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Wolves are victims of fear and exaggeration

By Marty Essen, Victor

 

“The wolves, they’re going to kill our children!” “The wolves, they’re a giant, aggressive, Canadian subspecies!” “The wolves, they’re devastating our livestock!” “The wolves, they’re killing all our elk!”

Perhaps now that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has extended the wolf hunting season—due to lack of success—we can stop listening to the wolf fear-mongers and recognize their claims for what they are: exaggerations.

Remember the letters-to-the-editor from fear-mongers, worried that wolves would kill people in Montana? Reintroduction hasn’t resulted in a single death. While most wild animals, including wolves, can be dangerous, here’s a fact: In North America, you have a much better chance of being killed by a vending machine falling on you than by a wolf attack.

Remember the letters-to-the-editor from fear-mongers, claiming that the reintroduced wolves are a larger subspecies than those that roamed the West before our forefathers massacred them? Now we know the facts. According to FWP, the average wolf killed this hunting season is just 88.9 pounds. My Labrador retriever weighs more than that!

What about livestock predation? Sure it happens, but statistically it’s small when compared to all the other ways livestock perish. For instance, according to the USDA, Montana ranchers lost 57,000 total calves to all causes in 2010. Of those loses, 852 were attributed to wolves. To put that figure into perspective, non-wolf predators killed 3,348 calves, and weather was the leading cause of death, claiming 14,308 calves. Clearly, the best way for ranchers limit their losses is to give their animals shelter during calving season. Not only would shelter reduce weather-related losses, it would also reduce predator-related loses.

Are the wolves killing all of “our” elk? The real question here is whether it’s ethical to manage Montana as a giant game farm, favoring one species over another. The facts are that wolves and elk have lived together since long before humans arrived. Any long-term effect wolves have on elk populations is negligible compared the effect humans have on elk. Sure, wolves scatter elk herds—making hunting more difficult—but since when did hunters become entitled to an easy hunt? A true sportsman should relish the challenge of hunting under the most natural conditions possible.

Knowing the above, FWP’s extension of the wolf hunting season is both reckless and unnecessary. The fact that only 106 out of the quota of 220 wolves have been killed so far speaks loudly that wolves aren’t the problem fear-mongers make them out to be. In Ravalli County, the Commissioners are in the midst of a wolf “witch hunt.” Based on comments made by their collaborators alone, the quota should have been filled long ago. After all, how hard can it be to shoot animals that are allegedly so “bold and aggressive”?

Ignored by FWP is the fact that extending the wolf hunting season essentially closes the forest to anyone accompanied by a dog that looks remotely like a wolf. Sorry cross country skiers and hikers! FWP thinks it’s more important to accommodate the fear-mongers than for you to be able to enjoy the outdoors with your faithful companion.

Am I now the one who’s exaggerating? Considering that hunters in America mistakenly shoot humans an average of 100 times fatally and 800 times non-fatally each year, owners of large dogs would be remiss if they didn’t take into account the increased risk to their pet during an extended season, dedicated exclusively to slaying wolves.

Lastly, I wish to directly address the fear-mongers: While this op-ed will undoubtedly anger you, can you cool it with the threats? Not only have I been threatened for speaking up for wolves, but so has Marc Cooke of the National Wolfwatcher Coalition and at least one other person that I know of. Your threats won’t help your position or “shut up” anyone. And if you ever followed through on a threat, the publicity alone would do irreparable harm to your position. We may not agree on much, but can we at least agree to respect each other’s right to free speech?

In Montana, a healthy wolf population is part of what makes nature natural. Let’s move beyond the manufactured fear and cherish what we have!

7 Responses to Wolves are victims of fear and exaggeration
  1. David Rowell
    January 14, 2012 | 5:18 pm

    Excellent comments below. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to contribute some real common sense about the subject of wolf control, now that they are doing real damage in more ways than just elk hunting!

    Sorry for any cross-posting you might notice from other sites, including my own, but here is my idea:

    As of January 13th, 2012 FWP is considering extending the wolf hunt…again, because not enough wolves have been killed to meet the quota. I would propose a more effective solution at this time.

    Obviously, “shoot on sight” year round would be the way to get these hard-to-hunt animals under control. “Shoot on sight” could be suspended exactly the way reaching the quota suspends wolf hunting seasons now. Reporting requirements within 12 hours of a wolf kill could still be required under year-round “shoot on sight” regulations.

    In fact, FWP could remove the wolf permit requirement so that anyone who sees a wolf can shoot it on sight. (Yeah, I know. They would lose the extra funding. Waaah!) They could still keep the 12 hour reporting requirement in place. Law-abiding citizens would still report their wolf kills. Those who are not law abiding wouldn’t have, regardless.

  2. H. Johnson
    January 10, 2012 | 11:55 pm

    Marty Esson, Victor….must be a transplant just like Marc Cooke…..

    Perhaps you should think a bit about a few of the neighbors that apparantly you hate so vividly. In particular, the ranching community and also those dollars that go to common folk when hunting season arrives.

    You comments are so frivolous that they delete any message you want to convey.

    “Ignored by FWP is the fact that extending the wolf hunting season essentially closes the forest to anyone accompanied by a dog that looks remotely like a wolf.” Beyond belief. That is not a problem nor has been one in the past. If indeed a few people are out looking for wolves. it is the few who are going to get away to areas where no people are found. Your wolves are not going to be hanging out in someones backyard after a two months of wolf season. Many people are now afraid to jog with their dogs for fear the wolves are going to munch on them if they get a chance. Of course, that in itself is probably not true, mostly thanks to having a hunting season on the wolves and teaching them that people are bad news. Why is it that anyone who moves into a new area has to make everyone around them confide to their values or wishes?

