmental group, the Center for Biological Diversity, to see wolves returned to all of the continental U.S., Beers adds, "Planned future releases and the disgraceful manipulation of courts to forbid any local say as to wolf locations or numbers all mean that either ESA is repealed or drastically amended to return all authority over wolves to state governments or rural Americans - and all those that love this country need to review the words and actions of our Founding Fathers when faced with the same sort of unjust rule by far away elites in 1776."
To dump a non-endangered and non-native wolf into the Northern Rockies has likely already cost this country several billion in wildlife, livestock and economic losses - along with the several hundred million dollars that have been spent to keep this very failed project afloat. And with the wolf problem now exploding in the Upper Midwest, perhaps it's time to pull the plug on this ecological disaster, deem this non-essential experiment a failure, and save what can be saved. Then and only then, can the rebuilding of our wildlife resources begin. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
100 Parker Court Missoula, MT 59801
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