Jenny, Since you've already stated that you are "bowing" out of this discussion (why would you do that? This seems like an important issue for you.) I'll keep this short with just one observation: The wolves for the Yellowstone reintroduction were obtained from northern Alberta, where wolves are treated exactly the same as any other predator. They are trapped, snared and hunted up there just like coyotes, yet there are more than enough of them to go around.
The wolves are here now in beyond reasonable numbers (not enough for you though). I believe that wolves could be aggressively managed at this point without decreasing their numbers substantially.
Anyway, you are correct, we are arguing from a different "values base". Anybody who "humanizes" a wild predator like a wolf is a bit off her rocker, somewhat like the (now dead) grizzly man, Timothy Treadwell.
Jenny Sue Hane-"The fact that wolves are treated so differently demonstrates the depth of the hysteria surrounding them" --Yet that's EXACTLY what you are advocating! Wolf advocates want the wolves to be treated differently, and NOT managed like bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, deer, elk, sheep, goats, pronghorn, etc.
By reading your comment, it seems obvious to me that you don't believe that ANY animal should be managed, right? Is it so wrong that humans want to have some stability in wildlife populations? Is that selfish? I believe we can have it ALL through proper wildlife management: Predators (wolves included) in reasonable numbers; game that is plentiful enough to allow for hunting that can be enjoyable and provide healthy, wild meat; and a healthy ecosystem instead of the dramatic fluctuations in populations that would result from a "no management" approach.
I won't comment on wolf populations in the Gallatin area, but up here in the northwest I have heard wolves howling on a half dozen occasions in the past year, I see tracks and scat nearly every time I go out (multiple times per week), I saw wolves on two seperate occasions last year, and last week I even found a set of very large wolf tracks less than a half mile from my home in the Flathead. The wolves are plentiful here and the deer, moose and elk numbers are plummeting. Again, I am not advocating the elimination of wolves, but there is no question that they should be managed.
I hesitate to wade into this debate, mainly due to the fact that hysteria and untruths abound on both sides of the issue. Any one who reads the above comments can plainly see that it isn't just the anti-wolf activists who are a bit nutty.
I do have a question for the author of this article: Did you spend any time at all in the Fisher River/Wolf Creek drainages? How about the Thompson River country, the Swan valley, or anywhere west of Kalispell? There, you would find plenty of wolf sign. I can't imagine it taking three months to find a wolf track or scat in those areas. I spend a couple days a week in these areas, and I can promise you that I could spend less than one day in the spots listed above and find plentiful wolf sign.
This is not to say that I am an anti-wolfer. I am not. But I am getting closer to becoming one thanks to the continued broken promises and outright lies of wolf advocates. If you really want to "give the wolves a break", then give us a break! Allow the FWP to manage wolves just like they manage other similar species. That way, the wolf numbers will be kept in check, game numbers will remain somewhat more stable, and the entire debate will be taken off the table and placed in the hands of professional wildlife managers.
Sorry to paint with such a broad brush, you may have a perfect record with head shots on deer and that's great, I hope your record stands.
I guess I just bristle a bit when a hunter is described as a great shot, simply because "he only takes head shots". There is very little margin for error with a head shot, so if the deer moves as you pull the trigger, or if your bullet grazes a twig and veers off its path, the result could easily be a devastating injury (like a shot-off jaw) in which the deer can run for miles, bleed very little, and die an agonizing death. Years ago, I saw a buck north of Havre with its lower jaw shot off, and a coyote was jumping at it, trying to grab at the tissues that were hanging down... pretty nasty stuff.
I guess I'd rather have a larger target to aim at (heart and lungs) and deal with a bit of bloodshot when butchering than risk doing that to such a magnificent animal.
Matthew, Thanks you for finally bringing some intelligent debate to this comment section. I think that, like with many issues, we Montanans are not all that far apart.
I believe that in order to truly manage wolf populations, trapping and the use of electronic calls should be legal. As gferren pointed out in the above post, it took very aggressive measures such as bounties, trapping and poisoning to rid the country of wolves in the past. I am not advocating the elimination of wolves, but to actually meet management quotas, other options should be on the table.
I do disagree with you that everyone should have an equal say in the wolf debate. Hunters (who pay license fees in addition to taxes) are being impacted much more than other taxpayers, many of whom venture out only occasionally and think they might see a pretty wolf laying in a meadow with a butterfly peacefully resting on its nose. Anyway, we disagree but don't need to be disagreeable, right?
gferren--your post could have been written by me! I, too, live in NW Montana and am an avid hunter and shed hunter. I've seen many of the same things you have out there. It's quite a bummer to go out and see only a few deer tracks in places where they used to be very plentiful. We should talk shed hunting sometime!
Matt, What a nice, impassioned defense of your buddy George. I guess I could have worded my sentence better, like "one might assume that the wolf defenders have never been outdoors" Nonetheless, it seems that super-woodsman George can spend lots of time outside and still not see what the wolves are doing out there!
(And, by the way, any deer hunter who "only takes head shots" is an amazingly stupid and unethical hunter. I've seen deer running around with their jaws shot off by such "awesome marksmen" and it makes me sick!)
Again, just because I simply want the wolf population to be managed like other game animals, I'm considered to be a "wolf hater". No, I'm just not blind to the fact that wolves are getting out of control, and need to be managed. I've observed wolves in my hunting areas, I've heard them howling on frosty mornings and I appreciate their place in the environment. But I also realize that if they aren't managed properly, they will have dramatically negative impacts on other big game species in our state, and I just don't think that's necessary.
And don't try to characterize me or others like me as lazy hunters who don't know how to kill an elk. I hunt farther back than most anybody, I despise "road hunters", I turn people in who drive their 4-wheelers where they aren't allowed, I pass up more bucks per year than most hunters even see, and I pride myself on being an ethical and dedicated hunter. Again, why can't you simply argue the points rather than throwing around insults?
Let me finish by asking one simple question: Do you think the wolves should be managed or not?
And the name-calling--" The accuracy and impact of your column can be measured by the way it draws the blathering reflex ire of a hardcore cadre of furious throwback imbeciles who can't seem to stay away from you and apparently enjoy parading their ignorance in a public forum for the general entertainment."
...and mischaracterizations--"people who think that no predators other than man should exist in the land"
Good job being so pathetically predictable, libs!
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