Keith Kubista’s May 23rd “Featured Letter” is just another effort by a wolf-hating minority to drive the issue in Montana. Kubista claimed ungulate populations are crashing across the state, and that there is a “high incidence of wolf predation on livestock.” He lambasted the FWP wolf proposal for not going far enough, and finally, put Idaho’s “aggressive” program on a pedestal, implying Montana should follow Idaho’s lead.
True, some elk populations have declined, but overall, the state elk population has increased. Consider that in 1992, the population was 89,000, increasing to 150,000 today. Kubista ignored other causes for elk declines, such as cougar and bear predation and human development. The West Fork herd has been a “poster boy” for anti-wolf groups, yet the Bitterroot Elk Study is showing that wolves have had minor effect compared to other predators.
What about the “high incidence” of livestock predation? The facts just don’t bear this claim out. In 2011, Montana lost less than 100 cattle to wolves, compared to 140,000 cows lost to all causes, out of a total of 2.6 million. Of Idaho’s 2.2 million cows, only 75 were lost to wolves. During the same time period, Idaho ranchers lost 86,500 cows to non-predation issues. “A huge problem for livestock production?” I don’t think so.
At a FWP meeting, I advised the commissioners that anti-wolf people, like Kubista, would never be satisfied. Guess what? FWP recommends trapping, but that’s not good enough… we need snares! A 48-hour trap check period for wolves…can’t do that, too inconvenient! A wolf population objective of 425… too big, how about 150? A hunting season three months longer than other big game… nope, that’s too short!
At the meeting, Kubista’s supporters inadvertently played their hand, cheering wildly when one speaker urged killing every wolf in Montana. Other comments ranged from machine guns in helicopters to shooting wolves on sight year-round. These people are not interested in compromise or moderation and they need to be marginalized.
Wolves can be managed by hunting, and we don’t need Idaho’s traps, snares, and helicopters. What we do need is more hunter participation, beyond the 18% that bought wolf tags in 2011. We also need more tolerance, as Montana can support far more than 150 wolves.
Here in the Bitterroot, people love conspiracy theories and like to think the sky is always falling. It’s high time we tone down the hysteria, and work for solutions that everyone can live with.