MISSOULA, Mont.â€”Science-based field research, funded in part by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, is yielding solid data on why gray wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming should be managed by state wildlife agencies.
Wolves have been on and off endangered species lists in recent months. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly announced at least partial delisting and state-based management via regulated wolf hunting. But, each time, anti-hunting groups have blocked the effort with lawsuits.
“List, delist, repeat. It’s become an endless cycle driven by those who profit from legal uncertainty over gray wolves,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Tying up this issue in courts defies a proven conservation system that is extremely successful at balancing predatory species within biological and social tolerances.”
The Elk Foundation has long funded scientific research on topics surrounding elk and habitat. Universities and state and federal agencies apply for RMEF research grants and conduct the projects. Researchers present results to peers at professional conferences. New understanding leads to better management strategies for all wildlife in elk country.
Here’s a sample of findings, from many different research projects, that support the Elk Foundation’s position that wolves should be managed this fall via state-regulated hunting.
1. In the northern Rockies, original wolf recovery goals for population size and breeding pair
estimates are now exceeded by over 500 percent and 333 percent, respectively.
2. Wolf populations in Montana are increasing 10-34 percent annually.
3. Wolves are the top predator on adult elk, especially bulls. Bears take more calves, but at least black bears can be scientifically managed via hunting.
4. Cow-calf ratios are commonly lower in areas with both bears and wolves.
5. Between November and April, wolf packs in Montana kill 7-23 elk per wolf.
6. Since 2000, elk numbers across non-wolf western states have held relatively stable, while elk populations across Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have dropped a combined 4.2 percent. In
many local areas, elk reductions have been dramatic and significant. Wolves are a factor, affecting not only elk numbers, but also their distribution, movement and behavior.
7. Elk hunting adds nearly $1 billion per year to the U.S. economy.
8. Hunter opportunity is being reduced to counter declining elk populations in Idaho.
9. A fully restoredâ€”but still federally protectedâ€”population of keystone predators is complicating and hindering elk management, as well as conservation itself.
10. In 1907, only 41,000 elk could be counted in the U.S. Leadership, stewardship and funding from hunters restored elk to their current population of more than 1 million. It’s this resource that made wolf recovery possible. Yet hunters and state conservation agencies are being victimized by continuous delays in wolf management.
Allen encouraged Wyoming and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work together on a mutually agreeable wolf management plan. This would remove one of the obstacles that conservationists can actually control, enabling regulated wolf hunting alongside Idaho and Montana, he said.