    For the record, hunting accidents do occur. But how often? You state 100 fatilities per year, and some 800 nonfatal accidents. In Wisconsin alone, there were 600,000 deer hunters in the field. My facts show 8,122 sustained injuries that took place by hunting and 6,600 of those were related to tree stand accidents. 16.3 million people hunted last fall! This amounts to 5 accidents per 10,000 hunters, and most of these have to do with falls, heart attacks, or vehical accidents. In comparison,
    •11 times more likely to be injured playing volleyball
    •19 times more likely to be injured snowboarding
    •25 times more likely to be injured cheerleading or bicycle riding
    •34 times more likely to be injured playing soccer or skateboarding
    •105 more times likely to be injured playing tackle football
    Hunting is actually one of the safest sports in America today. Gun accidents in comparison to the number of hunters in the field are extremely small.

    So I guess what I see is someone who moves into our country and states that we cannot live our lives like we want…..we have to live the way you tell us.
    Thats about what this tirade is about.

    I am sorry for you if indeed threats have been made to yourself. There are people on the fringes of all arguments that overdo it. I once posted a comment on a youtube video that stated that I supported a hunting season on wolves and had a fella stated he wanted to eviscerate me on a stake…..so the “fringe factor” runs both ways. I will state this; I don’t blame a fella for being mad when he walks out to check his cows and finds one with its intestines hanging on the ground…..then he has a fella like you down the road spewing all the good the wolves are doing and that he should not be able to protect his property. Think about that.

    Wolves certainly do not need your voice. They will be here long after you are gone. A little control on the issue is not going to hurt the wolf population one bit.

  3. Charles Albert
    December 23, 2011 | 11:47 pm

    Firstly, I am a hunter, an elk hunter, and would like to hunt wolves. Science alone should determine whether or not wolves should be hunted.

    You mention “The real question here is whether it’s ethical to manage Montana as a giant game farm, favoring one species over another.”

    The fact of the matter is that game animals are managed whether you like it or not.

    Yet you favor no control over a predatory animal over science based game management. Fish and Game tells you there are too many wolves and set initial targets which were met some time ago. Yet, the Rabid Anti Hunting crowd declares foul when targets are met and a return to game management is proposed. Please inform your readers that you are opposed to any form of hunting, and will go to any means to accomplish your goal.

    Are you a vegetarian? If not, why do you oppose my taking responsibility for putting meat on my table? I love the outdoors and love hunting.

    I am most certain that hunters contribute a significant amount of income to your state.

    At the conclusion of your letter, you ask the Pro Hunting community to stop the threats and so forth. You are most correct. There was a fellow in Idaho that killed a wolf and subsequently had death threats, other physical threats and the like. It would be a great country where people could disagree yet act respectfully on both sides of the coin.

    • David Rowell
      December 25, 2011 | 9:14 pm

      Charles, and other elk hunters in MT: Be advised that there is a $100 reward for any elk killed legally in MT. Just take some good pictures and go here to find out how to collect your reward: http://www.mt-sfw.com/

  4. David Rowell
    December 22, 2011 | 3:42 am

    “Are not ranchers’ compensated for wolf killed livestock?” Not very well. It’s a lot of red tape that is very time consuming and it’s hard to prove most of the time what killed the cattle.

    “Cannot a homeowner destroy an animal year round for disturbing his livestock?” If he wants the hassle of his life trying to prove it was justified. In ID a man shot a grizzly sow next to his house because she had cubs in his yard and the kids were out there. The state said it was justified. The Feds charged him and found it unjustified. You have no idea how risky proving justification is.

    “Are not the sports and outdoor shops benefiting for increased sales of equipment?” Most wolf hunters hunt other animals with the same equipment, so probably very little increase. Those are some of the facts.

    The facts presented in the article were fairly useless, except to generate emotion. For instance, “Of those loses, 852 were attributed to wolves.” I don’t doubt that figure one bit! Like I said, it’s very hard to prove what killed cattle without photos of the kill or harassment, etc. Very hard. The retribution for one cow, does not take into account the loss of future calves. And what about the lost time the rancher spends trying to prove it? Those are the realities left out of the article.

  5. David Rowell
    December 21, 2011 | 2:58 pm

    This author clearly is exaggerating to try to make his point. He failed miserably. Exaggerated statements like, ranchers should “give their animals shelter during calving season” show his ignorance of the entire situation. How would you go about sheltering thousands of head of cattle? Do you have any idea what that would take? That is not possible. Just because other predators kill cows and winter kills cows, doesn’t mean we should put further burden on those who struggle to provide beef at a reasonable price for the bellies of those who don’t appreciate all it takes to get a steak or a burger in the store.

    “Fear monger”? Yeah, that’s the writer of this article, trying to scare everyone into thinking wolf hunters will shoot them and their dogs if they venture out for a walk in the woods. Nonsense! Very few accidents happen compared to the huge number of hunters that participate in the sport each year. The vast majority of them are from poor gun handling, not mistaking something or someone for the game they are hunting. Wise up, Marty! All your facts are exaggerated and erroneous. Which is what you erroneously accused the vast majority of us who agree that it is time to control wolves the way we control other wild animal populations. For our own free-market interests. I doubt you have any idea what I’m referring to.

    • J. Cameron
      December 21, 2011 | 5:24 pm

      This was a very well written letter by Marty Essen. Full of facts and figures, that to some, seem like exaggerations.
      Regarding the “free-market interests”, brought up by Mr. Rowell, let us follow the money.
      Are not ranchers’ compensated for wolf killed livestock? Cannot a homeowner destroy an animal year round for disturbing his livestock? Does not Montana receive a huge income from wolf hunting tags? Are not the sports and outdoor shops benefitting for increased sales of equipment?
      I hesitated to write because Mr. Rowell has failed miserably to validate any point.

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